12.24.2009

It's Christmas Eve


And I'm so excited to gather for worship this evening. This is traditionally one of my favorite times of year to gather for worship. And a Christmas Eve gathering is for me always one of the best of all gatherings.


I have been thinking a lot about advent as we have been working our way through this season and I realized something this year that I think generally escapes me. Advent is a reminder that THINGS AREN'T PERFECT. Biblically, the season advent leads us through the era of the prophets and the silent 400 years before the incarnation of Christ. And certainly that era was not perfect. God's physical kingdom was split and in various forms of captivity. God's people had poisoned their worship with idols and secularism. Religion had become ritual focussed and relationship-less. The oppression of the Roman empire became deathly for may of God's people. It was not perfect.

In the advent season, I get excited about celebrating Christmas and I often an so anxious for that celebration that I don't embrace the message that things aren't perfect yet. This year, in our family and in me I have been trying to realize anew that things are not perfect and won't be until Christ's return. I have been trying to recognize that this should not placate me into a passive church-goer, but motivate me to be a more active source of "light in the darkness," reflecting Christ's arrival to the world around me. The light of HOPE to the hopeless. The light of LOVE to the lonely. The light of JOY to the discouraged and depressed. And the light of PEACE to those in turmoil.

Yes advent is a call to me to expect Christ. To long for His return and to long for His presence. To long for it so strongly that I am moved to BE His presence and thereby experience that presence in relationship with Him and in service to His world.

12.21.2009

Teaching Our Kids About Gifts

Christmas gifts that is....


Sometimes I really struggle with Christmas traditions. I feel caught in the middle of keeping the traditions that give connection to my family history and what seems like an ever-escalating commercial approach to this holy day. So, whenever possible we try to draw out spiritual, Christ-centered meaning to our traditions.

Today was a chance to teach about gift-giving.

Merritt and Mason finished their shopping for our family today. Some $5 gifts for mom and grandma, a couple of handmade gifts for dad, and something for Molly too. They really got into the selection process and it was great fun. Then this evening, we wrapped the gifts, placed them under the tree. And in the glow of our multi-colored twinkly-lit tree, we sat down to read. We read the book, Jacob's Gift by Max Lucado.

The story is beautifully crafted by Max Lucado. It is about the young carpenter who ends up building the manger in which Christ is laid. As the story unfolds, the young carpenter's teacher explains to him that just like an earthly father is pleased when his children receives gifts, God is pleased when His children receive gifts.

This opened up wonderful conversation about why we buy gifts at Christmas; about God' generous gift at Christmas; and, our conversation eventually lead us to the topic of giving to people in need. The boys decided to do a few things in this area. They decided to give some of their piggy bank money to their Compassion International kids, to use some of that money to buy gloves for the people who live in the tents outside of PetsMart, and to use some of the fleece in Rhonda's craft bin to make make scarves for them too.

We were able to talk about how giving gifts to God is worship and connect the dots between service and worship. It was a very rewarding family holiday evening. I think this process will become an annual tradition, reinforcing this incredible message for years to come.

12.12.2009

Invite

I read a survey that said 82% of people without a church are receptive to attend church if invited and escorted by a friend. That’s good news, isn’t it? Here’s the bad news. Only 21% of church-going Christians invited someone to church during 2009.


Maybe it's time to invite someone to church this Christmas. Maybe it's time to help them hear the message of God's incarnation in the fellowship of believers, and to experience it in friendship with a singular believer: you, me, us.

12.10.2009

Christmas Thoughts from Irma Bombeck

Here are some thoughts from Irma Bombeck. If you are not familiar with her work, she was a satirist and blue collar philosopher who published many books and brought many significant issues to the masses in America. She writes these thoughts in the empty nest season of her life and strangely I find them poignant to mile life though I am certainly NOT in an empty nest. Maybe they will be poignant to you too.


In her book, "If Life is a bowl of Cherries, Why Am I Always in the Pits?", Bombeck recalled the legend of a church where the chimes rang miraculously whenever someone gave a generous gift.

But the chimes hadn’t rung for a long time, even though kings & potentates had come to give gifts of gold & silver & precious gems. The chimes had not rung for a long, long time.

But one Christmas Eve a little peasant boy came down the aisle & knelt before the altar. As he thought about the Christ-child lying in a manger, he took off his tattered coat & laid it on the altar. When he did, the chimes rang loud & joyously.

Erma Bombeck wrote, "I’ve heard the chimes ring, too. I remember a Christmas when one of my sons brought me a piece of tattered construction paper on which he had tried to draw a picture of praying hands, & underneath the picture he had written, ’O Come, Holy Spit.’"

"When I saw that," she said, "I heard the chimes ring & I knew that a very special gift had been given."

"On another Christmas I received a shoebox all clumsily wrapped. When I opened it, I found two baseball cards & a piece of gum. Again I heard the chimes ring."

"And I heard the chimes ring the time when the kids got together & cleaned the garage & gave that as their Christmas present to me."

"Those days are long gone," she remembered, "days when we fashioned lace doilies into snow flakes, & pipe cleaners into Christmas trees. When we took empty spools & used them for candleholders. Those days are long gone."

"I remember little feet coming down the stairs with a hand-made gift all wrapped up in $2.00 worth of wrapping paper to put underneath the Christmas tree. Those little feet now wear panty hose & fashion boots."

"Little hands that used to break the piggy bank to get 59 cents to buy a Christmas gift, now hold credit cards that are good in any store in town."

"We’ll have a good Christmas this year," she said. "We’ll eat too much. We’ll mess up the living room & throw the warranties in the fire by mistake. We’ll put bows on the dog’s tail. We’ll take bites out of cookies & put them back in the plate. We’ll listen to Christmas songs, & have a good Christmas."

"But, Lord, what I wouldn’t give to bend over just one more time & receive some toothpicks held together by library paste & to hear the chimes ring - just one more time."

Have the Merriest Christmas season ever. And hey, why not live it out all year long... except for the frantic pace though.

12.03.2009

I mentioned a week ago that I wanted to focus in my blog on Isaiah in the gospels. Because of the Thanksgiving holiday and all the preparation involved, I did not get a chance to finish my post. But I was working on the study during my times of reflection.



When it comes to allusions and quotations, Isaiah was an obvious favorite for gospel writers and for Jesus as well. This is really no surprise given that Isaiah was certainly the most prolific, of the published prophets, in his foretelling of the coming Messiah.



As I was looking through the gospels, I notices a preference for Isaiah 53, and changed the focus of my survey to see where this single chapter is quoted not only in the gospels, but also in the epistles. Here is my reference list. I'm sure it is not complete, but it is definitely inspiring during this season of advent.



