Saturday, December 31, 2011

Satisfied with the Unknown

So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Return, O LORD! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
and for as many years as we have seen evil.
Let your work be shown to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands!

Life is hard and then we die is all there is when we don't keep the end in view. While training for a race the finish line has to be in our mind all the time or we would quit. Life is a marathon, or a pilgrimage, toward Heaven and we must keep the finish line and the Prize in front of us at all times, or we may get distracted and not finish.

One of the hinderances to our running well is that we are satisfied with lots of things along the way that are really not that satisfying. Each one of us have things that easily beset us; temptations that distract one person might not distract another at all. Just like some people really crave sushi while others can't stand it. Notice the second verse of this passage,
"Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days."

If everything in my life were taken away leaving only God's love for me, would that be enough? Moses, who wrote Psalm 90, lived to be 120. Moses saw a lot of Who God is and what God could do in those 120 years. Moses "had it all" at one time but didn't consider the pleasures of Pharaoh's house better than what God had for him. Moses could see that the confortable life in Egypt was not better than being where God wanted His people. Moses didn't get to go to the promised land and yet the desert with God was better than Egypt w/o.

As we close out 2011 many things have happened that are hard and yet they are good; we have been afflicted. Leaving Egypt was hard for the Israelites and yet it was not only good but it was best. Leaving the familiar for the unfamiliar is hard. Leaving the known for the unknown is not what we generally want to do. But the unfamiliar and unknown with God alone is far better than the known and comfortable with God as an accessory to our lives.

We must number our days, to gain a heart of wisdom so we can be satisfied with his steadfast love- even if that is all we have. In the end, "ALL" of God is far more than than all of the world anyway, we just need to remind ourselves and those around us of this truth.

2011- Removing Large Chunks of Scar Tissue

Wow, what a crazy year!

I never would have thought that the 2008, with a cardiac event and a market crash, could have been a relatively boring year in comparison to 2010, with adopting a son and Kimmy and Ian getting married and moving to NC, and 2010 was relatively calm, with regard to hard decisions and internal unrest, compared to this past year. But in all things He is sovereign and I can rest in Him.

We all have trials and those trials are made specifically for us- personally. As a believer everything we go through is specifically designed to bring us closer to God and to conform us more to the image of His Son. Though often we might think that others have it "better/easier" than we do, or they are not going through the difficulties that we are, which might be true right now, our trials, pain and rest are like the perfect "physical therapy" for our growth and strengthening. I just read a FB post from a "friend" who has just lost his wife this month and now his 2 dogs have drown. I would guess that his 2011 was not as "good" as mine. There is some else's 2011 that was "worse" than his.

Some years ago I went to the physical therapist after having my ACL/MCL surgically reattached. This was a couple weeks after the surgery. I had had the same therapist the entire time and so I assume she knows exactly what to do. She pushed and pulled against my leg as I worked it back and forth. I was working hard to get past this treatment so I could get back to work. All of a sudden there is a huge, audible "pop" and almost the exact same pain as when I tore it. Mind you, I have been through surgery, some recovery and now PT for some weeks and I literally thought I was going to have to start all over again. She told me that this was just the scar tissue getting out of the way and that in 3-4 hours it would be fine. I wasn't sure I believed her.

I don't like surgery, anesthesia or pain killers. I don't like missing work, crutches or taking the time to do PT. I didn't want to start over. I didn't like the pain the first time, and I certainly didn't want to start from scratch. Well I didn't have to start over and in a couple of hours it was fine and I could trust her again. I could trust her because she knew what she was doing, she told me what was going to happen and it did. She's human and makes mistakes. God is not and does not.

So, as I look back on 2011 and wonder what God has in mind for me and our family, as I wonder about what is really great about this past year and "couldn't we have done this another way?", as I think taking a shortcut to get to this place would have been much easier, I am reminded that it is not up to me and God is perfectly working ALL things together for my good and His glory.

Here's some of the ALL things;
-a new church family, leaving behind some old friends, many of which don't understand and that is really hard.
-a new career, leaving behind some old friends and work surroundings and substituting it for many unknowns and that is hard.
-a new grandson who is just about as far from us as he can be and yet still live in the US, and that is hard.
- strangely this is hard and new territory for me. A couple from our L2L group left to go to another church for reasons of spiritual giftedness and yet that is still hard for me. Did I do everything I could have? Was I there enough for them? I have to answer "no" to those questions and yet those are not the reasons they are leaving anyway.

Life is full of hard things. People fail us all the time. Friends turn less friendly. Family members move away. Kids grow up. Jobs/careers change. Change is all around us. But God doesn't change and if I look at the changes around me as His working in/on me then somehow it is better. He doesn't make mistakes. His ways are perfect, even though from this vantage point it seems like maybe He made a mistake. That big popping sound was something getting out of the way.

2011 was hard- really hard. I don't want to redo 2011 because it was not that fun the first time. BUT, without 2011 we would not have a new church family, a new career path and meeting and growing closer to people I never would have met if I was still in the same comfortable place as I was in for 2010 and the blessing of being grandparents to Job, a fitting reminder of our year. Full of hardship and yet God is still good, giving exactly what we need to carry us through.

In all things He is good and He has lavished many blessings on us this past year and I am thankful for a hard yet glorious year watching him work.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

All the Work DONE- Completely.

Imagine completeness- something totally finished, not needing anything else, no added ingredient, no extra polishing and not one thing- not even a tiny little thing- done to it. It's perfectly complete.

There is nothing in my life that I can see that is that way. There are so many projects that are in various stages of completeness, so many things I'd like to spend a bit more time on, others are far from being done. Maybe it's just me, but I don't think so, as I have heard many talking about their list of things to get done, or "I'm almost done with x".

Even when I am making cinnamon rolls, a pie, a prime rib or a chicken coup I am thinking about ways to make it "better"- to finish it and make it "just perfect". I look at my kids and ask what could I have done differently/better and think that I want to be the best grandpa I can be so as to help the kids be the best parents to the grandkids so they are more complete in all ways than I.

As I think about that today I think about my "job" as a leader in many areas; home, work, church and even our life to life group and think how inadequate I am to complete anyone around me, after all, I'm far from being complete myself.

Then I read Col. 1:28 and see that it is my job to present every man complete in Christ- that's ALL. Really, that's all I have to do? Wow, how far I am from that myself and yet this is what I am to strive towards. That's a lot of work and yet I can look at my own life and be overwhelmed at the work load that God has to finish His work in me. This seems impossible and yet I know that with Him all things are possible. I also know that He doesn't stop until He has finished the work in me.

Guess what- that means that if He has started the work in you, then He won't stop until He has completed it. Picture it- You and I being perfectly finished, no more polishing, not one little speck of dross left in the gold. It seems like that this process is going to take some heat, most likely through trials of various sorts and to differing degrees, but He is in charge and He knows the perfect recipe for what will make you and I the perfect Image of the Son. How great is that prospect!!!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Stuck Between a Cradle and a Cross

Being in another's shoes is something we don't do well. Let's jump into Joseph, Mary's husband's, shoes.

Often, in those days and in that culture marriages were arranged. So, as a young Jewish man of maybe 15, 16 ,17 Joseph and Mary are betrothed. This was kind of like an engagement in the sense that the couple agreed to be married, but today engagements can be easily broken and back in Joseph's day betrothal was not something you just jumped in and out of.

So, Joseph and Mary are going to be married and there is a lot of planning to do. Imagine thinking about where you were going to live then, how many sheep and oxen you would need to provide for a family, was your wife a good cook, how close was water to the new homestead and many of the same kinds of things that a young man today would be thinking about.

Then, somewhere in the middle of this process, Mary comes to Joseph and tells him she is pregnant- oh, and by the way, "I'm still a virgin". Being a virgin in those days was a big deal, like it should be today. Deut. 22 says that if you found out that your new wife was not a virgin the punishment for her was stoning. That's kind of a big deal. Mary had to tell Joseph and Joseph had to do the right thing. If Joseph would have followed the protocol of the day... But Joseph was a righteous man.

The Bible doesn't tell us how long it was between Mary telling Joseph and Joseph's dream, but for Joseph it must have seemed like an eternity.

Because God does things perfectly, Joseph was probably thinking that Mary was definitely "the one" and now all this. This would have been a lot for them to work through as young people. I'm sure there were many tears and maybe some anger and confusion as well. Again, put yourself in young Joseph's shoes.

But Joseph was a "just man" and didn't want to shame his wife and so he was resolved to "un-betroth" her quietly. This must have meant moving away because how could he undo the betrothal without any of his family and friends knowing it? They already had plans made and of course there was a big celebration at the start, so all the people connected to them would have been ready for a huge wedding party that now wasn't going to happen. This was a big commitment on his part, but he was a good guy.

Somewhere in between "I'm pregnant, but I'm still a virgin" and the due date Joseph has a dream and in the dream an angel tells him that everything that Mary has told him is indeed true and that he is going to be the adoptive father of the long awaited Messiah. Ok, now put those shoes on for a moment.

