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.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

"Comfort Ye My People"

It's getting to be that time of the year ... in not too many weeks we'll be preparing for Christmas. Many of us will follow Advent traditions. One of the newer ones in my family is listening to Handel's Messiah - all of it, not just the "Hallelujah Chorus" -- while baking for the holiday.

One of the moving portions for me comes during the song, "Comfort ye my people." It's lifted directly from Isa. 40 - an encouraging chapter if there ever was one. So tonight, I want to allow God's Word to minister directly to you. Know that you are ever in my prayers.

Isaiah 40
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,and cry to herthat her warfare is ended,that her iniquity is pardoned,that she has received from the Lord's handdouble for all her sins.

A voice cries: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up,and every mountain and hill be made low;the uneven ground shall become level,and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,and all flesh shall see it together,for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

A voice says, “Cry!”And I said, “What shall I cry?”All flesh is grass,and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fadeswhen the breath of the Lord blows on it;surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades,but the word of our God will stand forever.

Get you up to a high mountain,O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength,O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not;say to the cities of Judah,“Behold your God!”Behold, the Lord God comes with might,and his arm rules for him;behold, his reward is with him,and his recompense before him.He will tend his flock like a shepherd;he will gather the lambs in his arms;he will carry them in his bosom,and gently lead those that are with young.
Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span,enclosed the dust of the earth in a measureand weighed the mountains in scalesand the hills in a balance? Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord,or what man shows him his counsel?Whom did he consult,and who made him understand?Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge,and showed him the way of understanding? Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,and are accounted as the dust on the scales;behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust. Lebanon would not suffice for fuel,nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering. All the nations are as nothing before him,they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.

To whom then will you liken God,or what likeness compare with him? An idol! A craftsman casts it,and a goldsmith overlays it with goldand casts for it silver chains. He who is too impoverished for an offeringchooses wood that will not rot; he seeks out a skillful craftsman to set up an idol that will not move.

Do you not know? Do you not hear?Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing,and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.

Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,when he blows on them, and they wither,and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

To whom then will you compare me,that I should be like him? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see:who created these?He who brings out their host by number,calling them all by name,by the greatness of his might,and because he is strong in powernot one is missing.
Why do you say, O Jacob,and speak, O Israel,“My way is hidden from the Lord,and my right is disregarded by my God”? Have you not known? Have you not heard?The Lord is the everlasting God,the Creator of the ends of the earth.He does not faint or grow weary;his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint,and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary,and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;they shall mount up with wings like eagles;they shall run and not be weary;they shall walk and not faint.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

New Post

Hi friends ... I have a new post over at It's the first in a series of periodic posts from my inductive study of James - so it's very different from the historical theology posts I've been putting up there.

And while you're at it - please pray for me in my studies. They are definitely picking up steam! I'm loving it, but could use some prayer support since I do have other commitments like family, work, and ministry!

As always - I'm praying for you!


Monday, November 05, 2007

Making Fudge

Sometimes God has us do the strangest things. I was making fudge tonight, and recalled one of the stranger lessons I've had to learn.

When my stepdaughter came to live with us at age 15, I was in full "Mom" mode. I was ready to pour love into her and just knew we were going to stay up late talking and being close friends. Of course, that wasn't how it happened. Her perspective was quite different than mine, as you can imagine.

After many nights of crying myself to sleep, God began to teach me that this time was about unconditional love. He wanted me to love her like He loves us, without any expectation of return. My longing for her love gave me new insight into God's longing to have us return His perfect love.

But in the midst of that, He gave me a strange assignment: whenever I was struggling with love - when it was a choice rather than a feeling - I was to make fudge for her to take to school. I laugh as I recall that for her 3 years of high school I made an awful lot of fudge! But along the way the oddest thing happened ... as I stirred the butter and sugar and waited for it to boil, I prayed for her and felt that love choice become easier to make. By the next morning as I cut it into squares, I was able to truly be joyful - regardless of her reaction.

