Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Ever feel like there are so many things to be done, so many tasks to accomplish, that you'll never actually finish a project?

Tammi and I feel that way sometimes when we look at our house. Or our yard. Or our garage.

I feel that way sometimes when I read passages of scripture and look at my life.

Proverbs makes me feel that way. Every verse is a whole new insight, principle, or goal to apply.

Paul's first letter to the church in Thessalonica is like that in 5:13-22. Among other things, he writes:

- LIVE IN PEACE with each other
- WARN those who are idle
- ENCOURAGE the timid
- HELP the weak
- Be PATIENT with everyone

That would be enough, but he's just getting started:

- Be JOYFUL always
- PRAY continually
- GIVE THANKS in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus

And then he finishes the list with a flourish:

- Do not put out the Spirit's fire
- Do not treat prophecies with contempt
- TEST everything
- HOLD ON to the good
- AVOID every kind of evil


After all that, I'm trying to catch my breath. As I compare my life with what I read, I feel like I've just walked into a tornado-flattened area, been handed a broom and a garbage bag, and given the assignment of cleaning up everything myself.

Can be kind of defeating, can't it?

Ever feel that way about your life? Your marriage? Your finances? Your family? Your job? Your country? Your school?

Oh, but hang on.

Paul doesn't stop there. And the next verses give an overwhelming sense of POWER and peace.

May God himself,
the God of peace,
sanctify you through and through.

"Sanctify" means to make holy, to purify, "to make suitable for their ritual purpose". Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has just prayed that YOU will be made suitable through and through.

May your whole spirit,
and body
be kept blameless
at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And now the Spirit has prompted Paul to pray, not only that you'd be sanctified once, initially, but that you'd be kept blameless. That what God did won't be undone. Just the opposite, that the work would keep going, and going, and going...

The one who calls you is faithful and HE will do it.

The whole prayer, while requiring our cooperation, depends upon HIS faithfulness, HIS action, and HIS power.

Go back and look at verses13-22 again.

But this time, ask Him,

"Where do YOU want to get started? Where are you at work in me today?"

Then simply obey as He speaks, points, and leads.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Wolf, Lamb, & A Dream

The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the hole of the cobra,
and the young child will put his hand in the viper's nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9)

I don't know about you, but I read such a passage and I think,

"Dream on!"

"Don't you know what kind of world we live in?!"

Political candidates and parties rip each other apart.

Talk radio & television spinsters make their living attacking "the other side".

Schools are divided by issues of the day.

Nearly everyone agrees there are wolves "out there" and lambs "in here".

Churches aren't protected, are we? Some pastors and churches can be most divisive.

Sometimes as I watch my children go to various places, I feel like I am allowing them to put their hand in the viper's nest. I know the movies other people watch. I know the games they are being sold and that they put on their systems. I wonder if we're being brave or stupid to let the kids live around such influences.

The wolf may one day live with the lamb...but we're not their yet.

It makes you wonder, "Will truth ever win out?" Will the earth really be full of the knowledge of the LORD anytime soon?

My mind races to a seminary class I was taking. The professor was adamant that we learn to engage the culture. He insisted we listen to voices of people not in the church. His order was, "Stop assuming you KNOW what people think. Get out there and talk WITH them. Not talk AT them."

The professor did two things:

1. He assigned us the task of interviewing people we knew who did NOT go to church. Our job was NOT to change their minds. We were NOT allowed to argue or shout them down. We were given one task, listen.

I still remember that assignment. I still live in the town where I interviewed those kind, willing people. They shared with me why they didn't go to church. Some shared why they didn't believe in God. To this day, I count some of those people as my friends. The dialogue continues.

2. Secondly, the professor also brought in people to class who practiced religions different from ours. We were free to ask them questions. But, much like the individual assignment, were unable to attack, argue, cajole, or critique. They were our guests. They were promised a "safe place" to share with us.

I still remember one student who couldn't take it. He had heard enough. And at one point he started to launch into one of the speakers. Our professor quickly stepped in, like an emergency worker pulling an infant from a fire.

"Enough! I promised our guests they would NOT be attacked. You can be silent or you can leave!"

He was showing us that if we were going to "win the world", there are times we must lay aside our aggressive tendencies. We must be go out of our way to be perceived more as "lamb" and less "wolf".

That professor, Dr. Al Truesdale, would often quote Isaiah 6:9b: for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. Dream on, Dr. Truesdale. Dream on, Isaiah.

I will.

