Monday, December 31, 2007

Feet of Clay ... Jars of Clay

I've come to the place in my life where I realize that everyone has feet of clay. The churches, pastors, and ministries that I admire most from a distance prove to be fallible and amazingly human when viewed under a microscopic lens.

I know that as much as I admire you, all of you have feet of clay (the subject of my first post here, in fact; see My own feet of clay are most evident in my prayer life -- I long to be an intercessor with intense times of prayer, rather like simmering a good stew for a long time, but fall into a pattern of popcorn or microwave prayer instead -- and in my struggles to eat healthy and exercise.

I used to idealize the "early church" or the "church fathers" ... until a study revealed that the overwhelming majority of letters or addresses to New Testament churches included admonitions to correct something and the church fathers had their own, often large, blind spots.

That's why Scripture is so encouraging to me. It doesn't paint a picture of model Christians that we should all strive to emulate. Instead, it draws a portrait of real people like us, with feet of clay. I am oddly encouraged that Paul corrected Peter (Gal. 2:11-14) and that the church at Corinth was disappointed in Paul's oratory skills, finding him a more powerful writer than speaker (2 Cor. 10:10). When Peter says Paul writes things that are hard to understand (2 Pet. 3:14-16), I wholeheartedly concur and am glad that I'm not alone in those struggles!

Feet of clay, all of them - all of us. Just a reminder that we are "jars of clay" - earthen vessels. Our bodies hold the Holy Spirit, from whom comes all power. Anything we accomplish is of Him and not ourselves ... and the feet of clay that our Christian heroes have is a reminder to me that we are all jars of clay.

In 2008, may all your weaknesses, and those of others, remind you of His surpassing power.

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us."
2 Cor. 4:7

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Ministering in weakness, fear, and trembling

We live for those moments when we minister from the mountaintop, don't we?

When we feel adequately "prayed up", are caught up on our Bible reading, have successfully battled our besetting sins for a season, and sense God's anointing in an almost palpable manner, we eagerly anticipate what God will do.

Going into a ministry setting following a "failure", ministering in weakness, fear, and trembling, is a different story altogether. We're certain that any results belong to God alone, for we are more aware of our inadequacies than anything else.

And that is precisely the place God wants us to be. It's the place Paul was in when he went to Corinth from Athens - where a passionate sermon failed to yield significant results (Acts 17) and where Paul needed a direct revelation from God that there would be fruit (Acts 18:9-11). Paul's first letter to the Corinthians reveals a man who determined only to preach the crucified Christ.

The fact is, when we minister in weakness, fear, and trembling, we are more prone to rely on God than on our own abilities. When we minister in weakness, fear, and trembling, we are more conscious that the results are His and not ours. When we minister in weakness, fear, and trembling, we give Him all the glory and are not tempted to keep any for ourselves.

Pastor Ronald Dunn, in his book Don't Just Stand There, Pray Something, relates learning from God how prayer depends upon his position in Christ, not his sense of spirituality. At the end of a day when he did not have time for prayer or Bible reading, he approached his prayer time feeling unworthy, without a right to ask God for anything. The response he received from God was a vivid reminder of our position as believers:

Suddenly it seemed as if the Lord said, 'Suppose you had done a lot of 'spiritual' things today - suppose you had prayed for four hours, read the Bible (on your knees) for four hours, and led ten people to Christ. Would you feel more confident praying than you do now?'

'Yes, I would.'

'Then you are praying in your own name! You think I hear you because of your holiness. You think I am more inclined to listen to you if you hae done a lot of good works. You are approaching Me in your own unworthy name. If you had prayed for eight hours today and read the Bible on your kenes fo reight hours and had led fifty people to Christ, you would have no more right to pray then than you do now!'

I looked down at the floor of the throne room and saw that it was sprinkled, not with the sweat of my good works, but with the blood of His sacrifice. (Dunn, p. 47)

Weakness, fear, and trembling. Not a bad place to be! If that's where you find yourself today, draw close to God and let Him teach you what both the Apostle Paul and Pastor Ronald Dunn learned ... the ministry you are preparing for is about His power. Your adequacy is from Him (2 Cor. 3:6). Having the treasure of the Holy Spirit in your jars of clay (2 Cor. 4:7) shows that the power is His, and not yours.

May He be glorified today in your weakness.

1 Cor. 2:1-5 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Don't Give Up

We re-watched Amazing Grace tonight. I've previously posted on this movie ( - see a preview at but the overarching principle remains worth repeating: Don't give up.

Ronald Reagan was fond of saying that it doesn't really matter whether God is on our side - what matters is that we are on His. In seeking to further His kingdom, you are undoubtedly on His side! We see "through a glass darkly", the Apostle Paul wrote -- but He is the divine painter, creating a masterpiece with beautiful colors.

It's easy to feel like we aren't making any kind of an impact ... and then on the heels of discouragement comes despair. It's at that point that the message of William Wilberforce is so valid: Don't give up! You might not realize the significance of your role in God's big picture - but rest assured that when you submit to Him, He works it out for His glorious purposes.

He is the God of endurance and encouragement. Let the story of William Wilberforce remind you tonight of the hope that comes with never giving up. Your kingdom work is not yours, but His. He'll see that it gets accomplished!

Rom. 15:4-6 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Snapshots

Merry Christmas, each of you.

I know from talking to many of you that you really make the best of being away from home during Christmas. I'm sure your day yesterday was full, full of love and giving and your family in Christ. I also know that many of you treasure those special, weird, silly, fun times of being with your families back "home", and you do miss it (just as you miss your other family when you are "home" for Christmas).

So Monday night and yesterday, I prayed that God would let me be your eyes and ears so you could "borrow" my family vignettes, to weave with your own Christmas memories from wherever you celebrated with your family in Christ. As I sat watching for the snapshots you would enjoy, I prayed for God to give you a sense of having shared in these moments with me, because you were in my heart the entire time. (To give you a picture - I kept a notepad with or near me and would often jot something down or slip into the other room to do so - praying all the time this would bless you. So see, you were truly there for these moments!)

So, snapshots from the Edwards family Christmas:

  • That brief time when everything ... even Wal-Mart ... is closed.
  • Pancakes and sausage for Christmas Eve supper, surrounded by Bob's daughter, son-in-law, and 2 grandkids (the 9-year-old saying he wasn't hungry because he'd had "too much sugar and protein today") .
  • Grandkids wanting stories from PawPaw ... over and over and over and over.
  • Hearing Bob's son-in-law read the Christmas Story in his deep baritone preacher's voice.
  • Showing the kids how their noisemakers worked - and having the 7-year-old say, "Cool, we get to annoy our parents now".
  • Opening the gifts the grandkids made us out of popsicle sticks.
  • Being silly with the camera - trying to retrieve it to delete the embarassing picture of me with my backside in the air.
  • Watching "A Christmas Carol" with the grandkids who were seeing it for the first time.
  • Seeing the youngest one wide-eyed when talking with NORAD to track Santa ... then seeing her come out in her PJs and announce she was ready for bed because they had told her Santa was close but wouldn't come until she was asleep.
  • Getting to read her bedtime story ... just the two of us.
  • Watching Bob bake with his daughter.
  • The teasing, the noise, the messiness, the gum popping -- all signs of LIFE in a home.
  • Seeing the oldest grandson play Frankenstein with toothpicks.
  • Watching my dad and brother fall asleep on the couch ... BEFORE we even served lunch!
  • Cleaning up the kitchen after everyone was gone - a task made easier by our dear sister staying to help.
  • Watching "It's a Wonderful Life" with Bob after the last dish was dried ... and being reminded anew of Ecc. 11:1, which is displayed beautifully in George Bailey's life - and yours. Like you, he wasn't looking for the return blessing ... and like you he gained more in the relationships he got from giving himself away than from any tangible need that was met.
  • Being reminded from "A Christmas Carol" of the joy of giving ... that only those alive can be hands-on help to the needy .. that some people want to suppress the light of truth ... that in the end, Ebenezer Scrooge represents transformation: "I will know Christmas in my heart and keep it all the year".

