Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Don't Panic (Part 5)...

As we close out our discussion of panic and the fear of the Lord, listen to these good, encouraging, faith-building words from the Psalms.

"Fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing." (Psalm 34:9, NIV)

"Who, then, is the man that fears the LORD? He will instruct him in the way chosen for him." (Psalm 25:12, NIV)

"The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them." (Psalm 25:14, NIV)

"How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you." (Psalm 31:19, NIV)

"…the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you." (Psalm 33:18-22, NIV)

God bless you as you live in the fear of the Lord! Apply what you’ve learned to every area of your life. Don’t panic! Fear the Lord!


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Scanning...

Call me an emergency junkie! I set my radio to scan almost every time I go somewhere by myself. (Can't do it at work and concentrate or I'd have it running in my office too.)

This obsession has led to both laughter and tears...

One time I was listening in and dispatch came across the airwaves, as serious as serious can be, "Chihauhau at large." I nearly drove off the road laughing. I was thinking, "Don't call 911! Pick the silly thing up and be done with it! "

Another time I heard these words in measured tones: "One-month-old female. Child not breathing." Took my breath away. I prayed my way to town. I heard the awful words "Code Blue" from the responding unit as they left for the hospital. I sat in a parking lot and cried for that little girl's parents.

Some of you are scannerholics too. Remember that the people talking and those being talked about are real folks with real emotions. Pray for them! Hurt with them! Laugh too!

Don't Panic (Emergency Responders)...

EMTs and paramedics, God's message to you is the same as it is to anyone else. Don't panic! Fear God!

Panic shouts, "They're going to die if I don't act quickly!" Fear of the Lord calmly does what needs to be done. It works efficiently rather than frenetically. It acknowledges God's power over life and death and trusts His wisdom.

Panic takes unnecessary risks, endangering partners and patients. Fear of the Lord evaluates risk and acts wisely. It waits when help is needed. It does not rush in where fools fear to tread. It remembers that an injured rescuer cannot rescue.

Panic ignores the "crazy" director's instructions. Fear of the Lord submits to authority. It follows Command's plan even when it seems to make no sense. It does not act "heroically" when "heroics" are uncalled for.

Panic whispers, "If you mess up, they'll sue!" Fear of the Lord gives peace of mind. It allows you to focus peacefully on protocols and routines. It leaves results and consequences up to God.

Police officers, firefighters, nurses, doctors, every other kind of emergency responder...I don't know all of the ways these principles are relevant to your duties, but I know that they apply. Hear God's voice...Don't panic! Fear God!

Don't Panic (Part 4)...

Panic or fear of the Lord – which is most often present in your life? You’ve got a little of both, I know, but which is dominant? Do you take things into your own hands more often than not? Are you always causing pain for others? Are you a disaster creating fool? Or are you more prone to trusting God? Are people blessed by your fear-of-the-Lord actions? Do your Spirit-empowered words bring healing and peace?

We’ve been talking about panic and fear of the Lord in other people’s lives. David had both. Saul/Paul had both. And we could find both in a dozen more Bible characters. But we don’t want to focus on others and miss entirely God’s personal message of hope for you and me.

We’re mixed up messes, panicking and fearing God, acting impulsively on our own and waiting patiently for God to come through. That means we’re just the kind of people God can use to show the world how much power he has to change people’s lives. You’re the King David this generation needs to see. I’m the Saul of our day. Our neighbors are watching us to see what fear of the Lord looks like. They’re depending on us to bring blessing into their lives. They’re counting on us to reject panic and choose faith.

So let’s talk about how we can be a blessing to the folks around us, those we hold dear.

This is where the rubber meets the road. Fearing the Lord affects every area of life. It is the way to blessing for yourself, your family and your friends in so many circumstances. I hope you will choose more often to fear God rather than panic when were through. These examples of application are meant to encourage you to trust and obey.

Ready?

Let’s talk about dating.

Dads, panic will cause you to meet your daughter’s date at the door with a shotgun. Fear of the Lord will cause you to drop to your knees and pray for your little girl and the guy she’s going out with. I can entrust my daughters to God and allow young men to take them places without me. God is a better protector than me. He’ll be with them on every date. He’ll give them courage when they need it and joy too.

Girls, panic will cause you to give in when your boyfriend says, “If you love me, you will.” Fear of the Lord will give you the strength to say no and to patiently wait for the right guy to come along. You can trust God to provide a godly man to be your husband if that’s in his plans for you. God is a wiser matchmaker than your friends. Wait for him and he will work it all out. Just keep following and remain pure.

Guys, panic will cause you to ask for things now that God invites you to wait for. Fear of the Lord will give you the strength to resist temptation and ignore the locker room jeering of friends who’ve already scored on a dozen dates. Wait! You’ll get plenty of sex when you’re married and it will be by far better than anything you get from a girl in the backseat of your clunker. And you won’t have to panic when the girls tells you she’s pregnant and her dad comes after you with his 12-gauge. I guarantee looking down the barrel of a loaded gun will put the fear of God in you.

Can we talk about work?

Employees, panic will cause you to stab others in the back to protect yourself. Fear of the Lord will lead you to serve the company and your coworkers to the best of your God-given ability. You can trust God to provide promotions and raises in his perfect timing and by his godly means. You don’t have to steal stuff from the office to make up for being underpaid and overworked. You don’t have to lie or cheat even when your boss threatens to terminate your employment.

Colossians 3:22-24, “Obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (NIV)

Employers, supervisors, panic causes you to mistrust those under your authority and to treat them unkindly. Fear of the Lord leads you to provide a fair and honest wage for those in your employ. It causes you to care about those who are not measuring up, confronting them in love and seeking their best. It makes you want to reward those who work hard to make you and the company look good. It refuses to cut corners and shortchange customers who “wouldn’t know any better.”

Marriage.

Panic causes husbands and wives to serve themselves rather than their spouse. Fear of the Lord leads husbands to lay down their lives for their wives as Christ laid down his for the church. Fear of the Lord leads wives to respect their husbands and look out for their needs. Panic makes bailing out look like a terribly attractive option when things aren’t going so well. Fear of the Lord prays hardest during difficult times. It refuses to give up. It recommits to long-forgotten vows made before God and seeks his help in going on. It seeks satisfaction in God’s love when the flame of human love is going out.

Dare I mention school?

Panic says that already completed essay I found on the internet will boost my grade. Fear of the Lord says no to “borrowing” work from others. It chooses hard work over cheating. Panic shouts, “I’ll never pass this test!” Fear of the Lord trusts God to come through. It leads you to study hard. It urges you to pray for help in remembering what you know. It chooses calm confidence in the midst of the train-of-thought derailments that come from time to time.

We can’t forget money.

Panic is sure there won’t be enough paycheck left at the end of the month. Fear of the Lord lays out the bills before God and says, “How are you going to come through this time?” It seeks first God’s kingdom and his righteousness knowing that what is truly needed will be supplied. Panic refuses to give to neighbors in need. It demands sacrifices of others but not of self. Fear of the Lord is generous. It trusts God to provide more so that more can be given away.

“As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. ‘I tell you the truth,’ he said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.’” (Luke 21:1-4, NIV)

That’s trust to the extreme. Surely you can trust God to care for you. You can be generous. You can meet needs and bless your friends. The fear of the Lord always produces blessings.

