Monday, August 23, 2004


"Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. " (Genesis 12:1)

God spoke to Abram and told him to go, just go and let me lead you. To us centuries later, this can seem like just a story, but it really happened. A man named Abram spoke to God and God asked him to trust him and put his life, everything he knew (for 75 years!) in his hands, lay it all on the line, just...let...go.

Saying that faith like this is "uncommon" doesn't even come close to recognizing it. Abram's faith was incredible.

God had great things planned for Abram, things beyond this farmer's wildest imagination. God has always chosen simple men to do his greatest work. A few others (off the top of my head), Moses, John the Baptist, Peter... What had Abram done to deserve this? Why did God choose this man to "father" his chosen people? Why did Christ ask a burly, hard-headed, quick-tempered fisherman to lead his Church? Why did God "nudge" a meek shepherd to free his people? I don't know and I don't believe that it's necessary that I do know. How could I presume to comprehend God's master plan? It would be like looking into the face of eternity and trying to grasp it while standing on this earth. Everytime I try I tremble in fear and amazement at God's awesome reach.

When I think of the things that God has asked of me in my life and hold them up to the kinds of things that people like Abram, Moses and Peter did I just have to sigh and say "what am I so afraid of?" It's not like God is asking me to drop what I am doing and leave with the clothes on my back and head off to somewhere I have never been to teach people that will insult me and try to kill me (and eventually succeed). I have never spent a night in jail because of my belief in Christ, I have never faced a mob of angry people who wish to kill me, I have never been asked to denouce Christ or die.

Knowing all of that does not make following Christ as easy as it may seem. There are many days when I just look into the sky and ask God to show me what he has in store for me. "God, what are you doing? Where am I supposed to go? " My two-dimensional mind just can't grasp what God is doing in my life. I perceive road-blocks where God has put stairs and I complain about struggles where God is molding me through adversity.

Still, God understands that I don't get it and he continues to "hit me over the head" with the answers. I am dense and don't always learn from my mistakes, just like a child that continues to stray off the path into the woods with the parent leading them back to the path and away from the the danger in the woods. He still loves me and cares for me and that is why he has a path for me and he longs for me to follow him down that path.

God has great things planned for each of us, if we will follow him. He has proven it over and over again. He patiently waits for us to continually remember that for which he has made us.

"O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it." " (Isaiah 30:19-21)

"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." At once they left their nets and followed him. " (Matthew 4:19,20)

Monday, August 09, 2004

"The Wizard of Oz"

"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!"

Misdirection. It's one of Satan's most effective tools. Satan is the best magician you'll ever encounter. He is an artist that makes Harry Houdini look like a child showing you that his thumb can come apart. Great magicians make large objects disappear in front of our eyes. How? Misdirection. "What the eyes see and the ears hear. The mind believes" (another movie reference).

Just like the Wizard of Oz, Satan uses our own fears against us. In the Wizard of Oz, he used fire and all sorts of loud noises to scare those around him and control them. However, Satan is much better at it than the Wizard of Oz could ever be. Satan knows our greatest fears, he knows what makes us tick, he knows our weaknesses and he exploits them at will. He lets us think that we have things under control and then he has us, the trap closes around us and we are caught. Once we are caught, then he feeds off our our fears, fear of failing (again), fear of humiliation, fear of pain, fear of rejection...the list is endless as is his patience. He has forever to wait.

"Look over here!" He keeps our attention on things that are innocuous while he comes up from behind and then it's (seemingly) too late. To leaders he says, "Do you see what is happening in YOUR Church? They want to clap during worship service! YOU CAN'T ALLOW THAT!" Meanwhile, he is torturing the single mother right under your nose making her feel alone and unwanted, he is keeping that worker so busy mowing the front lawn or publishing that bulletin or decorating that potluck that she has stopped reading her bible and hates going to church.

To the elder he says, "Why are so few men wearing ties to 'Church' on Sundays?" Meanwhile, divorce is running rampant through the congregation (and the community) and the Lord's Church sits and says "what can we do?".

To the deacon he says, "Let's call together a crack team of members and study which color carpeting in the fellowship hall should be." Meanwhile, God's people stop worshipping him and start "playing church". "Look over here!", he says and we look and he keeps us jumping and meanwhile....

