Tuesday, October 29, 2013

4 Little Words

This past weekend I was at a conference. Conferences can be anything from a yawner to time to get us really excited about something. The anticipation of a certain time can also set the tone for what the results will be of the time we spend. That's the way it is with lots of things in life.

Have you ever noticed that when you are dreading something, most of the time it is not as enjoyable as it could be? Or when you are really looking forward to something that it seems to be almost magical.

That tells us something about how important our mind is in the entire process. Looking at the positive can really make a difference. That is what I'd like to talk about here.

While away I had the privilege of being with one of my relatives, David. We are cousins and I am almost 10 years older than he, but in many ways he is a lot farther down the road. This is certainly not to say that he acts old but he has worked hard on his own personal development and I can say that the one thing that he is is an encourager.

I was really looking forward to going to this conference just to work on myself and to talk to a couple of friends. I went with the idea of encouraging others and hoped that I would also be challenged myself. To be encouraged by another would be a bonus.

There happened to be around 6000 people at this event and David is one of the leaders and even though we are related I don't expect him to come and talk with me all the time. 

I walked in and found a seat and he was walking close to where I was and he came over and gave me a hug and said, "I'm really glad you were able to make it". Encouraged.

Later on in the event I had talked with him about a couple of things and he sent me a text a few hours later and said just 4 words. 4 words that I need to use more often together. 4 words that as I think of them now have really encouraged me. "I believe in you".

As strange as it seems that an old guy like me needs to be encouraged it's true. I understand that if I need the encouragement then there are also many others who will need the same kind of words.

When was the last time you encouraged someone with these kind words or something similar? 
When was the last time someone said something like this to you?

Did you feel like writing a blog post:) about how it made you feel? Probably not but that's what I like to do. Did it put enough wind in your sails to allow you to pass it along to someone else?

We are all in this together. We need to get great at these kinds of things. One other thing. You might be surprised at who is more encouraged when you encourage another. We give and we get back.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Look at Your Thumb

Could it be that the distance across your thumb is a measurement for something significant?
Could it be that this same distance could actually represent you and I?

What in the world am I talking about?

The saying "There is not 1 thumbs width in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry "Mine" should stir up some kind of emotion in all of us. Lately I have been thinking about this more personally- meaning that same thumb's breadth is ME. He cries "Mine" over me. Could this really be? If it does then what implications does it have on me today?

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose!" 

James Smith said, "All things? Yes! Everything that happens to the Christian is directed and overruled by God's special Providence for his good! The experience may be very bitter--it may lay him very low and try him to the core; it may keep him in the dust for a long time. But it will do him good--not only in the end, but while it lasts.

Nothing could be better for you (and me)! You and I may not see it now; you may even feel as if you never could think so--but the time is coming when you will bless God for it."

You love God--and God loves you with an infinite and eternal love. You came to the cross as a poor sinner--and you looked to the Lord Jesus to be your perfect Savior. This proves that you have been called according to God's purpose. You are one of God's beloved ones, and as such--you may have the assurance that all things . . .
  light and darkness, 
  health and sickness, 
  hatred and love, 
  prosperity and adversity, 
  life and death--
will work together for your good!

Dark clouds bring rich blessings--and sharp winters introduce fruitful springs. Even so, sore troubles often precede the sweetest consolations. Your present affliction--whether it is . . .
  sickness of body,
  trouble of mind,
  crosses, or
  whatever else
--is working for your good. It will work for good in the future, and it is working for good now. While your heart is bleeding, and you are tempted to think that all is against you--all is working together for your good!

Dear Lord, I do not see how my affliction can be good for me. But help me, Lord, to accept it as such by faith--so that I may receive what You have for me through it."

I understand this and yet there are times when I choose to look less favorably on those same things that HE is bringing into my life to prune and shape me for whatever may come tomorrow; whatever those skies look like.

