Thursday, November 4, 2010

Don't Grow Old, Grow Up.

I am teaching this next weekend on living a transformed life. I find myself convinced that the premise behind Paul's words "to be transformed by the renewing of your mind," has more to do with growing up and not growing old.

I am beginning to realize with every passing day that age cannot be caged. As Paul writes: "Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day."- 2 Cor. 4:16

Outwardly wasting, but inwardly growing! That's not growing old as much as it is growing up. As I grow old I am going to work hard to keep my dreams alive, and hopefully my body somewhat in check. As I grow old I truly desire to move towards death with a dedication to keep on impacting and touching lives. My dream would be that there would always be a message in my heart, and that the Word of God would always remain fresh and new as I am renewed day by day. My intent is not to move toward death, but to anticipate a greater awareness of all life has to give both here and beyond.

I ran across the following story doing a bit of research. Enjoy it.

"The first day of school our professor introduced himself and challenged us to get to know someone we didn't already know.

I stood up to look around when a gentle hand touched my shoulder. I turned around to find a wrinkled, little old lady beaming up at me with a smile that lit up her entire being.

She said, "Hi handsome. My name is Rose. I'm eighty-seven years old. Can I give you a hug?"

I laughed and enthusiastically responded, "Of course you may!" and she gave me a giant squeeze.

"Why are you in college at such a young, innocent age?" I asked. She jokingly replied, "I'm here to meet a rich husband, get married, have a couple of children, and then retire and travel."

"No seriously," I asked. I was curious what may have motivated her to be taking on this challenge at her age.

"I always dreamed of having a college education and now I'm getting one!" she told me.

After class we walked to the student union building and shared a chocolate milkshake. We became instant friends. Every day for the next three months we would leave class together and talk nonstop.

I was always mesmerized listening to this "time machine" as she shared her wisdom and experience with me.

Over the course of the year, Rose became a campus icon and she easily made friends wherever she went. She loved to dress up and she reveled in the attention bestowed upon her from the other students. She was living it up.

At the end of the semester we invited Rose to speak at our football banquet. I'll never forget what she taught us. She was introduced and stepped up to the podium. As she began to deliver her prepared speech, she dropped her three by five cards on the floor.

Frustrated and a little embarrassed she leaned into the microphone and simply said "I'm sorry I'm so jittery. I gave up beer for Lent and this whiskey is killing me! I'll never get my speech back in order so let me just tell you what I know." As we laughed she cleared her throat and began:

"We do not stop playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing. There are only four secrets to staying young, being happy, and achieving success.

You have to laugh and find humor everyday.

You've got to have a dream. When you lose your dreams, you die.

We have so many people walking around who are dead and don't even know it!

There is a huge difference between growing older and growing up. If you are nineteen years old and lie in bed for one full year and don't do one productive thing, you will turn twenty years old. If I am eighty-seven years old and stay in bed for a year and never do anything I will turn eighty-eight. Anybody can grow older. That doesn't take any talent or ability.

The idea is to grow up by always finding the opportunity in change.

Have no regrets. The elderly usually don't have regrets for what we did, but rather for things we did not do. The only people who fear death are those with regrets."

She concluded her speech by courageously singing "The Rose." She challenged each of us to study the lyrics and live them out in our daily lives.

At the years end Rose finished the college degree she had begun all those years ago. One week after graduation Rose died peacefully in her sleep.

Over two thousand college students attended her funeral in tribute to the wonderful woman who taught by example that it's never too late to be all you can possibly be."

Author Unknows

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Grappling with God's Mercy

Throughout the course of these past few weeks I have been pondering the truth of God's mercy for my life. What does His mercy look like? What happens in my life as a result of encountering such mercy? How do I embody it before others? I'm wrestling through it and attempting to pen into words a message that is not trite, but motivates our church body to respond to those around us and in this world with tangible expressions of the mercy of my God.

