Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Courageous Strength

Be strong
and courageous
Do not be frightened…
For the Lord your
God is with you
wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9b

Moses never saw the land God had promised. He knew about it, however, a series of events denied him entry. Knowing that he would never live a settled life as a result of the choices he had made, he continued to lead the Israelites through the desert, faithful to God’s call on his life.

Joshua was given the monumental responsibility of crossing the Jordan to begin living the life God intended. But before he completes the journey God has a few more promises with provisos—I will not leave you—Be strong and courageous. Four times in the first chapter alone of Joshua God focuses on the characteristics of strength and courage.

It has taken strength and courage to get to the point where Joshua is presently standing--the threshold of his future. And while it is evident that God has been with the Israelites continually and he promises the same for the future, God emphasizes that continuing to be strong and courageous will be essential to living in the land.

Much of our Christian life is focused on claiming the promise of God’s presence. It’s true--God is with you. However, God asks something in return which demands action on your part—living in the land courageously strong.

God fought for the people of Israel as a result of their strength and courage. When they sat back waiting or whined disaster struck. God wants to fight for you. Are you willing to live with strength and courage?

Jesus, thank you for
your continual presence with me.
You never promised an easy life,
only that you will always be around.
Help me to live with strength and courage
as a response to your promise

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Why Suffer

Closing my uncle's apartment in Iowa and distributing his collection of valuables was very emotional. One learns so much about a person's life when going through what they have saved.

This morning during my readings I came across this portion relating to the issue of suffering and the Christian. I thought of my uncle, who had suffered betrayal by someone whom he thought a friend. Also coming to mind were numerous committed Christians who had suffered seemingly without reason. If you have ever asked the question, "Why suffer?" I believe you will find this writing by Gene Edward interesting.

The Lord did not complete His suffering. It has been given to the church to complete the sufferings of Christ. Suffering not yet filled up waits out there for you. You see, the body is also Christ. The body, which is the church, is part of that Christ. There is suffering out there yet to be endured, yet to be known, yet to be embraced by that part of Christ which is called the body. We all thank God that no one member of that body will ever have to know and endure all the sufferings that Jeus Christ experienced while living on earth. But each one of us--because we are in some mysterious way one with Him--will taste some part of His experience of suffering.

One within your fellowship may know ridicule. Another will partake of physical pain, another will know rejection, perhaps someone else may taste what it means to be vilified and verbally, socially crucified. And perhaps, just perhaps, there will be one within your fellowship who will touch that awful thing which Christ touched in that last moment on the cross: the dark night of the spirit.

There is one aspect of the cross that none of us will ever know--praise God! We will never know what it means to be the sin-bearer. That is one thing which I will never experience, nor will you. He and He alone has experienced that. He experienced the one thing that none of us should have escaped, and the one thing which He need never have known. He became the sin-bearer and thereby took suffering that was truly mine.

Now you must step into your place in the body of Christ, and you must receive and you must bear some segment of the suffering which is Christ's--that is, that part of Christ which is the church.

Monday, April 21, 2008

I'm Thinking...

This morning I am in Missouri Valley, Iowa. If perchance you look at a map, you'll have difficulty finding it. I will meet my brother in Fort Dodge, Iowa around noon when we will begin the difficult task of going through what remains of our Uncle Wendell's life.

Several years ago singer/writer Cheryl Wheeler wrote a song, "Estate Sale" where the line "goin' through dead people's houses, seein' all they have collected" is poignant for me at this moment. My uncle was a collector. From Louis Lamour cowboy novels to paper thin crystal goblets Wendell was a man of opposites and he found it difficult to throw away anything although he did give away sets of china dishes to women he thought needed them, myself included.

None of this, of course, was he able to take with him. When he went to meet Jesus, face to face, he stood by himself without the accoutrements of his life. Ultimately, the stuff he had purchased didn't define who he was inside, although it may give some indication as to how Wendell felt. His Father, however, was only interested in who He had created and what Wendell had done with the 82 years he had been given.

This experience of cleaning, disposing and packing up what remains from my dear uncle's life will be difficult because I, too, am a collector. And it's true, you don't take it with you.

So, no doubt I will be asking myself this week, "What will Jesus say when you stand before him without all the stuff you have thought so important through the years?"

