Thursday, May 29, 2008

Signs of Life

Steven Curtis Chapman wrote a song entitled, "Signs of Life". He writes,

"Where are the signs of life? The love that proves there is a living faith inside.
Where are the signs of life? The compassion and concern that make this world turn.
Where are the signs of life?
These are the signs of life.
A love that's flowing from the heart, where the grace of God has left its mark
These are the signs of life.
Reaching, out of a servant's hand, with a love that makes no demand.
These are the signs of life.
This is living proof of the faith inside. These are the signs of life."

Jesus was often looking for signs of the life of God at work in people around him.
In Mark 7 he is pretty disappointed.
Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

"These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are but rules taught by men." (Mark 7:6-7)

I have been challenged again today to make my life match what I believe.
To let the grace of God leave its mark on my speech, my attitude, my self-control, my relationships.

I'm convinced God still looks for the "signs of life" in us; proof that His Spirit reigns and lives through us.

Grace & peace

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

When You Don't Get What You Order

I heard about a recently conducted study regarding low-fat/low-calorie items at restaurants.

The testing organization said that nearly 75% of items listed as "low-fat" actually contained more fat than the restaurants were advertising. And that more than 2/3's of the items listed as "low-calorie" contained more calories than they were advertising.

Sometimes we expect one thing, but get another.

We expect low fat and maybe it's not. We believe we're taking in fewer calories than we actually are.

Sin is that way. It's easy to for all of us to "enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season" (Hebrews 11:25).

We think we have our choice under control. We believe we have contained the damage of our choices upon us or those around us.

But eventually the bill comes due, or we step on the scales, and the effects of our choices take effect. We really were never in control after all.

So what do we do when we realize what we thought we ordered is not what is actually served to us?

In Biblical terms, we repent. We turn around. We send it back. We go in a different direction.

King David was a man living with the consequences of his own bad choices. He has had an adulterous affair with another man's wife. He has tried to cover it up. When that didn't work, he had the man killed. Now in Psalm 51, he finally turns around, realizes the error of his ways (after a little creative persuasion by Nathan the prophet).

Hear some of David's prayer to God:

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me. (Psalm 51: 1-3)

Psalm 51 is one of those I keep handy in my Bible. After I've been rebellious, deaf to God's voice, or blind to His leading, I have to pull it out and remind myself of:

1.) My sin
2.) His willingness and His ability to forgive me and make me new.

Maybe it's a Psalm you'd like to keep close by too.

Grace & peace

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Stories from Other Worlds

They overcame him
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. (Revelation 12:11)

The above passage is from John's Revelation after there was war in heaven. Today my biggest concern is getting to a meeting on time or paying $4 a gallon for gas. The Revelation passage seems like another world to me.

So does the story that follows.

It is from Voice of the Martyrs, a group that tells the stories of persecuted Christians around the world. I have added italics and underlining to passages that were particularly powerful.

Grace & Peace

Pastor's Son Recovering after Bomb Attack - VOM Sources

Praise God!

Amiel Ortiz, the teenage son of Messianic Pastor David Ortiz, is recovering after he was seriously injured when a bomb delivered to the family's home in the Jewish settlement went off in his hands.

According to The Voice of the Martyrs contacts, Amiel's father reports, "We checked out of the Schneider Children's Hospital last week after a six-week stay, eight days in the ICU and the rest on the children's floor. Ami received excellent care from the doctors and nurses in that hospital, but in response to prayer from the four corners of the earth, Ami has been healing at a rate that is extraordinary.

The plastic surgeon that worked on Ami said that in his 15 years of experience, he had never seen such extensive wounds. He said he has at least 100 pieces of shrapnel in his body from his head to his feet, which his body is slowly bringing up under the surface of the skin, which will come out by themselves."

Pray for Amiel's continued recovery as he has transitioned into a rehabilitation center.
Pray specifically for both eardrums to be restored, for him to regain use of his hands and arms.
Pray for healing for the burns and scars on his body.
Pray also for the emotional healing for Amiel and his family, and for those responsible for the attack to be brought to justice.
Ask God to give this family strength to forgive their attackers. 1 Corinthians 1: 3-5

Grace & peace

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Specks & Planks, Pigs & Pearls

In just a couple of verses, Jesus says some things that don't seem to go together.

