Friday, July 31, 2009

Once Christ got hold of Paul's life he went about business in the way that it seems he always had, full force and with passion. He went about trying to reach people for Christ the way he had gone about persecuting believers before God revealed himself to Paul (then 'Saul') outside of Damascus.

In Acts 20:22-24* he says: "I feel compelled to go to Jerusalem. I'm completely in the dark about what will happen when I get there. I do know that it won't be any picnic, for the Holy Spirit has let me know repeatedly and clearly that there are hard times and imprisonment ahead. But that matters little. What matters most to me is to finish what God started: the job the Master Jesus gave me of letting everyone I meet know all about this incredibly extavagant generosity of God."

In Acts 21:13 when friends and a prophet tried to dissuade him from going into Jerusalem he persisted: "The issue in Jerusalem is not what they do to me, whether arrest or murder, but what the Master Jesus does through my obedience. Can't you see that?"

This passion, this level of faith tends to elude me. I am not a theologian or Bible scholar and I can't say that the great commission to share the love of Christ demands this level of commitment and action from every one of us. Certainly, we are all different and made up differently personality-wise. But don't we too often use this fact as an excuse? I know that I do. Still, we as believers are all part of the body of Christ and this is an example of the type of faith we should strive to achieve. This was the level of fire I saw growing in BJ as he grew into his teens and is the reason that he was so passionate in his faith and his desire to see others come to know Christ.

The consequences of sharing are much more extreme around the world than we se here, though some of us tend to shy away from sharing Him because we fear we will be rejected or ridiculed by those we share with. Being able to connect our faith that God provides for us -no matter what- can get caught up somewhere between our hearts and our brain, mouths and feet.

One of the beautiful things about the people God uses in scripture is that they are all flawed. None but Christ lived perfect lives and many of them lived lives far from perfect. This should reassure us as we struggle with sin and confusion. In spite of their failings, whether it was speech impediments, fear, timidity, lust or even murder, there was a time that they stepped up and served Him to achieve great things for the Kingdom of Heaven. These "heroes" of the faith were simply men and women that set aside their limitations and let the Lord lead them into a higher place. Do you hear him calling you?


*scripture references from The Message

Thursday, July 30, 2009

There are so many meaty stories in scripture that can each stand alone as lessons for living as well as giving us glimpses of who Jesus is. Taken alone they give us at a minimum, lessons to live by. When you pay attention to their context with what was happening around them they get even better.

Take the feeding of the 5,000 (and that was just the number of men present), Jesus feeds them with seven loaves of bread and two fish. When the disciples asked Jesus to send the crowd away to get their own food (they were in a remote area and it was getting late), Jesus, out of compassion for the crowd, told the disciples to feed them and performed this very memorable miracle of multiplication.

What adds another dimension to this act of compassion is when it happened. This massive crowd had basically encroached on Jesus at a time where he had sought out a solitary place to mourn the loss of John the Baptist who had just been beheaded. In the midst of what must have been a deep sense of loss, he acted selflessly and with compassion rather than telling them to go away and let him be alone with his grief. I find it an inconvenience to talk to someone on the phone when I am feeling the need to be alone.

The bridge between these two events helps me to understand the answer that Brent and Deanna gave to the call of Christ at a time of deepest grief when BJ died. They chose to follow his lead and serve others at a time when many would have been completely immobilized in both their hearts and actions. It was very difficult for them to do and many questioned the timing of it, but so many have been impacted for Christ as a result of their obedience.

In a time of deepest sorrow Christ put the needs of others first. Where do the needs of others fall on your priority list on a good day? Something more to think about....


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

There is a Seinfeld episode in which the character George is being interviewed by a psychiatrist. He and Jerry are, in his eyes, on the verge of success after finally getting a tv series pilot on the air. George, ever the optimist, sees everything that can go wrong - especially when the psychiatrist asks him about a white spot on his upper lip. In his hysteria George states that God isn't going to let him be successful.

"But you don't believe in God" responds the psychiatrist.

"I do for the bad things!" George says.

