Monday, April 30, 2007

Knee Deep in Prayer

Yesterday in our men's class, some of the guys were sharing their experiences with God as they engaged in extended fasts last week. Then as we began to go through the new book we're reading together, in comes Jim Voss. He had e-mailed all of us earlier in the week, telling of how close to the Lord he had felt after fasting for six days. As he sat down, we all stopped our discussion, turned to him and waited for him to share his testimony with us face to face. Jim startled us when he said, "I don't want to talk about the fast now, maybe later in an e-mail." Then he got up, walked over to the corner of the room and picked up a bulletin board with photos of our kids pinned to it. He placed the bulletin board in the center of our circle and said, "Guys, I want us to get on our knees and go to the Father on behalf of our children. As we know, our kids are facing a huge battle against Satan."

Within a few seconds we were all on our knees and for an extended period of time we cried out to God to interecede on behalf of our children. Jim's prayer was especially fervent, brought on by his extended fast. He passionately pleaded with the Lord to draw our children to Him and to drive Satan far away. I don't think I've ever been in a men's prayer session that was so intense.

I just wonder what a church service would be like if we periodically got on our knees and cried out to God for revival, for the salvation of lost friends and loved ones, for prodigals. I have a feeling that the Holy Spirit would once more shake that room and shake our hearts as He did in Acts 4 after the first century disciples cried out to God.

Thank you, Jim, for the sacrifices you made in going without food for all those days and then calling us all to fight in prayer for our children. You reminded us all that we are in a war, that the Lord has given us the tools of prayer and God's word to wage battle against the enemy of our souls, and that ultimately the battle belongs to the Lord.

I believe that we'll never be the same after our yesterday morning. Nor will our children.


Friday, April 27, 2007

Sleepless Nights and Scripture

The older I get the more I crave and appreciate a good night's sleep. And so I find it annoying to wake up an hour or so before the alarm clock is to go off. I began tossing and turning this morning and noticed it was 4:53 a.m. Susan could tell I was awake and made a brief suggestion: "Jim, stop thinking about things and instead dwell on Jesus and on Scripture." What great counsel from my bride.

As she turned and went back to sleep, I took her advice...and immediately these words of Jesus popped into my mind: "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me." At first I thought of what a great three point sermon that would be. However, I quickly shifted into meditation mode and dwelled on how Jesus is the only way and I told Him that I want to keep following Him.

I dwelled on how Jesus is truth, not a truth but THE truth. There are so many lies out there about what truth is, but Jesus says that He Himself is the exclusive truth. I told Him that I believed that He is Who He says He is. The truth is not a doctrine, a creed or a denominational stance. The truth is a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Finally I pondered how Jesus is the life. Oh, how we all try to find life in something else -- even such good and wholesome things as meaningful work, love from family and a comfortable lifestyle. But I told Jesus that I believe He is THE life and He is my life. I prayed that He would let me experience more of His life in me.

I eventually drifted off to sleep for another hour, feeling such peace. Maybe the best times for meditation on God's word are those unexpected and unplanned moments when the Holy Spirit slows us down and even wakes us up at night so that we will listen to His voice and dwell on the truthfulness, beauty and saving power of Jesus.

I'm so glad now that I did wake up at 4:53. In those quiet moments my spirit was so open to the Holy Spirit -- Who made it so clear to me why there is no other path, no other truth and no other life than what is found in Jesus .


Thursday, April 26, 2007

Curse of the Lottery

I love it when our kids learn valuable lessons from life that don't necessarily come from Susan and me. On the way to the golf course late yesterday afternoon, my son, Aaron, told me about a wonderful life lesson he learned from, of all places, the "E" channel.

He watched a show called "The Curse of the Lottery." Although they did tell of one couple who handled the windfall in a responsible way, the rest of the stories were about those whose lives crumbled after coming into an exhorbitant amount of money.

* Kenneth and Connie Parker won a $25 million jackpot. Their 16 year marriage fell apart soon after they became rich beyond their dreams.

*Jeffrey Dampier, a $20 million winner, was kidnapped and murdered by his own sister-in-law.
*In 2002, Jack Whittaker won the largest individual payout in U.S. lottery history. "I can take the money," Whittaker said at the time. "I can take this much money and do a lot of good with this much money right now."