Some of these allusions are very clear. Others use parallel concepts that probably have their root in Isaiah 53. Where appropriate, I have boldfaced the words that are central to the allusion or parallel. Verses are listed in the order they appear in the New Testament. The left column shows the corresponding verse in Isaiah. There are a couple of other allusions (outside of ch. 53) included because of their significance to the Christmas season.



I know that for me, this was an inspiring and informative survey. I hope that this chart gives you inspiration that leads to worship.

42:1

And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." Mark 1:11 = Matthew 3:17


53:4


"This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: 'He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.'" (Matthew 8:17; quotes Is 53:4)


42:1-4


"Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
He will not quarrel or cry out;
no one will hear his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he leads justice to victory.
In his name the nations will put their hope." (Matthew 12:18-21; quotes Is 42:1-4)


52:12-53:12


"just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:28=Mark 10:45; conceptual parallel. See "for many" language in Is 53:11-12)


53:11-12


"This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." (Matthew 26:28 = Mark 14:24)


53:3


"Jesus replied, 'To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected?'"(Mark 9:12)


53:12


"It is written: 'And he was numbered with the transgressors'; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment." (Luke 22:37; Jesus quotes Is 53:12)


53:1-12,
52:13


"He said to them, 'How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?' And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself." (Luke 24:25-27)


53:6-7, 12


"The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, 'Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!'" (John 1:29)

"When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, 'Look, the Lamb of God!' " (John 1:36)


52:13


"The crowd spoke up, 'We have heard from the Law that the Christ will remain forever, so how can you say, "The Son of Man must be lifted up"? Who is this "Son of Man"?'" (John 12:34)


53:1


"This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: 'Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?'" (John 12:38, quotes Is 53:1)


53:7-8


"The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture:
'He was led like a sheep to the slaughter
and as a lamb before the shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.
'
The eunuch asked Philip, 'Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?' Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus." (Acts 8:32-35; quotes Is 53:7-8)


53:11-12


"Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man's sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification." (Romans 5:16)

"For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous." (Romans 5:19)


53:1


"But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, 'Lord, who has believed our message?'" (Romans 10:16, quotes Is 53:1)


52:15


"Rather, as it is written:
'Those who were not told about him will see,
and those who have not heard will understand.
'" (Romans 15:21, quotes Is 52:15)


53.1-12


"For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve." (1 Cor. 15:3-5)


53:11


"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Cor. 5:21, conceptual parallel)


53:6, 12


"Who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father." (Galatians 1:4)

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)

"...and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (Ephesians 5:2)

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." (Ephesians 5:25)


53:10


"For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransomfor all men -- the testimony given in its proper time." (1 Tim. 2:5-6)


53:10


"Who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good." (Titus 2:14)


53:4, 6, 11, 12


"so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him." (Hebrews 9:28)


52:13-53:12


"...Trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow." (1 Peter 1:11)


53:11, 9,7, 5, 6


"To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
"He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth."
(quotes Is 53:9)
When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. (quotes Is 53:5) For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls." (1 Peter 2:24-25)


53:11


"For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit..." (1 Peter 3:18)


53:11


"He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world." (1 John 2:2)


5:4, 6, 11, 12


"But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin." (1 John 3:5)


53:10


"This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." (1 John 4:10)

Doing the Things You Love

I love gardening. It's creative. It's solitary. It's tangible and measurable (I can tell immediately if I have been successful). I also love discipleship. It's relational. It's eternal. It's world-changing.


I think it is important to do the things you love. It is awesome when you can make a living at doing the things you love. Sometimes you can make a good living at it. And sometimes you can just make a little extra at it. But sometimes the things you love don't offer an opportunity to earn anything. I think you should still do them. Somehow do them.

You see, I believe that the things we love reveal part (maybe just a small part) of our purpose in this life.

Look at Psalm 37 - Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.

There has long been discussion about the word "of" in this passage. You see, in some contexts the word used for "of" can be translated "for". And since this context leaves the possibility that "for" could be appropriate, the question of translation remains. That little change from "of" to "for" does change the meaning significantly.

I lean toward the translation that God gives us the desires FOR our heart. I lean this way, primarily because it fits the whole of what God teaches us in the scripture much better. And many people live their lives for God without the desires of their hearts ever being fulfilled.

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

That is Jeremiah 17:9. And here the prophet of God teaches us that we should not trust our own heart and its desires. Now, if we put both of these verses together (with the translation "for") we can learn something. God puts things in our hearts when we make Him our delight. When we shun the delights of our fallen human heart and allow God to put new desires in our hearts, we can find God's will revealed.

And so.... I think we who love the Lord with all of our heart, mind, and strength should pay careful attention to the things we love, AND DO THEM. Ohhh, and remember to "do everything as unto the Lord." Whether you can be paid to do it or not, make sure that you do the things you love out of delight in the Lord, and to Him, and for His kingdom.

So, discipleship and relationships that reach toward God together are part of my profession and I love doing that for God. And gardening is part of my personal devotional life. The garden is often where I pray, reflect, meditate on the word, and listen to God. And in both ways I can find my purpose in this life.

So what about you? What do you love? And how can you do what you love for God?

11.11.2009

Dreamgirls Over & Over Again


So lately I have been watching Dreamgirls (the movie made from the original Tony award winning Broadway show). I have watched it over and over again. The music continues to ring in my head. When I don't have the energy to sit through the whole movie, I'll often skip through to just the musical scenes.



Now this is odd for me. I don't watch nearly any movie more than one time. I mean for me, movies are all about the journey through a story and the development of the characters. And once that journey has been taken, there really is no going back. The ability to see what is coming next ruins the movie experience for me. So I have been wondering what has been drawing me back to this film so often lately.

So today, I watched it again. Then with Molly, I skipped to a couple of the songs that really impact me. And I realized what has been keeping me going back. First, the music is terrific AND MOVING. It is easy to connect to the emotional content of the songs and thereby connect with the stories of the characters. And that is the hook. I have connected to the characters in a way that offers affinity to my own experiences.

The movie unfolds the dreams of 3 singers who manage to get a big break and eventually make it big in the music business of the late 60s. (It's an obvious homage to the Supremes.) But in their story, the lead characters in different ways find their individual dreams corrupted and/or destroyed in some way by their own blindness to the perils of the music industry. The movie ends with a reunion amongst all the lead characters (minus one who dies along the journey) and a resolution to the plot. The resolution is to learn to live with integrity to both real life and your dream.

