Wednesday, May 28, 2008

We have greatly enjoyed the past couple of days with family! We even hiked a bit!

It has been good to slow down and just be. Too often our lives get so crazy busy that we don't take time to enjoy each other as we should. These last couple of days have been a blessing to Deanna and me in this way. We are without our girls and that is sad, but we have enjoyed each other and the family we are with!

Today we are heading to Tuscola, Illinois to spend time with Tuscola First Christian Church. We are sharing at their awards ceremony/banquest tonight. Tomorrow we will head to Indy at some point.

We stopped into a bookstore that BJ loved to frequent and could not find our book. The manager told us he could not keep it in the store. However, he said the corporate office will only let them get two at a time. He asked us if we knew where else it could be purchased locally. We told him, but honestly the frustration of not being able to get the books into the stores so that people can get them is frustrating to us.

In spite of this, we know God is using the testimony and we continue to hear from adults and students alike, who inform us of how God has ministered change in their hearts as a result of reading it. For this we truly praise Him, and we know that this whole matter is in His hands. There seems to be little we can do to affect the kind of change we would believe to be necessary. Fortunately, it is not up to us, and our Savior knows how to move in the hearts of people without our help.

We have seen Him do a mighty work and we simply want to be found obedient to where He leads.

God bless you, and we will touch base when we can...from the midwest!


Friday, May 23, 2008

Deanna in the Smokies

This weekend we begin a trip to the midwest. We are greatly looking forward to the opportunities the Lord has opened up before us. Here is a glimpse of our speaking schedule.

May 28th Tuscola Christian Church, 6pm, Tuscola, Illinois
May 30th Fox 59 Television Interview 8:12am, Indpls., In
May 30th Monrovia HS graduation 7pm (not speaking) Monrovia, In (BJ's graduating class ceremony...he had been number one in his class)
May 31st Barnes and Noble at Clearwater Crossing book signing 2pm, Indpls.
June 1st Northside Baptist Church 11am, Indpls.
June 2nd Calvary Baptist Church at 7pm, Wilmington, Oh

We are anticipating renewing connections with many family and friends over these days. We also look forward to meeting new friends at the book signing, and whenever else the opportunity presents itself. If you are able, please come and visit us at Barnes and Noble. We're kind of afraid no one will come.

Many of BJ's friends (and ours) are graduating over the time we are in town. We would very much like to attend the graduation parties for each of you, but we know we will not likely be able to. Please forgive us for this.

Please pray for Whitney and her car in Dallas. It has left her stranded three times in the last week with different issues each time. God has provided in every circumstance.

God bless, and we hope to see many of you soon.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Phillip and Deanna at "A Pura Lena," a restaurant in Piura, Peru.

This week, I spent several hours moving a large pile of dirt. If it were measured, it was approximately 7 to 9 cubic yards. That is a lot of dirt.

I was helping a friend get his yard ready for this weekend when his son is getting married. I do not know exactly what role the backyard of my friends house is going to play, but I know it will host a lot of people.

When my friend and I were recently in his backyard, he was showing me his new patio. It was quite beautiful. Understandably, he was proud of it.

In order to set the patio of pavers in appropriately, the men who installed them, dug out a significant area, and piled the dirt around the base of a very mature tree near his shed. That was a problem and my friend was not aware of it.

Many years ago, I actually went to college (Purdue University). While there, I studied horticulture. I love the sciences, though I find I am often alone in this. One of the elementary rules of tree life, is that you cannot change the surface level of soil within the dripline of a tree by more than an inch or so without killing it (the dripline is the area branches cover and provide shade to).

Few people seem to know this. Therefore, many have killed the trees in their yards by doing landscape jobs and moving surface soil around without giving it a thought.

The trees die a slow death. It doesn't happen over night, it takes years. The Dr. that taught that class said that the trees affected by surface soil changes would then enter a "state of decline." (I think someone moved the surface soil around my body without my knowledge).

This process begs the question, why does this kill a tree? I am sure there are many reasons, but one of the primary is that all of the surface roots that the tree has spent its lifetime forming, which collect rainwater and nutrients from the soil are killed by level changes. They do not receive enough oxygen at deeper levels and they need it. In essence, they no longer breath as they need to, and so a slow death ensues.

I find a similar event occurs in the lives of believers who hang on to pet sins. Most of us have an area of sin in our lives that we routinely struggle with. We may have tried to yield it to the Lord, only to pick it back up again. We do so for many reasons, but comfort is a big one. When we find comfort in specific actions that we know to be wrong, yet continue to perform over long periods of time, we in effect cover over the surface of our hearts, that then struggle to receive filling.