Friday, April 18, 2008

Cleaning House

Yesterday I was put to an unpleasant task. Sweeping the basement laundry room of our church wasn't my idea of fun. Donning a face mask due to the amount of dirt, pealing paint and dryer lint I grabbed the broom and immediately started praying, "Jesus, teach me something!" Before I knew it I was reminded of a writing by Robert Boyd Munger that I had read years ago. My Heart, Christ's Home was about preparing one's inner "house" for a visit from Jesus. As I swept and purged I pondered on what Jesus would find in my "house" and prayed that He wouldn't find anything like the basement laundry room I was cleaning.

If you haven't ever read My Heart, Christ's Home, here it is. Get your broom!

One evening I invited Jesus Christ into my heart. What an entrance He made! It was not a spectacular, emotional thing, but very real. Something happened at the very center of my life. He came into the darkness of my heart and turned on the light. He built a fire on the hearth and banished the chill. He started music where there had been silence, He filled the emptiness with His own loving, wonderful fellowship. I have never regretted opening the door to Christ and I never will.

In the joy of this new relationship I said to Jesus Christ, "Lord, I want this heart of mine to be Yours. I want to have You settle down here and be perfectly at home. Everything that I have belongs to You. Let me show you around."

The first room was the study--the library. In my home this room of the mind is a very small room with very thick walls. But it is a very important room. In a sense it is the control room of the house. He entered with me and looked around at the books on the bookcase, the magazines upon the table, the pictures on the walls. As I followed His gaze I became uncomfortable.

Strangely, I had not felt self-conscious about this before, but now that He was there looking at these things I was embarrassed. Some books were there that His eyes were too pure to behold. On the table were a few magazines that a Christian had no business reading. As for the pictures on the walls--the imaginations and thoughts of the mind--some of these were shameful.

Red-faced I turned to Him and said, "Master, I know that this room needs to be cleaned up and made over. Will You help me make it what it ought to be?"

"Certainly!" He said. "I'm glad to help you. First of all, take all the things that you are reading and looking at which are not helpful, pure, good and true, and throw them out! Now put on the empty shelves the books of the Bible. Fill the library with Scripture and meditate on it day and night. As for the pictures on the walls, you will have difficulty controlling these images, but I have something that will help." He gave me a full-size portrait of Himself. "Hang this centrally," He said, "on the wall of the mind."

From the study we went into the dining room, the room of appetites and desires. I spent a lot of time and hard work here trying to satisfy my wants. I said to Him, "This is a favorite room. I am quite sure you will be pleased with what we serve."

He seated Himself at the table with me and asked, "What is on the menu for dinner?" "Well," I said, "my favorite dishes: money, academic degrees and stocks, with newspaper articles of fame and fortune as side dishes." These were the things I liked--secular fare. When the food was placed before Him, He said nothing, but I observed that He did not eat it. I said to Him, "Master, don't You care for this food? What is the trouble?"

He answered, "I have food to eat that you do not know of. If you want food that really satisfies you, do the will of the Father. Stop seeking you own pleasures, desires, and satisfaction. Seek to please Him. That food will satisfy you."

There at the table He gave me a taste of the joy of doing God's will. What flavor! There is no food like it in the world. It alone satisfies.

From the dinning room we walked into the living room. This room was intimate and comfortable. I liked it. It had a fireplace, overstuffed chairs, a sofa, and a quite atmosphere. He said, "This is indeed a delightful room. Let us come here often. It is secluded and quite, and we can fellowship together."

Well, as a young Christian I was thrilled. I couldn't think of anything I would rather do than have a few minutes with Christ in close companionship. He promised, "I will be here early every morning. Meet Me here, and we will start the day together."

So morning after morning, I would come downstairs to the living room. He would take a book of the Bible from the case. We would open it and read it together. He would unfold to me the wonder of God's saving truths. My heart sang as He shared the love and grace He had toward me. These were wonderful times.

However, little by little, under the pressure of many responsibilities, this time began to be shortened. Why, I'm not sure. I thought I was too busy to spend regular time with Christ. This was not intentional, you understand. It just happened that way. Finally, not only was the time shortened, but I began to miss days now and then. Urgent matters would crowd out the quite times of conversation with Jesus.

I remember one morning rushing downstairs, eager to be on my way. I passed the living room and noticed that the door was opened. Looking in, I saw a fire in the fireplace and Jesus was sitting there. Suddenly in dismay I thought to myself, "He is my guest. I invited Him into my heart! He has come as my Savior and Friend, and yet I am neglecting Him."

