Daniel’s Election Guide

Nov 07th 2016

voter-guide-squareLately at Calvary we’ve been working our way through the Old Testament book of Daniel. The series is called “Dare to Thrive: When Lions Roar.” The series has been amazingly relevant for this political season. So I decided to share a few of the thoughts that are shaping my election day. (Warning: some of these will make more sense to those of you who have listened to the series – www.calvarysc.org/resources/sermons ).

  1. God is in control of who’s in control. When we say that God is in control, what we mean is that nothing is beyond him. Nothing catches him unaware. What He purposes to do he will do. No power in the world is greater than his power; no wisdom in the world is deeper than his wisdom; no hate in the world is greater than his love; no evil in the world is more real than his goodness. When you wake up on Wednesday morning, whether we have a Mr. President or a Mrs. President, our president will still serve by the will of our King.
  1. You need to know who your leader is before you vote for your president. In his book, “Follow Me” Jan Hettinga, writes, “The ultimate issue in the universe is leadership. Who you follow and what directs your life is the single most important thing about you.” Regardless of your vote, please, before you vote, make sure you can name your leader. Because if your leader is Christ and you have embraced the gospel, if you have surrendered your life to the King of Kings, the one who has received the Kingdom that will never be destroyed; if that Christ is your King, then you can have deep hope in the fact that on November 9, we will still have a King who is in control of who is in control.
  2. Seek God’s favor above all things. Perhaps, just like God gave the Israelites to King Nebuchadnezzer, (Daniel 1:1-2) when we wake on November 9, we will find that God has again given his people to a leader. And regardless of whether we end up with a Mr. President or a Mrs. President, I believe the reason is the same. God wants his people (not his country, his people) to know that politics is not better than his favor. He wants the people of God to seek the favor of God above all things. In the end Daniel isn’t the hero of his story. This story has less to do with Daniel’s courage, or Daniel’s convictions, and more to do with God’s favor.
  3. Choose Your Kingdom Well. There is only one Kingdom which will last forever. It’s the Kingdom of God. John tells us in the book of Revelation that at the end of time, the only party that will matter is the wedding party at the reception for Christ and his bride the church, at which there will be no donkey’s or elephants, only the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. So live and love and work and play and vote as someone who is part of the family of the King who leads the Kingdom that will never end.
  1. Sometimes God doesn’t save us from the fire, because he wants to meet us in the fire. Perhaps the lesson here is simply, don’t try to vote your way out of the fire. Or don’t compromise your principles in order to stay out of the fire. 
  1. God is looking for three qualities in a leader. I’m not sure that I’ve ever run across a better voter’s guide than the one found in Daniel 4. We often vote for the candidate that we think will bring us the best combination of comfort, control, affirmation, or power. But Daniel says to the King, if you want to lengthen your prosperity, if you want to thrive as a King, then humble your heart towards God, practice righteousness towards others, and show mercy to the oppressed. Ultimately God is sovereign over the Kingdoms of this world. He even has his hand in the choice of who rules, and on the day after the election I will surrender to God’s choice. But on election day I will do my best to choose a person who most exemplifies those qualities. What if the value of our vote has less to do with who wins and more to do with what we are telling God when we push the button? 
  1. Finally vote with joy. For many of you this election feels heavy, momentous, country-changing. But I want to encourage you to vote with joy. You live in a country where you can vote; a country where Christians can run for office. Meanwhile if you are a Christ-follower, you are a citizen of a Kingdom that will never be shaken. Not only are you a citizen of that Kingdom, you are a member of the King’s family. That King is so full of life-shaping, world-changing love, that no one, no one, no one is beyond his pursuit. On November 9th, these truths will be just as true as they were on November 8. So vote like they are true…with joy!

There are 2 Responses to : Daniel’s Election Guide

  1. Crista Hankey Wrote:

    This is a great perspective. I appreciate the application from the Bible and Daniel. Thanks for sharing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Words Matter

Jul 09th 2016

Prayer service for police officers and peaceYesterday (Friday) I joined with 25-30 people at the Municipal Building for a time of prayer. In response to a call for prayer issuing forth from Dallas we gathered to pray for the officers in our community, and the racial division which continues to ignite communities. It was short. Just a handful of us prayed. But in the midst of prayer, one pastor prayed, “God would you give us different language, for we know that words shape our world.”