May we live life today, enjoy the process, and encourage others in the fight for joy as HE works for our good. 

"We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope!" Romans 5:3-4

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Old Trees Vs Young Trees

Did you know that there are now many fruit producers in the world that replace their fruit trees every 7-10 years? 

While it used to be that if you planted and apple tree this year the only thing you had to do was prune it and collect fruit for the next 30-40 years, agriculturists are realizing that with proper training and pruning the fruit yield is better on these young trees than it is as they grow older.  They rip out the "old" trees and replace them with fresh ones that will produce more fruit faster.

Hmm. That seems a little harsh. One could argue that "it's a business and it makes business sense". 

We are not trees per se but our fruit production does come into question by the Master Gardener. What does He say about our production these days? Would His orchard be more productive with "younger" trees?

What kind of fruit is coming from our lives that is unique to an older variety that can't be duplicated by younger ones? What keeps us in the garden when our maintenance program seems like it's taking more work than the fruit production warrants? Sooner or later it becomes a "business decision" and the juice isn't worth the squeeze.

Jesus gives the analogy that The Father is "Vinedresser" and that He is the vine and we are branches. He tells us that the branches that don't produce fruit are cut off and thrown into the fire. Branches that do produce fruit are still being pruned to bear more fruit. That all makes perfect horticultural sense but what about in our personal lives?

Does 1 piece of fruit per year warrant pruning and not burning? Does the fruit that we produce change as we grow older? Seriously, when someone is old and grumpy and is costing thousands of dollars per month to keep alive, is this good crop management? What keeps someone like this from being cut off and burned? What kind of fruit production can we yield that is not only keeping us attached to the vine but producing more and better with each passing year?

These are questions that I am wrestling with. Why does God keep grumpy Christians around? What does an old Christian produce that young ones need? What does the Vine need that kind of fruit for? Am I producing the kind of fruit that warrants the effort to prune or is it better for The Father to start over with young plants?

John 15 wasn't written so we could gloss over the passage and say "yeah, yeah. I've heard all that before". Jesus said things so that we'd listen and obey. What kind of fruit are we producing that is so amazing it warrants the work to keep us on the vine?

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Story for The Ages

Who's for you today? Does it seem like you're in the fight by yourself? Does it seem like your friends have either left you on the battlefield all alone or they are powerless to come to your rescue? Are you in the battle but don't have anything to defend yourself with? Does it seem like you brought a knife to a gun fight? Don't despair. Your Big Brother is here to step in.

Read this below and remember that if you are a Christian this is your Advocate, your Big Brother.