I stopped, turned and hesitantly went in. With downcast glance, I said, "Master, forgive me. Have You been here all these mornings?" "Yes," He said, "I told you I would be here every morning to meet with you. Remember, I love you. I have redeemed you at great cost. I value your friendship. Even if you cannot keep the quite time for your own sake, do it for mine."

The truth that Christ desires my companionship, that He wants me to be with Him and waits for me, has done more to transform my quiet time with God than any other single fact. Don't let Christ wait alone in the living room of your heart, but every day find time when, with your Bible and in prayer, you may be together with Him.

Before long, He asked, "Do you have a workroom in your home?" Out in the garage of the home of my heart I had a workbench and some equipment, but I was not doing much with it. Once in a while I would play around with a few little gadgets, but I wasn't producing anything substantial.

I led Him out there. He looked over the workbench and said, "Well, this is quite well furnished. What are you producing with your life for the Kingdom of God?" He looked at one or two little toys that I had thrown together on a bench and held one up to me. "Is this the sort of thing you are doing for others in your Christian life?" "Well," I said, "Lord, I know it isn't much, and I really want to do more, but after all, I don't seem to have strength or skill to do more."

"Would you like to do better?" He asked. "Certainly," I replied. "All right. Let me have your hands. Now relax in me and let my Spirit work through you. I know that you are unskilled, clumsy and awkward, but the Holy Spirit is the Master Workman, and if He controls your hands and you heart, He will work through you." Stepping around behind me and putting His strong hands under mine, He held the tools in His skilled fingers and began to work through me. The more I relaxed and trusted Him, the more He was able to do with my life.

He asked me if I had a rec room where I went for fun and fellowship. I was hoping He would not ask about that, There were certain associations and activities that I wanted to keep for myself.

One evening when I was on my way out with some buddies, He stopped me with a glance and asked, "Are you going out?" I replied, "Yes." "Good," He said, " I would like to go with you." "Oh," I answered rather awkwardly." "I don't think, Lord Jesus, that you would really enjoy where we are going. Let's go out together tomorrow night. Tomorrow night we will go to a Bible class at church, but tonight I have another appointment."

"I am sorry," He said. "I thought that when I came into your home, we were going to do everything together, to be close companions. I just want you to know that I am willing to go with you." "Well," I mumbled, slipping out the door, "we will go someplace together tomorrow night."

That evening I spent some miserable hours. I felt rotten. What kind of friend was I to Jesus, deliberately leaving Him out of my life, doing things and going places that I knew very well He would not enjoy?

When I returned that evening, there was a light in His room, and I went up to talk it over with Him. I said "Lord, I have learned my lesson. I know now that I can't have a good time without You. From now on, we will do everything together." Then we went down into the rec room of the house. He transformed it. He brought new friends, new excitement, new joys. Laughter and music have been ringing through the house ever since.

One day I found Him waiting for me at the door. An arresting look was in His eye. As I entered, He said to me, "There is a peculiar odor on the house. Something must be dead around here. It's upstairs. I think it is in the hall closet."

As soon as He said this, I knew what He was talking about. There was a small closet up there on the hall landing, just a few feet square. In that closet, behind lock and key, I had one or two little personal things that I didn't not want anyone to know about. Certainly, I did not want Christ to see them. I knew they were dead and rotting things left over from the old life. I wanted them so for myself that I was afraid to admit they were there.

Reluctantly, I went up with Him, and as we mounted the stairs the odor became stronger and stronger. He pointed to the door. I was angry. That's the only way I can put it. I had given Him access to the library, the dining room, the living room, the workroom, and now He was asking me about a little two-by-four closet. I said to myself, "This is too much. I am not going to give Him the key."

"Well," he said, reading my thoughts, "if you think I'm going to stay up here on the second floor with this smell, you are mistaken. I will go out on the porch." Then I saw Him start down the stairs.

When one comes to know and love Christ, the worst thing that can happen is to sense Him withdrawing His fellowship. I had to give in. "I'll give you the key," I said sadly, but You will have to open the closet and clean it out. I haven't got the strength to do it."