Those words stuck with me.

Sometimes I am tempted to think that words are just words, but then I am reminded that I follow the one who is called “The Word.” (John 1) I am reminded that faith comes by hearing and hearing comes by the Word of God. (Romans 10) I am reminded that God created the world with a Word. (Genesis 1) I am reminded that Jesus has words of life and that even our tongue contains the power of life and death. (Proverbs 18) And of course I don’t need to be reminded, for I see it all around me, that a harsh word stirs up anger while a soft answer turns away wrath. (Proverbs 15)

Words matter.

Perhaps not just one word, but word upon word, spoken daily to others, to ourselves, even to God, they matter. Word upon word, heard daily by others, by ourselves, by God, they matter.

They have mattered to me.

Words spoken by Dr. Raleigh Washington at a Promise Keepers gathering mattered to me. He said,

“You cannot say that you care about racial tensions in America if you do not have a friend whose skin color is different from yours. You may feel like there is nothing you can do, but you can do that.” Those words convicted me and lead to the development of one of my most important friendships.

Words spoken by Harold McKenzie and his wife Sharon have mattered to me. In their own humble and gentle way they have shared with me and even taught me how words have impacted their world, both words of death and words of life.

And ultimately the words of Scripture have mattered to me. Paul reminds me in Romans 12:10 and Philippians 2:3 that if I seek to follow Christ I must go beyond “______ lives matter” to “your life matters more to me than my life.”

  • Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10
  • Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Philippians 2:3

Jesus reminds me in the beatitudes (Matthew 5) that those who are blessed do not often look like those who are in power or those who are privileged. And from one end of the Bible to the other the Holy Spirit reminds me that in times like this, perhaps the most important words are the words that cry out from our hearts to the heart of God.

A Few Thoughts to Close:

  1. We pray like prayer is optional. What we have to offer the world is Christ. When we pray like prayer is optional it’s usually because we think we have something better to offer than Christ. We don’t.
  2. Choose with care the words that you write and the words that you speak, especially when they are words about stuff that matters to others.
  3. I’ll offer the same challenge that Raleigh Washington offered me. If you aren’t building a friendship with someone whose skin is different from yours, you may not care as much about what’s going on as you think.
  4. If you have shed no tears or felt no pain for life lost and people impacted, ask God to give you a taste of His heart for people. There isn’t a single person who has died or who has experienced lost, that Jesus doesn’t love deeply.
  5. Finally, perhaps sometimes being reconciled is more important than being right.

There are 4 Responses to : Words Matter

  1. Cheryle Touchton Wrote:

    Thank you

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Advent Devotional #6 — Your Faith…for Others

Dec 18th 2015

READ

Luke 5:17-26

…when He saw their faith, he said, “Man your sins are forgiven you.” 

======================================

Lynn loves babies, and a baby is what Lynn was picturing when she and Dan signed up to be fosterparents about five years ago. Instead, they were asked to welcome into their home a 12-year old boy from difficult circumstances, and there was tension from the outset. Their new foster son “had never really had his father involved,” Lynn explained, “so he immediately loved Dan. But he had a mom, so I was a conflict in his life from day one.”

Lynn found herself struggling to love her foster son, who ended up being with the Nolds far longer than they anticipated. Then one afternoon while meeting with a group of women, Lynn had an experience that changed everything. As the women were praying for her, “slowly their voices kind of faded away,” Lynn recalled, “and I had this whisper in my heart [and] I know it was God because it’s not something that I would ever think of.” What God said to Lynn in that moment was, “If you can’t love one, how can you love my city?” With those eleven words, God shifted Lynn’s perspective completely.

That same evening she decided to “pamper” her foster son, taking him shopping then to dinner at his favorite restaurant. That night at bedtime, he began asking Lynn deep questions about God. After their talk, she offered that he could wait to talk to Dan or anyone else in the family if he ever wanted to pray to ask Jesus into his heart. To her amazement, her foster son did not want to wait for Dan, or wait at all; he asked to pray right then with Lynn.