So I think I know why I have been watching over and over again. And I hope by working it out in this post, I can escape the compulsion to watch it again. I think I have watching the movie in order to figure out where each of the characters went wrong. Where they made the mistake that took them down that path that stole their dream from them. Which feeling deceived them? What lie did they believe? How did they make themselves vulnerable to the selfish motives of the characters who surround them? What was going on inside of them that they could have changed in order to have avoided the pain of losing their dream.

I think what has drawn me to this dilemma is a recent season of God's moving Spirit, changing things in my own life. Correcting my course. Retraining my mind. Molding my passions. This transition has been tough to walk through. And the very human part of me wants to escape some of the effects of this change. And in fact trying to avoid the struggle of changing has created painful effects.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. (1 Peter 5:6)

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

These verses compels me to accept God's navigation of my life's journey with continued hope and constant willingness. It's God's dream I wish to chase instead of my own. My story goes dreadfully wrong when I chase the wrong dream.

And back to musical theatre. Andrew Lloyd Webber was quite wrong in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor dream coat. "Any dream" will not do. Only God's dream will do!

11.05.2009

The Monarchy and My Own Hierarchy

So as I have been reflecting on the development of the Ancient Israeli Monarchy during this week several random thoughts have kept me reflecting.


First I keep thinking that the whole selection of Saul is very odd. I mean, I'm so used to thinking about the way David was selected by God directing Samuel directly to him. And then there's the story of Saul, where God doesn't really want there to be a king and so He just tells Samuel to "give them what they want." So Samuel goes out to pick one for them. Samuel goes on this road trip until he runs into this guy that looks the part and that's who he picks. The story of Saul seems to follow the pattern of the book of Judges to me. It's in the way that the people of Israel stray from God's plan, it backfires, then God brings David into the story to both deliver them and point out their sin.

Second, how did Solomon get to ascend to the throne? Why didn't a prophet have to choose the next king? I mean it really is the mortal pattern of things instead of the spiritual pattern of things.

Third, I think the book of Judges and the story of Saul is an early example of how hard it is for God's people to live by His Spirit. I mean here the Holy Spirit is living in me and I still do so many things by the human pattern instead of by the fresh leading of God's Spirit. The truth is I like to figure things out on my own. I like the way my own ideas sound. I love the feeling of success, when it's my own idea. I think pretty highly of myself. DANG!!!

But the kicker.... I'm just too busy or too lazy to do the work of seeking God in all of my situations. I like doing my morning prayer and just moving on, instead of staying in an on-going conversation with God in which I take the role of apprentice following the step by step instructions of my Master.

I'm such an idiot! Really! When I do keep that open conversation going and really cultivate my sense of God's leading in all the moments of my days, I experience so much more of 'life in all of its fullness.' I make such stupid trade offs sometimes.

Fourth, can I be like David? Can my heart be after God and God alone, with no pretenders to the throne of my life? Can I come to God humbly with my failures and mourn over my offenses to God like David? Can I worship with abandon like David? Can I show the kind of character that David showed when God had promised him the throne and having 3 chances to kill Saul, David resisted...?

What is my hierarchy? That is, what comes first in my life? I have some rearranging to do in order to really keep God first.

10.21.2009

Fifth Commandment


Honor your father and mother...


I did a bit of research on the biblical concept of honor. And there is a difference in its use in reference to God and its use in reference to other people. In reference to God it refers almost universally to obedience, and worship. But in reference to people (like our father and our mother) the concept is more broad.




To be sure, the New Testament tells children to obey their parents. And this is significant when speaking about children who still live in their parent's home or who are living on the financial support of their parents. But when a self-supporting adult is addressed with the idea of honoring their parents, it is very helpful to understand the biblical concept of honoring another person.

Here is what I discovered about honoring another person as I scanned the Bible for examples.
First, see the person the way God sees that person. See them the way God designed them to be, the way He is working in their life to make them to be. Getting stuck in all the shortcomings we see in a person is a dishonor.
Second, speak to the person with the words God has for the person. God has words of grace and love. God corrects gently. God is full of patience. The way we speak to a person AND the way we speak of a person will be a major characteristic of our honor for them.
Third, treat the person as someone who is created by, loved by, and cherished by God. They are and our actions toward this person can reflect all of these attributes of God.

Maybe you have a parent or another person to begin to honor today.

10.19.2009

The Third Commandment


Since our message yesterday, I have had a couple of you share with me ways that you think we can "elevate the renown of our personal God Yaweah in a worthless manner" (or as the NIV says - misuse the name of the Lord our God). I thought I would start a list here and see what you out there can add to it.







Let's go about this in a productive format:
God's reputation is honored when people who carry His name:
- are contributers instead of a consumers
- set aside their own reputation to advance His purposes
- avoid comparison
- work together without grumbling
- keep their conversation clean and encouraging
- mend relationships
- continually devote time to spiritual growth
- befriend the friendless
- help the helpless
- love with no strings attached
- watch over single moms, and widows
- protect the vulnerable
- maximize our opportunities to speak of God and for God

Add to the list.
OR, even better, give tangible examples.
Add as much as you would like.

10.06.2009

Abraham and Faith

As Rhonda and I read today's reading from Through the Bible Through the Year, we embarked an an interesting conversation about faith and where Abram and Sarai succeeded and failed. At one point in the conversation I noted that I didn't think Sarai to be a very good wife. I believe that God-following couples should encourage one another toward deeper faith by the life they live out together.


Eventually our conversation addressed the issue of faith in God's will and His promises.

By the way, a few people have e-mailed me wanting me to repeat this quote for them. So in case you may wish to be reminded of the description of faith I presented on Sunday morning, here it is again. "Faith is more than trusting God for what you want. True faith is trusting God for what He wants."

So we talked about what God wants and Abraham's education about how God accomplishes it. So often we want things that are in opposition to what God wants and that creates it's own disruption in our relationship with God. But SO much more often we hear what God wants and we still get in the way of what He wants.

God's will involves multiple elements.
1. The thing God wants.
2. The time God wants to do it.
3. The way God wants to do it.
4. The people God wants to do it through.

Sarai is a perfect example of knowing what God wants: a descendant for her family. But in spite of knowing what God wanted, she managed to get in His way instead of following His lead. The very idea of giving her maid servant to her husband is ludicrous! (But then again, so was Abram's idea of calling Sarai his sister instead of his wife...) In Sarai's plan of action, she neglected 75% of God's will in pursuit of only 25%. We can only assume that her own will was somehow involved in her plan to some degree as well. She pursued what God wanted (and what she presumably wanted) but neglected God's time, His way, and he choice of persons.

