Thursday, July 31, 2008

Away...

I'm going away with my wife for a day or two.

The kids are being farmed out to grandparents. They'll have a blast. When we meet up with them, they'll have stories to tell. What they did. How they kept busy.

My wife and I will be happy for them. We'll be better able to enter into their joy because we've been away, all by ourselves. We'll have had carefree conversations, unhurried walks and the like. We'll have shared closeness like we did when we were first dating. I like my wife. I love being with her at home. I like being away with her even more. The time is fast approaching. I'm going away!

I need to get away with God once in awhile. I need to get alone with him. If I don't do that from time to time, I don't have the energy to enter into my friend's life, my brother's happiness, my sister's sorrow. It's been awhile since I've retreated from the world to be with God in solitude. I need it. I sense that. Maybe soon, I'll take the time. Maybe tomorrow I'll obey his voice as he calls.

"Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest."

What about you? Are you finding it more and more difficult to really be with the people you're with? Do you need time away? One on one with your wife? Face to face with your husband? Over coffee with a friend? In a quiet place with God?

Go...get away.

Short term missions...

The Washington Post [quotes in blue] had an interesting piece titled Teen missions being retooled. Here are some snippets.

WASHINGTON — Not long ago, the families of Fairfax (Va.) Presbyterian Church spent thousands of dollars to fly their teens to Mexico for eight days of doing good. They helped build homes and refurbish churches as part of an army of more than 1 million mostly Christians who annually go on short-term international mission trips to work and evangelize in poverty-stricken lands.

Yet even as those trips have increased in popularity, they have come under increased scrutiny. A growing body of research questions the value of the trips abroad, which are supposed to bring hope and Christianity to the needy of the world, while offering American participants an opportunity to work in disadvantaged communities, develop relationships and charge up their faith.

Critics scornfully call such trips “religious tourism” undertaken by “vacationaries.” Some blunders include a wall built on the children’s soccer field at an orphanage in Brazil that had to be torn down after the visitors left. In Mexico, a church was painted six times during one summer by six different groups. In Ecuador, a church was built but never used because the community said it was not needed.

I don’t see how people serving on mission trips on their vacations is a bad thing. Of course, non-value added activities like re-painting the same thing or building inadequate or unnecessary structures is ridiculous. But those things can be prevented with good planning.

I heard of parts of Mexico referred to as the “Methodist ruins” because many churches started projects and didn’t follow through. Just because you are doing a good deed doesn’t mean you don’t need wisdom, discernment, superior planning and organization.

The church is sending out smaller teams of experts to work on projects with partner churches. For example, it is sending information technology professionals who are fluent in Spanish to a church in the Dominican Republic to train members in computer skills so they can get better jobs, MacDonald said.

Despite the concerns with trips abroad, their popularity is soaring. Some groups go as far away as China, Thailand and Russia. From a few hundred in the 1960s, the trips have proliferated in recent years. A Princeton University study found that 1.6 million people took short-term mission trips — an average of eight days — in 2005. Estimates of the money spent on these trips is upward of $2.4 billion a year. Vacation destinations are especially popular: Recent research has found that the Bahamas receives one short-term missionary for every 15 residents.

At the same time, the number of long-term American missionaries, who go abroad from several years to a lifetime, has fallen, according to a Wheaton College study done last year.

The short-term mission trip is a “huge phenomenon that seems to be gaining in momentum rather than waning,” said David Livermore, executive director of the Global Learning Center at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, who studies the trend.

Participants care for orphans, hold Bible classes, evangelize, paint homes and churches and help AIDS patients, among other tasks.

But research has found that the trips tend to have few long-term effects on the local people or on the mission travelers. Some projects take away work from local people, are unnecessary and sometimes dangerous.

I wonder what groups they researched. That has not been my experience. Then again, we typically send teams to the same places over and over so that relationships are built and we can be sure we are making a difference.

“I really don’t think that most people are trying to be ugly Americans,” said Glenn Schwartz, executive director of World Mission Associates and author of When Charity Destroys Dignity. “But they’re misinformed and don’t realize how their good intentions can go awry.”

Mission groups also often bring their own experts and ignore local authorities on the ground.

