Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Nobody Wants to be a Project

Two determined women with Watchtower magazines showed up at our doorstep one day. “Hello, we are in your neighborhood discussing the Bible . . . and with all the horrible things going on the world right now . . .”

“I’m sorry, but we’re not interested,” I interrupted and quickly shut the door. They shook the dust from their feet and moved on to Ray’s place, across the street.

A half hour later, there was another knock. This time, I was met with two friends from our church bearing cookies.

“Come in!” I greeted them warmly, “I’m so glad you came.”

Later, I pondered the events of the day. Why did I shut the door on the first pair and welcome the second? Here’s the primary difference: To my first visitors, I was a project; and to the second pair, I was a friend. (Also, I might add, the cookies helped. Door-to-door evangelists would get a much warmer reception if they brought dessert.)

An excerpt from my new book  Purple Fish: A Heart for Sharing Jesus  (Available July 2014).

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Flow River, Flow!

"I often think of the Holy Spirit as a mighty river, but a river dammed and held back by obstacles of one kind or another.  Fancy a man standing on the dam and pleading in prayer with the river to flow on.  How absurd! 'Why,' the river would answer, 'That is just what I want to do.  Don't waste your energy in such vain repetitions. It is my nature to flow.  I am more anxious to flow than you are to see me flow.'"
-- Oswald Smith

Monday, April 28, 2014

Seven Ways to Reduce Stress

We live in an anxious age where stress is epidemic.  It is impossible to live a stress free life, but there is a healthy way to navigate.  Allow me to suggest seven healthy ways to reduce stress and anxiety in your life.

1.  Embrace the demands.

I have discovered that it takes much more emotional energy to dread and avoid difficult situations than it does to just dive in and accept them.  At least half of the emotional drain comes from worrying ahead of time.

2.  Ask, "Why am I doing this?"

Busy activity tends to accumulate, especially for people who have trouble saying "no."  Review your commitments regularly, looking for unnecessary burdens.  Is this a part of your mission in life?  Does your schedule reflect your priorities and purpose?   What activities bring delight?  Which ones drain you?  It is ok to drop unmeaningful duties that drain you.

3.  Build breathing space into your schedule.

Busy people with demanding calanders need breathing space for the soul.  You have to fight for this resting space before, after or between commitments.  If your life is jammed with far too many obligations and you feel suffocated, then you need to take a hard look and pare back.  You will accomplish more by building in time to catch your breath.

4.  Pause to pray.

God grants peace, wisdom and guidance to those who seek him in prayer.  A day launched with prayer is centered in peace.  You can also pray on the go, asking for strength and a positive perspective throughout the day.

5.  Honor a sabbath.

Every week, carve out time to unplug from work and responsibilities.  We are hardwired for this through creation (Genesis 1.)  Make your sabbath a sacred space to reconnect with God and those you love.  Fill it with replenishing activities that bring joy to your soul.  Rest in it.  

6.  Plan ahead.

A primary reason why we get swamped is because we fail to plan ahead and budget our energy.   Look ahead over the coming four to six weeks.  What needs to be done?  Are there some little things you can do this week, to reduce pressure next week?  Budget your energy by spreading it out over weeks rather than jamming everything into today and tomorrow.

7.  Simplify.

More stuff brings greater complexity.  One way to reduce stress is by decluttering, getting rid of things

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Heretics!

Wesleyan theologian, John Drury, once defined heresy as "substituting part of the truth for the whole."  He went on to say, "this is why heretics are not completely wrong and often have much truth to share. The problem with heresy is not its utter falsity, but its one-sidenesses."

I believe the Drulogian is right on target here . . . and the funny thing is, the harsh, rigid, narrow folks who are most likely to call others "heretics" are, by this definition, heretics themselves!

Friday, April 25, 2014

A Hymn for Those Troubled in Spirit

One day, while troubled in spirit, I happened upon this beautiful hymn. It was written by rural pastor, Hugh Stowell, and published in The Winter's Wreath (1828).

From every stormy wind that blows,
From every swelling tide of woes,
There is a calm, a sure retreat:
Tis found beneath the mercy seat.


There is a place where Jesus sheds
The oil of gladness on our heads;
A place than all beside more sweet;
It is the blood bought mercy seat.

There is a scene where spirits blend,
Where friend holds fellowship with friend;
Tho' sundered far, by faith they meet
Around one common mercy seat.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Enjoy Yourself, It's Later Than You Think

Dr. Frederic Loomis, a busy obstetrician, worked long, harried hours in his California hospital. One day, he received a letter that completely transformed his life:

Peking, China
Dear Doctor,

Please don't be too surprised in getting a letter from me. I am signing my first name. My surname is the same as yours.

Your won't even remember me. Two years ago I was in your hospital under the care of another doctor. I lost my baby the day it was born.

That same day my doctor came in to see me, and as he left he said, 'Oh, by the way, there is a doctor here with the same name as yours who noticed your name on the board and asked me about you. He said hewould like to come in to see you, because you might be a relative. I told him you had lost your baby and I did not think you would want to see anybody, but it was alright with me'.

And then in a little while you came in. You put your hand on my arm and sat down for a moment beside my bed. You did not say much of anything but you eyes and your voice were kind and pretty soon I felt better. As you sat, there I noticed that you looked tired and that the lines in your face were very deep. I never saw you again, but the nurses told me that you were in the hospital practically night and day.

This afternoon I was a guest in a beautiful Chinese home here in Peking. The garden was enclosed by a high wall, and on one side, surrounded by twining red and white flowers, was a brass plate about
two feet long. I asked someone to translate the Chinese characters for me.

They said: Enjoy Yourself -- It's Later than You Think.

I began to think about it for myself. I had not wanted another baby because I was still grieving for the one I had just lost. But I decided that moment that I should not wait any longer. Perhaps it may
be later than I think, too.

And then, because I was thinking of my baby, I thought of you and the tired lines in your face, and the moment of sympathy you gave me when I so needed it. I don't know how old you are. But I am quite sure you are old enough to be my father; and I know that those few minutes you spent with me meant little or nothing to you of course, but they meant a great deal to a woman who was desperately unhappy.

So I am presumptuous as to think that in turn I can do something for you too.

Perhaps for you it is later than I think. Please forgive me, but when your work is over, on the day you get my letter, please sit down very quietly, all by yourself, and think about it'.

Marguiride.
-------------
The night after Dr. Loomis read the letter, he had difficulty sleeping. Was it really later than he thought?

"Well," he chided himself, "if it IS, then I'm going to DO something about it!"

That's exactly what he did. He changed the workaholic patterns of his life. He stepped back from the daily grind, planned a vacation to South America, and invited his best friend, Shorty, to come along.

"Oh, I really wish I could go," Shorty responded, but unfortunately, I have too much work to do." Dr. Loomis then read the letter to him. Amazingly, Shorty changed his mind and decided to go to South America! Perhaps it is later than I think! The business can wait!

They had a spendid vacation -- and the work was still there upon their return. The world didn't end while they were gone.

A few years later, Shorty was on his deathbed, and Dr. Loomis paid him a visit.

Clasping the doctor's hand, he said "Fred, I am so happy that we went to South America together. I thank God we did not wait too long."

Enjoy yourself -- It's later than you think

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

In the Valley of Trouble, Dig a Well

"Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee, in whose heart are the ways of them, who passing through the valley of Baca, make it a well; the rain also fills the pools. They go from strength to strength—every one of them in Zion appeareth before God."
--Psalm 84:5-7 (KJV)

Some time ago, after I'd preached on this verse, my friend, Jim Burmeister, loaned me a casette tape by Jack Hyles on the "The Valley of Baca."

Jack Hyles was snortin', yellin', narrow minded, independant, fundamentalist Baptist preacher. But a few years ago, he went home to glory and his rough edges have been sanded off. He's probably a gentle Wesleyan now.

I wasn't too eager to hear Hyles yell at me, so postponed playing the tape as long as I could.   Then, one day, on a long drive to St. Mary's Hospital in Duluth, I finally gave it a shot.   I was surprised to discover substance beyond the snorting,  Ol' brother Jack actually preached a very good sermon to me -- hollerin' all the way. My heart was blessed.  My soul was challenged.  "Though he is dead, yet shall he speak."

Basically, there were two points:

1. Everybody, sooner or later, has to go through the Valley of Baca.

Baca is the place of weeping -- sickness, sorrow, trouble, loss.

2. When you are in the Valley of Baca, Dig a Well!

Dig a well for those who will follow after you -- those who will experience the same sufferings. Don't just waste your trial -- dig a well to be a source of hope and blessing to others who will follow the same path.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Beautiful Prayer to Begin the Day

"Almighty and everlasting God, who is always more ready to hear than we to pray, and eager to give more than either we desire or deserve; Pour down upon us the abundance of your mercy; forgiving us those things that weigh down our hearts, and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask, but through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord. Amen.
-- Leo the Great

Monday, April 21, 2014

Just Wait Until Tomorrow

A few years ago, after the last of four exhilarating Easter worship services, I turned to my elder associate, Pastor Ben, and joyfully proclaimed, “Isn’t this fabulous? I can’t imagine it getting any better! Being a pastor is pure joy!”

Pastor Ben grinned wryly and replied, “Just wait until tomorrow.”

Sure enough, Monday was another story. Pastoral counselor, Arch Hart, calls Monday “adrenaline letdown day.” Preaching and teaching pastor, Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church, talks about “bread truck Mondays,” when the fantasy of delivering bread is far more appealing than continuing in the pastorate.

That Easter Monday, problems sprang up everywhere. I had to deal with a leadership squabble, a budget challenge, a marriage crisis, and a swarm of other difficulties.

I called Pastor Ben. “This is absolutely horrible! I can’t imagine it getting any worse. Being a pastor is pure torture!” He grinned and replied, “Just wait until tomorrow.”

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Looking for Jesus in the Gravy

A little girls seemed particularly interested in the gravy boat during Easter Dinner.  She examined it carefully stirring slowly -- as if she was searching for something.

"What are you doing honey?" her mother inquired.

"Looking for Jesus."

"Why are you doing that?"

"Because we sang about it in church this morning -- low in the gravy lay Jesus my Savior."

Friday, April 18, 2014

What Did Jesus Mean By "It is Finished"?

“It is finished.”

Those were the words Jesus Christ uttered as he hung, dying, on the cross. “It is finished!” What could he have possibly meant?

Failure Words?

At first glance, one might wonder if these were words of despair – quitting words. “It is finished! It’s a hopeless cause. I’ve failed. I quit.”

It would certainly be understandable if that’s what Jesus meant. Just think: he suffered the greatest injustice in human history. He lived a spotless life, but was sentenced to a traitor’s death.

He came to love – but was hated.
He came to help – but was rejected.
He came to heal – but was broken
He came to forgive – but was despised.
He came to bless – but was cursed. .
He came to bring life – but was brought death

Stepping into darkness and bearing another’s burden is difficult enough. It becomes nearly impossible, however, when the person who needs the help rejects it.

You could hardly blame Jesus if he had meant “I’ve had enough and I give up” when he said “It is finished.”

But that's not what he meant.

No, he didn’t give up on humanity. He didn’t give up at all. Despite the wickedness, hatred and scorn – he “loved them to the last.” He ended up on the cross precisely because he was not willing to give up! He loved them enough to pay the ultimate price. There was no quitting. There was no turning back.

The good news from Good Friday is that Jesus has not given up on you. Regardless of where you’ve been or what you’ve done, the Savior loves you and offers grace and forgiveness.

Fighting Words?

Another way you could interpret the phrase, “It is finished” is to say “I’m fed up! If this is the crummy way you’re going to treat me, then I am through with you.” Again, you could hardly blame Jesus if that’s what he meant.

People often say this when they’ve been hurt and pushed over the edge.

“I have tried and tried to save this marriage – but now it’s over. I’m through with you.”
“Son, I’ve waited up past midnight for you to come home one too many times. Pack you bags. I’m through with you.”
“You have messed up the accounts again. I can’t stand your incompetence. Clear out your office. I’m through with you.”

They treated Jesus in the most horrible way you can imagine. The worst suffering and disgrace you’ve ever faced pales in comparison to what Jesus endured. It would only be normal to fight against it and say “I’m through with you!!”

But that's not what he meant.

No, Jesus wasn’t at war with them. When he spoke about those who were committing such atrocity against him he said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!”

These were not fighting words They were reconciling words: words of peace and release.


Faith Words

When Jesus said “It is Finished”, he was not saying failure or fighting words. Instead he was speaking words of faith. He had done the job he came to do. He had completed his purpose.

Just like a construction worker who completes a bridge and says, “It’s finished.” That’s what Jesus was saying.

I have opened up the bridge – over the mighty gulf of sin and evil – to a right relationship with God. The work is finished.
I have opened up a way – a road to eternal life for whoever has faith and believes. (John 3:16) It is finished.
I have opened up the door – to life beyond death. “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.” It is finished.
I have opened up a new life for you. You can live in freedom and forgiveness.

It is finished!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

By Any Means

Since I read mysteries and action/adventure novels for fun, I was delighted recently to land a free preview copy of Chris Culver's new book, By Any Means via Net Galley.

Chris Culver, a masterful storyteller, did not disappoint.  He grabbed my attention by the opening lines and kept me burning the midnight oil to see what would happen next.

While investigating a double homocide, Ash Rashid, an unconventional police officer in Indianapolis, finds himself embroiled in controversy and danger as he uncovers an international human trafficking ring.   

A "make it up as you go" kind of fellow, Ash repeatedly runs into difficulties with his superiors who are more concerned with following protocol than catching the bad guys. 

A Muslim, Ash is observing Ramadan during the entire story.  I found the descriptions of this observance fascinating, as it is something unfamilar to me.

I appreciate how the author portrays Ash's inner struggles:  conflicts between demands at work and duties at home as well as a battle with alcoholism.

This is a very good read, full of twists and turns, reminding me somewhat of Michael Connelly (The Lincoln Laywer) and James Patterson (Alex Cross.)

The book will be available August 2014.

 

Praying the Seven Last Words of Christ

It is significant that Jesus prayed from the cross. Here he was, experiencing the worst torture a human being can endure, and through it all – he prayed.

 Most of us, in that moment of anguish, would succumb to the suffering, and our prayers would be diminished to one word: “Help!” Looking back upon the worst moments of my life, I’d have to say “Help!” is the most sincere prayer I’ve ever uttered.

 Yet, Jesus went beyond a prayer for help at Golgotha. His prayers from the cross reveal the intensity of his pain – yet, a deep love pouring from his heart. Instead of being consumed with himself, he turned his focus to God and others.

 The old adage states, “We all have our cross to bear.” In our moments of anguish, we can look to Jesus, and see how he responded in his darkest valley. A review of Good Friday events shows that Jesus did three things:

1) He pressed into prayer.
2) He poured out love.
3) He surrendered all to God.

 What an example for us! In deep sorrow and suffering, we, too, can press into prayer, pour out love, and surrender all to God.

 The prayers of Christ from the cross serve as an excellent model for our praying during this holy week:

 1) Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34)

 Are you holding bitterness and resentment in your heart? Who has wronged you? Are you struggling to forgive? If you can’t bring yourself to forgive them, ask God to do the forgiving for you. Forgiveness is for our own benefit. Carrying resentment is like swallowing poison and hoping the other person will die.

 2) Today you will be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:43)

Who is lost, broken and hurting? Pray for those who are suffering from their own decisions. Rather than judge them, love them. Remember we all need grace, and our past mistakes do not necessariy dictate our future. Focus on the life beyond this life, and how God’s love draws us to where we need to be. Trust those who are wandering to God’s care.

3) Behold your mother. (John 19:26-27)

Are you so consumed with your own pain that you are neglecting those closest you? What do your dearest loved ones need from you? Do you know how they’re doing? Pray for them. Love them deeply. Show them your concern.

4) My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Mat. 27:46, Mark 15:34)

Admit your deep despair and loneliness. Where and when do you feel rejected and forsaken? This prayer comes from Psalm 22. Remind yourself that Psalm 23 follows immediately. We are never alone. In the darkest valley, God is with us.

5) I thirst. (John 19:28)

What is your deep seated thirst? What do you think you need to survive? Thirst for praise? Thirst for acceptance? Thirst for significance? Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.

6) It is Finished. (John 19:30)

What needs finishing in your life? What have you begun, but not completed? What is God’s calling for you – his unique mission? Are you following it? If not, what stands in the way? What parts of you are still “under construction?” Be patient with others, they are still under construction too. “Be patient with me. God is not finished with me yet.”

7) Into your hands I commit my spirit. (Luke 23:46)

What do you need to release into God’s hands? Have you been trying to control outcomes and other people? Let them go. Release them into the hands of your loving father. Are you concerned about your future? Your past? Are you confused about your present situation? Are you struggling emotionally? Spiritually? Relationally? Physically? Surrender all to God.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Beneath the Snow, Flowers Grow

Black and white winter tends to chill us to the bone. Summer joys lie torpid in thick ice. Hopes hybernating.

Frozen in distant memory banks, spring flowers lie far beneath.
One wonders whether May will show her lovely face again.

But she will! She will! She always does!

Every spring, she springs, and sings, and brings new life.

The multi-colored days, pinioned by the bitter greys, will soon burst forth in light,

Winter is only temporary.  Beneath the snow, flowers grow.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Fix Your Attitude

"Smile and the world smiles with you."

Psychologist, Daniel Goleman, did a study on the "bottom line performance" of companies and discovered the thing which influences a company's bottom line performance more than anything else is the mood of the leader.

Hmmmm.  Now, that's interesting. If you are a leader, and everything is a big mess, don't fix the blame -- fix your attitude! This applies in business, school, sports teams, church, and home. If you don't like what's going on around you, it's time to change what's going on within you!

"A cheerful heart is good medicine", Proverbs 17:22. Or, as Madeleine L' Engle said, A good laugh heals a lot of hurts."

We cannot afford to allow little nit-picky annoyances to rob us of joyful health. We were created for joy. We were made to laugh. When the worries and burdens of life bind us up and squeeze the happiness out of our soul, we are living below our rightful inheritance as children of God.

"Mirth is God's medicine. Everybody ought to bathe in it," said Henry Ward Beecher, "Grim care, moroseness, anxiety -- all this rust of life - ought to be scoured off by the oil of mirth.

"Unfortunately, people have the mistaken notion that Christians are a miserable lot. "Are you a minister?" someone asked a gentleman. "No," he replied, "I just have bad gas."

"A little kid, visiting his grandfather's farm, observed the sorry looking mule. "Poor ol' mule," the boy declared, "I think he has Grandpa's religion.

"It ought not to be so! Christian people have the privilege of being the happiest people in the whole world!  I agree with C. S. Lewis, who said, "Joy is the serious business of heaven."

Jesus reminded us of this heavenly attitude when he said, "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you -- and that your joy may be full." Joy is the natural result of spiritual health. Fear, worry, resentment, and other "joy robbers" are symptoms of spiritual disease. They need to be released if the joy is going to flow.

Just a few practical pointers on how to have a joyful life:
1. Don't take yourself so seriously -- nobody else does!
2. Worry is the "red light" that indicates a low joy level.
3. Joy comes by voluntarily serving others.
4. Enjoy the little things each day. Take time to stop and smell the roses.
5. Focus on joy in the hard times. Remember -- This too shall pass!
6. Share life honestly with a good friend. This will divide the sorrows and double the joys.
7. Look for the humor in every situation.

"Give me a sense of humor, Lord.
Give me grace to take a joke.
To get some happiness from life
And pass it on to other folk."
 -- Chester Cathedral

Monday, April 14, 2014

Take a Look in the Attitude Mirror

Life is a mirror which reflects your attitude.

If you wonder why people are giving you the "cold shoulder" it might just be that you're dishing out ice, yourself.

If a rotten, foul mood, pervades your home, perhaps it's the overflow of your own negativity.

If it seems like nobody is grateful for all you do, maybe you should measure your own motives.

If you want people to be nicer to you, you need to sow a few kindness seeds.

If the folks you meet are unfriendly, it's time to check your own FQ (friendliness quotient.)

If all you hear is "complain, complain, complain", you might just be the biggest complainer.

If your friends are finding fault, turn it around and find some good.

If the situation seems dark, you can light a candle!

If people are always dumping their garbage on you, remember, misery loves company. It is not a compliment to be on the receiving end of a gossipy garbage-load.

If everybody around you is frowning, give 'em a good smile!

Never go fishing with a crabapple for bait

Friday, April 11, 2014

Three Humors of the Human Heart

Three humors of the human heart interpret reality.  Humor inspired by heaven above, sustaining the soul, abundant in love.  Humor devised of earthen clay, resulting in hollow and shallow dismay. Humor forged in hellish flames, exalting abasement, mired in shame.

O, which shall my humor be?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Wisdom from Will Rogers


1. Never slap a man who's chewing tobacco.

2. Never kick a cow chip on a hot day.

3. There are two theories to arguing with a woman . . Neither works.

4. Never miss a good chance to shut up.

5. Always drink upstream from the herd.

6. If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

7. The quickest way to double your money is to fold it and put it back into your pocket.

8. There are three kinds of men: The ones that learn by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence and find out for themselves.

9. Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.

10. If you're riding' ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it's still there.

11. Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier'n puttin' it back.

12. After eating an entire bull, a mountain lion felt so good he started roaring. He kept it up until a hunter came along and shot him. The moral: When you're full of bull, keep your mouth shut.

13. If you get to thinkin' you're a person of some influence, try ordering somebody else's dog around.

14. It don't take a genius to spot a goat in a flock of sheep.

15. When you give a lesson in meanness to a critter or a person, don't be surprised if they learn their lesson.

16. When you're throwin' your weight around, be ready to have it thrown around by somebody else.
17. No man is great if he thinks he is.

18. Personally, I have always felt the best doctor in the world is the Veterinarian. He can't ask his patients what's the matter. He's just got to know.

19. Everybody is ignorant. Only on different subjects.

20. They may call me a rube and a hick, but I'd a lot rather be the man who bought the Brooklyn Bridge than the man who sold it.

21. Everything is funny as long as it is happening to somebody else.

22. Even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there.

23. The American people are very generous people and will forgive almost any weakness, with the possible exception of stupidity.

24. The minute that you read something that you can't understand, you can almost be sure it was drawn up by a lawyer.

25. Income tax has made liars out of more Americans than golf

26. If stupidity got us into this mess, then why can't it get us out?

27. A man only learns in two ways, one by reading, and the other by association with smarter people.

28. We can't all be heroes because someone has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Feel the Sickness to Find the Cure

"The state of the true Christian is a state of peace, joy, love and holiness; but before a man attains it, he must go through a course of fear, anxiety and repentance, whether long or short; for no one was ever cured in soul by the great physician, Jesus Christ, till he felt himself sin sick, and was loaded in his conscience with the burden of his iniquities; especially that of a hard impenitent heart, which he could not himself break and soften."
 --John Fletcher, Vicar of Madeley

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

You Can Never Have Too Much Love

A beautiful thought expressed by 18th Century Methodist leader, John Fletcher, in a letter to his dear friend, Charles Wesley:

I have the impression that we can never have too much compassion for sinners, nor overemphasize for them the love of Jesus, when he himself became incarnate and declared redemption and salvation to tax gatherers and evildoers.  I have also the impression that faith shows itself gradually in many hearts, and that it is our task to nourish the weakest spark, the faintest signs.  What is your opinion?  (Reluctant Saint, Patrick Streiff, p. 82)

Monday, April 07, 2014

John Fletcher's Heart Check Questions


My hero, John Fletcher, the 18th Century Vicar of Madeley, was a seeker after God. His heart's desire was to press in to love Him more fully.  Visiting his grave a few years ago, I prayed, "Lord, make me a John Fletcher."

He drew up this list of questions for personal reflection at the end of the day:

1 Did I awake spiritual, and was I watchful in keeping my mind from wandering this morning when I was rising?

2 Have I this day got nearer to God in times of prayer, or have I given way to a lazy, idle spirit?

3 Has my faith been weakened by unwatchfulness, or quickened by diligence this day?

4 Have I this day walked by faith and eyed God in all things?

5 Have I denied myself in all unkind words and thoughts? Have I delighted in seeing others preferred before me?

6 Have I made the most of my precious time, as far as I had light, strength, and opportunity?

7 Have I kept the issues of my heart in the means of grace, so as to profit by them?

8 What have I done this day for the souls and bodies of God’s dear saints?

9 Have I laid out anything to please myself when I might have saved the money for the cause of God?

10 Have I governed well my tongue this day, remembering that “in a multitude of words there wanteth not sin”?

11 In how many instances have I denied myself this day?

12 Do my life and conversation adorn the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Saturday, April 05, 2014

All Rivers Run into the Sea

A clapboard congregation
sings heartfelt doxologies
hammered out on an
untuned upright piano
with thirteen missing keys.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Haunting canticles
in a cavernous cathedral.
Echoes of praise
ring from pipes
when songs have ceased.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

An orchestrated blend of rock and blues.
A collection of redeemed sinners
who've tasted grace.
Ancient lyrics dance upon the screen,
electrified.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

And which is true worship?
Which is good and right?
Which is met with heaven's smile?
In which does God delight?
ALL!