From Sarai's mistake we can learn 3 good lessons. (Surely you can come up with some more.)
1. Don't get anxious for God's will to come to pass. (And, it should be noted, that we should not be overly lax either, for we can just as easily miss God's will for being comfortable where we are and not wanting to move ahead.)

2. Don't mistake our ingenuity for God's execution of His plan. (His ways are not our ways...) God, being supernatural in His very being will undoubtedly unfold His will according to his supernature instead of our simple nature. Now this is not to misunderstand God's use of natural forces to accomplish His will, but let's remember Noah and the flood. Rain is perfectly natural. Using rain to flood the known earth to the point of covering all the mountains is supernatural.

3. Never assume a role in God's plan that He has not give you (me, us). Sometimes the only role we may have in the revelation that God gives us is to pray according to that will. Obedience is our role. Do what God asks us to do and don't step ahead of that. So often (at least for me) we assume that we are the star of God's plan and that our role is the central role in His plan's unfolding. And maybe we have just one job to do along the path of that unfolding and others will do other single jobs. Paul talked about that when he referred to his relationship with Apollos and Peter. He said that he had planted the seed, Apollos had watered it, and GOD MADE IT GROW. (1 Corinthians 3:1-22)

Faith and God's will. It is our journey in this world as followers of Christ. Remember don't settle for 25%, or 50%, or anything less than His thing, His way, His time, AND His people.

10.01.2009

Some Great Suggestions for Losing Connection with the Holy Spirit

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:25


Having been a Christ-follower since childhood, I have gone through various season of distance and/or closeness with God through His Spirit. I would love to say that those experiences have made me an expert at fulfilling the Bible's instruction that I have quoted above. Instead, as I reflect, I find that I am much more skilled at keeping out of step than I am at keeping in step.

If you ever reach a place in your Christian life when you are just tired of experiencing closeness with God, dynamic effectiveness in your ministry, godly wisdom in all of your thinking, victory over temptation, and living impact from your daily quiet time, let me make a few suggestions.

1. Wallow in self-blame when things go wrong.
2. Revel in self-praise when things go right.
3. Nurse your wounds.
4. Allow bruised relationships to quietly sink into disintegration.
5. Believe the compliments of others.
6. Believe the insults of others.
7. Pray less and plan more.
8. Make your plan by copying the success of others.
9. Aim for success instead of aiming for faithful obedience.
10. And finally, read more contemporary books than you read the Bible.

I hope that these simple but effective suggestions help you...

9.26.2009

A Thought About Holiness

I'm cleaning up my message for tomorrow morning's worship gathering and have been considering holiness for a few moments. Here is a thought that will not make it into this message and might be worth sharing.


Personal holiness is not about (nor is it measured by) profound theological understanding, ecstatic expressions of worship, or extremes in sacrifice. It is simply thinking the way God thinks and wanting what God wants.

Our actions take care of themselves when these fundamental concerns are rightly in place.


9.23.2009

Thoughts About Failure

Failure is an event, not a person.
I love this thought. It clearly reminds me that although I will surely experience failure, I am not one. Maybe you too!

God does not look at us through the lens of our greatest failure, but through the lens of our greatest potential.

I think God likes it when we fail some. We learn so much that way. Faith grows that way. I think there is a way to fail forward. To fail for trying instead of failing for lack of effort. In the parable of the talents its the guy who feared failure that received the master's reproof.

So, go on. Try it. Try it real big and just call it an experiment so that if you fail, everyone around you will just be looking for what you learn instead of what you produce. And if the experiment is a success, God gets all the credit!

Repentance Question

In my thinking about repentance and in my daily consideration of the things that need changing in myself, I keep coming back to the same question.


WHY IS TRUE REPENTANCE SO DIFFICULT TO REALIZE?

Tell me what you think.




9.22.2009

More on Repentance

As I read through and meditated on today's quiet time in our guide for this week, I reflected even more on the idea of God's will.


How easy it is for us as Christians to wait for God to reveal His will! How easy to put off our obedience because we are waiting for God to reveal his will. How easy to wait to serve others, press into worship, pursue our mission, develop our character, sacrifice our pursuits until God tells us or shows us more of His plan for us. What a convenient excuse.

I did it. I do it.

I was 12 when God first showed me that He planned to use me in ministry. Then the picture was of a Youth Pastor. Through my high school years, I involved myself in my youth group, eventually taking on leadership roles and responsibilities. I did this to pursue God's plan for me. Along the way, I discovered that I was good at business - administration, visioning, planning, and implementing. So, I developed a goal of owning my own business some day. Soon I was pursuing that and doing my youth group stuff on the side. Then, through a set of painful experiences, God reminded me of His calling on my life. I began to prepare for Bible college and seminary by going to Jr. College and working to save. When it was time to transfer to the university, I didn't have enough money saved and had to take a year off of school to work and save money. After a year, I didn't have enough money and had to work more. I did less in my youth ministry and even gave up on Sunday worship. And soon my old desires to start my own business resurfaced. And I began to pray that God would show me His will. Here's what God showed me. (He led me to some scriptures, spoke to my spirit, and used fellow believers to advise me.) I didn't need to know more about God's future for me. He had already revealed all I needed to know about that. I needed to follow God's will for today and by obeying Him today, He would get me to the tomorrow He had planned for me.

Well, I made a fast and sweeping course change and got myself in to the university the very next semester. God took care of the money and everything else too!

I have such a painful desire to rule my own life: to make my own decisions and set my own priorities. I remember a season in my life and ministry when I could identify weekly, if not daily, instances of sensing God's direction. And in those seasons I always got closer to God's ultimate plan and in fact lived God's ultimate plan.

I need God. I need His Spirit to guide me every day in every way.

I have shamefully tried to take over God's position of leadership in my life and given myself permission to do so for a thousand reasons, not the least of which is because I am waiting for God to show me His will for my future. I need His will for this minute. I need to obey what I already know about for this minute. I need to repent of doing my life and my ministry my way and just get back to what I already know from God, and seek His direction for every act of obedience to that divine will.

9.17.2009

Good Theology Please

OK, I read a post on an old friend's blog that bothered me. It bothered me because it was so mean spirited. It bothered me because it never came around to offer hope to anyone. It never came around to offer anyone something practical to use to grow closer to God or more like Him. But most of all, it bothered me because this friend used bad theology.