How typical a reaction this is for us as humans; we fail to see the evidence of God's existance all around us or if we do, we fail to acknowledge his sovereignty. We are often slow to give him the credit for the gifts he has given us that allow for successes but are quick to point the finger of blame when things don't go the way we would choose. We don't thank him when things are going well but any failures couldn't possibly be a result of any actions (or inactions) on our own part.

I often identified with the insecurities exhibited by the character of George in this show, not to mention his balding pate. But this is an area I am happy to not find a common bond with; I know that anything good that comes out of my life is the result of a loving God full of grace. It is only because of this grace that I have any hope for the future, either short-term or long.

We may not always succeed in our ventures - and what life lessons would we be learning if we did? But to think that God wants us to fail at life flies in the face of his immense love for us; you don't create something in hopes that it will fail in its purpose. He knows and loves us intimately, more so than we can ever fathom. We are his children, his creation. He may not make all of our paths easy and straight but you can be certain that he is always scouting ahead of you on the trail, then coming back to walk with you along the way.

Have a wonderful day,


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The only form of reincarnation that I believe in is our rebirth into the the Heavenly Kingdom with Christ our Saviour once we slip from our lives here.

I do recall a time when some friends and I discussed what it might be like to live several different lives, which only seemed interesting if you could remember at least certain aspects of your previous ones in order to appreciate the differences. This discussion came while we were on vacation and lamenting the meager state of our finances and the limitations that placed on our experience.

Through such a process, with each life being substantially different than the last and some undefined ability to contrast and compare, we might eventually learn to truly appreciate the nuances of life; to understand the value of everything we take for granted in the day-to-day of our existence.After several centuries of living we might just begin to grasp the breadth and depth of the complexity of God who has gifted us with life in the first place.

Fortunately, we are not required to traverse this learning curve to get to know Christ; he reveals himself through his Word and through his creation. No matter how long we were to live in whatever form(s), we could never come to fully comprehend him. Better that we can live the one life we are gifted with and move into his presence for eternity, wherein we can bask in his wisdom and glory forever. At times this life can seem too long a time to wait as it is!

A quick update: Brent is now in Panama with a group until July 31st so please keep the team in your prayers as they minister there. Deanna is spending some time with Whitney and Jared in Texas until Brent returns with the team. After debreifing, they will head home to Tulsa. I got to see Lauren for a brief visit this weekend when she stopped in on her way home to Oklahoma after a whirlwind trip to the Michigan/Canadian border for a friend's wedding. Oh to be young and be able to drive through the night again!


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Marti, thank you for the update yesterday on the strike. I don't have confirmation that the team made it back but I assume that they did in the early morning hours this morning.

Our executive director and I went to our local city bus shelter to pick up a just-retired 12 passenger bus that is being donated to the camp where I work. We were told that the bus was 5 years old and that the retired buses of this type averaged about 150,000 miles at retirement. Now that I think about it, that sounds low in that it would mean it was only getting 30,000 miles/year which doesn't sound right. It wasn't.

We arrived, signed the paperwork and were directed to the location we should go to get the bus; "it will be running and ready for you to drive it home" is what we were told. I noted that the odometer reading on the title was over 233,000 miles. As we pulled up behind the bus barn to a row of the small buses we saw one bus running with its door open and another nearby where two men had various hatch doors and the hood open working on it...guess which one was ours?

Someone had apparently left something on inside the bus so the batteries (yes, plural) were all dead. I walked around the bus and noted where the decals had been, the wording still very readable from the adhesive residue still very much in evidence. There is rust running down the sides from the extension mirrors, paint missing, what looked like ground in dirt you get on your knees as a kid, etc. We didn't even get to see the inside before being asked to come back later to pick it up. I kept thinking, this bus is only 5 years old? Somehow, the return trip won't hold as much enthusiasm for the gift as the initial trip down did.

On the way back to camp I kept thinking about how I would get the adhesive off of the van now that they had peeled the decals off without using a heat gun...that method would be all but useless to me now. Hopefully, WD-40 or GooGone will work (maybe in a hyper-industrial strength).

What I should be is thankful for the gift, regardless of condition.