As an adoptive parent myself there are some challenges that go with that; some baggage, a lot of unknowns. Oh, but this was different- the son coming to live in his house was going to be perfect and a king. "Whoa- I'm a carpenter and you are telling me that a king is coming to live in my house?" All that had to be very challenging to comprehend for someone who was probably not yet in his 20's and not from wealthy means. When he went to bed he was trying to wrestle with how to "do the right thing" and start all over again with a relationship and now a future king was coming to live in his house, that he hadn't yet built.

You get the idea- sometimes we read over 7 verses in Matthew 1 and forget to really look at them and all that might be connected to them. This Christmas season think about young men you know, like John, our adopted son, being in this position, or maybe Joseph was as old as Garrett; how would that be for them? Think about what must have been going through Joseph's mind when he heard from the angel that his soon to be wife would be the mother of the Messiah and that this boy King would live under his roof. I would be saying "I'm not ready for that". But Immanuel came to live with them and they called Him Jesus and He did save us from our sins. Are you ready for whatever God might ask you to do? Hopefully we understand that there is nothing we can do in our own strength but if we are believers we are not in our own strength.

I'm glad Joseph was obedient and took on a huge role for a young man- Adopting The Messiah.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Oh, Grow up-Christmas is for Kids

As we get older we can say that we are being more "sensible" than we were when we were young by not getting excited about Christmas. Is it that we understand the short-lived excitement of the gifts, or the long work of dinner, the long clean-up and the short feasting? Maybe it is that we are not interested in traveling to be with people that don't seem to be too excited about seeing us. People sometimes say "Christmas is for kids". There are many potential reasons not to be excited about Christmas but there were old and dying people who were very excited to witness Jesus' coming to earth the first time.

How about this guy- "Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
'Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.'"

I like this guy Simeon- did you see that he knew that Jesus was coming so the Gentiles- hey that's me- could have revelation? He was waiting to die but God promised that he would get to see Jesus first- that's a good promise. What was that like? He got a personal promise from God and he was waiting expectantly for it to be fulfilled. He was excited, Mary and Joseph marveled at his words- just look at those words. That has to be an amazing day.

And then there was an old lady named Anna. She was widowed 7 years after getting married and instead of getting married again she stayed i the temple praying and fasting ever since- now she is 84. Do you suppose she was excited to hear of Jesus' birth? Prophecies fulfilled in her lifetime and now the Savior was coming to the Temple where she had been for maybe 60 years. Do you think there was some excitement when she heard that Mary and Joseph were coming with Jesus?

It is interesting that the kids in those days weren't mentioned in any of these passages. Maybe they were excited, but not if their parents didn't explain to them the reason they should have been excited. Maybe the kids were excited but it takes someone who has been around the block a few times to really appreciate what was happening right then. Thousands of years of waiting had come to fruition. Thousands of years of expectation had arrived and the old people were excited.

We have a gift that never loses it's luster, never grows old and yet we often lose sight of what is important. Let's not be so "grown-up" that we lose the wonder of what Christmas is all about. Expectation! These people were old and dying and they were excited about His coming and they can teach us a lesson or two about being expectant of the 2nd coming. Don't lose your wonder at the miracle of His coming to earth to be a man, to take on flesh and to take away our sin. Don't lose sight of the fact that He is coming again and we should be excited about that. Come Emmanuel.

Visibly and Verbally Thankful

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year- all this merriment- REALLY?

I don't really know anyone who doesn't have some kind of relationship issues at this time of year. There is uncle X who is always a jerk, grandma is grumpier than she has ever been, your parents are turning into children or your kids are acting like they would rather be with their friends than with their step brothers and sisters. Maybe it's just one of those things or maybe it is ALL of those things with some more added in. This time of the year is hard in so many ways.

Hopefully I can give you some ammunition to fight being cynical or turning into the Scrooge yourself.

A couple fo days ago I went with a group of friends to an assisted living place in our local community. I didn't arrange any of the evening except for asking a friend to bring his guitar. I didn't know that much of our group are not the singing type. I like to sing and so I figured it would be fun and maybe some of the people there would be encouraged. The unexpected happened.

When we arrived the door is locked because you just never know who might come in to take grandpa out and not bring him back. The maturing people were finishing dinner and this lady, who was in better shape than most we met over the evening, came up and said, "You better start pretty soon because we are getting tired and we want to go 'home'". That was the first person we talked with or who talked with us. Getting off to good start.

Enough of the group showed up for us to start at the time we were supposed to, but right before we started another lady said, "I hope you're not singing about Santa and reindeer because we are tired of those kinds of songs". It's a good thing the "song-picker" had picked carols rather than those songs or we might have gotten the boot.

I encouraged a couple of people sitting toward the front to sing and they both said. "We can't sing". OK- I'm getting the idea that these people are kind of grumpy and they want to go home, but we're singing anyway.

We started singing and even those who "can't sing" were singing along with as much as they knew the music. At one point in the first set of songs one of the older guys was crying pretty hard. Then it got to me- these people are dying pretty soon, I wonder who will come to see them this Christmas? I wonder if they have to spend Christmas alone bc their family lives somewhere else? No wonder they are grumpy, they probably feel like they have been abandoned.

When we finished singing the girls past out some cookies, even though some of the people said they didn't want them they all took them. Even though they didn't want to sing, they did. Even though they wanted to be grumpy, they weren't in the end, in fact they were really soft and tender after we cracked their hard shells a bit.

Maybe that's what it's gonna take the next couple of weeks for you to get through your celebrations. Maybe they are going to feel more like torture than celebrations but maybe you can change that. Maybe you can be thankful and joyful in the midst of some crotchety mean people. If that is going to happen I think you had better have a plan before you enter the event.

Try to think about what others are dealing with this time of year. Maybe they are sad because this is the 1st Christmas without someone they love very much. Maybe someone was just really mean to them, or someone just cut them off in traffic. Maybe they are a customer service person and it is December 26th and everybody and their dog is coming into their store today to tell them why "You wrecked my Christmas". We just never know what people are going through.

Many people are going through some hard times right now, be a friend. Many need someone to talk to, like the 96 year old lady at the center. Sometimes the greatest gift we can give and model for our kids is the giving of ourselves- that is what God did and do you suppose there was an intended lesson in that gift some 2000 years ago?

We have much to be thankful for and it is not ok for us to be thankful on the inside, we need to be both visibly and verbally thankful. You might be surprised at how much different you can help someone else to be by your attitude. You might also be surprised at how much less grumpy you are.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

We're Expecting, Let's Not Forget Who's Coming

We celebrate the 1st coming of Jesus Christ our King this time of year. Often it seems we don't celebrate well or we get caught up in the world's idea of what Christmas is about- ourselves. I hope to do better this year on pointed celebrating- like what's the point?

I was just thinking, bc my mind is generally very active in the early hours of the morning, "What was Mary thinking about right now?". I do understand that maybe December 25th is NOT the exact day and you can prove to me by some formula when it was, but Jesus came to earth as a man at a specific day, so let's just say it was Dec. 25th for sake of argument. What was Mary thinking on Dec. 22nd of that year?

Since I am a new grand-parent this summer, I understand again the expectation of child-birth. Some of my younger friends are currently pregnant. There is great expectation. Mary knew that this baby was going to be a boy, which didn't happen often in those days. Mary knew that this baby inside her was very special. All new moms think their baby is the most special, but this one was THE MOST special. Mary knew a lot of things but what was she thinking about right now?

Was she thinking that He was going to be a king like the kind of kings she knew about? Was she confused like the disciples were when He was starting His ministry- trying to find their place in the kingdom? Knowing the little she knew about being a mom, what must have this been like for her while being sort of on the run? This was not exactly the perfect teen pregnancy, even in those days. There was some serious family issues going on here.

I know how excited I was to learn that Kimmy and Ian were pregnant. I know how excited I was to hear that she was carrying a boy, but one can't get too excited about being a grand-parent bc until they are out and healthy there is no guarantees. Mary had a guarantee from an angel that her son would live and be a king. Today we get no such guarantees and in those days a guarantee of a long living child was not only unheard of, but to have a long living child was unusual. There were a lot of bad things that can happen before they are 5.

But this baby was causing His parents some stress early on. Put yourself in Mary's shoes when she has to tell Joseph she is pregnant. What will he say? Put yourself in her shoes as she tells her parents- what will they say? This is gonna be really hard and is gonna cause some real heartache. She's not an old, mature woman; she's practically a child herself. You might say, "Well, an angel told her all this, so she should believe it". Right, and we have the actual Word of God and do we always believe it wholly? We have generations of seeing God's faithfulness, the printed Word and yet often we struggle to stay focused, and we're OLD.

So, on this day, some 2000 years ago, she and her husband were traveling for Christmas, but when they stopped for the night Tom Bodett didn't leave the light on, in fact there wasn't any place to stay, except with the cows. Erase the picture of the big red barn from your thoughts, or even the nativity scene barn that is all cute. This was probably much more like a cave or lien-to at best. I don't know why but for some reason I had in my mind, as a child, this horse barn kind of setting, like the nursery with the barn door, all cozy and dark. It was probably pretty drafty where Mary and Joseph landed for child birth.