"Just give me the key," He said. "Authorize me to take care of that closet and I will." With trembling fingers I passed the key to Him. He took it, walked over to the door, opened it, entered, took out all the putrefying stuff that was rotting in there, and threw it away. Then He cleaned the closet and painted it. It was all done in a moment's time. Oh, what victory and release to have that dead thing out of my life!

A thought came to me. "Lord, is there any chance that You would take over the management of the whole house and operate it for me as You did that closet? Would You take the responsibility to keep my life what it ought to be?"

His face lit up as He replied, "I'd love to! That is what I want to do. You cannot be a victorious Christian in you own strength. Let me do it through you and for you. That is the way. But, "He added slowly, "I am just a guest. I have no authority to proceed, since the property is not mine."

Dropping to my knees, I said, "Lord, You have been a guest and I have been the host. From now on I am going to be the servant. You are going to be the owner and Master." Running as fast as I could to the strongbox, I took out the title deed to the house describing its assets and liabilities, location and situation. I eagerly signed the house over to Him alone for time and eternity. "Here," I said. "Here it is, all that I am and all that I have, forever. Now You run the house. I'll just remain with You as a servant and friend."

Things are different since Jesus Christ has settled down and has made His home in my heart.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Forgiveness DNA the Lord
has forgiven you,
so you also
must forgive.

Colossians 3:13b

Carly never knew how her sister was going to treat her when she came to visit. There were moments when there seemed to be a flicker of hope, but, then it would be snuffed with harsh words, condescension, insults, rebuke. The cycle repeated itself over and over again–emotional injuries and the necessity of forgiveness.

Jesus addressed the need for forgiveness, even at his death, Father, forgive them (Luke 23:34). Forgiveness is an absolute when it comes to following Jesus. He sets the bar of willingness to forgive. Jesus didn’t hold close the hurts, rejection, betrayal that were hurdled towards him, repeatedly. Even knowing the outcome, he kept Judas on as a disciple, never wavered with Peter, and had compassion for the uppity desires of James and John. Forgiveness was a part of Jesus’ DNA.

In following such an amazing God, why is forgiveness so difficult? To admit to ourselves that our actions, choices, responses need forgiveness requires that we take an inward look. Upon discovering that our own emotional DNA is lacking we find we don’t like what we see. To forgive the one who has caused so much hurt is to acknowledge that, in the eyes of Jesus, we are exactly the same as the offender.

Forgiving the person in one's life that repeatedly inflicts hurts probably won’t come naturally. But, the truth is, that Jesus instinctively forgives and in order to fully grasp what He does for us on a daily basis a forgiving "second" nature will need to develop.

Jesus, thank you for
instinctively forgiving me.
I need a forgiving "second" nature.
I’ve been hurt but help me to be like You,
not holding on but forgiving
in the same way
I have been forgiven

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Here is a portion from the Inward Journey by Gene Edwards.

I have observed through the years that most Christians have little understanding of the word 'season'. Our Lord is a seasonal God; He comes, He departs. his faithfulness never changes, but His seasons do! There are seasons when the tree is green, there are seasons when it is dry, and seasons when, for the life of us, the thing looks dead. Now, does this mean you are serving some capricious God who comes and goes by whim? Or, could it be, that it is only through 'seasons' that true growth may come?

Paul said, 'Does not nature teach us?' Fruit from a tree comes to us as a result of three or four seasons. The Christian and the Lord's body both need rain and sunshine, cold and hot, wind and doldrums.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Minuscule Faith

The apostles said
to the Lord,
"Increase our faith!"

Luke 17:5

It’s evident that our culture believes that bigger is better. From houses to toilet paper "mega" is the operative word. Consequently, seeing the minuscule becomes a challenge when surrounded by the gargantuan. And yet, we’re surrounded by tiny bits, with humble beginnings, that become "mega" important–a drop of water just for a start.

Apparently the disciples figured that bigger was better when it came to faith. In the days and weeks of following Jesus they had obviously picked up on the fact that their "new life" was going to require something more. Especially when prior to this verse Jesus tells them that "temptations to sin are sure to come." They beg Jesus–Increase our faith–bigger is better!

Faith doesn’t have to be big to be worthwhile. In fact, faith changes size in the process of following Jesus. No one begins with faith the size of a California redwood. It’s beginnings are always minuscule but no less effective. As faith is cared for and nurtured through prayer, Bible study, silence and Christian community it’s size and shape alters. Along the way, difficulties, disappointments, discouragements, if embraced, water the tiny faith seed. And while you may feel at times like your faith isn’t big enough to get you through, it hasn’t stopped growing.