We no longer are able to do the things the Lord would desire because our focus is on this small, often pitiful area of self. We nurture self over Savior. This nurturing is fruitless. It leaves us feeling more empty than when we committed the sin, yet we continue to forage around with it, hoping it will yield different results.

Over time, we find ourselves wondering whatever happened to the walk we once had. We wonder why we are not effective in Kingdom work.

It's because we have buried our hearts, our souls, under the muck of repetitive filth. The muck won't allow filling from the Word to pass through and take hold.

The plans our Lord has for us are significant, but they can only be realized if we allow Him to haul out the dirt...restore our hearts. We've gotta allow the Spirit of the Lord to assist us in this as we are not capable of doing it alone. We've tried that over and over, and we see it doesn't work. We need to yield to Him, and allow Him to bring the restoration we seek.

My friend allowed a friend to assist him in making the necessary changes to his yard. We need to do likewise with our hearts.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A beautiful place...

Last evening a visitor from India was in our home. She happens to have been our in-country contact while Lauren and her team were there last summer.

We had a great time of fellowship and laughter. She is precious young woman, full of life, who says she likes the USA because she can be herself more here than in her country.

Her family started a seminary a few years ago. Many new pastors are being trained there. I have had the privilege of meeting her father as well, and his heart to share Christ and train others to do so, is immense.

There is a great deal of persecution in that country. Voice of the Martyrs on-line magazine is lit up every month with stories of beatings and violence imposed from radical Hindu's onto Christians.

Our guest shared a story that a friend of her father, who started a seminary in a different city was recently one of those persecuted. He pastors a church and trains young men to be pastors. The result of his work is impacting his country.

A radical band of men found him driving his car. They had been seeking him. They surrounded his car and broke out the windows of the car with large stones. They drug him out and beat him severely.

During the beating, his thoughts were of the young men who needed further training to be able to effectively minister. He had no idea who would carry on the work if he was gone. He felt such a sense of responsibility to continue Kingdom work. He made a decision. He would play dead.

This maneuver would save his life.

Because he lay as though dead during the imposed brutality, he would survive. After a time of medical attention and recovery, he is well, and is back teaching and preaching. He is aware that a similar fate may lie ahead for him. His decision? Serve the Lord!

Scenarios like this are playing out in that region and many like it every day.

If these brothers and sisters who suffer persecution routinely can forge ahead, then we have no excuses to fall back on.

In the book of Haggai is a story of how the Israelites were given permission to rebuild the temple, but for the next forty some years, used the materials intended for the temple to panel their own walls and live in their own comfort, saying as one, "it's not yet time to rebuild."

When we read this, I wonder if we ever understand how closely we resemble them. The tremendous resources we have, need to be used to care for those who are lost and in need, in every sense of what that means.

Yet, most of us would choose to focus on our own little plot of ground and build it up nicely while others bound for hell, get no relief.

What will it take for us to reach out? When will we begin to share our Lord and our resources with those who are without?

Let us not forget that it was the wealthy man in Luke 12:16-21 who tore down his barns and built new and better ones to hold all that he possessed that he might live in comfort for a long time to come. Yet his very life ended up being required of him. It is those who truly trust and follow hard after the Lord who are truly wealthy, not those who spend great sums of time planning and storing up for tomorrow.

We must share from the overflow that has been provided to us. The wealth we have was never intended to be hoarded.

Praise God for His provision! Let us also share it!


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

BJ and Heather in Pacasmayo.

GPS systems are prevalent today. I know I even wrote about the use of one several months ago. I am in awe of their ability to store information and to seem to be this brain that can always tell you what you need to know. Something of a "magic 8 ball" of locations and directions.

Last Friday, I was picked up at the airport by two young men who were to take me to my hotel for the weekend. From the moment we met, we had a great time. Caleb was 21 and Judd was 14. I flew into Memphis, and then we needed to drive the hour trip to Jonesboro, Ark.

When we got into the car, Caleb asked where we would like to have dinner. Red Lobster was suggested somewhere in the course of the conversation. Judd who was handling the GPS was asked to program it for the Red Lobster on a certain street.

The GPS was new. It had only been purchased that day by one of their siblings. As Judd began to work with this minute piece of technology, he stated that the battery was getting low. I asked where the charging cord was.

"We didn't bring it, we didn't think we would need it," came the reply.

Once he had it programmed, and we got initial directions (we were already lost), I suggested he shut it down to conserve battery.

We laughed as we talked, at our predicament. We were in a city that none of us knew well, we were lost, and we were depending on a piece of equipment that was about to die. To further complicate matters...and we openly made fun of this as well...we were men, and everyone knows what that means. LOST MEN DON'T ASK FOR DIRECTIONS, THEY JUST KEEP DRIVING!