In Monrovia, Liberia, three years ago, tragedy occurred when visitors built a school to their standards instead of Liberian standards. During the monsoon season, the building collapsed, killing two children, Livermore said.

Understanding the local customs and needs is crucial. We always defer to local building practices.

Critics also question the expense involved in sending people long distances. Short-term missionaries pay $1,000 each, or far more, in plane fare and other expenses to get to remote destinations.

A 2006 study in Honduras found that short-term mission groups spent an average of $30,000 on their trips to build one home that a local group could construct for $2,000.

“To spend $30,000 to paint a church or build a house that costs $2,000 doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” said Kurt Ver Beek, a professor of sociology at Calvin College who conducted the research.

I think that misses the point. Mission trips aren’t just about the physical property being built or repaired. They are about relationships with the people, helping them in ways that are meaningful and lasting, sharing the Gospel and transforming the lives of those who go. It changes how you view the world.

And practically speaking, I’ve found that people who go on short term mission trips write more and bigger checks to help these areas, and they encourage others to do the same. Who better to tell people of the needs than those who have been there?

All of the objections brought up in the article could be dealt with by applying more wisdom and planning.

- Guest Blogger, Neil

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Graphic novel...

I'm about to start reading a graphic novel. I've been eagerly awaiting this book's arrival at the library. It came Monday, but I didn't get across town before the doors closed. So it's Wednesday and I'm drooling. Ted Dekker's circle trilogy was awesome and now it's out in extended comic book form - that's what a graphic novel is.

I'm a little disappointed that the first book didn't arrive at the same time as books two and three, but I'll deal with it. I know the basic story, so I can read them out of order and not get lost...I hope.

So if you don't see me for a day or two...I'm lost in another world.

The last lecture...

I wasn't really meaning to sit in front of my T.V. last night and watch Primetime, but that's what I did. I'd never heard of Randy Pausch, but I found the story of his last days and the lecture that made him famous (I guess) to be irresistable. I couldn't turn it off. My girls and I were glued to the set until the very end.

Please understand, I haven't viewed the entire lecture, nor have I read Pausch's book, but what I heard of it on the tube is pretty good advice for life. This Carnegie-Melon prof's purpose was to encourage his kids (and us too) to go after their dreams, to acheive what they want to acheive. They will have great guidance as they grow and mature because their dad thought through the things that really mattered...to him...for them.

Curious? You can watch the entire lecture on YouTube (it's 76 minutes long) or you can read an excerpt from Pausch's book, The Last Lecture, online. Hyperion Books, Pausch's publisher, has book viewer you can check out.

Enjoy! Dream! Live!

No one my age...

I was talking with someone the other day and they said, "...there is no one my age that wants to be as dedicated.." to the Lord as they used to be "back in the day." My friend was asking for prayer for a situation in his life and spoke sincerely of wanting God's direction and help. I promised to pray for him...and I have.

Here's something that came to me as I was thinking about my buddy's "no one my age" statement: There are few people of any age who want to be wholly devoted to the Lord Jesus. There are few who desire more than anything to follow his commands. That's the truth whether you're 23 or 46 or 97. Few choose to follow.

So if you're waiting for a crowd, you'll never start following. The crowd is going to follow their whims and their evil bent. But if you're looking for the greatest love that exists, if you're looking for a full life, choose to follow Jesus! Do what he commanded. Seek his direction every day and find the few others around you, whatever their age, who are attempting the same unpopular thing. You'll help encourage them and they'll keep you going.

Matthew 7:13-14, "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (NIV)

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Praying for patients...

As an EMT...

There are limits to what I can do medically for my patient on any given call. I can monitor his vital signs, administer oxygen, work to stop bleeding, assist breathing and a few other things. If I'm driving, I can drive quickly and safely to the hospital so he can get more advanced care. I joke with friends, telling them, "We put oxygen on people and drive really fast."

As a follower of Jesus...

I can do much more to care for my patient. I can bring God to the scene and into the ambulance. I can quietly plead for God's help and wisdom and protection - both for myself and my partners. I can silently ask for mercy and healing for every person under our care. I pray regularly for my patients when I'm called out to an emergency. (I've only prayed out loud with one person.) I pray for my friends when I'm not able to go with them to the scene.