God wants us thinking about the expectation of Christmas. He also wants us thinking about His 2nd coming with the same expectation. There are things to get ready, but we should be getting ready with a purpose- the King is coming. Mary was getting ready with a purpose- The King is coming. Mary had some family issues, but the King is coming. Mary had all kinds of issues and a guarantee that this Son would rule- we have the same guarantee. We're expecting, let's not forget Who we're expecting.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Light and Momentary Afflictions

SKH read this part of the Pilgrim's Progress last night and I think it is worth repeating a few
more times. How often are we beaten down, thinking it's too hard, and yet right next to us
are His promises.

"Well, on Saturday, about midnight they began to pray, and continued in prayer till almost
break of day.

Now, a little before it was day, good Christian, as one half amazed, brake out into this
passionate speech: What a fool, quoth he, am I, thus to lie in a stinking dungeon, when I
may as well walk at liberty! I have a key in my bosom, called Promise, that will, I am persuaded,
open any lock in Doubting Castle. Then said Hopeful, That is good news(;) !!! Good brother,
pluck it out of thy bosom, and try. (Yeah for having the key to despair right in his pocket!!)

Then Christian pulled it out of his bosom, and began to try at the dungeon-door, whose
bolt, as he turned the key, gave back, and the door flew open with ease, and Christian and
Hopeful both came out. Then he went to the outward door that leads into the castle-yard,
and with his key opened that door also. After he went to the iron gate, for that must be
opened too; but that lock went desperately hard, yet the key did open it. They then thrust
open the gate to make their escape with speed; but that gate, as it opened, made such a
creaking, that it waked Giant Despair, who hastily rising to pursue his prisoners, felt his
limbs to fail, for his fits took him again, so that he could by no means go after them. Then
they went on, and came to the King’s highway, and so were safe, because they were out of
his jurisdiction" Bunyan

May this help you to live on unseen things today. These "light and momentary afflictions" are
nothing when compared to how amazing the glory that is coming is- that is what we need to
focus on, NOT these things right in front of us. That is NOT to say that trials are easy, but when
compared to the eternal glories that await they are light and fleeting. Rest on His promises today.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Wick and The Wax

"Tis the Advent season and that means a lot of things to many people. I wasn't raised with an Advent tradition so I have much to learn to catch up in this area, but I do know that it often has candles connected to it. A couple of weeks ago I was thinking about candles for some reason and here's what came to mind.

When we are born again we are lit and when we die the candle goes out- or does it? For most of us we are a long burning candle. The Bible talks about being like grass which grows and then is gone quickly and if you have read this blog you know that I think that life goes very fast- I mean just yesterday we had our first baby and now we're grand parents. But if you think about life as a candle then these are long burning ones.

The purpose of a candle is very specific. Using a candle as a hammer is a bad idea, or as a utensil to cut something is pretty futile. It really is only good for one thing and that is to give off light. If we take the analogy further, our candle is lit when we are born again and it goes out when we die and in between there are times when it needs to be trimmed and the extra wax taken off or the light is dimmed because the wick is covered with melted wax. There are times in our lives when we give off more light than others, but we are still giving off light.

In Sunday school as a little kid many of us sang "this little light of mine". Unfortunately as adult there are many who do hide their light under a bushel. So we have a light that could be shedding light into the world but before we leave the house we cover it up and then it stays covered until we return home.

The world needs our light to shine into the darkness. Jesus was the Light that the Jews anticipated and as He came and lived, His light grew brighter as He grew. The prophets foretold of this coming Light and yet so many missed His coming. In our life His light shines into our heart and lights our spiritual candle so that we might in turn spread the Gospel and take the fire that lit us and light the next generation of lights.

A large room with one candle off in the corner is not very bright. A large room with 20 candle should be much brighter than it is with one, but only if those 20 candles are trimmed and allowed to shine freely, without a "bushel" over them. As the light is added to more and more candles the effect should be much more light shining throughout the world. Remember that all we are is the wick and wax and His light is what is actually shining. "For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."

He lit our hearts on fire while our hearts were cold and dark. Now we can take that same light and touch the wick of another and transfer that fire to others. Again, not our fire, not our light. We should be excited to pass on the light to others knowing what our hearts were previously. We should not be willing to cover our lights.

So, let us keep our light trimmed and burning bright, let us be quick to gather with other lights to increase the lumens we collectively put off, let us be quick to share the light with those who are currently dark and may God grant us many years of shining into the darkness.

To answer the question of "Does our light go out when we die?". If we have not passed on the light to others then it seems like it does. But if we have passed it on then that light continues to burn long after we are in Heaven. This can be done in many ways. Some lights continue to burn because of the heritage of multiple generations of believers in the family. Some lights are burning because of work done throughout the lifetime here on earth; such as Luther, Calvin, Baxter and the likes. I included Baxter because he didn't necessarily leave the same kind of light as the other 2, but he certainly left a light.

God doesn't gift us all the same way but we all have the same light in us and it is our responsibility and privilege to spread that light as we go; to make disciples. Making disciples will ensure that the light in us is burning for generations to come. Give your light to someone today.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Black and White

It has occurred to me lately that there are a lot of black and white sort of people around me. Maybe I am the same way, I am not sure. Sometimes it is hard to see how we really are because our hearts are deceitful.

What am I talking about with regard to "black and white people"? It seems there are many who see something written down and then decide that is the way it is- period. "The Bible says this" or "The rule says this" and that is the end of the discussion. It seems that Jesus had to correct some thinking as He went about teaching. He said "You have heard it said, but I say..." The people, especially the religious people, of His day seem like they were also pretty black and white. They had the law and they were gonna stick by it, which is not a bad thing, but then they started to add to it. They added many burdens that no one, not even they, could carry.

Is this how it is it normally with the B&W's? Maybe they say, "Praising God has to be done in this way and you can't change it because if you do then it is 'Devil worship'". Maybe it's -If you don't have X tradition then you are sort of a second class Christian, if you're a Christian at all. Or, - you did such and such and so they conclude that you must not be a Christian.

I am so thankful that we have the law but that we don't live under the law. I am happy that there is gray areas in the Bible and in our lives; that we can disagree with someone over some doctrinal issue, who is really smart and yet stills loves Jesus, and still be friends and have fellowship; I mean we are going to spend eternity together so shouldn't we practice living together in harmony now? Is it ok to throw out everything someone writes or says because you don't agree with their eschatology? What makes you think that you are right? It's good to believe what you believe but not to think that you have all the answers and everyone else is an idiot and has no understanding of anything.

I want to be one who is grounded in the majors and glad there is a lot of gray in the minors. I want to be ready to listen and understand what others are saying while still be friends of we don't perfectly agree. I want to listen to the points the "smart people" make, be able to allow the Spirit to teach me and still be friends when I don't agree with all that they are saying about everything. It seems like that is more unifying than the "you don't believe what I believe so you are either not a Christian or you're stupid" approach. There is a lot of gray here on earth and having discernment to know what is B&W and what is ok to be gray is good. I hope I get it soon.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Can I get a Witness?

Are you witnessing to the people around you?

What does that question conjure up in your mind? What's the first thing you think about? If you're old like me it is probably handing out tracts or giving someone a bunch of Bible verses when you talk to them. Are you smelling what I'm stepping in?

But is that the way that most of the "witnessing" is done in life? In John 4:1-15 Jesus is talking with a woman whose life is kind of a mess, in fact buy all customs of the day Jesus should not have even been talking to her. But notice that Jesus engages the conversation in a very interesting way; He asks her for water- ok He tells her to give Him a drink.

I know that everything that Jesus said is a Bible verse and so you can make that argument, but He doesn't immediately go to the OT and start quoting verses, but rather He engages her right where she is and draws, no pun intended, her into the conversation; she is hooked and is now listening to every word He says.

Jesus' life was different than the rest of the men this lady knew; he actually talked to her and then He told her that HE would give HER water. That was counter cultural.

When we live differently than the world we are apt to have more opportunities the share the hope that is in us, but we have to live and live differently. We are witnessing all the time- with words and without. It just might be that the witness we are being is saying that we are just like everyone else the people know; hopeless.

The woman left Jesus' and what seemed to impress her most was that Jesus knew about her personally, not that He quoted the OT. He did give her verses but He connected with her heart and life. He was different than everyone else and she could tell that He cared for her. He gave her hope.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Friday, November 11, 2011


I have been thinking a lot as of late about the idea of leaving a heritage for our children and children's children. Of course maybe thats bc our little Job has flooded our lives with joy and gratitude or maybe it's bc of the events of the past year or so, either way, I think it's good to reflect, consider, plan and maybe repent.

This morning I was in an email conversation with a friend of mine who owns multiple businesses; very diverse in nature and all surrounding on thing, but in today's economic climate there are so many things that can bring a business down that there is no way to consider all of them while still trying to run those business ventures. So what do you do? How does one know where to spend their money or not spend it, how do we know if God wants us to be in this endeavor or if it's time to move on? Is this where God wants me for the next 20-30 years? Hard questions that have no Bible reference linked to them and no multiple choice, as we know it, answer.