We neared the location, and in anticipation the GPS was turned back on. It proudly boasted, "You are here."

We looked around the "here" we had arrived at, and there was no least not a Red Lobster. We kept driving.

After another mile or two and the pleading of the GPS voice, dubbed Edna, to turn around, we did.

Once again came the anticipated announcement, "You are here."

Once again, we were not.

We pulled into a nearby mall parking lot and postulated about the likelihood that a Red Lobster would be inside a mall instead of free standing. Not likely we concluded.

We pulled up to Chinese Buffet parking lot, and I pointed out a man and said, "I'll ask him if he knows where it is, if you'll pull over."

He responded, "There isn't a Red Lobster here anymore. When the hurricane came through it damaged it and they never rebuilt it."

That hurricane came two and half years ago. I remember, because BJ was in the hospital at the time.

First, we were no where near a coast. Second, why didn't they rebuild, and third, this piece of technology was newer than two and a half years old, so why didn't it know that the Red Lobster wasn't there anymmore?

Apparently, it was about as reliable as a 'magic 8 ball."

We had wasted the better part of a half hour trying to find something that did not exist.

We decided to eat at the Chinese Buffet.

We live in a day where we are willing to submit our complete trust to technology that apparently isn't updated as often as it should be. This technology is man made. It is flawed. We accept these flaws and move on.

Simultaneously, we have access to a God that wants our complete trust, is flawless and perfect, always knows the right answers, and we are unwilling to place the same blind faith in Him that we did in something we paid two or three hundred dollars for.

We wouldn't consider taking the flawed technology back, we accept it with its' flaws. We believe we need it to survive.

When we learn to trust in Jesus the way we do our laptops or gps devices, we will begin to make a difference in our world. We wouldn't consider traveling without our technology, but we don't a give second thought to whether or not our Bible is packed.

We need to abide in Christ and trust in Him in a similar fashion. He provides direction and protection and he never leads us to places that don't exist.

After dinner, we got lost on the way to Jonesboro. We had a great time together! We even asked for directions twice in one evening!


Monday, May 19, 2008

BJ and friends

The last few days have been absolutely amazing! The Lord provided me with the opportunity to fellowship over this weekend with believers from Jonesboro, Arkansas who are abosolutely in love with Jesus.

Their love was evident in every conversation and action. I confess I needed the encouragement. The time was priceless. I got to know many very genuine people in our faith.

Speaking at the high school graduation was such an encouragement. I was very concerned about sharing our journey in such a venue. I didn't need to be. The response was overwhelming, and such a blessing. I met many who had already read our book. I was very surprised by that.

I shared meals with several different people from the area. The conversations we had were more filling than the excellent food. I cannot imagine the heart of our Savior not being incredibly blessed by the praise reports and testimonies He heard throughout the weekend.

Sunday morning, I was in Central Baptist Church with a missions team we (Awe Star)are sending to Panama in a few days. I had the privilege of sharing, praying, fellowshipping, and rejoicing over God's provision with them.

This is a large church that God is exploding, in. Four years ago they built a huge new facility so that all of their members could share together in the same service. They had been meeting in several services.

Now just a few years later, they are up to three services again and will add a fourth in late August. They are adding new believers to their membership on a regular basis as their body understands evangelism and are out in their community making a difference for Christ.

The fields are ripe and the harvest is being all age groups. What a huge blessing to see a church do what the body of Christ is designed to do! Obviously, they are not exempt from issues of complacency within certain segments, but overall, the storehouses are being emptied, and the hungry are being fed!

I had dinner with a couple who teach a Sunday School class that have seen around a dozen and a half new believers come to Christ through their class, just this year, so far! Praise God!

Oh, I pray that their excitement, their enthusiasm, their encouragement and most of all their love for Jesus and their faithfulness in sharing Him go viral in the surrounding area, and beyond!

Could this be the beginning of revival?

I pray so! We so desperately need it.

Thank you Jesus, for giving me a glimpse of the part of your body that is fully engaged, and making a difference in your kingdom! I know there are others. Lord God, please ignite this flame into a raging inferno! Let your Spirit take over our land. Do what you need to do. Sift what you need to sift. Come Lord Jesus, and consume our hearts with who you are!


Friday, May 16, 2008

My friend Aimee, who is going to serve in South Asia this summer.

I am leaving today for Jonesboro, Arkansas. I will be speaking at Ridgefield Christian Schools' Graduation tomorrow morning, and then at Central Baptist Church on Sunday.

I confess it is hard this time of year to be watching so many bright young men and women who will walk across the stage to receive what they have worked hard for the last many years. We are proud of them, and are excited for their futures.

We have a table at home with many announcements and senior pictures displayed. They have come from students across several parts of the USA.