As an EMT/follower of Jesus...

I urge you to pray to God when you hear sirens. Pray for the EMTs and their patients. Pray for firefighters who put their lives on the line to save people and property. And pray for the police as they serve the public. On behalf of all public safety officers, I thank you now for your support.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The art of the long meal...

I finished Velvet Elvis. I'm still ruminating on what Bell had to say, but I'm getting ready to go home now and I think I'll do my best to do as he suggests in this passage...

"Central to reclaiming creation and being a resurrection community is the affirmation that when God made the world, God said it was 'good'.

"And it still is.

"Food and music and art and friends and stories and rivers and lakes and oceans and laughter and...did I mention food? God has given us life, and God's desire is that we live it. It is the job of the church to lead the world in affirming and, more important, enjoying the goodness of creation. We are not going somewhere else at the end of time, becuase this world is our home. And our home is good.

"One of the most tragic things ever to happen to the gospel was the emergence of the message that Jesus takes us somewhere else if we believe in him. The Bible ends with God coming here. God, in the midst of all the people who can imagine nothing better, celebrating the life that we all share. The images Jesus used were of banquets and feasts and celebrations. What do we do at parties such as these? We eat and talk and dance and enjoy each other and above all else, we take our time. What does Jesus do almost as much as he teaches and heals? He eats long meals. As Christians, it is our duty to master the art of the long meal." (p. 170-171)

Enjoy your family as you eat with them today! Laugh and enjoy what God has give you! Blessings to you from God our Father, Maker of all that is good!

Good news for everybody...

I couldn't resist. I was reading along and this passage from Velvet Elvis disturbed me, invigorated me. It's full of truth to be pondered. Read it with your mind open!

"Another truth about the church we're embracing is that the gospel is good news, especially for those who don't believe it.

"Imagine an average street in an average city in an average country, if there is such a place. Let's imagine Person X lives in a house on this street. Next door is a Hindu, and on the other side is a Muslim. Across the street is an atheist, next door to them an agnostic, and next door on the other side, someone from Ohio.

"Imagine Person X becomes a Christian. Maybe she read something or had friends who inspired her to learn more, or maybe she had an addiction and through a recovery movement she surrendered her life to God. However it came to be, she became a follower of Jesus. Let's say she starts living out Jesus' teachings, actually taking him seriously that she can become a compelling force for good in the world. She is becoming more generous, more compassionate, more forgiving, more loving. Is she becoming a better or worse neighbor? If we are her neighbors, we're thrilled about her new faith. We find ourselves more and more grateful for a neighbor like this. We wish more people would be like this.

"Let's make some observations about this street. The good news of Jesus is good news for Person X. It's good news for Person X's neighbors. It's good news for the whole street. It's good news for people who don't believe in Jesus. We have to be really clear about this. The good news for Person X is good news for the whole street. And if it is good news for the whole street, then it's good news for the whole world.

"If the gospel isn't good news for everybody, then it isn't good news for anybody." (p. 166-167)

The bill has been paid...

Ok...so I'm getting a lot out of Rob Bell's musings in Velvet Elvis. I think this will be my last post today from his book, but this story had to be retold...

"I was having breakfast with my dad and my younger son and the Real Food Cafe on Eastern Avenue just south of Alger in Grand Rapids. We were finishing our meal when I noticed that the waitress brought our check and then took it away and then brought it back again. She placed it on the table, smiled, and said, 'Somebody in the restaurant paid for your meal. You're all set.' And then she walked away.

"I had the strangest feeling sitting there. The feeling was helplessness. There was nothing I could do. It had been taken care of. To insist on paying would have been pointless. All I could do was trust that what she said was true was actually true and then live in that. Which meant getting up and leaving the restaurant. My acceptance of what she said gave me a choice: to live like it was true or to create my own reality in which the bill was not paid.

"This is our invitation. To trust that we don't owe anything. To trust that something is already true about us, something has already been done, something has been there all along.

"To trust that grace pays the bill." (p. 151-152, Velvet Elvis)

Emergency!

