Monday, February 3, 2014

A Year in Review...

As I sit here this morning, still a little fuzzy form being up late with the guys to bring in the new year and not sleeping much after that due to a return of a nasty cold I have been fighting. I am praying that my coffee will soon kick in.  I find myself doing what most will do today, reflecting.  Funny, New Year's Day is not officially a "spiritual" holiday for the Christian per se; however, I find it to be one of my favorite holidays and deeply important to the life of the Christian.  It is a time to look back and remember.

I think it is extremely healthy in the life of the follower of Christ that we periodically stop and reflect on the journey that God has taken us on.  In fact, doing this is highly biblical and one of the most powerful disciplines that a Christian can exercise.  Countless times are followers exhorted to stop and remember all that God has done in the life of His people, both collectively and personally.  So often, we get caught us in the moment of pain and discomfort or joy and bliss and we forget to remember one important truths about God.

So, I have been doing that this morning.  I am amazed at how greatly God has moved in mine and my family's life this past year.  So, much has happened.  A year ago, we were deeply intrenched in ministry in Vermont, and finally feeling the groundwork take root.  We were thanking God for taking us through the harrowing experience of almost losing Timothy and Jill only weeks prior.  Unbeknownst, to us, we would be 2000 miles away working with boys and young men in a totally different ministry capacity.  I could go on and on, but really what I keep coming back to is this truth.  God is faithful.

He has been faithful to provide, love, encourage, uphold and grow us this past year.  We have seen and experienced so many things, and each experience and each conversation has helped to shape me more into His image.  I do not know what is in store for us this year.  But I can face it with confidence despite any cliffs or doomsday predictions, because God is faithful.  We can walk through tragedy and victory, because God is faithful.  We can say hello's and goodbye's, because God is faithful.  I read this earlier this week and found it very appropriate...

" that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." - (1 Corinthians 1:7b-9)
So, remember, despite any uncertainty in life this year, that God is faithful.
Happy New Year.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

True Peace

You may not have noticed, but just about everywhere you look, there are reminders that people long for peace.  Various peace symbols are found on T-shirts, graffiti, etc.  The various peace symbols have become iconic of our pop culture.  I have even found it difficult to find clothing for my daughters that are not plastered with its symbols.  Talk and symbols of peace are central to our society and are rapidly becoming part of the indoctrination of our schools, as well as, our politics.  But my primary concern is that I do not believe that most in our society really knows what peace is, nor from where it originates.

I have been reading in the prophecy of Isaiah lately, and in chapter 11, there is a noticeable shift in tone.  Up to then, much of the prophecy is pronouncement of judgment on the nation of Judah for their idolatry and immortality. But in chapter 11, he introduces what will become a major theme in this book.  It is the arrival of the shoot (or branch) from Jesse’s stump (cf. vs. 1), the Messiah.  Aka, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (cf. 9:6)

True peace, as scripture describes it, happens as the result of the removal of sin in the world (not the denial thereof) which will be fully realized when Christ returns.  Look at the evidence Isaiah describes that true peace has arrived,

6The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. 7The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den.  9They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”

These are natural enemies that came when man rebelled against God in the Garden.  This peace occurs only when all that was broken at the fall is made right again.  It does not come with indoctrination against violence because no matter how hard you try you cannot regulate the human heart.  You cannot disarm enough.  It is only when Christ makes all thing new and “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord” that we will be able to see true peace on earth.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Aches and Pains

I am getting older.  This is somewhat a “duh” statement as the truth is, we all are.  I recently had my 43rd birthday.  By God’s grace, I have outlived my father, by grace I will live longer.  They say, with age comes maturity and wisdom, and, if we are attuning to God’s direction, this too is largely true.  But the other thing that comes with age is aches and pains.  The time in which it arrives is determined largely by how well we have taken care of these earthly vessels, but ultimately, all of our bodies will fail and begin to decay and with that come aches and pain.  Now there is an entire theology of suffering and God’s use of it in our individual lives.  However, as I was reading this morning, I was reminded of the spiritual lesson that God gives ALL of us who have sickness, pain or suffering—HOPE.  Look at what I mean,1 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home [our earthly bodies] is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. (2 Cor. 5:1-4, ESV)

Paul tells us that our aches and pains are reminders that we have a heavenly building awaiting us.  Our heavenly duds that we get to exchange when we take off our earthly clothes.  Every time I hurt, every time I get frustrated with the way our world is decaying, I am reminded of this one truth.  I have an new set of clothes awaiting me on the other side.  How do I know of sure?  Paul tells us in his next verse. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” God gives His Spirit. (ESV)

So, how do we respond when we hurt, get sick or suffer?  He goes to say, So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.” (ESV)

So be encouraged.  Like the old Gospel song tells us, “This is not my home, I’m just a-passing through!”

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Cross Alone

It has been years since I sat down and blogged.  I don't know if this will be a comeback, or wishful thinking.  I find that since leaving our ministry in Vermont and begun at the Boys Ranch, our pace of life has quickened considerably.  Since blogging for me is a time consuming task, this is likely to be an occasional visitation.  Nevertheless, I felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to write this morning.  Perhaps this will encourage or challenge you today...

I recently finished my revisit to the book of Beginnings (Genesis), so I decided to walk through Paul's letters to the Corinthian church.  I have found that as I age, every time I reread a book of the Bible, it is like sitting down with an old friend and catching up on what has transpired since we last visited.  God's word never disappoints!  With an old friend, you revisit where you have been together, and then share what is new in life.  I experience the same with God's word.

I walked through the verses of Paul's typical and yet personal salutation to this collection of saints.  Then, I was reminded that Corinth was a place filled with petty divisions, like many churches still today.  This first division was centered around personalities-- nothing new under the sun there.  Then, Paul's response to this in verse 17 caught my eye, "For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power." (1 Corinthians 1:17 ESV)

As a member of church staff for 2 decades, my mind immediately defaulted to the corporate application of this verse.  I thought of how often local churches rely on gimmicks and fads to reach people.  In so doing, they empty the cross of it's power (if that is possible) by learning to trust in the latest greatest scheme to "reach people" and build our religious empires.

But, then the Holy Spirit turned the table inward, once again, and I began to reflect on how, so often, I too rely on my own strength and ability rather than the power of the Cross.  Then, Paul gives such a powerful prescription for regaining that power in verse 26 and following,
"For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31 ESV)
I realize that every time I trust in my own strength or talent, I am shamed.  I am robbing God of the glory of the power that was used to save me.

Lord, forgive me when I function in my own strength.  Help me to consider my calling.  Thank you that you took this weak, foolish, low and despised man and made me Your child by Your grace, and Your grace alone.   Today, I will boast only in the Lord.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Fabulous Quote!

"In any museum we will find quite ordinary things - clothes, a walking stick, a pen, pieces of furniture - which are only of value because they were possessed and used by some great person.  It is the ownership which gives them worth. It is so with the Christian. The Christian may be a very ordinary person, but he acquires a new value and dignity and greatness because he belongs to God. The greatness of the Christian lies in the fact that he is God's."
                                                                                                                            -- William Barclay