Deanna was commenting this morning about how quiet our home is. We both like quiet. We both enjoy quiet. Somehow, quiet right now seems like something we should not be experiencing.

It is good to come home to quiet after a day at work. It is a refuge and a positive thing. Jesus often got away to quiet places, so He could be unified with the Father through prayer. We like to do that too, and need to do least I know I do.

I find myself wondering what all of these graduates have ahead of them. I wonder how they will deal with lifes circumstances and curve balls. I wonder if they will stay focused on Christ, or like so many who have preceded them, let go of their desire for Him to pursue the world.

The world offers much. Power, fame, wealth, security, fashion and many other things seem to be on it's 'most enticing' list. Will they get caught up in this like so many?

What will it take for them to remain focused? How many will trade all they have stood for, for brief moments of expected euphoria? How many will suffer for these decisions?

Each student has a limited amount of time to make something of themself. Will they choose to follow hard after Christ? Will they choose to reflect His glory to others?

"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it."
Proverbs 22:6

This a promise we must believe. It is a truth from Scripture that many parents cling to. Some wait for what seems like an eternity for their child to return. Some blame themselves for shortcomings. Some endure the quiet, hoping for better days or reflecting back on them.

There are many students out there ready to embrace life. Life is in Christ, or it is not life at all.

Embrace them whether they belong to you or not. They are shining examples from our Creator. Encourage them in their walk, whether they walk or not. They do not forget where they come from. Even amid the grip of world at it's brightest moment, there is a longing for what is pure, what is right, what is true.

If you are in love with Jesus, love these. Show them how much He is worth it by how you choose to live.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

We love them so much!

I want to begin today with a quote I know I may have used before, but it is worth another look. I believe BJ has nailed something that is a common issue in our world today. As I look at my own life, and as I have opportunity to counsel with others, I believe most of us are mired in this place.

"My attitude toward sin is far too passive and too soft. The Word says that those who fear God hate sin, for God hates sin. In being somewhat indifferent to sin, I am not only more prone to fall to it, but I am not having the right attitude towards God." (BJ Higgins)

Exactly, BJ!

We have discovered 'justification' to be a primary tool in our arsenal. If what we are routinely involved in is viewed as sinful in the Word, but the world is accepting of it, then we figure out ways to justify our position. We ignore scripture, cite other believers who are doing what we are doing, imply that this part of Scripture does not apply to today, or use some reasoning to explain away the negative aspects, and try to portray our acts as virtuous.

The truth is, we have no foundation to stand on. Sin is sin. If our attitudes towards it are passive, then we are embracing the world. In essence, we are trying to save our lives through justification. We are trying to make that which is not okay, okay.

Luke 9 says that those who try to save their lives will lose them, but those who are willing to lay their lives down, will save them. When we don't view sin properly, we are trying to save our own, save our own places of comfort.

We all learn to reside in certain places. Places that seem okay as long as they don't come under too close a scrutiny. Unfortunately, when the light comes onto these areas, they are revealed as sin.

When our attitudes towards sin are "passive and soft"... maybe not all sin, just the sin we are involved in... then what we are revealing to the world is that what we believe is flexible depending on circumstances.

This westernization of Christianity does not support the weight of human lives, and still contain Salvation.

Salvation comes through Christ alone. "There is no other name under heaven, given to men by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12

Justification is in Christ, not our circumstances.

It is far easier to live a comfortable life that is justified by self than to live a life according to the precepts of Scripture and take a stand against worldly truths.

Passivity towards sin, is a significant deterent to living for Christ. If we remain passive, then we will eventually engage, without much thought or allowance of conviction. When we squelch conviction as a routine, we lose morality based on Scripture and begin to practice the "if it feels good, do it," philosophy.

There really isn't a middle ground on this.

As believers, we must become assertive in rejecting sin... not sinners, but sin. When we live our lives according to Scripture, the world takes note. They make fun, point fingers and laugh, but they take note.

We can realize our full potential in Christ only through His justification, and allowing His Spirit to manifest His presence in our lives in an ongoing fashion. We must remain supple to His touch. When He points out things in our lives that need to be vacated, we move. It is not even a knee-jerk reaction, it becomes a fluid response to his promptings.

The sacrifice has already been made. There is no reason to get backed up with guilt. He has already forgiven us, and if we have given our lives to Him then we are justified. Don't lose time. Reject sin. Walk with purpose. His purpose.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Beej and Whitney, final days

I have shared before that I am something of a bird nerd. I get it from my father, who enjoyed watching and identifying them. I had no interest until many years after his death. I'm not really sure why, but it is something that I find contentment in.

Since we moved to Tulsa, I don't put out as many feeders as I used to. As a matter of fact, I have three hummingbird feeders out, and that is it. In the time they have been out this year, I have seen one hummingbird.