I've been eagerly awaiting a package from Amazon for almost a week. On the evening of my birthday, I ordered the entire first season of one of my childhood T.V. favorites, Emergency!, using birthday money given to me by two wonderful, generous ladies. This is a completely trivial thing and yet it brings me great joy to announce the arrival in the mail today of almost 11 hours of EMS-focused entertainment. Can't wait to crack it open and share it with my kids, my EMT buddies, anyone! Come on by!

God has faith in you...

Rob Bell again...

"God has an incredibly high view of people. God believes that people are capable of amazing things.

"I have been told that I need to believe in Jesus. Which is a good thing. But what I am learning is that Jesus believes in me.

"I have been told that I need to have faith in God. Which is a good thing. But what I am learning is that God has faith in me.

"The rabbi [Jesus] thinks we can be like him." (p. 134, Velvet Elvis)

Sabbath...

God told the people of Israel to, "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy." He said, "Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work..." (See Exodus 20:8-11 for the full text.)

Rob Bell (Velvet Elvis) woke me up to what the command is really all about...

"Sabbath is taking a day a week to remind myself that I did not make the world and that it will continue to exist without my efforts.

"Sabbath is a day when my work is done, even if it isn't.

"Sabbath is a day when my job is to enjoy. Period.

"Sabbath is a day when I am fully available to myself and those I love most.

"Sabbath is a day when I remember that when God made the world, he saw that it was good.

"Sabbath is a day when I produce nothing.

"Sabbath is a day when I remind myself that I am not a machine.

"Sabbath is a day when at the end I say, 'I didn't do anything today,' and I don't add, 'And I feel so guilty.

"Sabbath is a day when my phone is turned off, I don't check my email, and you can't get ahold of me." (p. 118)

Do you need a Sabbath? Rest in the Lord sometime this week.

Beyond forgiveness...

I'm reading, Velvet Elvis, by Rob Bell - a dangerous book if you want to keep on living for Jesus as you've always lived for Jesus. He continually points out the problems with the "religious" views and practices so prevalent in the American church today. We have made a religion out of a relationship. (I'm not saying this as well as he does.)

So I'm reading along today and I find this paragraph that I just have to share with someone. You, if you're still reading this post, are one of the someones God wanted to give this truth to.

So here goes. From Velvet Elvis...

"The point of the cross isn't forgiveness. Forgiveness leads to something much bigger: restoration. God isn't just interested in the covering over of our sins; God wants to make us into the people we were originally created to be. It is not just the removal of what's being held against us; it is God pulling us into the people he originally had in mind when he made us. This restoration is why Jesus always orients his message around becoming the kind of people who are generous and loving and compassionate. The goal here isn't simply to not sin. Our purpose is to increase the shalom [Bell descibed shalom earlier as the presence of the goodness of God in all of life] in this world, which is why approaches to the Christian faith that deal solely with not sinning always fail. They aim at the wrong thing. It is not about what you don't do. The point is becoming more and more the kind of people God had in mind when we were first created." (p. 108)

So there you have it. Live for God. Become, by His power, who He wants you to be. Free from the guilt and the power of sin. Free to live wholeheartedly for Him. Filled up with Him.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Power...

I'm walking through life, minding my own business, and someone throws me for a loop. I don't recall who it was, but someone I was talking with or listening to recently opened my eyes to the full meaning of a familiar passage.

The passage in question was Matthew 20:25-28.

"Jesus called them together and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (NIV)

I've read those words dozens of times. They're among those I've got memorized, or nearly so. Still, I wasn't ready for this statement concerning them: "Jesus is telling us that power has no place in the life of a Christian."

Looking at Jesus' words now, I see it. I don't understand how I missed it before. There's to be NO lording it over others. There's only to be serving in the life of a believer.

Is that the way things are in the church? Unfortunately not. There are power plays. There is manipulation. There's all kinds of human effort and energy exerted in an effort to gain the upper hand.

God forgive us. God forgive me. I've played the control game a few times. Make me a servant. Make my brothers and sisters servants.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Fireproof...

I ran across a movie that piqued my interest. It's about the difficulties emergency responders have in their relationships. Here's the story in a nutshell...

At work, inside burning buildings, Capt. Caleb Holt lives by the old firefighter's adage: Never leave your partner behind. At home, in the cooling embers of his marriage, he lives by his own rules.

