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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Ripples

Do you or did you have grand plans for your life?  How is that working out for you?
Ripples
When I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut.  I made it to instructor pilot in the Air Force.  Didn’t last long at that, the end of the Viet Nam war meant that overnight there was a surplus of pilots.  So I was released from my six-year commitment three and a half years in.

I came to Christ shortly after I started pilot training.  It soon dawned on me that the planes would burn, but the men in them would live eternally either in hell or in the presence of the Lord.  My focus changed.  I gave up the idea of flying reconnaissance and instead chose to be an IP so I could be around the men who were helping me in the Christian life.

When I left the Air Force I moved into the basement of a Navigator rep’s house and begin to work as a cost engineer and to help him start the ministry at UAB.  I had no idea how to do that.  A year and a half into that project I married my female counterpoint in that ministry.  Shortly after we were married we moved to East Lansing, Michigan to be trained at the Navigator training center there to be collegiate staff.

Two years later we moved with the director of the training center to Knoxville to help him start the training center at the University of Tennessee.  Our first child was born there.  I had the first few of seven sinus surgeries there.  The Air Force called and asked if I wanted to come back and fly tankers; I said no.

I could go on, we were at another campus, had two more kids there.  I took at ThM at Dallas Seminary, where we had our fourth child.  I have been to Korea, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Trinidad and Tobago (multiple times), Morocco (multiple times), Nepal, Cameroon, and Togo.  We are pursuing opportunities in other African countries, and I have been asked to consider a return trip to Nepal…

My kids are all married.  They all, but the youngest, have at least one child, the youngest has a dog.  One of my son’s wife passed away several months after she had her child.  My parents and my wife’s parents have all gone home to be with the Lord; we buried her father last Sunday.

When I reflect on this, nothing has really turned out as planned.  In the process of this journey thus far, my wife and I have encountered and been in various depths of relationships with hundreds if not thousands of people.

It is impossible, or perhaps better, impractical to measure the impact we have had.  We had hopes, plans, vision, but those all changed.

At some level, some significant level, it feels as if we are pebbles that have been cast into a pond.  The impact creates ripples.  We do not see how far those ripples spread.  We do not see the impact or result of the ripples.  In a real sense we didn’t cause the ripples.  The one who cast us into the pond did.

Our responsibility is to trust and abide in the one who cast us into the pond.  There are days that that is easier than others.

I’m not an astronaut, I’m a pebble…

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Death Unnatural

My father in law is dying.  His will be the fifth death in our family in the last couple of years.  He is 93, His wife was 91 when she passed.  My dad was 94.  One of the deaths was a miscarriage; one was a new mother of 32 years. 
Death Unnatural
People will say about my wife’s parents and my dad that they led a full life and that their deaths in their 90’s were normal.  They do not say the same thing about my daughter in law or the miscarried child.

The facts are though that death is not normal.  It was never meant to be our experience.

In Genesis 2:16 – 17 (here @ Bible Gateway) the Lord commanded that Adam not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  The Lord promised that in the event that Adam did this, he would surely die.  In Genesis 3:19 (here @ Bible Gateway), after Adam had disobeyed the direct command of the Lord, He fulfilled His promised result, “…you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Death is the result of the fall of the race; sin.  It may not be a particular sin in the case of a person.  But, the fact that we are human, descendants of Adam, whose nature changed when he disobeyed, we will experience death.

That is one of the reasons that we grieve so deeply.  At a core level, we know that it is wrong.  I watched life leave my father.  It was obvious that he was no longer there.  We talk of dying with dignity.  There is no dignity in death.  It is a result of our condition as sinners before a holy God.

The great news is that we have been offered a remedy.  Christ died for us to pay for our sin.  That allows us the opportunity to be restored to the life we were meant to live.  To have eternal life with Him.  We will still, should He delay His return, go through this physical death to be sure.  However, if we trust Him, if we choose to follow Him, we will receive the gift of eternal life in His presence.