So, connected to working the opportunities that God has given you charge of- work like it all depends on you, pray like it all depends on God and rest in knowing that HE cares more about your heart than your wallet, but He understands your need and He promises to provide for those needs. If your rest is dependent on whether I can keep my promise or if you can work hard and smart enough you, my friend, are in trouble. But as a believer it doesn't depend on those things, it depends on whether you know and trust Him.

Connected to heritage- you and I may be thinking that the heritage we leave for our children and grandkids is in some bank acct, property or even the business we are trying to keep afloat and make successful. Maybe that is part of it, but as believers it had better be just a part and maybe a small part.

What we are leaving as a heritage is how we live, how we love and how we teach- which is filled up with the previous. We teach the following generations what is important and how to live by example. If we say we trust God to provide but are often worried then we are not teaching that at all. If we say we are teaching love for God and the majority of time others see us they only hear us talking about "I" rather that "Look what God did here" we are not teaching what we think we are teaching bc we are not living what we say we believe.

Imagine- kids who know who God is by watching us old people right now, in the middle crashing waves, blowing winds and hot fires. Imagine them seeing us old people trusting that God is good, in control and waiting on Him expectantly and ever-ready to rejoice in His kindness and faithfulness. Imagine the heritage that will leave. Imagine the value of that rather than an inheritance that an rust, be stolen or fades away with time.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Does your day Suck?

The rain is falling, it's a Saturday in the middle of June and you wanted to work in the garden. You're driving to a game and the traffic is horrible and you want to get there in time to see your kid start. The plane is over booked and you want to get home because you are tired of being away.

All these things and many more similar but different crowd our lives seemingly almost daily. There is always something happening and it doesn't seem like it is often going the way we had planned. We have things that are important to us, and they should be, but maybe there are more important things happening in other's lives.

So, look at the rainy day from the perspective of the bride who is having an outdoor wedding that day, right around the corner from where you are trying to get into the garden. Maybe the traffic is backed up because someone was just in a really bad car wreck and your game doesn't seem quite as important. Maybe the person who really NEEDS the seat is going to see their family for the last time, or to the hospital to be with their dying friend.

We get so caught up in what is "important" to us that often we forget that there are others who have things that are actually important. Just a reminder as I think about my friend Brian Young going to Afganistan today and there are games that are "important", there are dinners to get ready and the list goes on and on. Pray for Brian and his family.

We are blessed in so many ways and the little inconveniences of life that aren't scheduled, not planned and make us grumble are not really that important. The things that are important are the relationships. I'm terrible at this but am often reminded of it so I want to be better.

Have a great day sitting in traffic, in the rain on the way to the airport.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Old, Tired and Deformed

I have been hearing a lot about the YRR- Young, Restless, Reformed- debate as of late and this topic has caused me to think about my history in fundamental, conservative churches over almost 50 years of my life.

While I have lived from New Jersey to Tokyo and have been in many different kinds of churches, from independent "Baptist" churches to GARB's, I have found that often there is something in common. I don't want to throw a one word description out so I will tackle it from the other side; what most have NOT been.

As a small bit of history, my grandfather and great grandfather were both full-time, long-time overseas missionaries who knew their Bibles and loved God. While I didn't know my GGF I lived with my grandfather for about 2 years in Tokyo while growing up. Sadly, the thing I remember most about my grandfather is not that he loved Jesus, or not that he really loved the Japanese people or not even that he was such an expert linguist that he had an audience with the emperor of Japan, but rather that he loved to argue.

He loved to argue about Calvinism, what is the greatest of God's attributes, whether one should go to the temple to preach and really anything else you might have an opinion about. There is no question in the minds of those who knew my grandfather well that he loved Jesus, but he had a real hard time making you know that he loved and cared for YOU. That's not so good when you're his grandson.

There is nothing wrong, and a lot right, about having a head full of truth. There is nothing wrong with having strong convictions. There is nothing wrong with having the centrality of Scripture guide our conversations, but the Scripture must also guide our lives and our affections and I never saw that in my grandfather and I didn't often see it growing up in the conservative Christian churches we went to, from pastors to deacons or elders.

So today we have a large discussion about whether the YRR's are loving the Bible as much as they are loving their freedoms. If they are actually living their lives by the Word and even if they actually care about the Word. I am not a Bible scholar and for sure there are many who know much more than I, but it seems like there were plenty of people in Jesus' day that knew the Scriptures, many teachers and religious leaders but Jesus didn't question them as much on their knowledge of Scripture as much as He did about how they lived. They said a lot and yet did little.

I have seen recently that there are many who certainly know their Bibles better than I, who can argue about pre and post and have lots of long words that end with -ology, but I don't see much difference in their lives compared to a professor at a local college or university- super smart and often kind of grumpy. Grumpy about the fact that the "students" haven't caught up to them on their teaching. But why would an outsider want to fill their heads with all this stuff if in the end they come out grumpy old men who think their brain buckets are what will impress Jesus?

Again, I am not saying that we should not strive to increase our Biblical understanding as well as pass that Spirit given understanding on to future generations, but if it comes at the cost of joy in what God is doing in His people right now, mourning with them in times of sadness and rejoicing with them in times of celebration, then it seems we have missed the point.

The reason I titled this in this way is because it often seems like it is those who have been around the church for a long time who are tired and crotchety and with enormous heads and tiny little hearts, they are deformed. Will the world ever ask them of the hope that is in them if they are always going around acting as if there is no hope for the "stupid" people? Will their neighbors ever talk with them if they are feeling as if they are not smart enough to carry on a conversation "on their level"? Where is the hope of the Gospel? Where is the love of Christ shed abroad in hearts? Where is the light that is supposed to be shining in a dark world? It's stuck inside of church walls acting as if a huge head will bring sinners to repentance.

Maybe the YRR are not all that the conservative, fundamentals are, and maybe they need to increase the centrality of Scripture, but the way to get them to do that is not to have an argument about how foolish they are, tell them they are completely missing it, when it seems like at least they are living their lives the way Jesus did- with the people. We have churches with big brick walls that are not inviting but rather seem like they are there to keep people out of the "club" of us 4 and no more.

I will close with this. A friend was over last night for dinner and some visiting. They said that the thing they noticed most about the church they are currently going to is that the people actually seem like they have joy, love each other and there doesn't seem to be any complainers. They said that they have not experienced that at ANY other church they have ever been to. That is a sad indictment on the state of the conservative churches of America- not much joy, not much love and complaining.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Soul Sucking or Soul Inflating

Are you a pleasant person to be around? After spending time with you do people leave refreshed or are they worn out? When someone reads your FB, Twitter or blog posts are they leaving with their spirits raised or drained? This is a hard question to have to think about, let alone have to answer. I have been thinking about it lately and maybe this is helpful.

I have a few friends on FB that I really don't like reading their posts; not because I don't like them or I would just un-friend them, but rather the posts are most often negative, life stinks, people are mean or this or that is stupid. I understand that there are many trials and hurts in this life, really I do. I understand that many times people don't do the right thing and if given the opportunity it often seems like they do the wrong thing more often than the right. But is it helpful for anyone to complain about the situation or the person?

I think this is a good start to living and talking differently.
Ps. 34:1 I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul makes its boast in the LORD;
let the humble hear and be glad.
3 Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together!

As a parent we give our kids many opportunities to do and say the right thing. We teach them to say "please" and "Thank-you", we try to encourage good manners, and in doing so we are hoping that they become thankful, positive people. I mean after all, they have been given so much compared to so many others it is obvious, to us at least, that they should be thankful and positive; right? We correct them when they are complaining because there is so much to be thankful for- you know the whole "Starving children in Africa" deal. Well it's true with us as well.

We do have much to be thankful for. If the line at the airport is long- well it's better than driving. If the car is breaking down- you have had the pleasure of driving instead of walking. If the kids are crying- you are blessed to have a generation to mold and shape. If you are having to work late or early- you have work and are getting paid. There is so much to be thankful for and so much to have joy over that we must guard our hearts to be ever praising and thankful to the Giver.

Sorry this might sound a little Pollyanna-ish but how are we different from anyone else if all the world sees is someone who complains about the circumstance we are currently in? We're not. If people leave from talking to us and have their souls sucked out of them, it won't be long and we won't have an audience or influence with them.

Try today to forget not all His benefits. Try today to have His praise continually in your mouth and then let it out. See if that makes a difference for your own soul as well as the souls around you. I'd like to hear if it makes a difference.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

An Expectant Father Awaits

Our daughter and 10 week old grandson were just here for a week and we put them on a plane yesterday headed back to NC, home and husband/daddy. I really hate "Goodbyes" about as much as anything in life. Especially considering the amount of those I have done in my life you would think I would be used to them by now, but-no.

