Tuesday, October 31, 2006

So Great a Salvation

A couple things that I experienced last night reminded me of the devastation of sin and why we so desperately need a Savior.

A friend told me of a half-way house he knows of where so many of the residents are drifting back into alcohol abuse. Even those who were considered models of recovery have gone back to their addictions. Sin is having a heyday there.

Then I watched a show with Susan last night that we've been enjoying the past few weeks, "Friday Night Lights." It's very well written and especially interesting to us because it's all about West Texas football. However, the disappointing part is when they show high school students sleeping with each other. Susan and I both said, "Don't they realize the consequences of their behavior?" It was interesting that after both of the unmarried couples had sex together, the women felt very let down in the relationship. Going against God's ways will eventually leave us leaves us empty and in some kind of pain.

This morning as I read the laments of Jeremiah over his beloved city, Jerusalem, I saw another vivid picture of the destructiveness of sin:

The people who once ate only the richest foods now beg in the streets for anything they can get...Our princes were once glowing with health...But now their faces are blacker than soot.
-- Lam. 4:5a, 7a, 8a

All these experiences the last 14 hours or so reminded me of how much we need Jesus. We need the blood to cover our guilt. We need His Spirit to empower us to live in holy ways and avoid sin. Being in his word is so vital in keeping our eyes fixed on Him and not drifting back into the world. Calling upon His Name is so essential in resisting that roaring lion who is seeking to devour us.

As I read this passage in Hebrews after reading the sad words of Lamentations, I received a new hope:

he suffered death for us. Yes, by God’s grace, Jesus tasted death for everyone in all the world...Through the suffering of Jesus, God made him a perfect leader, one fit to bring them into their salvation. -- Heb. 2:9a, 10b

It may sound cliche, but the world desperately needs Jesus. I need Jesus. I thank God for Jesus. And today I want to once more make Him famous with every person I encounter today, pointing them to the Only One who can redeem our souls and give us a life that is like no other.


Monday, October 30, 2006

Waiting for a Comeback, Waiting on the Lord

We all love comeback stories, don't we. With a new quarterback at the helm, the Cowboys came back after being down 14 points and decisively whipped the Panthers in last night's game. Once more Peyton Manning marched his team down the field and got the ball in position for their kicker to make a field goal. The Colts beat the Broncos with a few seconds on the clock.

But what do you do when you just can't seem to come back? Where you seem to face defeat after defeat after defeat? I thought about this after reading of a football team that has faced relentless discouragement.

The Dallas A + Academy has lost 26 straight games. It's been two years since they've won a game. This season they've been crushed by six different teams -- 67-0, 56-0, etc. How do you keep going when you face one setback after another?

I have a friend who has tried so hard to get a job lately. We have prayed together for his employment. He has filled out endless applications and has gone through countless interviews. Nothing has come up yet. His bank account is dwindling. And he struggles with wondering where God is and why He has not yet blessed him with a job.

This morning I was reading in Lamentations the weeping words of Jeremiah. As he witnesses the destruction of Jerusalem, he cries out, "Like a widow broken with grief, she sits alone in her mourning." "My heart is broken, my spirit poured out, as I see what has happened to my people. "

Jeremiah also grieves over his own loss: "I cry out,My splendor is gone! Everything I had hoped for from the LORD is lost!” But then he suddenly shift gears with this familiar cry:

"Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The unfailing love of the LORD never ends!...Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each day...The LORD is wonderfully good to those who wait for him and seek him." -- Lam. 3:21,22a,23a, 25

I remember when I went through a long period of underemployment. My gifts and talents weren't being used. I was so frustrated and mad with God. As I shared my lament at lunch with a good friend, he told me, "Jim, praise Him. Praise Him."

That didn't make any sense at the time. Yet I now know He was right. In the midst of a period of waiting on the Lord, going through dark times and a season of discouragement, our best response is to keep praising God and declaring out loud to Him of His unfailing love and faithfulness.

That's what I would say to my unemployed friend. Or to a downcast coach. Or to a mother who feels like she's getting nowhere with her children. Keep reminding yourself from God's word that "the Lord is wonderfully good to those who wait for him and seek him."

If you're in the midst of a discouraging season in your life, hang on to the Lord, my friend. The Lord who loves you has a way of bringing about the most amazing comebacks. And as you and I will one day look back on what He has done, we'll join Jeremiah in declaring, "Great is His faithfulness!"


Friday, October 27, 2006

Idol Avoidance

Late yesterday afternoon I looked over at my credenza and noticed that it was cluttered with too much stuff. It seemed clear that it was time to do some "fall cleaning." I ended up throwing away many unnecessary things, giving away books, and placing family photos on the credenza.

In the process I came across an old booklet tucked away on my bookshelf titled, "Keep Yourself from Idols." It's written by one of my favorite evangelical writers -- J.I. Packer. About 25 years ago, this British theologian with a razor sharp mind and heart full of Christ wrote the mega-bestseller, Loving God.

The title of this booklet came to mind early this morning as I read this verse in Jeremiah:

Compared to him, all people are foolish
and have no knowledge at all!
They make idols, but the idols will disgrace their makers,
for they are frauds.
They have no life or power in them.
Idols are worthless; they are lies!
The time is coming when they will all be destroyed. -- Jer. 51:17-18

I need this reminder every day because idolatry can so quickly invade my heart. It's so easy to put my trust in money, or my job, or my talents -- and even though I may be unconscious about this, I cane make them into little idols. And forget that there is "no power in them. "Idols are worthless; they are lies!"

Of course, the most obvious idol that we all face is greed. My Master tells me to be on guard against this craving after more riches. In Colossians the Lord tells us through Paul, "Don’t be greedy for the good things of this life, for that is idolatry."

Do you struggle like I do with trying to plan for retirement and save money while being concerned that savings or IRA's can become an idol? One thing that helps me in this area is to try to more freely give money away. Author Richard Swenson says that one of the best ways to break the power of money over our lives is to continue giving it away. Being a cheap Scotsman that I am, this is quite a challenge for me. I really need the Lord to work on me in this area.

When I do give away money or things, I feel more in touch with the Lord -- it gives me the sense that I'm trusting Him to provide. I feel the pleasure of His Spirit within me as I give to others.