What we experience here was not the intention.  What we can experience through Him is the gift.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Continually Stunned

The workshops that the Lord has allowed me to conduct over the past 10 years focus on 2 Peter (here @ Bible Gateway).  Depending on the amount of time that is scheduled we cover from one to seven methods of investigating the text.  In the process of interacting with those who are participating in the various workshops, one of the points I share is that even though I have the book memorized, have read it more times than I can count, and have studied it over a hundred times, still, every time I read it, come to its pages, I see something I missed previously.
Continually Stunned
This morning 2 Peter 1 (here @ Bible Gateway) came up in the reading plan I have been following for the past three years.  True to form, the Lord showed me something I had never seen before.  This time, however, I did not make it much past the first 4 verses (here @ Bible Gateway); which depending on how the version you read deals with the Greek, is the first couple of sentences Peter pens to the recipients.

What I saw is not the point.  The fact that I saw it, that it was new to me after so much engagement and exposure to this letter is.  As I turned to the book I wondered if, in fact, my experience of seeing something new would again hold true.  As I shared, I didn’t make it past the first two sentences.

In Psalm 119:18 (here @ Bible Gateway), David prays that the Lord would open his eyes so that he could behold wonderful things from the Law, His Word.  That’s the point.  This Book, the Bible, is unique.  Inspired by the Holy Spirit, revealing the nature and character of God, with unfathomable layers of knowledge of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

I am continually stunned at its depth.

Dive in.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Giving Up

Giving Up

Mark 15:1 – 15 (here @ Bible Gateway) is painful to read.  The last verse particularly.

Pilate was pressured by the crowd to give up Jesus.  To satisfy them, to get them off of his back, he surrendered Jesus.

We are pressured daily to follow Pilate’s example.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Purpose of Pain

I have shared of late about some of the painful things our family has experienced over the past almost two years.  Just now, I am reviewing a journal entry from February 2017.  It was a response to Genesis 45:5 – 9 about which I wrote a couple of posts back.
The Purpose of Pain
If it is the case that God is sovereign.  If it is the case that He has scrutinized my path and knows all that I am thinking before I think it, Psalm 139:1 – 5 (here @ Bible Gateway).  If it is the case that He disciplines me in order to make me more like Him and His Son, Hebrews 12:10 (here @ Bible Gateway).  If it is the case that He has work that He for which He has designed me, which He established prior to the foundation of the world, Ephesians 2:10 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Then, it follows that all that He has brought into my life was intentional, purposeful, to equip me for that work.

In that journal entry, I listed 14 events that changed the course of my life and significantly impacted both my walk with Him and my understanding of the Word, myself, people and mission or ministry.

While there are many more that could be listed, and there are lessons ongoing, as I consider what the Lord has on my plate now, I can see how each of these events has conspired to prepare me for the current tasks.  At least seven of the events were deeply painful, they involved separations, betrayals, and relocations.  Some, including the painful events, were deeply confusing and disorienting.  Some removed “settled” life directions, and rattled deeply held convictions.

Now, as I ponder the list on the pages of my journal, as I consider how in the past few years I have drawn deeply on and from lessons that I can identify from each of these events on an almost daily basis, I can begin to see the sovereign hand of our sovereign, loving, faithful Lord shaping, pruning, and guiding through all of those to bring me here.

It reinforces for me that I can trust Him with all that will come next to continue to move and shape me into what He wants.  The reason that is important for me to remember, is that based on the past, some of those coming events will not be something for which I would gladly and quickly volunteer.

I am beginning to understand Hebrews 11:6 (here @ Bible Gateway).

Monday, May 14, 2018

Abiding Pain

Yesterday was mother’s day.  Jenny lost her mother last year to a stroke, mine passed away about 10 years ago, the result of a fall.  Yesterday was painful.  But it wasn’t because of our mothers.
Abiding Pain
Yesterday our one-year-old granddaughter was dedicated at my son’s church.

Her mother died last November after a 14 month battle with cancer.  Her daughter was born five months into that battle.

Both of the extended families live here.  All but 5 were at the dedication, so 29 adults and children.  The pastor charged the parents of the children and then the assembled congregation.  He then invited those who wanted to pray for a family to come forward.

The first person at my son’s side was the senior pastor of the church.  All 27 of the rest of us were next as well as a number of those who have been walking with my son through this past year and a half.  I was in tears.  Frankly, I had been most of the morning.  So was most if not all of the 29.

