Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Super Senior Saints

Yesterday I wrote about the danger of getting complacent in your spiritual life (see “Been there, done that, got the T-shirt”). Larry Westfall commented, “I find that this is prevalent in older Christians. I have heard more times than I care to recall ‘I have served my time, now it's time for someone else to do it.’”
I have met a few Christians with that attitude as well, and not just “old” Christians. But I have also had the privilege of serving with some super senior saints. A person does not have to sit out the last period of their life on the sidelines. By the grace and strength of the Lord some choose to contribute to the game until the final buzzer. Let me tell you about a couple of them.
Rex is 87 years old. He is a retired bi-vocational preacher. He has Parkinson’s disease which causes him to shake with tremors. He has a back injury that causes pain whenever he stays in one position very long. He has an inoperable hernia that is uncomfortable all the time. He cannot walk very far or very fast. But these things are not what define him. He is a soul-winner. Many times he has called me to ask if I will go with him down to the college and hand out gospel tracts. He tells me, “God did not ask us to save anyone, but He did ask us to tell everyone.” Each Wednesday he and I get together for prayer. I hear his heart of compassion as he prays for his doctors at the VA and others to come to know Jesus. I pray that God would give me a portion of his love for the Lord and for lost souls.
When I met Dorothy she was in a rehab hospital recovering from a serious fall that injured her back. She is in her eighties as well. She can’t see well enough to read her Bible very much anymore. But she has such a hunger for God’s word and His truth. Many times she has come up to me and asked questions about my sermon and how it applies to her life. She calls me and says, “Sunday you preached on … so I was thinking God wants me to do …” I wish some of our younger Christians would have such a teachable spirit. Last week she helped with the third and fourth grade class in Vacation Bible School. She said, “I don’t know what help I can be. I can’t read things and I can’t chase those kids around.” But she was there every day. She called me Sunday after worship and said, “Please pray for this boy who was in our VBS.”
These senior saints remind me of Caleb. He served God wholeheartedly. When Israel divided up the promised land Caleb said, “So here I am today, eighty-five years old!  I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I'm just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then.  Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said."
Eighty-five years old and ready to go fight giants! And He did it too with the Lord’s help, “because he followed the LORD, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly.”
Old Christians never retire, they just fight other giants!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Been There, Done That, Got the T-Shirt

T-ShirtI should have bought stock in the T-shirt industry. It seems of the making of souvenir T-shirts there is no end. People are using T-shirts to send all sorts of messages. T-shirts advertise products, identify work places, and make political statements.
Other T-shirts reward people for their participation. Run a 10K marathon in the sweltering heat, pounding the pavement, crossing the bridges, up hill and dale, and what do you get for your effort? You get sore muscles, shortness of breath, and a T-shirt. No money, no plaque, but you get a T-shirt.
In fact, there are so many T-shirts, and they have been used so many times for so many events, that now people say cynically, “Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.”  It’s the bucket of cold water thrown on an ember. It’s the calloused reply of those who feel too old, too jaded, too worldly-wise to try anything new.
Solomon captured this feeling, writing Ecclesiastes, “All is vanity, and there is nothing new under the sun.” If Solomon were writing today, he might say, “Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.”
One time I suggested to a church member that she participate in a Bible study. She said, “I don’t go to Bible study.” I said, “I know you don’t; that’s why I’m suggesting one.” “No,” she told me, “I don’t go to Bible class. I went when I was younger. I taught Sunday School for years. So I don’t do that any more.”
In other words, “Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.”
The writer of Hebrews knew that feeling too. This anonymous writer warned us what it means for our spiritual lives if we have a “been there, done that, got the T-shirt” attitude. Listen to the challenging words of the author of Hebrews:
 let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, … For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. (Hebrews 6:1-6)
Sup t-shirtChallenging and frightening words. When our spiritual lives are mired in cynicism; when we believe that there is nothing new for us; when our faith is not growing or going; when our relationship with God is static; when to every new idea, every new possibility, and every new dream we cavalierly toss aside, “Been there, done that, got the T-shirt” – then we are in serious danger.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

You Have Christ on Your Face!

