Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Living In Peace

These days are challenging ones for my faith. I have lived most of my life anxious about what the future holds. I've often taken pride in being able to make things work out. Reality is that I had little to do with it. The Lord has been good to me -- even allowing me to take credit for things he brought about.

But I now find myself in a unique situation. It's one I have little, if any, control over. And I am learning to give my anxiety over to the Lord. It's not easy, but I am left with no choice. However, I believe that in the long run the lessons I learn will be worth it all.

I am adopting the practice of, before arising from bed, quoting Philippians 4: 4-7. As I do this, the phrase "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" suddenly means much more to me. I want God's peace!

Then, I'm doing my daily reading from Luke today. Jesus is sending out the 72 on a mission trip. Listen to what he says in vv. 5-6: "When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.' If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you."

Did you catch what Jesus tells them? He basically says that they should extend peace to others. But if their offer of peace is refused -- they will still have peace.

Wow! Lord, give me that peace which transcends all understanding!

Monday, November 29, 2004

What Not to Tell a Job Applicant

Imagine you have gone in for a job interview. The interviewer tells you three things you can expect if you hire on: 1. You will not have financial security. 2. You will not be allowed off for funerals -- even if it's your own father's. And 3. you might as well kiss your family goodbye. Wow! Let me sign on the dotted line!

But you know what? Jesus basically says that's what we can expect if we follow him (Luke 9: 57-62). And I wrestle with his words. They sound foreign to us. It's certainly not what we expect as American Christians. Not many pulpits preach such a message.

Verse 62 says, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." I'm reminded again that the kingdom of God is counter-cultural. I know that I don't get it. But I want to! Oh, God -- help me to get it!

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Things I'm Thankful For

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving: the best of all the holidays, in my opinion -- because it is the least commercialized. And this morning feels like Thanksgiving! There is a nip in the air. The leaves are falling quickly -- and they are beautiful! The colors are vibrant this year.

This morning I just want to take a few minutes to share with you some things I am thankful for:
  • I'm thankful that I was able to get out of bed this morning feeling no different than I did when I was 20 (other than my sciatica -- but that's OK!).
  • I'm thankful that when I went to the bathroom to start shaving, I had hot water in just seconds.
  • I'm thankful that the 1st face I saw this morning is the face of an angel. Her name is Beverly, and she is the greatest blessing I have in this life.
  • I'm thankful for the other angel who shared my bed last night -- even though her feet were digging into my armpit at 6:30. I didn't see her face because it was under the covers. Malaya has brought so much joy to me. She is a real treasure.
  • I'm thankful for my three incredible children -- and their awesome spouses. I know of no other reward in life that could match having six adult children (yes, Josh qualifies as an adult -- at least according to the government) who are sold out to the Lord.
  • I'm thankful for cool mornings alone with the Lord on a golf course. There are few places I feel more at peace.
  • I'm thankful for the Lake Cities Church -- a place where I can worship God freely and be loved by others who share my faith.
  • I'm thankful for friends who care.
  • I'm thankful that the Yankees lost to Boston.
  • I'm thankful for the memories of good Cowboys teams.
  • I'm thankful that John Kerry will not be referred to as President John Kerry.
  • I'm thankful for contemporary Christian music (particularly my boys, Stephen Curtis Chapman and Michael W. Smith). Their music refreshes my soul.
  • I'm thankful that God has made food to taste so good. It's hard to beat a good meal shared in good company.
  • I'm thankful for fireplaces. There is something very soothing about sitting in front of a fire.
  • I'm thankful for good movies. I even enjoy chick flicks -- so long as my chick is beside me.
  • I'm thankful for two good cars and a really nice house.
  • Of course, most of all I am thankful to God (Father, Son and Spirit). He continues to amaze me with his faithfulness and grace. I am so grateful that I get to spend my life here on earth in pursuit of Him.

Well, this could go on and on. Here's praying that you have a Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Facing Rejection

I don't do rejection very well. The flesh wants to harbor resentment -- and lash out in revenge. I can relate to David who said (Psalm 3: 7) "Strike all my enemies on the jaw."

Fairly early on in their time as apostles of Jesus, James and John had similar feelings. As Jesus and his entourage traveled through a Samaritan village, the people did not welcome them. So, James and John suggested, "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?"

Think about this: They are ticked because they have been rejected. They have seen Jesus work miracles of healing and feeding and blessing. Never have they seen him use his power to destroy or hurt. But yet their 1st reaction to rejection? "Lord, you save your power. We'll take care of this one for you. Give us the word and we'll just incinerate an entire village! That will send a clear message." Yes, I suppose it would have.

Have you ever experienced the humiliation of being in a classroom, or with a mentor or parent, and thinking you had a really good idea? You share it -- and get rebuked. Immediately, you begin looking for the nearest rock to crawl under, right? Well, James and John get rebuked by Jesus for their plan to "defend" him and his reputation. Why? Because their hearts are absolutely foreign to the heart of Jesus.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says that citizens of his Kingdom are to turn the other cheek. We are to walk the second mile. We are to extend blessing for cursing. We are to love and pray for our enemy.

