Sunday, April 30, 2006
Before I prayed I told him I only knew one other Crow Indian, Brandon Birdfaraway, and that I had been praying for Brandon and now I would pray for him, too. I asked him his name. "Darrell Littlelight" he responded, "Brandon is my cousin." I prayed for Darrell's family and wife. I also told Darrell that I would be praying that the "little light" he is responding to would lead him to Jesus. I told Darrell that God loved him and that He had arranged our chance meeting.
Pretty amazing, isn't it? God gives me a faceless name to pray for. God takes me to Montana. We pick up a hitchhiker and he is a cousin to the man I have been praying for. It has to be more than coincidence.
Saturday, April 29, 2006
Brandon leads six youth ministries in three different churches on the Crow Reservation. Until last year he had no formal education -- no credentials beyond a GED. In just a couple of weeks he will finish his first year at Yellowstone Baptist College. What was once only a dream, God has made a reality. Thank God, Brandon never made a formal education a necessity before joining God in the Adventure!
I got to spend some time with Brandon and a couple of other students. To a man, they are thrilled with the opportunity to learn more about God's Word. They take the training they are receiving very seriously. One of the guys wants to be like the old time Methodist circuit riders ministering from village to village. Brandon wants to reach the Crow people. The other young man just wants to be prepared to go wherever and whenever God calls!
Pray for these young pioneers.
Friday, April 28, 2006
How does an Ob/Gyn doctor end up in sparsely populated Montana? Easy (or not so easy. You decide). He simply shuts down the largest private practice in town, sells everything he has, and moves his family to Montana.
His next step is to set up a medical practice in his new environment, right? Wrong. Not this doctor. Instead, he gives countless hours toward raising money for a little outpost called Yellowstone Baptist College for a fraction of the income he gave up.
Then there is Cindy. She homeschools, receives complete strangers into her home from who knows where, and ministers in a church with an average attendance of less than fifty. Cindy is a joy. She laughs and cries easily -- a rare quality. Within fifteen minutes of being in the Roberts' home this couple makes guests feel like they are old friends.
When we think of bringing the gospel to unreached people, we tend to visualize crossing an ocean or desert to do so. Not necessary. Not so. Montana is virtually untouched by the gospel. The Roberts family bucked conventional "wisdom." They have picked up the pace as they move toward their spiritual finish line. More and more I am convinced that following God may appear to be a journey of reckless abandon. How else do you explain the Reckless Robertses?
Sunday, April 23, 2006
God has already established an outpost there -- Yellowstone Baptist College. YBC is a small college dedicated to providing the formal side of education for those already committed to walking with Christ. Their graduates are making an impact in Montana and around the world. I considered it a great privilege to speak to the students and staff at YBC. Personally, I admire and envy those who pioneer in such an untamed place.
I am going to take the next several posts to tell you about the trip. In the last couple of years I have had the opportunity to be in places that are virtually un-evangelized and nearly void of any Christian witness. In both instances I have learned that God seems to show up in a different way in those circumstances -- I just have to share the experience.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
According to Paul, God sometimes calls people into relationship with Him while they are trying to get out of another relationship. What were Paul's instructions to those people? Stay put. Continue on as you were when God first called you.
Without a doubt, every person God has ever called to salvation is called to turn to Christ and follow him, but consider this: In most instances, God usually keeps those He saves right where He found them. This was true in Paul's day -- it is true in our day.
What does that tell us? It tells us that God has great confidence in those in whom His Son now lives. It tells us that resurrection life is able to stand on its own in a hostile environment. It tells us that some people need to see -- maybe for the first time -- messes that only God can untangle. It tells us that it makes sense to God to leave His redeemed in places where they can be a testimony to His transforming grace.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
Being a Christ follower is a walk of faith, not sight. Yet, sometimes we also know that God's presence shows up in things we can see. This weekend, Christ's church in which I serve presented the message of the resurrection through drama and music. I have never seen it presented any better: the set was incredible, and God's glorious gifting of His people was on display as they stepped into ancient roles of history's greatest story. People wept and cheered. God's hand was all over the presentation.
In a span of little more than an hour, we viewed the risen Savior in a fresh and new way. Our faith was renewed by sight! The production ended, and Christ's modern day disciples stepped out of the darkened sanctuary. Hundreds of people filtered out into the night convinced, "The Lord really has risen from the dead."
Saturday, April 15, 2006
We have grown so used to the idea that the Crucifixion is the supreme symbol of Christianity, that it is a shock to realize how late in the history of Christian art its power was recognized. In the first art of Christianity it hardly appears; and the earliest example, on the doors of Santa Sabina in Rome [around A.D. 430], is stuck away in a corner, almost out of sight . . . early Christian art is concerned with miracles, healings, and with the hopeful aspects of the faith like the ascension and the Resurrection. Kenneth Clark
"What if?" Paul asks, "What if Christ has not been raised . . . ? Or, what if we never moved beyond the Cross?
For several years now, I have been giving a lot more consideration to the resurrection. The question of whether or not Christ rose from the dead is not my question; I settled that many years ago.