VBSWe are having Vacation Bible School this week. I love kids. They are so real. Have you ever noticed that little kids are very transparent? They don’t usually hide their feelings. If they are happy their face is beaming and they are bouncing around. When they are sad they frown, pout, or hide away. It’s only as we get older that we learn to mask who we are and how we feel.
A man was asked by a pastor to come to church for 4 Sundays, He was a skeptic but the pastor thought if he would come, maybe he would be convinced to accept Christ. At the end of the fourth Sunday, the man approached the pastor and said, "I have given my life to Jesus Christ."
The pastor was pleased and said, "Tell me about it."
The man looked at the pastor and said, ""Well, Pastor it wasn’t your preaching.” The man paused for a moment. He went an, "On the third Sunday morning, I saw an elderly lady fall down on the icy parking lot. I stopped to help her and I saw the radiance on her face, even in the midst of such difficulty. So I asked her what gave her life such a radiant glow and she said simply, ’If you knew my Lord Jesus Christ and felt his love in your life, you would have the same look of radiance on your face.’”
"I became a Christian," the man said, "because of the glow on that woman’s face was like a light shining into the darkness of my soul."
When’s the last time someone noticed Christ in my face?
“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”  (2 Cor 3:18 NIV)
The glory, the light, the radiance of Christ is still with us as we allow His Spirit to transform us into His likeness. As that glory, that radiance, transforms our lives, we become joyful, we want to sing praises to God for His act of deliverance, His transformation in our lives.
“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2 Cor 4:6 NIV)
There is a radiance, a beauty, a glory, about Christ which fills our lives with peace and contentment no matter what the circumstances. That glory gives to our lives the quiet and radiant peace which allows us to have the strength and the courage to handle all the brokenness of life.
Oh, how I want my life to be a reflection of His glory!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

God Answers Our Prayers

Vacation Bible SchoolVacation Bible School started yesterday at our church. We had been praying and planning for weeks. We had put in hours of preparation, decorating the building, studying the lessons, learning the music, inviting families, praying that God would bring the children.

Our small church does not have a lot of children that come every week. Some Sundays we only have a handful of kids in Sunday School (yes, that really is about 5 children). We love kids and their families but we just have very few right now. So we prayed and planned. We prayed and prepared. We prayed and invited. And we prayed.

Would God answer our prayers? I know that God is able. God “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think,” and He is able to do it “according to the power that works in us.” (Ephesians 3:20). But would He? Did I really believe that? Monday morning I took my doubts and my anxieties to the Lord. I asked Him to “help me in my unbelief.” And the Lord answered. He strengthened my little faith. I prayed, “Lord, whatever you do, however many kids you send, we will thank you. We will honor you. We will surrender our lives to let you love through us. We will trust you.”

Bible School starts at 9:00am. We got to the church building at 8:00. We made sure we had at least 30 registration forms and name tags. We did some final preparations. And we waited on the Lord. The kids began to arrive: two; then three more; another little boy; a couple girls; and they kept coming in. Final tally, twenty-five children enrolled first day! Praise the Lord!

After the morning was over, after we sang all the songs, taught all the lessons, played all the games, ate all the snacks, and sent all the kids back home – I was alone in the sanctuary of the church building. I stood there amazed again at the wonderful, faithful God we serve. I thanked Him. I worshiped Him. I prayed for more of His glory.

We had a great day at VBS. I know that God will do even greater things during the rest of the week. I am trusting Him, believing Him, and loving Him.

Do you have a story about how God answered prayer?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Nip It in the Bud

TomatoWhen I was growing up on a small family farm in Colorado our family grew vegetables and sold them at a stand at our home. When we were old enough Dad planted a couple rows on the farm just for each of us kids. We could choose what to plant and Dad would plant it for us. It would then be our job to make sure that it got irrigated and weeded. We would have to do all the work of picking what we grew. But all the money we earned from those rows of vegetables would be ours to keep.
One year I planted okra, a good cash crop. It can be harvested several times through the summer and keeps producing as long as you keep cutting the pods. I grew green beans another year. A lot of work picking those, but it paid well.
I remember one year I decided to be lazy and planted red beets. I figured those only had to be harvested once. Just pull them up out of the ground and they are ready to sell. The only problem was that my laziness also carried over into my tending the beets. As the beets began to grow so did the weeds. But rather than pull the weeds I was lazy and just let them grow. I figured I could always pull them later when they got bigger.
Bad idea. What I did not count on was that the weeds became so numerous that they began to choke out the beets. Rather than having nice, round, beautiful, big beets I ended up with small, deformed, ugly beets. They did not sell well. And it was a TON of work just to get them out of the ground trying to work around all the weeds that were waist high by that time.
CornI learned a great lesson that season. Weed often. Take out the weeds when they are small. I am growing a garden this year. You can read my progress here and here. But this time, I go out to weed the garden every day. My hoe and I make quick work of the tiny weeds that poke up from day to day. It’s easy work because I don’t give the weeds a chance to grow. As Barney Fife would say, I “nip it in the bud.”
That’s what I try to do with my Christian life as well. When it comes to spiritual weeds, sin, I nip it in the bud. I make a habit of confessing often as soon the Spirit convicts. So most of the time I can avoid sin growing out of control in my life.  The Bible says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9).
How about you? Are you letting the weeds grow or cutting them off when they are small?
Also, check out my guest post at Larry Westfall's Pursuing a Life of Significance blog.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Light In the Dark Storm