I came across a great blog site that describes God's mercy in a manner that tangibly defines and describes it. The site:

God's Mercy

God's mercy is another one of his attributes that comes from his goodness, and so it is also closely related to his love and grace. Mercy has to do specifically with God's characteristic attitude toward people who are in trouble. It is God's pity for those who are miserable or suffering or needy, and helpless in their situation; but it includes more than just a feeling of pity, for his mercy has his rescuing power behind it. Out of God's mercy he rescues from difficulty; out of his mercy he saves the powerless; out of his mercy he heals the sick. God's delivering activity toward the oppressed, the afflicted, the poor, and the fatherless are all described as coming from his mercy. Since all of his creation is so dependent upon him, the psalmist can say that "his tender mercies are over all his works (Psalm 145:9)."

Like all of God's attributes, God's mercy in intrinsic to him. He is called "the Father of mercies" and a "God of mercy" (2 Cor. 1:3, Neh. 9:17). His mercy is also abundantly great and boundless, higher than the heavens and filling the earth. Scripture refers to "the multitude of his mercies" (Lam. 3:32) because the acts stemming from this attribute are so numerous.

His mercy is eternal and unchanging. God's mercy is "from everlasting to everlasting" (Psalm 103:17) in the same way that God himself is from everlasting to everlasting. His mercies don't cease or fail, because they are new every morning (Lam. 3): constantly fresh and perfect and never fading with age. His mercy endures forever.

It is out of God's constantly enduring mercy that he brought His people of Israel out of bondage in Egypt. They were helpless to save themselves, but God saw their desperate situation and redeemed them out of their trouble. From Psalm 136's recounting of God's merciful deliverance of Israel from Egyptian slavery, we learn one more thing about God's mercy:
To Him who struck Egypt in their firstborn,
For His mercy endures forever;
And brought out Israel from among them,
For His mercy endures forever...
It's a bit of a jarring juxtaposition, isn't it? Out of God's mercy He rescued Israel, but the merciful deliverance of his people resulted from an act that was not kind toward the people of Egypt. His act of mercy toward one group of people was at the same time an act of severity toward another group of people. God's mercy, then, like his love and grace, is particular. While his people can count on his mercy never being turned from them, there are times when he is not merciful to some people.

His is sovereign and free in his mercy. The expression of his mercy is never compelled, but he expresses it because he delights in his mercy (Micah 7:18). To show mercy is his own choice according to his own purpose: "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy." That God shows mercy toward us does not depend on our action or our desire, but on "God who has mercy." (Romans 9)

There is a tension in the truths of God's mercy that is important to maintain. While it is true that God is completely free in his acts of mercy, and that he acts mercifully according to his own purpose and as it fits his own plan, it is also true that those who seek his mercy always find it. He is always merciful to the truly repentant. If we confess, he faithfully forgives. We would not be correct in thinking that he is compelled to be merciful to us in response to our repentence--or to presume upon his mercy--but we are correct if we believe that our genuine repentence is always and certainly met with his willing and abundant mercy. (If you are reading this through for a second time, and you don't think you've read this paragraph before, you are probably right. This was added later in one of those after-the-post-but-still-stewing moments. This is one reason why I find these posts so difficult: there's always a big chance I'll leave out something really, really important.)

Although God's mercy is over all his works, delivering us from sin through Christ was the supreme act of God's mercy. It was because of God's tender mercy that Christ was incarnated to be our Savior (Luke 1:78). It was on the basis of God's mercy that he saved us from our state of helpless (and at the same time intransigent!) disobedience (Titus 3:3-5). The ultimate sacrifice of Christ, and all the saving actions of God on my behalf, come because God is "rich in mercy".
By his great mercy he gave us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, that is, into an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. (1 Peter 1:3,4 NET)
The surety of our inheritance and the new life we are born again into all come to us by way of God's mercy.

A first step toward understanding the true depth of God's mercy is understanding the depth of our own neediness. We are utterly without hope short of God's merciful activity on our behalf. Is it by recognizing that we come before God bringing nothing but our own sinfulness, just as the publican in the parable brought nothing when he prayed, "God be merciful to me a sinner (Luke 13:18)", that we get some glimpse of the abundant richness of God's mercy.