...first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see more clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. (Matt. 7:5b-6a)

What does the first sentence have to do with the second?


Basic communication classes teach us that communication is a two-way process.

1. There is a giver
2. There is a receiver

If either part of the process doesn't work, the message isn't received.

The first sentence talks about the "giver". Before we can presume to speak to someone else about the "speck" in their eye, we must remove the "plank" from our own. Jesus wants to keep us from being hypocrites.

For me, weight has always been a struggle. Occasionally, I hit a period of life when I'm taking weight off, eating less, eating better, and exercising. It always cracks me up how many people, FAT PEOPLE want to tell me how to lose weight. But if I weigh 1,000 lbs., I probably shouldn't presume to tell another how to take off that last 10 lbs.

"First take the plank out of your own eye" tells us to check our own lives, humble ourselves, and listen before we get ready to give.

But the second sentence tells me my own preparation is only 1/2 the battle. The second sentence speaks to the receiver.

The person I'm getting ready to talk to must be ready to receive what I'm going to say. If they're not ready, if I'm not the person to say it, or if the timing isn't right, then I'm simply giving dogs what is sacred or throwing pearls to pigs. They won't understand it. It might even do more harm than good.

May God give me the ability to understand BOTH ends of a conversation before I open my mouth.

May God help me check myself, humble myself.

May God give me insight into the person I'm ready to talk to, and get assurance from the Spirit before I proceed.

Grace & peace

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Truth. It's a funny word. It looks so harmless. But start making "truth claims" and emotions skyrocket and blood pressures rise.

Are all truth claims equally valid?

You and I know it is not the case.

I can say "I am a father, a husband, a son, a man"


I can say "I am a canned ham".

One is true. One is...well, ridiculous.

Jesus said, "I came into the world to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."
"What is truth?" Pilate asked. (John 18:37b-38a)

"What is truth?"

Many have asked that question and many ask it today too.

How many parents have decided not to teach their children anything about God because they're unsure "what is truth"? They'd rather teach nothing that teach the wrong thing. I can respect that. It's not the worst choice. But it's not the best choice either.

How many have decided truth is unknowable because they haven't been able to figure it out?

I bet you have friends who are in that same boat. They're not sure what to believe. So they believe nothing. Or they try and find their way along the road of faith, making it up as they go, believing a strange conglomeration of mix-and-match puzzle pieces. They live very unsure about truth.

Maybe that's the way you are.

As "a believer", I understand. I occasionally drift back and forth between being "dead certain" of particular things, to being unsure on others.

But none of us has to be completely bumfuzzled and lost on the issue of Truth!

Because Truth isn't simply a set of statements. Truth is a Person.

Jesus claimed, "I am the way and THE TRUTH and the life." (John 14:6)

In Christ, Truth walked the earth. Truth sat down and ate. Truth laughed and cried. Truth played with children and hugged friends and family. Truth became angry at injustice. Truth lived, died and lives again!

E. Stanley Jones wrote, "O Savior, You do not only save me, You save truth. (You) save it from being a proposition and made it into a Person. You did say, "I am the truth" and lo, Truth is lovable and livable and not a dry-as-dust proposition."

May we come to know Him who is the Truth, better. May we become more committed to the Truth. And as we do, may we seek to introduce Him into our relationships and conversations.

Grace & peace

Monday, May 19, 2008

Putting a Leash on My Mouth

Your tongue plots destruction;
it is like a sharpened razor...
You love every harmful word,
O you deceitful tongue! (Psalm 52:2,4)

Some people seem to get a kick out of passing along bad news. Acquiring information seems to be a hobby, or even an addiction. They LOVE to get the scoop.

Have you ever heard the story about the gossiping family at a church? They developed quite a reputation for enjoying the ability to be "in the know" about others' business. They especially liked to know the bad things.