But it didn't work out like that. Whittaker's life was consumed by hardship, including the death of his beloved granddaughter Brandi, who was a victim of a drug overdose. Then his marriage broke apart. Amidst the smoldering ashes of their ruined lives, Jack's ex-wife Jewell declared, "If I knew what was going to transpire, honestly, I would have torn the ticket up."

As we turned into the drive of the golf course and Aaron was finishing one more story of this lottery curse, he said, "Dad, they call the lottery the poor man's tax. It definitely is not what it's cracked up to be." I was rejoicing inside because Aaron got it -- he witnessed for himself how deceiving money can be, and what pain can result when our greed gets ahold of us.

I thought about that story again this morning, and shared it with our staff and volunteers at our devotional. We read the story of the foolish rich man, where Jesus warns us all:

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

Now it would be so easy for me to moralize and look down on all those greedy lottery winners. And yet I know well my own wandering heart and how greed and covetousness can so easily sneak into the crevices of my soul. I have my own dreams of what I'd want to do with a windfall. Haven't you? I've made my own mental list -- A Canon Rebel XTI digital camera with two or three lenses; a new Toyota Sienna van; a trip to England with Susan to see the land of C.S. Lewis. It would be so much fun to suddenly come into a large sum of money.

But I know in my heart of hearts that there's a barb in that hook of a financial windfall. And that I need to keep taking Jesus at His word where He exhorts us about not worrying about whether or not we'll have enough food. And to keep seeking His kingdom, knowing that He will provide everything I need (not necessarily what I want). I want so much to be content most in knowing and loving Jesus, and realizing in the very depths of my soul that by His grace I am His beloved child.

Thanks, Aaron, for how you pointed me back to the Lord and the true and lasting riches we have in Him.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Something Much Greater Than Dreams Fulfilled

Some things I read just before going to bed linger for hours as I wake up on and off through the night. That happened again last night after reading a wonderful one page article in Pray! magazine.

Ginny Kisling tells of her five year journey as a prayer minister at her church in California. She felt unqualified and somewhat alone in her leadership. Frustration was a constant companion since she didn't sense that the rest of the church was catching her dream of a prayer-based fellowship. In her fifth year Ginny came to a breaking point:

"I finally came to the end of myself, to a place of complete brokeness. I stopped seeking the acceptance from others for the job I was doing and began seeking God's face only. God now had my undivided attention, and He finally was able to share with me more deeply His heart for our church and what He wanted for me as its prayer leader. I realized that my dreams for a successful prayer minstry had been looming much larger in my mind than keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus. " -- Pray! January/February 2007 issue, p. 57

By taking her through this experience, God taught Ginny that He was more imporant than her dreams. She went through a time of confession and repentance, which led to a deep inward transformation. Ginny stopped trying to grow a prayer ministry and instead yielded her life to the hand of the Potter. This change caused her to let go of expectations of others in the body of Christ and a deep dependence on the Lord for the outcomes of her ministry. She learned to relax in Him and become more in tune with what He was doing in her and the church, not what she was doing. And behold, in time, her church began to catch a vision for prayer.

As I went to sleep last night pondering this story, I thought of how so many of us believers, with very good intentions, are striving to lead or grow or nurture a ministry that will expand the kingdom of God. Lately I've been working with our board to develp a vision for how to improve and expand the work of the Christian Service Center.

After reading Ginny's testimony, I'm prompted to let go more and rest in Christ. Oh, I still want to see changes and improvements in how we serve the poor in Abilene. However, I don't want to be a driven leader who focuses so much on developing "my" ministry and yet miss out on what the Holy Spirit is calling me to be and do.

What dream is on your heart these days? To raise a really good family? To have a deep impact on the people in your city? To be really successful in your career? To begin or expand a ministry in your church? May the Lord bless your dreams that you have for exalting His Name and expanding His kingdom.