“This kid that I thought had no hope of ever being soft towards God,” said Lynn, “in six hours from that prayer time, he had – with me – wanted to pray and receive Christ.” It was a redemptive day, one in which God’s presence – through His unmistakable voice – had an eternal impact.

====================================

Notice in Luke’s story, that this crippled man was brought to Jesus by his friends. And when Jesus saw their faith…not the faith of the crippled man, but their faith, He healed their friend. He forgave His sins. Did you ever stop to think that your faith might be important for someone else’s experience of God? I just want to take it out of the “my experience of His presence” category for a day or two. Did you ever stop to think that someone else’s experience of God might require your faith? At Calvary we often say that everyone has a team. Whose team are you on?

QUESTIONS

Who is waiting for you to bring them to Jesus?

When Jesus sees your faith, will it bring someone closer to His presence?

PRAYER

“Jesus, I want others to know you too. I want others to experience your presence. There are people in my neighborhood, people where I work, people in my school who need you? Please give me an opportunity to help them come to  you. Grow my faith for them.”
Take a moment and pray for someone that God is laying on your heart to invite to Jesus, to church, to lunch. Ask God to give you faith for them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Advent Devotionals #5 — His Dangerous Presence

Dec 12th 2015

READ

Exodus 20:18-21

Luke 2:8-10

​He was just minding his own business. On his way home from work, forty years in the same job. He was a religious man, in fact he married a (pk) pastor’s daughter. He had a spiritual side to him, but in the last forty years, he and God were not exactly tight. He was just minding his own business on his way home from work, when he walked by a burning shrub, that wasn’t burning up. He stopped to look and God spoke to him. He listened and his life would never again be the same.

If you asked him if God was safe, he probably would’ve laughed at you and told you the story of when God showed up around Mt. Sinai. All the people witnessed his presence and trembled. “You speak to God Moses and we’ll listen to you for if we hear the voice of God, we’ll die.” Or maybe he would have told you a story about when he cried out to God, “God, please if I have found favor with you today, I want to know you, please show me your glory.” God said. “Ok, but all you can see is the back of my glory, because if u see me full on, you’ll die.”

If you get to heaven someday ask Jonah if God is safe, or Paul or Mary the Mother of Jesus, or the Shepherds. Luke 2:8 describes the evening that God came to earth. “Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid.”

We read this story and often we picture sweet cherubs, innocent, kindly, pale white beings with halo’s and harps. But would you be afraid of a cute little angel with a halo? Would you have been afraid if the glory of the Lord was like a soft, warm night light? But what does Luke tell us? The shepherds were terrified. Shepherds were the Israeli cowboys of the first century. Weather-hardened men who were used to spending their nights under the stars and their days killing wild animals — but just a taste of God’s glory left them terrified.

The most common Christmas greeting that first Christmas was “Fear Not.” Why? Because when people come into contact with the glory of God, we instinctively know that we will not leave unchanged.

I say this to give us fair warning. Perhaps one of the reasons we like the Christmas version of God is because God in a manger, wrapped in strips of cloth… seems safe. The soft, pink hands of God-in-the-manger cannot take what I consider mine. The infant mouth cannot call me to surrender my life. The feet do not walk, so there is no need to follow. Christmas Jesus is tame – a nice, safe, kind figure who accepts us where we are, and forgives without calling us to something more.

One of the things I love about the Chronicles of Narnia is the Aslan picture of Jesus. Before meeting Aslan, Susan said with a quiver, “Oooh a lion? Is he..safe? I feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.” “Ah..true” said Mrs. Beaver, “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without knees knocking, they are either braver than most or just plain silly.” “Then he isn’t safe,” asked Lucy? “Safe,” said Mr. Beaver, “Who said anything about safe? Of course He isn’t safe. But He is good.”

Not safe but good. He cannot be manipulated or controlled. He isn’t tame. He makes no apologies for calling us to take the risk of encountering his presence and his glory. He will shake us with his glory. Not safe but good. If we are intent on experiencing the presence of God, we must realize that His Presence is not safe, but it is good.

QUESTION TO PONDER

Do you prefer safety and control over the untamable presence of God?