Have I shared enough examples for you to get the idea? Panic is never God’s will. Panic leads to sin. It causes pain, creates disasters, causes destruction. Fear of the Lord is God’s will for you. It leads to peace of mind. It always produces blessing – for the God-fearer and for those he or she serves in love.

What is God saying to you? Has he brought a specific situation to mind as you’ve been reading? Are you panicked about something right now? Take a moment and write that situation down and ask God to show you how to trust him when all you want to do is panic, panic, panic! Write it down and pray for faith to do what God says to do.


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Oh what a(nother) beautiful morning...


I had to run over my office this morning and, walking back home, I was greeted by this beautiful sunrise. The picture doesn't do it justice. Take my word for it. It was really, really pretty.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Don't Panic (Part 3)

Saul was a really religious guy. Went to the right school. Had the right theology professor. He was tops. Knew the Scriptures – what we call the Old Testament – backwards and forwards. Knew too that this new band of Jesus freaks had to be disbanded before they messed everything up.

So he panicked. He was an unholy terror, throwing rocks at people, going door to door hauling the fool-followers off to prison.

Pain, disaster and destruction, right? Sort of. You see the church folks got wise and got out. They scattered far and wide and everywhere they went they told people about Jesus and the movement grew. Now there were churches in Judea and Samaria. There were churches to the north and south, to the east and west. Certainly not what Saul had had in mind when he started raiding Jesus gatherings, but what he should have expected. You see these people Saul was out to destroy feared God and thus enjoyed his blessing. They feared God and took his blessing wherever they went. The fear of the Lord always produces blessing – for the God-fearers or for those they serve.

So what did Saul do? He got into a real tizzy. He asked for letters to go after the fleeing church. “I’ll show them,” he thought. “You can run, but you can’t hide.”

And on the road to Damascus, his first target city, Jesus showed up in all his glory. Dazzlingly bright light surrounded him. Saul fell to the ground afraid. He was about to get the fear of God.

“Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me?” Jesus asked.

“Who are you, Lord,” Saul asked in reply.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” was Jesus’ reply. Then he added, “Get up and go into the city and you will be told what to do.”

Saul obeyed. He was led by the hand into the city, blinded by the light. For three days he fasted and prayed. No food. No drink. Saul was serious about knowing the truth.

Then God sent Ananias, a church of Damascus guy, to him. Ananias wasn’t so sure about this assignment. He’d heard of all the harm Saul had caused in Jerusalem. He knew he was in town to raise cain. But God said, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

So Ananias went. He spoke boldly to Saul. “Brother Saul, the Lord – Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here – has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

And Saul was healed in an instant. He could see again. After a bite to eat, the man headed out on his new mission as God-fearer and everywhere he went he brought blessing. That’s what people with the fear of the Lord in them do. The Gentiles were blessed. Their kings were blessed. The people of Israel were blessed. You and I are blessed today by this fearer of God, his life example and the words the Holy Spirit inspired him to pen speak to us and embolden us to act in the fear of the Lord as he did.

The fear of the Lord always produces blessing.


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Fireproof's hot!!!!

Here is the list of the top-grossing films from this past weekend (look at what's at #4) based on Friday-Sunday estimates:

1. Eagle Eye, $29.2 million
2. Nights in Rodanthe, $13.6 million
3. Lakeview Terrace, $7 million
4. Fireproof, $6.5 million
5. Burn After Reading, $6.1 million
6. Igor, $5.5 million
7. Righteous Kill, $3.803 million
8. My Best Friend's Girl, $3.8 million
9. Miracle at St. Anna, $3.5 million
10. Tyler Perry's The Family That Preys, $3.2 million


Can't wait to go see Fireproof and boost their numbers! Have you seen it?

(Source: E! Online, compiled by Exhibitor Relations)

Don't Panic (Part 2)...

David, Israel’s great king, is a mixed up mess, fearing God one minute, panicking the next.

He trusts God to deal with King Saul, refusing to kill his tormentor when opportunities present themselves…twice! He knows God will be faithful. He’s been promised the throne. “All in God’s good time,” he tells his men.

And God comes through. Saul is killed in battle. David becomes king.

David’s fear of God brings blessing. The nation of Israel gains a godly leader. The Philistines are defeated. The ark is returned to its place in the tabernacle. Life is good for everyone.

A few years later, David sees a beautiful woman – make that a beautiful married woman – bathing on her rooftop. He sends a servant to find out who she is. He’s told her name, Bathsheba. He’s told she’s married. He has all the facts needed to put out the fires of lust, but he ignores them. He has Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife, brought to the palace for a one night stand. In the morning he sends her home.

A short time later, the woman sends word to David. “I’m pregnant,” is her terse, to-the-point message. David hears the words and panics. He brings his mistress’ husband home from war under the false pretenses.

“Go home to your wife,” he urges the man. But Uriah doesn’t go. He denies himself this fleshly pleasure, nobly abstaining while others’ lives are at stake on the front lines.

The king gets the man drunk the next night in hopes that good sense will leave the man. Doesn’t work. Even inebriated, Uriah is faithful.

So David, the man the Bible describes as a man after God’s own heart, has Uriah murdered to cover up his indiscretion.

And the results? David is rebuked by God’s man, Nathan. He repents, grief-stricken at his wickedness. Still, his baby’s life, the son conceived in sin, is taken by God. And later, another of David’s sons, Absalom, rapes his father’s concubines in broad daylight.

Pain, disaster, destruction – these are the almost sure results of panic. Choose fear of the Lord over panic today.


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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Don't Panic (Part 1)...

There are two kinds of fear – panic and the fear of the Lord. Both are present in my life. I have on more than one occasion panicked, taken matters into my own hands, messed things up royally. And, amazingly, I’ve feared the Lord too. I’ve taken matters to God and seen Him come through.

Panic and fear – I’m a mixed up mess of both.

A few years back I was faced with a situation that I feared would turn explosive. There were a couple of people involved who had, in the past, had difficulties working together. I was already nervous about the whole thing when one of the two called me with tons of questions about the project. I heard the questions he was asking and panicked. I was sure his queries would stir up trouble. What was I going to do? I didn’t want this venture to grind to a halt.

I decided to call the other guy and ask the questions myself, hoping that keeping the two separated would maintain peace. Now, mind you, I didn’t ask God about this course of action. I didn’t even think about it much. I just acted. The results were disastrous. My actions drove a wedge between me at the guy I called to question. We were at odds for months. We hardly spoke to one another. And, I’m sure this won’t surprise any of you, the endeavor I so much wanted to protect died. I learned the hard way what many of you probably already know: Panic almost always leads to pain, disaster or destruction. I say almost always because God is sometimes gracious. He sometimes protects us from our own foolishness.

Panic concerning the increasing numbers of Israelites in his land led Pharaoh, king of Egypt, to enslave God’s people. When that didn’t work, his panic led him to command the midwives to slaughter every baby boy born to an Israelite woman and when these women failed him, he demanded that every Hebrew boy be thrown in the Nile.

Pain, disaster or destruction! Panic will lead to one of these nearly every time. Am I right? You’ve seen it in your own life, haven’t you? Have you also seen how fearing God can lead to blessing?