One of the things that Kimmy said before she left was that it is easier to leave knowing she has Ian on the other side and they were looking forward to being together again. I am sure the reunion was sweet with those 2 as well as Ian with his little man. But is there a picture of the heart of God in prayer there for us in both of those relationships? I think so.

The Song of Songs gives us so many illustrations of the Beloved and Lover coming back together from the world and just enjoying the sweet fellowship that the world takes away. And the love of the Father is shown often throughout Scripture as His children come to Him. That picture is not left in the pages of Scripture though and is still available today through prayer.

Imagine, dream and realize that our Father awaits us coming to Him in prayer. Often the cares and lure of the world take us away from prayer and fellowship with Him. We are busy with life and doing so many "good" things, but He delights in the prayers of His children as much, even more, than we are excited to be reunited with the ones we love. His love for us is unconditional and perfect and He desires to have sweet fellowship with us through prayer.

Don't be drawn away too long. Don't let the enemy's lies of the picture of the impatient Father steal your time away. Don't be too busy with the work to go to the Source of strength. Don't be proud and pretend to not need Him. He is waiting and He loves you and is excited for you to come to Him.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Outcome is Secure

Sometimes it is difficult to know why we are in a certain set of circumstances; why someone has died, or is very sick, why our job situation is indefinite or non-existant, the reasons behind family disunity or friendships ending. We can't see the end and often we are left just seeing and feeling the pain of the right now, and it can be pervasive. At these times what should we do?

1. Remember that God is good and kind and that He has taken us, and literally thousands of generations through these kinds of times and He will not fail us now. The Israelites did this when they built an ebenezer along the paths they often walked. Can you hear them saying these kinds of things to their children? "This one here is for when God brought us over that huge sea, and can you imagine that we walked through the middle of that water and the ground was dry?", or "This is the place where God delivered us from..." They told their children's children these stories because they, both kids and parents alike, need to be reminded.

2. Speak to each other in song, hymns and spiritual songs, making melody in your hearts towards God. This is all kinds of speech reminding us to be joyful in God. Reciting God's Word and promises to each other. We quickly forget what someone says and Satan is good at twisting the truth around and if we continue to rehearse Truth to each other we will be encouraged as will others.

3. Remind ourselves that we don't have to know the outcome, all we have to know is that the outcome is secure. If you know the outcome of a game before you watch it, doesn't it take away all the anxiety? I mean, if you know your team wins, it doesn't matter how far down they are at the start of the game, you can sit back and say "This is really gonna be fun to watch how they come back". Our "win" is secured if we are in Christ. He supplies the strength and there is nothing that can separate us from His love, which is the "win". So it doesn't matter if "friends may fail me, foes assail me- He my Stength my victory wins". It doesn't matter, eternally speaking, if we lose a job, friend, family member or are faced with any other trial in our lives, what matters is that He is in control and we can rest in Him.

Rest in His care today. Encourage someone in His faithful care. Recite His Word to yourself and others. Conform the god in your head to the God of the Bible. He is for us so no one can be against us.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Wheel of Time

Yesterday morning a young and ambitious 33 year old Dan Wheldon got up, full of life, full of adrenaline and full of hope. He had the opportunity to win a $5 million dollar prize if he went fast enough. His wife and small children may have said "goodbye" to him as he went off to drive a million plus dollar car around a circle at up to 225 mph. This is what was on his mind "This is going to be an amazing show. The two championship contenders, Dario Franchitti and Will Power, are starting right next to each other in the middle of the grid. Honestly, if I can be fast enough early in the race to be able to get up there and latch onto those two, it will be pure entertainment. It's going to be a pack race, and you never know how that's going to turn out." He didn't know if his car was fast enough having said it was about 3 mph slower than the leaders.

Like everyone on this planet, we all have a "time wheel" that we get on and get off. The "wheel" of time spins constantly and we get on when we are born and we get off when it's our time. Some have a much longer time on the wheel than others, but we all get on and we all get off. Tragically, yesterday was Dan Wheldon's time to get off.

A much loved member of the racing community, Wheldon, who is said to "Always speaks positively of others and was a friend to many", is now off the "Wheel of Time" but what is he off to? Many think that once life is over it's just over. Over to what? We each have a soul and we all live forever, but to what end do we live? That is a choice that we make while we are on "the wheel".

There is no career that can keep us either living well for eternity or dying hard for the same. There is no amount of niceties that we can give others, not compliments, no friendship or even money given away that set our course for eternity; just our love. Not are WE lovely, but Whom we love.

If things like cars, people, houses, airplanes and the like, crowd out the most important person from our lives then for eternity we will be dying hard. But if in the time we have on "the wheel" we love One Who first loved us and love Him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, above all others and above all things, then we will live the most thrilling eternity we can't even image, at least not until we get off "The Wheel".

This is 2 posts in a row surrounded by death. 2 important people from the world's eyes, from a wife's eyes and especially a kids eyes. We live, life is hard, and then we die. There are no exceptions. Some do have an easier life, but all die sooner or later and then comes eternity and judgment. What/Who we love while on "the wheel" will decide our eternity.

I didn't personally know either Steve Jobs or Dan Wheldon but I am sure they will be missed sorely by their family and close friends, but for us, we must examine our own lives and ask if we have lived as if today might be the day we get off "the wheel". Are you ready? Not many get up in the morning and think that today might be their day. It might be for me and it might be for you.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Gaining Wisdom from Steve Jobs

This week an American and world icon has passed from this life to the next. Some may argue that Steve Jobs was not so great, others have set him up to be god-like. Wherever you fall in this spectrum, or anywhere in between, there is good wisdom gained in numbering our days to gain a heart of wisdom.

There are those who believe deeply about whether or not there is a life after this one; some say that when you're gone- you just go into the ground and you're done, "When you're done, you're done". Others say you go to Heaven or Hell. Some say if you're heroic in your dying you get "extra credit" or pleasure when you get to wherever they think they are going.

Again, all told, whatever you believe or don't believe it is prudent to think through what you are believing and make adjustments to your life accordingly.

Steve Jobs was worth something like $6 Billion dollars. A reminder; that is 6 thousand million dollars. Ok, so the value of the dollar is not what it used to be- that's still probably more value than some countries. The company he was in charge of had more cash this summer than the Federal Reserve and was more valuable than Exxon Mobile- the most valuable brand in the world, for a time this year. He was not thinking about if he could afford to fill up his tank, or budgeting for a weekend get away. He was rich- at least as far as this world is concerned.

So, he passed on Wednesday and I believe that he has some answering to do; we all need to do a little soul searching. Here is a man who, from a worldly perspective, "gained the whole world". There are not many who gained more than he; but what did he really gain? On Thursday "morning" for him, what had he gained? If a man gains the entire world- everything on earth was his- when he leaves this life what does he leave? Everything. Are his wife and kids financially set? Sure, but what good does it do them to gain the entire world when one day they too will leave all?

There is an old saying, "Only one life, will soon be passed. Only what's done for Christ shall last". We might have the privilege and responsibility to have gained the "entire" world, but our soul will still be required of us. "What shall it profit a man--if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?" Matthew 16:26

Suppose a man does gain the whole world--
Does it keep him from trouble?
Does it give his conscience peace?
Does it comfort him in sorrow?
Does it "cushion his falling" for him when he is dying?
Does it purchase Heaven for him when he is gone?

If we went to a party that had Monopoly money and we were given $1000 when we walked through the door and were told, "Get everything you can" and so we did; how foolish would we look if we were strutting around at the end of the night thinking we were big shot, high-rollers knowing we had to give it all back when we left the party door? This illustration is intended to make us think about the futility of getting "everything" here on earth. If we could gain even all the world--at the price of our own soul, would that really be a great trade?

How many people actually go through this life and trade their soul for so much less than "the entire world"?
Some sell their soul for a few hours of guilty pleasure!
Some sell their soul for political power!
Some sell their soul for ill gotten gain!
Some sell their soul for their 15 minutes of fame.
They are selling their souls in many other ways--all for "monopoly money".

What does a man give in exchange for his soul?

There in lies the trouble. When the soul is lost--there is no way of recovering it. When we have made our choice, and lived our life, whether right or wrong--there is no possibility of changing the results! There are no "do over's" and there are no "re-set" buttons. We only go around once; if we live wrongly, there is no chance to live it over again.

There is truth in the saying, "Once your done, you're done" but not the way most people who use that saying mean it. Once we're done in this life- our souls WILL be required of us and if we choose to trade it for earthly pleasure then it is irretrievably lost.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

He does not come in the sunshine only!

I read this and I thought this might be of encouragement to some who are living in the midst of some hard trials right now.

"When they saw Him walking on the water, they cried out in terror, thinking He was a ghost. They were all terrified when they saw Him!" Mark 6:49-50

"It seems strange to us, that the disciples would ever have been afraid of their own Master. They had been in great distress all through the night--just because He was not with them. There was nothing they had desired so much all through those long dark hours--as that Jesus would come to them. Yet now, when He did come--they were in terror at the sight of Him. It was because they did not know that it was Jesus--as His very unusual presence so affrighted them.