Am I ready for His presence?

PRAYER

Jesus, give me courage. Help me to love your presence more than I love my comfort, my safety, and my control. May I like Moses, and Mary and the Shepherds be willing to follow you even though there are no guarantees that things will turn out the way I imagine. Take away my fear. Give me the boldness to seek you no matter what. Amen

Take a moment and pray for someone (might be you) who is fearful of what will happen if they give their lives over to God. Pray that God will give them courage and a great desire for His presence.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Advent Devotionals #4 — Waiting on His Presence

Dec 11th 2015

READ

Isaiah 64:1-8

The prophet Isaiah records a corporate prayer of the people of Israel in Isaiah 64:1-4,

“Oh, that you would burst from the heavens and come down! How the mountains would quake in your presence! As fire causes wood to burn and water to boil, your coming would make the nations tremble. Then your enemies would learn the reason for your fame! When you came down long ago, you did awesome deeds beyond our highest expectations. And oh, how the mountains quaked! For since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him!”

That’s a prayer that fires me up!  I love it, all of it…except for the last three words.  Wait for him.  I don’t like to wait.  So the question is, “Why Wait?”  Why wait, even if it’s for God? Well the simple answer is we wait because God is worth it. If we wait for God, he will amaze us.

But the answer goes deeper than amazement.  We wait for God because we desperately need him. Look again at Isaiah’s words in vs 5-7

“You welcome those who gladly do good, who follow godly ways. But you have been very angry with us, for we are not godly. We are constant sinners; how can people like us be saved? We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind. Yet no one calls on your name or pleads with you for mercy. Therefore, you have turned away from us and turned us over to our sins.” 

Wow. Just stop there for a moment. Would you?  Just pause.  Let the holy hush of the Holy Spirit’s conviction settle on your heart. Don’t get defensive. This isn’t a legalistic rant or a judgmental hypocrisy. This is the Creator’s diagnosis of our hearts. This is the reality of our position before God, without Christ. Would you just read it again and then close your eyes…and ask the Spirit to show you…

We are constant sinners…infected and impure with sin. When we display the best of our best stuff, our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind. Yet no one calls on Christ.  We don’t take it seriously.  We don’t plead with you for mercy.  Therefore, you have turned away from us…

Isaiah 64:1-8 is a corporate lament for the presence of God from a people who were missing God. Do you understand what that means?  This description of infection and filthy rags like something out of the “Walking Dead;” this Is the life of those who do not wait. There are only two choices either we wait for God, or we get infected and swept away by our sins.”

This is the heart of our sin. We do not wait for God.  This is the heart of my sin. Christ is calling me to come and be with him and I keep settling for doing for him. And the starting point for us is to admit that we would rather take care of our own lives than wait for God. We would rather do what we think should be done when we should be waiting for God.  The starting point is to admit that we don’t want to wait…not even for God.  The reality is that the reason we don’t wait, is the very same reason that we desperately need God. We desperately need God because…our sin runs deep.

The sin in my life runs deeper than I care to admit and that is such difficult, hard, bad news.  But the bad news serves to highlight the glorious good news… here is the gospel. We wait because He will come close.

Sin runs deep…we are infected with it…we want to do our own thing in our own time for our own glory and God turns his back on us. We lament. We cry for his presence and something shifts…the language turns intimate and personal.  And yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand.  Isaiah 64:8

We wait because this is what, this is who we need.  We need God to be our father and our potter.

At the very heart of Christmas is the presence of Christ who came as the answer to our waiting.

QUESTIONS TO PONDER

In what ways does sin run deep in my life?

For what am I waiting this Christmas?

What can I do to prepare for the presence of Christ?