Fast forward a year or two or three and our Executive Council starts talking about hiring a youth pastor. I know, as we’re discussing the matter, that there’s going to be opposition to the idea when we go public with it. There is always opposition when any venture that involves risk of any kind, but it’s especially strong when that undertaking involves financial risk. So I’m sure each time we meet that questions are going to fly when we first bring up the idea to others. We talk about that. We try to dream up questions together. What will questions will we be asked? How can we best answer them? Our meetings are really good.

We finally decide to bring up the matter, so I put the first mention of hiring a youth pastor in the bulletin on a Sunday I’m away on vacation. Maybe that’s a bit of panic. I don’t know. And the questions come. Everyone corners the chairman of our elders and asks what’s up. The head of Executive Council gets grilled after church. I enjoy my vacation.

So the day of the meeting finally arrives. We meet together as a congregation to talk things over. I choose to trust God – to fear him rather than panic. I choose not to manipulate those who oppose the idea. I just sit back and see what God does. I make a only a few comments, mostly for clarification.

The meeting was really good. Those who opted to stay home missed a good one. God was present as we discussed peacefully the difficulties involved in hiring a youth pastor and the benefits. No one got bent out of shape when someone disagreed with them. The questions and comments were all spoken and answered politely and with consideration of others. There were folks for and against the idea who were passionate, yet respectful. Peace ruled rather than anger.

Fear of the Lord always produces blessing – for the God-fearer or for those he or she serves. Our meeting for clearness was an example of that truth. There are many others. You can think of events that went extremely well, better than expected, when you trusted God with them.

Peace, joy and thankfulness to God always flow from his children’s hearts when they trust him and see him work.

The Hebrew midwives trusted God. They feared him more than they feared Pharaoh. They would not kill the baby boys as they were born though they knew the consequences could be grim for them. They were summoned before the king – an event they had to have foreseen. They did not panic. With God-given wisdom, they avoided death. And because these women feared God more than man’s sword, they and the nation of Israel were blessed. God gave them families of their own and their names and actions are remembered to this day. Moses told Shiphrah’s and Puah’s story at the beginning of Exodus. And why not? A whole generation of Jewish men owed these God-fearing women their lives.

Two kinds of fear – panic and the fear of the Lord. You see both and the results of each so clearly in the actions and reactions of Pharaoh and the Hebrew midwives and in the lives of almost every character whose story the Bible tells. More often than not you see both kinds of fear in the same person. You find men whose backs are up against the wall trusting God to act on behalf of his children. And the next time you hear about this guy he’s arrogantly choosing his own way and bringing pain to God’s people. Funny how they’re just like you and me.

Over the next couple of days, we’re going to take a look at a couple of mixed up messes. We’re going to see how panic causes pain and how fear of the Lord brings blessing in David’s life and in Saul’s. Then when those stories are done, we’ll see how we can make good use of this panic vs. fear of the Lord distinction in our own lives.


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Thursday, September 25, 2008

The heavens declare (take 2)...

This morning as I got ready to run, I looked outside and it was sprinkling. I almost, almost did not go out. But I grabbed a jacket and my iPod, deciding to run anyway.

At the end of the drive as I turned west, there was a rainbow to the south. As my eye traveled, looking for the 'other end', Charlie Daniels was belting out a rockin' country version of Awesome God. The beautiful mix of purple, green and yellow blended together into a full arching rainbow going from the south to the north without a break! Absolutely spectacular! Running, I listened to God's awesomeness, marveled at His creation and praised Him for the promise the rainbow represents.

I was not looking forward to the point I would need to turn around and head back; putting the rainbow behind me. As I neared the 1/2 point to turn around, Awesome God ended and the next song come up. I remember thinking it would not be nearly as fitting as Awesome God. But here are the words I heard as I ran toward the rainbow; the visible reminder to us of God's promises.

Shout to the Lord all the earth let us sing , power and majesty praise to the King. Mountains bow down and the seas will roar at the sound of your name.I sing for joy at the work of your hand. Forever I'll love you, Forever I'll stand, Nothing compares to the promise I have in you!

As I enjoyed this colorful, fully arching rainbow, our visible reminder of God's promises, I turned around to head back east and I heard: Nothing compares to the promise I have in you, Oh Nothing compares to the promise I have in you. My Jesus, my Savior, Lord there is none like you.

What a great way to start the day; and to think ... I almost missed it!

- Guest Blogger, Carla

Six months...

Six months ago today, I entered the Equity Bank building at Rock Road and Kellogg Drive in Wichita to take my National Registry written exam. I was scared spitless. Would I pass?

Upon entering the Pearson VUE testing center's suite, I was electronically fingerprinted and my social security number was checked and double checked before I walked into a secure testing room.

I took the test - 73 questions - and left. Five and a half months of training hung in the balance and I had no idea if I'd passed or not. There were several questions that I guessed on. My mind was simply blank. I couldn't remember learning anything like what they were asking.

I went home and waited. I knew that it was likely that my test results wouldn't be up until the next morning, but I checked the NREMT website three or four times before dropping into bed a nervous wreck.

I awoke early the next morning, March 26, 2008, and logged on to NREMT.org again. No news at 6:30am. No news at 7:45am. I ran down to the City Building to talk with Richelle. I told her waiting was about to drive me crazy. I returned to my office at 8:30am and checked again.


"I passed!" I jumped up and down and screamed and shouted. I called Richelle. I called Susan. I called everyone I knew. "I passed! I passed! I passed!"


I've seen a lot in the past six months - a half dozen trauma cases, several chest pain calls, a possible stroke, a diabetic emergency, anaphylactic shock, a rescue from a river, one code blue, a few courtesy calls. I've been on standby at the rodeo and at a fire. This Friday I'll do my first football standby for the Homecoming game.


I'm glad God allowed me the privilege of serving him and my hometown as an EMT. I look forward to the next six months and the six months after that and the six months...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I don't approve of what he does...

"...there is someone I love, even though I don't approve of what he does. There is someone I accept, though some of his thoughts and actions revolt me. There is someone I forgive , though he hurts the people I love most. That person is me." - attributed to C.S. Lewis

God's concern...

"God is concerned with her soul, not just her behavior." (unChristian, page 196)

Everyone I meet has an eternal soul. Everyone you meet is loved by God. Can we treat everyone in ways that draw them toward a loving God rather than push them away from Him?

I get things backwards sometimes. I rant and rave about behavior and forget that Jesus came to save "sinners" (that includes me).

Would you admit it with me? Judging people's behavior is generally not helpful. We get defensive when we're judged by others.

Loving people where they are - that's powerful. It's what Jesus did. That's why "sinners" flocked to him. Maybe our friends would be more interested in Him if we were more interested in their soul than their behavior.

Empathy please...

A story from unChristian, by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons...

"A few weeks ago I visited a Christian Bible study at a church. Every once in a while I go because I know a few of the women. You know, I am still trying to figure out this Jesus thing. After the speaker talked for a while, we started a conversation at our table - about eight or nine of us women just chatting away. I was probably the youngest one there, but some of them were about my age. We got along pretty well...

"We were talking about sex, intimacy, and pregnancy, stuff like that. I told them about a friend of mine who was considering an abortion. I told them her entire situation, a twenty-year-old, boyfriend left her. She's feeling really alone. I made some comment about really empathizing with my friend, that I could understand that abortion might make sense. I guess that shocked them. I know the women there were pro-life and all - I don't know what I am, pro-life or pro-choice or just myself. But the conversation shifted at that point in a really weird way. Instead of having a dialogue, I was put on the defensive. They were nice enough about it, but the ladies just kept talking at me, trying to fix my attitude about abortion...