Growing up, Catherine Holt always dreamed of marrying a loving, brave firefighter...just like her daddy. Now, after seven years of marriage, Catherine wonders when she stopped being "good enough" for her husband.

Regular arguments over jobs, finances, housework, and outside interests have readied them both to move on to something with more sparks.

As the couple prepares to enter divorce proceedings, Caleb's father challenges his son to commit to a 40-day experiment: "The Love Dare." Wondering if it's even worth the effort, Caleb agrees-for his father's sake more than for his marriage. When Caleb discovers the book's daily challenges are tied into his parents' newfound faith, his already limited interest is further dampened.

While trying to stay true to his promise, Caleb becomes frustrated time and again. He finally asks his father, "How am I supposed to show love to somebody who constantly rejects me?"

When his father explains that this is the love Christ shows to us, Caleb makes a life-changing commitment to love God. And with God's help he begins to understand what it means to truly love his wife.

But is it too late to fireproof his marriage? His job is to rescue others. Now Caleb Holt is ready to face his toughest job ever ... rescuing his wife's heart.

Hope you'll go see Fireproof when it comes out in September.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Fun fact?

I was playing "Question of the Day" on Facebook not too long ago and this "Fun Fact" popped up when I answered a question...

"The majority of children in Sweden and Denmark are born out of wedlock."

That, my friends, is not a fun fact at all. It's a sad fact. God help us.

Relational Wisdom (Part 3)

Proverbs 11 has more wisdom for dealing with others...

“A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue. A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.” (Proverbs 11:12-13, NIV)

“Loose lips sink ships,” the old saying goes. Loose lips sink relationships too.

Of all the difficulties you’ve had with family members, how many could’ve been avoided had you kept your mouth shut? Most, right? But you keep talking. (I do too.) You speak more freely than you ought. You speak about others negatively. You slander folks thinking it will never get back to them. But it almost always does. And then you’ve got a relationship to fix. You’ve betrayed a friend. The wounds are deep. They will not heal quickly. Trust will not return overnight.

Jonathon and David were fast friends. Problem is Jonathon’s dad hated David. Didn’t just hate him. Saul wanted David dead. Jonathon’s lips were sealed though. He could keep a secret. Even when he knew David’s whereabouts, he remained silent. He would not betray his friend.

What you know about another is not to be given away lightly. Do not make public your friend’s problems. Talk only with her about what troubles her heart. Say nothing to anyone else, not even as a matter for prayer. Be trustworthy and your relationships will be deep and satisfying.

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Ruthlessly eliminate hurry...

"Busyness is the enemy of spirituality. It is essentially laziness. It is doing the easy thing instead of the hard thing. It is filling our time with our own actions instead of paying attention to God's actions." (1991 Interview)

John Ortberg asked Dallas Willard what was the one thing Willard could recommend that would bring new energy to Ortberg’s spiritual life. Ortberg says that Willard’s reply was “shocking in its simplicity.” Dallas Willard looked him in the eye and said, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life, for hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our world today.”

- Guest Blogger, Adam

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Relational Wisdom (Part 2)

There’s a book within the Bible that, in short pithy sayings, gives loads of direction to strengthen relationships. Written by the wisest man who ever lived, the book of Proverbs has much to say about living peaceably with your neighbors. King Solomon's advice is practical, down-to-earth, usable stuff. He possibly gained some of it from his shepherd-boy-turned-royal dad, David, but let's not forget this: What he wrote was inspired by God. His wisdom was - and still is today - from the Maker of Heaven and Earth. His counsel is a gift from the Almighty to all mankind. We can trust the wisdom of his words because they are God's words.

That Israel 's wisest leader did not always follow his own godly instruction does not make that instruction less valuable. Solomon lived under the same curse you and I live under. He was tempted. Sometimes he resisted. Sometimes he didn't. That's how it is with us too. Wise when we turn to God for help. Foolish when we trust our own strength.

So as we turn to the book of Proverbs, keep this in mind. Without God's help you cannot do what God suggests will make your relationships strong. You must submit yourself to God and plead for mercy and grace to obey. That's true in all areas of life. You need help. Ask for it now as we talk about relationships and always, no matter the circumstance.