So, for everyone's benefit, here are just a couple of basic rules of theological thinking.
1. Always use the Bible to interpret the Bible as your first and primary source.
a. Look for other passages that talk about the same subject and see how
those passages seem to interpret what you have read in another location.
b. Read the whole book from which your study passage is drawn. Jesus would
often tell us what he wanted us to do in response to a parable several verses
later.
2. Always use Jesus to understand the rest of the New Testament. We have often misunderstood Jesus because we have already studied Paul. When we should
start with Jesus and interpret Paul's writing by what we have already learned
directly from Jesus. It is an incredible gift to have Paul's #1 source available to
us in order to better understand Paul. To work in the other direction can be
disastrous.

I did send a private message to my old friend, sharing my opinion.

"Leave"

I'm still thinking about marriage from our message on Sunday and our daily devotional readings as well. I'm struck by how the idea of a man leaving his mother and father is so all-encompassing. I mean it was to leave all of the options behind. If your marriage was "not working out" there would be no where else for you to turn. The only other option WAS the household of your parents.


In marriages today it seems all too many people "leave" their options open, instead of "leaving" all of the options behind. Oh, there's plenty of leaving going on these days. People "leave" their spouse left and right. And it's easy. Because we have so many options "left."

I think there would be a lot more healthy marriages today if the divorce laws were written differently. If it were the law that whoever chose to leave a marriage had to "leave" everything else behind as well (the house, the car, the kids, the car, the dog, the kitchen sink...), perhaps there would be more people working things out instead of "leaving."

I know, I know... there are situations in which life and health are at stake and someone should leave. But that's not irreconcilable differences. Irreconcilable differences is just an option "left" open.

Now, I don't mean to sound unsypathetic, because I am not. God heals people from divorce and restores them. But He hates divorce too. What I am trying to say loudly is that God did not intend marriage to be a partial or temporary option to be easily left when the going gets rough. God built marriage to be a life-long commitment in which every other option is left behind.

Don't leave for something better. Just be someone better.
Instead of looking for the right person... be the right person.
God loves you and He wants to save your marriage.

9.15.2009

Caring for God's Creation

Our devotional reading for today brings up one of those ideas that puts me in one of my uncomfortable zones. Christian conservationism.


I'm not uncomfortable because I don't believe in our responsibility to care for God's creation, namely our Earth. I have long come to grips with the notion that it is second in order of primacy only to "being fruitful and multiplying." I believe that each Christian is specifically responsible to live a life that honors God, shares His love with others, AND nurtures the earth which God gave us charge over.

My uncomfortableness is related to a frustration I have with the way that the issue has become mostly political. I am further frustrated with the way that some in the political establishment have used the issue, along with sometimes questionable science - sometimes manipulated, to further personal agendas. (Such is the world of politics.) I have a hard time discussing the issue of Christian conservationism without feeling like I talking politics, or talking like a politician. I think there is further complication because my ideals of conservationism are rooted in my life in an agricultural community. (Farmers have become a target for conservationists.) I have always considered myself a kind of carpet-bagger. (This is an old expression that refers to someone whose lives in the country but works in the city.) Although I have all of my life in town, and most of my adult life in the suburban sprawl of the Southern California megalopolis, I'm have a certain kind of country sensibility.

All this is background. Another part of my uncomfortableness may be (and I think it is) a holy discontent. It may be that the Holy Spirit is leading me to shift my stance from where it is now to where He wants it to be.

Here is where it is now. I separate my trash. I even put things in the recycle bin that I know they don't have the technology to recycle yet, but I want someone else to be finally responsible for putting the styrofoam in the landfill. (I personally try to avoid styrofoam.) I use energy efficient bulbs and products. (As much be cause they lower my bills as because they lower the strain on our planet.) I save water in as many ways as possible. (I knew some people who flushed their toilets once daily - no matter what. I'm not that strict. But I do save a flush.) Since discovering that using the dishwasher is actually more than 3x as efficient as washing by hand, I rarely do any hand washing. Actually the water conservation issue is pretty easy for me. It helps farmers. The list goes on with similar small scale things.

The thing is, conservationism is not the only way to care for God's creation. Keeping a green yard and garden is good for God's creation. Picking up garbage and doing away with public blight also honor God and care for His creation. Pet population control can be a way to care for God's creation. And on and on goes the list.

I have to live a life with my God that does more than diminish my negative impact on the planet. I also have to live a life that introduces benefit to God's creation. I have to live a life that does not look to government programs for answers, but one that is an answer.

I'm not all the comfortable with where I have landed so far.

Lord show me your will and reveal to me the fullness of your truth so that I can fully live up to your commission on my life to care for your creation. Give me balance in my spiritual life that results in physical honor to your name. All to Christ. All for Christ. All through Christ. Amen

9.09.2009

The Sobriety of Creation

"And He saw that it was good."


It has been a long time since I have just sat and marveled at the things God said were good. I have recently marvelled at my children and how they have grown, then thinking about how marvelously God created them. But I was recently at the beach. And because while on the shore I was busy tending my children, I didn't look out to the horizon and marvel at the enormity of those waters that God held back to form our dry land environment. And that experience is so like my life. No time to marvel. Only time to work, minister, parent, pastor, play, perform, achieve, accomplish, do, do, do, do.


I don't think modernity helps us see God so well. I don't think we are better equipped to nurture our connection to God or our worship of Him in the wonder of His creation. Interestingly being engulfed in His creation seems to draw us to worship of Him, while being engulfed in our creations seems to draw us to more and more non-worship.


Going for a drive today. A drive in the country, the vast open land of God's design.

9.07.2009

Through The Bible Entry Creation Monday


OK, I know some of you are put off by Stott's comment about creation being a process of unspecified length. Some of you might even want to jump off the daily devotional ship at this point. Hold on. Stay on board. There is some significant depth and powerful reflection to come. Don't miss a day.

Here's my landing point on v. 2. I don't think it is intended to give us answers to length of time. It is designed to describe God. I think vv 1&2 are introductory verses to the 7-day description that follows. I think that v. 2 shows, along with the 7-day description that follows, that God created in process. I think that God's use of process helps us order our own lives as He ordered our world.

Now, here's where my worship is directed for the day. "God's SPIRIT hovered over the deep." I must admit that I have carefully considered Jesus participation in the creation... because John 1 in the New Testament forces me to. "Without Him, nothing was made that has been made." And, I knew that the Holy Spirit was around, because God says "Let US create them in our image." But honestly, when I read Genesis 1 I have this picture in my mind of God the Father waving a maestro's baton around the universe giving authoritative commands which bring things into being and into order. And Jesus and the Holy Spirit I see kind of standing there behind him, looking over His shoulder with awe and wonder on their faces, nodding occasionally as the Father looks to them.

But then when I read John 1, I see Jesus doing all of that with a very human touch, more physically involved somehow - as if he were painting each petal and carving each stream. And in this vision I see God and the Holy Spirit kind of strolling along with Him: the Father instructing and the Spirit affirming.

