Thursday, December 24, 2009

Mighty God

"For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, [a] Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6)

This child...this Baby...the "Mighty God"?


Isaiah had prophesied that GOD would come IN THE FLESH--that God would be "with us", and become one of us. He would be "Immanuel" (God with us.)

But He would not cease to be God.

That meant that his attributes would stay with Him (even though He didn't actively use all of them while on Earth).

One of those attributes was His MIGHT. His strength (not like my nephew, Tim, who is a physical specimen)...but His strength over nature, over illness, over satan and his cohorts...

The kind of strength this baby had was strength to free people from slavery to give them HOPE! His strength was the kind that led people from darkness into light.

He Walked on water (John 6); Calmed the storm (Mark 4); Delivered from demons (Matthew 17); and even Raised the dead! (John 11).

...and He still does!

The 'storms' that we see...the demons that still enslave us...the obstacles we still have to overcome...the death that we still fear--Jesus gives freedom from all of that!

He is STILL the Mighty God! (Philippians 4:6-19, where we read "I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength.")

This Christmas, remember: That Baby WAS the Mighty God "in the flesh", and He still IS the "Mighty God"...but now He shows up in our lives, by faith!

Let Him use His "Might" for you!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Wonderful Counselor

The Child.
The One who would come and offer us Light, instead of Darkness.

He would offer us LIFE instead of death, FREEDOM instead of slavery...

And He would offer us more!

"And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor..." (Isaiah 9:6)

What does it mean that Jesus is our Wonderful Counselor?

Among other things, it means that He is the source of Truth, He is the source of our wisdom, He is the key that unlocks the door to God--and all that God promises.

Jesus said it this way:

"I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father, except by me." (John 14:6)

He said "I am the Gate" (John 10:7)

"I am the Good Shepherd" (John 10:11-14)

"I am the door" (John 10:9).

Jesus--the Child of Isaiah 9, and of the Christmas Story--is the the key to it all.

All the wisdom we need for life--faith in Him opens it up.

He sends us (as seen in John 15 and 16) "the Counselor"--the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit helps us to understand Jesus' words, as well as the entire Scripture. The Holy Spirit changes our hearts and minds, making our character more like Christ's.

God--the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit--"Counsels" us in the sense that He teaches us how to live. The Word of God--the Bible--is the key to understanding His ways, His heart, His character...and that "Child" is the key to it all.

If I let it, this will impact everything in life!

My relationships, my thoughts and actions, my work, my money, my time...EVERY AREA of my life is impacted by this "Wonderful Counselor".

Have you ever been to a 'counselor'? Ever received 'counsel' from a wise and caring friend? What is the key to it?

Our response.

If we respond to this counsel in a humble, teachable way then we will benefit from it.

If, however, we write it off or shut it out, then the best counsel in the world will do us no good!

The absolute Best Counselor in the Universe is right here--represented by the Child at Christmas.

This Christmas, I'm asking God to help me continue to seek, listen to, understand, and be changed by, this Wonderful Counselor...will you join me?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Making room for Jesus

It never fails.
Despite my best efforts...despite my 'resolutions' to do it differently, each year I come up to Christmas day and think "I wish I would have..."

Sometimes it's "I wish I would have done more service (to help show the generous love of God) this Christmas".

Sometimes it's "I wish we would have done more as a family to prepare our hearts to Worship the Christ child this Christmas".

Sometimes it's "I wish I would have had my act together and sent out more Christmas cards" this Christmas.

One thing I ALWAYS wish I would have done more is to take some time--each day leading up to it--and consider what Christmas has meant in my life.

After all, without Christmas--the coming of God to Earth in the form of that baby--the world would be a dramatically different place. (And, my life...if still in existence...would be dramatically different!)

So, here's what I hope to do: Take one scripture about Christ/Christmas and think about the theological and personal implications of it each day.

Wanna join me?

If so, the Scripture will be this: Isaiah 9:1-7.

You can look at it in your own Bible, of course...but if you don't have one, I'll show the sections here. I'll look at a few of the verses each day for the next several days. I hope it helps me--and you--to really prepare your heart and mind to really CELEBRATE CHRIST this Christmas!

Isaiah 9:1-5 (for today)...

1 Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan-
2 The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death [a]
a light has dawned.

3 You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as men rejoice
when dividing the plunder.

4 For as in the day of Midian's defeat,
you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.

5 Every warrior's boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.

Don't get scared away by some of those terms! "Zebulin" "Naphtali"...these are simply cities in the area that Isaiah (hundreds of years before Jesus' birth) was preaching to.