Bigger isn’t always better. Flooding is a result of too much rain, too quickly, causing destruction. However, the steady fall of raindrops can fill a reservoir, providing for the future. Faith, when attended to, will be just the right size when you need it.

Jesus, You said that
faith the size of a mustard seed
is where I can begin.
Help me care for my faith seed
as consistently as I care
for all the other things
that are important to me.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Painful Giving he was reclining
at table, a woman
came with an
alabaster flask of
ointment of pure nard,
very costly, and she broke
the flask and
it over his head.

Mark 14:3b

Even with the most loved family member there is usually a budget when it comes to gift giving. Hours are spent to find just the right gift within our financial guidelines. Perhaps, while searching, frustration comes to play when wishing that the roof was the limit instead of one’s wallet! Nevertheless, there is a restraint to our generosity. After all, the mortgage is due next month.

The woman who anoints Jesus at Bethany shows no such restraint. She blows the roof off with her gift! Whether the ointment was specifically purchased or was in her closet, she gives a gift that puts a strain on her financial resources. In her mind, Jesus deserved the very best, even if the cost was future stability.

For most of us we have a firm grasp on a variety of "valuables." Perhaps a monetary value cannot be determined, but, whatever "it" may be it’s certain that losing or giving it away could be painful.

Jesus, didn’t ask for the woman’s gift. She gave it willingly and generously. And while this passage illustrates the preparation for Jesus’ burial this woman also gives us another example. Her action should prompt us to ask, “How generous am I willing to be in response to my loving Jesus?”

From jobs, to homes, to wanting to be married, to children, to spouses, to retirement accounts--whatever it maybe that you hold as valuable are you willing to pour it generously over the head of Jesus? In Mark this woman is nameless but her generosity has endured for centuries.

Jesus, I love you with
all my heart, soul and mind.
And while I want to give generously
to You I struggle.
Help me to remember the woman
from Bethany each time
my fingers clutch tightly
that which I hold dear.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Dinner Invitations

...'the next time you
put on a dinner,
don’t just invite your

friends and family
and rich neighbors,

the kind of people
who will return the favor.
Invite some people

who never get
invited out, the misfits

from the wrong side of the tracks.
You’ll be–and experience–a blessing.

Luke 14:12-13 (The Message)

It’s comfortable living in a religious bubble, socially. Within its confines everyone "fits" theologically with people that "look" familiar in an environment that "feels" good. Settling into this cozy spiritual cocoon one is tempted to believe that all that is needed is provided. And above all, one feels "safe". There is no one to disrupt this comfortable spiritual existence.

It is a luxury to be able to choose "safe", like-minded friends. My own social religious bubble popped when I was living in a small, alternative life-style community several years ago. Very few people "looked" like me! Frantically casting about for someone who "fit" I found myself empty handed. It wasn’t until I opened myself to the misfits that lived in our community that I began to see what I was missing. Friends became individuals that absolutely would not have crossed my path if we had been living in a more populated area. My life, however, was richer for their misfit involvement.

Jesus didn’t seek out "safe" people. He intentionally looked for the misfits in the community. While others attempted to blow a protective religious bubble around him, he’d burst it every time. Jesus wanted to talk, eat, socialize with the people who didn’t "fit." What difference would he have made if he had stuck with people who thought like him?

For every time you invite a "safe" friend over think about the misfit, the individual who doesn’t "fit" you that could be invited as well. You’ll be–and experience–a blessing.

Jesus, I want to live
like You lived, outside the bubble.
Help me to stop looking at
who "fits" with me, looking instead
for unexpected friends

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

God Fear

Moses said
to the people,
"Do not fear,

for God has come
to test you, that the
fear of him may be

before you, that
you may not sin.

Exodus 20:20

Adventurers understand the difference between "fear" and the "fear of" something. When a new rock climber begins initially climbing it is necessary to overcome one’s fear about heights, falling, and climbing in general. Caving into one’s "fear" means staying on the bottom and missing the spectacular view. And while the wobbly stomach at each ascent may or may not go away, a healthy "fear of" the rock, its impenetrableness, and the possibilities should that "fear of" be taken for granted, should be constant. This "fear of" is what will help you reach the summit.