In contrast to my disappointment, I thought of how excited Christ would be when he comes to receive a life given to him. When he looks at our scarred, battered and stained vessels he is seeing the beauty of the 450 cubic inch V8 engine and the heavy duty transmission - not the ugly adhesive and rust showing on the outside. He knows how we were engineered and sees beyond the physical, emotional and spiritual scars to the beautiful soul inside. This is what matters and this is where we should focus our attention as well.

OK, so I still can't generate lots of enthusiasm for all of the elbow grease that is coming our way with the bus, but I'm thankful that we have been given something that we couldn't have had otherwise. I'm even more thankful that Jesus Christ accepts me as I am, seeing the potential inside rather than the failings and shortcomings I carry with me.

Be a blessing to someone else today,


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Please be in prayer for Brent, Deanna and the AweStar team in Peru. They are scheduled to fly home tonight at 11:30 p.m. Unfortunately, there is a national transportation strike scheduled to have begun today meaning that getting a taxi or bus to the airport isn't likely. Brent reports that the only way to get to the airport in Lima will be with a police escort -- IF they can get one.

We know the Lord can work out the details. Please be in prayer that He will do so and that regardless of what happens, the team will stay in good spirits and find opportunities to share. They have had over 4,000 people pray to receive Christ over the past few weeks and run out of commitment cards over and over again (they hand these out to the people making decisions to receive Christ), requiring them to get more printed several times. There is no doubt that they have had an impact and will continue to while there. However, I'm sure that they are ready to head home too!

Once they return to the states they will be together for a few days of debriefing before they go home. Deanna will start preparing for the fall school session and Brent will fly right back out to Panama for to join a team there for 10 days.

Please be in prayer for the team as they try to reacclimate to the world at home. They will be coming from a mountaintop experience (literally and figuratively) and now move back into a familiar world that they will find frustrating. They move from a complete focus on sharing Christ to trying to balance responsabilities at home and school with this same goal. They are leaving a society that is generally thankful for what little they have to one that is full of people unhappy and unsatisied in their excesses. Their friends and families may not appreciate their changed hearts, changed focus...their fervor to see others come to Christ. Please pray that they will not be discouraged and that they can continue to live lives that exemplify Christ in all that they do. Pray that their passion for Him will not be suppressed or extinguished.

There are also teams from Uganda, Chile, Panama and South Asia either winding up ministries or on their way home. Please continue to pray for them as well.

Thank you for being a part of the Body of Christ and lifting up these servants in prayer.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Yesterday I found myself 20+ feet up a ladder tucked under the overhanging roof of our old barn here at camp. I was using a power washer to try and remove as much of the dirt, paint and insect nests as possible in preparation for painting by a group of volunteers next week.

This is about as extreme a sport as I am in to, if you want to call it that. I am not big on bungi jumping, skydiving, mountain or rock climbing - or even rollercoasters for that matter. I find a lot of truth in the worn out line about "jumping out of a perfectly good airplane...." I have a baffled interest in the people who do like to do these things, I wouldn't call it admiration, more a quizzical puzzlement as to why they find things that defy common sense and the natural order of things "fun". I can admire thier athleticism and sense of adventure (sometimes), but I still must admit that I don't understand them. I'm more of a good book and a quiet setting kind of guy if I don't have tools and a project.

The extremists that I do admire are those who are willing to live by extreme faith. These are the people who, like Paul writes in Philippians 3, are willing to tear up all of the earthly accomplishments, labels and expectations - anything they might be able to take credit for - and trust Christ for their provisions for each day. "I've dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn't want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ -- God's righteousness." (Philippians 3:8-9 from The Message)

I know some people who are living this way - I have cousins in California, a brother and sister-in-law, a friend in France...but it is the exception, not the rule. Few of us are willing to set aside what we know for what we do not. I don't mean set aside our Faith, I mean set aside our ties to tradition and commonly accepted ways of life to live uncommonly, boldly for Him, not always knowing where our next dollar or medical insurance payment will come from but knowing that He will be there to provide for us. I'm not there yet but I know He is working in me and on me to be willing to trust Him with an extreme faith. Pray with me today that we can both be this type of Christian; pray that He will let us know what we need to be praying for because I think to do this type of radical surgery on our lives we don't truly know where to start, but He does.