"And here is the part that bothered me, something I never told them. What they didn't know is that I had an abortion - a long time ago. It was not an experience I would wish on anyone. But I can feel my friend's dilemma because I lived it. I am not sure the Christians I hung out with that morning get that.

"I guess the truth is I was hoping for some empathy myself." (p. 181-182)

Oh what a beautiful morning...

There are things I love about living in Kansas. I love driving past golden wheat fields in the early summer. I love looking up at the night sky. There are more stars here than anywhere else on earth. I love riding my bike into the wind knowing that when I turn around I'll be blown back home at incredible speeds. I love looking out over a sunflower field in bloom. This is a beautiful state!

Monday, September 22, 2008

The heavens declare...

It’s that time again. The daytime temperatures are not climbing quite as high. The grass isn’t growing quite as quickly. It’s only a matter of time before frost paints the grass silvery gray and our breath fogs the early morning air. I love autumn. The reds and oranges and yellows of the trees remind me that God, our Creator, is infinitely imaginative. Even the remnants of beauty that we see in cursed creation point us to the perfect Designer.

“The heavens declare the glory of God;

the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;

night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language

where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth,

their words to the ends of the world.”
Psalm 19:1-4

Open your eyes and see what God has made. Open your mouths and declare His glory. Open your ears and hear the sound of everything that has breath praising his name. Our God is good. What He has made is very good. Praise be His holy name!

Friday, September 19, 2008

An evening with Sam...

Last night was a good night. I had a blast watching my eldest daughter run cross country at Anthony Lake. Her seventh place finish was her best yet and I got to witness it. Pretty cool! We stayed for the medal ceremony and then headed home, stopping at Subway in Harper for supper.

When we arrived at home, I headed out for "An Evening of Conversation with Rev. Sam Wood" at the ambulance barn. Sam is a pastor in Wichita and a certified traumatologist. What's that? Traumatologists are men and women who help emergency responders and others in caring professions walk through the very difficult time following an extremely stressful situation. Sam came to visit with all of us - Argonia EMS and fire - about the incident last Saturday/Sunday. We walked through our experience together sharing emotions, facts, care, etc. When we wrapped things up at 9:00, I felt better. Not completely out of the woods, but definitely better.

If you think of us (or of your town's emergency responders), pray that God would give us the strength for the task at hand. We will get another call sometime. And ask for peace of mind and spirit. Thanks.

Communicating...

A friend of mine just finished Communicating for a Change, a book I was personally refreshed and challenged by. His opinion...

I just finished perhaps the best book I’ve ever read on communication (public speaking, teaching, or “preaching”) called Communicating for a Change by Andy Stanley and Lane Jones. The book is very practical, very helpful, and very challenging. Some of my favorite quotes:

Let’s face it, the reason so many churches are half full on Sunday morning is because a whole bunch of people decided not to come back. Why? The preacher didn’t give ‘em anything to come back for. There were plenty of points, but nothing worth coming back for the following week. 115

I find something disingenuous about the speaker who says, “This is very, very important,” and then reads something from his notes. Constantly referring to notes communicates, “I have not internalized this message. I want everybody else to internalize it, but I haven’t.” 135

How you say what you say is as important as what you say. Presentation determines your audience’s attention span…The point is, when we are engaged, time flies. When we are not engaged time stands still. The issue is not the span of people’s attention. The issue is our ability to capture and hold people’s attention. 146-7

My assumption is, if I don’t capture the audience’s attention in the first five minutes, all is lost. 154

My style can become a smoke screen for any number of bad communication habits. Through the years I’ve heard too many preachers and teachers play the style card to keep from having to change and improve. Boring is not a style. Boring is boring. Confusing may be a style. But it is still confusing. Each of our communication habits, both good and bad, are part of our style. But bad habits need to be eliminated from our style, not defended as part of it. 170

Moral of the story, clarity trumps style. Clarity trumps just about everything. 175

This is good reading for anyone who wants to communicate for life change. Pastors! Read this book!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sometimes...

I was walking down the hallway at the grade school today when I met up with a young girl, couldn't have been more than a third-grader. She looked at me with big eyes and asked as innocently as can be, "Do you save lives?"

I wasn't sure what she was talking about, so I said, "What?"

"Do you save lives? I saw you on the news." She eyed my pager and radio. "Do you save lives?"

I answered her honestly, "Sometimes."

No matter how well I am trained, no matter how much experience my partner has, we can't always snatch our patient back from the Grim Reaper. We are not God. A good reminder to all my friends in EMS. We do what we can and "sometimes" we save lives.

Speak and act in love...

Jesus showed us that love for sinning people and firmness in calling sin, sin can work together to soften hardened hearts and prompt repentance.

Early one morning, our Master showed up at the temple. Soon a crowd gathered around him, so he sat down to teach them. It wasn’t the first time he’d opened school on the spur of the moment nor would it be his last. Jesus always taught eager students whenever, wherever they showed up. In synagogues. In homes. On the beach. At a well. On a mountainside. As he walked along the road. People had to love him for this. He was accessible. He was willing to associate with them.

Back to the temple courts. Not long after class got underway on this particular day, Jesus’ lecture was interrupted in a most unusual way. Some men drug a woman to the front of the class and started shouting at Jesus.

“Teacher,” they said, “this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act! Now Moses, in the law, commanded that such women be stoned. What do you say?”

All eyes turned to Jesus. What would he say? The law was clear. Both the man and the mistress were condemned to die. (Funny thing. The man wasn’t brought to class for show and tell. If they caught her, where was he? I’m sure the irony wasn’t lost on Jesus.)

Jesus looked at these religious phonies, then bent down and started scribbling in the dust. Chaos erupted among the woman’s accusers. They were ticked. Jesus was supposed to have said something to discredit himself by now. Their trap was to have been sprung.

Panicked, they bombarded Jesus with questions, shouting louder and louder.

“What do you say, teacher?”

“Are you going to ignore the law?”

“Do you think you’re better than Moses?”

Finally, Jesus quit dirt-writing for a moment and spoke. “The sinless one among you, go first. Throw the stone.”

With that, our Savior went back to doodling. No more questions came. Not one peep from a Pharisee. Not one “yeah, but” from a teacher of the law. Dead silence. The kind of quiet that follows correction by an elder. The kind of hush that is in itself an admission of fault. What could they say? They were all guilty of some sin.

Thump! The first man, the oldest of the bunch, dropped his rock and walked away. Thump! Another did the same. Thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, thump.

Finally the avalanche ended. The last man standing, the youngest of the class bullies, let his stone fall – thump. The scritch scratch of this young man’s sandaled feet scuffing the ground was the last the Master’s class heard of the lot of them that day.

Jesus paused as order returned to his lecture hall. Then rising to his feet, he spoke again. Looking directly at the adulteress standing before his class, he asked two questions. “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

Her answer to both could barely be heard. “No one, sir,” she said, then fell silent. Fear still gripped her heart. Shame still held her captive. She expected no mercy.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus said. “Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin. Leave that life behind.” (Story based on John 8:2-11.)