As we freely share with others the gifts that God has entrusted to us, then I think we'll experience more of the truth of these others words from Jeremiah:

The God of Israel is no idol!
He is the Creator of everything that exists,
including his people, his own special possession.
The LORD Almighty is his name! -- Jer. 51:19

And what could we have that is any better than this -- to know deep in our souls that through Jesus Christ we are "his own special possession."


Thursday, October 26, 2006

If the Lord Had Not Been on Our Side

I love that hymn, "If the Lord had not been on our side." One line I remember: "The snare is broken and I have escaped. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Blessed be His name."

As I read this morning from Jeremiah, the Lord reminded me again of how blessed we are to be in covenant with Him through Jesus Christ -- saved from our sins and the wrath of God, kept in His care, deeply loved by Him. And what a contrast is our position in Christ to those who refuse to accept the gift of His Son.

It was scary reading of the judgment of Almighty God on nations such as Babylon. In contrast, it is so comforting to read of God's amazing love for Israel. After disciplining this nation, He calls them home to Jerusalem. And He pours out that same love upon us in Christ -- the new Israel.

Last night Jerry Taylor preached a wonderful message on living by the power of the Holy Spirit. I especially loved what he said at the end of his sermon: "Many people believe in God, but how many have experienced the love of God.?" Then he described what it's like to know that God loves us -- nothing can stop us, no rejection from others will deter us. The love of God is so powerful.

When the service was over, all I wanted to do was talk to others there about the love of God and experiencing that love more through His Spirit.

At our devotional this morning at work, I told our volunteers and staff about this message. Then I closed with this prayer from Eph. 3, which I now pray over you:

I ask God from the wealth of his glory to give you power through his Spirit to be strong in your inner selves, and I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith. I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, so that you, together with all God's people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ's love. Yes, may you come to know his love -- although it can never be full known -- and so be completely filled with the very nature of God. -- Eph. 3:14-20, Good News Translation

Tell me, fellow bloggers. How have you experienced the love of Christ lately?

In Christ's love,


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Behind-the-Scenes Producer

I've always loved history because there is so much to learn from the past. And you tend to get a perspective on life by looking back. Maybe that's why I love biographies and documentaries so much.

As you know, I've also been a film buff for years. And so to me one of the greatest pluses about DVD's are the "Features" part where you can get a peak behind-the-scenes of the making of the film. People may think I'm a bit odd, but at times I'll watch with Susan an entire movie with the director's comments. It's fascinating to us both to hear the director and producer describe all that went into the making of their film. We did that again last night.

We watched "Chariots of Fire" with director Hugh Hudson's comments. He told of how this was his first full-length feature. The main characters of the film were played by two theater actors who had never been in a movie. Vangelis, who wrote the award-winning music, was also a first-timer for film. They had a budget of only $5 million dollars. And they shot everything on location -- no sets -- in 50 days. Hudson employed some innovative slow-motion photography for the race sequences -- and some people criticized him and doubted him for doing this.

And yet throughout the making of this remarkable film, Hudson said that everything seem to come together so beautifully. The cast turned out to be just right. As was the music. And good weather for filming. In another interview, the producer, David Puttnam, said "It seemed like Eric Liddle (the Christian missionary runner who was one of the leading characters) or Someone very close to Eric Liddle was looking down on us while making this film."

I'm firmly convinced that the Lord Almighty was the behind-the-scenes producer of "Chariots" - because Eric's life and witness was all to the glory of the Lord.

And that's the kind of history of my life that I want to leave behind. A story that was driven by the Sovereign Lord, directed by the Holy Spirit...and showcasing the glory of Jesus in a man fully alive in Christ.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Who is God?

Last week our daughter, Shannon, was given an assignment for her Bible class to write a three-page paper responding to this question: "Who is God?" She told us, "Where do you start in describing Who God is?" I'm not sure.

I know there are thousands of theologians who have filled millions of pages of books trying to describe the character of God. And I thank the Lord for those teachers and writerswho have given me a deeper understanding of the nature of God. However, I was never so touched by a description of the Lord as I was yesterday when I read what Shannon wrote at 2 in the morning. I realize that I'm biased. She's my daughter! And yet I still think she did a great job, as she told her story of how the Lord has intersected her life. Here's an excerpt from her paper:

When I started thinking of God as the image of a good shepherd, the song “Who Am I” by Casting Crowns immediately came to mind. A good shepherd watches over his flock. He deeply cares for each and every sheep. It’s mind-boggling to think that out of the 6 billion people in this world, with all our problems and faults, he deeply cares about each one of our lives. The song “Who Am I” compares human beings to a “flower quickly fading, here today and gone tomorrow.” My favorite line is, “Who am I that the Lord of all the earth would care to know my name?” These lyrics are so true. We live our self-centered lives, so concerned about all our own little futile problems that we fail to see that we are merely specks in the vast universe. However, God picks us out in the huge crowd and watches over each one of us. The lyrics go on to say, “Still you hear me when I’m calling. Lord, you catch me when I’m falling.” It just blows my mind. He delights in me and cares for me. He watches over my every step, hears my every word and knows my every thought. A scripture that comes to mind that epitomizes this concept is Psalm 8:3-4, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” This verse gives me chills. How are we worthy to be under such perfect divine care? We are not worthy. It is because of who God is, in his unfathomable mercy and love, that He cares for us in the incredible and loving way that He does.

Thank you, Shannon, for helping us see the shepherd heart of God -- through the lenses of His word...and Your precious life. Love, Dad.

In His care,


Monday, October 23, 2006

There's a Stirring

25 years ago in Little Rock, Arkansas, Susan and I sat in a movie theater to watch a new film that swept my soul away. For then quarter of a century I’ve seen many, many other films. But for me nothing tops the list like the 1981 Academy Award winner, “Chariots of Fire.” That film came to mind during one Sunday worship as I began to think through a class I was scheduled to teach. I'm co-teaching our men’s class and we're working through the excellent book, Waking the Dead by John Eldredge.

Eldredge uses a lot of film references to bring his points home. When I read his chapter about how our hearts become fully alive in Christ, the person who immediately came to mind was Eric Liddle. He was a young Christian missionary from Scotland who happened to be a very fast runner – and competed in the 1924 Olympic games.

And as I watched the telling of Liddle's story, and that of his competitor, the Jewish runner named Harold Abrahams, my heart was deeply moved. I wanted to have the passion for Christ that burned in the soul of Eric Liddle.