Wow! I'm glad that my citizenship doesn't depend upon always passing the test. However, I want so much to have my old hard heart softened by the King who sits on it.

Monday, November 22, 2004

The Real Enemy

When in war, it is a terrible mistake to misidentify the enemy. As Christian soldiers, we are often guilty of shooting our own -- or shooting those who are held captive by the enemy.

Luke 9: 49-50 relates the following incident:
"Master," said John, "we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us."
"Do not stop him," Jesus said, "for whoever is not against you is for you."

John had misidentified the enemy.

I came across an interesting article this morning, entitled "Non-Christians: Friends or Foes?" by Ginger Plowman. Listen to how her words appropriately address this subject.

I used to view non-Christians as outsiders. I looked at them as mere projects that I needed to check off my "I shared Christ with them" to-do list. Unfortunately, I must admit, that while I had a heart for obeying God in sharing the Gospel with the lost, I did not have a heart for the lost. I can recall telling several people about Jesus and not grieving over their negative response to his plan of salvation. God convicted me that I was viewing non-Christians as a type of enemy, an enemy that I needed to conquer in the spiritual war of evangelism. I would faithfully put on my armor, swing the sword of truth at whoever came my way, and walk off the battlefield without giving a second thought to where the wounded fell. I simply counted my efforts as medals toward spiritual heroism. But Jesus doesn't view non-Christians as the enemy, but as captives of the enemy . . .

Sometimes I need to be reminded who the enemy is . . . and who it's not. Blessings.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

We Have Seen His Glory

The glory of God: I wonder what it looks like. Moses saw its afterburners, and his face shown like the sun. Isaiah got just a peek, and he said, "Woe to me!"

One day Peter, James and John went up on a mountain with Jesus to pray. As Jesus prayed, his appearance changed -- his clothes becoming as bright as lightning. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah were also there with him. What an awesome sight that had to have been! Definitely not something one would soon forget. In fact, years later Peter would write (2 Peter 1: 16) "we were eyewitnesses of his majesty." And John -- perhaps in his 80's -- wrote (John 1: 14) "We have seen his glory."

So I am blown away when Paul writes (2 Corinthians 3: 18) "And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." We reflect His glory? How?

The only answer I can come up with is that the Creator has determined it to be so. Listen to Paul's words (2 Corinthians 4: 6) "For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." God lets his glory ooze out of us as we keep our eyes fixed on the face of Jesus.

So let's fix our eyes and radiate some glory!

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Identifying Jesus

"You are the Christ of God." That was Peter's assessment of who Jesus is. "Christ." "Messiah." "The Anointed One." And with that confession, he was probably ready to take up a sword and follow his leader into battle against the Romans.

The next words out of his Leader's mouth had to have set him back on his heels. Jesus said, "The Son of Man must suffer . . . be rejected . . . be killed." Wait a minute, Jesus. This isn't how the script is supposed to play itself out. The promise was that Messiah would be victorious.

But Jesus wasn't finished. He said, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." Not exactly words to spur on an army into battle.

Or are they? What was needed was reframing. We are soldiers, and we are in battle. But the stakes are not material. And the weapons we fight with are unconventional. And the Kingdom is not to be found on a map. But oh, the spoils of victory! We will see our triumphant King come in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels! And we will enjoy eternal life in the kingdom of God. That is the reward that awaits a cross-bearer. So, reach down and pick it up one more day. And keep your eyes searching the sky for his next triumphal entry.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

He Is Plenty Adequate

The feeding of the 5,000 is the only miracle of Jesus that is recorded in all four Gospel accounts. There is obviously something there that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all considered worth retelling. Maybe it is simply the magnitude of the miracle itself. But if that were the case, why didn't they all record the raising of Lazarus? (Only John did.)

I'm just wondering this morning if there isn't something very practical that we are to learn from this miracle. To be honest, through the years it is a miracle I have read and thought, "Wow! That is pretty impressive. A smorgasbord for 5,000+ when the only materials on hand were 5 loaves and two fish." A powerful story -- but it didn't have any application for me.

I think the practical lesson might have alluded me because I have grown up in an American culture that says, "I am adequate for all things." But the reality is I am not. In my personal life, I am unable to predict my adequacy beyond a couple of paychecks. In the life of my church, we are wondering how we are going to be able to pay for our building with the resources we currently have. We are no different from the disciples who, when Jesus said "You give them something to eat", responded "We have only five loaves of bread and two fish."

They were right. Or were they? Was that really all they had? They forgot to factor in one little asset -- JESUS! He was their adequacy.