That story makes my heart ache for two things. First, it makes me want to be around my Savior more, to spend more time with him, to know who he really is. The Jesus I see here is someone anyone would love to know, to follow, to believe in. He’s firm yet forgiving Convicting but not condemning. Just rather than judgmental. Jesus’ heart goes out to the sinner. He loves the students hungry for his teaching. He loves the angry men pointing fingers at a caught sinner. He loves the woman who stands in front of his classroom. He loves them all enough to free them from their sin.

The men refuse his love. We know that a little while later, these are the same guys who arrest Jesus and turn him over to be put to death. They were offered freedom, but chose bondage to sin.

The students, many of them I’m sure, accepted Jesus’ love. We know that thousands came to believe on the birthday of the church. I can imagine that not a few of the men and women in the temple courts were among the church’s first members.

And the woman? We don’t know for sure, but many believe that she became a follower of her temple court rescuer. She went, as Jesus instructed, and left her life of sin.

Jesus. I’m glad to know this ultimate sin-hater – he is God and God is holy! – loves sinners deeply. I love the way he gently deals with this woman. I love him for setting her free.

His love for sinners – I want it in me. That’s the other longing this story of freedom stirs up.

“Jesus, would you love other people through me? Can you empower me to be firm but forgiving? Won’t you show me how to deal gently with sinners? I want them to want to follow you when they see you in me.”

Is that the prayer of your heart too? You’ve experienced Jesus’ love for sinners. You’ve been forgiven. You’ve been set free. Doesn’t that forgiveness and love make you want the love of Jesus for others? Don’t you want his goodness and grace to flow through you to others? Don’t you want freedom to come to your friends who are enslaved by sin?

Jesus wants all these things for you and your neighbors. That’s why you want them too. Jesus’ Spirit – He’s called the Holy Spirit in many places in the Bible – lives in you and this Spirit of Jesus is the One who causes you to want for sinners what Jesus wants for them. Make sense?

If the God who loves sinners passionately lives in you, his passionate love for sinners will grip your heart and cause you to act and speak in loving, tolerant ways. The love of Jesus who’s in you will cause you to shun hateful, intolerant actions and speech.

It’s time for Jesus Christ’s church to change the way they act and speak to the sinners of the world – the people we eat with at the cafĂ©, the people we rub shoulders with at work, the people we work with on community projects, the people we go to school with, the people we hang out with after work, the people we live with.

Paul, a follower of Jesus who loved people with the Spirit’s passionate love, had this bit of instruction for us. His words are so good.

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:5-6, NIV)

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders. That rules out angry finger pointing. That rules in loving confrontation. Make the most of every opportunity. That rules out condemnation. That rules in gentle instruction. Let your conversation be always full of grace. That rules out shouting and screaming. That rules in Jesus’ words to the adulteress in the temple courts. “Then neither do I condemn you. Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin. Leave that life behind.”

Is this Jesus real? Does he really love me? Can I trust him with my life? These are questions people ask. When you are wise in the way you act toward outsiders, when you make the most of every opportunity, when you let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, the answer to those questions becomes obvious. Yes, Jesus is real. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, I can trust him with my life.

So what are you going to do? Will you follow Jesus’ example and give grace to those caught in sin’s trap? Or will you stick with the Pharisee’s ways, dragging sinners out for condemnation while ignoring your own wrongdoing? You know, don’t you, which choice is best.

Will you obey God’s command recorded by Paul and let your words be gracious and your actions wise? Or will you speak like a teacher of the law, shaming sinners no more or less vile than you? God calls you to the former rather than the latter.

We spent this week – assuming you put the lesson on encouragement into practice – building our brothers and sisters up in love. I don’t know if I remembered to praise someone every day, but I did it. I praised others when opportunities arose. I hope you did the same.

This week let’s turn the good words and kindnesses outward. Let’s love people despite differences in values. Let’s speak kindly. Let’s let obey Jesus.

“Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”


People praising God. People following Jesus. People set free from sin’s bondage. That’s why we, God’s people, must speak and act in love.

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Wake up!

Found this bit from the president of Mission Year, Leroy Barber, and though I'd share it...

"I believe that today, young adults are starting to see the church as a place that has not dealt well with the poor and the outcast, whether it be a homeless man in the city of Atlanta or a suburban teen who struggles with pornography.

"Young people will not communicate with and seek help from parents, pastors, and teachers whose lifestyles and passions do not match their words and faith. They will go to those who will embrace relationship with them; those who are also hurting and who are willing to share it.

"Young adults are turning away from a modern church that they see as nothing more than hypocritical. Standards and rulse without sacrifice and solidarity is hypocrisy. Christian rhetoric without tangible acts of love is hypocrisy. Churches on every corner with hurting people outside is hypocrisy.

"A large building with little connection to the streets is essentially empty."

- Guest Blogger, Leroy Barber

Monday, September 15, 2008

More from UnChristian...

Don't want to bore anyone, but I thought this paragraph from UnChristian was worth posting...

"Despite the challenges facing Christianity, there is good news. This research project led Gabe and me to discover thousands of young people who want nothing more than to elevate the relevance of Jesus to our culture. These young believers are very concerned about how Christianity looks to outsiders. They see holes in present-day Christianity, but they do not want Jesus to be hijacked, either by reinventing him or by those whose lives and words to not adequately represent a holy, just, compassionate, and loving God. These young Christians feel disconnection between their lives today and the way Jesus lived - a mission to bring the kingdom of God into sharp focus for all people, especially those who have the deepest needs. These young adults worry that the unChristian message has become one of self-preservation rahter then one of world restoration." (page 35)

Think and pray on that for awhile. See what God says to you.

UnChristian worth reading...

I'm reading UnChristian, by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons.

The book's aim is to report on young adult hostility toward Christianity in America. It is a very convicting book. I hope you'll read it if you are a believer. You will, if you have an open mind, hear the truth and change your ways (much like I called for in my earlier
'Tolerance please...' post).

Here's a quote from UnChristian...

"One of the surprising insights from our research is that the growing hostility toward Christians is very much a reflection of what outsiders feel they receive from believers. They say their aggression simply matches the oversized opinions and egos of Christians. One outsider put it htis way: 'Most people I meet assume that Christian means very conservative, entrenched in their thinking, antigay, antichoice, angry, violent, illogical, empire builders; they want to convert everyone, and they generally cannot live peacefully with anyone who doesn't believe what they believe." (page 26)

Tolerance please...

It seems to me that we’ve forgotten how to be tolerant of each other in America. We yell and shout at our opponents rather than engaging them courteously. We assume the worst of the “enemy” camp. We’re sure that all that’s wrong with America is their fault. Is civility a thing of the past? Is rudeness here to stay? Does no one know how to share opposing views cordially?

It saddens me that so few are willing to show patience with their “enemies.” It grieves me that even the church, the one group that ought to know how to speak the truth in love, has joined in the yelling. Personal attacks against our detractors are not at all uncommon today. Angry, hateful words spill from our mouths when we get into it with “sinners.”

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” (James 3:9-10, NIV)

I want you to think for a moment about the effect of our harsh words.

The man struggling with homosexuality looks to the church and what does he hear? People shouting, in effect, “Go to hell!” And he turns his back on Jesus or runs off to some false church that okays his lifestyle. The woman who’s had an abortion. Does she hear the same thing? I know some are working quietly behind the scenes to help those hurt by abortion, but they’re seldom noticed, seldom heard above the screaming. “Abortion’s wrong! Murderer! Go to hell!”