Thanks for joining our Christmas celebration this year ... you made it extra-special!

Monday, December 24, 2007

JOY to the World

Children's Christmas plays never cease to be filled with spiritual lessons. Last night's was no exception.

Throughout our church's children's Christmas musical, a little 2- or 3-year-old struggled to form words. She basically babbled most of the performance. However, during a modern rendition of "Joy to the World", she keyed on the one word she could easily articulate: "Joy". Throughout the song, she would just randomly pipe up "Joy" ... repeatedly.

It was darling to watch, but also reminded me of the simplicity of childlike faith. When so much is going on around us that we can't figure out or see how to join in, sometimes we need to key in on the one thing we recognize: "Joy" or "love" or "faith" or "peace", focus on Jesus, and keep repeating what we DO know!

We could all do much worse than focus on "Joy" in confusing times! Merry Christmas to you, and blessings galore from the Father's hand.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

What Makes No Sense

Sometimes God gives us a choice between a path that makes perfect sense and one that makes no sense at all.

It's not that He never calls us to the path that makes sense. Many Christian businessmen, athletes, or leaders attest to God preparing them from early times with gifts and skills to raise them up on a platform for His kingdom.

But other times, He asks us to choose the path that makes no sense. He asks us to turn down a promotion, reject a marriage proposal, sell all our goods and give them to the poor, go live in a "foreign" country. These radical choices are for His kingdom purposes just as much as the logical choices on the first path.

It's the path that makes no sense that God chose when He sent Jesus to the earth the first time - the path of humility, lowliness, poverty, anonymity. A manger - a feeding trough - held the Creator of the universe. It made no sense at all.

And yet, in God's perfect wisdom, it was the perfect choice. For it was only by humbling Himself to become flesh and to be obedient to the point of death that He could make a path for the Father to be glorified by people from every tribe, tongue, nation, and people group.

Immanuel, God with us. Praise You for the choice that made no sense whatsoever.

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.
("O Little Town of Bethlehem")

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas Perspective

It is SO easy to get bent out-of-shape during Christmas. When you hear "Happy Holidays" for the umpteenth time (which you can halfway understand in a governmental setting, but don't get at all in a private business setting), want to toss something at the latest "if you love her buy this" commercial, and find yourself complaining more than rejoicing - it's time for a bit of perspective.

We aren't defined as Christians by what we are against. We can rally for "Merry Christmas", protest the exclusion of the Salvation Army at certain retailers, rebel against commercialism by refusing to give gifts -- and still miss the point. The church at Ephesus was against all the right things - but had lost her first love and was in danger of losing her "lampstand" (Rev. 2).

No, our Christian identity is defined by whose we are. And we show whose we are by practical acts of love (entire book of James). It's not that we shouldn't take a stand on those cultural issues -- when we live in a democracy where we are the government, we are obliged to do so. It's just that we must be reminded that our stand is not the point. He is the point. We take a stand to lift Him high.

I got some tremendous perspective this week in the form of an email that you may have seen circulating. It's written as a letter from Jesus reminding us what really counts. I print it here without knowing the original author - if anyone finds it, please let me know so I can properly credit him or her.

Many of you serve in countries where Christmas will be just another day. For you, there is no forum where you can voice your opinion about what to call the day. Practical acts of love are the stuff of your daily life. Let this be a reminder that what you do is enough.

For the rest of us, let's read this and look at our responses with fresh eyes - eyes to see what it's really all about.

A Letter From Jesus (by Anonymous)
Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made all trees. You can remember Me anytime you see any tree. Decorate a grape vine if you wish: I actually spoke of that one in a teaching, explaining who I am in relation to you and what each of our tasks were. If you have forgotten that one, look up John 15: 1 - 8.

If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth here is my wish list. Choose something from it:

1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all the time.

2. Visit someone in a nursing home. You don't have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.

3. Instead of writing George complaining about the wording on the cards his staff sent out this year, why don't you write and tell him that you'll be praying for him and his family this year. Then follow up. It will be nice hearing from you again.

4. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can't afford and they don't need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of My birth, and why I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love them.

5. Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.

6. Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take their own life this season because they feel so alone and hopeless? Since you don't know who that person is, try giving everyone you meet a warm smile; it could make the difference.

7. Instead of nit picking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there. Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren't allowed to wish you a "Merry Christmas" that doesn't keep you from wishing them one. Then stop shopping there on Sunday. If the store didn't make so much money on that day they'd close and let their employees spend the day at home with their families

8. If you really want to make a difference, support a missionary-- especially one who takes My love and Good News to those who have never heard My name.

9. Here's a good one. There are individuals and whole families in your town who not only will have no "Christmas" tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or receive. If you don't know them, buy some food and a few gifts and give them to the Salvation Army or some other charity which believes in Me and they will make the delivery for you.

10. Finally, if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to Me, then behave like a Christian. Don't do things in secret that you wouldn't do in My presence. Let people know by your actions that you are one of mine.

Don't forget; I am God and can take care of Myself. Just love Me and do what I have told you to do. I'll take care of all the rest. Check out the list above and get to work; time is short. I'll help you, but the ball is now in your court. And do have a most blessed Christmas with all those whom you love and remember :

New Post on Lesson Blog

Hi everyone ... I have a new post on my lesson blog at Sorry for the formatting issues - blogger won't let me change spacing from what it seems to randomly create! Have a good day!


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Facing Christmas

Let's face it - some people dread the thought of facing Christmas. They hate to shop, dread the "relatives", even get depressed this time of year. Ebenezer Scrooge before his epiphany had nothing on the attitude some people have toward Christmas.

Even for believers, focusing on Jesus instead of the stores, weather forecasts, and meal plans can be a challenge. Sometimes all we can think about is retreating!

That's why this quote from yesterday's "Our Daily Bread" devotional is so relevant:

"Christmas is not a retreat from reality but an advance into it alongside the Prince of Peace."

Christmas is a reminder that Jesus didn't stay out of the fray, He descended directly into it. And when we become Christ followers, He doesn't immediately call us to heaven or to a higher plane of living where we no longer have to deal with the nitty gritty of life. Instead, He provides His presence in the very stuff that we want to escape from.

Because in the long run, Jesus isn't about escape. He's about victory.

John 16:33 "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world."

Missing Pieces

This video is a phenomenal picture of the body of Christ.

Just as the woman without an arm had to have the balancing of the man without a leg, he also needed her. The story circulated with this video spoke of how she taught him to dance after he lost his leg.

In the body of Christ, we sometimes feel that we need to have it "all together." We develop an artificial division between the Christian "winners" and the rest of us. We forget that we are all missing a piece, that we are all broken vessels. We forget that we both need something that someone else offers, and we have something that another person needs. That's what's so fun about seeing God bring together a small group, a missions team, a church, an inter-denominational prayer group!

Be blessed today by this reminder from the Apostle Paul that we all need each other! The church in the West needs the perspective that only you who are wholly devoted to God's kingdom coming in the whole earth can bring - and you need our support and encouragement. Let's pray we continue to learn from each other.

1 Cor. 12:12-27 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?
But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require.
But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


We've all done it - but many are too embarrassed to admit it. We've received a gift, then turned around and passed it on to someone else. The modern terminology is "regifting".

People do it for all sorts of different reasons - selfish and unselfish. For some, it's a convenient way to get rid of an unwanted present; others dislike the clutter or like to feel like they've "contributed" so they give it to charity. For some the reasons are highly practical and unselfish: they love the gift but can't afford to buy, so they pass it on to someone else out of love.

