Wednesday, February 20, 2019

O'er the Tumult

You may recognize those words from the hymn, Jesus Calls Us.

So, what is a tumult anyway?

a loud, confused noise, especially one caused by a large mass of people, confusion or disorder.

Do you have tumult in your life?  Is the noise of the challenges you face drowning out your positive thoughts?  Do you feel confused?   

The hymn says,

Jesus calls us, o’er the tumult
of our life’s wild restless sea

Does your life seem like a restless sea?  Are there storms, crashing waves, and huge struggles?

Or is it just that the noise of imperfect relationships, unmet goals, small frustrations that seems louder than your joy?

I find it interesting the hymn writer suggests that Jesus call says, “Christian, love me more.”

Does your life feel free of tumult— house, confusion, disorder?

Love Him More.

Do the storms and crashing waves seem about to overtake you?

Love Him More.

Are there imperfect relationships, unmet goals, and small frustrations stealing your joy?

Love Him More.

That’s it.




Monday, February 04, 2019

What if you just said OK?

This is a very interesting conversation between God and Moses found in Exodus 4  (as you read it remember that this happened AFTER the burning bush, after Moses asked God for a sign and God showed Moses that he could turn his staff into a servant and after he gave Moses instant leprosy on his hand and then healed it immediately).

Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”
11 The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”
13 But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.”
14 Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses.
You know what happened next.  God said, “Ok, fine.  I’ll have Aaron your brother help you.”

But what if Moses would have said OK?  He would have had the opportunity to watch God transform him from a person who saw himself as a bumbling idiot, into a magnificent orator.   But instead he said, “please get someone else to do it.”

I wonder what kind of life Moses would have been able to have had he said OK.   He already got to do some really cool things with the help of Aaron, and watched God do miracles outside of him, but he missed the miracle God wanted to do within him.

 God calls us to do things not because He can’t find someone else to do it, but because He wants to do something IN US.   

So next time, why not just say “OK” instead of asking God to send someone else. You never know what might happen!

Check out the Wesleyan covenant prayer.  If you pray it, hang on.... you may be in for a most excellent ride.

I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing, put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,
exalted for you, or brought low for you;
let me be full,
let me be empty,
let me have all things,
let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours. So be it.
And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The Truth Sets us Free... Or Does It?

Sometimes we don’t want to know the truth and we don’t want to tell the truth.   If the truth sets us free, why are we so afraid of it?  

Many times I think we argue against truth because we know that if we know that the truth will cause pain to someone else.  Or we know that the truth might cause us pain if it is revealed.  So we hide from the truth, somehow believing that freedom is not found there.

However, when we look at the opposite of truth it is clear that there is no freedom found there.  There is no freedom in keeping secrets, in lies, in deception, in hiding behind an untruth.  There is great liberation that comes of freeing ourselves from the web that deceit creates.

If I have learned anything over the past twenty years, I have learned that although the truth is painful at times, speaking truth, seeking truth, believing truth and acting on it is the only way to find freedom.   It isn’t always easy to go through the process of arriving at the truth, but when we are dealing the facts it is easier to work through them than it is to find our way amidst things that are not true.

It is no wonder Jesus told the Jews in John 8 who had begun to follow Him that they would know the truth and the truth would set them free.  I would add there are steps that lead up to that knowledge of truth… speaking the truth, seeking the truth, asking for the truth.   Because then the truth can be found and it sets everyone free.

As this song suggests, one of the greatest truths that we can seek and speak is the truth about who we are and who God is….

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Not Repaired but Replaced

Picture with me a family heirloom ceramic bowl.  Your child, the kid you babysit, or your grandchild knocks it off the coffee table and it breaks into five pieces.   (OK, so you shouldn’t have a family heirloom on the coffee table with kids around, but work with me here).  You take it to a person who specializes in pottery and they repair it.   When you’re done you exclaim, “It looks ALMOST brand new.”

But you know it isn’t.  It’s not new…. it’s still got cracks that have been repaired and if you know where they are and you look closely you can find them.

But the line of the song ‘That’s what Faith Can Do” says — broken hearts become brand new.   Not almost brand new, but brand new.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

In Ezekiel 36:26 God tells us, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

It’s not a repair job, folks, it’s a replacement. Broken hearts are replaced with new hearts….. hard harts are removed and replaced with soft ones. Faith means more than just fixing something until it’s “almost new”— it means taking out the old and putting in something that IS brand new —not just something that looks like it.

And that, my friends, is GOOD news.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Everybody Falls Sometimes

As I was listening to the song “That’s What Faith Can Do” again a couple weeks ago I realized that there is a lot of great wisdom in that.  So it will be our guide over the next few weeks as we explore faith together.