PRAYER

O Christ, that you would burst forth from the heavens and come down again, as you did that first Christmas season. When you came down before you did awesome deeds far beyond our expectations. We long for your coming again. I wait for you to make your presence known. Change my heart; cleanse every sin; deepen my hunger for you; ignite the fire of my heart; open my eyes to see you. Thank you that even though my sin runs deep, your grace runs deeper still.  Amen

Take a moment and pray that God’s Spirit will prepare us for this weekend’s worship.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Advent Devotionals #3 — My Christmas Wish List

Dec 09th 2015

READ

Exodus 33:1-18

About eight years ago, I spent a week with Wayne Cordiero at a leadership practicum. At some point he told the story of a weekend when his church and all the congregations New Hope had started were worshiping together — a large outdoor gathering near Waikiki beach. They hoped to have well over 10,000 people show up with all their friends. It was going to be a great day, one of those “time of your life” kind of days…

Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t cooperating. (Think Calvary’s Fall Festival :) It was forecast to be one of those rare days in Honolulu…a day filled with rain. The night before Wayne had people praying. Wayne prayed through much of the night; asking God to hold away the rain, send the clouds somewhere else. That morning — in spite of his impassioned prayers — the rain fell.

Wayne went out to the park where the gathering was planned. Watching folks trying to cover up sound equipment, Wayne went to a solitary place in the park. With no one around, he started complaining to God, critiquing God’s plan, asking him why in the world they would plan a day like this day and He couldn’t even keep it dry. He was detailing for God all the problems this was going to cause, the people that would stay away.

If you would have seen Wayne in those moments you would have thought he was a holy man beseeching God to stop the rain. Instead it was just a human man complaining to God about all the problems He was causing.

Then in the breath between two complaints, the Spirit of God convicted Wayne with these words — God spoke to his heart — “Wayne you are more concerned about the absence of your problems than you are concerned with the presence of Jesus.”

Gotta be honest, those words pierced my heart. Too often my prayers are requests for the removal of my problems.  Too rare are my prayers request for more of the presence of Jesus.  Too often my prayers are requests for God to bless my plans.  Too rare are my prayers a request for the blessing of God’s presence.  Too often I am looking for God’s power more than I desire God’s presence.

In Exodus 33, Moses is first promised the power of God to fix his problems, but for Moses that wasn’t enough. “Don’t send us up from here without your presence. What will distinguish us from all the other people on the earth if we do not have your presence.” Offered all the power of God, Moses would trade it all the power for all the presence of God.

What’s more important to you?  The absence of problems or the Presence of God?  The answer to that question will shape your Christmas wish list.

At the very heart of Christmas is the presence of God.

QUESTIONS TO PONDER

What is on my Christmas prayer list?

Which gets more of my prayer-energy, prayers for God’s power or prayers for the blessing of God’s presence?

If God offered me the choice right now between his power for my problems or his presence for my life, which would I choose?

PRAYER

Father, this Christmas season, I need your presence even more than I need your power. Help me to desire your presence more than anything. Deepen my hunger. Ignite the fire of my heart. Open my eyes to see you. May we know Immanuel, God with us, this Christmas season.  Amen

Take a moment and think of someone who desperately needs God’s power for their problems. Spend time praying that they will experience God’s presence.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

His House — His Presence

Dec 08th 2015

READ

Psalm 84:1-4​

My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

When I was a kid.  Most of our family vacations involved trips from South Dakota to California to see our relatives. Grandma Duncan was one of my favorites.  She was great.  She would take us to Thrifty’s for ice cream. She always got us discount tickets to go to Disneyland. I remember sitting at her counter as she would special-order cook my breakfast.  At Little Grandma’s there was always a new toy, a special gift.

She was full of love and life and joy.  We had long talks.  It was always good to go to grandma’s house because it was always good to be with her.  I didn’t understand until later how much of the blessing was wrapped up in her presence…not her presents.

But then she got Alzheimer’s…way to0 early. I was in college when she started getting bad. Grandpa refused to put her in a nursing home. He took care of her. But she kept getting worse, mentally and physically. So they moved on to my parent’s farm. For the next decade of her life, she lived there. But not really…no more long talks. She couldn’t talk. No more special order breakfast, she couldn’t even feed herself. No more special gifts, she was bed-bound.

It was always interesting to watch my kids when we would go to grandma’s house to visit. They never had the chance to really know her, but they always wanted to see her. They would go into her bedroom and touch her hand, say hello, and then go and play. When they left the room, I think it was almost as though she was no longer in the house. I would stay a little longer. We had more history. But after a few more moments I would leave also.