After showing an excerpt from this film in yesterday’s class, I asked the men this question:

Can you think of a moment in your life when your heart was touched by some experience or music or a book or a film that seemed to call you to go deeper with God?

I loved to hear their answers. One mentioned a song in the superb musical, "Les Miserables" – a story of forgiveness and redemption. Another told of a song he heard called, “When God Ran” – telling of the Father’s love for us as illustrated in the Prodigal son story. One man described how Mel Gibson’s “Passion of Christ” gripped his soul and caused him to want to serve Christ more out of love for what He did for us on the cross.

How about you? What book or movie has stirred in you a desire to go deeper with Christ?


Friday, October 20, 2006

Dream With Me

If you live in Abilene, let me urge you to read the article by Terry Mattingly about the making of the film "Facing the Giants." If you don't live here, you might find it by Googling (isn't that an interesting verb) Mattingly's name or the Abilene Reporter News.

He tells of the young man who wrote , directed, and acted in this film produced by a Baptist church in Georgia -- for $100,000! Already it has generated $3 million!

The critics have been pretty brutal with the film, apparently. And yet it must have a great message. My neighbor saw it. While admitting that the acting was a bit weak, he did say the movie has a wonderful message.

I am proud of this courageous Christ follower in stepping out to make a difference for the Lord by using the most powerful medium today -- film.

As I read his story, my heart burned within me. You see, I've loved films for so many years and made a few while I was out in California. At one time I wanted to do this for a living. As was this man's story, when I saw Star Wars for the first time, I thought, "This is what I want to do with my life. Make movies." I even applied at USC Film School. But didn't get in. And that dream never materialized.

However, this passion for making films won't go away. And here's where I want you to dream with me, and join me in prayer. There is so much talent in this city. And potential to make films for a low cost, given the new technology in computers and video cameras. I want to call together several folks to cast a dream with them about starting to make Christ-honoring films using the students and professors in this city. My question is, "Must Hollywood hold the market on all the films?" Why can't Spirit-filled, creative children of God make movies that are well-crafted and with redeeming qualities?

I shared this idea with our staff and volunteers in our prayer time this morning. They got excited about it. And so I now share it with you. Dream with me. Pray with me, please. And I'll keep you posted on what God will do with this passion in my heart that just won't go away.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Living for Others

I normally don’t search for valuable lessons of life from Hollywood stars. However, after reading a quote from a popular actress last night, I cannot get out of my mind what she said – and what wisdom she shared.

Susan brought home a USA Today from her trip to Austin. And just before going to sleep last night I read a fascinating interview with Annette Bening. She plays a mentally ill woman in an upcoming film called “Running with Scissors.” Although I’d like to see her performance, which apparently is terrific, I’ll probably pass on this movie since it sounds pretty dark and graphic.

Besides being a great actress, Bening is famous for being married to Warren Beatty and mother of their four children. It’s pretty unusual to be a Hollywood star who has been married for 14 years and is raising several children. I admire her commitment to her family. She refuses to take a role that will interfere with her responsibilities as a mom and wife. One time Bening even insisted that the film she was asked to play in be produced in L.A., so she could stay close to home base. The article states. “Bening is a mother who happens to act, not an actress who happens to be a mother.

I loved this quote especially from this Mom/actress: “In Hollywood it’s easy to just think about yourself. Having a family forces me to be more thoughtful in terms of what I do, and how it’s going to affect everyone.”

That line caused me to reflect on the contrast I’ve experienced these past few days. From last Wednesday evening until Sunday afternoon, Susan and I were heavily involved in preparing for and then hosting several family members and friends who came to our home for Homecoming. It was a lot of work – but so much joy.

Monday and Tuesday nights were very quiet around the house. Everyone had gone home and Susan went to Austin for a conference. All I had to take care of was me, the dog and the cat. I had a lot of freedom to do what I wanted. But if I had that freedom all the time to just think about me and my needs, I’d miss out on the joy of serving others. Though last weekend was hectic, it was such a blessing to open our home to all those loved ones who stayed in our home and/or came for meals.

To take this to another level, when we lose our lives in Jesus, and then invest in the lives of others, we really will find what life is all about.

Thanks, Annette, for getting me to think of the value of not being self-focused. And thank You, Jesus, for calling us to deny ourselves, taking up our cross and following you – and helping us experience what true life and real joy is all about.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

An Evening with the Chief

I get lots of hugs from people each day -- from my wife, my children when they come by the house, volunteers at work, and my church family. But rarely do I get a hug like I did last night. This man gave me a big bear hug, laughed with joy as he held me and then lifted me in the air. I felt like I was being loved on by Jesus. In fact I was -- Jesus in the heart of this delightful brother in Christ from Africa.

Mitzi Adams, who went with her husband, David, to northern Zambia last summer, invited Chief Mumemba to speak with us last night at Highland. He is one of the most powerful chiefs in Africa -- and is a very strong believer in Jesus Christ. The Chief told us the story of how the Lord called him to "chiefdom" -- at a time where he was building a successful career in telecommunications, starting a family and enjoying the amenities of the good life. However, when his grandfather died, the elders of the area where he ruled insisted that Brother Mumemba take the throne. He resisted for quite a while. But when the elders from his church told him how much influence for Jesus Christ he could have as a chief, he finally relented. He, his wife and children left the comforts of running water, indoor plumbing and good schools to go into this village and be lights for Jesus. And the way God has worked through him is amazing.

The Chief kept telling us, "The Lord is so faithful." And then he told story after story of the ways the Lord worked. Every chief before him wore charms in an attempt to keep the evil spirits away. Not so with Chief Mumemba. He told his elders that the Lord Jesus was his protection. They were amazed that in the first few days of his rule he didn't die.

At the coronation of a chief, there is a traditonal drunk fest. This time, though, the Lord made a way for all the alcohol to be driven out of this area.

Diviners have enormous power in many places in Africa. When someone dies, the people would often call in these witch doctors to find out who was responsible for this death. And someone was usually found guilty and either driven from the village or killed. Chief Mumemba boldly stood against this evil and told these diviners to leave his area. They eventually did.

Then he welcomed groups like the ministers of mercy from the Hillcrest Church of Christ who brought medical help, school supplies for the children and training for the teachers. And they preached the good news of Jesus. The new life of Jesus is spreading among the people under the Chief's rule. God is so faithful.