After we went back to our seats.  The pastor departed from what he was going to say to speak to my son’s situation.  The church and many around the world prayed for the baby as her mother was getting chemotherapy.  We prayed that the Lord would protect her from the effects of the chemo.  So far, it looks as if that prayer was answered in the affirmative.

The pastor said she was a miracle.  She is.  But, in fact, all children are…

The pastor commented on the support my son is getting from both sides of the family.  He is… He is also being supported by those in the med school and the practice where he is completing his fellowship.

All of us, the 34 in the family and those in the church body, know the truth.  We know that my son’s wife is in the presence of the Lord.  We know also that our current lives are a vapor.  We know that soon, very soon, we will be with her.  But more importantly, we know that we will be with the Lord.

We grieve, we deal with the abiding pain, but as Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 (here @ Bible Gateway), we grieve, we walk through the abiding pain, in hope.  For, as Paul reminds us in 1 Thessalonians 4:14 (here @ Bible Gateway), this life is not the end.

It still hurts.  We still weep.  At times the ache is deep.  But, the hope is real, the hope sustains.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Dealing with the Curve Balls of Life

Do you ever reflect on difficult times in your life?  Situations where you were betrayed by one you considered a close friend?  Times when you may have experienced a strained relationship to the point it has been permanently broken?  Or perhaps the loss of a job unexpectedly?
Dealing with the Curve Balls of Life
How do we handle those types of things in a manner that glorifies our Lord?

Joseph may give us a clue.  Read through Genesis 45:5 – 9 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Note especially how Joseph describes his being in Egypt.  He attributes the fact that he is in Egypt not to his brothers selling him into slavery, but to God moving him to Egypt for the purpose of the preservation of his family.

He looked for and saw the hand of God in the suffering he endured for a purpose which at first he did not understand.  However, it was the integrity of his trust in God that led him to understand the purpose of what was happening to him.

I do not suggest here that we will always understand what God has or is taking us through.  I am still processing the last two years.  So far I have no clue.  However, events that happened 30 years ago are becoming clearer and clearer.  Devastating, life-altering events then, are proving to be the foundation of much in which the Lord is assigning us now.

The key lesson for me in considering Joseph’s story and attitude is that in whatever I am experiencing, I must continue to trust my loving, gracious, sovereign Lord.  I must trust that He is acting in line with His purposes and character.  I may eventually understand; I may not.  Regardless, I am to trust.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Credit

You remember the story of Joseph.  He was sold by his brothers into slavery.  Yet became the manager of the house of his master.  Thrown into jail when the master’s wife lied about him; because of his character, the chief jailer put him in charge of the other prisoners.
You remember the story of Joseph.  He was sold by his brothers into slavery.  Yet became the manager of the house of his master.  Thrown into jail when the master’s wife lied about him; because of his character the chief jailer put him in charge...More at DTTB.
Two of the king’s servants, the cupbearer and the baker were jailed because they did not please Pharaoh.  They had dreams which Joseph accurately interpreted, much to the pleasure of the cupbearer and dismay of the baker.

Two years later Pharaoh has a dream and the cupbearer tells him about Joseph interpreting his and the baker’s dream.  Pharaoh calls for Joseph and asks him if he can interpret his dream.

Joseph has been in jail for at least two years; more likely three or more.  He had been unjustly incarcerated.  He had helped the cupbearer but it took the cupbearer two years to speak up for him.  He is called before Pharaoh who has the power to release him or else make his life more difficult still.

Yet when Pharaoh asks if Joseph can interpret his dream – well, read Joseph’s answer for yourself, Genesis 41:16 (here @ Bible Gateway).

Joseph gives the credit to God.

Now consider Paul.  He has been smeared by the Judaizers, by the “super-apostles”, his teaching has been trivialized.  So he is having to write back to a place at which he sustained significant ministry to reprove that group of believers and at some level to defend himself.  Read 1 Corinthians 15:10 (here @ Bible Gateway).  Paul, says he labored more than others, but it wasn’t him, it was the grace of God working through him.  Paul, like Joseph, is giving credit for his work, his effort, to God.

I tend to want to take credit for what I do.

But, the reality is that whether you like him or not when Rush Limbaugh declares that he has “talent on loan from God,” he’s is in good company with Paul and Joseph.