What's he saying here? That a New Day is coming! That the time when his people (Israel) was condemned to live in captivity and slavery would be ending! God was going to send a Deliverer...someone who would lead them out of darkness, into light...out of slavery into freedom...out of war, into peace!

This (of course!) would cause the people to celebrate and worship!

What is it that CAUSES all of this?

(Isaiah 9:6)
"For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders."

A child...a Savior...a Deliver would be born. One day, that child would grow and lead them out! It would be a time of freedom and celebration, liberation--like the dawn of a new day!

Was Isaiah talking specifically about Jesus' birthday? Scholars always debate this kind of thing...but even if he wasn't directly conscious of this, I believe he was! God had inspired him to dream--and to prophecy--about coming events that he didn't fully understand!

So, what's this all mean to me, or to you?

Well, is there any sense in which we "walk in darkness"? Is there any sense in which we are "slaves"? I definitely think so!

The rest of the Scriptures teach us that we are slaves to sin, and (as a result), we are trapped in darkness...separated from the light and freedom--the wholeness and peace--of God.

We are stuck in the dark with no hope of dawn!

That's a pretty bad place to be!

BUT, because God didn't want to leave us that way, he sent His Son--"Unto us a Child is Born, unto us a Son is given..." . That Son would grow, teach, lead, love, and ultimately would sacrifice Himself for us, taking the penalty of our sins, and making it possible for us to have New LIFE--freedom, wholeness, peace and joy--with God!

"The government will be upon His shoulders". Again, I think there's more than one meaning here. Ultimately, the Scriptures are clear: There WILL come a day in which Jesus will RULE the Earth, and will make everything right, pure, and holy. In the meantime, the 'government' of our lives can be upon His shoulders...and we can learn to experience that freedom, real joy, and peace that comes from following Him...letting Him be our Leader!

On a personal level, I've experienced this, more or less, for the last 30 years. The times when I'm really letting Him be my leader are the times that I experience the freedom and newness of Life...but the times I try to do it on my own--or I simply let myself get too busy with life (or Christmas shopping!) are the times it almost seems like the "great light" is getting clouded out!

In the coming days, I'll consider the rest of this element at a time...but in the meantime, let's all consider: Have we let Jesus lead us out of the darkness, by faith? Have we allowed Him to be the Leader of our lives?

If so, CELEBRATE the dawn of a new day! If not, I encourage you to pray about that--ask God what it means--so that you can REALLY 'celebrate' Christmas this year!

Monday, November 23, 2009

...with all your heart

'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'[b] 38This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matthew 22:37).

Jesus' words are still true...the most important commandment we can follow to please God is to love Him--with everything we've got! Love Him more than anything--more than family, more than self, more than country, job, hobby...

How do we DO that?

Several people made demonstrations of their intent to do just that yesterday @ a couple of cases, they were parents who were committing themselves to raising thier kids to know God. In about 15 cases, it was an older kid or adult stepping forward to be baptized, showing both ttheir appreciation to God (for sending Jesus to pay for thier sins and give new LIFE), and thier commitment to God--to follow Him with their lives!

Baptism is a huge step, because in doing it, wer'e saying (as KCCers heard yesterday) "I'm ALL IN!" No more 'dipping my toes'--I'm going for it, and giving my LIFE to God, through Christ, as led by His Holy Spirit!

It is abandoment... surrender...commitment...obedience.

...and its in THAT way that we show LOVE for God.

I'm sure God loves it when we express our love for Him in song, and in prayer--assuming that it's coming from a sincere heart.

...but I'm equally sure that he REJOICES when those who say they love Him actually show it by thier actions!

Paul wrote, "...I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual[a] act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:1-2).

Offering our bodies to God--in baptism, and in everyday life--is one of the clearest ways we can show Him that we love Him...and it can show up in everything we do!

Today, whether you were baptized or not, if you are a follower of Jesus, live out 'the spirit of baptism' in your life--by giving yourself completely to God.

THAT'S how you can show Him your love.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Hard Road

Ever wonder why God won't help us to grow by moving us from one "sunny day" to the next?

Sure would be nice!

I remember, early in my life as a follower of Jesus, actually praying something like "Lord, I get it--you want me to trust you. I can we move on?".

Augustine is rumored to have said "Lord, give me patience...and I'd like it now!"