Meanwhile the elephant has appeared in front of our eyes and we wonder where it came from. We are astonished at what has happened. How could this happen? We have been toiling and laboring for the Lord, why did HE put that elephant here? The answer is simple, HE didn't, Satan did, and he did it RIGHT IN FRONT OF US. How did he do it? Misdirection.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Oh My!

Stop someone on the street and ask them what is the most offensive word or phrase they can think of and I would be willing to bet that a small list of "four-letter words" would rise to the top of the list. Are they offensive? Yes. However, I have noticed something lately that is really disturbing.

As a family, we try very hard to watch T.V. shows that are appropriate to everyone in the room. My wife (and I) really likes the shows on TLC and the Discovery Channel (and now ABC) where someone makes over a room or whole house for someone else. The reactions of those that are on the receiving end of this work is part of the interesting part of the show. Will they like it or did the design team really miss it? Will the Jones' like the orange walls with green neon lamps? Fun stuff...until.

My favorite show of this type is "Extreme Makeover - Home Edition" on ABC. The show is fantastic, they take a family that has really gone through some terrible stuff or has given of themselves and give them a dream home in just a week! It's all great stuff and we always look forward to the end to see the reaction of the receiving family, however it never fails to disappoint.

Hundreds of people have toiled for a week straight, businesses have given their time and money, sacrifice, sweat, frustration, love, compassion all come together to give a beautiful gift and all the people on the screen can say over and over again is "Oh my God!" Watch one of these and count, it makes me sick. Is that all you can say? Is that all the imagination you have is to use the Lord's name in vain? Someone has given you a wonderful gift and you mock the very one that it came from.

Let me help you with some replacements for the same phrase:

"Thank you!"
"Praise God!" (This acknoledges where the gift came from)
"Look at this!"

God...the best pitcher ever.

I've never been good at baseball (however, I love softball) I always had a hard time in the batter's box. That ball just comes so fast at me that I'm usually swinging just about the time that it hits the catcher's mit.

Great pitchers keep batters on their toes. The batters have to be ready for anything because "anything" is just about what they get from a great pitcher. One pitch may zing by them leaving them swinging at the air and then the next floats in making the hitter just about kill himself keeping from swinging early.

Then there is the curve ball. There are many variations on this type of pitch, but all of them have the same intention. It looks like a normal pitch at first and does something strange, something that you were not expecting. Maybe you thought this pitch was going to come straight in and then suddenly (just about the time you see the laces on the ball spinning wildly) it takes a turn on you and leaves you...swinging at air...again. Another time you see it coming in and at the last second the bottom drops out of it and you are again...swinging at air.

Earthly analogies about God usually come up short as I am sure this one will, but they can still be useful. I think God has one unbelievable curveball (as well as knuckleball, split-fingered fastball, get the point) and can wield it at will. Why would he do that?

We are dependent on God and we do our best work and serve him best when we submit to that dependency. God knows EXACTLY where the pitch is going to land and EXACTLY what path it's going to travel on it's way.

One thing that's really different between God and a pitcher is the intended outcome. A baseball pitcher's goal is to strike you out (or make you hit the ball in a place the team can manage it). If the pitcher had his way, you would constantly be on your toes and never have an opportunity to hit the ball well.

The other thing that's different is that a pitcher is not on your side, he is on the other team and has no intention in helping you hit the ball. God, on the other hand, not only pitches the ball your way, he helps you hit it if - if you let him. He is still going to throw you curve balls, but (here's the tough part) they really aren't curve balls, you just think they are!

You were moving right along, going about your business, thinking that tomorrow will be pretty much like today, but God has other plans (curve ball). Now, this is only a curve ball because it's doing something that you had not planned, not anticipated, not foreseen(...not wanted?). You think you have it all planned out, you have YOUR daily planner, YOUR plans for tomorrow, the next day, next week, next month, next year...and then God clues you in on what HIS plans are for you. Sometimes those plans fit in with yours and sometimes they do not, the question is are you going to submit to HIS plans or hang on to YOURS?

Often, submitting to God's plans involves humility. "I had it wrong", "That's not what I would have done", "Is this really what I'm supposed to do?", "I really wanted to do this other thing."

Peter thought his calling was fishing - wrong.
Paul thought his was killing Christians - wrong.
Jonah thought his was preaching to those HE wanted to - wrong.
Moses thought his was shepherding sheep - wrong.

"...Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." 2 Corinthians 3:7-18