Can we be frank? Our angry speeches are damning some. We are giving sinners no hope. We offer only condemnation. Does this bother anyone but me?

I’m not suggesting that homosexuality isn’t sinful. It is. As sinful as sinful can be. I’m not suggesting that abortion isn’t murder. It is. As wrong as wrong can be. I’m not going soft on sin.

But I am trying to take it easy on sinners caught in Satan’s trap. The homosexual offender is not going to be won to Christ by anger, but by love. Jesus asks us to care for him when he’s dying from AIDS. Our Master asks us to speak kindly to him, addressing him as we would a man not as if he’s a dog that’s pooped on our carpet.

“Bad dog! Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad dog! Out! Get out and stay out!”

Our dear Savior, Jesus, loves every gay man, every lesbian woman. He died on the cross for them and for every other sinner. Jesus died for women who have had abortions. He loved them that much. He died for unmarried couples living together. He loved them that much. He died for greedy folks and gossips. He loved them that much. He died drunken sailors. He loved them that much. He died for you and me. He loved us that much.

Jesus is the only hope for sinful men and women – the liar’s hope, the swindler’s hope, the backstabber’s hope, the persecutor’s hope, the murder’s hope, the jealous man’s hope. Jesus!

“I am the way and the truth and the life,” our Savior told his disciples. “No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, NIV)

If we’re shouting angrily at our “enemies,” they won’t hear our pleas to follow the way, to accept the truth, to receive the life.

This isn’t about Coke or Pepsi or some other trivial difference. It’s about life or death. It’s about eternal life, eternal death. Surely, with so much on the line, we can learn to be a bit more tolerant of others, a little more gracious in our speech, a little gentler in our arguments.

Can we be charitable without condoning sin? Can we show love and still hold firm on biblical values? Can we gently instruct and see people come to freedom in Christ? The answer to all these questions is Yes!

I’ll tell you a story later this week that shows that to be true.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

More on the river rescue...

Since I first posted on last night's rescue efforts, one of the TV channels posted a slideshow with pictures. This gives you an idea of the number of people involved in pulling the victims to safety.

Here are updates of the articles posted...

Eight People Rescued from River in Sumner County

Rescuers pulled eight people from the swollen Chikaskia River in Sumner County early Sunday morning.

A man who was near the area fell into the water and later died a a hospital. Sumner County officials say the 48-year-old was not part of the rescue effort and it's unclear why he fell into the river.

The situation began early Saturday evening when a group of people got into trouble while rafting near Argonia. Firefighters tried to reach the group, but three of them ended up getting stuck.

Search and rescue teams from Wichita helped in the second rescue operation which began around ten o'clock. Everyone was pulled from the water by 12:30.

The victim's name has not been released.

8 People Rescued From Swollen Chikaskia River

Around 8 o'clock Saturday night, a page went out to Argonia Volunteer fire fighters. Five young adults were stuck on a raft, trapped in the raging currents at the swollen Chikaskia river's dam. They were not wearing life jackets.

Kevin Catlin was the first responder on the scene. He said he knew the situation was too much for their crews to handle on their own, so crews from Wellington were called and arrived a short time after.

Wellington Fire Fighters arrived and immediately put their boat in the water, but instead of things getting better, the situation continued to grow worse.

The boat with three Wellington Fire Fighters capsized. Now eight people were trapped in the waters of the roaring river in need of rescue.

"We had to have Sedgwick County crews come down and assist us, and we greatly appreciate them," said Catlin. But unfortunately, before they arrived, a former Volunteer Fire Fighter from Argonia braved the terrifying currents trying to save those in harm's way.

The currents proved too strong. The 47 year old man was pulled from the strong waters and was taken to Via Christie St. Francis hospital in Wichita where he died a short time later.

"You could call it heroism," said Catlin "Our prayers go to the family, and I'm sure the whole city is behind me on that one," he said.

A fund has been set up by the Fire Department to honor the life and memory of the town's fallen hero. For more information on this fund, you can contact the Argonia Fire Department.

Fire Fighters like Kevin Catlin also want to remind the public to always wear a life jacket when on the water. If the waters are swollen and rapid, do not go in. It's just too dangerous, he says.

"Not only are you putting your life in danger," he says, "But you're putting the lives of the rescue workers in danger as well."

SUMNER COUNTY, Kansas (KSN)

Five rafters were pulled from the Chikaskia River near Argonia after a river excursion turned dangerous. Officials say one juvenile and four adults were rafting on the swollen river when they became trapped near a dam. During the rescue attempt, two firefighters fell into the water and also became trapped. Everyone was rescued at about 12:30am after crews from Sumner, Harper and Sedgwick counties were called to the scene.

A 48-year-old man also fell into the water during the rescue attempt. He was taken by ambulance with serious injuries, and later died. Officials say he was a bystander, and not part of the rescue.

News reports from Argonia...

by Chris Durden (KWCH News)

Rescuers pulled eight people from the swollen Chikaskia River in Sumner County around 12:30 Sunday morning.

The situation began several hours earlier when five people got into trouble while rafting near Argonia. Firefighters tried to reach the group, but three of them ended up getting stuck.

Search and rescue teams from Sedgwick County helped in the second rescue operation which began around ten o'clock. Everyone was eventually pulled from the water.

Paramedics took one to a hospital with potentially critical injuries. It's not known if that person is one of the boaters or a firefighter. The person's condition is not known at this time.

Rescue workers have finally pulled eight people to the shore of the Chikaskia River near Argonia. They were rescued to safety after getting into a raft and setting onto the rain-swollen river just after 6:00 Saturday evening.

Five juveniles reportedly were on the raft when they got into trouble. Emergency crews put a boat in the water and attempted to pull the five to safety, but three Wellington Firefighters also fell into the water. Shortly after that, a bystander also fell into the water, for a total of nine people trapped in the water.

One person was eventually pulled from the raging waters and rushed to a Wichita hospital in critical condition. A fire department spokesperson says that person is a 43 year-old male civilian.

The Sedgwick County Fire Department swift water rescue unit was called to the scene at about 10:00 p.m. They rescued the remaining eight people just after 12:30 in the morning.

Five rafters have been pulled from the Chikaskia River near Argonia after a river excursion turned dangerous. Officials say one juvenile and four adults were rafting on the swollen river when they became trapped near a dam. During the rescue attempt, three firefighters fell into the water and also became trapped. Everyone was rescued at about 12:30am after crews from Sumner, Harper and Sedgwick counties were called to the scene.

A 48-year-old man was taken by ambulance with serious injuries. Officials did not release details regarding his injuries.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Grade school physics lesson...

Glass breaks when it is heated. That was the lesson my youngest daughter and her friends learned this morning. They wanted scrambled eggs for breakfast, so they pulled out a pan and several glass bowls. They mixed milk with their eggs and placed the bowls and the pan on the four burners of our stove. A little while later they were on the phone.

"Dad! Come quick! There's glass on the stove!"

Puzzled, I headed home. (I wasn't done with my work yet, so I was over at the church.) When I stepped through the front door, I was greeted by the smell of burnt food. I walked straight to the kitchen and found one of my older daughters clearing glass shards from the stove. Soon after my arrival, she stepped on a piece of glass, cutting her foot. I sent everyone who wasn't wearing shoes - that would be everyone but me - out of the kitchen while I cleaned up the mess.

