Monday, February 28, 2005

Mostly -- we just prayed.

I have a group of friends -- we have been given the name "The Road Makers." Our backgrounds are very different -- one is a doctor, 3 are college students, two are military officers (a major and a colonel), one is a father of three young boys, and then there is me. We want to be "Road Makers," preparing spiritual highways for the gospel to travel over. We have a distinquished precedent to follow in John the Baptist. John was the last of the Old Testament prophets blessed with the privilege of preparing a highway of holiness for the Messiah to bring the kingdom to His people. John's ministry only lasted 8 to 9 months. We hope ours lasts longer.

Seven of us got together this weekend to do some light backbacking and heavy praying on Pine Mountain trail. Our prayers were focused on blazing a pioneer trail. We are going where no one -- or very few -- have gone before. Yes, there are still places like that in this world. Places neglected or forgotten. Places where Jesus has never been heard of -- places needing "Road Makers."

God knows precisely where we are going -- He is the One who put all this together. We, along with some friends, have a general idea where we are going, but we all agree this is the greatest step of faith we have ever taken.

How do you pray about a mission like this? Here is how we prayed. The people we are going among are in desperate need of the gospel -- we prayed desperately. We know that in most instances we will not be able to talk to those we meet directly about God, but we can talk directly to God about them -- and we did. We prayed for God to show us our sin and remind us of how pristine he can make our hearts through confession -- we prayed for each other. We prayed that eyes that can see and would thwart our mission be blinded -- we prayed against those who would keep others in darkness. We prayed that blinded eyes would to be opened -- we prayed for those in bondage to that darkness.

We talked about hiking gear, logistics, who will travel with who, the doc gave us vaccines and shots, and we shared a few laughs, but mostly -- we just prayed.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Where He stood -- I will stand

"Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!" Acts 7:56

I love to travel back in time by standing at the actual places of epic events. Maybe you are like me -- it pains me that I missed the actual drama!

I have been on the battlefields of Gettysburg and inside the replicated walls of Andersonville. At "The Little White House" in Warm Springs, Georgia I walked the same floors that FDR rolled across in his wheel chair as the world was at war. I saw the room where he died. I have gripped the pulpits where D. L. Moody, Joseph Parker, John Wesley, and Billy Sunday preached. My greatest thrill was to tread up-down and all around Mars Hill in Athens, Greece where the apostle Paul addressed the Areopagus.

Look again at the scripture quote above. What is happening? For Steven, the veil that obscured a literal place -- heaven -- is parted for him and he sees Jesus standing at the right hand of the throne of God. In just moments, he would die a martyr and stand there too.

Do you realize that heaven is a real place -- where Jesus stands? One day you can stand there too. Heaven is a journey ahead -- not a journey backward. Here on earth we look back at events that were so big it seems impossible they really happened, but they did. Looking ahead--heaven appears so big we might ask, "Will it really happen?"

It will! Where He stood -- we will stand!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Will I Be Remembered?

Many people have no idea who George Whitefield was. Church historians are a little baffled by how quickly he faded from memory when they look at him in the context of the world he lived in and the impact he made. Some have offered these opinions as to why many of his contemporaries like John and Charles Wesley and Jonathan Edwards are remembered: The Wesleys' possessed organizational genius, they left many written documents, they founded a denomination. Charles published some of the church's great hymns; Whitefield founded an orphanage and spoke outdoors. Jonathan Edwards was a profound thinker and theologian. Many of his works are studied in some of this world's greatest academic institutions. His sermon "Sinners in the hands of an angry God" is known by literally millions who know nothing about the God of whom Edwards writes; Whitefield was no theologian.

What made him such a phenomenom in his day? Whitfield walked with God and God touched hearts through Whitefield's life.

Will I be remembered? Will you be remembered?

All of us can leave behind a legacy like Whitefield did -- touching lives by walking with God. I do not know anyone personally who will leave behind an institution, copious books, hundreds of hymns, or be quoted in secular and Christian institutions for scores of years beyond their death.
But -- will we be remembered one hundred years from now? Yes! Who will remember us? As we walk with God, every heart He touches will remember us for eternity; every step we take in this world, God will leave His footprint.

I want to be remembered -- do you?

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Tickle Your Ears?

"I did not come to tickle your ears; no, but I came to touch your hearts." George Whitefield spoke those words. A great though forgotten preacher during the 1700's.