Jesus reinforces this, does He not?  John 15:5 (here @ Bible Gateway), “apart from me you can do…” a little?  Great things?  Some things?  The stuff that doesn’t matter?  No, “nothing”!  Zip.  Zero.  Zilch.  Nada.

But, there are times I take credit…  Pathetic.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Don’t Speak, Listen

In Mark 9:5 – 7 (here @ Bible Gateway) we encounter Peter once again.  He had just seen the glorified Christ and was speechless, did not know what to say…So he spoke…  Peter’s default position was to say…  Whether he knew what he was talking about or not, he spoke.  He felt the need to fill all of the breaks in a conversation.
Don’t Speak, Listen
God’s instruction to Peter, was to listen to Jesus.  Don’t speak listen.

There are many times that I felt overwhelmed by a situation.  Overwhelmed but pressured to speak to whatever issue was being discussed.  I have been in conversations where it became obvious that one or more parties did not understand or comprehend whatever issue was being discussed but still tried to dominate the conversation either by seeming to talk without breathing or else increase the volume of their sharing to drown out any challenge to their position.

I am learning that silence when I do not understand is a much better choice.  The certain reality we face is that there is much about God that we do not and frankly cannot know.  There are things that He does that we cannot explain.  Some, though, still try.

It is much better to keep our mouths shut, pray, and listen to God’s answer rather than stating our position more forcefully.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Forgetting about Food

In Mark 8:1 (here @ Bible Gateway) we read about the beginning of the feeding of the 4000.  While I am aware that in John 6 (here @ Bible Gateway), Jesus rebukes the crowd for following Him for the wrong reasons, there are, I believe, some things we can learn from the people, the 4000+ who had gathered to hear the Lord.
Forgetting about Food
These people were intent on hearing, being in the presence of, Jesus.  They wanted to hear Him.  They were so intent, so captivated, that they did not bring any food, they did not plan, they just came.  The Lord was so compelling that they stayed for three days.

Not all of them were redeemed.  While they were enthralled here and when He came into the city, they soon turned on Him demanding His crucifixion.

But their hunger to hear, to be in His presence challenges me.  It forces me to ask when is the last time that I lost interest in food just because I was in His presence, much less for three days.  Hasn’t happened.

There is probably more that we can learn from this, but being convicted already I will stop there.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Maintaining Integrity

Job 4:3 – 8 (here @ Bible Gateway), is an accurate description of many people.  In this case, it was not.  Eliphaz was declared incorrect by a fairly reliable source, God.
Maintaining Integrity
The passage, however, got me thinking about some of our responsibilities as believers.  The thinking took me to 1 Thessalonians 5:14 (here @ Bible Gateway) and Psalm 139:23 – 24 (here @ Bible Gateway).

Two things filtered out of this exercise.  The fact that someone has invested in ministry or has had an impact on people’s lives does not guarantee that people will, carte blanche, consider that the person has integrity.  Nor, does it mean that the one who has had this impact actually has integrity.

We have to continually come before the Lord to be searched and prodded by Him.  Our hearts are to be concerned with what He thinks about us.  We are not to consider other peoples’ opinion over His.  Thus if He validates our integrity while others question it, we rest in His evaluation.

However, if we are considered one of integrity by the masses, and He points out that we fall short in that area, we have work to do, things to change.

It is His evaluation that matters.  We have to continually come before Him, the word abide comes to mind, so that we can walk in integrity through His strength.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Invalidating the Word of God – Again

I have written about this before.  There is an ever-increasing list of passages that I find personally challenging and troubling.  The list is long and they are passages that seem to penetrate my attitudes and actions showing them to be lacking in some major way.
Invalidating the Word of God – Again
Mark 7:8 – 9, 13 (here @ Bible Gateway), is hovering around that list.  The indictment Christ serves to His listeners is stark in its clarity and implications.  They have placed and consider their tradition as more important than the Word of God.

I have seen this with groups of people going through our workshops.  They share practices that are common, traditional, in their congregations for which, as we begin to observe the text of the Bible, they can find no support.

Seeing that in those people, alerts and warns me to the reality that I may be doing the same thing.  I am becoming more and more aware of things believers say; practices we hold dear, teach, and recommend that frankly cannot be supported by scripture. 

It scares me.  I do not want to hear from the Lord that I have invalidated His Word.