Their church knew about the gossip and a saying developed about their reputation. The saying was

"Telephone. Telegraph. Tell a Smith."

As I read Psalm 52 this morning, I was confronted with that fourth verse:

"You love every harmful word".

Do you enjoy saying negative things about others?

Ever get just a hint of excitement about being able to pass on bad news?

May God develop our spirit so we can sense when a "gossipy" thought begins in our mind.

May God help us to take control over every thought that comes into our head.

May God change our heart so we start to loathe such gossip, rather than thriving on it.

Grace & Peace

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Secret of Contentment

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
(Philippians 4:12-13)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Feeding an Army on Crumbs

There was a crowd of thousands gathered. It was getting late in the day. It was a remote place. The disciples are getting nervous. They tell Jesus:

"Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat."

But Jesus answered, "You give them something to eat."

Notice a couple of things:

1. The disciples became aware of the need and brought it up. Jesus wasn't the one who mentioned it. They did.

2. Jesus tells them to meet the need. Why did he do this?

Was it because he knew they could NOT meet it? ("That would take 8 months wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?") They sound stunned and frustrated.


Was it because he genuinely wanted them to participate in having the need met? ("How many loaves do you have? Go and see." Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass...They all ate and were satisfied...)

Do you ever feel like God says to you, "You give them something to eat"?
We have several options of how to respond.

We can throw up our hands and walk away, ignoring the command.

We can argue, becoming angry and frustrated.

We can obey, giving the best we have, trusting that somehow God will make up the difference.

Where does God ask you to "give them something to eat" today?

Grace & peace

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Crying Out to God

I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.
When I was in distress, I sought the LORD... (77:1-2a)
You are the God who performs miracles;
You display your power among the peoples. (77:14)

These past few weeks, we have opened the church for come & go prayer time from 6:30 AM - 8 AM. We have had some pretty amazing things happen:

- Answers to prayer regarding medical tests

- Someone comes to the mind of one of the praying, we call them, and we are all convinced that God prompted that conversation as they had a burden they were carrying

- Powerful movings of the Spirit in the services

- People being prompted to begin new ministries and activities

We believe that these are connected to increased prayer within the last couple of months.

Steve Raeburn, who has initiated this prayer time, will be away June - August. We don't want to lose momentum. We'd like to keep the "prayer temperature" up. But we will need to do things differently, or have different people step up.

We'd like to invite you to be in prayer about being a part of a prayer emphasis this summer. Here are several possibilities:

- You could plan to be at the church on a given day, at a given time to pray. We'd let other people know they could join you during those hours.

- We could have a once a month or once a week 24-hour prayer vigil, where we invite people to sign up for 1/2 hour shifts.

- We could form an e-mail prayer chain, where we agree to pray throughout the week for various needs and requests that are brought to us.

- Open up your home for a time of prayer. Let us know when it is and we'll put it on the church calendar.

The list of possibilities goes on and on... The more creative, the better!

If you are sensing the Spirit moving you to be a part of a prayer emphasis this summer, e-mail me at Let's seek out where God is leading us regarding prayer June-August.

Grace & peace

Monday, May 12, 2008

Psalm for a Monday

I cried to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.
When I was in distress, I sought the LORD;
at night I stretched out untiring hands and my soul refused to be comforted... (vv1-2)

Maybe you find yourself identifying with those words this morning. It is, after all a Monday.


Low energy?

Lack of excitement?

High amount of stress and anxiety?

Worried about what the week holds?

Can't leave behind stuff that happened over the weekend?

Follow the example of the Psalmist:

Then I thought, "To this I will appeal:
the years of the right hand of the Most High."
I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds. (vv10-11)

Our thoughts and our attitude can can control us. Or we can control them.

The Psalmist makes a conscious effort. He will "appeal," "remember," "meditate...and consider".

Are you willing to initiate activity in this area? Or will you be a slave to circumstances and feelings?

May God help us take time to:

- "appeal" to the One who waits to help us

- "remember" his blessings. (How many can you name in the next 30 seconds?)