Will Jesus still feed 5,000 with a sack lunch? I don't know. But I do know this: He will take what I have to offer -- and make it adequate for whatever he has called me to do. His name is YHWH-Jireh. "The Lord Will Provide." He will not call us to ministry -- and then leave us in short supply. What an awesome God we serve!

Monday, November 15, 2004

I'm Back!

What a special week Beverly and I enjoyed in Crockett! God brought revival! We had about 14 rededications and a baptism. I pray that the Lord will continue to feed the flame of revival there.

The Grace Street church in Crockett is so very special to us. Going back is always like going home. Driving around the community and seeing people from our past -- it's like stepping back in time. It seems like there is actually time to stop and take a breath there.

I will say that I am glad the driving is over! I had to come back to Dallas on Tuesday night to teach my class at Amberton. Then I went right back to Crockett. Wednesday night Beverly and I returned home. We worked Thursday, and then she spoke to a group of ladies in Fort Worth on Thursday night. I picked her up at 9:20 PM -- and we were off to Crockett again. This time it was to watch our two boys play in a flag football tournament in Huntsville, TX. Talk about exciting! It was great. We took Beverly's parents with us, and I don't think anyone enjoyed it as much as her dad. The boys' team (an ACU all-star team) placed 5th in the tournament.

Tomorrow, I will return to my daily devotionals from Luke. Thank yous to so many of you who have been encouraging to me about my blogs. Blessings!

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Homecoming Weekend

Saturday, Beverly and I will be heading for Crockett, a beautiful little town in East Texas. The church there was the 1st one I served as a full-time minister. We return there a couple of times a year because it is still like home. The 5 years we spent there were really special, and the friendships we made are life-long ones.

We are returning for the 35th anniversary and homecoming of the Grace Street Church of Christ, which is where I served. In conjunction with their homecoming, they are going to hold a revival, and have asked me to speak for it. I am excited. Their pot-lucks are unbelievable! But I also know that we will be encouraged, and that we will encourage -- and that feels right and good.

Pray for us -- that the Lord will use us to minister and bless. I'll be blogging again soon.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Just a Touch

She was desparate. She had been sick for 12 years. As the crowd entered town, she heard that in the middle of it was the Healer. Her mind begins to race. She doesn't presume to think that she should have a one-on-one with him. If she could just touch him, though! That would be enough.

She begins to position herself in the crowd. There he is! It's now or never. Once he passes, there is no way she will be able to catch up with him again. So, she stretches out her hand -- and misses! She doesn't touch him. All she gets is the edge of his cloak. Opportunity lost!

Or was it? Because immediately, her condition is healed. Then, he stops. He turns and speaks to her. And his words are so full of grace: "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace."

You know what: Our faith in Jesus can still bring us healing today. Emotional healing. Spiritual healing. Yes, even physical healing.

Just a touch. Don't pass up the opportunity. It can make all the difference.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Election Day

Well, today is election day. I'm really nervous about it, because I clearly favor one of the candidates. However, as a Christian, I am reminded of what Scripture says in Romans 13. I don't pretend to understand it. But I am going to do my best to submit to the Lord regardless of who wins today.

Here is what it says: "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves."

I read that, and just can't say that it makes a lot of sense to me. Nero. Hitler. Saddam. Stalin. Ruthless men who brought pain and suffering and hardship on their people. And God put them in those positions? That's what the Word says.

The best I can make of it is that he put those men in positions of authority, and they had free will as to what they would do with their power. But it bothers me how Christians in America act toward those politicians with whom they disagree. It just doesn't seem very Christlike. After all, Paul is writing this while living under the rule of a tyrant.

So, my prayer today is that, regardless of who wins, I will respond in a Christlike manner. Will you join me in that commitment? Blessings.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Freed From Demons

I've read the story of Legion so many times. You remember him? The guy who lived among the tombs -- with superhuman strength because he was possessed by many demons. The people would chain him, but he would break the chains.

Jesus came along and cast the demons from Legion -- and into a herd of pigs. The pigs then ran off a cliff into the sea and drowned. Because of this, the people of the region were afraid and asked Jesus to leave. So he did.

The man from whom the demons were cast begged Jesus to let him go with him. Jesus' reply was, "Return home and tell how much God has done for you."

Again, I've read the story many times. Yet, until recently, I never saw how that story related to me. I have recently shared with many of you the struggles I have been through as an ACOA (Adult Child of an Alcoholic). My whole adult life I have battled with self-doubt, poor self-esteem and negative self-talk. Finally, figuring at age 47 that enough is enough -- I sought help to deal with my demons. And the Lord has delivered me. He has given me tools that I had never had to aid me in my struggle. I feel like I have had demons exorcised from me. It is a wonderful feeling!

And here is the cool connection between Legion and me: Jesus' words to me are the same as his words to Legion. "Tell how much God has done for you." And I will -- to anyone who will listen. You don't have to remain chained to your demons. So, don't settle with that kind of existence. Jesus wants to set you free!