However, daily, I see a Downey Woodpecker. He's not busy making fodder of wood, he is doing his darndest to drink from the Hummingbird feeder. He has tried all three. I really don't think he is confused about his identity, but I am not really sure. Everything else he does is woodpecker-like.

I know strange things sometimes occur in nature. In the years I have put out feeders, this is the first I have seen a woodpecker frequent this type.

While this is something of an anomoly in nature, it reminds me of what I see happen in churches, on occasion.

Week after week in our places of worship, we see familiar faces. We have grown quite comfortable with their presence. Comfort in our worship experience is something we desire. How then, do we react when the scruffy, underpriviledged alcoholic walks in?

I've seen parents pull their children close. I've seen disparaging glances fired off like canons. I've seen disapproving congregants make room, when they would rather not.

What I have not seen, is that person who resembles Jesus, walk up and warmly welcome the new visitor. We tend to react like they are freaks of nature. Ones we will endure for this service, but certainly hope they don't return. Its obvious they need Jesus, we think...but then we don't interact with them at all. Apparently, we expect them to see the love of Jesus in our postures of rejection.

There is nothing Christ-like in our attitudes, body language or most reactions.

I have no problem with the Downey Woodpecker feeding from my Hummingbird feeders. I know he can do damage to the wood panels on the exterior of my home. But he didn't come to destroy, he came to feed. Why else would he be here?

He's hungry. I am busy amassing the ingredients for suet. I am going to build a suet feeder from an old log, so he can feel more at home. So he can find the nourishment he seeks in a fashion he more generally would desire. He needs love, he needs sustenance, he needs a welcome. I am going to provide it.

I have seen unwelcome visitors leave in a hurry. Sadly, I should have taken on the role of something other than spectator. If I had done for them what I am willing to do for a bird, I'd have a deeper impact on the lives of those Jesus loves.

When we postulate our mission statements or catch phrases about who we are as a body and what our prevailing philosophies are going to be, we need to seriously consider whether or not we can live up to them. In one church we were members of, our banner declared, "THE PEOPLE LOVING CHURCH."

My experience taught me that most churches were 'people loving,' as long as the people walked, talked, ate, smelled, and looked like we wanted them to. That guy with the new suit? He is very welcome! The one with the ooze of booze? Couldn't he go somewhere else? Maybe the homeless mission would be a better fit. They are equipped to care for him better.

Our churches are not about buildings that cost millions and people who have them. They are about living as Jesus did. Reaching out to those who are hungry. We need to consider redesigning how we react, how we reach out, how we respect and how we love.

If we resemble this description, we look like a country club. Scrap the finery. Bring on the Jesus attitude. The one where being a humble servant to all, is what we are about.

Feed the birds. All of them.


Monday, May 12, 2008

I couldn't resist...

"Are you feeling particularly heavy today?"

This was a question I posed to a co-worker several years ago, when I was employed in the secular world. I know it sounds cold and unfeeling, but wait a moment, please read on?

We had known each other for years. We had been side by side managers of different departments and had been through much together. Sarcastic humor was how we got through.

On this day, seeing her for the first time that morning, I noticed she was wearing a new necklace. The necklace had an unusual charm attached.

The charm was a silver manatee (which I intentionally called a walrus).

When I saw this hanging around her neck, I could not help but ask, "Are you feeling particularly heavy today?"

The look she gave me said it all. It revealed so many things. It was evident that the next words out of my mouth had better let her off of the hook, or she was going to light into me. She did not understand my question and thought I was insinuating something that I was not. We were close, but that was far too bold. She was ready to toss me under a moving bus.

I quickly pointed to her manatee and said, "With that walrus hanging around your neck, I thought you might feel unusually heavy."

Her laughter and relief, ensued.

She proceeded to tell me about her recent vacation to Florida and the "manatee" not walrus, population, and a bunch of stuff I didn't care about, but I had opened the door.

I have often thought about her response. I have often thought about the question. It became a standing joke between us, and was reflected back on when the situation needed comic reprieve.

Today I pose the question for a different reason. Too often in our lives, we feel particulary heavy...burdened, and have no one to share it with. Too often, we pass through our lives caring too little about what others are facing, and refuse to take the time to ask, even though the burden is clear.

As the body of Christ, we have the privilege of coming together to pray for each other during these critical times. I would encourage you to share your burdens here, so that we can pray over them. We will pray over them.

Sometimes it is an encouragement just to know that others are praying. This is a praying group of people, and I know your situation will be lifted up. I receive e-mail from many of you letting me know of your sitations that need prayer, but I would ask that you also let this body know and pray.