Because God has been merciful to us, we have reason to be merciful in our actions toward those who are in need. We must "be merciful, just as [our] Father also is merciful (Luke 6:36 NET)." Mercy is one of God's communicable attributes, meaning that he shares it with us and expects it from us. Just as our Father is moved to act by the plight of those in need, so too, those who are his children are motivated by mercy. The poverty of others--both material and spiritual--is our opportunity to be like our Father. Their trouble is our opportunity to help.

If we belong to him--if we are being delivered from sin because of God's mercy--we have a reason to be always and forever grateful to our heavenly Father. We should be singing right along with the psalmist, "I will sing of the mercies of the LORD forever (Psalm 89:1)." Or with Horatio Spafford when he writes in his hymn, It Is Well with My Soul:

....Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

....Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

God's mercy is one of the grounds for our hope. It is out of God's mercy that we are "born again to a living hope," and we

....hope in the Lord;
For with the Lord there is mercy,
And with Him is abundant redemption.
(Psalm 130:7)

The Lord takes pleasure in those....who hope in His mercy.
(Psalm 147:11)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Jesus Storybook Bible

Okay parents, you need to invest in a resource for your kids that will grab hold of your heart and mind.

I started reading through The Jesus Storybook Bible with my girls tonight. I purchased it with the idea that they would eventually read it to their little sister. All three of us become easily engrossed with it from the start.

The entire thrust of the book is to paint a picture of Jesus as our Rescuer from Genesis through Revelation. Sally Jones retells each event with vivid color and creativity as she sets the stage for Jesus to show up on the scene.

I found myself captivated by the manner in which the stories are written, discovering a fresh approach and appreciation for each one. I highly recommend it. As a matter of fact my mind is already running down the path of creating a series that would tie into the book.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Knowledge of the Holy

This past weekend I mentioned Knowledge of the Holy, by A.W. Tozer. Buy it. Read it. Devour it. It's worth it!

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Goal of God's Love May Not Be What You Think It Is

I am in the midst of preparing a message on God's Love. The love of God truly dominates our lives when we come to understand both how profound and yet how simple it is, but most importantly when we embraced it with full surrender. John Pipers insights are deep and wide!

The Goal of God's Love May Not Be What You Think It Is
John Piper

Do people go to the Grand Canyon to increase their self-esteem? Probably not. This is, at least, a hint that the deepest joys in life come not from savoring the self, but from seeing splendor. And in the end even the Grand Canyon will not do. We were made to enjoy God.

We are all bent to believe that we are central in the universe. How shall we be cured of this joy-destroying disease? Perhaps by hearing afresh how radically God-centered reality is according to the Bible.

Both the Old and New Testament tell us that God's loving us is a means to our glorifying him. "Christ became a servant ... in order that the nations might glorify God for his mercy" (Romans 15:8-9). God has been merciful to us so that we would magnify him. We see it again in the words, "In love [God] destined us to adoption ... to the praise of the glory of His grace" (Ephesians 1:4-6). In other words, the goal of God's loving us is that we might praise him. One more illustration from Psalm 86:12-13: "I will glorify your name forever. For your lovingkindness toward me is great." God's love is the ground. His glory is the goal.

This is shocking. The love of God is not God's making much of us, but God's saving us from self-centeredness so that we can enjoy making much of him forever. And our love to others is not our making much of them, but helping them to find satisfaction in making much of God. True love aims at satisfying people in the glory of God. Any love that terminates on man is eventually destructive. It does not lead people to the only lasting joy, namely, God. Love must be God-centered, or it is not true love; it leaves people without their final hope of joy.

Take the cross of Christ, for example. The death of Jesus Christ is the ultimate expression of divine love: "God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). Yet the Bible also says that the aim of the death of Christ was "to demonstrate righteousness, because in the forbearance of God he passed over the sins previously committed" (Romans 3:25). Passing over sins creates a huge problem for the righteousness of God. It makes him look like a judge who lets criminals go free without punishment. In other words, the mercy of God puts the justice of God in jeopardy.