"If you don't go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don't deserve me. If your first concern is to look after yourself, you'll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you'll find both yourself and me."
(Matthew 10:38-39 from The Message)


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

As we see Christianity becoming increasingly unpopular in the West, it is interesting to reflect on some things that Jesus Christ brought to the world through his teaching and the lives of his followers. I think many who are tired of the influences of the Bible, which they see as binding or intruding on their freedoms, have no idea that if they banish Christianity from the scene, many of the things that they have come to value will eventually disappear as well because they are rooted in the teachings of Christ.

Some things that many forget, or never knew about Christianity (taken from What's So Great About Chrisianity by Dinesh D'Souza):

- the idea that love was the basis of getting married and preserving a happy marriage
- it introduced consent on the part of both the man and woman as prerequisites for marriage
-making the extension of respect to ordinary persons while taking into account their human failings and shortcomings - including our culture's powerful emphasis on compassion, helping the needy and reaching out to the distressed in lands far away
-the notion that the best way to lead is to serve others
-in the West, Christians built the first hospitals
-the preciousness and equal worth of every human life
-Christianity elevated the position of women in society (the Romans scorned it as a religion for women because it elevated them to equal footing in rules on adultery and marriage)
-Christians were first to start an anti-slavery movement
-The Christian revival that swept the country in the mid-eighteenth century (The First Great Awakening) created the moral foundation of the American Revolution
-The Second Great Awakening which swept through New England, New York and the interior of the country in the early nineteenth century helped fuel the drive for women's rights and the abolition of slavery
-modern science is an invention of medieval Christianity and the greatest breakthroughs in scientific reason have largely been the work of Christians

I fear that our ignorance of history is growing in this country as we focus more on technology and what it can do to make our lives "easier". Certainly, this is true intellectually as many educators and scientists turn a blind eye to the past in favor of scientific reasoning that is based on political ideals rather than facts or even sound theory.

I hear stories of hostile professors who go out of their way to embarass or fail students who are believers because they see Christians as weak, foolish or unenlightened (how ironic!). I was fortunate to grow up at a time where theories were still taught and prefaced as such -- I shudder to think what our young people are being taught and what challenges they are facing in trying to not only stand firm in their beliefs but to be able to speak freely of them in the classroom.

The next time you hear someone talking about Christians being an impedement to development or progress in this country, you might try gently reminding them of some of these "impedements" listed above.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Brent, Deanna and the AweStar team are sharing in the mountain villages now in Peru. They continue to see a great hunger for the truth, seeing many pray to receive Christ and seeking churches to mentor them. There is also great darkness in many areas so please continue to pray for them. Again, you can follow along under the Trip Update Section (Peru) at

"Light, space, zest - that's God! So with Him on my side I am fearless, afraid of no one and nothing." --Psalm 27:1 (from The Message)

I want to say this and mean it. I am not there yet and I know that I can't attain this of my own accord because I am too weak-minded and timid. but I do believe that it can be true because I believe in the Wod that God has given us. I believe it because it is the word of God! Those who are working on The Bible's revision to suit their personal or political views should remember that.

It amazes me that there are groups of scholars who would have us believe that the church has always gotten it wrong, that only this new "enlightened" interpretation filled with politically correct revisions could be what He (or She) really meant when He inspired his select to write scripture; the original authors were apparently confused at what the Holy Spirit wanted them to write.

I would ask them why it is that our Lord would allow His word to be misunderstood, misinterpreted and mis-taught for so long, only to be corrected by a group of folks who don't believe that Jesus would have said most of what scripture says that he did. This seems worse than arrogance to me - why call yourself a follower of Christ if you don't believe His word?

I write about it but must be prepared to stand up in love and challenge those who would warp the Holy Scriptures. How long will I cower and hide as men mock God?! Lord strengthen me so that I might be used for your purposes today.