It is ofttimes just so with us. We are in some need or danger, and Jesus does not come to us. We call upon Him, and most earnestly desire His coming; yet He does not come. At length He comes, but often it is not as we had expected--in lovely visage and gentle deportment--but in the form of terror! It is in some great trial--that He comes. Death enters our door and carries away a loved one. Or we experience some loss or some misfortune--at least it seems to us, loss or misfortune. We cry out in terror! We do not know that it is Jesus, veiled in the dark robe, who has come! We do not know that this is the answer to our prayer for His presence and His help. We are affrighted at the unusual form that moves over the waters in the dark night. We think it is new danger--when really it is the very divine love and divine help--for which we have been longing and pleading!

We ought to learn that Jesus is in every providence that comes to us. He does not come in the sunshine only; quite as frequently--it is in the dark night that He draws near. It is our duty as Christians to train ourselves to see Christ in every event. Then, whether it is sorrow or joy which knocks at our door--we shall give it loving welcome, knowing that Jesus Himself is veiled in whatever form it is, that He enters. Then we shall find, that when we welcome Him in the somber garments of affliction--He will always have a rich blessing for our lives!"

(J.R. Miller, "Daily Bible Readings in the Life of Christ" 1890)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sometimes He calms the Storm- Other times He calms His Child

"Then He got into the boat and His disciples followed Him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat!" Matthew 8:23-24

Notice the Jesus got into the boat and the disciples followed Him. Does this not teach us that as we follow Christ there may be times when we are right where God wants us, following Him, and storms will be all around us? I have thought many times over the years that the storms should be on those who are not following Him but He is the One Who directs the trials of our lives and He knows best.

Often when people get saved the believe the are entering a "club" of rest and ease and nothing could be further from the truth in this life. "All those who are godly will suffer", "When you fall into various trials..." comes to mind. Jesus never promised a bed of roses with smiley faces all around, He promised to be there and never forsake us and to never leave us more than we could handle. There are no high walls around the Christian to keep trials and hardship out, just a Comforter within to get us through.

It may be just like it often is on Lake Chelan; there can be calm water one minute and literally 20 minutes later the waves can be crashing over the bow. But Jesus is with us as we follow Him and "sometimes He calms the storm and other times He calms His child". That is the name of a song.

Believer, trust Him as you walk and rest in His care, but know that storms will arise and you have an anchor that keeps the soul steadfast and sure as the billows roll, it's fastened to the rock that cannot move, grounded safe and sure in the Savior's love. Get in the boat, but be looking to Him for your safety, not for the water to be flat.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Best Known Verse in the Bible

The most well known verse in the Bible is also one that can create some serious conversation about what God REALLY meant. Questions like, who is included in "world", does God love everyone, does He not give eternal life to some- to name a few. These are hard questions because we like God to be "fair" like we aren't, oh, did I say aren't? We generally only want things to be fully fair toward us and if others lack then we are not losing much sleep over that.

So let's take a look at this, and this will in no way be exhaustive and I am not a Bible scholar, so it should come out pretty simply.

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Let's take that at face value- God loved the world- whatever that means right now- that He gave His one and only Son, BTW I would never do that for you, especially knowing how they were going to treat Jesus, to die for sins He didn't commit so those who believe in Him might be saved from eternal wrath and live with God forever.

17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

The purpose for God's sending His Son to live, die and be raised to life on earth was not to condemn but instead that the world would be saved through Him. This was the plan all along and there is no other way.

18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Some are going to believe and those who do believe are not going to be condemned, but those who do not believe are already condemned bc they don't believe that Jesus is the only way to Heaven.

19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.

Ok- this is where it can poke you in the eye. There is judgment in Jesus coming into the world. God didn't send His Son into the world to condemn the world, maybe this was not the primary purpose, but in His sending of His Son He knew there would be those who would not believe and in not believing there is judgment. God sent His Son, the only way to Heaven, to earth as a free gift and there are many who will not accept the free gift and this brings judgment to them. People make a choice to love darkness rather than the light of Jesus' message and person and in making that choice they are rejecting the other option. They exchange darkness for light bc their works are evil and they like living there.

20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.

This choice is evident by the works they do. They do wicked things; they can't help it bc they love doing the things they love to do. Previous to accepting the best gift we will ever be offered there is no way to actually do good things. Some things are seen as nice or kind, but the motives and intentions of the heart are not seen and truth says that we will always be selfish and proud w/o the Spirit working in our hearts and giving us a new heart. Before salvation our works are evil we choose to live in darkness so that those evil works are not exposed like they will be in the light.

21But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God."

After salvation we have a desire, given by super natural indwelling, that enables us to love truth and light because we desire to have our true nature revealed so God can grow and change us and as we move along in this change the works we do will be seen as good works, carried out in the strength that God gives.

This is all a process and is the reason we were created, to do good works so that others may see those good works and glorify our Father who is in Heaven. Those who know should only be able to attribute this change as from God, if we are giving the glory back to Him.

These are hard things to wrap our finite minds around, but God can move us along in this understanding if we ask Him for wisdm to do so. I hope this is helpful.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I'll Help You Cry

Last night in our Life 2 Life group I could not help but notice the amount of hurt and pain so many are going through, both in our group directly as well as being connected to friends and family who are experiencing the same.

Having been through some testing myself over the years has given me some insight into where they might be and I know that God's grace is sufficient for everything we are going through today as well as what we will be going through tomorrow. I am reminded that there are no left overs of His grace, we are given the exact amount necessary for today and tomorrow the cup of grace will again be filled to the necessary level- much like the manna in the desert. This correlation just clicked into my brain as I was typing.

There hurt is real and people often need someone to talk to and share their heart and often it is just a shoulder to cry on. Not because they are feeling sorry for themselves but because it really is hard. Larnell Harris sang a song some time ago that was entitled "I'll help you cry" and I think that is fitting.

Solomon told us that there is a time for everything, to laugh and to cry, and often we just want to help the laughing but the crying is hard because we are not quite sure what to say and it makes us uncomfortable but it does help at times to have someone that you can just cry with; someone you love enough and that loves you enough that it is ok to let down your guard and just weep. Those friends are the dear ones.

I remember at the outset of this blog a day filled with tears and there were only a few who I considered friends enough to really cry with. My son was lying almost dead in another room and was I supposed to be strong for the 75 people in the waiting room or were they supposed to see my crying? I knew God was in control- I really did- but it was still really hard and when Sean came up and gave me a huge hug and just held onto me, that was the right place to cry.

I hope that if tis finds you hurting that you a friend who will help you cry and will then help you to look to the One Who is able, in all things and times, to heal those hurts and use these circumstances to bring you closer to Himself. We often know what we are supposed to do, but maybe we just need a little time to get past the really hard part before we can start moving forward.

Look to Jesus. For those who are not hurting so much today may we be ready to be a balm for those who are.

Monday, September 12, 2011

For-earthly-ever Changed Security

As we fly past the 10 year anniversary of the 9/11 attack I am reminded of where I was that morning and how different things are around us now. I am reminded that often I take life for granted and that until that day I took my security for granted.

Somethings in our lives were changed "for-earthly-ever" that day. We will never get to just hop on a plane without be asked to disrobe and jump through a bunch of hoops, but it still beats walking or swimming. We will not have the freedom to walk into a court house in any large city without doing the same. There will always be increased threats on our freedoms from those who don't really care about freedom and sometimes they will just be threats to see if they can disrupt and sometimes they will be very real and we won't know until the precise moment comes which is which.

So, we can live in fear the rest of our earthly days, thinking that someone is always out to get us, or we can know that at the precise time, and not a moment sooner, that God has determined to take us home is the ONLY moment we can be taken home and so we can rest knowing He is in control of all things.

Picture for a moment a battle field and bullets flying all over the place; some ricocheting off of tree branches so small they are barely seen, but changing the trajectory of a bullet by a few degrees, just enough to either miss a soldier or hit one in exactly the "Wrong" spot and their life is for-ever earthly changed. Millions of bullets fly and some hit and many miss; one soldier goes through the entire battle w/o a scratch while another is killed and many are injured. Is it fate that chooses who gets which?

Who sets the course of those bullets? It is not God who is evil and makes war, but all does fall under His devine control. Why were you or I not on those plans or in those buildings? Why does the car in front of you get t-boned and not yours'? Why does yours' get t-boned? Why does one person get cancer while another live in abundant health?

The peace and security we enjoy everyday does NOT primarily come from the government we are under, though we do have freedoms that other countries never could imagine, our freedom inevitably comes from God and our security comes from Him as well. Was Daniel concerned about the evil government under which he lived? Were early Church Christians concerned that their freedoms or security would be taken away? They weren't looking at life here on earth as a picnic that should not be interrupted.

If our peace and security is wrapped in a government blanket and we expect to live a quiet and peaceful life w/o disturbance maybe we are living in Mayberry; but even the Mayberrys of the world have their peace and security stolen- Columbine.