The question is: "Is it time for us, we who cling to the old rugged cross, to let it go and live beyond the cross? Does our focus need to become His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power [that] is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead?" (Ephesians 1: 19-20)
Is it time to become unsettled about how little of the resurrection life we are experiencing? Could it be that we have forgotten, That our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin . . . and if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him . . . ? (Romans 6:6, 8)
If so, Paul's words explain why much of what has become labeled as Christianity is useless and futile.
Have we "grown so used to the idea that the cross is the supreme symbol of Christianity" that we have never moved beyond the cross into the power of the resurrected life?
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Hanging on the wall of my office is the sword of Elindel. It is an exact replica of the one that was reforged for Aragorn in the film, The Return of the King. My son gave it to me as a Christmas gift a couple of years ago, and my wife gave me an Aragorn action figure. (You're getting the picture -- I admire the character Aragorn.)
Two weeks ago I hit rock bottom spiritually and physically. Over a long period of time many forces were at work siphoning all my energy. Gradually, I found it more and more difficult to carry out ministry. I began to worry about the constant fatique and tried working harder to compensate. One day I found myself completely out of gas.
I talked to a friend -- mostly a confession on my part for the state I was in. It helped, but I knew I was bone dry. After he left, I sat in my office staring at the sword on the wall (no, I wasn't thinking of falling on it), thinking and praying about the unrelenting battle that I was losing. I knew I desperately needed Divine intervention . . . I got it.
I quit staring at the sword, got up from my desk, and took it down from the wall. I went to my back office where I would be shielded from passing hall traffic. Quietly and verbally, I cried out to God. I began to pray: Lord, this sword represents my strength, the strength I use to protect myself, to advance what I believe are Your purposes, and to wage war as I see it. Lord, my strength is not enough -- it is inadequate. I am laying it down. I am broken.
At that point, I laid the sword on the floor. Laying down the sword was a visible symbol that I was relinquishing the feeble weapon of my own resources. They are insufficient for the battle and life God has called me to. Then God led me to do something else. My prayer continued . . .
Lord, I am picking up this sword again. This time the sword represents Your power and strength for the battle and life You called me to. Your strength is sufficient. In Your grace and mercy, please reforge me.
He did. Since that day I have laid down and picked up the sword every day. I lean on it while praying through a written prayer. I prevail on God for resources to live in my domain the way He intended. I ask for strength He alone can provide. The prayer takes me to God, to my Savior, to the Holy Spirit, and into the fullness of the new life I received at salvation. My prayer ends with these words . . .
I call forth the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ this day throughout my home, my family, my life, and my domain. I pray all of this in the name of Jesus Christ, with all glory and honor and thanks to him.
Throughout the day, I go back to the Sword as each challenge presents itself. A transformation has been taking place. The joy, strength, hope, victory, and intimacy of walking with God is being renewed.
Friday, April 7, 2006
We may trust God with our past as heartily as with our future. It will not hurt us so long as we do not try to hide things; so long as we are ready to bow our heads in hearty shame where it is fit we should be ashamed . . . To be humbly ashamed is to be plunged in the cleansing bath of truth. (George MacDonald)
God changed the name of a young pharisee from Saul to Paul. God did not give him an alias or put him in the Witness Protection Program. His conduct and conversion is well documented in the book of Acts, and when the occasion necessitated it, Paul shared his testimony with unsparing detail. He never tried to downplay it or cover it up.
Unless we outlive everyone, there will always be a witness to our former life style. God never gives us an alias or sends us underground with our past. He has changed and continues to change us! One of our greatest struggles is leaving the past behind. It is difficult because there are always situations, people, or our own memories to remind us of former failures.
George MacDonald's quote helps us recognize and reject some of the pitfalls: We must trust God to use our past for His and our future glory -- our past can no longer hurt us. We must not try to hide our past -- hiding our past requires us to live in a present deception. When your past is brought against you, return to the truth that you confessed your sin and Christ took the shame away.
Finally, every true believer is like Paul. Christ's presence is recognizable in their lives --He always leaves his mark. Still, situations, people, or even misguided self-talk can cause past failures to re-emerge. When that happens, say with Paul, "Quit bothering me!"
Upon reading the above Scripture, the great English preacher C. H. Spurgeon made these comments:
“He [Paul] is inspired, yet he wants books! He has been preaching at least 30 years, yet he wants books! He has seen the Lord, yet he wants books! He has had a wider experience than most men, yet he wants books! He has been caught up to heaven, and heard things which it is unlawful to utter, yet he wants books! He has written the major part of the New Testament, yet he wants books!” C.H. Spurgeon
On the same day I read Spurgeon's quote, I read a quote from Bill James, a mathmatical whiz who learned that there is much more to playing the game of baseball than talent, luck, and hunches. James was hired by the Boston Red Sox when he convinced them that success or failure can be determined by interpreting numbers. James said, “I work by obsession rather than discipline.”
Both of those quotes awakened a Scripture verse I had memorized from the King James Version of the Bible many years ago: I beseech you, brethren, ye know the house of Stephanas . . . they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints . . .
Paul, on death row, was obsessed with getting his scrolls and parchments. He must read -- he must write. Stephanas was one of the first converts to Christ in ancient Corinth. He had the honor of being one of a precious few Paul had baptized. Stephanas was obsessed and addicted. He was compelled to serve those who laboriously served.
Obsession and addiction are not friendly words in our world today. Though I am not a psychologist, I will say: I have yet to meet anyone who is not obsessed or addicted. An obsessed person is one who is abnormally preoccupied with an idea or emotion. An addicted person is one who has a habit that cannot be easily given up.
We need to be obsessed and addicted to the right things. Paul was. Stephanas was. If not, we will be obsessed and addicted to the wrong things. Have you ever stopped to consider what you are obsessed or addicted to? Take a moment and write down ideas, emotions, or habits in your life. Are they the right things or are they the wrong things?
Wednesday, April 5, 2006
This afternoon I came home around two o'clock. I brought my laptop with me and answered a bunch of e-mails. I also made and returned several phone calls, and hand wrote 8 notes to people. Finally, I enjoyed an hour of bliss as I sat in our back yard and reviewed my notes for the Wednesday night service.
Tomorrow begins early with a 6:30 a.m. Men's Bible study. On Thursdays, the plan is always the same, but seldom goes as planned. I use Thursdays exclusively to prepare for Sunday. In reality that rarely happens; the majority of the time I have to respond to something that requires my attention. I am hoping that I will get to F.D.R. State Park in time to hit the trail and head for a campsite. I need a night in the woods alone.
Tuesday, April 4, 2006
Early this morning I stepped outside to a spectacular morning. As my eyes took in the beautiful sky and my lungs filled with the crisp and clear air, I said out loud, "Oh God, thank you." I began to think about the Pine Mountain Trail and how badly I wished I could grab my gear and just start walking. I thought of this verse and how I would like to strike out on my own with no other desire than to be piloted by David's simple request: Show me the way I should go.
Instead, I had an 8 a.m. breakfast meeting with one of our high school students. In the realm of faith, he has grown like a weed. This summer he is going to China on a mission trip along with a group of students and adults. He was talking to my daughter about needing to raise some money, and Meagan told him, "Go see my Dad" (Evidently, I have a money tree in our back yard that nobody knows about).
This morning, God first spoke to me through the spectacular advent of a new day. God spoke to me again through the life of a teenager; God intervened in his life in a big way. Though his home life was shattered by heart-breaking events, he was taken in by one of our loving families. God is obviously at work in his young life, showing him the way. God used him to bring me word of His unfailing love.
Monday, April 3, 2006
Words dazzle and deceive because they are mimed by the face. But black words on a white page are the soul laid bare. Guy de Maupassant
There is a correlation between the Scripture above and the quote by Guy de Maupassant.
First, let' s consider David's words. These words trail a prayer that David had prayed regarding his own heart. Basically, he had prayed that he would not become like the people he is praying against. He even recognized that God would put righteous people around him to keep him from doing so (see previous post). Righteous friends would rebuke him in kindness.
Now consider his other prayer: He prayed against evildoers, He recognized that evildoers were inspired by those who excelled in leading others toward evil. Yes, that is the ugly truth of it. There are some who are manipulated by others to carry out evil. Remember Saul of Tarsus? Before he was converted he held the coats of those who stoned Stephen.
Back to Maupassant. We weren't there to see the flash in David's eyes or the deep furrows in his brow as he lifted his eyes toward heaven and prevailed on God. We do have his prayer -- Black words on a white page . . . the soul laid bare. David's words are Scripture. What do his words say? He will bombard God's throne relentlessly, praying against evildoers. He is absolutely sure that his prayers will be answered -- evildoers and their rulers will be thrown down.
David's words are neither dazzling or deceiving. His words are raw. His words are unguarded. His words are prayer. His words are inspired. If prayer is anything -- it is a soul laid bare.
Sunday, April 2, 2006
I have read many Scriptures about righteousness. I am sure that I have read this verse before. This time it really struck me. At first glance it seems to go against our thoughts of righteous behaviour -- a righteous man striking someone? And human nature -- received as an act of kindness? Doesn't sound right. Does it?
David's strange words open a window into our hearts and emotions. Maybe you will see what I mean if I turn it around a little: Do not let an unrighteous man strike me -- his motive is unkindness . . . That helps us understand why we flatly reject and are immediately agitated by the words of some people. They have no business casting criticism. They are not righteous. Their motives are not kind; we are immediately suspicious.
The rebukes of a righteous person are another matter; they have earned the right because they are well-intended critics. We have all experienced the vastly different responses in our hearts and emotions when these people strike us. Their rebuke hurts but we welcome it. In a very deeply spiritual way, their tough words are like the balm of a healing oil.
The truly righteous must sometimes strike us. If we are in the right spiritual mind it will feel right -- even if that doesn't sound right!
Saturday, April 1, 2006
I also got to spend a little more time with the other woman in my life -- Meagan. I was able to see both her Friday and Saturday games. Meg's Blue Devils won a game and tied another. She was spectacular! We ate at Subway and talked about her up-coming college career. I am so very proud of my daughter.
God is revealing His glory in two lives He loves. Watching, I have worshipped God as He removes the veils!