One of the things that I love most about Scripture is that it shows the absolute and utter humanity of the characters therein.   People that we remember as great are people who screwed up so much.    Check out these ten examples:

  1. Noah was a drunk
  2. Moses killed a man
  3. Samson was a womanizer
  4. Rahab was a prostitute
  5. David was an adulterer (not to mention a murderer)
  6. Jonah ran from God
  7. Peter denied Christ
  8. The Samaritan woman was divorced (more than once)
  9. Mary Magdalene was demon-possessed
  10. Paul was a Christian-killer
And yet, God used them and they became heroes of the faith.   Nobody is perfect — and we are all going to fall sometimes, but the list above reminds us that when people fall, they get back up again and that eventually people look back and see the good they’ve done and don’t focus on the bad.

Hang on to that thought today.... 

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Good or Glorious?

When was the last time you spent time with a new Christian…someone who didn’t grow up in the church, but who recently began to understand the power of the gospel?

In April I will be gaining another son-in-law (in case you missed it, I got one for Christmas).   We only have 2 daughters, so in April when Matt joins our family we will have the total number of son-in-laws that we should ever have.    

Matt hasn’t been a Christian for more than a couple years and we were talking about his faith in September when we were there to visit.  He said something like this, “I just can’t stop talking about it. I don’t know how any Christian can stop talking about Jesus.  This whole salvation thing is so wonderful…. so GLORIOUS!.”

It made me smile because I don’t hear 24 year olds using the world glorious very often.

As I was listening to some verses in Genesis this morning, I realized that God created the heavens and the earth and the Bible tells about the mechanics of it all — what he called different things — land, sea, sky — and how he designed the overall scheme of things.  God said that it was good but He never says anything about the beauty — about how GLORIOUS — creation is.  It might be because He felt that it was obvious.  Whatever he does is going to be GLORIOUS.  

We see it everywhere we look — the beauty in the tiniest flower and in the expanse of the sea — the depths of the ocean and the endless beauty of the sky.   We see it all — what God simply called “Good” and recognize it as amazing, profoundly beautiful, glorious.

Could it also be that this is true of HIs people as well?

Monday, December 31, 2018

A Year in Review (or 2018, Phew, or Pew?)

I cannot remember a year like 2018.   Never before has so much piled into our lives when we had the bandwidth to process it.

Sure, we've had tough years.  For example, in 2009 we had a couple of kids get arrested and found out we had a pregnant teenage daughter.  But at that time we had a whole houseful of teenagers who were involved in sports and school and work and we just had to keep moving.  There wasn't time for us to think or talk about it all much, we just kept going.   There were other years like that as well -- lots of drama but no time to discuss or process it.

But this past year we only had a few people living here.  Our youngest graduated from High School and wasn't involved in any activities or sports his last semester.   We were down to a small number of people at home and yet some of the hardest things we have ever faced.   If you've kept up with our lives you know they include:

1)  Bart's foot saga that really took up the whole year.

2)  My mother's transition from assisted living to the nursing home, complete with some pesky physical issues that resulted it what appeared to be full-blown dementia.  Thankfully, she is now back to her normal self but it was a journey.

3)  My brother's disappearance in Oakland.  That was a scary week, but he was found and is doing well.

4)  Issues at the church that I will not go into.

5)  Our youngest sons unthinkable choice and all its repercussions.

6)  Three very difficult deaths in the last couple months at church.

And we had nothing but time.  Time to talk about it.  Time to think about it.  Time to worry, grieve, think, ponder and occasionally freak out.

So it is with no regrets that I say goodbye to 2018.   I know this much:  God is faithful in the middle of the mess, no matter how messy it gets.

And it is with great joy that I say hello to 2019.   If you haven't heard, we have a new son-in-law, a new 5 year old grandson that came with the son-in-law, and a baby on the way due in August.  I'm heading to Minnesota for Sadie's bridal shower and to speak at Refresh in Seattle March.  In April Bart and I are heading there for a the long-awaited wedding.  We have two sons who we hope will propose this year, possibly leading to more weddings!   I get to go to Florida in April to speak at a conference.... and that's just the first 4 months of the year!

Life is looking up.  And I'm glad.   Thanks to all who prayed for us during this tough year.   We are pretty sure 2019 will be better!

Just Show Up without Excuses

This morning I got a FB message from a leader in our community who has worked tirelessly as a volunteer to change the lives of the poor in Lynchburg.   We are working on a date to officially launch our partnership between his organization and PHFS and he was letting me know that the mayor is going to be at the launch and that we are waiting on a date for that.   He also told me about a bill going to congress to end involuntary homelessness in the U.S.  I commented that he was a mover and a shaker.

He responded, “God is.  I just show up without excuses…. and speak into things that don’t exist.  I am just doing what I have been asked to do …. being obedient.

Our quick conversation got me thinking …. what would 2019 look like if every Christian did that?  What if we all just showed up without excuses and were obedient?

I was planing to share this song with you today as we head into 2019 and can’t think of a better introduction to it than the conversation with I just shared.

That's my challenge to you today.  In 2019 show up.... without excuses.   Speak into things that don't exist.  Be obedient.