Mt Dom in SwitzerlandSeveral years ago, on a rainy August day, two young climbers decided to scale the highest summit within Switzerland —Mount Dom. Though they were young and relatively inexperienced, the two men felt confident in their mountain climbing abilities. Too confident, in fact. For despite deteriorating weather, they boldly went forth from the tiny village of Randa at the base of Mount Dom. Their goal—a halfway point called the "High Hut" where they would spend the night before tackling the icy summit the next morning.

The two moved quickly up the forested trail as the rain continued to fall and soon soaked through their inadequate clothing. At 6:00 p.m. the rain suddenly turned to snow. The trail before them became increasingly difficult to follow and they became lost. By 8:00 p.m., night had fallen. It was pitch black, they were soaked, shivering, and heading toward hypothermia. Then, just when their situation was becoming desperate, something miraculous happened.

Out of the darkness, a tiny light began to flicker. Even at a distance, the faint glow shone as bright as a lighthouse beacon to those two shivering, frightened young men. Where did it come from? Before retiring for the night, the Dom’s "High Hut" keeper did what he always did; he placed a kerosene lamp next to the door just in case a beacon might be needed by anyone lost on a dark, stormy night. His simple action saved two lives.

This true story isn’t just a warning for climbers; it should be call to action for every father. Our children start out with great hopes of reaching high places, but they are walking right into the growing darkness of a fallen world.

If left to themselves, even the most confident children will stumble into that world unprepared and destined for disaster. But God’s word lived out in the lives of parents can be the light to bring them into God’s house safely.

Psalm 119:105 “Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”

Our children need fathers and mothers to show them the light of Christ to guide them and keep them safe and warm, both now and forever.

How are you shining the light for your kids?

Relate Posts: Choose This Day, Be the Man, Three Things that Make Kids Special to Jesus

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Choose This Day

DecisionsMaking choices is a part of life, we make choices everyday. Some of the choices that we make are really not that big of a deal, things like: what color socks should I wear today? What should we do for dinner? Or, Do I want to buy Crest or Colgate?
Other choices that we make are of a more important nature: where do I want to go to college? Who should I marry? Or, Is this really the home that we want to buy?
And as parents, we have the responsibility of raising our children in such a way that some day when they are on their own they will be able to make the right choices. So throughout life we give them opportunities to develop decision making skills. We let them pick out their favorite candy bar (which I am sure that all of us can remember was and still is, a very difficult task), we let them choose what they are going to wear to school (within reason) and we allow them other freedoms and other choices as they get older.
We spend many years with our children teaching them about life, about God, about what is right and what is wrong, and someday they will be on their own and will have to make their own choices. And we just hope and pray they make the right decisions.
Joshua I am sure in many ways felt like this about his people, the Israelites. Joshua had been with these people his entire life. He had been leader of Israel for over 20 years. Now the time had come when Joshua would send these people, the people with whom he had worked, dreamed, cried, laughed, fought and worshipped God. It was time for the Israelites to leave the nest (so to speak), to make their own choices, and to decide their own destiny.
In Joshua 23 and 24, Joshua shares with his people some final words of exhortation. Joshua is at the end of a long, full life. His greatest concern before he dies is not himself, but his people and their relationship with the Lord. In chapter 23 he called the leaders of the nation together and told them that he was "about to go the way of all the earth." But first he challenged them to love the Lord and to keep the commandments that God had given them in love. He warned the leaders of the frightening danger that the nation would be in if they led their people in deserting the Lord.
And he called them to make a decision, “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:15).
Will we pass on an example of faithfulness to the next generation?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Let the Weeds Grow