We begin in Proverbs, chapter 3. Verses three and four give us our first bit of direction concerning relationships.

"Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man." (Proverbs 3:3-4, NIV )

If you want great relationships, you must be loving, you must be faithful. Too many people are focused on the other guy. He's not being loving. He's not faithful. Someone else is always to blame for relational failure.

Friends, don't go there. You stick with your friends even when they get flaky. You hang with them through hell and high water. You pray for them when they wander from God. In doing so, you will gain favor with all men.

Jesus' actions toward Peter following his resurrection are a perfect example of faithfulness.
Peter had denied Jesus in his hour of greatest need. Three times the coward, seeking to save his own skin, had said, "I don't know the man...I don't know what you're talking about...Jesus who?"
The third time Peter spoke the cock crowed. It was just as Jesus had predicted. Jesus looked at Peter and Peter turned away. He had called down curses on himself denying his relationship with his Master vehemently. Peter, stricken with guilt, ran from the courtyard weeping bitterly.
The next day Jesus was executed, hung on a cross between two thieves. Peter hadn't stood with him. No one had testified on his behalf. Jesus was alone. He died. John saw it. He was at the foot of the cross. Peter was in hiding.


Three days later, Jesus was up from the grave. He'd done what he came to do. He'd paid the penalty for sin. He'd opened Heaven to sinners. He had conquered death.

So he appeared to his disciples. There are several accounts of these visits, but none so powerful as the one recorded in the last chapter of John. There we find Jesus and Peter together again, walking along the shore of the Sea of Tiberias . Jesus asks three times, "Do you love me?" Peter affirms his love for his Master three times. Jesus three times commissions Peter to lead the church.

Jesus was faithful to Peter despite Peter's faithless denials. That faithfulness won Peter's undying love. He followed Jesus from that day forward. He lived faithfully as his Master had. He died committed to our Savior.

Do you love your friends like Jesus loved Peter? Are you as faithful to others as he was to his disgraced disciple? If sticking with unfaithful friends seems too hard, hold on. You're thinking like an unbeliever. You are a believer. You have the Spirit of God in you. He is producing his fruit in your life. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. You can be faithful. Trust God to help you. Love. Be faithful. You will find favor with men. You will gain a good name. Better yet, your God will be pleased.

"Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man." (Proverbs 3:3-4, NIV )

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Playing Legos...

My daughter asked me to play Legos tonight. How could I resist?

I'm thinking, Build cool stuff. My brothers and I spent hours when we were kids building forts and ships and airplanes and fire stations and...

My littlest is thinking, Make plastic blocks talk to each other and play party games together.

We did both. I built a jet with black and yellow blocks, landing lights and red flames coming out the engine at the back. That girl of mine, the one who begged to play Legos, made the outer walls of a house in which the "people" could play.

We finished our projects about the same time. My jet was set aside and I was assigned to be five "guests" at the party. Each in turn, my Lego "people," only one of which was a person, knocked on the door. They were all welcomed graciously by their host.

Then the games began. Everyone circled up for Duck, Duck, Goose. We played multiple rounds, quitting only when it was time for bed. Before my youngest climbed the stairs to put on her PJs, each of the plastic friends had to be comfortable and cozy under their covers. I guess the get-together was a sleep-over. The invitation hadn't said anything about that.

Tomorrow morning we've got to fix everyone breakfast.

Relational Wisdom (Part 1)

Relationships are, in reality, our most valued treasures, worth far more than gold or silver. Worth the investment of hours of our time. Worth the expenditure of tons of energy. Worth struggling through conflict to maintain.

They can be incredibly rewarding. I enjoy talking with my wife in the relative cool of the evening as we walk around town. I love singing crazy songs and laughing wildly with my girls after supper. I find great pleasure in reading a personal letter from a friend or hearing their voice on the phone.

They can also be terribly painful. I hate it when my actions or my words hurt someone in the church. I feel sick when my wife and I are at odds or when my girls think I’m a creep. I do not enjoy phone calls or emails from angry folks though I know they’re a necessary part of patching things up.

Over the next few days I’ll send some biblical direction for maintaining good relationships your way. But don’t wait one more day to begin work on your relationships. Pray for your friends and enemies, your spouse and your kids, your neighbors and your distant kin. Pray and do the loving things God tells you to do.