From all accounts George Whitefield was a man who preached with great passion and a flare for the dramatic. He was at his best when he preached extemporaneously -- no notes -- just a heart that was captured by and filled with the Word of God. He rejected the "stained glass" voice and rolling R's. Theatrical? Yes! Pretentious? No! I once stood in a little chapel on Saint Simons Island where he and Wesley both preached. In the plain and dimly lit room my eyes filled with tears. I live with a fear of losing passion for the themes that ruled the heart of God's Son and all who live in intimacy with Him.

I was born on the same day as Whitefield -- December 16. Like him, I have also followed God's call to preach His Word. For me, this adventure has held a lot of unexpected highs and lows. Just this morning, as I pulled up my e-mail, I was elated, broken, and temporarily paralyzed by the mountain tops and valleys of what I read -- a sweet note from my 16 year old daughter and the heartbreak and dilemma of two others caused me to cry. Searching for answers I felt a wave of panic. Thanks to God's great Providence -- I met with ten believers at 7:00 a.m. to pray -- courage revived.

Being an authentic Christ follower is not for the "faint of heart." Anyone who understands the implications of representing Christ to a lost world knows what I mean. For sure, there is a certain toughness that must be woven into the soul. With that said, it is here that Whitefield's quote powerfully speaks, "I did not come to tickle your ears; no, but I came to touch your hearts."

That quote brings me back to the realization of how dependent I am upon the Spirit of God's filling. How? Because I can tickle ears and touch hearts, but with all the wrong words and emotions. My motivation can be to find acceptence by crafting words that give me entrance into people's lives -- rather than the powerful and life changing Word of God!

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Ride 'em Cowboy!

Cowboy and Chalk -- those are the names of the two young horses my son and I worked with in Pine Mountain yesterday. Cowboy is always ready to go and has a regal presence about him. Chalk is more laid back and needs to be coaxed to perform -- both are beautiful Tennessee Walkers.

I am below "novice" level when it comes to horses. Horses are a humbling experience for me. I am very athletic and competitive, yet I am 0 for 4 on horses -- on them 4 times -- involuntarily off them 4 times! I have had some hard landings, scared the owner to death, but have managed to walk (or limp away) with nothing broken.

Josh has started me with the basics -- Josh gets it! I watched in amazement as he worked with both the horses -- he looks like he was born riding. He has a sense for the horses that I do not possess. Will I ever? I am learning to handle Chalk in the round pen. I did pretty well. I got Chalk to go in the direction I wanted him to go. I got him to trot at a consistent pace. I learned new ways to observe the horse's attentiveness to me. After a while Chalk shadowed my every move -- the first step in getting him to accept my presence as a safe place.

After a while Josh took over. In just a short time he had Cowboy and Chalk jumping over barrels and responding to his every command. Cowboy was the star pupil -- with Josh on his back, Cowboy galloped around the corral with his head held high leaping over the barrels -- with grace and effortless ease. I looked on with envy!

If I can survive long enough, I will learn to ride. What I lack in native ability I will make up for with determination! I will keep learning and looking to the day when I will be able to fly across a pasture or wind my way through a wooded trail. One day I will "get it."

For now -- Chalk must be trained and so must I.

Friday, February 18, 2005

57 degrees

It has been a beautiful day here in the Southeast. This morning as I drove along Warm Springs Road, I looked up at the the digital numbers just above the rearview mirror -- 57 degrees.

"I wonder how the weather in New England is?" I thought. Before I knew it my finger began to dial, punching the digits on my cell phone.

The voice on the other end answered, "Webfodder." That's Ron and Angela's company in Hyannis on Cape Cod. Angela answered the phone -- they are family.

"You sound like you have a cold." I said to Angela.

"No, I just came in from getting the mail -- its less than 20 degrees outside and snowing -- AGAIN!"

Angela handed me off to Ron and we talked for a few minutes. "Hey Ron, did you ride your bike today?" I asked.

"I rode inside -- it's twenty degrees outside and starting to snow. I'm going outside for about an hour and a half a little later, if I can." He responded.

Ron is an avid cyclist. He is moving up the circuit and races with the pros (when he can't get outside he has a contraption he sets his bike in that allows him to continue training indoors).

One of the ways we keep in touch is through this blog.

"Ron and Angela, it hit 60 degrees here today. The sun was bright and only a few clouds hid it from time to time. Tomorrow it is going to be about 65 degrees -- by Monday it will be in the low 70's. I didn't have the heart to tell you.