So to vindicate his justice he does the unthinkable - he puts his Son to death as the substitute penalty for our sins. The cross makes it plain to everyone that God does not sweep evil under the rug of the universe. He punishes it in Jesus for those who believe.

But notice that this ultimately loving act has at the center of it the vindication of the righteousness of God. Good Friday love is God-glorifying love. God exalts God at the cross. If he didn't, he could not be just and rescue us from sin. But it is a mistake to say, "Well, if the aim was to rescue us, then we were the ultimate goal of the cross." No, we were rescued from sin in order that we might see and savor the glory of God. This is the ultimately loving aim of Christ's death. He did not die to make much of us, but to free us to enjoy making much of God forever.

It is profoundly wrong to turn the cross into a proof that self-esteem is the root of mental health. If I stand before the love of God and do not feel a healthy, satisfying, freeing joy unless I turn that love into an echo of my self-esteem, then I am like a man who stands before the Grand Canyon and feels no satisfying wonder until he translates the canyon into a case for his own significance. That is not the presence of mental health, but bondage to self.

The cure for this bondage is to see that God is the one being in the universe for whom self-exaltation is the most loving act. In exalting himself - Grand Canyon-like - he gets the glory and we get the joy. The greatest news in all the world is that there is no final conflict between my passion for joy and God's passion for his glory. The knot that ties these together is the truth that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. Jesus Christ died and rose again to forgive the treason of our souls, which have turned from savoring God to savoring self. In the cross of Christ, God rescues us from the house of mirrors and leads us out to the mountains and canyons of his majesty. Nothing satisfies us - or magnifies him - more.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Dad and Brownies

I discovered a couple variations of this story, but I love the twist on this one. The next time one of your kids desire to fill their precious little heads with a little crap you might want to consider cooking them some brownies.

A father of some teenage children had the family rule that they could not attend PG-13 or R rated movies. His three teens wanted to see a particular popular movie that was playing at local theaters. It was rated PG-13.

The teens interviewed friends and even some members of their family's church to find out what was offensive in the movie. The teens made a list of pros and cons about the movie to use to convince their dad that they should be allowed to see it. The con's were that it contained ONLY 3 swear words, the ONLY violence was a building exploding (and you see that on TV all the time they said), and you actually did not "see" the couple in the movie having sex - it was just implied sex, off camera. The pros were that it was a popular movie - a block buster. Everyone was seeing it. If the teens saw the movie then they would not feel left out when their friends discussed it. The movie contained a good story and plot. It had some great adventure and suspense in it. There were some fantastic special effects in this movie. The movie's stars were some of the most talented actors in Hollywood. It probably would be nominated for several awards.

Many of the members of their Christian church had even seen the movie and said it wasn't "very bad". Therefore, since there were more pros than cons the teens said they were asking their father to reconsider his position on just this ONE movie and let them have permission to go see it.

The father looked at the list and thought for a few minutes. He said he could tell his children had spent some time and thought on this request. He asked if he could have a day to think about it before making his decision. The teens were thrilled thinking; "Now we've got him! Our argument is too good! Dad can't turn us down!" So, they happily agreed to let him have a day to think about their request.

The next evening the father called in his three teenagers, who were smiling smugly, into the living room. There on the coffee table he had a plate of brownies. The teens were puzzled. The father told his children he had thought about their request and had decided that if they would eat a brownie then he would let them go to the movie. But just like the movie, the brownies had pros and cons.

The pros were that they were made with the finest chocolate and other good ingredients. They had the added special effect of yummy walnuts in them. The brownies were moist and fresh with wonderful chocolate frosting on top. He had made these fantastic brownies using an award-winning recipe. And best of all, the brownies had been made lovingly by the hand of their own father.