Too often our lives are controlled by fear and those fears prevent us from moving out and living the life that God intended. We figure if we keep things in control and obey the teachings of Jesus our life will be smooth. But then, events take shape and we find ourselves smack in the middle of a crisis and fear rears its head. We’re fearful that we haven’t lived right, prayed consistently, or perhaps talked to enough people about Jesus.

God never intended for us to live life with fear. The moment we made a decision to grab His hand a holy adventure began. Fearing the guaranteed highs and lows of this holy adventure prevents us from fully living a life with Jesus. But, to have a "fear of" the One whose hand you’re holding is to know that joy and sorrow will be a part of this adventure and that nothing can prevent you from reaching the summit of God’s plan.

Jesus, forgive me for
the fears that hold me.
I acknowledge that they prevent
me from fully living life with You.
Help me, live in fear of You
believing that whatever
You allow to come my way
will help get me to Your summit.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Edgy Christianity

Bill and I are beginning a new ministry with a group of people we've never met at a church that was founded in the late 1800's. I was struck with this comment by Lee Strobel about what it means to live out our Christian faith in an "edgy" way.

'Tour-bus Christians' drive comfortably through life as they gaze out the window at others who are elbow-deep in the daily adventure of serving God and working among spiritually needy people.

Tour-bus Christians are insulated from the real-world activity and excitement of God's work. They may avoid some of the pain that's involved, and they may protect themselves from the difficulties and struggles, but there's no real adventure on a tour bus. They miss out on the excitement of living at the edge of expectation. They don't experience the tremendous counter-cultural truth that the more a Christian pours himself out serving others in God's name, the more god will fill him to overflowing. The adventure comes when you tell the tour bus to stop, and you jump off and say:

'Lord, I want to get into the fray. I want to play a role in the biggest adventure story of all time. Use me to make a difference. use me to impact a young person for You. Use me to solve someone's problem. Use me to soothe someone's pain. Use me to answer someone's prayer. Use me to fee someone who's hungry. Use me to rescue a child. Use me to bring someone to You. Use me to ease someone's loneliness. use me to raise a godly family.

Use me to deepen someone's faith. use me to cheer someone on. Use me to help a broken person understand that he's precious in Your sight. Use me to touch lives in Your name.

I don't want to just observe cathedrals through by bus window; I want to roll up my sleeves and build one! Lord, use me to build a living cathedral dedicated to Your glory.'

Lee Strobel

Friday, April 4, 2008

I'm Thinking...

Recently I've met a woman who loves Jesus. It's not that one knows she loves Jesus just because of her demeanor. No, when one is with her you pick up very quickly that Jesus is in every intake and exhale of breath. Of course, the fact that she is totally unembarrassed to yell, "JESUS!" at any given time while walking down the street is also a good indication!

The other day, while having lunch together, I asked her if she would like to pray for us and jokingly said, "but do it quietly." I've been thinking since that time, especially after we have told several people the story, how often we live out our lives for Jesus, "quietly."

Jesus, of course, did not live out his life quietly. Even as an adolescent he was not intimidated by the religious scholars but was confident in who he was and what he knew. From his baptism to the wedding at Cana to the feeding of the thousands the list goes on how Jesus lived his life publicly and noisily. The gospel of Mark repeatedly tells us that "crowds" followed Jesus continually. That certainly isn't a picture of quiet.

We live in a "politically correct" age and given this context I find myself too often following Jesus "quietly." To daily look at each encounter with an individual as an opportunity to speak "Jesus" is a challenge. What I'm realizing, however, is that while I may not have the courage to yell, "Jesus!" while walking down the street I can speak Jesus into the life of each person I meet. It means a very conscious awareness on my part. Each waiter, clerk, telephone order taker, doctor, mortgage broker, window washer becomes an opportunity to not be quiet about Jesus.

How we speak Jesus daily will look different with each encounter. But what I was struck with is the truth that I can do something that takes no time from the other person. I can pray. If I believe that God created everyone then each person I meet is an image of God. They may not know it, but the fact is I do and my reponsibility as a Jesus follower is to speak Jesus to them in whatever way possible.

Whether "quietly" or out loud the simplest way to speak is prayer.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Bad to Good

...and Salmon the father
of Boaz by Rahab,

and Boaz the father
of Obed by Ruth, and Obed
the father of Jesse,

and Jesse the father
of David the king.