And the rest of the time, it was as though she was not there. Present but not known.  In the house, but no longer a force of blessing. Her house, but nobody asked her to host. Her kitchen but nobody asked her to cook.  Once the ritual greetings had taken place she wasn’t present…until it was time for the ritual goodbyes.

And the house was different. It was her house, but the blessing was gone. Do we ever get that way with God?

Once upon a time, we knew He was there…we consulted Him with our decisions and asked for His help often…sometimes we would just sit and talk and it was good to be in His house, because it was
good to be with Him. We would find our hands full of special gifts and cook-to-order blessings.  But now we have our ritual hellos and our ritual goodbyes and the rest of the time?

Well it’s His house, but it would be easy to be there and never be aware of His presence.

QUESTIONS TO PONDER

For what does my heart yearn?

Would I trade one day with God for three years of my life?

God doesn’t have alzheimer’s. If there is distance between us, we’ve moved. What might it look like for me to prepare to be aware of His presence in His house?

PRAYER

Father, this Christmas season, I want more of the blessing of you. Please open my eyes to your presence in your house. Help me to acknowledge you in multiple moments throughout the day. Show me what keeps me from you and give me the courage to break down all the walls. I love you. Thank you for coming to be with us.  Amen

Take a moment and pray for Calvary’s weekend worship, that together, we would experience His presence.

There is One Response to : His House — His Presence

  1. Cheryle Touchton Wrote:

    Very good analogy. It was the same way with Bob’s mom. I normally take a few days alone with God every year – a long weekend. Have done it since the 80’s. I used to be good at scheduling it but when I left corporate America and it was easier to schedule, I tended to be reactive about it – do it when I am what I call “locked” up. This is a good reminder to do it purposely and proactively again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Advent Devotionals #1 — The True Story of Christmas

Dec 07th 2015

READ

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I will lack nothing…

What is the true story of Christmas?  It almost seems like there are two competing stories. We read about the Christmas story of Conception, but we experience the Christmas story of Consumption! We read about the invasion of God’s presence into the reality of life on earth, but we experience the invasion of Black Friday presents that flow from the myth of more. (If we just had more then we would be happy.)

Now please understand, I’m not against gift-giving or good-shopping. I drove my family to Target on Thanksgiving. I browsed the aisles of Amazon. I gazed lovingly at the espresso machines on ebay. Yet the heart of Christmas does not pulse with presents, but presence. This is the true story of Christmas.

The last few days my mind has been leaning into the first line of David’s Psalm, (Click the link above to read the whole Psalm) “The Lord is my shepherd, I will lack nothing.” If the Lord is my shepherd I will lack nothing. If I have Jesus, I need nothing else. Now there’s a thought that might shed some light on black Friday! If I have Christ, I will lack nothing.

David is not suggesting that we will never go through hard times. He doesn’t believe that everything I want will be mine. He’s not saying, “I will never grieve, or fail, or be hurt.” In fact he says, “I know that I will go through hard, difficult, dark, shadow of death kind of days, but in those times we have everything we need for life, if we have God.”

There is a quote in one of St. Augustine’s books that gives a hint of St. Augustine’s Christmas wish list. “He who has God has everything. He who does not have God has nothing. He who has God and everything has no more than he who has God alone.”

QUESTIONS TO PONDER

If you could present your Christmas-wish list to God, what is #1, #2, and #3 on the list? If “more of God” isn’t #1 on the list what would it look like for you to move Him up?

Read Psalm 23 as a Christmas wish-list. What do we get when we get God?

PRAYER

Father, this Christmas season, I want more of you. Please open my eyes to your presence. Saturate my life and my community with your presence. Help me to be more aware of you and your goodness that pursues me. Show me what keeps me from you and give me the courage to break down all the walls. I love you. Thank you for coming to be with us.  Amen

Take a moment and pray for one other person who needs more of God in their life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Thanksgiving

Nov 26th 2015

Few things abort a heart of gratitude like the sin of pride. In our pride we grumble when we don’t receive because we didn’t get what we deserved; and when we do get it, we still aren’t grateful because after all we deserved it anyway. But then we start focusing on the goodness and the greatness of God…and something starts changing inside. The more we focus, the more aware we become.