The brownies only had one con. The father had included a little bit of a special ingredient. The brownies also contained just a little bit of dog poop. But he had mixed the dough well - they probably would not even be able to taste the dog poop and he had baked it at 350 degrees so any bacteria or germs from the dog poop had probably been destroyed.
Therefore, if any of his children could stand to eat the brownies which included just a "little bit of crap" and not be effected by it, then he knew they would also be able to see the movie with "just a little bit of smut" and not be effected.

Of course, none of the teens would eat the brownies and the smug smiles had left their faces. Only Dad was smiling smugly as they left the room.

Now when his teenagers ask permission to do something he is opposed to the father just asks, "Would you like me to whip up a batch of my special brownies?"

Author Unknown

Monday, August 2, 2010

Don't Waste Your Cancer

I had a friend direct me to what John Piper wrote concerning cancer. It reminded me of a conversation I had with my friend Dane who is battling cancer as well. Dane mentioned how he has been able to view his prognosis as a gift. He talked about the aspects of God's character that is being revealed through his journey and how he wouldn't trade all he is gaining with anyone.

I walked away humbled and reminded how the Lord uses pain and brokenness to create in us a deeper dependence upon Him as he refines and shapes us through the journey. I trust you will find Piper's words worth passing on.

Here's the link:

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Hinds' Feet on High Places

Laura and I have been taking our kids through the classic book, Hinds' Feet On High Places. We speculated that the kids might not like it, but were hoping they would at least tolerate it. To say the least, we have been pleasantly surprised by the level of anticipation each night prior to our reading time. Part of it is the book and the other is the fact we are doing it together as a family.

We begin each night reviewing the previous chapter and then do the same when we have completed the next. This has kept the story fresh and allows us to know they are grasping the basic concepts of Much Afraid's journey to the high places and gaining her hinds feet.

Last night we spent a great deal of time discussing Sorrow and Suffering as guides the Shepherd would provide to Much Afraid. The girls wrestled a bit on why a good shepherd would use Sorrow and Suffering. We were able to use the discussion as a launching pad to a deeper conversation on how the Lord allows such things to come into our lives so that He can develop character, perseverance, and hope. More than anything, for Much Afraid, He would use them to help her gain her hinds feet that she so desperately longed for.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Don't Kill What's In Your Hands

All of us who have or had little monkeys running around, know of at least one time when you handed something that was living and active into there little hands and told them not to squeeze it.

The reason we say things like that is so they won't kill it, or drop it. The last thing we want as parents it to have our kids grow up with some repressed memory of that day at the zoo when they held the little chick too tight and the bird died in their hands! We certainly don't want to walk through life with the regret of not telling our kids to be careful, knowing we played a roll in the death of a little chick!

I have yet to experience one of those death defying moments. I don't remember a time outside of smashing a bug that a life was brought to an end while lying in my hands. My kids have never killed any living creature in such a way, but we still tell them to be careful. After all, they really don't know their own strength, and they do have a tendency to squeeze.

James 1:13-15 is a great reminder to be careful with what you hold in your hands, and to not squeeze too hard or you may kill it.

"When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone: but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown give birth to death."

The word "death" stands out.

With each day I hold a great deal of potential and promise in my hands. I hold my relationships with my family and friends. I hold my virtue, character, reputation, finances, ethics, just to name a few. I get to hold tender moments with others who simply need a gentle and loving squeeze from my hands. I hold the words I can say or should not say.

Time is in my hands, and what I do with that time can result in life or death.

Think about it.

What do you have in your hands?

We are given choices every day to handle with care our thoughts, actions, words.

  • The conversations you will have today - in your hands.
  • Those moments when your focus goes to what you cannot have - in your hands.
  • A tug at your heart to lie a little - in your hands.
  • A momentary bought with lust - in your hands.
  • An opportunity with someone that can truly be a divine moment - in your hands.

Today I will hold the hands of a few hurting people who will begin to confront the reality of the death of a loved one. What a privilege to hand out hope from my hands to theirs.

James makes it clear that each day we face temptations that can lead to death. In other words, we hold in our hands the ability to make right decisions or to squeeze to hard.