Wheat and WeedsI was reading Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the weeds today from Matthew 13. The story is about how the sons of the kingdom grow up alongside the sons of the evil one in the world. Jesus says, ”Let both grow together until the harvest.”
Jesus’ concern at this time is not to separate the wheat from the weeds, but rather than none of the wheat be lost. The Lord allows us to live in this world of weeds because He is patient and wants people to come to repentance and faith in Him.  The Lord … is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9.
I heard a story about how a little girl named Heidi helped the neighborhood bully change his ways. The bully’s name was Todd, his parents were divorced and he was left to fend for himself.
Todd is rude and for an 8 year old he can swear like a sailor. When he comes over to Heidi’s house the quiet surrounding can turn quickly into chaos with fighting, crying and disobeying rules. But Heidi didn’t cut Todd out from her circle of friends. Instead, if Todd swore, she told him it was wrong, that God didn’t like that. If he started a fight, she told him he’d have to go home. And on Sunday morning, she collects 2 children’s bulletins and 2 Bible pictures and takes one set of each to Todd. She’s even taken him to Bible School.
God did not weed out the bully. Neither did Heidi. And it seems to be making a difference. Todd tries hard to be good around Heidi. He’s more joyful now, more alert and he plays well sometimes. He has more fun playing that fighting. He and Heidi have even talked about Jesus and Bible stories. Todd needed some help with his repentance. He needed someone who was willing to care or him, not in a judgmental way, but in a loving caring way.
There are Todds all around us. You might even be one. As you look at yourself today, remember there is time for repentance, there is time to change. Remember there are those around you with loving, non judgmental hearts that will help you if you want help in your repentance.
Unfortunately, repentance is often misunderstood as an "I can" experience. "I am sorry for my sins. I can do better. I can please you, God." So often we interpret repentance as our way of turning to God. That cannot be. Christianity is not about an individual turning to God. Christianity is about God turning to us.
In repenting we ask the God who has turned towards us, to do his work of turning us around. Repentance is an "I can’t" experience. The repentant person comes before God saying, "I can’t do it myself, God. Let me die and give me new life. Bury me today. Raise me to a new life. That is the language of repentance.
Be true. Be honest with God today and respond accordingly.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Be the Man

Ken Ruettgers Yesterday Larry Westfall had a great post called, “How Does A Child Spell Love?”. He prays, “Lord, help us to not view our children as a distraction.  But instead help us to give them our time as an expression of love.”
Most of us men have all kinds of important things to do. We have significant responsibilities at work, at church, in the community, etc. Often by the time we get done with a day of work we are too exhausted to give our energy to our families.
The apostle Paul wrote to the men at Cornith, “Act like men!” (1 Cor. 16:13).
A father had three very active boys. One summer evening, he was playing cops and robbers with them in the back yard after dinner. One of the boys pointed his finger at his father and yelled, "Bang! You’re dead!" Dad slumped to the ground and when he didn’t get up right away, a neighbor ran over to see if he had been hurt in the fall. When the neighbor bent over, the overworked father opened one eye and said, "Shhh. Don’t give me away. It’s the only chance I’ve had to rest all day."
Well, fatherhood can be tiring! That’s when it is truly time to “Man Up”.
Green Bay Packer, all-pro tackle Ken Reuttgers told a Promise Keepers rally these words: “I spend all day pushing around defenders, running sprints, studying plays and giving 100 percent of my physical, mental and emotional energies and skills to help the team get better. By the time the coaching staff lets us go, I'm running pretty much on empty. You may have been balancing a ledger, selling clothes, fixing computers, pumping gas or putting wheel covers on cars. It doesn't matter. You're just as whipped as I am when you finally drag yourself home. If my most important job lies ahead when I pull the car into the garage, then I need to give my family the same effort I just gave the Packers. That's what it takes to unleash the power God's given us to be great fathers. This is a calling within our reach. We can do this.” (Source: Current Thoughts and Trends, February, 1996.)
We need some strength to be men. Well, the Bible verse here (1 Cor. 16:13) is very helpful in that. The next phrase is “be strong,” but literally it reads, “be strengthened.” It does not say that we should make ourselves strong. Someone else strengthens us. Our strength comes from our connection with the Lord, the source of strength. And boy, do we have a source of strength!
As Paul writes to the church in Philippi: “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”
Here is what God is asking you to do. When you miss the ball game on TV because you’ve got to play catch with your kids ... be strengthened. When you have to get up earlier than anyone else to provide for your family ... be strengthened. At night, when you’re dead-dog tired, and you see an opportunity to wash the dishes for your just-as-tired wife ... be strengthened.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Need a Vacation?