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Half and half...

In less than two weeks, my wife and I will celebrate our 21st wedding anniversary. Since we were both 21 when we married, we will have, at somewhere around 11 o'clock, been married longer than we were single. I'm so glad that God brought Susan into my life and that he saw fit for her to say, "Are you serious?!!" when I proposed. (She said, "YES!!" soon afterwards.) I'm glad she stuck with me when I frustrated the daylights out of her. And I'm glad I didn't cut and run during our difficult first years. We were both pretty angry and selfish and wounded back then. God was merciful and gave us his strength to carry on. He has remained merciful and given us joy in him and in each other. With his help we will continue for many more years. Hey! It's only 29 years until our 50th!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Pray and care...

During EFM Board meetings at the end of May I had an opportunity to pray with Dave Robinson, our Yearly Meeting superintendent. As soon as I greeted him one morning, Dave told me about an email he’d just received. A relative of his, a nephew, was bleeding internally and the doctors were having trouble diagnosing the cause. The family was anxious for a resolution. Internal bleeding does that to families. Folks aren’t especially enthusiastic about serious problems of unknown origin.

Anyway, when Dave finished reading the note, I offered to pray. Dave said alright and we bowed our heads. I prayed about the situation briefly and then we parted ways.

Opportunities to pray with people and reasons to pray for people abound, don’t they? Think back over the past week or two. Do you recall any conversations that did or could have led to a short time of prayer? Think! Did anyone tell you about some difficulty they were facing? In a society that encourages us to hide problems from each other, that’s significant. Most people keep up a fa├žade. “Everything’s fine,” is our mantra. “I’m doing great,” our biggest lie.

If someone tells you they’re in trouble, pray for them. If they’ll let you, pray with them…out loud! God wants to bless them through answered prayer or through his love expressed in your caring offer.


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DNA of humans and chimps 98% the same...

DNA of humans, chimps have 45,000,000 differences!

That wasn’t the subtitle of the August 17, 2006 Houston Chronicle article on the similarity of human and chimpanzee DNA, but it could have been. There are 3 billion letters in the human DNA genome, and they are 98.5% similar with chimps. DNA is fantastically complex, and the math yields 45 million differences. But of course the Chronicle article stated, “DNA of humans, chimps is 98% the same.”

Most of the “science” in the article was based on the unproven assumption that chimps and humans have a common ancestor. It would have been nice if they had explained how the DNA could have tens of millions of changes in only a few million years (according to their theory), as well as how it kept changing at the same pace throughout the human population without us veering off into multiple species. Or if it changed at a rapid pace, why did it do so for some and not others? And how did the males and females just happen to evolve similarly and simultaneously?

And where are those missing fossils? Shouldn’t the archeological finds be teeming with transitional fossils? Instead, we find explosions of fossils.

All life on earth, from bacteria to human beings, have at last 25% of DNA in common. The DNA of a nematode worm is 75% similar to that of humans. They could have mentioned that our DNA is 30% similar to bananas. But it is the differences that matter.

Nearly all cars have 4 wheels. That doesn’t mean they were genetically related, just that the designers have a model that works well so they replicate it. Perhaps next time the Chronicle will have headlines stating that “chimpanzees and humans are both carbon based life forms” or “Houston is hot in the summer.”

This is just another example of how our biases influence reporting.

Posted on July 15, 2008, by Neil on his 4simpsons blog. The blog is excellent. Check it out.

Monday, July 14, 2008

pastorEMT

I've thought a dozen times of starting a new blog - pastorEMT - to talk about the interesting mix of my two callings. But I've come to the conclusion that it's not to be. What would I write about? HIPAA won't let me talk about ambulance runs that I go on. Ethical considerations prevent me from talking about situations in the church. I'm not going to betray confidences. And then there's a practical consideration that applies to both. In a small town, I can't take the anonymous route. Everyone would figure out who I'd been talking to that afternoon or where the ambulance stopped.

Maybe some day when I'm retired from both...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Crazy relatives...


My nephews and neices made this video when they were together for the Fourth of July. It's pretty entertaining...to an uncle.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Humans more highly evolved?