Here's what I notice. I'm much more comfortable with the "3" part of the 3in1 than I am with the "in 1" part of it.

Today my meditations will be on how the Godhead work in unison in creation and in relation to each other and in relation to me.

9.05.2009

CREATION - Week 1 Deviotion


I'm preparing to begin my week of devotions on Creation with all of epic and with some of you, my blog companions. I don't have any comments on an entry yet because I have diligently resisted my desire to read ahead. I have researched a few additional scriptures for myself that I intend to add to my devoted time regimen this coming week. I thought I'd share them. I hope this helps you get started.


By the way, there is a passage on the epic homepage too.

Job 38; Psalms 104, 148; and Isaiah 40


8.31.2009

A Helpful Book Review


As you know by now, I'm really excited about "Through the Bible Through the Year." I have been resisting the urge to get started... so I have read some random entries far ahead in the schedule, hoping that they will be fresh again when I get to them. LOVE IT! I also really want to share the experience with all of epic. I am as excited about the sharing of the experience as I am about the book itself.


Anyhow, for those of you who are considering joining me and the others for the journey, here is a link to a book review that may be helpful to you.


You can order yourself a copy online reasonably at Amazon. If you are going to be at epic on Sunday, you can get a copy for the same price there.


8.27.2009

Starting New Daily Devotional - Join Me

I have long loved John Stott. I was first acquainted with his work in college and immediately loved the depth of his thoughts and the clarity of his explanation. I never cease to be challenged and encouraged by my encounters with his work.

I have used his commentary on Ephesians often and referred to his commentary on Romans as a necessary part of any study in that book. I have recently added his Basic Christianity and The Cross of Christ to my list of necessary volumes for any serious student of Biblical Christianity.

Recently, while at the Catalyst Conference, I came across his recent book - Through the Bible Through the Year. It is a daily devotional, written with concise daily readings to inspire connection to God and reflection on His revelation in scripture. This devotional is designed to follow the Christian calendar so that in one year's time the devotional user will have covered the entire story of scripture, coinciding with the holidays we celebrate as they fall on our standard calendar. Thereby, we learn God's story and discover his portrait of Jesus in the order of his revelation and in the annual rhythm of daily living.


I am so excited about this approach to the Bible that I am planning to use it as a guide for our entire congregation in the coming 12 monthes. I'm recommending it to the whole community of worshippers at epic and planning to preach the story of God in conjunction with this reading plan. In addition to all this, I am planning to celebrate the feasts of our Jewish heritage in conjunction with the Christian calendar which we will be observing in our daily reading and weekly messages. I think this journey will prove to teach all of us to know God better as we see his revelation unfold in order.

I'm gonna try to blog a couple of times per week as part of our shared journey. I look forward to your comments on this blog, sharing your reflections as I share mine. Amazon has a great price on the book. We will also offer the book at epic very reasonably. Get information on the epic reading plan on the epic site. Click here.

8.08.2009

Unceremonial Hand Washing: A Ugandan Moment

There are some experiences in life that bring tangible understanding to lofty ideas. I had plenty of those experiences in Uganda. On experience in particular taught me something about humility.

This is Charles -

Charles is connected to the missionary team through one of the churches they have established in Uganda. The missionary team uses Charles as a professional painter for various projects they may be connected with.


Charles was raised in typical Ugandan poverty. He is now married with 3 children of his own, including a set of twins. He is in his early-twenties and the eldest of 3 sons (that I know of from our conversations), and his parents are dead. He and his wife now are raising his younger brothers along with their own children. And regardless of their financial limitations, this is not at all a burden to them. Charles seems to consider it a privilege. It was my experience that Charles has a pervasively generous spirit, gracious, kind, and humble. His faith is unencumbered by the complications of worry or overly ambitious personal aspiration.

Well, I'm getting too philosophical too soon. I haven't even begun the story that I want to share.

On our days of working around the missionary compound. I was on the painting team. This put me in close contact with Charles. And I had the privilege of working closely with him. His english is fairly weak. But we managed to do more than communicate. We were able to connect. And we were able to build one another up in faith toward the fullness of Christ. I know that sounds just like a preacher talking. But I really felt the dynamic of our exchange was fundamentally spiritual and a direct expression of Ephesians 5.

Well after a full day of painting with oil based paint (and of adapting to a very different approach to applying paint than I am used to - which did not seem at all wise to me) it was time to clean up. I began to work at cleaning up my tools. Charles tried to stop me. I persisted and then began to clean up trash and other items. Charles again began to resist my assistance and I eventually realized that he was trying to communicate to me that he wanted things done a certain way and that I was not understanding how he wanted those things done. I acquiesced and went in to clean myself up.

I washed my hands and resigned myself to the idea that I would just have to wait for the oil-based paint on my skin to just be sloughed off in a week or so. I wasn't bothered by that at all. I was just so glad to have had a great day of work. I went inside to change my clothes for dinner, putting my shower on hold since there was not going to be time. When I came out of my room, Charles - still in his blue coveralls, was looking for me. He grabbed my wrists and guided me outside.

Everything was put away except for a can of diesel and a rag. Charles, still gripping my wrist squatted to the ground and pulled me along with him. He picked up the rag, wet it with diesel and began to silently clean the oil-based paint from by hands and fore arms. Slowly, caringly, generously, he found each splotch and scrubbed them away.

My initial instinct was to resist. My personal space was being invaded. My sensitivity to having another man hold onto my hand as he washed me up was raging. But I knew that to resist his offer of service would be a rejection and I adopted a receptive attitude. And I realized how humble he was to serve me this way. And I realized how proud I was. I realized it because although I was surrounded by only Ugandans and missionaries, I was practically embarrassed by my situation. Eventually I got that emotion under control and I could just appreciate Charles' gift of service.

I have been in foot-washing services on multiple occasions in my life. I have had my feet washed and I have washed feet all in the name of practicing humility and faith. Each of those experiences was challenging and moving. Each was led by God's Spirit and significant to my spiritual growth. But none was so significant as my hand-washing experience with Charles. It was not a planned event. It was a generous offer of service in a real life circumstance and God altered me much more significantly than my previous experiences.

Thank you Charles. While you washed away visible marks on my hands and arms, you imprinted indelible marks on my soul.

8.04.2009

HIV, Tuberculosis, Demonic Spirit, and Salvation

While in Uganda, on our first day of medical ministry, I had a powerful experience of God on the fringe. ("God on the fringe" is a phrase from a book by a similar title to describe and evaluate how God works powerfully among the people who live life on the fringes of middle class society.) In Uganda, we engulfed ourselves in the fringes.