Thursday, July 09, 2009

The other day I touched on accountability, suggesting that we as believers in Christ should hold each other accountable for living in accordance with the teachings of Christ but that we cannot hold non-believers to this same standard because they are blind to the heart of Christ until they open their own hearts to Him and diligently seek His truth.

Later that same day I was reading a book that a freind had shared with me a month or so ago and it challenged me to dig into this further and examine why I held this belief. I have always heard that we should hold each other accountable but can't say that I had ever really examined just seemed to make sense. This book challenged the accountabilty issue by pointing out that the passages in Scripture dealing with the subject deal with our personal relationship with Christ and being accountable to Him, not each other. So I grabbed my concordance and started digging in to my Bible to study.

Now the danger in using a tool like this is that we limit our search to narrowly. In looking through the verses dealing with derivatives of the word "accountable" I found truth to the statement I had read. In expanding my search to related topics I didn't find a lot during my search, but Galatians 6:1-2 says:

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves or you yourself may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ

Notice that it says those of you who "live by the Spirit" should restore the person gently. So we are talking about those who are truly responsive to the Holy Spirit because they will bring the insight and tenderness needed to restore the one who has sinned. According to my "Bible Readers Companion", the Greek word for "restore" is a medical term used of setting a boken bone. So we are to help the broken mend, not expose them to shames by condemning them. Any confrontation must be tempered with comfort and compassion.

This scripture does indicate that we are responsible to and for each other, but we must be sure that a believer gifted with the proper insight and spirit is working with the one who has committed the sin. So we must check ourselves, our hearts and motivation before jumping in when we see a fellow believer sin. Are we acting in a spirit of restoration and grace or disgust and anger? Maybe we should bring someone else in to the situation.

I am interested in seeking out other scriptures that deal with this subject and examining it further. Please feel free to share them with me.

The next time we find ourselves ready to confront a fellow believer we should picture Jesus sitting and writing in the sand, listening to our charges; and if our relationship with Him and our motives aren't clear we should drop our stones and hit our knees in prayer instead.


Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The fallout realities of the current financial situation have hit home here at the not-for-profit camp where I work. A good friend and coworker was just let go after 10 years of service here due to a lack of funds to support our staff, programming and facilities. She and her husband have three kids in college. The rest of us saw pay and benefits cut - a reality that is far from isolated as we look around us today and see bankruptcies, layoffs, closing and plunging portfolios that prohibit foundations and individuals from funding the community services that they normall do. There are harsher realities for many who are retired and looked to the financial security of their retirement accounts to carry them through.

We are raised to trust in certain institutions and methods of doing things. We are a cause-and-effect-minded people who are taught that if you do X then Y will result. We are being reminded that it doesn't always work that way, especially when X isn't placing your trust in God for the provision of our needs today. Much of our life is spent trying to control our circumstances so that we are financially secure through the end of the week, month, year or lifetime.

We need to be responsible for the lives that we are given and for the gifts that He gives us, be they spiritual or physical. We need to be responsible and careful with how we raise our families. But we need to balance this with being open to His leading in our lives - daily. Sometimes careers or jobs get in the way of being free to act on the opportunities He brings us. Sometimes they are the tool that He uses to deliver opportunities into our lives...but what is your priority? Is it financial security or is it relationship with Christ?

I know that this may sound silly to some because we are taught to be responsible, get a good education and a good job to provide for ourselves and for our families. I am not suggesting living in an irresposnisble way I am just challenging you (and me) to consider our situations and look at what we are really spending our lives doing and why. Doing other than what we know is scary to us (me).

I have another friend named Jeremy. Jeremy lives life very differently from most in that he has placed himself in a position to be open to God's calling more freely than anyone I've ever known. His focus is serving Him at the drop of a hat. He lives simply with few posessions and is willing to give away just about anything he has at any point. In fact, he is currently travelling around Europe for an indeterminate time sharing the gospel of Christ with those he comes into contact with. He works to make enough to live on but how he makes money is secondary to his daily mission of living Christ to those around him. He responds to needs as he sees them - the Holy Spirit doesn't have to shout through the clutter in his life to get his attention, it only requires the softest suggestion of a whisper for Jeremy to hear and act. I have never known someone who is more Christ-like and Christ-living day in and day out.