I've been thinking about regifting in terms of what you do -- what we all are called to do every day. Jesus may be the only Giver who actually expects and prefers that we re-gift what He gives us! Unlike our parents or friends, He won't be offended when we pass on a present from Him.

Certainly this applies to the Gospel message ... all of us who have received are expected to be His witnesses and pass that on to others. But it also applies to His gifts of grace - those spiritual gifts that are given not for the benefit of the giver but the edification of the body. It applies to love, which comes from Him to us but doesn't stop there - we are to love others. It applies to mercy and all good things. We are commanded to bless others ... and those blessings originate from the hand of God. We are truly blessed to be a blessing - to "regift" to someone else what we have been given.

What gifts have you received from Jesus this Christmas season? Think through those things - both tangible and intangible - that you have been blessed with. That extra check. That unexpected free afternoon. That profound forgiveness. That mercy. That present right there in the corner.

Now ask God to reveal to you how He would have you use those blessings to bless someone else. Is there someone He wants you to spend the day with? Someone you should forgive or be merciful to? Consider whether He wants you to share some of your bonus, or even pass along a nice present to someone who needs it.

Regifting - it's really not a new idea after all. In fact, it's been around at least since God made that incredible promise to Abraham: "I will bless you ... and in your seed all the nations of the earth will be blessed."

In the seed of Abraham - Jesus Christ Himself (Gal. 3:16) - we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. (Eph. 1:3)

Pass 'em on.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Messy Incarnation

Phil 2:5-11:
You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had,
who though he existed in the form of God
did not regard equality with God
as something to be grasped,

but emptied himself
by taking on the form of a slave,
by looking like other men,
and by sharing in human nature.

He humbled himself,
by becoming obedient to the point of death
– even death on a cross!

As a result God exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,

so that at the name of Jesus
every knee will bow
– in heaven and on earth and under the earth –

and every tongue confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord
to the glory of God the Father.

I don't think our finite human minds can really grasp the magnitude of the Incarnation.

This passage in Philippians could be considered the first "Christmas carol" - a hymn praising God for the incarnation. Paul uses it to exhort the Philippians to humble service toward each other. But it is instructive as a testimony of the dramatic miracle of the Incarnation.

For Jesus Christ - in whom dwelt all the fullness of Deity (Col. 2:9) - to become human flesh was, according to Paul in this passage, an emptying, a humbling, a refusal to grasp something that was fully His and to take on instead something that was utterly other.

Of course He was totally without sin - but He still took on our flesh, walked among us, endured temptation, and was surrounded by the sin that a holy God could not look upon. He remained pure, but was surrounded by impurity.

The only illustration I've ever experienced that even begins to help me wrap my mind around this is not a pretty picture. Years ago, as part of a community group service project, I was helping to clean a run-down house - a shack, really. My job was to clean the sink. When I reached my hand in to drain the water that was sitting in there, I realized that the piled-up dishes had collected quite a mass of cockroaches. There was simply no way to clean that sink without cleaning those dishes, and no way to do that without going through the cockroaches.

I was nauseated and fearful (bugs are a phobia for me). I sat and stared at that sink for I don't know how long, then prayed. I didn't want to embarass the homeowner, but I also didn't want to put my hand in there! Of course there were no gloves to be found, and my choices were incredibly limited. Tearfully I reached my hand in to quickly drain the sink, and with my other hand turned on the hot water to hopefully drown the ones on top and wash them down the drain.

As I choked back screams, praying all the time, God spoke to me so clearly: If you think this is bad, imagine yourself becoming one of those cockroaches in order to help them. Now imagine my holiness being surrounded by sin. Imagine me walking the earth, humbling myself - because there was no other way.

Suddenly, my fear and nausea turned to worship as I grasped just a glimpse of what it meant for the Word to become flesh and dwell among us. I can't imagine becoming a cockroach - but He became human. And remained totally glorious.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel!
Hark! The herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn king

Sunday, December 16, 2007

"O Night Divine"

I had one of those "aha" moments in worship this morning.

We sang "Oh Holy Night", blending the last words ("O night divine") with the beginning of Chris Tomlin's "How Great is Our God" ("The splendor of the king/Clothed in majesty/Let all the earth rejoice"...).

I wondered - "Why was the night divine?" Christians aren't superstitious ... we don't believe, like the pagans, that the Winter Solstice is a magical night. We don't elevate something of creation to the status of "divine". So why do we sing "O Night Divine" ... why is it a "Silent Night, Holy Night".

Suddenly I realized - there was nothing inherently special about whatever night Jesus was born (Dec. 25/Jan. 6/sometime in the spring - take your pick). It really seemed like just another night in Bethlehem ... just another family needing a place to rest ... just another overtaxed couple ... just another pregnant woman ready to walk normally again. Everything was utterly ... ordinary ... and yet, we honor this night 2000 years later as inexplicably extraordinary. Why?

The night was holy, divine, extraordinary - because it was filled with His presence. He, who had no stately form or majesty to commend Himself to us (Isa. 53:2), nonetheless manifested the presence of God among us. God in the flesh, "pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel" (from "Hark the Herald Angels Sing"). The miracle of the incarnation made the ordinary, extraordinary. It made a manger the Holy of Holies. The transformation of Christmas from a night like any other to a night so special that even unbelievers find "magic" in it ... reflects the transformation that God can bring into our lives through His incarnate Son. The Word was made flesh to dwell among us ... and we beheld His glory. We, in our sinfulness, beheld God in the flesh. Born to die so we could live, so we could come to His altar of sacrifice and be made holy - just as any sacrifice that touched the ancient Israelite altars was made holy (Ex. 29:37).

If you're struggling with the "holiday spirit" ... if it all has become so ordinary ... if the materialism is too much for you this year - then I challenge you to focus on the extraordinary. Focus on the transformation of just another night into a "night divine", a "holy night" ... all because God was "pleased as man with men to dwell."

Jesus, our Emmanuel. God with us. O come, let us adore Him, indeed.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

New posts on other blog

God is good! He has blessed me to post two new lessons on the other blog ( and encouraged me today. I hope you have been encouraged as well.

God really spoke to me this week through Psalm 16. As I tried to process last week's shootings, I came across this passage which is a great reminder that ultimately, our security rests in God Himself. May you be blessed by meditating on God's word tonight!

16:1 Protect me, O God, for I have taken shelter in you.
16:2 I say to the Lord, “You are the Lord,
my only source of well-being.”
16:3 As for God’s chosen people who are in the land,
and the leading officials I admired so much 5
16:4 their troubles multiply,
they desire other gods.
I will not pour out drink offerings of blood to their gods,
nor will I make vows in the name of their gods.
16:5 Lord, you give me stability and prosperity;
you make my future secure.
16:6 It is as if I have been given fertile fields
or received a beautiful tract of land.
16:7 I will praise the Lord who guides me;
yes, during the night I reflect and learn.
16:8 I constantly trust in the Lord;
because he is at my right hand, I will not be upended.
16:9 So my heart rejoices
and I am happy;
My life is safe.
16:10 You will not abandon me to Sheol;
you will not allow your faithful follower to see the Pit.
16:11 You lead me in the path of life;
I experience absolute joy in your presence;
you always give me sheer delight.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Angry Young Men

Had they met 7 years earlier, Philip Crouse and Matthew Murray might have viewed each other very differently. They were both rebellious, anti-social, angry young men. Instead, they met on opposite ends of a gun that took Philip's life at YWAM-Denver last Sunday.

Philip was a former skinhead whose teenage years were turbulent and who went to his first church service mad at the world, filled with unforgiveness and, yes, hate. His family is "struck by the irony" that at one point, they could have imagined him being on Matthew Murray's side of the trigger (

"He was dark and brooding, hiding his insecurities behind a perpetual snarl," said an uncle, John Steiner.