If you find you are feeling particularly "heavy" today, or any day, feel free to share, and we will pray.

By the way, I don't recommend that you pose this question to others that you do not know really well!


Friday, May 09, 2008

Lauren, Beej, and Whitney at our home in Carmel, Indiana.

We men can seldom understand the depth of a Mother's love. The connection that exists between Mother's and their children is a bond that is unique and indescribably different than any other relationship.

Too often, the children in that relationship don't fully understand it.

There is something that happens when a woman carries a child within her womb. A connection that nothing else in life compares to. That a Mother would go through the agony of childbirth and then the moment that it is over forget the pain and be filled with maternal love can only be likened to what Christ did on the cross for you and me.

To endure significant pain and suffering and then to lay it aside and virtually never speak of it, but only to speak from the depths of the heart and consistently extend grace to their child cannot be considered similar to any other human relationship.

Mother's are unique, they are very special. We never will give them their due, no matter how we try.

My Mother tolerated much in me, for far too long. Yet she loves me without condition, and again shows me the ways that Christ loves me. I can hear her words echo in my head at key moments in life. The things she would say, and the time she would take to utter them, when a rebuke was probably more in order will never be forgotten.

I have also watched Deanna raise three precious ones in a similar fashion. The connection she longs to have at this point, especially when she cannot be near them at times, is not one I completely understand, and I long for each of my children to be close.

I love them, and love spending time with them, but she aches for them to be present, and hurts when she isn't able to talk to them.

I have a better understanding of how my own Mother feels when I see the depth of Deanna's desire. I try to be a better communicator as a result. I'm still not very good at it.

I have been in awe of Deanna's strength with the losses she has suffered. Lesser mom's would be bitter and hateful towards God and those who remain nearby. Even as I write, she is sitting next to me asking me questions from Scripture, "Do I remember this?" "Do I know where that is?" She goes on to retell stories from her perspective, with her compassion and Mother's heart. "Things are so understated in the Bible," she says.

Her life is understated. Her accomplishments go unrecognized to most. She is amazing. She pours into me and into my children and seldom do we fully appreciate the time or the heart that she empties herself from.

The Lord knew what He was doing when He ordered our lives. He gave us Mother's to love us most similarly to the way He loves. Too often we take that for granted. Too seldom do we offer up heartfelt thanks. Rarely do we step up to express ourselves the way we should.

We tend to be quick to find their flaws, and slow to see the good they have taught us. Rapidly we spew poison tipped barbs and seldom do we shield them from the attacks of the enemy or ourselves. We fail them and they love us for it.

My Mother and my Wife are the two women in my life that have had the deepest and greatest impact. Watching them, teaches me more about Jesus. Seeing the way they love, draws me closer to them...closer to Him.

A Mother's love is second only to Christ's.

I am significantly blessed to have them both.

Thank you Mom, for way too many years of loving me in spite of myself. Always being there to offer guidance and support, no matter what that meant! Enduring hardship because of me and/or beside me, and not ever marking out the difference.

Thank you Deanna for loving our children and me. For showing them love always. For not being afraid to speak your mind when reason had left the room. For pointing each of us to Jesus by the way you live and the way you love.

I Praise God for you both!


with all of my love,


Thursday, May 08, 2008

Mary and BJ.

I want to take a moment to update those of you who are interested in our schedule. If not, feel free to jump past this part.

May 8th WGRC Radio Interview at 11:00am ET, Philadelphia, Pa. (heard in 14 countries)
May 17th Ridgefield Christian School Graduation, Jonesboro, Ark.
May 18th Central Baptist, Jonesboro, Ark.
May 28th Tuscola Christian Church, Tuscola, Ill.
May 30th Fox 59 Live TV Interview, 8:12 am, Indpls., In.
May 31st Barnes and Noble book signing, 2pm, Clearwater Crossing, Indpls., In.
June 1st Northside Baptist Church, 11 am, Indpls., In.
June 2nd a gathering in the Cincinnati, Oh area
June 16th - July 25th Summer Missions (sending teams to Chile, North Africa, Panama, Peru, and South Asia)

I'll post late summer and fall engagements, later.

We are so blessed to live in the USA. We have advantages that we take for granted. We are fortunate in many many ways. We also have quirks.

We have noticed a significant difference in weather coverage on tv, from Indiana to Oklahoma. We have tornadoes in both states. I know they are more frequent in Oklahoma. I know that because from late April to who knows when, it is a weekly occurrence to have tornado watches and warnings.

Last night, as severe weather bore down on Tulsa and the surrounding area, our home became the proud recipient of friends from second story apts., and other unsafe places (like flooded streets).

We don't mind this at all. Whenever severe weather hits (every other day) I can count on my lovely wife to start her comedy routine. You see, she gets frustrated that the tv stations in our area preempt all other programming for things like thunderstorms and tornadoes.