But in the midst of our ministry dreams, let's stay close in touch with the Potter, and allow Him to shape us into the image of Christ as we go about our work for Him. Like it did for Ginny, it will likely take being broken and disappointed at times so that we will learn to rely on His Spirit and submit to His purposes. Hopefully these moments of testing will call us to leave the outcomes to Him...and enjoy the ride more. And enjoy Him more.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

In Whom Will I Trust

Before I have my quiet time each morning, I go through this routine of grinding coffee beans,

brewing coffee, making a bowl of Puffed Wheat or Cheerios, and pouring a glass of orange juice.

Then I settle into my favorite chair in the living room and enjoy 30 minutes or more of peaceful

reading, contemplation and praying. However, I must confess that before I open up my Bible I

scan the sports page. I also read an article or two in the business section.

This morning's commentary by the personal finance guru, Scott Burns, contained some very

sobering information about the U.S. economy. He quotes from two economists who have

recently analyzed our government's unfunded liabilities. Translation? We're plunging into debt

not just because of the Iraq war but primarily because of Social Security and Medicare.

Especially Medicare. Sorry to share the gloom, but here are a few of their findings:

1. There are $72.9 TRILLION in unfunded liabilities of Social Security and Medicare.

2. Paying for these promised benefits would require an immediate increase of taxes of 14.4 %

And yet that tax increase would likely not be collectable, because so many people would go

underground in their work.

3. The primary cause of this massive national financial crisis can be attributed to one program

- Medicare.

Burns writes that if we think these two economists are alarmists, he reminds us that the

trustees of Social Security and Medicare have given estimates that are $10.9 trillion higher.

As I read this troubling forecast of our country's future, I got a bit nervous. I know how grateful

the elderly are for the coverage they receive. One gentleman told me recently that he received a

bill for $13,000 for a three day stay in the hospital – but thankfully Medicare paid for it all. Yet I

know that as we baby boomers hit the Medicare rolls, it's likely that our country can handle the

financial burden of caring for our health as it fails.

I get nervous, because I know that if the Lord allows me to live another 10 years or more, I'll

need Medicare -- but will it be there? That's why it's so important to not just read the paper in

the morning! I need to mainly be in God's Word and read His promises and claim them.

Reading Psalm 93 was a great antidote to the angst I experienced from reading Scott Burn's


The LORD is king! He is robed in majesty. Indeed, the LORD is robed in majesty and armed with strength. The world is firmly established; it cannot be haken…Your throne, O Lord, has been established from time immemorial. You yourself are from the everlasting past. -- Ps. 93:1-2

As grateful as I am for all the blessings of this country, I know that I
cannot and must not put my ultimate trust in America and our government. Reading that article and then this Psalm brought me to this sobering reality.


Monday, April 23, 2007

My Kind of Memorial Service

Last Saturday I was privileged to participate in one of the most touching, Spirit-filled memorial services I've ever witnessed. Rarely do I speak at a funeral and so my point of view has been from the audience. But this time I was asked to read the eulogy, and see the reaction of others throughout the service. It was for a precious sister in Christ, Camille Rhodes, who left this world after a short battle with cancer at such a young age -- 47.

Her husband, Bill, planned the service and did a tremendous job. It was all focused on Jesus and worshipping Him. Laid on the table at the front of the sancturay were several symbols of Camille's faith in Christ -- her Bible, a cross, a box with a ring with the names of Jesus on it, a wall hanging with the simple word, "Faith." In between several praise songs, Mike Cope picked up one of the symbols, read a Scripture and then commented on the hope Camille has in Christ.

Throughout the service the audience was asked several times if they affirmed the same faith that Camille had. I loved to hear the Amens when I said, "If anyone here also believes that salvation comes from Christ alone, say "Amen." Camille preached the gospel to us through her life and testimony. And the Lord Jesus was glorified.

I pray that my memorial service will do the same.


Friday, April 20, 2007

Binding of Religion

I took a quick look at the paper this morning and read of a Tuesday night college student gathering called "Unite!" They meet at Fountaingate Fellowship with the purpose of worshipping and loving on Jesus. Students from the three universities here in town, as well as some not in Abilene.

Of course, they come from various denominations. But the UNITE in Jesus Christ. I think that we adults can learn so much from the unity-mindset of these young people.

This morning I read a story in Luke that was such a contrast to this Unite! event. Jesus told a story of the farmer who planted a vineyard, put a tenant farmer in charge and went away.