When I was done, I became the girls' science teacher. "Glass is a liquid. It breaks when it is heated because it can't hold its shape. Don't ever put glass of any kind on the stove." End of lesson.

I think they'll remember this one. Now all I have to do is go buy a new set of glass bowls.

The river is wide...

The Chicaskia River got a little out of control last night.


The geese at the River Park seem to be enjoying themselves.


The river is actually down a bit. All that showed last night was the roof.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fireproof...

I get excited every time I watch the trailers and sneak-peeks for Fireproof, the soon to be released movie from the makers of Facing the Giants. It's going to be so good. Perhaps the best this church from Georgia has made. Hope you and your spouse will make it a priority to go see this film and that you'll learn to love each other as you watch Capt. Caleb Holt and his wife, Catherine, work things out.

A rowdy bunch...

Last night was the first meeting of Bible Study Fellowship's men's class in Wichita. I pulled into the parking lot of First United Methodist just before 7:00 knowing that my good friend, Thane, was in my small group, but wondering who else I might get to know.

A little while later, walking into Room 301D, I had to laugh. Turns out that more than half of the guys I'll be meeting with each Tuesday have been in my group before and it seems that this year's discussion group is filled with the rowdiest of the rowdies from the previous two years.

When we went downstairs for the lecture, I caught Quentin, my group leader from last year, and told him he'd better pray for Mike, this year's leader. "Pray for Mike," I said. "He's got a rowdy group."

It's going to be fun studying The Life of Moses with these men. I know we're going to grow together. I know we're going to be stronger in our faith. I know we're going to get a little bit rowdy...R-O-W-D-Y!! (Pray for Mike!)

He's back...

Can't believe it! Lance is back! Don't know how well he'll do, but it will be fun watching!

AUSTIN — Lance Armstrong is getting back on his bike, determined to win an eighth Tour de France.

Armstrong's return from cancer to win the Tour a record seven consecutive times made him a hero to cancer patients worldwide and elevated cycling to an unprecedented level in America.

Armstrong, 36, told Vanity Fair in an exclusive interview posted on its Web site Tuesday that he was inspired to return after finishing second last month in the Leadville 100, a lung-searing 100-mile mountain-bike race through the Rocky Mountains.

"This kind of obscure bike race totally kick-started my engine," he told the magazine. "I'm going to try and win an eighth Tour de France."


More...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Get rich quick! Follow Jesus?

John Piper says better than I could what I think about the prosperity message some preachers promote to their own gain...

When I read about prosperity-preaching churches, my response is: "If I were not on the inside of Christianity, I wouldn't want in." In other words, if this is the message of Jesus, no thank you.

Luring people to Christ to get rich is both deceitful and deadly. It's deceitful because when Jesus himself called us, he said things like: "Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:33). And it's deadly because the desire to be rich plunges "people into ruin and destruction" (1 Timothy 6:9). So here is my plea to preachers of the gospel.

1. Don't develop a philosophy of ministry that makes it harder for people to get into heaven. Jesus said, "How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" His disciples were astonished, as many in the "prosperity" movement should be. So Jesus went on to raise their astonishment even higher by saying, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God." They respond in disbelief: "Then who can be saved?" Jesus says, "With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God" (Mark 10:23-27). My question for prosperity preachers is: Why would you want to develop a ministry focus that makes it harder for people to enter heaven?

2. Do not develop a philosophy of ministry that kindles suicidal desires in people. Paul said, "There is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content." But then he warned against the desire to be rich. And by implication, he warned against preachers who stir up the desire to be rich instead of helping people get rid of it. He warned, "Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs" (1 Timothy 6:6-10). So my question for prosperity preachers is: Why would you want to develop a ministry that encourages people to pierce themselves with many pangs and plunge themselves into ruin and destruction?

3. Do not develop a philosophy of ministry that encourages vulnerability to moth and rust. Jesus warns against the effort to lay up treasures on earth. That is, he tells us to be givers, not keepers. "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal" (Matthew 6:19). Yes, we all keep something. But given the built-in tendency toward greed in all of us, why would we take the focus off Jesus and turn it upside down?

4. Don't develop a philosophy of ministry that makes hard work a means of amassing wealth. Paul said we should not steal. The alternative was hard work with our own hands. But the main purpose was not merely to hoard or even to have. The purpose was "to have to give." "Let him labor, working with his hands, that he may have to give to him who is in need" (Ephesians 4:28). This is not a justification for being rich in order to give more. It is a call to make more and keep less so you can give more. There is no reason why a person who makes $200,000 should live any differently from the way a person who makes $80,000 lives. Find a wartime lifestyle; cap your expenditures; then give the rest away. Why would you want to encourage people to think that they should possess wealth in order to be a lavish giver? Why not encourage them to keep their lives more simple and be an even more lavish giver? Would that not add to their generosity a strong testimony that Christ, and not possessions, is their treasure?

5. Don't develop a philosophy of ministry that promotes less faith in the promises of God to be for us what money can't be. The reason the writer to the Hebrews tells us to be content with what we have is that the opposite implies less faith in the promises of God. He says, "Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.' So we can confidently say, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'" (Hebrews 13:5-6). If the Bible tells us that being content with what we have honors the promise of God never to forsake us, why would we want to teach people to want to be rich?

6. Don't develop a philosophy of ministry that contributes to your people being choked to death. Jesus warns that the word of God, which is meant to give us life, can be choked off from any effectiveness by riches. He says it is like a seed that grows up among thorns that choke it to death: "They are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the . . . riches . . . of life, and their fruit does not mature" (Luke 8:14). Why would we want to encourage people to pursue the very thing that Jesus warns will choke us to death?

7. Don't develop a philosophy of ministry that takes the seasoning out of the salt and puts the light under a basket. What is it about Christians that makes them the salt of the earth and the light of the world? It is not wealth. The desire for wealth and the pursuit of wealth tastes and looks just like the world. It does not offer the world anything different from what it already believes in. The great tragedy of prosperity-preaching is that a person does not have to be spiritually awakened in order to embrace it; one needs only to be greedy. Getting rich in the name of Jesus is not the salt of the earth or the light of the world. In this, the world simply sees a reflection of itself. And if it works, they will buy it.

The context of Jesus' saying shows us what the salt and light are. They are the joyful willingness to suffering for Christ. Here is what Jesus said, "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth. . . . You are the light of the world" (Matthew 5:11-14).

What will make the world taste (the salt) and see (the light) of Christ in us is not that we love wealth the same way they do. Rather, it will be the willingness and the ability of Christians to love others through suffering, all the while rejoicing because their reward is in heaven with Jesus. This is inexplicable on human terms. This is supernatural. But to attract people with promises of prosperity is simply natural. It is not the message of Jesus. It is not what he died to achieve.

- Guest Blogger, John (With thanks, OpenMikey)

Fly like a cyclist...

Inspired by the Steve Miller song, Fly Like an Eagle, I decided to ride for speed today. It was a spur of the moment choice. I had a good feeling rolling out of my drive way. I was over 18mph in a short time, so I kept the pedal(s) to the metal and roared out of town.