My challenge for all of us is to look at our circumstances each day as opportunities. Losing a job isn't easy and brings with it anxiety and stress...but it can also afford us the opportunity to truly live dependant on our Christ as we are supposed to, trusting Him to provide for us as we look for the ways in which we can respond to His call to love and serve those around us, even if our circumstances aren't what we might consider ideal. As many of you have discovered, giving out of our need brings greater joy and blessings than giving out of our excess. A penney given by a poor widow is a more powerful gift than thousands given by a wealthy individual.

Be open to Holy whispers today, even if you aren't in the mood to give of your self or your resources. Let's learn how doing so draws us in to a much more intimate knowledge of the God we serve.


Friday, July 03, 2009

I want to share that Brent and Deanna are seeing tremendous fruit from the team's ministry in Peru with hundreds coming to pray about a personal relationship with our Lord and King. You can follow their trip in words and pictures at the "trip update" section (Peru) on Please be in prayer for stamina, perseverance and health for the team.

This weekend we celebrate our country's Independence Day as well we should. It must serve as a reminder that there is a tremendous cost for freedom. Be in prayer for our men and women fighting in Afghanastan and Iraq, and keeping us safe on other fronts.

I can't help but wonder how our founders and those who fought after them would view our drift from the blocks that they underlayed the foundation of this nation on. We are no longer a "Christian" nation though there are still many believers here. But we have wandered off and find our national soul (if there can be said to be such a thing) floundering morally and spiritually. (Check out Ezekiel 5 to see how God dealt with Israel's defection from Him).

What country will take up the Lord's mantle and in so doing become His mighty tool? What blessings await the people, the "king" willing to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord of all, King over science and the mind, body and soul.

How mighty even a small island that does so will become - a mouse that roars with the voice of Heaven.. Our leaders once followed and exalted our Savior, but today they apologize and neuter Him in words and law. This will only draw His wrath and deflect His greatest blessings to the one(s) that will lift Him on high and exalt His holy word. Hail His grace, acknowledge His Lordship, live His love!


Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Over the past week or so we have been inundated with the news, video, soundbites and songs of fallen celebrities. Some were tragic, some courageous, some simply overexposed. I no longer even have television (I opted out of the digital tv world)and I couldn't get away from it. It seemed there was a Michael Jackson song playing everywhere I went no matter the time.

Now, I grew up listening to this music as he was only a few years older than myself and so many of his songs made up a part of the soundtrack of my childhood and college years. I admit I stopped listening when his life got really, well, wierd. I view his life as tragic and lost, many years and dollars spent on trying to capture purpose, maybe justification...or as he said, his "lost" childhood.

However, one of the songs I heard captured my attention in that it was very different from the others and I had never heard it before - obviously from one of his later albums. I didn't know what the song was called but thanks to Google have learned it is simply called "Childhood". It is a slower more melencholy song than was typical of his style.

While the slow tempo is what initially caught my attention certain lyrics jumped out at me and are stuck in my brain: "Before you judge me, try hard to love me." As Christians, doesn't this call to mind God's command to us to love each other? Isn't this representative of His unconditional love?

It is very difficult as citizens of the Heavenly kingdom living in a fallen world to not judge those we come into contact with because they are not exibiting the moral character, attributes or lifestyles we are called to. And yes, we are called to hold each other as Christians accountable when we see a believer living contrary to Scripture's teaching. However, we can't hold a non-believer to the same standard and if we try to do so we will alienate them faster than anything else, then what chance is there that they will turn a listening ear to the message of God's love for them and offer of saving grace?

We are commanded and called to love others. As you pass through your community today it might not hurt if you let these lyrics haunt your brain as well. Try hard to love them before you judge them. You don't have to condone their lifestyles, habits or life choices. You might not like their circumstances -- but if you jump to judgement first you may find it very difficult to exhibit God's love to them in a way in which they will receive it.

Overwhelm the world with His love today,