NYC BusThe New York City Transit Company was missing a bus and a driver some years ago. For over a week, authorities searched for the man but couldn’t find him. Finally, ten days later after the man had disappeared, he was found, bus included. In Miami, Florida!
The driver said, "I’d had it with the cold weather, the passengers, and my family! One day after I got off work, I thought, ‘I wonder what would happen if I just kept driving?’"
So, that’s what he did. He took off for Florida where he enjoyed the sun and surf for over a week, all by himself!
Have you ever felt like that? Like you just need a vacation from life?
If you are like the rest of us there are times when you get so frustrated with life that you either want to pull your hair out or run away! Have you ever said, "I don’t know how much more of this I can take."
Miami BeachSometimes when we say things like that about our job, or our marriage, or our children, or perhaps even concerning something at church. We may feel that way during times of trouble or sickness or financial difficulties.
I think sometimes we get the wrong impression that the people of the Bible were superhuman in some way. Yet, a closer look at the word of God will reveal to you that they were very human...and that they endured much of the same things in life as we do.
I remember the prophet Elijah. He was just coming off of a great spiritual victory at Mt. Carmel when Queen Jezebel threatens him. Elijah was afraid, so he ran for his life. He went a day’s journey into the desert, came to a broom tree, sat under it, and prayed that he might die (1 Kings 19).
Elijah was exhausted and spiritually drained. But God did not give up on him. The Lord gave Elijah food, drink, and rest. God strengthened Elijah.
The Lord still strengthens His weary people. Jesus said, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28). Hebrews 4:9 says, “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.”
Aren’t you glad that the Lord understands our weakness and provides rest?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Three Things that Make Kids Special to Jesus

VBSAt our church right now we are preparing for Vacation Bible School. I love VBS because I love children and working with children. Nothing blesses my heart more than to kneel down and to hug a child, to hold a baby in my arms, or to hear a child pray.  
Not that I am the most skilled at teaching children. The first year I taught VBS I lead the first and second grade class. I was okay at teaching the Bible story, but crafts are not my thing. We ended up with fabric paint all over me, the kids, the table, chairs, books … everything. My wife just stood there and shook her head in amazement.
Kids are cool. As Art Linkletter said, “Kids say the darnedest things.” One VBS teacher of four year olds said she was trying to write down the names of the parents of a new little boy who had come. She said, “Brian, what’s your father’s name?” He looked at her and said, “Daddy.” So she said, “What’s your mother’s name?” He said, “Mommy.” But this teacher was pretty sharp, so she thought of a way to get the information. She said, “Brian, what name does your daddy use when he calls your mommy?” Brian’s face lit up and he lowered his voice and said, “Hey, baby doll.”
In the last verses of Luke 9, as Jesus is walking along with His disciples, He gives them some life lessons. Beginning in Luke 9:46, we read:
An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all—he is the greatest.”
We know Jesus loved kids and they loved Him. We read in Mark 10 some children tried to see Jesus, but some of the disciples try to shoo them away from the busy Master. When Jesus saw this, He became agitated, even indignant. He rebuked the disciples saying, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Mark 10:14) Then He took the children in His arms and put His hands on them and blessed them.
What are the qualities that make children so special to Jesus? Here are three:
1. Kids Are Fun-loving. Some of us old adults have lost the joy and the laughter that ought to be a part of our lives. We have become party-poopers and fuddy-duddies. A childlike spirit loves to laugh and have fun.
2. Kids Show Total Trust. Have you noticed children don’t worry as much as adults do? Not too many children have ulcers. Children are trusting. That’s why we have to warn them to be suspicious of strangers, because of their trusting natures. When it comes to the world, you should be careful. But when it comes to God and His Word, we should have that same kind of childlike faith in God and in His promises.
3. Kids Are Completely Dependent. Little guys can’t drive and they don’t have money to buy their food or clothes. They are utterly dependent on others. As we become adults we become more independent. We can take care of our own needs and our own problems. We may get to thinking that we don’t need anybody else. Sometimes we act like we don’t even need God. I need to be like a child and realize the very next breath I take is a gift from God. The next pulse of my heart is a gift from God. Every dollar I ever earn is because God has given me the ability to work. I must recognize I am completely dependence on God.
Do you have a childlike attitude?
If you want to preregister your kids for our church’s VBS click here.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

On the Mountain And In the Valley

MountaintopThirty-three year-old truck driver Larry Walters was one day sitting in a lawn chair in his backyard wishing he could fly. For as long as he could remember he had wanted to fly but never had the time nor money nor opportunity to be a pilot. So he spent a lot of summer afternoons sitting in his backyard in his ordinary old aluminum lawn chair. He came up with what he thought was a good idea. He hooked 45 helium-filled surplus weather balloons to his chair, put a CB radio in his lap, tied a paper bag full of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to his leg, and slung a BB gun over his shoulder to pop the balloons when he wanted to come down.

He expected his lawn chair to lift off and climb a couple of hundred feet over his neighborhood. But instead he shot up 11,000 feet right through the approach corridor to the Los Angeles International Airport. When the police finally rescued him with a helicopter, and asked why he did it, Larry answered: “Well, I wanted to see what it looked like from up there.” When asked what it looked liked he said, “Awesome, man!”