As I was reading in Jeremiah this morning, this verse reminded me of what I heard last night:

"I am the LORD, the God of all the peoples of the world. Is anything too hard for me?" -- Jer. 32:26

The Chief's story reminded us all that truly nothing is too hard for our Lord Jesus. He's more powerful than witchdoctors, political leaders, and entrenched traditions. When Jesus comes to town in the lives of men like Chief Mumemba, He brings His life and power to the community. And people there will never be the same.

And when He comes to town through you and me, He can do the same through us. Let's allow the light of Jesus to shine through us today. And show the world that the One who reigns over all the world is the Lord Jesus. I pray that those who see Christ in us will see His reign in our hearts -- and join us in bowing down in worship to our King.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Going Outside the Camp

Late yesterday afternoon I was in the office of the Post Office's Bulk Mailing Center. I was waiting for the nice clerk to process the approximately 1,000 fund-raising letters that our ministry was sending out that day. He told me it would be about a 20 minute wait. Being the reader that I am, I seized this opportunity, went out to my truck and grabbed a book that my prayer warrior friend, Carolyn Dycus, had loaned me -- "Outside the Camp" by Terry Tekyl.*

As I sat on a plastic chair in that cramped sterile office, with other customers coming in and out with their trays full of letters to mail, I experienced a rather holy moment. God really spoke to me through the few pages of Tekyl's thirty day guide for prayer. He referred to the "tent of meeting" that Moses set up outside the camp of the Israelites, while they were wandering in the wilderness. It was in that tent where the people would go to "inquire of the Lord." (Ex. 33:7)

Then Tekyl's gives this wonderful application to believers in Christ today:

The 'camp' is where we work and live. It's the motion of life - read the paper, go to the office, haul the kids, runm errands, eat super, watch TV and go to bed so we can do it all again the next day. We find a sort of comfort in the grind that binds us.

His point is that if we stay mainly in our "camp" of comfort and routine, we can miss out on significant moments with the Lord. I realize that we can commune with the Lord throughout our day of working, talking with others, exercising, going to the grocery store, etc. And yet something significant happens when we break from our routine, take some time away to be with the Lord and go to a place where we would more likely tune into His voice.

Going outside the camp may mean turning off the TV for 30 minutes and spending some time hearing a praise CD and worshipping the Lord. It could be going to a Starbucks to drink coffee, read your Bible and write in your journal. Or going to a park, sitting on a bench, enjoying some anonymity and asking God to speak to you.

The point is, break from the familiar and then, as Tekyl says, "seek God, press in more closely." "The focus is on God and his pleasure, not his storehouse for us. The goal is not to get another strategy or a bigger vision, but simply to hunger after the One who created us and yearns to be with us."

My wife is out of town for a couple days. Though I miss her a lot, I can see this as an opportunity to break from the routine and seek more of God. Tonight after my exercise and dinner, I just may retreat to a chapel at a church in town that has 24 hour access. And there, outside the camp, away from my routine, I will do nothing but seek more of God. And I just may find out that seeking Him and knowing Him more is all I need.


* Outside the Camp -- A Thirty-Day Guide by Terry Tekyl (Muncie, IN: Prayer Point Press, 20o1)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Taking Risks

One of my routines Sunday night right before going to sleep is to read Parade Magazine. There was a good article in yesterday's Parade. Filmmaker Clint Eastwood reflects upon the two films he just completed about the battle for Iwo Jima. The one from the American perspective is titled, "Flags of Our Fathers."

The guy is 76 years old and could easily retire and play golf on the beautiful Monterrey Peninsula, where he has lived for years. Yet Mr. Eastwood feels driven to make more films and learn more from heroes like the Marines who fought in that bloody battle.

Eastwood says that he keeps challenging himself to do something he's never done before. He writes: "There are alwyas obstacles and people afraid to take risks. That's why you end up with remakes of old television shows as movies. But playing it safe is what's risky, because nothing new comes out of it." (My emphasis)

Have you ever thought that being cautious and avoiding new challenges is risky? I certainly think this would be true for a follower of Christ. Let's admit it -- staying in our comfort zone feels comfortable, like we're in control. But how will we ever grow as a follower of Jesus if we never take leaps of faith and try things that we've never done before, for His glory?

The late preacher Jamie Buckingham once said, "Attempt something so big that unless God intervenes it's it's bound to fail."

Jesus is calling us to keep stepping out on the boat and walking on water as we keep our eyes on Him. I'm wondering what that would look like in how I lived this week -- or even today.

Let's try this experiment. Why don't we ask the Lord to push us out of our comfort zones and do something we've never done before. Pray for the strength and courage to do it. And then expect Him to do things that are beyond our ability.

What I plan to do is go out in our waiting room, sit down with our neighbors and ask how I can pray for them. That is risky. Definitely out of the ordinary for me. And yet I don't want to take a greater risk -- the risk of staying in a rut. For it's in those ruts that we rely on our own flimsy power -- and miss out on walking on the road of new adventures, hand in hand with Jesus.


Thursday, October 12, 2006

Learning from Correction

I hate to admit when I’m wrong. It goes against my pride. It offends my perfectionism. I fight against it when I’m challenged about a decision. And yet I need to be challenged when I sin, make judgment errors or get off track in my thinking or behavior.

Last summer our family took a vacation out to California, which we do each year. We follow a familiar routine. Fly into LA International. Rent a car from Thrifty Rental. Head up the traffic-choked San Diego Freeway, catch the Ventura Freeway and crawl our way up to my hometown of Ventura. And for several years we often have the same disagreement/at times fight. Susan and the kids get hungry and want to stop somewhere for lunch. By contrast, I want to get to the beach as fast as we can – telling them we can eat later.

This time we had Aaron’s girlfriend and Shannon’s best friend with us. And they all got hungry and wanted to stop at "In and Out Burger" – a California favorite of theirs. Finally we found one – about 25 minutes from our destination. I thought it was crazy that we stop. But Susan insisted. So we got off the intersection, pulled into the parking lot and I dropped off everyone. Then I attempted the nearly impossible task of finding a parking space in a lot crammed full of cars. They went in for their burgers, oblivious to how mad I was. I finally found a place to park and sat in the car for several minutes in protest. Sometimes my family calls me a Stubborn Mule (one of their "terms of endearment" when I have those "moments." It was definitely one of those moments that day.