Her sarcasm has never been finer than when she catches a commercial break report of impending severe weather. That is all she needs to hear, to begin her routine. If the fine weather men and women of our area could hear her voice, they would get nothing done, save being doubled over with laughter. Severe weather transports Deanna from her home to an "Evening at the Improv." I crack up, listening to her.

Last night, she had a new audience, and she was in fine form.

It isn't that we don't take severe weather seriously, it's the hours on end of coverage the local media provide to the exclusion of all else. Deanna is not a fan.

I have begun to notice that each time a new person hears her routine, we get reeducated on the "why's" of this madness.

Soberingly, years ago, an F-5 tornado leveled a nearby town. There was severe destruction and loss of life. An entire town had to be rebuilt. I do not make light of that. I have lived through several tornadoes, and their awesome power strikes fear in most who view them.

The result of that experience has left it's mark on Central and Eastern Oklahoma. The news will always preempt other programming to make sure the maximum number of viewers can be warned.

This stands in stark contrast to the usual reaction in our country. When major disasters hit (like 9-11) we begin to hear mention of God, prayer, and even the Name of Jesus, from time to time. To hear this on our national media outlets is unusual. You can always tell the ones who feel awkward saying such things.

Many of us find it to be music to our ears. Finally, our country which was founded on Christian principles, is returning to its roots...or so it seems for at least 5 minutes.

It never lasts. We don't stay focused on the Main thing...Jesus. Our networks won't allow it. Only in times of crisis can such things be mentioned. When things return to normal, we return to acting like all things good are a result of our own actions.

Gone is the mention of God or any thoughts of the impact He may have had.

We are blessed to live in a country where we can laugh and make funny about things we don't agree with. We are privileged to have so many resources at our fingertips. Our opportunities to be educated are excellent.

Isn't it interesting that as a nation, the more educated we become, the more growth we experience, the greater the resources we have, the less we believe.

The Lord foresaw our folly. It is why He told us we must come with the faith of a child.

I think we all need to be a little more childlike in our approach to life.

Sometimes, it begins by making fun of the network news.


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Rachel, Barbara Ann and BJ...he just couldn't help himself.

A good friend of mine passed away this morning. He had been ill with an apendicitis attack that landed him in the hospital. While his body tried to fight, he had a heart attack and slipped home to be with his Father in Heaven.

We had logged thousands of miles together from the saddle of our bicycles. We had stood side by side in prisons across the state of Indiana, and brought worship and ministry to those who were incarcerated.

He was a very kind soul, who loved on people, and brought encouragement by his presence.

I had not spoken to him since moving to Tulsa. We traded an email or two in an attempt to keep up. He was the kind of friend you thought would always be there.

We are finite. A vapor that comes with a purpose and then we are called home. He brought such encouragement to friends, while fighting significant battles himself, yet he didn't let on. He never judged, he loved.

We used to meet each week for coffee. He wanted to do more to further the Kingdom of his Lord. I don't think he was aware of what a witness he was by how he learned to love.

Not enough of us just love. Too many of us want to tell others about our problems. We're a bit too caught up in our own scenarios. Craig saw through to the heart. He was there not to enable, but to point you back to the main thing...Jesus. Most of the time, he wasn't even aware of how gifted he was at this.

More of us need to follow Craig's example, who followed Christ's example. We need to love other people through the stagnancies and infections of life. When we learn to "consider others to be better than ourselves," we are putting Christ first, which allows us to put others out in front of our own issues. When we do this, He ministers to the depths of our own need.

There are many who need to be loved today. Many who need words of encouragement. Craig's wife, Nancy, needs to be lifted up. This is unexpected. He was only in his fifties.

There are many whose lives we can bring a shard of light to, by being willing to take a moment and invest in Craig did... like Jesus does.

Sometimes, words are aren't enough. Love is demonstrated by action. Brighten someones life unexpectedly today, by taking thoughts and putting them into action. If you desire to be a better witness, write on the page of someone's life, by caring for them...taking the time to show it.

Craig showed a great number of people how much Jesus loved them, by caring. He reached out, because his Savior did. Let's follow His lead.

Craig, my brother, we often raced on bikes...when it didn't matter. You have fought the good fight and won this race. You have won when it counts, and blessed the heart of Christ. I will stand beside you again one day soon, and we will celebrate the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Your life mattered. You made a difference for Him, in the lives of others.

Please Craig, there is one thing I would ask you to know what it is...

your friend,


Monday, May 05, 2008

Cinco de Mayo!

There have been many times recently where I had to pause and question my motivations.