What I learned was that love is a decision, but it's a decision that is much easier to make when we put actions behind it. Even now, when I face someone at work that is tough to love, I ask God to help me know how to demonstrate love. Those individuals who I disagree with most are the ones I go the most out of my way to serve and show His love to. And somehow, in the process, my heart is softened and the love decision flows.

God didn't just love us from a distance - He demonstrated His love by sending Christ to die for us while we were still enemies. And as His child, seeking to love as He loves, I don't get to love from a distance either. He wants me to demonstrate that love even when there seems no hope of it being reciprocated.

Who are you struggling to love in your ministry context today? Ask God for creative ideas to demonstrate that love.

You never know the power of a simple act ... even one as simple as making fudge.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

My prayer for you tonight

During our monthly extended evening worship at church (1 1/4 hour of straight worship - beautiful), we sang a song that was new to me. As we sang I thought of you and prayed for many of your countries. I share the words from my heart to yours. Peace to you this Lord's Day.

May our homes be filled with praises
May our streets be filled with joy
May injustice bow to Jesus
As the people turn and pray

From the mountain to the valley
Hear our praises rise to You
From the heavens to the nations
Hear our singing fill the air

May our light shine in the darkness
As we walk before the cross
May Your glory fill the whole earth
As the water o'er the seas


Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Now of Jesus

Our relationship with Christ is about more than our eternal destiny. And I'm so glad!

Don't get me wrong. Redemption is definitely at the heart of the Good News. Without the atonement and the repairing of our broken relationship with God, we would be doomed in a way far worse than any earthly trial. But if that was all our faith-walk was about, we would quickly relegate God to a spiritual realm and find some other source to trust for our daily problems, because mankind is simply not wired to do anything else. We either trust and worship the God of the universe, or we trust and worship a god of our own creation, even if that god is another person or a world system.

But thankfully, gloriously, God is intimately concerned about our daily lives. He is about being at work around us, always doing something in and through us. He is with us, bottom line. I've started calling this the "now" of Jesus.

The past 10 days have challenged me like I cannot describe. More than once, I've desperately told Him that I trust Him for the long term, but I need to see Him working today! And in ways I never would have imagined, He has come through. He's peeled back my limited vision, my determination to trust Him that was laced with a preconceived outcome, and said to me, "Child, watch me at work when you don't understand what I'm doing." This is the NOW of Jesus...letting go of any and everything but Him, and looking to see what He is doing.

Mary and Martha learned this lesson when their brother Lazarus died. Amazingly, Jesus didn't quickly run to the side of his dear friend while he was ill. He intentionally delayed until Lazarus was dead. Then He showed up with a plan that would ultimately blow a mere healing out of the water: He raised Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus' illness was for the glory of God.

Before He raised Lazarus, though, He had a lesson for his sister. John 11:17-27 records the dialogue between the two:
Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

Martha gave a very spiritual answer to Jesus' question. She knew Jesus could heal, but her view of Him was limited. She had faith in what she knew of Him, and in the future eternal state. But Jesus wanted to teach her something new about the NOW of Jesus: He wanted her to see Him act in a glorious way that would prefigure the ultimate resurrection of the dead.

Glory was at stake. Jesus told His disciples when He didn't go immedately that Lazarus' illness was for the glory of God. Part of that glory was teaching a hurting sister that He was involved NOW, not just at the final trumpet. He didn't respond the way she expected (by healing Lazarus) ... He did something even more glorious. And He profoundly showed up in the NOW.

In Psalm 27:13, David cries, "Yet I am confident that I will see the Lord's goodness while I am here in the land of the living." David knew the "NOW" of God. Sure, He doesn't always act like we expect. But He is always at work around us. He is always in the "NOW". Are you facing a circumstance where you've given up hope and relegated the answer to the eternal spiritual realm? Look for ways God is revealing Himself gloriously in the NOW.