I eventually went into the restaurant and found my family and their friends leisurely sitting at an outside table in the beautiful California sun. Susan saw me coming, jumped up from her seat and came right up to me and flat out told me I was wrong. She rarely does that. But this time she did -- and she was absolutely right. I eventually calmed down, joined them for a burger, and the remainder of our trip went rather smoothly.

This morning when I read of Jeremiah's rebuke of the leaders in Judah, some "Stubborn Mules" resisted his words and despised him for the message of rebuke he gave them. They even had him whipped and put in stocks. We hate to admit we're wrong.

I find this counsel in Proverbs to be so appropriate as I think of each of these stories:

“whoever learns from correction is wise.” – Prov. 15:5

Though we may not like it, receiving correction from others is, well, wise.

And I’m wondering if we would be more likely to admit when we’re wrong and be willing to change if a rebuke or admonition came from someone we know that deeply loves us.

Think about that -- an admonition from our Lord for His children comes out of His love. In the midst of His anger over the sinfulness of His people, Israel, His heart must have also been broken. Because He loved His people. And still does.

And He deeply loves all of us who are in covenant with Him in Christ. So I want to keep listening to Him, receiving His admonishment and always be ready to alter my course in the direction of Jesus.

And yes, I need to keep paying attention to my wife's suggestions/corrections...and even an occasional rebuke. It surely does help you enjoy a meal and vacation much more!


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Escaping the Wrath

When I was a mischievous boy growing up, I had my turns of getting in trouble -- with my parents, my teachers and various random people. For some weird reason a few of us boys from St. Catherine's parochial school kind of enjoyed doing things that would get us in trouble. While riding our bikes to school we'd taunt teenagers driving in their cars and then take off at full-speed on our Schwinn bikes, with angry high school students chasing us down.

Of course, we'd occasionally get the nuns (our teachers at school) mad at us for the stupid things we'd do: talking too much in class, harassing the girls, squirreling around at assembly. We liked the misbehaving part, but when we got caught and punished we hated the consequences.

I remember one time when my friend Charlie Buckingham and I were messing around at a shopping mall. The major department store there had an escalator. We found a fake $20 bill and decided to ride up and down the elevator, dropping it from the top floor and then watching people scramble around to grab the "$20 bill" when it hit the floor. The manager caught us and warned us to not do it again. So what did we do? We went right back up the escalator and once more dropped the fake money and let it float down to the first floor, watching people's reactions. As we got off the escalator, there was the manager -- steaming mad. He grabbed our arms and marched us right to his office, letting us know clearly that we were in big trouble. Suddenly I wished that I had never got talked into this prank by Charlie -- or did I talk him into it?

You remember those days of getting in trouble, maybe with your parents. And how you feared their wrath, the coming punishment. "Just wait til your father gets home, " your mother might have said.

These past few days I've been reading in Jeremiah about God's anger with His people. Though they received His loving care and protection after being delivered from Egyptian bondage and were given a beautiful land in which to live, they repeatedly turned their backs on God. They foolishly served and put their trust in empty idols. By the time of the divided kingdom, their sin was so pervasive and deep that it was time for them to suffer the consequences. The wrath of God was coming -- and Jeremiah was commissioned by the Lord to bring this bad news.

At one point in his ministry, Jeremiah tells Baruch to go preach to the people of Judah:

"You go to the Temple on the next day of fasting, and read the messages from the LORD that are on this scroll. On that day people will be there from all over Judah. Perhaps even yet they will turn from their evil ways and ask the LORD’s forgiveness before it is too late. For the LORD’s terrible anger has been pronounced against them.” -- Jer. 36:6-7 (Emphasis mine)

And I thought that having nuns or store managers mad at me was scary. Could you imagine hearing the Lord tell you that His terrible anger has been pronounced against you?

This is a part of the character of God that I'd prefer not to discuss or even think about. I'd rather talk about His love and compassion and grace. And yet I don't think we'd deeply appreciate the power of the cross and the necessity of Jesus dying and rising for our sins if we failed to grasp the significance of God's holiness and His hatred of sin. His wrath is against those who rebel against Him. And Jesus took all that wrath upon Himself on that cross. Wow! What love!

When I misbehaved and triggered the anger of nuns, teenagers in their hot rods or store managers, I had nothing to plea but for mercy. And that's our only plea when we face our sin and guilt before this Holy God. As the song says, "Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy." And in the cross, that's what we have when our faith is in Him and in what He did for us.

"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." - 2 Cor. 5:21

What can I say but "Hallelujah, what a savior."


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Unexpected Revelations

I woke up at about 3:30 this morning, thinking about the class I'm planning to teach this Sunday to my guy friends at Highland. As I've mentioned before, we're going through the marvelous John Eldredge book, Waking the Dead. The more I get into it the more I realize why it had such a profound impact on my life when I read it a couple years ago.

As I lay in bed in my sleeplessness, the class seemed to come together. Stories. A film clip. A meditation exercise at the end of class. I love how God provides these revelations at the most unexpected times and moments -- although I'd prefer that He do it at 3 in the afternoon rather than 3 in the morning!

Since I couldn't sleep, I finally got up, heated up a cup of milk (someone once told me that warm milk will help you get back to sleep) and wrote two pages of all the thoughts that were rolling around in my head. Then I read the rest of the chapter that I'll be covering this Sunday. The class is pretty much done. Even though I may drift off to sleep around 2 this afternoon, I am thankful to the Lord for giving me that early morning revelation.

Have you found that God speaks to you at times in the most unexpected ways and in the most unlikely places? At times when I've worked on a class, a chapter of a book or some talk that I needed to give, that I at times got stuck. An illustration won't come to mind. An opening story stubbornly refuses to surface. But then when I go get a cup of coffee in the break room or hop in my truck to run an errand, suddenly the story or illustration pops in my mind.

And I've found that the middle of the night in those frustrating, sleepless states that the Lord often speaks to me in ways that provide a solution to a a problem or a new idea that I had never considered. I'm just wondering that perhaps when our minds are at ease -- not all tied up with worries and frustrations and over-analyzing things -- that we're most open to the Spirit. He speaks into our heart things that we may not have heard or been open to because of all our thinking. Now, I'm not downplaying the value of using our thinking and common sense. However, I am saying that for those in Christ who have the Spirit of Jesus in us, we have the wonderful privilege of Him speaking to our hearts. As Paul says in Romans 8, "The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children."