Rom. 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
There are some hard things in the pipe for many people these days, including yours truly but look at these verses. Christ, our Brother is at the right hand of the Father making requests and pleading with the Father on our behalf. This is not some kind of distant relative that doesn't have any idea what we are going through and this is not the kind of person who has never been through difficulties Himself. He has been through every kind of trial, to the highest degree, and yet He didn't fail in those trials. This is the Savior we pray to, look to and believe in.
But what about my little faith? What about those days when I believe part way but wonder if He's going to come through for me? I mean I KNOW He will come through for you but what about my situation today? Isn't that where we often live? We know this, that or the other thing will work perfectly for others but maybe we're not completely convinced that it will work for us. We know God is good and kind because we've read all the stories and we've seen Him work in other's lives but will he do the same for us today?
There's a story about that in the Bible too. A father who loves his son very much and this boy is a mess. Mute, deaf and having seizures that throw him into the fire for as long as he's been alive. That's a hard thing for a father to watch. This man brings his son to Jesus' disciples because he's heard the stories. Whatever it took he was going to get his son there. 
Heartbreak awaits him as the disciples can't get it done. Wow, now that would be discouraging. All that he had seen and heard and maybe his case was out of reach for a cure. He had seen everyone else's cures but maybe...
Nope, he didn't give up all his hope. He was in this to the end. He was going to stop at nothing to make sure that his son got what he needed; a cure. So when the disciples couldn't pull it off he went straight to the top. He went to the man with the shining face, Jesus had just come down from the mountain, and he was going to take his son to Him.
There was doubt in his heart about the disciples. There was doubt in his heart about his own abilities and there even seems to be some doubt in his heart about Jesus' ability to make his son completely whole but he knew Jesus could do something and something was much better than where they were at the moment. 
He asks Jesus to do something; anything but he puts an "if" in the sentence. "If you can do anything". We can read the story and wonder what this guy was thinking- "IF". What, where's your faith man? Did he realize he was talking to Jesus, the Son of God? Probably not. He knew that there were a bunch of people that were sick and this "man" was healing them but maybe his case was too difficult and especially since these guys that were with him were healing people too and they couldn't seem to give his son any relief. This is a father in need of some answers and he is hoping that this "Jesus" is the final stop.
Mark 9:21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.”24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
Jesus answers him. “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes." "Believe" in what or whom? Not the disciples. Not the words he had heard. Not the stories of other. Not the words he had read or had read to him in the synagogue but he needed to believe in Jesus; just Jesus.  
He is honest with Jesus. “I believe; help my unbelief!” He had lived a life of hardship, watching his son suffer, and he had seen the disciples inability to remedy his son and so Jesus is his last resort. Truly Jesus is his ONLY resort. He had faith but he knew it was wavering and he needed Jesus to give him the faith to believe all things were possible.
He was going to have a story to tell. This is a story for the ages and stories like this bring glory to God. This is NOT a story about a sick boy or a father with awesome faith. This is a story about Jesus healing someone, the boy, who may not have had any faith himself and a father who had some faith that Jesus could come to his rescue. But the story is not about having all the faith you need and that is what gets your need met. It's about Jesus taking the little faith we do have and increasing it right in front of our eyes so when we watch Him work we can tell generations to come what Jesus did.
This is a hard story for me to read as I know that many others see the little faith I have and think that I believe all the time; it's not true. I can relate way too much for my liking with this father. I hate that my faith goes up and down like a roller coast. I hate that I trust God implicitly one minute and the next it's like I never even believed. I have to talk to my soul all the time and I think that it seems childish that I am at this point of unbelief at this stage of my walk with Christ. Maybe it's that my faith is not childish enough.
A child believes their daddy is going to make it better  and can handle everything that comes their way. There is no over thinking going on with a child. They believe-period. 
Jesus can handle what concerns us today. He can increase our little faith but it requires that we go with the faith we have and at least ask Him to work on our behalf and on our faith. He is willing, able and excited to grant our requests to us so we need to stop thinking that He is good to all others and question whether He will be good to us. That last paragraph should be written in first person.
Ask. Believe. Trust. Get ready to tell some amazing stories about God's work on your behalf. I'll do the same. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

What's in a Square? All you Need for an Amazing Life.

A day. What makes a day a "Day"? 24 hours, 1/7 of a week or 1 earth rotation.

We often get hung up in the fact that there are weeks, months, years and even lifetimes. We sing songs about the weekend, tomorrow, yesterday and all the other squares on the paper on the wall that has more writing on it than many other things in our homes- the calendar.

What is the most important square on your calendar? The one that has today's date. Really that square is a microcosm of our life. It has everything we need packed into 1 earth rotation. Like a perfect "square" meal, a day has a balance of all that we need and with enough repetition we end up with an awesome body of work called "life".

Like a balanced meal there are also components of our life that make it balanced like work, trials, needs, joy, laughter and community. There is enough of all that in every day to fill that little square up, we needn't try to add more to this square from either the squares previous or the ones to come. They are also well balanced and equipped themselves. 

JR Miller, someone I quote pretty frequently said, "The very best we can do for any day, for the perfecting of our life as a whole, is to live the one day well. We should put all our thought and energy and skill into the duties of each day, wasting no strength, either in grieving over yesterday's failures--or in anxiety about tomorrow's responsibilities."