I don’t know if I would feel close to God in a lawn chair at 11,000 feet but I do enjoy a good mountaintop experience. When you are on a mountaintop, you see how big the world is that God made and it makes you feels smaller. In the Bible, some important events took place on mountains. God provided a ram for Abraham on Mt. Moriah. He delivered the Ten Commandments to Moses on a Mt. Sinai. Elijah held his famous God-contest on Mt. Carmel. Jesus was transfigured on a mountaintop while three of His disciples looked on in amazement.

Maybe you’ve had some mountaintop experiences—at a retreat or camp or conference—and you saw the glory of the Lord in a new way. Mountaintop experiences are wonderful, but just like Jesus and His disciples, we have to leave the mountain to go down in the valley. Luke tells about the valley in 9:37-45.

The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him. A man in the crowd called out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him. I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.”

“O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.”

Even while the boy was coming, the demon threw him to the ground in a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the evil spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father. And they were all amazed at the greatness of God. While everyone was marveling at all that Jesus did, he said to his disciples, “Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.” But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.

ValleyOn the mountaintop is a brilliant Savior, glowing with the glory of God. In the valley there are messed up people who cry out for help. On the mountaintop is holy worship. Down in the valley there is hard work. On the mountain we find strength and serenity. In the valley we find frustration and failure. On the mountaintop is delight. In the valley, there are demons, disease and even death.

Don’t be afraid. For as David wrote, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me.” (Psalm 23:4)

I always want to be on the mountain experiencing the glory of God in worship. But I also want to be in the valley reaching out to hurting people.

Where do you find yourself today, on the mountain or in the valley?

See also, Worship Is Not Just for Sundays .

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Relationship That Gives Life to the Record

 Christianity is a person. God gave all his power and authority and everything in between to his Son. Christianity is ONLY Christ Jesus. Jesus said, “If you knew me, you would know my Father.”
His statement really resonated with me and what God has been teaching me lately. I commented on his post by saying,
Marriage CertificateI was preaching Sunday from 1 John 5:11-12. “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
Here is one way I explained it: Kathy and I were married over 25 years ago in Colorado Springs. On that day I forgot to bring something very important to the ceremony, the marriage license. So we did not get it signed ‘til the next day. Even though we had take the vows and wore each other’s rings Kathy’s dad almost didn’t let me take her with me. Thank God it all worked out okay.
Somewhere in our records we have a copy of that Marriage certificate, although I have not able to find it for the last few years (is there a trend here?). But we have more proof than a piece of paper that we are married, that proof is found in our relationship. Many Christians doubt their salvation because all they have is a record. “I was baptized on this day;” or “I joined the church on this day.” But they don’t have a close personal relationship with Jesus that they live out every day. So they have no assurance.
I know for sure that I am married because I have a record at the El Paso County courthouse. However, if the only thing your marriage consists of is a certificate, you have a pretty miserable marriage.
The relationship gives life to the record. “He who has the Son has life.”
Is it more than just a record?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Treasure at First Base

baseballBaseball is a big deal for many in Grand Junction. Each year the Junior College World Series is held here. And of course MLB is in full swing. Many here are Rockies fans although my music director is a die hard Cardinal.
There are a lot of baseball stories out there. Many of you have probably not heard this one:
Back in 1905, there was baseball game at Salt Lake City, Utah. The Rhyolites were playing the Beattys and the Beattys were up to bat. The pitcher threw the ball, the batter swung - and the ball rocketed toward 1st base.
The 1st baseman was a man named William Giffiths, and as he saw the ball coming his way, he was amazed to see it ricochet off a small stone and land right in his glove. He beat the runner to first easily.
The little stone had given Griffiths a lucky break, but he decided it had no business on the playing field, so he walked over and picked it up. He started to raise his hand to throw it off the field when something caught his eye. He took a careful look at the stone and recognized free gold in it. Then he quietly slipped it into his pocket and went on with the game.
That evening, he returned to the ball park with a lantern and spent an hour scratching around in the soil until he had accumulated a bucketful of rocks. By morning he knew that those rocks assayed at more than $900 a ton.
He called in two friends and with them quietly bought the ball park.
mineThe mine was called the First Base Mine, and the first shaft entered paying ore at a depth of 33 feet. And Infielder Griffiths soon found himself a very wealthy man. (The Saturday Evening Post July/Aug 2000 H. Allen Smith and Ira L. Smith)
Imagine how you would feel if you found a treasure like that. What would you do? Jesus told a treasure story about the kingdom of heaven. He said, "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field” (Matt. 13:44).
A man found something so valuable that he sold everything he had to possess it. He was so excited about finding the treasure that he was willing to do whatever he had to do in order to have it. The treasure that he found was worth more than everything else that he owned. He was willing to give up all his worldly possessions for this special "treasure."
What’s the point of the story?
The kingdom of heaven is worth infinitely more than anything else in this world.
In Matthew 16:26, Jesus used the image of a pair of scales when he asked the question, "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" Pile up everything in this world on one side and put the kingdom of God on the other side and it still comes out lopsided. The salvation of our souls is worth so much more.
Of course I cannot buy the Kingdom of Heaven, and neither can you or anyone else. The Kingdom of Heaven is far more valuable than anything in this world. Nothing we have could purchase it. I can’t earn it with my good works. I can’t buy it with my tithes and offerings. I can’t even give my own life to purchase it. Jesus Christ purchased it for me with His blood on the cross. And He gives it to me by His grace. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.”
So although I cannot buy salvation, once I have received the gift, I find that it is worth so much that everything else in this world pales in comparison. Jim Elliot, a Christian missionary who was killed in South America in the 1950’s said: “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose”
Want to learn more about being saved? Check out Become a Jesus Follower. Or read Kevin's explaination at Shootin’ Straight Part 1-The Sortin’ Gate
How much do you value the kingdom of heaven?