When Crouse "laid down his life for God, the transformation was as complete as it was remarkable," Steiner said.

Crouse's family is "struck by the irony" that at one time he might have committed violence and how he died "at the hands of another troubled young man," Steiner said.

The heart of the lesson in the contrast of these two men is simple: transformation. As I've posted before on this blog ( transformation is the difference between Christianity and other well-meaning belief systems. Philip Crouse didn't need guidance, he needed a new heart. The same is true of all of us.

Just as Tiffany Johnson reminds us that the object of our service is Christ Himself, Philip Crouse reminds us of the transformative power of the Gospel. Together, they remind us that we are transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light, to serve others as if we were serving Christ Himself.

If where you are seems overwhelming, remember the power in the message you take ... a message lived out every day by practical acts of servant love.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Rom. 1:16-17)

"We do this for Jesus, right?"

The last words of Tiffany Johnson are ringing in my ears.

Tiffany, the 26-year-old who was killed in Denver by a gunman who hated Christians and YWAM.

Tiffany, who like all of us, has a story that makes the grace of Christ even sweeter.

Tiffany, who died serving.

Peter Warren, director of YWAM-Denver, recounted those final words to the Denver Post: "Warren then got choked up, standing over the spot in a rear hallway where Johnson and Crouse were shot. He pulled a napkin from his pocket - on it were words Johnson spoke to another student when she regained consciousness briefly after being shot. The words she said were: 'We do this for Jesus, right? We do this for Jesus.'"

We do this for Jesus. Tiffany's words are a reminder to all of us that as much as we love the people we serve, we don't do it for them. Good thing - otherwise a little thing like a critical spirit or a big thing like a gun would deter us. We do this for Jesus. For His glory, His honor, His fame. "To know Him and make Him known."

I'm oddly encouraged by the "right?" in the first part of her comment. She seems to seek reassurance, then provides it herself. Like Tevya in "Fiddler on the Roof" she asks "Right?" then answers in a way, "Of course right!"

We do this for Jesus. As far as anyone knows, those were her last words on this earth ... words spoken after being shot. What would my words be in such a setting? Knowing me, they would be inquisitive ("What happened? Who's that?") or practical ("Turn off the oven before the ambulance gets here"). Hopefully they would honor God in some way. But my heart of hearts longs to so internalize the message of service and love that Tiffany Johnson embodied that my last words would be a reminder to those around me that even in suffering, "We do this for Jesus."

Please pray for me in this ... as I will also pray for you! Together, "we do this for Jesus."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Where Are We Safe?

A dear friend just returned from a closed country with a Communist ruler. While she was gone, two places she previously lived (Omaha and Denver) were hit with tragic violence ... and she walked the streets at night alone, something she never does here. More and more, people in the US are asking, "Where are we safe?" When some churches are protected by armed security, it's a question the body of Christ faces in a very real way.

Lest we think it's never been this violent anywhere in the world -- remember the history lessons of Hitler and Stalin; the human sacrifices of the Aztecs and Incas; the brutal warfare of the Assyrians and Babylonians. From the time Cain shed Abel's blood, violence has filled the earth to one degree or another.

And yet Scripture, of course, holds the answer. David exhorts us to take refuge, not in a country, or a leader, or even a political system, but in God Himself. He is our place of refuge ... the only place we are truly "safe" - whatever swirls around us.

Psalm 16
16:1 Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
2 I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;I have no good apart from you.”
3 As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.
4 The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips.
5 The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.
6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
7 I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.
8 I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.
10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.
11 You make known to me the path of life;in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Untold Mercies

Sometimes, a tragic event drives home the truth of a Scripture in a way that all the in-depth study in the world can't achieve.

This past week's tragedies in Omaha, Denver, and Colorado Springs, have me thinking of God's untold mercies. In every situation, the evil result was not as intense as the perpetrators planned. In each case, God's hand of mercy can be seen. In Denver, for example, imagine the bloodletting if the gunman had been allowed to spend the night. In Colorado Springs, the police chief estimates that 100 lives were saved because the gunman was killed by a security guard. Yes, the battle is real - and in these situations we do well to remind ourselves that our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces. But in every situation, the truth of God's mercy shines through the darkness.

Jeremiah knew great tragedy. He watched his beloved city be crushed underfoot in judgment. And yet he received great promises of mercy in the midst of trial. This principle is one I've come to appreciate much more this week. He wrote in Lam. 3:19-24: Remember my affliction and my wanderings,the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind,and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning;great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,“therefore I will hope in him.”

Corrie ten Boom used to describe it this way: Scripture tells us that God's mercies are new every morning, and invites us to cast our cares on Him daily. She pictured herself bringing a suitcase full of burdens (heavy rocks), and walking away with His mercies (balloons). The problem we get into is that we frequently go back and pick up the suitcase!

Call it to mind as often as you need to in these trying days: God never stops showing steadfast love (a covenant term, by the way - His special love for His covenant people). He never stops demonstrating mercy, never stops being faithful. In Him there is always hope.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Senseless, Random Acts

I know many of you are grieving today.

The news out of Denver ( has shocked and hurt many of us ... especially those of you who are blessed with the larger connection to this organization. Like Wednesday's Omaha news, it is a senseless, random act of violence that reminds us of the fallen state of the world.

The real irony is that the group holds DTS's to train workers to go help people in some of the most "dangerous" parts of the world. Many of you are reading from those very areas. How many of you had to tell your family that you're more likely to be killed in a car wreck than suffer kidnapping or persecution in your "dangerous" country? This tragic news is a reminder to me - to all of us - that our safety, our security, is not in our physical location, but our spiritual one: the center of God's will.

Not that He never places us in the line of fire - but the only danger we have to fear as a believer is the danger of being outside His will. Any dangers we face within the security of His will are bearable; outside, the smallest challenge can be a tragedy.

Several years ago there was a bumper sticker floating around that read, "Commit random acts of kindness and senseless beauty." For believers in Christ, the truth of that statement is especially profound. When the world seems to be crashing around us - find ways to show kindness. When ugliness reigns, demonstrate beauty. The very words of the organization's motto - "To know Christ and make Him known" - compel us to demonstrate His kindness and beauty. Romans 5 tells us that God demonstrated His love for us by sending Jesus when we were enemies!

For all those who are most affected by this latest tragedy - please seek the healing that only comes at the foot of the cross. Seek the ability to forgive, and to show active kindness and beauty in this pain-filled world. Remember that it wasn't that long ago, from God's perspective, that we were the enemy.

Grieving with you today,


Saturday, December 08, 2007

Simplicity during Advent

I felt like I was at a carnival. For $5 over here, the kids could ride a camel. For a few bucks there, a clown would paint a face. Hot chocolate was $2, and a carriage ride around the square hit $20. Seeing the lights was free - but not much else!

All I wanted was to help our church with its annual caroling and hot chocolate distribution on our local square. A dear friend started this 4 years ago and it has been beautiful - hearing the Christmas story over the loudspeaker and giving out cocoa to freezing watchers who were delighted with the songs and sounds of Christmas.

Each year, though, commercialism has encroached a little more upon our town's popular lighting exhibit on the square. The vendors that stayed off to the side are now center stage. The sounds of the music can hardly be heard. And this year, we couldn't even give out hot chocolate - too much competition for the coffee shop that was selling hot drinks. What used to be a beautiful display of lights and an opportunity to glorify God felt like a circus. The city's not funding the light exhibit next year - and after last night I find it hard to be sorry.

With every year that goes by I think I appreciate simplicity during the Advent season more and more. I treasure our daily Advent readings, the simplicity of our decorations, the creativity we are putting into gift-giving, the chance to bless others with God's love. Wherever you are in the world, however hard it is to be away from family - seek ways to focus on the love of God this Christmas season!