So if you are thinking that you deserve to live in harmony with all who are around you and that the government is going to keep you safe, think again. That can change in an instant, like 9/11 changed our lives for-earthly-ever. If you are looking for a life on earth where everyone just gets along and is helpfully serving his brother; keep looking but you're not going to find it on earth.

Our security is given and kept ONLY by God-period. We can and should do what we can to bring terrorists to justice, but when all is laid out the evil people in this world are going to be evil and that might overlap into your life or mine. Will it cripple us or be our "spiritual-therapy"? If it brings us to our knees in thanks and praise to God for His care for us and our loved ones, then those who are trying to take it away have lost, but if we curl up in a fetal ball bc we are too worried about going outside then they have won.

Looking to the right One for security is the most important part. If we are to be safe here on earth then great, but what if He understands it is best for is to suffer- then it is still best. Do you trust His plan? Are you looking for your security in the right place or are you worried? The only real security is being IN Christ, all else is temporary and may end in a moments notice. May He give us peace beyond comprehension.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Cheer-leaders, Chickens and Children

That title makes me smile.

It's been a wild last 3 weeks and in the best of possible ways.

Teresa and I, and Grant, got to go to NC to be with Kimmy and Ian to await the arrival of Job Luther Lugg. Grant and I went to a marketing seminar in the middle of the time we were there and Job came after with put in the new flooring in the house and even waited until we got back from Florida. God allowed him to come at the exact right time for all of us to get to enjoy it.

Being a dad is great. Not because I get to boss people around at home but because I get to see the change that happens in the lives of people I am very close to. With Kimmy there have definitely been some roller coaster types of times- she's a girl and we sort of expect that there will be highs and lows. Watching my little girl being pregnant and then getting to be in the room, though behind a curtain, for the birth was both hard and awesome. Hard, because that's my little girl laboring. Awesome, because this is exactly what she has dreamed about almost her entire life; being a wife and a mom.

I am struck by a few things with this experience and added to this having chickens. I would expect you to ask "What does having chicken have to do with labor, delivery and grand-parenting". I'm glad you asked. I think it has much more to do than may first meet the eye, or ears.

In child labor there is almost always a birth coach. They really have nothing to do with the actual delivery. If they weren't there the child would still arrive. If they are good or bad a baby still enters the world. What is their job? Encourage the new mom and keep them focused.

So what does that have to do with chickens? Our chickens are new at laying eggs, in fact they haven't all laid even one egg yet. I would assume that as they have more egg-laying experience that this trend will not be so prevalent, but yesterday Teresa called me and told me that there was a bunch of noise coming from the coup. I had been working on some things in the coup and had stepped out to get some supplies. She went in to investigate that ruckus and one of the chickens was in the new nesting boxes "laboring" to get this egg out. All the rest of the hens were down on the ground "cheering" her on. She was being supported by her fellow hens. Much the same way as a birth coach would cheer on the mom.

Our Christian life is in some respects the same way. There are a lot of hard times and sometimes we get down and just need a little cheering on. The trials will probably come no matter if there is a cheering section or not, but it is much easier to endure the trials and hardship of life if there is someone there, who is familiar with our circumstances, to cheer us on. That is the job of the Boby.

There is another link to the spiritual aspect of this and that is there is One Who has been tempted in all ways, and yet was sinless and He is our High Priest Who is familiar with all our weaknesses, Who know exactly what we are going trough and He never leaves or forsakes us. We have a "Royal Cheer-leader" with us at all times.

As I was listening to Kimmy labor, as I watched her struggle to stay focused through many hours of contractions, as I watched Iam try to comfort her, though there is a reason they call it labor, I reminded myself that they have a Heavenly Father who loves them much more than I- which is hard to imagine but I know it is true, and He knows precisely what they need at this time.

We still have a part in the cheer-leading and that is what we should be doing, but there is One Who can comfort much more than we ever can and we must focus on Him in the hard times. Come alongside your friends in need and encourage them to look to the One who is really able to meet their need.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Pleasure and Pain

In our life to Life group the other night the question of trials and God's care came up and I read this and thought it was well connected. Maybe it will clarify things for you as well.

(James Smith's autobiography, "Marvelous Mercy!" 1862)

The following in an excerpt from the diary of James Smith:
It has just occurred to me, that the reason why the Lord has of late allowed me to be so severely tried--is that I have been very little at His throne of grace. Nor have His promises appeared so precious, pleadable, and suited to my case.

Jesus is determined to have me often at His throne, and if the invitations and promises of His Word will not draw me there--then He will send trials to drive me there! Blessed Jesus, are you not saying to me by every trial, "Call upon Me! Make use of Me! See what I will do for you!"

What a proof of the deep depravity and base ingratitude of my heart is this--that You are obliged to send trials and troubles to bring me to Your feet! Yet it is so! For unless drawn by the cords of Your loving-kindness, or driven by painful trials--I seldom come to You with earnestness, fervor, and life!

I am so prone to wander, to be light and trifling--troubled by shadows, and excited by mere trifles! I abhor myself because I am vile! O how base my heart is, to despise so glorious a privilege, and to neglect so choice a duty!
O Jesus, cleanse it by Your precious blood!
O Holy Spirit, purify it by Your sacred operations, and keep it by Your power!
O Righteous Father, devote it wholly to Yourself! Give me submission--help me patiently to carry my cross after Jesus, though it is rough, heavy, and galling. From the depths of my heart I can say,
"A sinful, weak, and helpless worm;
On Your kind arms I fall!"

What a proof of the loving-kindness of Jesus to my soul is this--that He will not allow me to be comfortable or happy, while living at distance from Him!

Blessed Jesus! pardon me, correct me--but never leave me to myself! Draw me--or drive me; but never allow me to live long at a distance from You!

Gracious Lord Jesus,
keep me near You,
looking to You,
living for You,
leaning on You,
believing in You, and
expecting from You, all that I need!

Surely this is a sweet life--living on Jesus alone, making Him all in all!

"O bring me to Your sacred feet,
And let me rove no more!"

Friday, August 5, 2011

As we await the arrival of another generation into our family, in a beautiful facility with all the latest technology I can't help but think about days of old and so many countries that don't have access to this blessing. I don't want to take it for granted.
What would it be like for the literally millions of young women across he continent of Africa who don't have air conditioning so they labor in the intense heat knowing full well early on in their pregnancy that the likely potential of the child living past 5 years is less than 50%. They know that there is a good possibility that they may labor for as long as a week and lose the child and also may end up with a fistual that will then cause them to lose their family. Not to mention how they will feed the baby or if they, themselves, will be healthy enough to care for this next generation.
We are blessed in so many ways and we want to celebrate well all the blessings that God has given us.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A remedy for heart trouble!

Well, a blog that was started by "heart issues" should have a post on it every once ein a while like this. Just read this and thought it was good and timely.

(James Smith, "The Remedy for a Troubled Heart!")

"Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God--believe also in Me!" John 14:1

We often trouble ourselves. We often allow our hearts to be tossed about like the waves of the sea, without any real cause. Our Savior forbids it. He forbids it in tender love. He forbids it because it is injurious. It lays us open to temptations, and fosters unbelief and anxiety. Our Lord would have us be calm, patient, and composed; therefore He says, "Let not your heart be troubled!"

He prescribes a remedy for heart trouble, or inward anxiety:

1. "Believe in God." Believe in God as your Father--as loving you, acting for you, and rejoicing in your welfare. See Him . . .
ordering all events with consummate wisdom;
overruling all with infinite skill; and
sanctifying all to your welfare, by His sovereign grace.

There is no room for 'chance'--for His government is perfect.
There can be no unkindness--for His love is infinite.
All will be directed right--for He personally superintends every detail in the universe!
The floating of the atom,
the rolling of the sea, and
all the movements of every mind--
are alike under His control and direction!
"He works all things after the counsel of His own will."

2. "Believe also in Me!" Believe. . .
that I sympathize with you;
that I feel the deepest interest in your welfare;
that I never withdraw my eye or heart from you for one moment;
that I will support you in every place, and under every trial;
that My arm shall be stretched out for you to lean upon, as you come up out of the wilderness of this world;
that I will save you to the uttermost;
that I will show you a brother's love;
that I will stand by you as a firm friend in every distress;
that I will overturn all the designs of your foes against you.

Remember Jesus, that Jesus who . . .
lived for you,
labored for you,
suffered for you,
died for you,
rose for you, and
is now in Heaven pleading for you--
says, "Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God--believe also in Me!"

Friday, July 15, 2011

New Business Ventures

So, it's been quite a while since I posted here. Since the last post I have been in Ethiopia, North Carolina, Arizona, California and Florida. We are scheduled to be back in NC and Florida soon to meet our new grandson, Job Luther.
What I have been doing is starting up a few new business opportunities. One is Weinberg Marketing Solutions, Raleigh SEO and
With all the years I have spent in business I have some idea of what makes a business work as well as what drives clients to that business. Please see the new websites and FB and Twitter pages and support us if you are so inclined.
God has opened many doors that would not have been opened without His leading and so we are excited to see where He leads us in this process.
Blessings to you all.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Clinging in Good times

I've been thinking about my own dependence on God in this interesting time and I believe that He has worked in my own heart to get me to this point. He constantly has been shaping me in order that I might have the faith to be where I am today. I believe He does this in different ways for each of His children. He gives us just enough encouragement to keep us going and enough heart ache to keep us clinging to Him.