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Happiness of Serving

TomatoesLast week we took a trip from our home in Grand Junction, Colorado to visit our daughters in Olathe, Kansas. Long drive (13-14 hours), short visit (about 3 days). But it was good to see my girls.

Of course when you go on a trip you always have to leave behind some things that need tending to. This time we didn’t have to ask someone to watch the dog since he got to go with us (he actually travels pretty well). But I did need to ask someone to watch over my garden and lawn. A couple weeks ago I told about my attempt at vegetable gardening this year.

In this part of Colorado (the Grand Valley on the Western slope) it can get very hot and dry. It’s high desert here. But the good news is that the Colorado River runs right through the valley and we have plenty of irrigation water. So lawns can stay green and gardens can continue to grow if we take the time to water them.

If I had just left on my trip for 5 days without asking someone to water the garden, I probably would have come back to an arid and shriveled up plot of useless soil. But contrary to my character (my wife says I am king of the procrastinators) I planned ahead. One of my gracious church members agreed to come over three times while I was gone to water my precious garden and lawn. I knew I could trust him, he is a man of integrity.

RadishesSo while I was away I did not worry about my garden. It was in good hands. I enjoyed the visit without having to be concerned with things at home. I tried to compensate my friend for his time, but he just said he was glad to be able to serve.

Now look at my garden. The corn is about 10 inches tall; the tomatoes look great; the squash and cucumbers are coming up well; I am a happy gardener.

Jesus told a story about a man going on a trip. He called in his servants and entrusted his property to them. And he expected that they would be good stewards of their master’s money. After a long time the man returned and settled accounts with his servants. Some did better than others. But to each who trusted their master and served him well the master said, “Well done, good and faithful servant … come and share your master’s happiness.” (Matt. 25:21).

SquashI was so happy to have a friend that served well for me while I was on my trip. And Jesus is happy when we serve well also. Here is a surprising thing that I learned from my friend: there is a great happiness in serving, both now and when the task is done.

We don’t have to wait ‘til heaven to enjoy the happiness of the Lord. There is happiness in serving—right here, right now.

What service has Jesus left to you today?

How have you found happiness in serving the Lord?

Friday, June 4, 2010

What Bible Version Do You Read Most?

When I first came into a relationship with Jesus Christ I was a third-class cadet at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Although I had gone to church most of my growing up years and even been confirmed in the church, it was not until I was 20 years old that the Lord and the Bible became real to me.
Children's Living BibleThe Bible I had at that time was the Children’s Living Bible.  I  began to read it like it was a new best-seller. I was hooked on God’s word. I didn’t know the difference between a translation and a paraphrase. I just knew I loved what I was learning about God, I was really getting to know the Lord through His word.
NIV BibleSoon after I was baptized a friend gave me a New International Version (NIV) Bible. It was a hardback and I even had a cool blue Bible cover for it. For many years I stuck to this translation of the Bible. It was easy to read and understand. Over the years (28 now since that time) I still use the NIV often in my daily reading. I also used it in my preaching for many years. I have had several editions of the NIV: the old hardback, NIV Study Bible, Disciple’s Study Bible, and at least two Reference Bibles.
QuickverseI often consult other translations in my Bible study. I have used QuickVerse Bible software with several English translations that I will compare. I like to study the New American Standard Bible for its more literal translation. I also have used other translations on certain occasions. When I taught a Bible study at a nursing home I used the King James Version. And I often use the KJV at funerals.
NKJVA few years ago I began using the New King James Version in my weekly preaching and teaching. I also read it often in my daily devotions. I have used a couple good NKJV study Bibles: the Thompson Chain Reference Bible and the MacArthur Study Bible.
I suppose my favorite version is the one I am reading at the time. The whole point of the Bible is that we would read it, understand it, take it to heart, and live it. The Bible is not just for gaining knowledge, but for knowing God. And whichever version gets you to know the Lord more is probably the best one.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”    (2 Tim 3:17 NKJV)
So here’s the question:
What Bible version do you read most?  And  Why?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Outrageous Off Base Life Quotes to Build Your Word Power