- "meditate...and consider" how the Spirit might be at work in your life today

Grace & peace

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Pentecost: A Refresher

This coming Sunday the Church celebrates Pentecost. It is tied to God's presence.

In Isaiah 11:1ff we read about the Spirit of the LORD, and we think of it as a Messianic passage, pointing to Jesus.

The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him -
The Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and of power,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD -
And he will delight in the fear of the LORD.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
Or decide by what he hears with his ears...

In Acts 2 through the rest of the New Testament, we begin to think about God's presence through the action of the Holy Spirit.

Here's a quick refresher about this significant event in the life of God's people:

Pentecost was the 3rd great Israelite feast mentioned in Leviticus 23. It was a harvest festival fifty days after the Passover week. This particular Pentecost (in Acts 2:1-13), however, was to have greater significance than those which had preceded it.

Old Testament Pentecost occurred 50 days after Israel left Egypt and the Passover lamb was slain.
New Testament Pentecost occured 50 days after Christ rose from the dead, the Lord being our Passover Lamb.

O.T. Pentecost celebrated the birth of the nation Israel (Exodus 19:5).
N.T. Pentecost celebrated the birth of the church (Acts 2:41-47).

O.T. Pentecost witnessed the slaying of some 3,000 souls (Exodus 32:38).
N.T. Pentecost witnessed the saving of some 3,000 souls (Acts 2:41).

The former pointed typologically to the latter.

(Liberty Commentary on the New Testament)

I wonder what God has in store for us this coming Pentecost?

Grace & peace

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

I Know Nothing

When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Cor. 2:1-2)

"If we are not heedful of the way the Spirit of God works in us, we will become spiritual hypocrites. We see where other folks are failing, and we turn our discernment into the gibe of criticism instead of intercession..." (My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers)

When is the last time I had a run in with a person?

When is the last time I was offended by a cause or a group?

Was my first response to complain about them or to pray for them?

Are we seeking eloquence and superior wisdom or are we content to know nothing...except Jesus Christ and him crucified?

Grace & peace

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Sometimes it's about Timing

Is there a wrong time to do the right thing?

Apparently so.

In Luke 9:18-21 Jesus is having a conversation with his disciples about his identity.

He asked them, "Who do the crowds say I am?"

They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life."

"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"

Peter answered, "The Christ (or Messiah) of God."

Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone.


Do NOT tell people who you are?!

Think about that for a moment. The Church spends a significant amount of time, energy, and talent to make sure people KNOW who Jesus is.

We have outreach, evangelism, and mission programs around the world to tell people who Jesus is.

Look at the Nicene Creed or the Apostle's Creed. Most of each statement is spent on describing who Jesus is.

We ask children to learn this confession of faith early on.

We repeat it over and over as adults. ("Who is Jesus?" "He's the Son of God.")

We state that it is THE dividing line between Christianity and other religions.

So why would Jesus "strictly warn them not to tell this to anyone"?

Part of the answer is the misconception about what it meant to be "the Christ (or Messiah)". The following verses show Jesus defining it. "The Son of Man must suffer many killed and on the third day be raised to life."

The Messiah would not initiate the Kingdom by conquering, but by suffering. This was a misconception held by many.

Part of the reason Jesus told them to stay quiet was timing.

In the Acts of the Apostles, the second of Luke's books that are part of our scripture, we see story after story of Jesus' followers being sent out to tell the story and reveal who Jesus is.

But in Luke 9, the time wasn't right.

I confess that in my life, finding the right timing is often the most difficult part of a situation.

Knowing when to speak to a person and when to be silent.

Knowing when to act and when to be still.

Knowing when to SHOUT and when to whisper.

Knowing when to run and when to s-l-o-w d-o-w-n.

We can know WHAT to do.

We can even know HOW to do it.

But if we don't know WHEN, if we don't pick the right time, we may be wasting our energy and God's set-up of people and circumstances.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

Look back at your own life. Are there things you did at the wrong time?

Look at your life right now. Are there places where you know what to do and how to do it, but you need God's direction about WHEN?

May God give us His sense of timing.

Grace & peace