At the end of our lives others may look back and consider our "body of work", talk briefly about what we accomplished and what we were known for but they too will move on from that square and into the next one, which will have a balance for them as well. But that body of work we call life is not what we are to dwell on while in this square called today. We are to focus on this square and this square only.

The awesome part about this square is that it will not crush us in and of itself. There is a lot to do today but only enough to fill this day and we only have to carry today's trials and needs until the sun falls from the sky today and then we can rest. 

If we know that we only have to make it today there is no problem making it. Our issue surfaces when we are more concerned about the following squares and try to dump the things that may come then into today. We end up more worried about tomorrow and don't live today.

So live today like it's your last with all the enjoyment and work you can pack into it. Laugh a bunch. Work a bunch. Shake the world around you as much as you possibly today and then rest tonight. 

There may or may not be another square to follow so don't worry about that one. Just fill this square up. 

What's in a square? All you need for an amazing life. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Parts Flying Everywhere.

I have a friend who is the parts manufacturing business and he makes some pretty sophisticated parts for military aircraft. These are generally very small parts that make up a larger part that makes up another larger part. These are very specific parts with very specific intended usage requirements. 

There have been a few airplane crashed that make the news at times. It seems that the little black box is something they are after right off the bat and then there is a full investigation as to what went wrong. Often they take the complete aircraft back to a warehouse/hanger type location and spread it across the floor in schematic form to see if they can draw clues as to what was the real cause of the plane's malfunction.

I can't remember a time when the entire engine flew off the wing or the tail just ripped completely off. That is not saying that this has never happened but it is not the norm for sure.

Now the parts my friend makes may go into the engine to perform a specific task or in the tail area as a jack screw or something like that. If those parts are manufactured and not put with the whole plane they will never fly by themselves. If they could have a dream they might dream of flying but they have to get with the rest of the parts to make the engine and then be attached to the wing which is attached to the fuselage and then they can fly.

If the part goes into the engine and it doesn't work the engine will not function properly or at all and there will be failure on some level.

Our part of community is quite the same way. We want to fly and we want to contribute in some sort of large way that will make a difference and yet it is the little things that enable 'flying". In some sense or another we are all part of each other's flight. 

In bodily form no one really is excited about being the foot until the foot is badly needed to perform at the highest level to get the rest of the body somewhere. If the foot can't perform then the rest of the body is restricted in its movement and maybe doesn't show up.

What's your part in this world? Does it seem insignificant? You're needed no matter what you think at the moment. How can you be the best performing part God intended you to be? 

A Chainsaw NOT a Helicopter

It's always interesting and encouraging what and when God brings things into my life. This has been an extremely difficult time for me/us as of late and yet God continues to bring just the right bits of "light" to our dark road. Today is another of those times and it comes in a variety of forms and I'll show you one and leave some of the others a mystery at this moment in time.

This came to my inbox-

"Cast your burden on the LORD--and He shall sustain you" Psalm 55:22 

"The promise is not that the Lord will remove the load we cast upon Him, nor that He will carry it for us--but that He will sustain us so that we may carry it! 

He does not free us from duty--but He strengthens us for it. 

He does not deliver us from conflict--but He enables us to overcome. 

He does not withhold or withdraw trial from us--but He helps us in trial to be submissive and victorious, and makes it a blessing to us. 

He does not mitigate the hardness or severity of our circumstances, taking away the difficult elements, removing the thorns, making life easy for us--but He puts Divine grace into our hearts, so that we can live sweetly in all the hard, adverse circumstances!" JR Miller

"My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness!" 2 Corinthians 12:9

How then does He "Strengthen us for duty", "Enable us to overcome", "Help us to be submissive and victorious"? It seems that this happens in many ways. Sometimes it is through a timely, encouraging word, a random act of kindness, a gift of some sort or another or the knowledge that others are praying for us. 