New Lesson on Other Blog

I've posted a new lesson on my Global Civilization blog ( While my global studies have been fascinating, I find myself compelled to really dig into James and have chosen to expound those lessons in my teaching time. The more I study James, the more I like him - and I realiize the importance of emphasizing the practical side of faith as a key component of missions. James provides the perfect balance to the social gospel vs. evangelism debates that plague much of modern missiology! I'd love to hear from you if you have the time to visit over there.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Intense Relationship

Your struggles on the field are intense.

You face cultural battles, spiritual battles, financial battles, political battles, personal battles. As I've said here before, in many ways you're like all the rest of us, facing a lot of the same issues, but in a different setting. And as I said in my first post here, you are my heroes.

But I'm concerned - because I know that often the reality of your daily needs and responsibilities takes you away from the intensity of relationship with God that can lift you above all the battles of your daily life. One study of 390 field workers discovered that 87% spend less than 30 minutes in prayer daily - and 27% under 10 minutes. 88% read the Bible less than 30 minutes a day. An astonishing 71% struggle with lust. And overall, "the greatest spiritual struggle in life is in the area of having adequate devotions." And this in least-reached areas of the world! The person who conducted the study was told by a mission executive that the normal devotion is 15-30 minutes a day. ("Lessons Learned in Contextualization", in Muslims and Christians on the Emmaus Road.) Author Phil Parshall observed, "Perhaps our technological age has seduced us into thinking contextualized methodology is a more pressing area of emphasis than is our spiritual encounter with our Lord."

If any of this is ringing too close to home -- please don't be condemned. Just take this as a reminder that, as Jesus told Mary, only one thing is needful: an intense relationship with Him. There's no "magic formula" for adequate devotions - whether on the field or at "home". But one rule of thumb I've learned -- when my struggles seem more intense than my relationship with Him, I need to spend more, not less, time in His presence. The more overwhelmed I get, the more I need to set everything aside but sitting at His feet. The less I want to pray, the more I need to pray. And always, always, always, He comes through when I sacrifice something for time with Him. His Word speaks, prayers are answered, peace comes ... it looks different each time, but I never regret it!

This time, choose the better part - the "good portion". Everything else will fall into place.

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Grace to Stand

Today's tragedy in Omaha (see if you're unfamiliar) reminds me of the grace that we need every day.

Just today my husband and I were praising God for blessings in our lives, just this week. On his list was the greatest miracle of all, "kept by His grace". Oh, yes. Paul wrote, "By HIS doing you are in Christ Jesus..." (1 Cor. 1:30). How thankful I am that we are saved by grace, kept by grace, and walk in grace. Grace is quite literally the air we breathe as believers. And on days like today, I really have to rely on His grace to stand, to face the hard truths of life.

The reality is, thousands of people die senselessly around the world daily. Land mines, starvation, AIDS, cancer ... the list goes on and on. Events like Omaha startle us, but often for the wrong reason: we think they are the exception to a pretty peaceful life, when in reality they should startle us into realizing the suffering that is in the world, and the need for loving action on our part and spiritual transformation by God on His part.

In your work you really have a greater grasp of that than we do, sheltered as we are from reality. But all of us - whether grieving over Omaha or a far corner of the globe - can take refuge in the promise of God to this groaning world:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Rom. 8:18-25

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 20-25)

Sometimes, our faith is challenged in the daily struggles of life. Other times, we are blindsided. Something hits us so hard we can barely hold on, much less pray. At those times, we find out what we're made of - and if you're like me, sometimes you don't like what you see.

I'm pretty even-keeled emotionally. I can even handle lots of "stress" and crisis -- if I have some idea it's coming. But those times when I'm blindsided, when something comes from "nowhere", are the times I struggle.

It's because of my reaction in those times that I have come to do something that I call "pre-commit". Not recommit - good though that is - but PREcommit. Relying on verses like these when my faith is "strong", I tell God that I trust Him if I'm ever in a place where I struggle. I ask Him to hold me up and make me stand when I'm unable to stand on my own.

What I've learned is that really, that explains my state all the time. Those "blindsided" moments reveal it more clearly, but my daily state is one of dependence on God, on trusting that He'll uphold me and keep me in His will, developing me by His grace alone into a vessel for His use. When I'm weak, as Paul said, then I am strong ... because at those moments I realize the utter helplessness that is my natural state anyway.

Are you facing a trial that came at you from nowhere today? If you've been blindsided, consider this: God will uphold you, and reveal to you that this is the strength that upholds you on your good days as well. If you're having a good day, try pre-committing your next trial of faith to God, and see what emerges when that day comes!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Guidance vs. Transformation

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Cor. 3:18

Most people realize they need guidance.

Christians, adherents of other religions, even outright atheists, all recognize the importance of guidance. The modern generic "higher power" is an indication that we need direction at times. Most people readily admit they don't have all the answers.

Where Christianity is different, though, lies in the recognition that what we really need is transformation. We need to be what, in our natural state, we are not. It's one of the fundamental differences between Christianity and other world belief systems.

This morning our pastor outlined Romans 1:18-32. He pointed out that the clear message of that passage screams the need for the "good news" Paul has just bragged about in verses 16-17. It's easy to use this section of Romans to condemn groups of people. Paul instead uses it as one significant pillar in his argument that this "good news" is for all people. We all need transformation.

The sad thing is that as I read and studied yesterday about belief systems - many of which you work among -that deny our need for transformation and focus only on guidance, I thought about how easy it is for us to fall into the same trap. "Lord, show me what to do" is a lot easier to pray than "Lord, I'm a mess, fix me." If He's guiding me, then I'm still doing something! If I have to rely on His transforming power, then I'm reminded that it really is not about me, after all.

The more I study God's word, the more I realize that the nature of this transformation is God creating a worshiper ... someone who loves Him more than sin, who loves Him more than self, who even loves Him more than what He does! Ultimately, that is far superior to guidance. When He awakens my heart to see His beauty, and I respond in worship, the temptations of this world - of sin - fade into insignificance. Like Peter, James, and John on the mountaintop, I open my eyes and see nothing but Christ alone. No effort to build a tabernacle ... just pure worship.

Amazingly, when we see Him alone, we can better be transformed in His image "from glory to glory" as Paul says. For beholding leads to becoming. We can pursue Christlikeness all we want, and see His guidance for how to live, but until we are transformed into people who long to behold Him, we won't truly become like Him.

The lyrics of this song capture that idea perfectly. As you read, please know that among my many prayers for you in your service on the field, where you desperately need God's guidance daily, is that He will not only give you direction, but transform you daily into His image - a passionate worshiper of Him!

Here I am to Worship
Light of the world
You stepped down into darknes
Opened my eyes, let me see
Beauty that made this heart adore you
Hope of a life spent with you

And here I am to worship,
here I am to bow down,
here I am to say that you're my God
You're altogether lovely,altogether worthy,
altogether wonderful to me.

King of all days, oh, so highly exalted.
Glorious in heaven above.
Humbly you cameto the earth you created
All for love's sake became poor.

And here I am to worship,
here I am to bow down,
here I am to say that you're my God
You're altogether lovely,altogether worthy,
altogether wonderful to me.

I'll never know how much it cost
To see my sin upon that cross
I'll never know how much it cost
To see my sin upon that cross

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Trust or Manipulate?

I had an "oh, me" prayer time this morning.

I love the "Oh, my" times with God ... those times when I sense His Spirit, hear His voice, receive from His Word, and bask in His presence. But sometimes, He throws me a curveball! He'll speak something so clear and unexpected about an area of my life that I can do nothing but beg for His assistance.

Today was one of those days. He called something by a name I wasn't expecting. You see, I am in the middle of making a significant decision about whether to pursue something that might lead to a change in ministry emphasis and time commitments. I've really wrestled with the situation, and was calling my struggle by all sorts of spiritual-sounding names.