Sometimes the Hard Road is necessary. Sometimes difficulty is necessary.

James says "Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing."(James 1:2-4).

"Troubles" and "Great Joy" don't naturally go together...but sometimes that's precisely the time that God 'shows up' the most!

Why does God choose to allow, or to use, the Hard Road in our growth process?

A few reasons, I think:

*Keeps us dependent on Him for strength.
*Reminds us that He--the Lord--NOT our circumstances, is where our hope lies.
*Teaches us that we can trust Him to 'redeem' our circumstances, no matter how tough, unfair, or challenging--for HIs glory and Our good.

So, today, if you face a trial--health, finances, relationship, anything--don't just try to 'get out of it'. Instead, trust God in it. Let Him sustain and supply you. Let Him move you out of it in His good time.

THEN you'll start to see that the "Hard Road" is actually "The Good Road".


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Stay off the roof!

I've always liked David. Partly because he's got a great name, partly because he was apparently not very tall (1 Samuel 16:7), but mostly because he was considered 'a man after God's heart'. He was a warrior, but also a worshipper who wrote many of the Psalms. He was rugged, and he appreciated beauty...I like that!

David became very close to God, and it seemed that everything he touched, God blessed. He became the King of Israel and oversaw its expansion in power, size, wealth and influence. He was widely regarded as a great king! why'd he do it?
Why'd he risk all of that for one momentary thrill?

Read about it in 2 Samuel 11. He commits adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah...then he tries to cover it up...then, when that doesn't work, he conspires to murder Uriah...then he takes Bathsheba as his wife.

This is NOT what I expect from a guy like David!

How did it happen?

I wonder...the chapter starts with "In the Spring of the year, when kings go out to make war, David stayed behind..." I wonder why?

Was it because he was tired? Was it because he was getting full of himself, and just wanted to 'phone it in', instead of doing what he'd normally do--which was to be involved in the fights? Is it possible that he had seen Bathsheba earlier and he arranged this situation so that he just 'happened' to be walking on the roof while she bathed? It's certainly possible that it was simply an unexpected temptation that he gave in to.

I'm not sure...

...but here's what I DO know:
1) We 'play' with temptation quite a bit...instead of dealing with it forcefully right away and moving on, we sometimes let ourselves mess around with the temptation, lying to ourselves and saying we 'can handle' it...until it's too late; and 2) We don't usually 'fall' into major sin like this...rather, we walk into it, one step at a time. (True, that last step may be a 'fall', but the truth is that there were many steps leading up to it.) See James 1:13-14

David certainly COULD have gone off to war...he could have been busy with the work of the Kingdom...he could have been worshipping God...there are LOTS of things he COULD HAVE done...but he chose to walk around his roof, looking at what was going on in other people's the saying goes, "Idle minds are the devil's workshop."

There are many lessons to learn from this is that, just as David should have been busy serving the Lord in some way (instead of walking around on his roof).

What is the equivalent for YOU? What is the area that you find yourself 'playing with' temptation, hoping for the best, saying 'I can handle it'? What is the "walking on the roof" moment for you?

When temptation comes, let's not play with it! Rather, let's go with the teaching of 1st Corinthians 10:13 "The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure."

It's best to avoid those compromising situations altogether, but if you're in one, remember that God ALWAYS provides a way out...take it!

...and from now on, stay off the roof!

Monday, October 26, 2009

You CAN'T Do It!

The life of a Christ follower--it's SUPPOSED to look...well, more and more like Jesus! why doesn't it,on so many occasions?

Why is it that we see people who claim to be Christians, but their lives don't 'measure up'? They're too irritable...they're greedy...they're name it!

Why would their lives be so out of step with Jesus?

...why is MY life so out of step with Jesus at times?

There are probably a few big reasons, but one of them (as I mentioned in church yesterday) is that WE TRY TO LIVE LIKE JESUS IN OUR OWN POWER!

We accept God's gracious gift of Life, by faith in Jesus...we understand that we can't "earn" that, and therefore we accept His gift...but then we try to 'make ourselves more like him' in our strength. "Maybe if I just try harder", "Maybe I'm not really committed", "Maybe I'm too far gone for even God to change me." "Maybe it's just the way I am!"

All of these are understandable...but wrong!

The Truth is that we were never meant to be able to 'live like Jesus' in our own strength. OUR effort is NOT the key.

The Key? God's Holy Spirit!

2 Peter 1:3 "By HIS DIVINE POWER, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life." The power was never meant to come from us...but from Him!