He gives us what we need to make it through these times not get out of them; a chain saw to blaze the trail not a helicopter to snatch us out.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What are YOU Afraid of?

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
    fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1

"The fear of the Lord "- what does that mean? 

Fear conjures up many different things in our hearts. One person has a phobia of something that others make a living doing. The sky scraper window washer is a great example of someone who can't be afraid of heights. The reptile man can't be afraid of snakes. The motivational speaker can't be afraid of public speaking. But is this the kind of fear that Proverbs is talking about?

Are we to be afraid of God in the same sense as these previous examples? What does a God fearing man look like? God is holy, righteous, faithful, loving, sovereign and good; just to name a few. 

What does it look like to fear a holy God and does that look different than fearing a God who is characterized by tender love and affection for His people? Look at this next verse.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me. Psalm 23

"Fear" is in the verse but in this case David is saying that he will "fear no evil". Evil is often feared after we have seen its affects. We are not intrinsically afraid of walking down a dark street until we have seen this situation go south for ourselves or for others. After we have seen evil work and even as we come to a place where death seems to be knocking at our door we can take comfort in knowing that His rod and staff are there to protect and guide us. Not His arms but His instruments are there to comfort. 

As a father I know something about fear. There have been times my children have feared me as they have had occasion to be disciplined and that is never fun. I hope that those fears are long out of their hearts and heads and it is a respect of time and position that they acknowledge rather than me coming down on them today. This can be a kind of "fear" but it's all wrapped up in the person of God. 

We know Him and His power-
 to heal and to bring low
 to protect and provide and to take away as needed
 to trample armies and not break a wilting blade of grass 
 to prune and cultivate for fruit production

This is the same God, with the same end in mind and yet His ways are different for each circumstance for the good of His children and His glory. When we fear Him rightly He brings our hearts closer to Him. That comes in many forms. 

Think about "kindness leading to repentance". It seems counter intuitive but it is so true. We know He is right and so our hearts are drawn to Him even when we are wrong because we know He is kind in His judgments and He forgives His people. 
The angel of the Lord encamps
    around those who fear him, and delivers them. Psalm 34

That is a great promise to those who fear the Lord and in our human hearts does that look like the same fear is our enemies would have when they see the "angel of the Lord"? That same angel looks very different to them than it does to those who fear Him.

My heart is heavy these days as it seems like the valley floor is nowhere in sight but I continue to descend. The fear of night doesn't bother me nor the fear of winter but the fear of the unknown. As I posted not too long ago, the fear of pruning is fine with me but it's harder when we don't know if the end result is going to be a stump that remains. 

He takes us into valleys for our good and His glory; I know that in my head but right now my heart is not too happy about being having to look straight up and still not seeing light. The thought that the valley is where I might remain is troubling and yet He says that even in the valley of the shadow of death there is comfort. 

Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints,
    for those who fear him have no lack! Psalm 34

No Lack. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Heritage a Year and a Half Later

I wrote this in January of 2012 and forgot to post it. I reread it and I have to say that God's timing was perfect for me to read my own words.

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 and plan.

This morning I was in an email conversation with a friend of mine who owns multiple businesses; very diverse in nature and all surrounding one 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? 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 than "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 of life and 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 can rust, be stolen or fades away with time.

Present and Timely Help

You are my refuge--my portion in the land of the living! Psalm 142:5

Another timely reminder from JR Miller-

"Often we do not learn the depth and riches of God's love, and the sweetness of His presence--until our earthly joys vanish out of our hands, and other beloved presences fade away out of sight.

The loss of temporal things seems often to be necessary to empty our hearts--that they may receive unseen and eternal realities. The heart's door is never fully opened to Him--until the soul's worldly joys are removed; then, while it stands open, He enters bearing into it immortal joys! 