"At grape-picking time, he sent one of his servants to collect his share of the crop. But the farmers attacked the servant, beat him up, and sent him back empty-handed."

You know the story. Over and over this farmer sent other farmers. Same result. Then he sent his son, whom they murdered. "When the teachers of religious law and the leading priests heard this story, they wanted to arrest Jesus immediately because they realized he was pointing at them—that they were the farmers in the story."

I sat there in the quiet of that morning, pondering why these religious leaders rejected Jesus. Why would someone turn away from the One who was obviously the Son of God, and proved it over and over through His miracles?

In a few moments, this word came to mind: RELIGION. The devil has a way of using religion to keep us away from Christ and the fullness of life He offers to us.

Religion comes in various packages:

* Becoming "experts" in the Bible but missing the point that Scripture is meant to point us to a living relationship with a living Christ

* Being more loyal to a denomination than to Jesus. A story that popped in my mind while getting ready for work this morning was an experience at a Wednesday night meeting at a church I attended 30 years ago. One gentleman was pointing to his Bible and with sweat bursting from his forehead, he was passionately describing his convictions about how wrong instrumental music was.

* Being so adamant about being in the "right church" and having the "correct doctrine," and yet one's life is so full of contradictions and sin. A dear brother in Christ I know who has been through many battles as an elder and leader of a ministry once told me that he's observed that legalistic preachers often have sexual problems.

* Having a judgmental attitude towards others and angry about their sin and inconsistent lifestyle, and yet not recognizing one's own sin. Oops. That's been me. It's so easy to see the flaws and sins of others, but when I encounter the holiness of God and how I fall so short of His glory, I see that it's only by His grace that I am saved and safe in His arms.

I hate religion. I hate the devil for how he uses religious convictions, traditions and rituals in such insidious ways to block us from the simplicity and freedom-giving power of the gospel.

What I've tended to do over the years is to just get mad when I encounter a person who is bound by religion. And if I'm not careful, I'll feel rather smug that I've been freed from the bondage of religion. But I pray that I'll repent of this spiritual pride and recognize my own tendency to let my convictions and practices to at times keep me from Jesus. Rather than just getting mad at "churchianity" and at those locked into legalism, I want to instead pray for them. Fervently pray for them. And love them. And let them see in me that Christ truly does set us free -- free from our sin, selfishness and yes, from religion. And in that freedom, we can then unite with all believers who share that common bond in Jesus.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Men and Their Emotions

As the rest of our country is, I am so overwhelmed with sadness over the massacre at Virginia Tech. I grieve for those parents who suddenly lost their precious children at the hands of this angry gunman.

In this morning's paper and on the web news sites, there's lots of discussion about the alleged killer, Cho Seung-Hui. He was described as a "shy, quiet type seething with rage at unspecified tormentors." ( In a creative writing class, his professor referred Seung-Hui to the counseling center because of the violent images in the papers he wrote.

His story prompted me to think of men and their emotions. How we men often handle our emotional struggles so poorly, at times at the terrible expense of others -- as we witnessed this week in Blacksburg, VA.

While I was working out in the gym on the day of this national tragedy, I read an article in Newsweek about men and depression. It mentioned how depression has seemed to be more of a problem with women than men. However, researchers are sensing this statistic to be skewed since men are much less likely to admit they're depressed than are women. We men tend to be lone rangers, wanting to tough it out and not admit weakness and struggles.

In my own experience, and in ministering to many people over the years who have battled depression, I've found that the blues are often caused by a lack of processing anger appropriately. On and off for several years I've had bouts of depression. So often I couldn't understand why. But in retrospect, it seemed to often be caused by frustration and anger that I had not talked about with others. Rather, I just stuffed it.

In 2003 I was out of work for nearly 5 months. It was extremely frustrating and a bit scary. I remember one time when we came home from church and I blew up at my family for a minor incident. After apologizing to them and asking for forgiveness, I thought later, "Where did all that anger come from?" Probably from some pent up frustration and pain over not yet finding a job. Like so many other men, I made the mistake of living in denial about my anger and trying to push through it on my own instead of talking it through and praying about it with others.

What a different world it would be if we men would be honest about our emotions and seek help -- either through a counselor, a close male friend or a small group -- in admitting the depression, anger, lust or whatever else is boiling inside of us. And then let Jesus heal our emotional pain and channel this energy in positive directions.

How much pain and tragedy could be prevented if men sought healthy ways to process and defuse these volatile emotions. Rather than letting the devil take over us in our rage, what a difference we'd make in our families and work relationships if we men allowed Jesus Christ to control our emotions.

I think that a world of men with Spirit-controlled emotions would be one with much more peaceful families. Better work places. And less tragedies like we witnessed with horror at Virginia Tech.


Monday, April 16, 2007

Something More

Every once in a while I come across a used copy of a Catherine Marshall book. And whenever I read her books they always feed my soul. One of her books is called Something More, where she describes how she experienced more of Christ and the fullness of the Spirit.

I must admit that at times I am really hungry to receive "something more" from Christ, to know Him better, as 2 Peter 1 says. And yet there are other times when I just want to put life on auto-pilot and resist changing and live life on my terms. It's the old battle with the flesh which I need to keep resisting.

For several weeks I had heard about this Wild at Heart men's conference that was going to be hosted by the Beltway church. I had some ambivalent feelings about going -- feeling that I "should" go, but thinking that I had "been there, done that" since I had read the book and gone through the videos with my men's group at Highland.

I decided to take my wife out on Friday night, especially since she told me she could really use a date after a tough week. It turned out to be a wise decision.

Come Saturday morning, I felt this pull to attend the second half of the men's conference and I'm so glad I did. One of the highlights was a 30 minute segment where the speaker asked us to be still before the Lord and ask Him to come into our hearts to heal and cleanse us. It was a powerful moment of hearing the Lord speak to me. When I brought up several issues in my life that have bothered me or held me back, with each issue He brought to mind a certain passage of Scripture.

I truly needed something more from the Lord. And I pray that all of us will be continually open to His voice, allowing Jesus to continue entering every part of our lives and transforming us. And then sending us out in His strength so that hopefully others will such a change in us that they, too, will want something more from the Lord.


Friday, April 13, 2007

Managing His Money

One of the highlights of my past year has been when my son, Aaron, and I had the privilege of attending Byron Nelson's funeral. This grand old golfer of 94 died of natural causes after leaving behind a tremendous legacy -- and not just because he once won 11 tournaments in a row. At the funeral, Byron was remembered most as a man who loved and honored Jesus Christ, and set an amazing example of generosity.

I read in the paper this morning that the golf tournament he hosted in Dallas for nearly 40 years has been the largest charity fund-raiser on the PGA tour. Over $94 million has been given to charities through this tournament.

Right after reading this story today I read another story, this time told by Jesus. At first glance, it seemed to me such an odd story -- learning lessons of money management from a shrewd manager who made friends by giving breaks to his master's debtors. But Jesus says that we can learn from the shrewdness of "the citizens of this world." I especially pondered these words of Jesus that immediately follow this story:

I tell you, use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. In this way, your generosity stores up a reward for you in heaven. -- Luke 16:9

That's exactly what Byron Nelson did. And his legacy of generosity to those in need continues to impact others. I think also of a Christian business friend in Dallas who has done very well financially and yet has kept his perspective about his wealth. He has blessed so many ministries, including his leadership on the board of a Christian university. Now he is semi-retired. He told me last year that he and some other business leaders in Dallas who are believers are exploring ways to help the poor more.

Yet there are others I know that live in modest homes and drive older cars who have been tremendous stewards of the money God has entrusted to them. Some of them have given large checks to this ministry. I thank the Lord for how they have used "worldly resources to benefit others." Great is their reward in heaven.

Whom do you know that have been wise stewards of the Lord's resources entrusted to them? They may not be as high profile as Byron Nelson was. And yet if they faithfully have given to others in need, in quiet and unassuming ways, they are champions in the kingdom of God. I want to be like them, out of love for the Father and because of His goodness to me.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Discipleship with Love

Sometimes I don't want to be a serious disciple of Christ. I hate to admit it. But this is what goes on in my soul at times. My flesh wants to do what I want to do and not be told what to do. Isn't that the basic instinct of our carnal nature -- self will? Makes me think of times where I was unwilling to submit to a leader over me.

Nearly thirty seven years ago I went to Europe with 30 other high school graduates. Imogene Brokaw was our leaders, a courageous single woman who loved art and taught it with a passion. She was my Humanities teacher in my senior year at Buena High School in Ventura, California. A week or so after our class graduated, several of us from that class went on a 9 week tour of Europe, focusing on seeing the art, buildings, and sculpture -- as well as hearing the music and operas -- that we had studied all year. We 18 year olds were on a trip of a lifetime. And yet at times many of us acted like a bunch of disgruntled, mutinous sailors.

Within a few days of our first leg of the tour -- touring Germany and Holland -- we were giving Mrs. Brokaw fits. Staying up later than our curfew. Sneaking out to the bars. Acting like animals at our dinners. Making fun of her behind her back.

Looking back on this experience made me think of what spoiled jerks we were. Here was a woman knocking herself out for 30 high school grads so we could have a taste of art and music that few students our age have experienced. And in return many of us were being obnoxious rebels. How life would have been much easier for her and for all of us if we had cooperated more and appreciated this labor of love from Imogene Brokaw.

I read these words of Jesus today:

“If you want to be my follower you must love me more than your own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, more than your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple.” – Luke 14:26

By human standards, this call from Jesus seems so harsh. Why must I be so sacrificial in giving up everything, including my most precious relationships...and even giving up my own life? And yet....and yet, when I realize these words come from the One who LOVES me and gave His own life for my can I but not submit to my Master?

You see, when we look at discipleship through the lens of the love of God, what a difference it makes!! AS Paul says,

"For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. -- 2 Cor. 5:14-15

I'm thinking again of that trip to Europe -- how much more we would have enjoyed it if we would have trusted Mrs. Berkaw's wisdom and experience in travelling there. And how easier we would have made it on her if we had submitted to her guidance.

I want to be a joyful and grateful follower of Jesus each day, giving it all up for Him. I long to know Him more and willingly obey Him, knowing that following my Master is the only way to true joy -- and how I show my deep gratitude for what He has done and continues to do for me.


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Ongoing Impact of the Resurrection

Easter services are so inspiring and uplifting. I e-mailed Mike Cope yesterday thanking him and the other staff and volunteers for letting the Lord use them to plan one of the most touching Easter Sundays I've ever experienced.

And now it's Tuesday. The routines continue -- going to work, painting our bedroom, washing clothes and dishes. How can I live differently in the midst of the dailyness of life because of the resurrection of our Lord? Reading these words from John Piper yesterday helped me:

The hope of the resurrection radically changed the way Paul lived. It freed him from materialism and consumerism. It gave him the power to go without things that many people feel they must have in this life. For example, though he had the right to marry (1 Corinthians 9:5), he renounced that pleasure because he was called to bear so much suffering. This he did because of the resurrection.

This is the way Jesus said the hope of the resurrection is supposed to change our behavior. For example, he told us to invite to our homes people who cannot pay us back in this life. How are we to be motivated to do this? “You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:14).

This is a radical call for us to look hard at out present lives to see if they are shaped by the hope of the resurrection. Do we make decisions on the basis of gain in this world or gain in the next? Do we take risks for love’s sake that can only be explained as wise if there is a resurrection?

Do we lose heart when our bodies give way to the aging process, and we have to admit that we will never do certain things again. Or do we look to the resurrection and take heart?

We do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. (2 Corinthians 4:16)

I pray that we will rededicate ourselves during this Easter season to a lifetime of letting the resurrection have its radical effects. -- John Piper

Yesterday I tried something different that I pray was a response to this new life given to me through our resurrected Lord. I put on my "To Do" list to do loving things for people all day. I mean, to be intentional about showing special kindness to others. It's amazing how the Lord gave me ideas all day to do little things for folks -- going by and seeing my wife at work on the way back from lunch; spending time back in the boys' clothing room, visiting with Imogene, our 92 year old volunteer; offering to call folks to bring in newspaper articles written about two of our volunteers.

I can't take credit for what I did. It was the Holy Spirit in me prompting me to carry out little acts of kindness. Just think how the world would change if followers of Jesus lived out this life of love each day -- dying to our selfish will and letting Christ love others through us.

That's one way that I believe we can let the resurrection have an impact on us daily. What other ways do you see?


Monday, April 09, 2007

Jesus on the Golf Course

It is THE sports highlight of the year for me -- watching the Masters on the weekend, especially on Sunday afternoon. After enjoying another scrumptious meal with Susan, Shannon and her boyfriend, Al, I settled into my favorite chair in the den. Except for snoozing for about 20 minutes or so, I stayed there for more than four hours watching the lead change six teams.

Our son, Aaron, had to work until about 4 P.M. at his new job as a waiter at Outback Steakhouse. But he came over long enough to join me in rooting AGAINST Tiger Woods (aren't four green jackets enough?)

What a thrill to witness this humble 31 year old from Iowa win the tournament. And the proverbial icing on the cake was hearing Zach Johnson openly declare his faith in Jesus. Wow! Jesus was walking around Augusta in Zach's body and His Name was proclaimed on Easter Sunday.

Now what sports event can top that?! Much better than bowling ( : ) ), Nascar and even the Final Four.


Thursday, April 05, 2007

A Father's View

Last night the Highland Church staff planned a wonderful time of worship called "Journey to the Cross." They had set up several different devotional experiences in various classrooms and then invited the church to go from room to room. I was blessed to be in the room with about four other elders where we had the privilege of washing others' feet.

While soaking, massaging and drying the feet of several brothers and sisters in Christ, I quoted Scripture to them and we both reflected on the humility of our Lord in how He did this to the disciples. What was especially moving was washing the feet of the many children who came to us. I loved listening to Dickie Porche next to me, as he gently told these young disciples about how much Jesus loves them and that He is calling them to go from there and serve others just like Jesus served and serves us each day. It was a holy moment.

At 7:45, we were all ushered into the auditorium which was lit mainly by clusters of candles placed in various parts of the room. After we were all seated, one of our elders, Bob Nutt, read the crucifixion scene from Matthew. What really gripped me during this reading was the painting that was projected on the screen in front. It was an overhead shot of Jesus on the cross. I rarely have seen that point of view -- as if we were looking down from heaven. The more I stared at that picture, the more I realized why it moved me so deeply. It was the Father's point of view. Almighty God witnessed the heartbreaking scene of His only Son dying this painful death so that we could be reconciled with this Holy God.

I imagined what it would be like to watch our son, Aaron, going through this excruciating death on behalf of others. Knowing in my heart the deep loneliness and agony he would have felt. That is just a glimpse of the awesome love the Father has for you and me.

One of most stirring and creative scenes in the film, "The Passion of the Christ," was another overhead shot looking down from heaven. At the point of Jesus' death, a massive tear drop fell from the sky and splashed on the earth. It was if Mel Gibson was saying that God shed tears while His Son shed blood. Tears borne from deep pain. Tears that symbolize the washing away of our sins.

How could I not be in love with a Father who gave so sacrificially to me. Hallelujah, what a Savior.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

3rd Step Prayer

Several years ago my dear friend Bill Nash got me interested in working the 12 steps and attending a Christ-centered 12 step group on Wednesday nights at Highland. They called themselves "Christians in Recovery." It was a refreshing group of Christ-followers who were determined to be real about their sin battles and seeking recovery through Jesus Christ. In the first few weeks of attending this group, I didn't realize what addictions or hangups I needed to recover from -- until I finally began working the steps and meeting with a sponsor.

In time, the Lord revealed my problem -- codependency and selfishness. Keith Miller's excellent book, The Healing Journey, was especially helpful during this time of spiritual awakening. For years Keith was a very popular Christian speaker and writer. Then his marriage fell apart. He battled with alcohol. Reluctantly he eventually began working the steps and attending a 12 step group. Out of his experience he wrote this marvelous book and made a video series that has been used widely.

I haven't been to one of these groups for several years now and stopped meeting with my sponsor. However, whenever I read some of the literature on recovery and the 12 steps, especially when it's written from a Christian perspective, my heart is so deeply touched. And the Holy Spirit makes me aware once more that a life surrendered to my Master Jesus is the only way to truly be used by Him for His purposes...and to experience that abundant life He promises.