On this first day of medical ministry, we had finished setting up the clinic and most of us from epic were milling around looking for the areas in which we could be useful. I, myself, was feeling a bit like a third wheel when our missionary approached me to go out on a "house call." I had heard the muffled conversations about a woman out in the bush who could not make it to the clinic for care and it was obvious that the missionaries and the medical team were trying to decide what to do about it. Well, it was decided that Justice (mentioned in a previous post - "By the Hand of God") would take a team out to the house to treat the woman. We knew that she was being treated for HIV disease by a government program and that she was unable to make it into our clinic for treatment, which meant she had also been unable to make it the even further distance to the government clinic for help.

Scott, our missionary, asked me to pick a someone from the team to go along, and to quickly get ready to take off. My head spinning from the unexpected opportunity, I silently asked God who I should invite along. His answer was swift and specific. "Get Jordan," is what I knew God was saying. My impression was so strong that I immediately approached him and gave him the low down.

Soon we were loading up in the bus for our journey out to serve this lady who we only knew through the description of one of her neighbors. ( I found out later that the term neighbor would be very loosely defined in this circumstance. The ladies lived about 1.5 miles apart and could only travel to one another by foot.) We drove out of the village (we had set up our clinic in a church there) and down the road for what seemed like about 6 miles. We had the neighbor woman along for a guide. We made a turn or two and then quickly stopped near a walking path. We could see a hut off to the side of the road, so Jordan and I began to prepare ourselves to disembark. Well, the bus took a sharp left turn off of the road and onto the walking path (not that it fit on the single person foot path worn into the savanna grassland). We drove for just a little bit and then parked and got off the bus. As we began to walk out further into the bush, it began to rain and Jordan and I knew that we were on a genuine adventure.

We soon reached a mud and stick hut with a metal roof and a sheet hanging over the door. We waited outside for just a moment as Pastor James (one of our team hosts for the missions trip) called inside. Soon we were invited in and made our way through the dark, windowless front "room," past a dividing wall into a sleeping space at the back of the house. (There were 2 other sleeping spaces in the hut. Both more private than this one.) We found a young woman ( I guess in her upper 20s) lying on a mat with a bowl of very humble food sitting next to her. She tried to raise herself up to address us and it was obvious that she was paralyzed.

Justice began to discuss her medical condition and the course of her treatment with her. She was not improving in regard to her paralyses and the tuberculosis which had settled in her spine, causing an enormous deformity there. It looked as if it was very painful and the obvious source of the paralyses. Pastor James tried to keep us informed of the conversation and I was trying to pray for the situation, my thoughts interrupted occasionally by new revelations of other persons in the hut - previously undisclosed in the remaining sleeping spaces.

Eventually Justice turned around to face us and explain that he was instructing her to continue her treatments for HIV and for the Tuberculosis. He explained that her prognosis was very poor without physical therapy and that it was very unlikely that she would be able to get it out in the area where she lived. He then invited us to pray with him for her. He spoke to her and turned around to tell us that she had decided to invite Christ to be her savior.

We all prayed as Justice prayed directly with her in their native language. As we were praying, the woman jerked back violently and fell to her back, laid out flat as if in a seizure. We instinctively moved in closer to pray more fervently, and then the woman screeched in her own voice. Pastor James turned to us westerners and explained that an evil spirit had revealed itself.

Once again we pressed in closer to the woman, laying our hands on her legs and praying as strongly as we could. And after several long moments, there came a peace over the room. The oppressive environment that we had become accustomed to, almost unaware because the entire space was so foreign to us, was lifted. We finished praying.

Justice gave the woman some further medical instructions. Pastor James gave her some spiritual instructions. Jordan and I smiled to give her the only thing we felt we could: silent encouragement. Then the group began to leave the house. I felt so unfinished that I spoke in English to the woman to tell her that God would be with her and that He would bless her. I didn't know what to say and I know that all she could understand was my spirit, so the words didn't really matter.

Just outside of the house (the rain stopped), Pastor James told us that the demon had said, "I came here to kill her. But since you are not going to let me do that, I am going to leave."

Back in the bus, Jordan and I sat unnerved. Excited, thankful, worshipful, relieved, and I was feeling unsure about how to retell this story to anyone. Jordan told me that he had experienced praying in other tongues during the most intense season of prayer. And He was obviously thrilled to have had God prove Himself present in that way.

Before we left Africa, we were informed by our missionaries that the woman had been approved by her attending physicians to be moved to the missionary complex in Masaka for physical therapy under the constant supervision of the staff nurses there.

God in the fringes. Powerfully working for the sake of the down and out. Making Himself plain to see for those who seem to see nothing more than pain and struggle in everyday life.

I did not take any pictures during this outing. You will have to rely on your mind's eye for the images of this encounter.

7.30.2009

Uganda Child

While we were in Uganda, we had the privilege of ministering in a church at a worship gathering. Tim shared his personal testimony, as did Debra. (Tim has a gift for speaking - there's some preaching in his future. Shhhhhhh - Don't tell him that I'm giving him up.) Debra's testimony is moving in any setting and the Ugandan congregation responded powerfully to her story of God's faithful grace. Amanda shared a song. And I was able to speak from God's word.


We loved their abandon to worship. They danced and sang to God with devotion. We loved the traditional lunch we were served after the gathering. We loved the songs and dances shared with us after lunch by the orphans. (Lunch was meat cooked in broth, rice, matooki (a banana relative), shaved cabbage with dressing, and pineapple.) And what fun we had spending time with the kids at the end of our stay, just dancing and lavishing affection on them.

The orphanage houses as many as 200 children. The school is also open to day students and there is a total of 800 students at the school.

When we were just about to leave for our Ugandan home in Masaka, our missionary - Scott called me over to meet a young girl who I could see was standing on crutches and leaning against an external wall of the church building. As I got closer through the crowd of children, I noticed that her right leg had been completely severed above the knee.

Scott began to tell me the story of this orphan, that she had lost her leg in a terrible Boda Boda accident (remember, a Boda Boda is a motorcycle taxi). In fact she could easily have lost her life in that accident. In close proximity she also lost her surviving parent to HIV disease. She is now a member of the most vulnerable group of children in the world: invalid orphans in a developing nation. Scott went on to explain that he was in a tight spot where she was concerned, since she is technically too old to enter the orphan program through normal means. He expressed that without a sponsor committed to her up front, he would have a tough time getting her accepted into the program for any more than temporary shelter. To sponsor her will cost about $43/month.