How often is it true, that the sweeping away of our earthly hopes reveals the glory of our heart's refuge in God! Someone has beautifully said, 'Our refuges are like the nests of birds: in summer they are hidden among the green leaves--but in winter they are seen among the bare branches.' Worldly losses but strip off the foliage, and disclose to us our heart's warm nest in the bosom of God!"

The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble! Psalm 9:9 

God is our refuge and strength--a very present help in trouble! Psalm 46:1 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Getting Hacked- Necessary Not Fun

We worked on our raspberries this past week and cleaned them all out for next year's crop. Raspberries grow on last year's canes and so the idea is to clean out the canes that produced fruit this year and only leave the canes that will produce the following year.

Pruning is kind of a strange thing. Cutting something back so that it will give you more fruit. It seems like it would be the opposite; if the plant were larger it would give you more fruit. In most cases this is untrue.

I'm all for fruit production and pruning; in the garden. I'm all for getting rid of that old stuff and keeping the productive ones. Unless it's in my own life and then I'm not too excited about it. I get that this is what God does and He tells us the reasons are the same as they are in the garden but what I want is for Him to prune off a leaf or two that are kind of ugly and then leave the rest of the plant alone. Hacking entire branches hurts.

I've had my fair share of hacking lately and I can't say that I am growing fonder of the process. From my head and my mouth I will say that God is good and I know that He doesn't make mistakes but there is a fear inside me that is wondering if He is going to hack until there is just a little stump left.

Again, I know that this plant, whatever it is, will probably grow back up to be more amazing than it was before and grow lots of fruit but right now it is "feeling" pretty crappy. Like David when he was humiliated in front of his people, this plant looks pretty ridiculous. 

God prunes for more fruit and if we are not bearing fruit then we are of no use for His purposes anymore. That's a hard saying but worthy of consideration. 

Another interesting thing I have been considering about these pruning cycles is that not only is my pruning for fruit production but also for the good of others and the glory of God. We encourage others when we bear up under the pain of pruning. 

The Father is the "Vine-dresser" or pruner and He knows what He is doing. Thinking about the pain of pruning itself is not productive but thinking about the process of pruning with an end to fruit production is working in the right direction. 

God prunes those He loves and He loves to see His branches bear LOTS of fruit. As much as I don't want to say it, if He decides that it's best for me to look like the plant above then I am supposed to be not just ok with but excited about the opportunity to be pruned by the best. That's a new spot for me to be in.

I acknowledge my dependence but I want to add my 2 cents in too. Bad program on my part. Dependence is not knowing that "I don't have all the answers" but rather that I don't have any of the answers and that I have to lay down my life and let Him prune as He knows best. 

Please pray that I would look towards the fruitful end rather than at the clippers. Pray that I would see that He is doing what is best even though watching those whole branches fall to the ground it is painful. 

As Long as You are Glorified- Sovereign Grace music. 

Shall I take from Your hand Your blessings 
Yet not welcome any pain
Shall I thank You for days of sunshine
Yet grumble in days of rain
Shall I love You in times of plenty
Then leave You in days of drought
Shall I trust when I reap a harvest
But when winter winds blow, then doubt

Oh let Your will be done in me
In Your love I will abide
Oh I long for nothing else as long 
As You are glorified

Are You good only when I prosper 
And true only when I’m filled
Are You King only when I’m carefree 
And God only when I’m well
You are good when I’m poor and needy 
You are true when I’m parched and dry 
You still reign in the deepest valley 
You’re still God in the darkest night

So quiet my restless heart
Quiet my restless heart
Quiet my restless heart in You

A lot of talking and singing to my soul lately.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Broken, Trampled, Torn!

I just thought this was very good and thought I'd share it here. 