Ostrich FestivalMy favorite magazine has always been Reader’s Digest. If you read it as often as I do you will recognize RD’s monthly column titles in the title to this post. I usually read RD cover-to-cover each month, that is, when I can get it away from my wife and our grown daughters. Even my 15 year old son picks it up and thumbs through to read all the humor articles.
I like testing my word power, reading the funnies, and learning strange facts about America. I like reading the inspirational stories of real people. I like that anybody can send in a joke or true funny story and get $100.
But I have been turned off by some of the changes in RD over the last few years. There are more ads than there used to be. There are less stories of regular, real life people and more about celebrities. There are more lists and how-to’s rather than excerpts from good books. There are more colors and text boxes and different fonts that simply distract me or make it hard for my aging eyes to read (please don’t say I need to go to the large print version).
Sometimes I will pick up a vintage edition of RD that I have stored in a secret place so my wife won’t throw them away (yes, I am a pack rat). It is refreshing to me to see more print and less hype; more content and less fluff; more reading and less skimming. I guess I am just old-fashioned. And sometimes I like myself that way.
Sometimes I like my discipleship with Jesus that way too. It is good to get away from the computerized Bible study software, the online devotionals, and other modern tools of the trade. It is good to just get alone with God and my Bible; to turn off the Christian radio; to bring along an old hymnal; to read quietly and listen for God speaking to me.
Jesus did that.  After an exhausting day of ministry with crowds of people, with sights and sounds, with demands on His time and energy—Jesus got away. “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.”  (Mark 1:35 NKJV)
Sometimes I need to stop all the sounds and listen for the Savior; stop all the hype and find the hope.  God really wants me to spend time with Him alone, quiet, undistracted. When I do, I am more able to make sense out of the noisy, advertisement filled pages of life.
What helps you to slow down and focus on God?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Disciple's Sticker Shock

CattleDriving across Colorado and Kansas  this last weekend I saw herds and herds of cattle. There were all different breeds, colors, sizes and ages. It reminded me of a story I once heard:
Once there was a dairy farmer who went to buy a new pickup truck. He had seen an ad in the paper about discounts and factory rebates, so he decided to trade in his old clunker. He chose a new model and was ready to write a check. The salesman said, “Wait, I haven’t given you the final cost yet.” The farmer said, “I saw the price advertised in the paper.” The salesman said, “Oh, that’s for the basic model, all the options cost extra.” So the farmer paid the price and drove off in his new pick-up.
A few months later the salesman called the farmer because he wanted to buy a cow for his son’s 4-H project. The farmer assured the car salesman he had several good milk cows for sale for $500. The salesman drove out and selected out a cow and took out his checkbook. The farmer said, “Wait. I haven’t given you the final cost yet.” Then he handed the salesman a bill that read:
BASIC COW $500.00
Two-tone exterior 45.00
Extra stomach 75.00
Milk storage compartment 60.00
Straw recycle compartment 120.00
Four handy spigots @ $10 each 40.00
Leather upholstery 125.00
Dual horns 45.00
Automatic rear fly swatter 38.00
Fertilizer attachment 185.00
GRAND TOTAL $1233.00
Whether you’re buying cars or cows, it’s important to get to what we call “the bottom line.” What is the “bottom line” of following Jesus? You may go into “sticker shock” when you discover it. Many people are only interested in the basic model of Christianity. They want just enough Christianity to keep them out of hell without intruding on their lifestyle. You don’t find the full cost of discipleship advertised very often these days. Few preachers discuss it because it is unpleasant; it doesn’t fill pews.
Here is what Jesus said, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?” (Luke 9:23-25).
Are you a disciple? Do you desire to follow Jesus? Surrender to Him (lose your life). I really think that Jesus isn’t just after attenders or spectators, but disciples. He doesn’t just want 10,000 well-dressed carnal believers to gather in an auditorium every Sunday. He is looking for more.
Is Jesus looking for more from you today?
Do you understand the cost?
What act of surrender will you take today?
Please leave a comment telling about your act of surrender: