Friday, October 30, 2015

The Path to Peace in Jerusalem

In light of the recent violence in Israel, I share the following excerpt from my book, Filled Up, Poured Out:

Jerusalem literally means “City of Peace”, but down through the centuries, it has been anything but that. Although we continually “pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” (Psalm 122:6), the answer seems long delayed. Holy Land violence, like a simmering pot, threatens to boil over at any moment.

Touring the Old City a few years ago, our group witnessed a riot at the Wailing Wall. A woman rabbi from Manhattan decided to pray at the men’s section of the wall. The Orthodox rabbis went ballistic. Authorities locked down the gates and it took a whole platoon of soldiers to quell the uprising. Needless to say, I was glad to get out of there.

My dear Palestinian friend, Hanna Massad, has chosen not to get out of there. Exiled in Jordan after the last persecution, Hanna, a Baptist pastor, keeps coming back home to Gaza, one of the darkest places on earth.

Amidst raging conflict and deep poverty, he ministers between two fires: militant Islamic aggression, and harsh Israeli occupation.

Their Bible Society was bombed twice. The church was caught in the crossfire of a Hamas – Fatah shootout, critically injuring an employee. Arsonists torched the church’s public library on three separate occasions.

Extremists kidnapped Hanna’s friend and co-worker, Rami Ayyad, and executed him, simply because of his bold Christian testimony. He left behind two precious children, and grieving wife, Pauline, who was pregnant at the time, giving birth to a daughter a few months later.

Despite the persecution, Dr. Massad and his wife, Suhad, chose to remain in the Middle East to serve their suffering friends, rather than seek asylum in America. Standing with the vulnerable and poor, they stand with Jesus as they feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for orphans, proclaim the Gospel, encourage the saints, and train leaders.

There is not a hint of bitterness in this godly pastor. His tender spirit reminds me of Jesus, who approaching Jerusalem, wept, and said, “If you, only you had known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes” (Luke 19:42).

The Palestinians and Israelis don’t see it yet, but Hanna and Suhad offer the illusive key to ending the Middle East conflict: Christ’s peace.

Just as the Nativity brought poor Jewish shepherds and rich Arabic wise men together in one humble place, so the gracious work of Jesus ripples forth from the Massad’s and other sincere Middle Eastern believers, as they sow seeds of righteousness, expecting a harvest of peace.

Click Here to learn more about Hanna Massad's Mission to Gaza 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Having the Right Eyes

"I remember the puzzlement and insecurity of one's first confrontation with his work, along with his name, which is just as new. And then for a long time, nothing, and suddenly one has the right eyes."

-- Poet Rainer Rilkie describing his first exposure to work of artist Cezanne

Monday, October 26, 2015

How Much "Having" Does a Person Have to Have?

How much "having" does a person have to have?

“How much money would it take to make you happy?”  Someone reputedly asked business tycoon, John D. Rockefeller, how much money it would take to make him happy.”

The business magnate replied, “Just a little bit more!”  But then, again. . . maybe not.

Contentment, after all, isn’t having what you want. It’s wanting what you have.

Leo Tolstoy, the great Russian author, told of Parkham, a poor peasant who dreamed of having a "break" in life. Much to his good fortune, he heard about a tremendous opportunity in a distant place. The government said that he could have all of the land he could encircle by foot in a day.
Excited about this wonderful possibility, Parkham sold all of his possessions and journeyed to the place where he could pursue his dream of becoming a landowner.

At the first crack of dawn, Parkham took off to claim his land! He ran at top speed all day long. Nothing was going to deter him! He wanted to cover as much territory as possible before the sun went down. Without stopping for food, water, or rest, he continued his relentless pace through the heat of the day.

Just as the sun began to set, Parkham completed the circle! He was the proud owner of a huge estate! His lifelong dream had been fulfilled. Oh, the sweetness of victory!

Then, the exhausted Parkham suddenly dropped dead. All he needed now was about six feet of earth.

"What good is it for a man to gain the whole world and yet lose or forfeit his very self?" (Luke 9:25)

Friday, October 23, 2015

I Prayed for You Today

Even though I wasn’t sure exactly what to say,
 I talked to God and spoke your name. I prayed for you today.

I asked the Lord to give you strength, to calm you from your stress,
 To free you from the things you fear and bathe your mind with rest.

I asked the Lord to help you in the uphill days to come.
 I asked our precious, loving God to complete what He’s begun.

He whispered in the quiet and He filled my heart with peace.
 He said that you are deeply loved, and that His love will never cease.
 --  Greg Asimakoupoulos

Monday, October 19, 2015

Love is in the Listening

The following is an excerpt from my first book, Filled Up, Poured Out:

You and I were given two ears and one mouth. That’s because we’re supposed to listen twice as much as we speak; but talking and explaining come easier than hearing and understanding.