Most people in our culture hold to the concept that humans are at the top of the food chain. Christians have a reason for making this assertion, however, the evolutionist doesn't. On what basis would an evolutionist believe that humans are better than penguins?

In a discussion I had with an evolutionist a few years ago, the evolutionist objected to the statement that he believes humans are evolved from apes. He said that we aren’t evolved from apes, but both apes and humans are evolved from an ape-like ancestor. This answer really does little to nothing to change the picture.

However, if we think like an evolutionist, we begin to open our eyes to understand that humans are not more evolved than apes, nor are apes more evolved than humans, but we are both more evolved than our ape-like ancestor. We are simply evolved in different directions than the other based on our environment. We can then, extrapolate that back through the entire evolutionary tree and affirm that we are no more or less evolved than gnats, or bats, or cats. All biological organisms alive today are equally evolved.

Therefore, why would we be so arrogant as to claim that we are the highest organism? This furthers the purposelessness of the evolutionary worldview. The idea that humans are more evolved than others is borrowed capital, built on top of the Biblical worldview. Only Biblical history has a consistent claim to humans being the crowning achievement, created in the image of God. (Genesis 1:26-28, Hebrews 2:7)

- Guest Blogger, Jon

Alarms...

A week or so ago on a Tuesday evening around 5:00pm, the mournful wail of the fire siren pierced the hot afternoon air. Firefighters came running from this way and that. Trucks sped west, lights flashing. The radio traffic was incessant for the next few minutes as Argonia’s bravest sought to locate the blaze.

A short time later, the alarm sounded again. Another fire, this one to the south. Our trusty volunteers showed their readiness once more. Within minutes of dispatch, their trucks were rolling.

Both fires were put out quickly, the first before they arrived on scene. I talked with a few of the guys at the station after they returned from fire two. They were hot and sweaty and, in their own words, a bit smelly. They were happy, though, as they put things back in order, readying their trucks for their next page out.

It came just before 11:00pm that night. Not sure if the warning went off a third time. I reset my pager, turned down my radio and dropped back in bed. I dreamt while they doused. I, like the majority of you, am not required to respond to most fires with anything more than curiosity.

You know what? God sounds warnings in the hearts of men and women every day. His signals warn everyone, everywhere to quit playing with fire.

Unfortunately, millions in our nation have the same apathetic response to God’s alarms as you and I have to local fire sirens. They yawn and go on. What God says means nothing to them. Who’s he to boss them around? His rules are outdated. They’re free people. He can’t tell them what to do.

And, on average, 5,000 to 7,000 of these Americans die each day.

Some, those who have believed on Jesus for their salvation, are immediately with their Savior in Heaven. Jesus on the cross gave us that hope of immediate reward when he spoke to the repentant thief on the cross. “…today you will be with me in paradise,” were his words of comfort and promise. (Luke 23:43, NIV) For the believer, to be absent from the body is to be present with Christ.

But most of those who die each day in the land of the free do not enter eternal rest. Instead they begin their long, eternal punishment.

Hell is real, folks. It is the forever prison of those who reject God and choose their own way. It is as physical a place as the eternal home of the saints is. Raised from the dead and given new bodies, clothed in the righteousness of Christ, those who have put their faith in Jesus will live joyfully on the New Earth and in the New Heaven. Raised from the dead in eternal bodies, all the unrepentant rebels will suffer unending physical torment and mental anguish in the Lake of Fire. If the one is true, the other must also be. Both places are spoken of extensively in the same book, the book through which God reveals truth. The Bible is clear on Heaven and Hell and clear on how to reach the one and avoid the other. You must believe on Jesus or be condemned.

From Jesus’ mouth we have these words: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” (John 3:16-21, NIV)

Why do men and women ignore the alarms God sets off in their hearts? They love darkness. They hate the light. They fear exposure of their evil deeds not realizing they’re already exposed before God. If only they would confess, they would be free. Instead they, like Adam and Eve in the Garden, hide from the One who loves them.

Are you among the hiders? God loves you. He sent his Son to die for you. There’s no greater love than that. I urge you to come out of hiding, confess your sin and be freed, be saved, be fully known and loved.


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