The disappointing part for me is my lack of realized dependence on Him when times are good. I have been asked if I feel like a modern day Job, or just a simple question "How are you really doing right now?" with the thought that maybe I am not really ok or that I am going though something too hard for me to handle. I appreciate the concern, I really do, but God has pounded on me enough over the past few years that He has made me ready for what He is bringing, and He has done the same for you if you are one of His children.

So back to the point of this post- why do I wander when times are good? It is so irritating. I want to cling to Him like I currently am all the time and as soon as there is breathing room it seems I am back to looking to my own understanding and not looking to Him.

Oh for the time when all is consumed with all the He is, but I guess that is only when we are promoted to our new Home. I want so much to live like that here but I guess that's the fighting of flesh and living as a sojourner. Maybe today will be the day we can go Home and not have to fight this body of sin anymore. Jesus- return for Your people today.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

What's Next?

Ten years ago I was contemplating very seriously leaving Les Schwab after 18 years. Ten years ago there was much uncertainty about what the future would look like and if starting a granite company would be a good thing, but I didn't really give much thought to the idea that it would not be successful; was that pride or naivety? Maybe it was both.

Ten years on that "coaster" has given me much joy, many new friends, some hard work, hopefully a large group of satisfied clients and now a closed door. All of our family, except John, has been able to work at PG and that was fun. We have been able to travel to parts of the world we may have never been able to see and cross paths with friends we would never have met. We have built long lasting relationships and learned much about partnerships. We have grown.

So "what's next?" is now the question I hear most often, connected with "Are you ok?". So I will answer the 2nd first and the 1st second.

Yes, I certainly am ok, in fact I am more than ok. I can know for certain that I have done everything in my power and used every resource available to me to stay where I was and just as God showed His faithfulness in keeping Grant alive and in bringing John to our family, I know that much of life does not depend on me, but rather is Him leading us where He would have us go. I had been praying, and had asked others to pray as well, that He would make it very clear to me where He would have us to go and that requires doors opening AND closing. He made it clear.

How can one be good with being unemployed in this economy and at this stage in life? I can only tell you that I know He has a plan for me and He has been faithful for generations and HE will not stop being faithful today or tomorrow. I know that according to Eph. 2:10 He has work planned for me as long as I have breath here and as soon as there is no more work there will be no more breath. He promises to supply all our needs and He is faithful in that as well. I am not relying on my resources but His and His resources are much greater than mine.

So back to question #1. What's next? i am not sure what I am going to do but I am excited about where He is leading me and what He has planned. We are not promised the "bread" or the "fish" but something better and so I am excited to see what the "better" thing is. Will it be in the stone industry or not? I am not sure. I have many contacts around the world and I really enjoy this business, but I just don't know yet. I want to be somewhere that I can assist in building a great team again and a place I can make a difference in people's lives. I want to be somewhere I can freely tell of God's goodness and faithfulness and be a light into this dark world. I want to be more involved with widows and orphans, if possible in Ethiopia, but not limiting where He leads. I just want to be used by Him to encourage people as they walk with Him. I want people to see that living for Christ is worth the "trouble and heartache" and that there is joy in serving Him, even if we are not in control.

Please pray for my heart to be satisfied in Him and that Teresa would have peace in this un-secure storm. He is good and kind and He NEVER fails.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Want Peace that passes understanding?

Is. 26:3 You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.

T called me yesterday morning and had been reading through old posts on the blog. She was encouraged by what she read, which is an encouragement to me, but it got me thinking about the event that prompted the blog itself.

I would never have guessed in a million years that I would write all this stuff down but it has been a good exercise for me and hopefully others have been encouraged along the way. I have become much faster at entering the posts with all this typing.

So what of the events of that day and all those days in between? I didn't read all the posts I have written but I read a few this morning and smiled when reminded of the times I was writing about or thought "I don't remember what I was thinking about when I wrote this".

I do remember one thing and it is contained in the verse at that top. On March 22, 2008 many people asked me about the calm that I had in the time. Through these 2 1/2 years there have been plenty of times when peace could have abandoned me, and sometimes I have let peace go out the window but I believe more often than not I have had peace because I have kept my mind on Christ and His Word.

Notice that it is God Who keeps us in peace as we keep our minds stayed on Him and as we trust in Him. This is really His work as well. If I depend on myself to be near Him and fixed on Him, I will fail, so I must pray constantly that He would keep me there and in that place I can and do have peace.

Much of our lives are filled with trials and turmoil. We have many opportunities each day to NOT have peace and worry about things; many beyond our control. We can have peace that passes all understanding if we keep our minds fixed on Him and recount His faithfulness toward us. He is faithful. He loves and cares for us. He gives what is best for us and He does not fail. That will bring you peace.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hope in God.

How can we know? What about tomorrow? Will next year be somewhat similar to this year? Will the kids be healthy? Will grand babies be healthy? Will the economy pick up? What if it doesn't? Am I where I'm supposed to be, doing what I'm supposed to be doing? All these questions and a thousand more and yet who holds the answers? Will we get to know before the day actually comes?

A friend of mine reminded me today that "God is never late and He is seldom early" and what a good reminder that is. I think about the timing of events around Grant's cardiac arrest- perfect timing. Not too early and not to late. Literally minutes either direction would have been fatal, but he is still here.

So, in light of all the events in our lives, each day, each year and decade, what is our hope? Think about and recite to yourself the many times God has provided in the most amazing ways, creative ways that only He could have arranged to bring about the perfect ending to the crazy situation you were in. We have to tell ourselves often "Remember when He..." or else we will look at the impossible situation and despair. There is no impossible situation and He orchestrates all these things for our good and His glory.

If He comes too soon then the possibility of us taking the credit for it is greater. If He comes too late then there is despair. Like the waters of the Red Sea- His timing is perfect and often it is the only way out. What will He do tomorrow with your dilemma of today? Watch and see. Wait and hope. And when He does come through don't forget to praise Him aloud so that He will be shown to be your hope.

"Why are you cast down, O my soul,and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,my salvation and my God."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Teach us to number our days

I guess we have anniversaries of our birth to remind us that time is slipping away and where we have been in these years. Just 10 quick years ago we were very much on our way to leaving LS, after 18 years.

Leaving the security of the "known" and stepping headlong into the very much unknown can be a bit scary. Would I change it knowing what I know now? I don't think so.

In the past 10 years we have been allowed to meet some very special people, go some amazing places, meet some gracious people, employ some great friends and work in partnership with many great people. Others often ask me about the adventures we have been on, India, Brazil, Italy and the likes, but in the end it is more about the people than anything else. And not necessarily the people a long way away either.

What does tomorrow, this year or the next 10 years hold? I have no more clue about that than I did when we started on these last 10 years. Do I need to know? Should I know? Would it be better if I knew? I don't think so. God allows today all the trouble and gives blessings for today and when tomorrow comes there will both new mercies and new trials. Let's not rush into those days too quickly.

So from my chair, close to 1/2 a century in this tent, I am thankful for His leading, for His kindness and grace and for the many people He has connected us with over the years to encourage our walk towards the image of His Son.

As the title of the blog states- He is Good!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Glorius Giver

I think if you asked anyone they would say that they keep their word; if they make you a promise they keep it. You would say that, right? When we tell someone something we fully expect to do what we have said and they expect us to do that as well. If we make a promise and people immediately don't expect it to come true then it seems our reputation of being un-trustworthy has preceded us. I have known people who I could not believe really anything they have said- that's sad.

What's the point? If I tell you that I am going to do something what real power do I have to keep that promise? What if I tell you I'll give you a ride to the airport tomorrow but find myself in the hospital? That's no help to you. I didn't do it on purpose but I have no real control over what I make promises about.

So, who can you really trust? We can only fully trust the One Who has not only the will to carry out His promises but the power to control all things connected to those promises. Since God says that He will provide for our needs, what if our needs are immense? Does it matter to God if you need $1m or $5? Is there a difference in His checkbook between these 2 amounts? Since it's all His money anyway, what difference will it make? The only thing He needs to decide is what we really need.

But how do we get what we really need? By asking Him. He says that often we don't have because we don't ask. Now that is pretty dumb on our part, right? If your dad has so much money that you don't even have a good idea how rich he is, and if he is so kind and generous to all who ask him, why would you not go and ask if you needed $100? Are you expecting him to get mad, when he never has before? "Oh, this might be the first time he has gotten mad at me". It seems ridiculous to even talk like that, but don't we practice that way?

In my own heart I believe it is pride that I can do it without asking Him. Shame on me. He delights in keeping His promises and He loves to be asked and to fulfill them. Let us make it our aim to ask quickly and often for Him to keep His Word in helping His children. What a Glorious Giver we serve.