"Life may seem a failure here, crushed like a lily under the heel of wrong or sin--broken, trampled, torn! But it may yet become a glorious success. Many of the truest and best of God's children, know only defeat in this world. They are ever beaten back and thrust down. The burdens are too heavy for them. They are overmastered by sorrows. The world's enmity treads them in the dust. They are not worldly wise, and, while others march by to great earthly success--they live obscurely oppressed, cheated, wronged, and lie buried away in the darkness of failure." JR Miller

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal!" 2 Corinthians4:16-18

Friday, October 4, 2013

Do You Need Roadside Assistance?

Here's Your Sign
It seems the signs of the times are all over the place but the signs I am talking about right now are probably not the signs you are thinking.

This is a sign that I'm talking about. They seem to be popping up not just on every street corner but multiple times on every corner.

Now we have grown steadily accustomed to seeing them and we hear of the fraudulent cases where people stand with a sign and then get in their luxury car when they're finished for the day, but I am guessing that is not the norm. In life a few bad apples still spoil the whole box. 

This is not a post about whether or not you should give to the person holding this sort of sign. This is a post about actually looking and listening for signs that people around us really do need help but without holding an actual sign. 

We Live In CrazyTown
We're in a hurry these days. We are trying to get things done and there's more month than money for many. Obamacare is not fixing anything. Budget deficits are out of control. The government is printing currency faster than we can make it and the list goes on.

But what about your neighbor? What about your kids? What about your parents? 

We are all in this crazy mess together and guess what- we need each other. We are all different and uniquely talented and yet God has us here, in the place where we are today, for a specific purpose. That purpose is NOT for ourselves; it's for others.

Let me jump into your world for a moment so you can understand what I'm talking about with perspicuity- that means more clarity. We learned a new word this last Sunday:)

One of THOSE Days
I don't have to ask if you've ever had "one of those days" because we all have. It's the day that the cat gets sick and yacks up a honker fir ball as you're trying to eat your breakfast and then the dog runs out of the house and you can't catch him. You have a flat and your spare is also flat. You bump into someone car in the parking lot. You're late for work and it would have been much more convenient yesterday when you had far less to do. You forgot your lunch and your wallet is empty and it's not even noon yet. You get the point.

The man or lady on the street corner has a sign that tells people they need help. We don't take a piece of cardboard out of the trash and make a sign when we have those kinds of days. Maybe we should, but we don't. What kind of sign do we really make though? 

Focus, Phones and Flop
The normally chipper person is focused on getting to their task. The phone is answered in a lower tone. When they take their seat they flop down with little control. There is an inordinate amount of sighing. Head in hands for a few minutes. Staring off into space. You get the picture. They are not themselves- the person you know them to be.

How do we help? Do they need a dollar bill? Maybe, but probably not. Do they need your protein bar? Actually maybe they do but you won't know until you ask them something. Most likely any form of a kind gesture will get the conversation started and you will be able to tell how you can help.

Healthy Eats- Raised Countenance 
The other day I went into a business to see a friend and he has been very stressed out lately and I noticed he was not eating lunch when the others were and there was no food sitting around. I went and got a protein bar and some coconut oil from my car and offered it to him. He was very thankful and the cost to me was minuscule. 

Here's the thing. I'm not the hero here I was just paying attention to my friend. Again, we all have different strengths and gifts. Teresa says that I have a tire changing ministry. I actually like to help people change their spare out when they have a flat alongside the road. It's really not a big deal for me because I can do it super fast and you would be surprised what 4-5 minutes of my time is worth to some young mom with a baby or 2 in the back seat sitting along the road. They didn't have a sign that said, "please stop and help me change my tire". They didn't need one.

Here's the deal. I want to emphasize this again. I am NOT the hero. 

I have super hard days too. I don't get a piece of cardboard out either and I hope that someone notices and helps. Just because someone is the one who is generally the encourager doesn't mean that they don't need it returned every once in a while.

My Turn
Actually yesterday was one of those days for me. I didn't have a flat because that really wouldn't have been an issue for me. I wasn't late. I didn't forget my lunch but there was a lot of stuff that happened and my "car was sitting alongside the road"- figuratively.  