Why is it so hard to listen? Consider this: We speak at 100 to 150 words per minute. We are able to comprehend at 250 to 300 words per minute. We think at 600 words per minute. So, if you are a fast thinker (600 wpm) and the other person is a slow talker (100 wpm), you still have 500 words per minute left over for thinking about other stuff. For efficient folks, that’s a lot of wasted communication space. Therefore, the fast listener tends to zone out and think about a myriad of other things. Zoning out is evidenced by such responses: “Um hmm,” “Yes, dear,” “I don’t know,” and “Whatever.” Listening is hard work.

True listening is more than hearing the words. It’s processing those words and seeking to understand their depth and meaning. As Jim Elliot journaled, “Wherever you are, be all there." Margaret Wheatley said, “Listening is such a simple act. It requires us to be present, and that takes practice, but we don’t have to do anything else. We don’t have to advise, or coach, or sound wise. We just have to be willing to sit there and listen.”

“Momma, are you listening to me?” little Heidi wondered. “Um hmm,” the distracted mother replied. “No, Momma, I need you to listen with your eyes!”

Lately, my family has been making fun of my hearing loss. I make them repeat everything, and then accuse them of mumbling. It’s my price for listening to Bob Dylan through headphones as a teenager. Since I can’t hear as well these days, I’m trying to listen better.

Being hard of hearing is not nearly as bad as hard of listening.

Christians have a reputation of being hard of listening. As Rick Warren noted, “For some time now, the hands and feet of the body of Christ have been amputated, and we’ve been pretty much reduced to a big mouth.”

Sigurd Olson, the Northwoods naturalist, affectionately dubbed his wilderness cabin on northern Minnesota’s Burntside Lake, “Listening Point.” Sig explained, “I named this place Listening Point because only when one comes to listen, only when one is aware and still, can things be seen and heard.”

Can you imagine how rich our relationships would be if we approached them all as listening points?

Every person, after all, has a fascinating story. Dave Isay, the founder of StoryCorps, discovered this traveling across America in the daunting task of archiving the nation’s oral history. He recorded over ten thousand personal stories and concluded, “Listening is an act of love.”

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Solution Finding is Better Than Fault Finding

In any given situation, there are two kinds of people:  Fault Finders and Solution Finders.

Fault Finders immediately see the flaws of the world, the nation, the community, and others.  They seem to get a morose satisfaction in pointing them out.  Of course, there’s no intelligent alternative solution offered – only criticism.

Fault Finding isn’t rocket science.  You don’t have to be very bright to gripe and complain.  In fact, such behavior indicates small mindedness.

Great minds talk about great ideas.  Average minds talk about the weather.  Small minds talk about other people.  Or, as Benjamin Disraeli said, “To belittle is to be little.”

Solution Finders, on the other hand, commit themselves to the harder work.  Like the Fault Finders, they see the problems – but unlike them, they believe there’s a positive solution if you keep looking.  Solution Finders believe that every problem contains the seeds of its own solution.

Fault Finders arrive at the problem, and then pitch their tents at Complaint Campground.  It’s easier to whine about a problem than to go about the hard work of tackling it.

Solution Finders won’t let a problem stand in the way for long.  For them, difficulties are detours rather than destination points.  They believe in GROWING through the hardships rather than just GOING through them.

Fault Finders spend their energies fixing the blame.  Solution Finders invest themselves in fixing the problem.

Fault Finders view little bumps along the path as roadblocks to progress.  Solution Finders view huge mountains as challenges to be conquered.

At the end of the day, the Solution Finders make things happen, while the Fault Finders criticize and condemn.

I’d rather be criticized for doing something, than to criticize and do nothing.

I’m reminded of the great evangelist, D. L. Moody, who was rebuked by an agitated detractor, “Moody, I don’t like your methods of evangelism!”

To this, Moody replied, “And tell me sir, what are your methods of evangelism?”

“I don’t have any.”

“Then,” said Moody, “ I like mine better than yours.”

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Deeper Experiences of Famous Christians

A tattered book on my library shelf, Deeper Experiences of Famous Christians, by James Gilchrist Lawson, has been a tremendous blessing and spiritual benefit to me down through the years.  The stories of these godly men and women from the past inspire me to plunge in to the deep end of the prayer pool -- and live in the overflow of holy love.

A digital copy is available here for free.

Monday, October 05, 2015

And Then I Shall Be Free

Make me a captive, Lord, and then I shall be free.
 Force me to render up my sword, and I shall conqueror be.
 I sink in life’s alarms when by myself I stand;
 Imprison me within Thine arms, and strong shall be my hand.
-- George Matheson