"Cheer up! Soon, it will be 57 degrees where you are -- around July!"

Ron and Angela were both raised in Florida -- nuff said!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Advancing the Kingdom

For the job of bridging the Mississippi River, the resume of James Buchanan Eads did not naturally surface:
Engineering degree: none
Bridges built: none
Work experience: underwater salvage, a glass factory…gunboat builder, and river boatman.
Yet shortly after the Civil War, when the City Counsel of St. Louis declared it ‘indispensably necessary to erect a bridge across the Mississippi River,’ Eads was chosen for the job. More renowned and distinguished candidates…were turned down. -- from The Church of Irresistible Influence
What made the difference? Eads knew the Mississippi. He had spent years making his living salvaging in the murky waters of the great river. He knew what it would take to lay a foundation that would support a bridge on the quirky bottom.

When we read of the early church and those Christ entrusted with Advancing the Kingdom, we are befuddled by God’s strange choice. We look at those coming out of Pentecost, and like James Buchanan Eads, they just don't seem qualified for the task ahead.

All of us were all once in the murky world of darkness. We all have great experience in being lost. When we were brought into the Kingdom, through faith in Christ, we were also hand picked to advance it. God in His infinite wisdom knew we had what it takes to build a bridge to Him -- the gospel. We know the foundation of the bridge is Christ!

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Will God Call?

"The promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call."

Those are the final words of Peter's sermon (see yesterday's post) at Pentecost. Luke tells us Peter had much more to say, but this is all we have. I read those last words, "as many as the Lord will call," and I ask, "Is God calling you?"

By now you realize "the call" I refer to is not one you will receive on your cell phone or land line. No, Peter is talking about God calling men and women to salvation -- to faith in Christ.

The apostle Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans that you cannot call Him -- but you can answer His call and you can know when He calls.

You might ask, "How would I recognize this call and who has God called to salvation?" The answer -- God is calling you when He presents you with the claims of His Son -- you can be sure God has come to call when you are presented with the gospel.

During "the call" these questions will be raised in your deepest heart:
  • Do you believe God had a plan in mind to redeem fallen mankind?
  • Do you believe Jesus was the key to that plan and had to die for your sin to be forgiven?
  • Do you believe He was the only acceptable payment for your sin?
  • Do you believe that God's Son resurrected from the dead by the power of God?

To believe means to trust God and His Word in this matter of Salvation -- it is an act of faith. Paul put it this way, "If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."

God does call. When He calls, He speaks clearly. Paul concludes, "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."

God is calling -- will you answer?

Monday, February 14, 2005

Out of My Spirit

Today I have been reading in the book of Acts, chapter two. Here we find the first public announcement from the newly-birthed church -- we often forget it was a sermon. Front and center was the spokesperson Peter -- the pitchman leading the infant church to take its first steps into the secular arena. He made it clear that first on the agenda of this new entity was to get people to come to grips with the claims of God's Son. Jesus had come to save a lost world.

Peter told the gathered crowd that the young church's new boldness, focus, and eloquence could only be explained by a cryptic passage from the Old Testament prophet Joel. What was that source? God was coming good on an ancient promise: "I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh." And "pour out" is exactly what He did: "And that day about three thousand souls were added to them [the church].

In the fledgling church the trickle of God's Spirit started. The trickle turned into a deluge. Now, more than two thousand years later, the eternal God is still pouring out of His Spirit -- releasing an unbroken flow. Today the power to take the first steps that evidence the presence of God's Spirit are still seen and available: "And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved."

Thursday, February 10, 2005

You Are Out Of Your Mind

In 1855, James Roebling stood gazing across the Niagara River Gorge. In his mind he imagined a bridge that would span 825 feet of some of the wildest and most dangerous water on earth. Other span bridges had been built across the Ohio river and even a tamer stretch of the Niagara, but the site Roebling had in mind was just above Niagara Falls. There wasn't a leading engineer in the country who believed he possessed a bit of sense. "He's out of his mind!" they said.

"You're out of your mind!" I often battle that discouraging statement. I don't hear it from the people I work with -- at least not often! I do hear it when I give serious consideration to God's Word.

Really! Think about it. How ridiculous are some of the commands we read in God's Word? "Be of one mind, one heart, and walk together in unity," said the apostle Paul. And then there is Jesus' prayer, "Father, make them one even as we are one." Those words make building a span bridge over Niagara Falls sound simple.