I tried to stay away from people as I didn't want to drag them down. I want to be the one blowing wind into the sails of others not blowing holes into their sails. I think, "If I am down then what must everyone else be feeling?". 

What did it take to "help me"? Not too much really. I read some Pilgrim's Progress. I got a sweet text from my wife. I talked to my kids. I got a short but very kind email from a pastor friend. I helped a business owner think through their web presence problems. Those were all small steps but the biggest help came at the very end of the day. A friend came over and blew some wind into my sails and just told me that they appreciated me. That's it. It was "free" to them and yet meant so much to me. It actually brought tears to my eyes and to Teresa's eyes, as she knew the kind of day I was having.

This person didn't know what kind of a day I was having but they knew me well enough to know that I needed a lift and they were there to give it with just a few kind words. 

Who really Wins?
Here's the kicker in all this. When I stop to help someone alongside the road, who gets the biggest encouragement? Them or Me? I am encouraged that I can help them. It's better to give than to receive. Although I was really encouraged last night by my friend I'll bet they were at least as encouraged as I was when they saw how much it meant to Teresa and me for them to care enough to say a few kind words.

Look around today for someone that is NOT holding a cardboard sign but might be showing signs that they need YOUR help.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Capricious Faith

Imagine what it's like to stand in the middle of a ring, with 1000s of people around you, and have them all watch as you duke it out with your opponent. Now imagine if it's you against 450. Imagine those same odds and going into the contest as the lone person so confident that you will be victorious that you mock the 450 relentlessly. 

Age and experience bring things that no other teacher can bring. Some people never get those experiences no matter what their age while others get it earlier in their calendar. It's been said "trials are God's way of growing us faster", but generally we are not that excited about being in those same progress-generating, sanctification-working circumstances. At least I am not.

1 Kings 18-19 is a story about great faith and then almost no faith. As a reminder, this is the place where Elijah taunts the 450 prophets of Baal, throws water on his alter before it is consumed by fire and then prays for rain to come after a 3 year drought and it rains. After all this it seems like minutes later he is running for his life from a woman.

As a younger man I couldn't figure this out. How could Elijah go from a place of amazing faith with God showing Himself off in the most incredible way with fire and rain, to a place where he is afraid of Jezebel? How does that really happen in a matter of minutes?

These days faith seems capricious; changing often. The story in 1 Kings still is a head scratcher to me and yet in my own life I see the same exact tendencies and frankly, it's irritating. Up and down. Down and up. Conquering nations and afraid of the smallest things. 

I've heard the words "Your faith encourages me" more times than I can count and while it is an encouragement that others are able to see God's hand at work through the circumstances we are going through, the outside doesn't often tell the entire story. What others see is not always what I see myself.

Have you ever prayed for something, in abundant faith and knowing that God is the only One Who can deliver your request, and then watch Him not answer or answer with a "no" when it seems like the only way out is a "yes"? How about knowing that you need this answer right away and then crickets? "Crickets" means that there is no sound, no answer, but the sound of crickets.

I know that God can and does do amazing things, I've seen it too many times to deny it. I've seen Him work over and over again in ways that only could be Him. I do trust Him. I do know that I am completely dependent and yet...

Maybe in these times we need to go out into the wilderness for 40 days like Elijah and speak to our souls. The encouraging part is that God's faithful people of days long past seem to have had similar struggles to what we have today. Yes, they didn't have the full Canon of Scripture and they didn't have multiple copies they could carry on their iPhones but in this case Elijah could see right in front of him and in front of a great cloud of witnesses a 450/1 victory and then be fearful minutes later.

God still used him in a mighty way and God knows our limited and weak frame. We can rest in His care knowing that He will continue to work even when our faith is all over the map. He cares for birds and grass and He cares for His people. 

I'll be praying for peace in the storm for you and please do the same for me.