This morning, God called it something I wasn't expecting: manipulation.

Not manipulation of people - praise God He freed me from that ages ago and by His grace I walk free of that area. But manipulation of circumstances - ah, that's a different story. I hope I'm not the only one who has faced this battle ... it's so easy for me to "make something happen" especially when I know people, when I know "the system", when I know what needs to happen - or think I do. It's one of the easiest ways for me to get ahead of God. Let Him tell me to go from A to E and I'll start working the situations to be favorable for B, C, and D!

Don't get me wrong - I know that God uses people and circumstances. However, when I intentionally try to make something happen -- or, like this case, stay in a situation I can "control" rather than step out into the unknown -- I enter the realm of manipulation. I become like Sarah with Hagar, rather than walking in the truth of God's faithfulness.


So, the choice is clearer today. I still don't know God's answer to the opportunity before me ... but I do know I don't have as big a role to play in the decision as I had thought. I really have two paths to select from: Believe God or Manipulate Life. No choice there.

By grace alone, I'm believing God! I pray tonight for you to also have increased faith to believe Him!

God is who He says He is.
God can do what He says He can do.
I am who God says I am.
I can do all things through Christ.
God's Word is alive and active in me.
(from Believing God study by Beth Moore)

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Sometimes it's funny to live in a major college town. Especially in our state, a southern state with no professional sports team, the flagship state university team becomes a focal point. In fact, here they call it the "Razorback Nation".

In case you missed it - after all, you have much better things to be doing - our football coach resigned this week. His final year was filled with controversy, and after the last two seasons rumors flew that he was gone. This time, those rumors were true. For lack of something better to do, the rumor mill then turned to his successor. Those rumors are running high tonight.

Why do I waste my time on this topic? Simply this: the world is full of gossip, rumor, innuendo, games, double-talk. Sometimes we let it make us cynical and we start treating God's promises as, well, rumors. As "I'll believe it when I see it." We forget that biblical hope is not worldly hope. Worldly hope is glorified wishful thinking. Biblical hope, however, is a certainty based on fact. It is the unseen outcome of God's promises.

When I see the craziness surrounding a mere football program, I run even more to the stable, sure word of God. Tonight I encourage you, when you see the craziness surrounding whatever world system you're in the middle of, to run to God's promises. Don't let the world cause you to see them as rumors. Grab on to the examples of faithful believers, and enjoy the ride!

You'll never find anything more rock-solid!

That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (Rom 4:16-25)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Feet to our Prayers

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” Rom. 10:14-15

I have a dear friend flying over the Atlantic tonight. She's off to minister to some just like you, who live your lives over there, in a world we sometimes idealize and other times fear.

As I've watched God assemble her team, I've been reminded that no one goes alone. Paul reminds us in this passage that the feet of those who preach the good news are beautiful, but I've often read this and completely skipped past the previous sentence: "How are they to preach unless they are sent?"

One denominational missions agency sent a letter stating that hundreds of missionaries were ready to go but had to be turned away because of a lack of funding. I personally know a couple whose heart burns for Spain but they await the many details and financial support to get there. The statistics about the numbers of you who return from the field due to discouragement and despair are astonishing. You often feel forgotten. The obstacles are many, and can never be overcome alone.

That's why my friend's adventure has been so encouraging. From those who gave, to those who signed up for her prayer team, to the friend who provided her a warm down coat to wear in the cold climate to which she is going, to the one who's picking up her mail and depositing her checks while she's gone -- I've seen the body of Christ at work. I've seen hands and hearts and fingers and spleens (to paraphrase Paul's depiction of the body of Christ). As I've said - we're all going, she just happens to be the feet.

And it has reminded me that the same is true for each of you. All of you have a team behind you - I hope a strong prayer team, certainly a financial team, a stateside necessities team -- and if you are blessed a team of encouragers for those inevitable horrid days, people to remind you that you are the ones to be envied even when you don't feel like anything special, and to remind you that what you're missing here isn't really that much after all, especially when you are gaining Christ! Your entire team is on the mission field - you are just the feet.

But never forget how beautiful God thinks your feet are! And I, for one, thoroughly agree!

Walk in Him, dear ones, and those feet will become even more glorious!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Unity in Diversity

Tonight, I want to thank you for a message you carry that the church here desperately needs.

Many of you have related stories to me of how, when you get on the field, you work together across denominations, ages, races - as one body ... the way Jesus intended when He prayed in John 17 that we would be one. I've heard tales of how your very different structures and backgrounds becomes the most significant elements - how God uses it all and it really doesn't matter who or how, because it's about Him and not you.

I want to thank you for that, and ask you to please bring that message and those stories back when you come home for furloughs. When you share in churches and small groups, let them hear about those weekly worship services that cross boundaries. Let them see the unity in diversity that God designed - how you don't conform and change anything about who you or your agencies are, but there is a transcendent unity that makes the diversity even more meaningful.

I can't tell you how much we need that message. The world has co-opted the message of diversity, and the church here is afraid of the word. Unity is spoken of but rarely practiced, as denominational battles make churches retreat to their own corners. Few pastors pray together across denominational lines, and even fewer visit other denominations churches. Interdenominational efforts are limited to once a year and rarely for anything significant.

Yet there are lights in the darkness. The campus ministers in our town have found a unity that transcends diversity, but appreciate each others' diversity. A small town in the area also has a unity so profound that pastors of different denominations preach in each others' churches.

We don't have to be afraid - truth will always prevail. You know more about what is major and what is minor than we do ... and tonight I am especially grateful. This isn't as much about you as it is about us - but I hope you are encouraged to know that we realize how much we need you.

May you be blessed as you hang in there together!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

New Post on WCF Blog

I've got a new post up tonight on the WCF blog ... about James and trials. A needed topic in a world filled with prosperity teachings. I continue to find James highly relevant! Check it out at

The Filters of Change

For the past 2 1/2 years I've studied history from a Godward perspective, and each lesson brings me more in awe of God's sovereignty.

When you look at the history of the world from a broad viewpoint, it becomes obvious that at certain points, change just happens. Everything seems to come together at once - imagine a cone-shaped filter that collects economic, religious, political, societal, even climactic factors. Beneath this filter is a tube through which everything passes, then comes out in a different, but still recognizable and traceable, form. What's even more amazing is that often these changes are similar across the world - not uniformly, but enough to be startling.

I've just studied this phenomenon in Europe during the years 800-1200. I came away with the understanding that nothing man could do would control all the factors involved. They could have limited one or maybe two, but no way could humans control everything. Yet what emerged was not random ... it was evidence of a semblance of order in what appeared a chaotic mess.

God is in control in our changing world as well. We are all in the midst of change of some sort. Whether it is a technological revolution, the challenges of a new democracy, or complete societal upheaval, change is happening. We can't stop it or control it. As individuals, we simply must respond in loving service to whomever happens to be in the filter with us. As members of society we must seek to influence what that change looks like. And as Christians, we must pray and trust the God who, behind the scenes, is bringing history to its ultimate - the summing up of all things in Christ.
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. Eph. 1:7-10

Friday, November 23, 2007

Lessons from the Past

I found my old journals today.

When we moved 8 months ago, 10 years' worth of journals - 10 years of my recorded relationship with God - disappeared. I'd started to assume they were thrown out accidentally with the garbage. God had to teach me that my relationship with Him is not limited to those journals - but I still grieved their loss.

But today, while digging out our Christmas tree and decorations, I found a box labeled "Pictures". It was unopened - and I thought I'd opened every box digging for those journals this summer. I peeled back the tape hopefully, and amazingly, there they were. My old friends. Memories of a journey like no other.