Recognize all you have in your hands. Hold it gently. Don't squeeze too hard, and think before you touch! Handle with care those moments that can lead to life not death.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Living with Eyes Wide Open

When's the last time you sat down and listened to a man come to terms with the fragility of life?

So often for me, those conversations are with a older man who has lived his life and is taking the time to reflect and celebrate with some regret tossed in. Such a time is used to share some deep insights, as well as to challenge you to not miss those divine and precious moments with your family and friends. He encourages you to not get lost in your work and miss the work of God being done in you.

I had one of those conversations the other night, but it wasn't with some senior saint. My time was spent with Troy who is battling cancer at a very young age. As we were talking his oldest son Gavin was playing with the toy lawnmower and finding a few treasures in the rocks around the pool. I was holding Gavin, his youngest son who has rolls and rolls of baby fat. He's one BIG kid who has added a lot of joy and laughs to the scene. Alicia sat across from us, listening as Troy candidly and boldly talked about the gift of cancer and what it has opened his eyes and life to.

So here I am, caught in another moment when I get to drink in the wisdom that is coming with experience. When I get to have one of those very private pastoral conversations when someone exposes their feelings and thoughts in a way that embeds itself deep into my heart and mind. In many ways those moments become powerful times of transformation for me as well.

Troy and I talked about how precious life is. He opened up scripture and spoke about the insights that have become so clear over these months to him. He told me how cancer has become this great gift that has served to open his eyes to deeper truths in God's Word as well as to the things that truly matter in life. Moments that we take for granted, but have now become treasured times that are held so dear.

We celebrated the growth of his Journey Group as he and Alicia have witnessed each couple grow in their faith as they have walked with the Floors through this journey as well. We talked about dying and the emotions we both - as men, dads and husbands wrestle with.

We spent a few moments reflecting on the greatness of our God out of Isaiah 40, and the reality that our God who is Sovereign, in charge, a strong and powerful Ruler who also holds His lambs close to His chest with tenderness and compassion. We both came to the conclusion that if God is capable of holding this world in his hands then He can certainly can take care of the details of life without us.

We spent time dwelling a bit on how precious each day is, and how we need to walk into each morning with a determination to live and embrace the day with anticipation. Life is a gift, so treat it that way. Value the packages of family and friends, tender moments that become treasures we can hold dear.

James 1:12 says, "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him."

I have no doubt that Troy Floor has a crown awaiting him some day. He has persevered under the trial. He has cultivated deep character and holds onto the hope of living long, but also living well. Troy is fighting the good fight. He is walking into today and future days with great anticipation and a determination to capture the fullness that each day holds, planning and fighting for many days and years ahead. More than anything, he is living with his eyes wide open capturing so many more moments that I end up taking for granted.

I left our conversation a little more transformed and mindful of the fact that life is precious. I walked into my home that night with my eyes wide open and grateful for a new look and perspective on all I have been given.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Summer Study Break Begins

Life is rather ironic. I am suppose to be starting a summer study break which will allow me time to focus on reading, writing and preparing my schedule for next year. I have been anticipating this time now for several weeks and looking forward to stepping back from ministry and engaging deeper with family.

Ministry has a way of delivering one some big surprises that can at times derail the best of intentions. This week, instead of working on some future series planning I am spending my time with a hurting family walking towards a much dreaded funeral. What's strange is that I don't mind. I feel no regret. If anything there is a tinge of anticipation about the opportunity to walk alongside of a family I love and sharing the good news with a captive audience.

To make the most of every opportunity means that one must look for those moments whereby the Lord can work in and through you. When you begin to live with an "opportunity mindset" you become keenly aware how interruptions become divine appointments handed down through times of tragedy to point others to the one who truly triumphs.

This week may not entail a planned study break, but it does include rich opportunities to bring hope and an eternal perspective to many.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Just Starting

I'm a little shaky just getting this blog going. My wife has been telling me for months now: "Start a blog". So here we go into the wonderful blog world.