There was a two-mile stretch on the way out in which I lost precious tenths of a mile per hour, but I more than made up for it with the wind at my back. I went from 17.6mph at my turn around to 20.0mph at the end. It was glorious.

Can't wait to ride again tomorrow.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The bulldog of love...

Bulldogs are known for their tenacity, their hang-onto-it-for-all-you've-got attitude. They sink their teeth into something and don't let go. Pull on the rag in their mouths and they'll growl good-naturedly and shake back.

I've decided that God is like that in his love for us. He grabs a hold of us - thankfully not with sharp teeth - and doesn't let go. He loves us when were following him closely. He loves us when we wander off down the wrong path. He just hangs on. He's the bulldog of love. (No I am not calling God a dog!)

God's been teaching me to love like him recently, to hang onto love for people even when I'm mistreated by them, insulted, beaten up verbally. It's not easy, but he helps me in my weakness. I find my love for those I'm having difficulties with growing rather than shrinking. I find it intensifying rather than diminishing. I thank God for this gift. It's not me. It's him in me, making me a bulldog of love.

Seven day challenge...

The Bible tells us that encouragement is both a duty and a gift.

In Romans 12, we find encouraging listed in the gift mix that the Holy Spirit gives right along with serving, teaching, prophesying and leadership. It’s right there in verse 8. Talking about spiritual gifts, Paul says, “…if it is encouraging, let him encourage…” (Romans 12:8a, NIV) Pretty cool, huh?

That God chose to inspire those words says something to me and you. He says to us: Encouragement is vital to the church. The church cannot thrive without men who speak encouraging words. The church cannot survive if women will not act in encouraging ways.

So God gives the gift of encouragement to some. For these gifted encouragers saying the right thing in difficult times comes naturally. Those with the gift of encouragement know instinctively what actions are needed to strengthen a brother in dire straits.

There are Spirit-gifted encouragers all around us. They’re humble folks, uncomfortable in the limelight. They just walk through life building others up. They serve quietly. They love people one by one by one.

Still, as sneaky as they are, you know who I’m talking about. You’ve met them. They’re the individuals who almost always lift your spirits when they’re around. I say almost always because encouragers, even gifted ones, are human. They have off days. They face difficulty and crack from time to time. But usually, they’re full of praise and good words. It’s fun hanging out with them. When you’re down, these are the people you run to.

I thank God that he gifts people for the ministry of encouragement.

I’m glad he commands the rest of us to be encouraging too. It’s just like evangelism or giving. Some are gifted and can win people to Christ on an airplane. Some are gifted and can give more generously than others. All, though, are called to both activities.

Encouraging is our duty as believers, just the same as these others.

Our Lord’s command concerning this matter is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:11.

Here’s what Barnabas’ pal wrote as the Holy Spirit spoke to his heart: “…encourage one another and build each other up…” Then for encouragement’s sake he added, “…just as in fact you are doing.”

The Thessalonian church was already on the ball. They were encouraging each other. They were building each other up. Paul gives them two thumbs up! ““Keep it up! You need each other’s good words.” Remember Thessalonica was the town where the fires of persecution were so hot, Paul had to be spirited out of town under cover of darkness. And when the rabble rousers there heard he was just down the road, they came after him. Thessalonica was not an easy place to be a believer. Encouragement was in order every time the church met.

That’s still true of the church and it always will be. I suppose that’s why the writer of the book Hebrews included it in his words of instruction to the church.

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:19-25, NIV)

The church is to be full of encouragers. Every time believers meet together, every follower of Jesus should be looking for ways to spur their brothers on toward love and good deeds. Every time disciples see each other on the street they should be thinking of ways to express their love to each other.

There are opportunities to strengthen fellow believers every day if you have your eyes open, if your ears are tuned to what your friends are saying.

From the writer of Hebrews a call to action: “Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:13, NIV emphasis mine)

Can you do that? Can you encourage someone every day this week? Do you know seven people? I know you do. You know many more people than that. So pick seven neighbors. Pick the folks you know could use a lift. Speak kindly to them.

Start today. Find someone else you can encourage before you leave work. Run to the other room and build up your kids. Pick up the phone and call a friend just to say, “Thanks for being there for me.”

Can you imagine how much joy you and I can bring to the world just by following the Lord’s command this week? Picture it. Single moms cared for. Coworkers not so discouraged. Students believing they can do their work. Christians in good spirits. Makes you smile just thinking about it.

Now do it.


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Sunday, September 7, 2008

A model for us all...

Let me tell you about this guy named Joseph, an early follower of Jesus. We first encounter Joe at the end of Acts 4. Luke, the author of Acts, describes in chapter four what made the early church special.

Let me read for you how he described the church in its infancy.

“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.” (Acts 4:32-35, NIV)

Pretty cool, huh? This was a great group to be a part of. They showed their love for each other in practical ways. They met each other’s needs. They sacrificed personal pleasure for the good of the whole. And people were drawn to this group by the thousands. Earlier in chapter four Luke reported that the number of men had grown to five thousand. With women and children thrown in the ranks of the faithful were even greater.

This was an exciting time to be a follower of Jesus. Joseph is part of this church that’s bursting at the seams, caring for needs, loving like no one had ever loved before. He saw others giving sacrificially and was prompted by God to do the same.

“Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus,” Luke writes, “whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.” (Acts 4:36-37, NIV)

That simple act of obedience is our introduction to this great encourager. His given name isn’t used even once more in Luke’s account of the church’s beginnings. Joseph’s nickname sticks.

Years down the road, I can imagine someone asking after the man.

“I’m looking for Joseph.”

“Who?”

“Joseph. He’s from Cyprus, I think.”

“No one here by that name.”

“He was a Levite before he joined the church.”

“A Levite? Are you sure? Only former Levite I know is Barnabas and he’s not here. He’s out running around with Paul.”

“Paul?”

“Yeah, the guy who used to hate the church.”

“Wasn’t his name Saul?”

“Saul? I don’t think so.”

There were a few too many name changes in the church’s early years. Simon to Peter. Saul to Paul. Joseph to Barnabas. Tomato to tomato. Potato, potato. But I digress.

After he first enters the scene in Acts 4, Barnabas, the former Joe, shows up off and on throughout the rest of the book. And he’s always encouraging others.

Saul meets Jesus on the road to Damascus. His life is changed. He starts preaching. Gets kicked out of town. Heads for Jerusalem.

Here’s how Luke tells it.

“When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.” (Acts 9:26-27, NIV)

A great number of Greeks were coming to know Christ as savior in Antioch.

“News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.

“Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” (Acts 11:22-26, NIV)

John, also called Mark, another name shifter, went with Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. He was the older men’s helper for a short time. Then he left them. Went home to Jerusalem. We’re not told why. Luke just says he left.

Paul and Barnabas continued on their way, starting churches everywhere they went. They returned home to Antioch and got into it with some Jewish believers who demanded that the Gentiles turning to the Lord be circumcised. The dispute ended up before the apostles in Jerusalem. The matter was settled quickly. Paul and Barnabas returned home with the letter commissioned by the church and the believers were glad for its encouraging message.

“Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.’ Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.” (Acts 15:36-41, NIV)

Barnabas. Son of encouragement. A fitting moniker for good, old Joe, don’t you think? He’s a model for us to follow. His actions – caring for the needs of others – are encouraging. His words too. He’s always sticking up for the outcast. He’s unwilling to see anyone as a lost cause.


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