I thought I'd just mislabeled the box, but I have decided I didn't. For those journals truly are snapsnots - pictures of a relationship. Behind each entry lies a memory that the words stir within me. I'd forgotten how desparately I sought Him - and need to relearn some of the lessons. For example, my entry of June 17, 2003, lays out some parenting concerns about my then-teenage stepdaughter:

"Sometimes parenting creates unique questions such as the ones I have today. How can I build her self-image without aiding her pride, and conversely how can I give her a correct perspective of the sin nature without causing despair? I am reminded of one of my purposes in her life - to teach her to be a worshiper. As we worship we see God more accurately which causes us to see ourselves more accurately. I can't do it all. I can just sow seeds. Lord, give me that opportunity! Forgive me for asking the wrong question. What I should really ask is, how can I hold God up in such a manner that she is drawn to Him and sees Him (and herself) and He (and she) really is? Help me Lord!"

The circumstances of my life today are different - but I still ask the question. How can I hold God up in my life - at work, at home, at church - in a way that people are drawn to Him? That's all He really asks me to do.

And you too! As you struggle to balance ministry and family responsibilities, to work and study and learn a language and a culture, the bottom line is that He wants you to lift Him up. Seek Him to know how. Today you are writing a new entry, making a new picture of your relationship with Him. Seek Him hard - so that when you look back years from now, you'll have a snapshot to remember!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Loving Outcasts

God has been speaking to me this week - dramatically - about loving the "least" among us ... the sick, the wounded, the needy, the outcasts. On the very same day my Bible reading included these convicting verses:

From Prov. 31 (4b, 5, 8-9): it is not for kings to drink wine,or for rulers to take strong drink, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed and pervert the rights of all the afflicted. ...Open your mouth for the mute,for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously,defend the rights of the poor and needy.
James 1:27: Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

As if that weren't enough, I came across this extended commentary at the end of How the Irish Shaped Civilization. After explaining the fall of Rome as it relates to Celtic Christianity, and the influx of barbarians that affected both societies, Thomas Cahill explains:

Rome's demise instructs us in what inevitably happens when impoverished and rapidly expanding populations, whose ways and values are only dimly understood, press up against a rich and ordered society. More than a billion people in our world today survive on less than $370 a year, while Americans, who constitute five percent of the world's population, purchase fifty percent of its cocaine....
What will be lost, and what saved, of our civilization probably lies beyond our powers to decide. No human group has ever figured out how to design its future. That future may be germinating today not in a boardroom in London or an office in Washington or a bank in Tokyo, but in some antic outpost or other - a kindly British orphanage in the grim foothills of Peru, a house for the dying in a back street of Calcutta run by a fiercely single-minded Albanian nun, an easygoing French medical team at the starving edge of the Sahel, a mission to Somalia by Irish social workers who remember their own Great Hunger, a nursery program to assist convict-mothers at a New York prison - in some unheralded corner where a great-hearted human being is committed to loving outcasts in an extraordinary way.(Cahill, p. 217, emphasis mine)
Loving outcasts in an extraordinary way. Wow, what a calling - what a testimony. I know you are all out there, doing the thing daily. It's not just theoretical to you. I know that your emphasis is on the example of Christ, as it should be - but just look at what Cahill says. The very thing you are doing might be the future of our civilization. It has been so before.

Love extraordinarily today - and pray for me to do the same!
Blog note: I will be on Thanksgiving break for 3 days. I hope to resume posting on Friday. Have a great week and if the Lord brings us to mind, please pray for our safe travel - bad weather is forecast for Thursday, and we'll be returning home very late (after our normal bedtime).

Sunday, November 18, 2007


The last Greek word in the book of Acts is best translated into English as "unhindered".

Much of the latter part of the book of Acts is concerned with getting Paul to Rome. We know he's going - God promised him in Acts 23:11. So when we see Paul sitting in house arrest in Rome after a perilous journey and a side trip to Malta, we see much more than a man who achieved a goal. We see God's hand at work. We see His promise fulfilled. We see one more advance for the kingdom.

The Net Bible project includes this comment: "The word of God is proclaimed triumphantly and boldly in Rome. Acts ends with this note: Despite all the attempts to stop it, the message goes forth."

That's the heart of "unhindered", and that's the bottom line message we're left with in Acts. It begins with a commission - be God's witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, the ends of the earth - and walks us through how that looked for the early church. We see Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, and we see God fulfilling a God-sized promise through the stuff of life. Through conversations overheard, favorable circumstances, ships with Greek deities ... God gets Paul to Rome. Paul is chained to a soldier - but the Gospel is unhindered.

Be encouraged tonight. Whatever you feel is holding you back from a dream or vision, whatever you think is a chain around you - be assured that the Gospel is unhindered. Like Paul, who converted some of his guards and wrote 4 books while chained, your very chains can become links to God's kingdom purposes.

New Post on The Big Picture

I've got a new post on my other blog, If you're new here, this new blog is centered on material gleaned from my studies in the World Christian Foundations study program, the curriculum for my Master of Arts in Global Civilization coursework with William Carey International University. The new post is an exposition of James 1:5-8, from the perspective of wisdom in trials.

Friday, November 16, 2007


Sometimes we miss an opportunity because it looks too different than what we expected.

We pray for an open door to share God's love with a co-worker, then find ourselves stuck in an elevator while we're running late to a meeting -- and our thoughts stuck in the flesh rather than the Spirit. We ask God to change our nation and the leader chosen at the next election is everything we thought we were trying to eliminate. We seek transformation for a people group and then hear of a tragic natural disaster.

Thomas Edison said, "Opportunity is missed by most people because it comes dressed in overalls and looks like work." In the work of the kingdom, we could paraphrase that by saying "Opportunity is missed by most Christians because it comes dressed in hardship and looks like suffering."

For whatever reason, God doesn't package His opportunities in silver boxes with red bows. Instead, the doors He opens for us often are rough-hewn, with splinters attached. And so we balk, and miss the opportunity.

I praise God for His sovereignty. He makes sure His work gets done, in spite of us! He places the same opportunity before us in different ways until we "get it"; or He puts the need on someone else's heart; however He does it, His work gets done. But I want to be a vessel for Him, with all opportunities fully realized, don't you?

We'll only get there by His grace. As we fall more in love with Him, trust Him and walk in the Spirit more and more, we'll find that our hand reaches for the rough door faster than it used to. We see the tarnish on the silver paper and the fraying on the red bows. And we realize that behind the door, for all the apparent suffering, lies "joy unspeakable and full of glory."

And the half has never yet been told.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Salted with Fire

Everyone will be salted with fire. (Mark 9:49)

Sometimes the rabbit chases of Bible study provide the meatiest dinners.

I was trying to chase down the meaning of Col. 4:6 - "Let your speech be gracious, seasoned with salt". Researching the other usages of "salt", especially in the New Testament, proved instructive and helpful. But when I came across this one, I stopped in my tracks.

Salted with fire. Whatever could that mean? I love the translation of The Message: "Everyone's going through a refining fire sooner or later." From my study, I think that's a pretty good translation. It certainly fits the context of the remainder of the passage:

"Everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other." (Mark 9:49-50)

Salt is developed within us - "in yourselves", Jesus said. It is associated with being at peace with each other. And we are salted with fire.

I picture it like this: As the refining fire "burns off" the impurities in us, it "salts" us, leaving behind the salt that preserves. Salt, for the ancients, was more than a flavorful addition to avoid if they had high blood pressure. It was so essential that it was even used to symbolize sealing a covenant - it was critical. It protected food from putrefaction in a hot climate without refrigeration. It was used to fertilize land, and to preserve food from change. The "salt" left behind by a refining fire authenticates us, "preserves" the changes God is working in us, protects us.