I'm just wondering that if we keep our minds soaked in Scripture, stay in a spirit of prayer and avoid evil, we'll hear the Lord speak to us in all sorts of ways. Yes, I am convinced that one of the primary He communicates to us is through His written word. And yet when I read this prayer of Paul's, I'm reminded that God speaks to the believer's heart:

"I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
and his incomparably great power for us who believe." -- Eph. 1:18 - 19a (emphasis mine)

And He speaks to our hearts what we need to hear more than anything -- whether it's a gentle rebuke, a warning, comfort, assurance that He is there, or a love song. I want to be ever attentive to these unexpected revelations from our Father God -- even when He knocks on the door of my heart in the middle of the night.

How has He spoke to you lately in surprising and unexpected ways?


Saturday, October 07, 2006

Comparisons are Odious

I read that line about 20 years ago in a Chuck Swindoll and it still is with me: "Comparisons are odious." Maybe it sticks with me so much is that I struggle a lot with comparisons. It leads to a besetting sin of dissatisfaction and not trusting God to be in control. To forget that He has a path for me that is unique and valuable in His kingdom.

The words of Jesus and the commentary by John Piper on those words lead me to repent of this sin. And to rest in who I am in Christ and His calling for me. Here's an excerpt:

John 21:18-22

After his resurrection from the dead, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him. He answered yes three times. Then Jesus told Peter how he would die—apparently by crucifixion. Peter wondered about how it would go with John. So he asked Jesus, “What about this man?” Jesus brushed off the question and said, “What is that to you? You follow me!” Here’s the whole interchange.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who had been reclining at table close to him and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:18-22)

Jesus’ blunt words—“None of your business, follow me”—are sweet to my ears. They are liberating from the depressing bondage of fatal comparing. Sometimes when I scan the ads in Christianity Today (all ten thousand of them), I get discouraged. Not as much as I used to twenty-five years ago. But still I find this avalanche of ministry suggestions oppressing.

Book after book, conference after conference, DVD after DVD—telling me how to succeed in ministry. And all of them quietly delivering the message that I am not making it. Worship could be better. Preaching could be better. Evangelism could be better. Pastoral care could be better. Youth ministry could be better. Missions could be better. And here is what works. Buy this. Go here. Go there. Do it this way. And adding to the burden—some of these books and conferences are mine!

So I was refreshed by Jesus’ blunt word to me (and you): “What is that to you? You follow me!” Peter had just heard a very hard word. You will die—painfully. His first thought was comparison. What about John? If I have to suffer, will he have to suffer? If my ministry ends like that, will his end like that? If I don’t get to live a long life of fruitful ministry, will he get to?

That’s the way we sinners are wired. Compare. Compare. Compare. We crave to know how we stack up in comparison to others. There is some kind of high if we can just find someone less effective than we are. Ouch. To this day, I recall the little note posted by my Resident Assistant in Elliot Hall my senior year at Wheaton: “To love is to stop comparing.” What is that to you, Piper? Follow me.

Amen, John.


(You can find this sermon on Piper's website:


Look for:

"What Is That to You? You Follow Me!"

Freed from Comparing by Blunt Words

October 6, 2006
By John Piper

Friday, October 06, 2006

Opened Eyes

Several years ago a friend of mine named Cindy came to our offices at Herald of Truth to record a program. She had an amazing testimony that I felt needed to be recorded and then shared with our respondents.

After one recording session she turned to me and said, “Jim, I really think you need to read the book, Grace Works by Dudley Hall. I resisted her suggestion at first, feeling that she was suggesting that perhaps I was a bit legalistic. So quite frankly, I avoided buying that book for a few years.

Then a couple weeks ago I was looking for a few books on prayer to give away at a class I was about to teach. And there on the shelf was Grace Works – and it seemed like the time had come for me to read it.

Last night I was reading one chapter of this book and came across a page that turned on all sorts of lights deep in my soul. It’s worth the price of the book. Hall describes the scene in John 9, the story of Jesus healing the man blind from birth. Of course, the healing is a metaphor for spiritual blindness. Hall then turns to the reader and suggests ways that we can be spiritual blind. Here’s one amazing quote:

Rather than risk a confrontation with God, they (the Pharisees) chose to stay behind a veil, relying on intermediaries such as Moses to interpret God for them. They were choosing their blindness.

And many of us today choose our blindness as well. We’ve elected to put up a veil that limits our understanding of what God says. We’ve relied on a denomination or a particular preacher or a particular doctrine to define for us the reality of God. We have reduced him to a system of theology and have tried to capture him in the limited understanding of the human mind. But God will not be captured like that. He refuses to be contained in our theological boxes. He refuses to fit our denominational definitions.

Then Hall reminds us to not come down so hard on Pharisees, because “it is very difficult for any of us to lay aside our previous perceptions of who God is and how he works and take on broader revelation. Doing that means – at least for a time – becoming vulnerable and insecure. …Jesus really did come to give sight to the blind, and he was not just talking about the physically blind. Spiritual eyesight is a gift that comes through the grace of God. It is your inheritance as a faith-person. Believe it and see!”

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the Walk to Emmaus was such a life-shaping, soul-altering experience. And it wasn’t all easy. It was painful, too. I can remember sitting in a chapel late one Friday night, having been confronted with the reality of Jesus Christ – and feeling scared. Having my beliefs from my own denomination challenged. In Hall’s words, I felt “vulnerable and insecure.” And at that point I realized I had no one to turn to but Jesus. To trust Him in childlike faith. To let go of my preconceived ideas of other believers’ doctrines and their spiritual state. I needed to surrender to Jesus and let go of trying to be in control. It was pride-shattering…and yet soul-freeing. Jesus was healing my spiritual myopia. And His grace and love helped me see – see Him as the very center of my faith, and see others in the body of Christ through whom He was working in very powerful ways.

In His tender way, Jesus was showing me how grace works. And He is still doing it each day.