Grace & peace

Monday, April 28, 2008

A Monday Kick-Start

I don't know about you, but I need words of strength, passion, and courage on a Monday. So when I came across the following, I just felt like I had to pass it on:

"I am the LORD, your God,
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, "Do not fear, I will help you." (Isaiah 41:13)

Sometimes I come into my study and feel like my desk is piled so high of issues that are important, people who matter to me, and pressing needs so beyond my capability. My blood pressure rises a few points. My mind races in fifteen different directions, having a hard time focusing.

But in that moment, a gentle, quiet Voice is whispering to me,

"I am the LORD, your God,
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, "Do not fear, I will help you."

And almost immediately, my mind is quieted, my heart is encouraged, my faith is swelled, and my will becomes resolute.

I should probably commit the words to memory:

"I am the LORD, your God,
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, "Do not fear, I will help you."

Do you need to hear such a word on a Monday?

Maybe it's just me.

Grace & peace

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Maybe I Take My Faith Too Lightly

Most mornings our family gathers in the Living Room at the house at about 7A.

We read a scripture. I share a thought or two. Ask a question or two. And then we pray.

We usually pray for someone else in the room; about what there day contains, etc.

Today we broke with tradition. I did read a Scripture. I read from Matthew 10:37ff where Jesus says, Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

(By the way, if you think I'm holding myself up as some kind of spiritual hero, read on. The heroes, "those of whom the world was not worthy" [Heb. 11:38] will become obvious.)

Our family did pray, but not for each other. Why the change?

The following may shed some light, both on why we prayed for others AND why Jesus was so harsh in this passage. (Verses 34-36 tell us Jesus did NOT come to bring peace to the earth, but a sword and to turn people against each other! Hating family members?! Bringing a sword?! Really??)

The following story comes from Voice of the Martyrs, a group that stands up for persecuted Christians around the world. They tell their stories to those of us living in relative comfort and ease. (It was forwarded to me by Terri Kalmbach.)

Four Christian Teachers Murdered
On April 13, four Christian teachers, two of them converts from Islam, weremurdered by Islamic militants in Beledweyne in south-central Somalia. The four teachers, two British citizens of Somali origin-Mr. Daud Hassan Ali (64) and Ms. Rehana Ahmed (32)-and two unidentified Kenyans, were shot and killed by Islamist insurgents during a midnight raid on the Hakab Private English School. The Islamic extremist group responsible for the violence, alleged that they fired indiscriminately and that the teachers were killed in crossfire. Local people, however, believe the teachers were singled out fortheir suspected evangelistic work. The wife of Daud Hassan Ali alleged thather husband was targeted because he was a Muslim-born convert to Christianity. Pray the families of those killed will rest in the knowledge that those who die in the Lord will be raised with Him. Pray the perpetrators of this attack will come to repentance and salvation. Pray for wisdom and protection for those serving Christ in Somalia.

This story challenged us to take our faith seriously. It caused us to repent of living a casual faith. It made us weep for those who have no one praying for them. We decided they needed our prayers today.

I hope it does the same for you.

The church will be open tomorrow from 6:30 - 8AM if you'd like to stop by and pray.

Grace & peace

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Isaiah 6

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the LORD seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings...and they were calling to one another:

'Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.'

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

Notice a couple of things.

1.) King Uzziah had recently died. [Read 2 Kings 15:1-7, as well as 2 Chronicles 25 & 26 for some of the details of Isaiah's life.]

Uzziah means "my strength is Jehovah". (Might some of God's people have been tempted to believe God's strength had died? That they were the only ones left to worship Him? Maybe reminiscent of Elijah's lament? [Remember, God told Elijah how wrong he was to believe the prophet was alone. There were 7,000 others who were faithful!)

In this difficult moment, God was ready to do something new and he would use those who were willing...

2.) "The prophet Isaiah had a transforming vision of the LORD, high and lifted up on a throne (Is. 1:1; 6:1; 7:1)."

This passage may remind you of parts of John's Revelation. Rev. 4 takes place at the throne in heaven (much like Isaiah saw). John's account includes "flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder" which sound like the amazing shaking Isaiah experienced. And in Revelation, we hear that living and night never stopped saying: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.

This week several of us have met at our church for prayer. The building is open each morning, Mon. - Fri. from 6:30 - 8AM. You can stop by on your way to work or after dropping the kids off at school.

It's come and go. No agenda. No time commitment to others. Just pray. Or pray and read. Or pray and listen to quiet music. If you live in the area, we'd invite you to join us.

OR if you can't join us at the building (the state, or the continent), maybe you'd simply spend time during that same period praying, wherever you are at. If so, let me know ( and we'll be joined in mind, heart, and spirit, though not physically in the same place.

And who knows, God may reveal Himself so that we see "the LORD seated on a throne, high and exalted".

(Actually, He already has been revealing Himself through answers to prayer.) We want you to be a part of it if you can.

Grace & peace