I boldly said that I would make sure that she had a sponsor and am waiting for the paperwork to be sent to epic on her behalf. I cannot remember her name. I have been praying that God would remind me of her name but I haven't yet remembered. I can't wait for the paperwork to come so that I can pray for her by name.

This case is just one in which the missionaries of World Outreach Ministry Fellowship go above and beyond to make sure that cases that might likely fall through the cracks of most programs are followed through on. We saw time and time again how the personal contact with missionaries instead of impersonal contact with some faceless program resulted in life and soul saving follow-through. It is so much more than a program. It is more than even a ministry. It is a calling. And the commitment of our missionaries to people instead of statistics is phenomenal.

Missions works much better than secular social action. It works better because people responding to God are more motivated that people pursuing a goal.

Pray for this child. Pray for out missionaries. Pray for your mission either right where you are, or wherever God might want to send you.

7.14.2009

"By the Hand of God"

While in Uganda, we met and ministered with a man named Justice. To get right to the point, I'll shorten the story significantly.

Justice is in training to become a Dr. He is employed by the mission and his education is being paid for by an American sponsor so that his services can be directed specifically toward the medical wing of the ministry in Uganda. Because we were a part of 3 1-day HIV/medical clinics during our time there, we got to know Justice fairly well.

In one discussion with Justice, one of our team members asked him, "Justice, how did you get out of the poverty of your village and break that cycle?" Justice took a deep breath, and knowing some of his story from the missionaries, I was expecting him to describe how he came to work with the missionaries as a cook, how he met his wife, how he was inspired by the missionaries to pray about medicine, and on and on as any American Christian would do to answer that question.

O was to be left hanging in that expectation. Justice exhaled and said with profound humility, "it was by the hand of God." And he was done. He didn't say anything else. No elaboration. No explanation. No story. No background. That was it.

Now if your experiences in life are anything like mine, you have had some Christian somewhere give you an answer somewhat like that with supercilious pronouncements of faith. To which I always respond with an internal rolling of my eyes. (I do this on the inside so that no one will see how spiritually immature I am.) I do this because I know that this person has just decided to brag about their spirituality to cover up their pride in the physical accomplishment they are describing.

With Justice there was none of that. It was obvious to all of us in the conversation that he genuinely had no other explanation of the events that had led him to the situation he was in than that it had to be the hand of God.

Well, if I can be so humble as to remove my own pride in earthly accomplishment, I might actually see the hand of God more. And if I see the hand of God more, I might actually be humble enough to actually give God that kind of credit without either using the word supercilious or by being supercilious.

By the hand of God!



sup-er-cil-i-ous
–adjective
haughtily disdainful, as a person or a facial expression.

Another Uganda Story

Well, I've been back for several days now and have been meaning to post a few stories here ever since my return. I'm sorry I haven't gotten to it until now. Jet lag + 24-hour flu = slow blogging.

We were able to see the final installation of the well that so many of you helped to pay for. On the day we were there, the installers put in the pump mechanism after testing the depth and volume of the well. (There will be a strong supply of water for a long, long time.)

This location is just outside of the main settlement of the village of Makoomi. As part of our ministry here on this day, we also provided an HIV and health clinic. We were also guided to the current source of water for the village. We went for a 10 minute walk, further away from the village and found a capped off artisian spring with a cistern. While we were there the water was flowing steadily.

There were 2 boys filling their jerry cans with water for their home. They stepped into the murky cistern and let the water from the pipe flow into their cans. (I should say the little one did, while the older one looked on.) We followed the boys part way back to their house and carried their filled cans for them (right on Rico and Jordan). It was on this journey that our missionary revealed the full benefit of this well installation to me.

We were there at the beginning of the dry season. The pastor of the church at Makoomi shared that as the dry season goes on, the spring will get continually less productive. Eventually the water will trickle out of the pipe and a couple of things will happen. 1 can will take up to 30 minutes to fill. The villagers will line up to fill their cans. In their society, the older people will get preference over the younger and so children sent by their parents may spend several hours waiting to fill water for their home. Many children and adults alike will give up on this process and journey down to the marsh to fill their cans with swamp water (another 15 minute walk beyond the point of the spring). It is during this time that many families go without necessary water. They use less and less to drink, reserving their precious water for food preparation. dehydration leads to illness and further complications.

It is from this spring that the school operated at the church receives its water. And with just the spring to supply water to the village, church, and school, one ministry vision for the area had been put on hold. An orphanage: Homes of Hope.

This village is near a handful of other villages and the school and orphanage here would rescue many children from death, illness, and a hopeless future. Not only has the provision of a constant clean water source on the campus of this ministry provided a village of a few thousand with reliable drinking water and better health, it has opened the door for the orphan home to be built, rescuing children from death, neglect, and abuse.

In Uganda, water changes things. I think Jesus knew that when He talked about himself as living water. Jesus changes things... Well, He mostly changes people.

Thanks to so many of you who are the missionaries who provided this well through prayer, financial support, encouragement, help, and in 1000 other ways. God did it through you. And His name is honored.

6.30.2009

1 Story from Ugandan HIV Clinic

At our HIV/AIDS clinic yesterday (Monday in Uganda), a little girl came to the clinic late in the afternoon. She was with her jahjah (grandmother). She was obviously unwell. We rushed her to the front of the line with a fever of 104. Her ears, for the brief moment that she would let them be seen looked terribly inflamed. She seemed to have a soar throat.

The head nurse gave her ibuprofen and put her in a basin with water. Her fever came down a couple of degrees and she calmed down. But she was still not out of the danger zone. As we were finishing up with the last 20 patients, the girl went into convulsions from the fever and the missionaries immediately took her with a nurse to a nearby clinic. Her bills were paid and the grandmother eventually agreed to take her. Amazingly the grandmother was resistant even though she had seen the convulsions.

Our missionary explained that the girl was in the care of the clan and treated as a servant because her parents were dead. Since the clan (primarily the jahjah) was caring for her, she was considered indebted to them. These children are often worse off than those in orphanages.

Later that evening we got word from the clinic that the child was on IV antibiotics, sleeping well and would be there for three days. Her diagnosis was complicated Malaria and the physician reported that without the strong antibiotics the girl would not have lived another 24 hours.

If that clinic had not been paid for by so many donors... If 7 comfortable Americans had not left their creature comforts to see the clinic provided... If a group of missionaries did not have the long-term commitment to serve this country, and having on-going relationships with local medical professionals... If not for all that and your prayers... Uganda would be minus 1 very beautiful little girl, who could one day make all the difference for this country.

This is just 1 story. Just 1. When I am home, I will give you some more.

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