In fact there is a science behind this principle…it’s all about the reticular activating system. This is the part of the brain that acts as a filter for information. It’s the part of the brain that allows you to sleep at night through all the normal sounds of your house, but then to wake up at the sound of the ruffling pajamas of your child as they walk into your bedroom.

Seven years ago, Lynn gave me permission to get a motorcycle. After almost 25 years of marriage she gave me permission to buy a motorcycle. So I started looking, thinking, dreaming, checked into getting a license, etc. But then I started thinking about how I drive my car…  I’m an easily distracted driver. I love looking around and sometimes I need to pull myself back to the road.. So I started thinking that it might not be such a good thing on a motorcycle.  So I decided, the best compromise between a car and a motorcycle is a jeep. When we were in Hawaii on my sabbatical, we rented a jeep. Oh man I loved it! But here’s what my reticular activating system did…once I decided to buy a jeep…everywhere I went I saw jeeps. I didn’t think Jeeps even existed in State College and all of a sudden that’s all I could see.

Gratitude refocuses our reticular activating system to God. We become aware of his goodness and greatness. We begin to recognize his whisper. We start seeing God’s jeeps. How? It starts with a conviction and a decision. The conviction is that God is great and good…so I will decide to look for and focus on his greatness and his goodness. Brennan Manning once said…

I believe that the real difference in the American church is not between conservatives and liberals, fundamentalists and charismatics, nor between Republicans & Democrats. The real difference is between the aware & the unaware.

So how do I refocus my reticular activating system to God? Make a gratitude list. Take a moment or three today and make a list of the things, the people, the events, the moments in life for which you are grateful. That after all is the heart of Thanksgiving!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

What God Can Do

Nov 17th 2015

osamaAs we pray for the people of Paris, as we discuss the nature of the terrorists who committed these crimes; as I think about the Christian students of Garissa University in Kenya who were killed for their faith; as I do my google search to discover the background of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the appointed Caliph of ISIS; as I remember a terrorist the U.S. loved to hate, Osama Bin Ladin, I’ve been pondering the question, “What happens when a terrorist meets God?”

Think about this man that so many hated.  He was born in a small middle-eastern country bordering Syria. Born to wealthy parents; educated in the finest university in the country; some suggest that he was next in line to take over the family housing construction business. Yet at some point in his life there was a significant embracing of his heritage, especially his religious heritage. There is good indication that this was passed down from his parents, but we are not entirely sure.

What we do know is that in time he was radicalized. He became a zealous follower of his religious heritage, and he began to view the followers of Jesus as dire enemies to that same heritage. He gained the support of religious and national leaders; he began to gather people whom he could influence; and he began to terrorize those who did not have the proper fear of his God.

Christians especially were targeted, tortured, killed.  But not just in his own land, he extended his reach to foreign cities.  Less through his religious convictions and more through his terrorist strikes, he became a household name.  Now we know that he was directly involved in the killing of many innocent people.

But then one day…  as he traveled… to Damascus… intent on the development of a plan to instill fear in the hearts of those who didn’t follow his true way. He had an encounter with God, the one true God.  A terrorist met God.  In his writings he describes it this way,

At noon, along the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who traveled with me. Everyone fell to the ground and I heard a voice speaking to me in Hebrew, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” “Who are you?” I asked.  And the Lord replied, “I am Jesus, who you are persecuting. Now stand up!  For I have appeared to you to appoint you as my servant. Tell the world about this experience and about other times that I will appear to you. I am going to send you to open their eyes so they may turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to the power of God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people…”

Perhaps you realize the stinger in the story.  His name was not Osama Bin Laden, or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, his name was Saul. Later his life was so radically re-created that he took on a new name — Paul.  The person who wrote more of our New Testament was a terrorist who met God.  One of the greatest missionaries to ever walk the earth was a terrorist who met God.

I’m not making a statement on whether we should or should not accept refugees. I’m not making a statement on whether or not we should use the word Islam to describe ISIS. I’m simply saying that whatever statements we make should be made with the somber wonder that no one knows what might happen when a terrorist meets God.

That should make us pray more for the world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.