Lord God, please continue to open our eyes. Give us humility of heart to realize that we have not arrived. And grant us a deeper revelation of Yourself. Open our eyes, we pray, that we may see Jesus. Amen.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Fully Alive

These past few weeks our men's class at church has been working through one of my favorite all books -- Waking the Dead by John Eldredge. I've already read it, but while re-reading each chapter it's very clear why this book had such an impact on me. He urges us believers to claim the power we have through the risen Christ. To really believe that Christ has given us a new heart and that heart is good. And when we surrender ourselves to Jesus Christ we are not only forgiven but filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. And so claim that power and walk in that power. "We say that Christ died for us, and that is true," writes Eldredge. "But Christ was also raised for us."

This made me think of my journey with Christ. For too many years after accepting Christ, being baptized and getting involved in local churches where ever I lived, I didn't hear much about living by the power of the Holy Spirit. If anything was said about the Holy Spirit, it was often in terms of criticism of "Pentecostals" or "Charismatics." And quite frankly, when I began hearing people talk about being filled with the Spirit or being baptized in the Spirit, it scared me. Whether I was conscious of it or not, I didn't want to give up control. Or admit that I was wrong. Or consent to the fact that I was missing something in my life, that I was not living much of an empowered life through Christ. Yes, I felt forgiven and that God had given me a new life. But I had not consciously asked
Jesus Christ to fill me with His Spirit, to take complete control of my life.

I love this Richard Foster quote::

“It is our job (as Christians) to surrender ourselves to the awesome work of the Holy Spirit and to engage ourselves in activities that enable the Spirit to equip and empower us. Many of us try to become faithful disciples without the power of the Holy Spirit…Much of our struggle and failure to live effectively can be traced to the fact that we have not surrendered to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.”

That was my story for the first several years as a Christian – trying to be a faithful disciple

without an awareness of and dependence upon the power of the Holy Spirit.

In my experience, being transformed by Christ through His Holy Spirit has involved allowing Him to break my pride – like He did one Saturday morning in Denton, Texas more than 12 years ago. The football stadium at the University of North Texas was packed that Saturday morning with several thousand men. But we weren’t there for a football game. Rather, it was a divinely appointed event where we were about to encounter the living presence of Jesus Christ in a profound way. It was an exhilarating moment – and yet it scared me to death. And that’s exactly what I needed – to die more to self and come alive in the Spirit. It’s involved having to say “No” to my will and surrendering to Jesus each day.

I resisted Christ that day, I’m ashamed to admit. And throughout the rest of the day I trembled and felt so restless, with no peace. It would take more moments and experiences from the Lord that made me finally wave that white flag and surrender. One of the most significant experiences was going on a Walk to Emmaus. That really was a turning point in my life.

After going on this Walk, and then working them, God gave me this hunger to experience Him more. I began taking out to lunch men whom I believed could teach me more about the Holy Spirit. I started reading books like Charles Stanley’s The Wonderful Spirit Filled Life and an old book called They Found the Secret, stories of Christians who experienced a deeper life in Christ after being broken and recognizing their deep need for Holy Spirit. God gave me this passion for prayer which motivated me to begin organizing prayer vigils at my church and the ministry where I worked.

I like this quote, “The Holy Spirit is not given to those who have it all together spiritually; He is given to enable us to get it together spiritually! The Spirit is given to enable you to break sin’s power. He indwells us so that He might control us.”

And I read and prayed over and over Ephesians 5:18, where Paul exhorts us as believers:

“Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, let the Holy Spirit fill and control you.”

From my past sins, I certainly knew what being drunk on wine felt like. But I now wanted to let the Holy Spirit fill me. I found it fascinating that this verb is a command, it’s passive, and it’s ongoing. In other words, we’re to allow Jesus Christ to continually take control of our lives.

During this journey a dear friend at work attended an Alpha conference in Dallas where he learned about evangelism in the power of the Spirit. He ate lunch with me and told all about the exciting things the Lord taught him there. After our lunch, he walked around his desk, laid hands on me and prayed that I would be filled with the Holy Spirit.

In moments like these I wanted so much some unique sensation…but came to realize that I just need to accept by faith that as I continually ask Jesus to fill me with His Spirit…He’ll do it. I rest in His promises and walk in faith, not by sight.

To become more fully alive in Christ has meant claiming my identity that I have died with Christ. I love the paraphrase in The Message of Galatians 2:20: "I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central...Christ lives in me. The life you now see me living is not "mine," but is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me. I am not going to go back on that."

I'm not going back on that either, Paul. I want to I'm not going back on that either, Paul. I want to be more fully alive to Jesus. And to let more and more people know that He died for their sins and was raised and is alive and active in this world. And He so much wants to become a living presence in us!


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Missing Piece

Have you ever heard a sound byte on the radio or read a short paragraph in a book or heard one passage of Scripture spoken from the pulpit that seemed to wake you up and grab you by the throat? I certainly have at times. It happened to me again yesterday.

I was driving home after working out and running by the store to get stuff for dinners. A preacher named Tommy Nelson spoke for about a minute on the radio -- and the Spirit of God suddenly made life so clear from what Tommy said. He quoted the great Christian philosopher from the last century, Francis Schaeffer (whose books had a profound impact on me when I was in Bible school 25 years ago). Schaeffer was describing the life of King Solomon, who had "everything" in life. No one had ever acquired such wealth, had so much wisdom or had experienced the amount of pleasure this man had. He seemed to have it all.

If Solomon had it all, then why did he describe his pleasure-filled life this way?:

So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. -- Eccl. 2:17

Nelson closed his message by pointing out that none of the pleasure and wisdom and riches made Solomon complete and happy -- because of the missing piece: the Lord God.

As I pulled my truck into our garage, thinking about this brief yet potent message, God seemed to give me this epiphany: so much of my life has been trying to find satisfaction in this life -- "under the sun," as Solomon describes it. O, I love the Lord and read His word and pray every day. I'm always at church. However, in some very subtle ways I have too often sought happiness through my family, the house I lived in, the place where I worked.

Okay – confession time again. A few years ago I wanted so much to get a certain type of house in a particular neighborhood. And finally we found such a house. And we moved in. And it was really exciting for us – at least for a while. And then I recall this profound disappointment in my heart. I started to see the flaws in the house. One room didn’t seem big enough. The air conditioning and heat didn’t flow quite like I wanted it to. It no longer seemed to be the "ideal house."

As I look back on that experience, I now view that disappointment as a wonderful gift from God. Because He loved me too much to allow me to be deeply satisfied in something other than Him. More than anything, I need Him.