Matthew 1:5-6

Living on the fringes of her community, Rahab was the despised woman of the night. An outsider at every level, Rahab’s future looked exactly like her present, hopeless. She didn’t "owe" her community anything given that they had invested nothing to her existence. What was there to lose from a life that had nothing? Her life, however, gains significance when Joshua’s men knock at her door.

She surely thought that the two were yet more customers coming to satisfy themselves. There was never any indication that by opening the door to them her life position would change forever. And yet, as we discover in Joshua chapter two, when she made the decision to open the door to what she assumed was another "taker" of her wares her future was completely altered.

Rahab’s life is the promise that God can, will and does make something good out of something bad. Of course, she had no idea that meeting Joshua’s men was the beginning of her good future. When they came to her door she responded with business as usual after all, life wasn’t fair and had dealt her a very bad hand.

God, on the other hand, took what was seemingly irredeemable and shaped it into good. Despite her bottom of the well existence Rahab shows incredible fortitude and hundreds of years later we see her name on the royal family tree. A woman, whose life was nothing, becomes a part of the heritage of Jesus, the Redeemer of the world.

Jesus, unable to see any good
I find myself settling
into life’s unfairness.
Thank you for taking
what I think is hopeless
and shaping it into something good.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Tearing off the Roof

...when they could
not get near him...
they removed the roof
above him, and when
they had made an opening,
they let down the bed
on which the paralytic lay.

Mark 2:4

It’s a story of friendship, commitment, determination, faith and hope–four committed friends armed with faith and determination making sure that the fifth of their group didn’t give up hope. How they came to the point of hauling their ailing friend to Jesus isn’t recorded because how they got there isn’t nearly as important as what they did when they arrived. Undeterred by the swarm of people, they tore up a roof getting to Jesus.

N.T. Wright says, that while the five friends represent good qualities that should be evident in a Jesus follower, there is another vantage point as well. Through this story we learn what it means to pray without restraints. Less resilient individuals would have turned around when faced with the obstacles these guys encountered. Instead they keep their eyes on the goal and pursue Jesus with all their heart, soul and mind.

Jesus admires their tenacity and the example they have set. Amidst the rubble of their work, they stand before the One who has the power to heal and receive more than they anticipated. Their friend, for whom they interceded, is healed inside and out.

This is what being a Jesus follower is all about–not allowing anything to stand in the way of pursuing being in the presence of Jesus. When we pray with a "tearing off the roof" attitude we are able to stand before Jesus without hindrances. And, when we find ourselves standing with Jesus the unexpected is bound to happen with his outstretched hand.

Jesus, being in Your presence
makes a difference in how I feel.
Forgive me when the stuff of my life
becomes an obstacle
of pursuing You with all my
heart, soul and mind

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Heats On

But we are not
of those who shrink
back and are destroyed,
but of those

who have faith
and preserve their souls

Hebrews 10:39

The summer heat tried to beat the life out of Gabriela Andersen-Schiess of Switzerland. Having run 26 miles in the 1984 Olympics she fell 400 meters short of the finish line. There was certainty among those who watched the runners navigate their way into the Los Angeles Coliseum that Gabriela’s race was over. To the stunned crowd, however, Gabriela proved that she was made of tougher stuff. Crawling forward, waving away all attempts to help her, Gabriela crossed the finish line. There were six runners who had quit long before.

Jesus was made of tougher stuff. From the beginning, when the Holy Spirit drives him out to the desert, Jesus demonstrates what it means to not shrink back. At every turn the religious order "heat" was continually turning up the temperature in its attempts to beat him down. Even at the point of his falling under the burden of his destruction he continues to the finish.

If we are following Jesus, we also will feel the intensity of religious "heat." Throughout our spiritual race there will be those who question our commitment to Biblical truth and along with hardships and adversities we'll find ourselves doing a face plant. It will be at these times, when having fallen, that all we can do is to keep crawling forward. Being prepared for these moments is essential. Jesus lived a life that proved finishing is possible. Moving forward, no matter the position, will ultimately give us life. To shrink back, quiting short of the finish line, is certain destruction.

Jesus, your life proves
that hardships are a part of living.
Thank you for never shrinking
back from the finish.
Help me, no matter the position,
to keep moving forward to life with You