Even a glancing look at Christianity and our churches tells us there are significant gaps among God's people -- racial, economic, social, doctrinal -- and no bridges to span them. Sadly, most have resigned themselves to believe that the gaps are too wide to span.

God's voice says, "The gaps can be spanned." Another voice says, "You are out of your mind!"

Both voices are right -- therein lies the problem.

Wednesday, February 9, 2005

Ripple Effect

Today -- God dropped me into the ocean of His activity. Maybe "dropped" isn't the right word. I didn't make a big splash -- I didn't yell "cannonball" on entry. I didn't knife through the surface with the grace of an olympic diver, either -- I didn't get any style points.

Today -- has been one of those days when I have felt half sick and half well. My energy has flickered on and off like a light not quite plugged in. Yeah, that would also be a good analogy -- I have had a hard time getting plugged in.

Today -- I still met with a number of people and stumbled through alot of different details -- my life has mattered and has made a difference.

Today -- I have to trust God that I did make ripples.

Monday, February 7, 2005

Litera scripta manet

You might have read the title of this blog and thought, "He must have had his finger placement on the keyboard wrong!" That is not the case. The title is part of a latin phrase, "Vox audita perit, litera scripta manet: The spoken word passes away, the written word remains."

Ben Franklin quoted it when speaking of George Whitefield -- a Methodist evangelist during the "Great Awakening." Franklin believed that Whitefield would have stayed out of a lot of trouble had he not put the message that transformed his life into written form. "Critics attack'd his Writings violently, and with so much Appearance of Reason as to diminish the Number of Votaries [disciples], and prevent their Increase," said Ben.

Whitefield spoke in the open air to crowds as large as 25 thousand, but he wasn't trying to build a legion of those who would follow him. It appears Franklin misunderstood his goal.

Franklin was very clear-minded about one thing -- Whitefield's gospel message of the new life, found in the cross and resurrection of Christ, can be opposed with "much appearance of Reason." Why? Because the foundation of following Christ is not reason, but faith. Faith radically changes: the reason you get up in the morning, what you give your resources and energies to, and the entire message and bent of your life. Faith is not founded in pure logic. Many find reasons to never embrace Christ. Faith lodges in fragile humans and goes beyond the sterility of logic.

So...I write. I chronicle experiences and perspectives I believe are shaped and influenced because Christ lives in me. I give reasons for hope in the stories I share. What has been written in my heart -- I transfer to this blog. They are words of faith -- not always with perfect logic.

My goal is not a legion who would follow me. My goal is to get people to consider the One I follow.

"Vox audita, litera scripta manet: The spoken word passes away, the written word remains."

Weekend in New England

We flew back to the Boston area where we spent 12 years as a family -- the last place we were all together before college began to make our resident family smaller and our residence seem larger! Our first born son got married this weekend! Erika and Justin made a beautiful bride and groom -- he looked so handsome in his tux and Erika looked like a princess.

Sandy and I have tried to think back to the days when we were first married 27 years ago and look ahead to the journey our new couple have embarked on. What were we like -- what will it be like for them? In many ways Sandy and I were looking in a mirror -- we saw ourselves. We couldn't wait to get married -- neither could they. Our love was tested by good times and bad -- so will theirs. We didn' t know much about "two becoming one" -- neither do they. We had no idea what was just around the corner, yet vowed to take that journey together -- so have they.

Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Road Makers and Risk Takers

Yesterday I recorded a poem from an Unknown Author. Though the writer and I have never met -- we live with the same dream and pursue the same quest. Today, I have written a poem to honor The Roadmakers.

To all the Road Makers and Risk Takers -- You have sacrificed, remained courageous, and had a vision that sometimes only you could see. You opened a road -- we are following your lead and extending the trail for others!

The Road Makers and Risk Takers

We will travel the road others made --
To honor their labor, we will stop a while.
We will travel the road others made --
Then keep on walking and add a new mile.

We will travel the road others made --
Cruising along their pioneer trail.
We will travel the road others made --
Break new ground and add to the tale.

We will travel the road others made --
A different journey, but sharing a goal.
We will travel the road others made --
Inspiring dreamers to stretch their soul.

We will travel the road others made --
Enjoying their gifts so kindly bestowed.
Will you travel the road others made?
Road Makers -- Risk Takers finish the road!