A couple nights ago before going to bed, I felt compelled to pick up one of my recovery books and read a few pages about the 3rd step, which in the Christian version goes as follows:

"Make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God and the Lordship of Jesus Christ."

This commentary on the 3rd step really grabbed me that night:

Step 3 invites us to get out of the center of our universe and hand that place back to God. As we move into any addiction or dependency, we tend to become more self-centered, self-absorbed, and self-proccupied in trying to address the pain driving the addiction. ...

How do we get out of the driver's seat? The key is willingness. If we crack the door just a little bit, then God will direct us in the process. -- Serenity -- A Companion for Twelve Step Recovery (Thomas Nelson Publishers), pp. 35-36

The reading in my One Year Bible this morning was about Mary and Martha. And I thought of how the scene of Mary sitting at Jesus' feet and listening to Him fits so well this matter of a surrendered heart. Listening to the Lord and then obeying His voice out of deep love for Him.

As I once more say "Yes" to Jesus and "No" to my will, would you join me in this 3rd step prayer for today?

"God I offer myself to You -- to build with me and to do with me as You will. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Your will. Take away (or use) my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Your power, Your love and Your way of life. May I do Your will always."

In Jesus' Name and for the sake of His glory, Amen.


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Small Groups continued

I'm preparing for today's board meeting so for the blog post today, I'm referring you to this post by one of our fellow bloggers, Steve Holt in Boston. This is a great article on how to lead and manage small groups in the body of Christ.

Blessings to you today!


Monday, April 02, 2007

Small, small groups

Yesterday I was a part of two small groups, both of them smaller than I expected. I had spent quite a bit of time late Friday afternoon and Sunday morning preparing to teach our men's class. When I arrived in the class ready to lead these men in a discussion about how to tend to our hearts, I found only five of them there. Rather than teaching the class, I decided to hold of until next week and instead circle up in our small group for an extended prayer time and then giving them a preview of next week's class. It turned out to be a rich time of sharing, encouragement and prayer.

Later that day I got our house ready to host our small group. Early in the day, God blessed me with a plan for how to direct the group for that evening. I tidied up the house, prayed over our living room, and got the Decaf coffee and all the plates and cups out, ready to welcome all our guests. Then I got a phone call from a woman who said that she and her husband couldn't come. A few minutes another call came in -- one more cancellation. I was a bit discouraged, but still felt it was the right thing to do for a remnant of our small group to meet.

Five of us spent about two and a half hours together, sharing and praying. One of our main purposes of meeting was to pray for our dear friends, and former small group members, Brian and Alyson Thrift. They've moved to Michigan and yet stay in touch with us since they had grown very close to our group. Aly is a mother of a one-year old and has battling cancer. Last night we went around the circle praying God's word over Aly, and for Brian's strength, pleading with the Lord to grant her healing and to give the entire family peace.

After the prayer we called her on my cell phone, passing the phone around to all five of us as we told her we loved her and will especially pray for her as she has surgery April 4 (please join us in praying for Aly). Then Lynette Bridges led this beautiful prayer over the phone for our dear friend in Michigan. It was a rich, Spirit-filled moment as the Lord used us to minister long-distance to our sister, Aly.

The last hour of our meeting, we shared some of our own prayer concerns. Then Lynette has us do the coolest thing (she is so creative). She got us to stand in a circle, shoulder to shoulder, and asked us to briefly pray for the person on the left. After each prayer she gave us an exercise related to our prayer request. For one of us who said they were "bumbed out" about their extended family, Lynette asked him to literally shake his body and thus shake off this negative feeling. For another she suggested that she write a note to her son this week.

We were a small band last night. And yet we sensed the Lord Jesus in our midst, using us to minister His grace, love and power to one another...and especially to Brian and Alyson.

Jesus' words came to life last night -- that where two or three are gathered in His Name, there He is in our midst. The next time you find yourself in a group or class where only a few show up, remember that if you call on Jesus' Name, His Spirit will show up and do great things for His glory, even among the few. I saw it happen again last night. The Lord is so good.