So how does that relate to my original question? If our speech is gracious, seasoned with salt, we are going to be speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), and it will have an air of authenticity about it - because we live it out, we have learned it in the fire. Bottom line: Going through the fire is necessary if I want to be the kind of person Scripture commands me to be!

What fire are you facing today? What health struggles, spiritual battles, personal obstacles, political events, are burning around you? Stay close to God - let this be a refining fire. Ask Him to use this to deposit salt within you, so that you can speak and act "seasoned with salt" - the authentic Christian life that only comes after the fire.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Remember me??

"Remember me". Those words appear next to a checkbox on many of the sites I regularly log into ... including Blogger! It's a handy way to give permission for the site to communicate with my computer and save me entering all my login information on the next trip. But when I go to a new computer, or sometimes even go to the site again on my laptop after an extended time period from the previous visit, I'm prompted once again to let the website know whether to remember me.

I've decided that these websites are like mankind - fickle. They forget me so easily! They remind me of how we are so often with God - forgetful of His benefits, of His sacrifice, of the grace in which we stand. All the while, crying out to Him as if He has forgotten us. "Remember me Lord??" we cry... but we really have the question backwards.

God promises to remember us. He told Israel in Isa. 49:14-16:

"Zion said, ‘The Lord has abandoned me, the sovereign master has forgotten me.’ Can a woman forget her baby who nurses at her breast? Can she withhold compassion from the child she has borne? Even if mothers were to forget, I could never forget you! Look, I have inscribed your name on my palms; your walls are constantly before me."

Lest we think this doesn't apply to us, recall that God said what was written before was written for us - it's an example and a revelation of God! Jesus reassured the thief on the cross that He would "remember" him when He came into His kingdom - that very day in Paradise! He consistently speaks with a longing and love that leave no doubt that He is fully and completely actively remembering us!

And yet knowing our humanity, He knows that we have weaknesses in this area. Research tells us that if we don't actively remember something, we forget - it's our brains' default! (Probably post-Fall, but that's a whole other subject.) No wonder He tells us to renew our minds. And He even gives us guidance as to how. We are told that through taking the bread and drinking the cup, we remember His death until He comes (1 Cor. 11:23-26). Communion, Eucharist, Lord's Supper -whatever you call it - is the "active remembering" of His death.

It is this need for "active remembering" that the church reflects in its traditions of Lent and Advent. Both seasons intentionally focus on significant events in redemptive history, drawing us back to the foundations of our faith. They are designed to counteract our fallen forgetfulness.

What do you need to actively remember about God today? What aspect of His character have you forgotten in the daily struggles of life? Seek His Word and His character ... remember Him!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Shoulder to Cry On

Sometimes when you pour out for someone else, you reach what feels like a breaking point. You have nothing left to give (you think), and you wish someone would turn the tables and minister to you.

And if you're like most of us, you feel guilty when that happens. The short message of today's blog is: Don't!

It's not selfish to refuel ... in fact, it's essential for effective ministry. The Apostle Paul - whom no one would accuse of being self-focused - endured struggles in his ministry.

There were times he was afraid, and God spoke to him not to fear. Without condemnation, the Lord reminded Paul of His promises:

Acts 18:9-11 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the Word of God among them.

Acts 27:23-24 For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’

There were times Paul was abandoned by his companions and needed comfort from God. Near his death, he even explicitly asked for assistance from his friends.

2 Tim. 4:16-17 At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion's mouth.

2 Tim. 4:11-13 Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.

So what's the point? Simply that God doesn't expect you to do what you do, year in and year out, pouring yourself out for others, without ever filling the vessel. Sure, prayer and worship is a great way to do that - but so is crying out to God about your emptiness, about your need. He may stand beside you, as He did with Paul at times, or He may send a Luke to stay with you, or a Timothy who can bring you what you need. The important thing to see is that if your heart is to have an effective ministry, there are times you are going to need encouragement. I know I've begged God to encourage me ... and He has.

As I close I list the words to this song by Dennis Jernigan. If you're not familiar with him, I urge you to check out some of his music (, also check He has a gift of ministry that has encouraged me more than once. I came across this particular song at a time in my life when I was pouring out for someone who did not want what I had to offer. I felt rejected and unable to give any more. I spent about an hour at home alone one Saturday afternoon putting up groceries while listening to this song on a CD player set to "Repeat". By the end of the hour, I had cried out to God, just bawled in His arms really, and felt the ability to give, just a little more. After that this song became His tool to strengthen me on more than one occasion. May it bless you today.

A Shoulder to Cry On

Lord, sometimes I give all I have left to give
Sometimes I run dry so that others might live
Sometimes I think You have left me alone
Sometimes I wish You would just call me home.
At times I grow tired, yet I want to obey
Sometimes I can't hear all you're trying to say.
But I'll go where You lead, do what You say to do
And when I run dry I will cry out to You.

O Lord, I need a shoulder to cry on
A heart to share the pain.
A hand to hold, a friend to rely on
A cool refreshing rain.
My God to bear the cross that I die on;
To cleanse what can't remain
A Father's precious shoulder to cry on
A love that can sustain an endless rain.
An endless rain.

I would have given up quite a long time ago
If not for the grace and the love You have shown.
Yesterday's gone, tomorrow I cannot know,
So I'll live for today in the light that You show.
Lord sing Your song,
In the night lead me through
And morning will come, bringing joy like the dew
Your voice like the dawn, is a warm welcome view
Making life worth the darkness for it drives me to You.

Oh I will press on toward the goal for the prize
Of my life's highest calling - my Lord Jesus Christ!
I will fix my eyes on You, stay close to Your side,
For in the desert You're water, and in the darkness You're light!

O Lord, I need a shoulder to cry on
A heart to share the pain.
A hand to hold, a friend to rely on
A cool refreshing rain.
My God to bear the cross that I die on;
To cleanse what can't remain
A Father's precious shoulder to cry on
A love that can sustain an endless rain.
An endless rain.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Consider it joy

I have a new post on my study blog ( It's a study of James 1:1-4. However, the basic message is something I had to share here as well.

From James, a slave of God and the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes dispersed abroad. Greetings! My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect effect, so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything.

James' audience knew trials. They were poor, persecuted, scattered, and hungry. James outlines to his audience the broad command: "Consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials".

Obedience to James' admonition does not rely upon mere emotion or mindset. The word James uses for "consider" carries a connotation of judging, or making a determination, as a ruler would do. James is essentially teaching his scattered, persecuted, impoverished, hungry flock: "Weigh the evidence, and make a decision to view this as nothing but joy." James calls his readers to involve their will in the process.

The difference this makes is significant: Rather than following our feelings, or trying to convince ourselves and others that it's really going to be okay, we can look at all the evidence and choose the side of joy.Joy, of course, is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22), so this decision will have to be a Spirit-empowered one.

Yet James does not leave us without a tangible motivation as well. The very trials we are choosing to count as joy, James tells us, are the things that lead to our endurance, our perserverance. Endurance, Strong's lexicon tells us, is "characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings."

Essentially, James is telling us that if we choose to consider THIS trial as joy, we will be strengthened and the next one will be less likely to sway us. Since the trials are presenting as coming "when" rather than "if", we can know that they will happen. We can be equipped for them by weighing our options and coming down on the side of joy.Furthermore, James observes, perserverance isn't the end of the road for believers. We don't merely muddle through trials. As we learn to perservere in them, we are "perfected" or made mature ... lacking nothing or as this translation states, "not deficient in anything." Not lacking, not deficient ... calls to mind the literal translation of Ps. 23:1: "The Lord is my Shepherd; I lack nothing." Mankind tends by nature to focus on what we don't have ... but by the Spirit-empowered decision to consider a trial as JOY we can instead grow in perserverance and eventually feel that we lack nothing.

What trial are you facing today? Weigh the evidence, and willfully choose joy! You'll grow in the process.