It is so easy to begin serving in an area for all of the right reasons, only to get lost along the way, and become rather self-centered. What was formerly done as "unto the Lord" has become something completed for the praises of men.

Sometimes it takes a pretty significant jolt to awaken me.

I am not fond of this within myself. My upbringing taught me to be humble and gentle. I had one of the best teachers father. He was truly the most humble and godly man I have known. He was a model of living for Christ and not for self. He did what God called him to do, and never got caught up in the push for materialism and power.

I was having a conversation with a friend recently about how difficult it is to live a humble, godly life. So many today who have the anointing of the Lord on them, have somewhere along the way become self-focused and self promoting. Somewhere in the journey of following God and His call and will for our lives, we begin to follow our own pursuits.

We begin to seek hard our own distorted views that have resulted from a once clear calling. It takes very little to get off course.

I was teaching students recently a truth that I find compelling. The definition of "wickedness" is: "A slight deviation from the intended purpose."

Many of us begin strong and pursue Him hard. Along the way, we begin to accept certain things as reality and begin to justify slight deviations, as acceptable. Before long, we are self promoting under the banner of service to Him.

I have seen this happen in the lives of too many and have tried to guard against it in my own life. I often find that I am failing at this. It is so easy to believe certain things to be true or necessary. It is too easy to accept certain worldly truths as being a part of the gospel I follow. It is too easy to deviate slightly from the Truth and the result can be devastating.

I cannot use the excuse that believers around me are faltering or even accepting things as truth that aren't. My accountability is to Him. Justification of that which seems logical doesn't play when I stand before my Savior. I am to exemplify Him in every all costs.

To promote self in the process, because I believe I have something to offer based on the calling God has given me, is to "slightly deviate" from my anointing. My anointing has everything to do with Him, and nothing to do with me. To promote self is to fail to understand my calling. He will direct my paths and surround me with those He wishes to help accomplish His will. My role is to step where He guides, and not take detours for the purposes of self fulfillment. My fulfillment is most visible when I am completely yielded.

This does not mean I sit back and do nothing. It means that when I have opportunity to bring glory to Him, I pursue it. When I take advantage of opportunities to point others to Jesus, I will experience joy and fulfillment. When I point others to my own giftings or abilities in the process of pointing to Him, I deviate ever so slightly from who He has called me to be.

Father, forgive me for getting off course. It was not my intention. Thank you for pointing that out to me. You are an amazing God!


Friday, May 02, 2008

At the cabin in Tennessee, the week before he went into the hospital.

The power of God resides in each of us that He draws to Himself. So does the power to do nothing.

When God takes a life and uses it in significant ways to further His kingdom, it is all about God's glory and not about the individual. That is as it should be. However, that person has within them the same power to do nothing.

They choose instead, to yield to the Lord all that they are. They do so on a consistent basis. They demonstrate a love for Him over a love for themselves.

The interesting thing about the power to do nothing, is that it nets more than nothing. When we choose to do nothing, where God would have us do something, it glorifies the enemy. It is not just nothing for the sake of nothing that brings harm to no one.

It is nothing when something should have been done, and reduces the individual to an impotent tool of the Master. Guilt often follows swiftly on the heels of disobedience. When nothing is done, then guilt, then justification, then a life emptied of the power of the Cross.

Justification engaged time after time where something should have been done, brings about insensitivity to the Holy Spirit and His attempts to reveal to us where He wants us to do something. This produces a fruitless life that lives to please self.

When we look upon the lives of those like BJ or others you may know, who consistently bring glory to God, the only reason they stand out, is because they refused to do nothing when God wanted them to do something. They establish the habit of responding obediently to the call of Christ, where most opt out.

Many lives that once beat with a heartbeat of Christ's power in their lives, are now empty shells, though they may still be in authority positions within our churches. They set examples that are much easier to follow. They go through motions that seem to point to Jesus, but their actions outside of this Holy venue are void of merit and certainly Christ altering power.

Doing nothing is a lifestyle for many. Oh they may be accomplishing great things by the worlds standards, but as the Word says, "fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames." 1 Cor 3:13-15.

Doing something should not make us proud, only more yielded as we see God's hand at work through us. Those who demonstrate pride in their own work for God are doing harm, unseen to them. One day, they will fall.

Doing nothing for long periods of time is a communicable disease. When unchecked, it wages war against what we are supposed to stand for in Him. The end result looks a lot like our supposed Christian Nation. A people who largely have little impact on the world around them. Unbelievers who want nothing to do with Christianity as they have experienced too many of the nothing-doers who misrepresent their faith on a daily basis.

Who would want faith that had no power?

Not me. I want to see His hand do incredible things through yielded hearts! This can happen. It can happen because the power of God resides in those He draws to Himself.

Do something.