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Friday, April 04, 2014

It's Not Worth the Knot

Whatever you're stewing over isn't worth the stomach knot.

It's not worth the knot!

I've found, from personal experience, that worrying doesn't help matters one bit. It just makes the burden heavier.

We all know we shouldn't worry -- but circumstances beyond our control set us off. Anxiety is toxic waste oozing through our mind and body.

It's contagious too. You can get a whole room full of people to start fretting with just a few negative fearful words.

The crazy thing is -- most of the stuff we worry about never happens. And that's a fact.

The other day, I came across my worry file. Several years ago, as I was trying to quit the worry habit, I would write my worries down and place them in my file.

Now -- over a decade later, I've unearthed my pile of worries. Guess what. Of the dozen or so worries I had placed in the file, NOT ONE OF THEM happened!! I had spent restless nights, and hours of inner churning for nothing!!

One wise guy figured it out: "Don't tell me that worry doesn't do any good. I know better! The things I worry about don't happen!"

Worry is the unhealthy child of fear and unbelief. It gives a small matter a big shadow.

Faith is the light which chases the shadow away.

Jochabed was really worried. Pharoah had decreed that all baby boys should be taken to the Nile River and drowned. What was she to do with her infant son?

In an act of courageous faith, she took him to the Nile River and, with a prayer, sent him off in a little basket. Her son was rescued by a princess, and later Moses became one of the greatest leaders the world has ever seen. The name "Moses", fittingly means, "drawn out."

Is there a burden that has been causing you stress and turmoil? How about using the Jochabed approach?

Put your burden in basket, and send it down the river!

Trust God to take care of it. He can "draw out" the best possible solution.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Consider Becoming a Country Parson

Tim Keller's advice to young ministers -- "Consider Becoming a Country Parson."

That's good advice for those who are eager to get out into the field of ministry. As a solo pastor, you'll get a chance to do just about everything everything.

Most young people upon graduation, hope for a staff position in a larger suburban church, but that kind of ministry does not equip one for the multiple demands of senior/solo pastorate or church planting.

The fact is. . . there is a shortage of rural/small town pastors,  and a glut of people hoping for staff positions.

One important reminder, however, is in order: a country pastorate is not merely the stepping stone to a "bigger and better" ministry. It may BE the bigger and better ministry for you.

With nearly two and a half decades of experience as a country parson, I can honestly say it is the most rewarding ministry position I could possibly imagine.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Reading Other People's Mail

I find rich inspiration in historical letters written by great men and women of faith.  The following writings helped and encouraged me greatly in my spiritual journey.  I have included an excerpt from each writer:

The Letters of Samuel Rutherford

"They are happy forevermore who are over head and ears in the love of Christ, and know no sickness but love-sickness for Christ, and feel no pain but the pain of an absent and hidden Well-beloved."

The Letters of Madam Guyon

"Leave yourself therefore in the hands of Love. Love is always the same, although it causes you often to change your position. He who prefers one state to another, who loves abundance more than scarcity, when God orders otherwise, loves the gifts of God more than God himself."


"Let your light be attended with the warmth of love. Be not satisfied to know the way to Heaven, but walk in it immediately, constantly, and joyfully. Be all truly in earnest. You may, indeed, impose upon your brethren by a formal attendance on the means of grace, but you cannot deceive the Searcher of hearts. Let Him always see your hearts struggling towards Him; and if you fall through heaviness, sloth, or unbelief, do not make a bad matter worse by continuing helpless in the ditch of sin and guilt. Up, and away to the fountain of Jesus’s blood. It will not only wash away the guilt of past sins, but strengthen you to tread all iniquity under your feet for the time to come."

The Letters of Robert Murray M'Cheyne

"I ought to pray before seeing any one. Often when I sleep long, or meet with others early, it is eleven or twelve o'clock before I begin secret prayer. This is a wretched system. It is unscriptural. Christ arose before day and went into a solitary place. David says: 'Early will I seek thee'; 'Thou shalt early hear my voice.' Family prayer loses much of its power and sweetness, and I can do no good to those who come to seek from me. The conscience feels guilty, the soul unfed, the lamp not trimmed. Then when in secret prayer the soul is often out of tune, I feel it is far better to begin with God—to see his face first, to get my soul near him before it is near another."