So I come back to that radio broadcast late yesterday afternoon. It gave me such clarity, such perspective on this life. Without the living God being at the very heart of my life, I will be continually dissatisfied. Discontent. Incomplete. He is the missing piece that only can bring us true peace. And that is enough. Because the bottom line is that He is all I need.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Money Matters

Why is it I spend so much time thinking about, working on and at times worrying about money matters? Today our board meets and one of the big issues we cover is our budget -- how our income and expenses are lining up. Late in the afternoon Susan and I are meeting with our financial adviser to decide on life insurance -- we're switching over to him for Susan's coverage. This morning Susan and I noticed how our dog is continually scratching herself and has raw places on her tail -- time to take Oreo to the Vet. In the background we can hear our refrigerator squealing, as it has the past three days. We may need to replace the 22 year old unit.

I struggle with the balancing act of trying to put enough away in retirement and pre-pay our mortgage, and yet have enough in the month to help our kids with college and occasionally buy something to fix up the house. We're really striving to avoid debt, build up an emergency account and live within our means. And God has been so faithful to us in how He provides. And yet I still worry and fret and think about money too much.

This morning I began reading Jeremiah. The one line that I underlined and pondered quite a bit is this familiar verse, describing the Israelites who had forsaken the Lord (and at times describes us):

"My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water. -- Jer. 2:13

How had they forsaken their God? Idolatry. Serving the Baals. Worshipping wooden idols rather than the One who had delivered them from slavery. They had continually turned from the living water and tried depending on the brokenness and futility of other gods.

My mind jumped to two passages in the New Testament. First, the words of Jesus, speaking to a man who wanted to make sure he got his share of his father's inheritance:

"Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." -- Luke 12:15

And then the warning from Colossians 3:5:

"Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry."
(emphasis mine)

That is my idol, and probably most of ours. We're so tempted to put our trust in money, and want more and more stuff and income. Rather than wanting more of God.

At our meeting today I'm handing out to our board an excellent article from the new Leadership Journal titled, "Dangerous Blessings," by Ed Gungor. This writer describes the bright side and the dark side of money. When we see the Lord provide for His children as we call out to Him for help, money can be seen as another sign of His Fatherly care for us. He loves us and delights in giving good gifts to us.

However, as we all know from the warnings from Scripture and lessons of life, money and the craving for more money can be deadly to our souls. Gungor offers an invaluable insight about riches:

"People serve money the way they serve God. Why? Because money transfers to its owner certain godlike features." God is all powerful. Money makes us seem powerful.

Then he recommends how believers can keep money from becoming an idol in our lives -- by giving it away. He writes, "When you give, you defy the fear that you won't have enough. You insult greed, the impulse to acquire or possess more than one needs or deserves. If you really believe God owns it all and that He is your source and provider, giving will be a simple matter. "

I have a friend who doesn't have a lot of money. In spite of his paucity of funds, he always wants to buy me lunch and loves to do things like give a $20 bill to a single mother who works at a convenience store. I want to be like him, as he is like Jesus.

Father, would You please continue delivering us from the broken cisterns of greed. Please confirm this truth deep in our hearts that You will always provide for Your children. Empower us, we pray, to be good stewards of the funds that you have entrusted us while we're on earth -- whether it be a little or an abundance. And turn us into generous givers so we can show those around us what it means to be rich towards God. You are our riches, Jesus. We want Your living water more than anything. In the name of Jesus, our greatest treasure. Amen.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Table Talk

One of my favorite memories growing up is the times our family was around the dinner table. My mother was a great cook. And my Dad was a great story teller. He would tell the funniest stories that happened to him at his office. Over the years all us kids would ask Dad to re-tell some of his stories that especialy made us howl with laughter.

After leaving California, marrying and having a family of my own, I tried to pass on this tradition. Table talk at the dinner table has always meant so much to me. Susan and the kids loved going out to dinner, but they always knew that Dad preferred staying home for one of Susan's great meals -- and conversation around the table.

What I've found is that if you took some time during table talk to structure the conversation, it's likely that everyone around the table has a chance to share. As our kids got into high school, I would at times suggest that during a meal we'd take turns telling about our day -- specifically, telling of our greatest blessing of the day and greatest challenge. We learned so much from our children when we asked them these specific questions.

I've found that when having extended family our friends in our home for dinner, guiding the conversation really makes it more of a meaningful experience. Last Thanksgiving we had 18 of us around one long table that we had laid out from our kitchen into our living room -- our family and Susan's extended family. At the suggestion of one of Susan's sisters, after beginning our scrumptious meal we passed around a basket full of little strips of paper. Each strip had a question on it, such as, "What was your house like growing up?" or "What was your favorite job?" or "Tell us about a favorite teacher." It was so interesting, and at times humorous, to hear various ones tell their story. We learned so much about each other that we probably would not have learned if we had just let the conversation meander or let one or two do all the talking.

Yesterday we had our small group over. It had been some time since we had been together and so I wanted to make sure we could hear from everyone. Therefore, I once more structured the conversation. After talking for awhile I asked the group to take turns to share one recent "God moment" in their life...and how they plan to change because of this encounter with the Lord. I said that it might be a Scripture they read, a book that impacted them, some particular experience, whatever. They asked me to tell start and so I told of the huge impact that attending Byron Nelson's memorial service had on our son, Aaron, and me.

Lynette described her fascinating visit to the International House of Prayer in Kansas City -- a prayer and praise session located in a strip mall. It had been going on 24 hours a day for the past 7 years!

Susan shared with us some insights from her studies that morning in a Beth Moore study on the book of Daniel - -and how we humans tend to put our trust in humans rather than in almighty God.

Clint and Alana, who were visiting this weekend in Abilene, told a wonderful God moment in how He enabled them to sell their house, move to San Antonio, get a new job with some Christian lawyers, and purchase land in Fredericksburg.

Candy told us of an amazing experience she has been having in a Monday night session of prayer, praise and healing. While Kate described how God is using her gifts in a recent part-time job that she's been led into.

I love table talk! Especially when the conversation is centered on the Lord and describing His active presence in our lives - and how faithful and awesome He is.

How about your dinner conversations lately? What memories do you have of table talk when you were growing up -- or some recent times of significance around the dinner table?