God's Holy Spirit DOES have everything necessary to change our lives--and make us more like Jesus. Our part is to choose to 'keep in step with the Spirit' and let Him produce that "fruit" in our lives (Galatians 5:16-25).

The Apostle Paul knew this. He said that the "power" with which he himself was changed...and the power with which he became one of the Leaders of the Church...was NOT from Himself, but from the Holy Spirit. 2 Corinthians 4:7 "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us."

When we struggle to 'live like Jesus', it MAY be because we're relying on self-effort, not yielding ourselves to God's Holy Spirit.

But there's good news! The Spirit is ready, willing, and able to transform us and produce Christ-like LIFE within us! We don't have to wonder or doubt--He HAS GIVEN us EVERYTHING we need for living a godly life!

This week, when challenged to 'live it out', deliberately say a quick prayer, asking God's Holy Spirit to empower you and fill you...and watch Him work as you "keep in step" with Him.

Getting your 'power' from the right power changes everything!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Putting Others First

Have you ever wondered how or why God is so patient with us?
I know that, for myself, I mess up so much that it makes me wonder: Why does God continue to show me grace, patience, and mercy?

I know "The Answer"--that it's because of HIS loving Character, and HIS unending Grace, through faith in Jesus, by which He CHOOSES to continue loving, forgiving, and "putting up with" us., if I know that, why do I fail to extend this to others? I can find myself so impatient with thier 'issues', and bothered by their 'idiosyncrisies' that I seem to forget everything I'VE experienced!

Paul writes this: "If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand." (Philippians 2:1-4)

Think about that! We, who've experienced the love, patience, and grace of God first-hand SHOULD be more willing to extend that to others...yet, sometimes we get way too comfortable with being critical, irritable, insensitive...THIS SHOULD NOT BE!

Jesus--the One person EVER who deserved to treat others as 'worse' than Himself--did not. In fact, He treated them BETTER than Himself! Paul goes on:
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.(Philippians 2:5-8)

When I think of all the 'justifiable' reasons I give myself for being irritated and frustrated with others (in my family, in traffic, at the office), I then look at the example of Jesus and suddenly find that there is NO justification for it, period!

If Jesus can extend His grace and patience to me--with all my 'issues'--then I surely can to others--with all thiers.

So, next time you're finding yourself frustrated and irritated with others, remember: "Put yourself aside...forget yourselves...think of yourselves the way Jesus did..."

...and maybe, just maybe, you'll find that the 'issues' aren't in THEM...they're in US!

Friday, October 16, 2009

The King's Table of the KEY concpets in the Scriptures.
When we understand God's Grace it opens up SO MUCH BLESSING for us! In fact, I think it's almost impossible to overstate the importance of, and the depth of, God's grace.

I usually think of "grace" as totally found in the New Testament...but I saw evidence in the Old Testament the other day through a guy named "Mephibosheth" (How would you like to write THAT name on all your checks?)

In 2 Samuel 9, David--Israel's new and great king--has been firmly established. His life is good, and God is blessing him, Big-Time!

One day he remembers a promise he made to his best friend, Jonathan, before he was killed. He had said (1st Samuel 20) that he would always honor Jonathan's family, for Jonathan's sake.

When David remembered this, he inquired as to whether or not anyone was still alive from Jonathan's family...and Mephibosheth was found.

'Mephy' was crippled in both feet...meaning he couldn't farm, and couldn't be a he had little chance of survival (much less riches)...but what does David do?

For the sake of Jonathan, he brings Mephy in, honors him, gives him all the lands that his family (Saul, Jonathan and co) had before, pays the servants to farm it on his behalf, and GIVES HIM A SEAT AT HIS TABLE, EVERY DAY from then on.

Mephy would be treated like the King's own son...because of The King's love for Jonathan. Mephy didn't really 'deserve' it--it was all grace!

IN THE SAME WAY, God the Father offers us LIFE as His child...NOT because we 'deserve' it, but because of His love, promise, and honor toward Jesus.

WE can have a 'seat at the King's Table' because of our relationship to Jesus. God's love for Him compells Him to treat us like we belong--like we're part of 'the King's family'.

It had to be hard for Mephy to get used to that...from a life of begging to a life of royalty. I bet that he went vacillated between not believing it was real (always waiting for 'the hammer' to come down), and taking it for granted...just like us.

I wonder how long it took Mephy to really BELIEVE that He was welcomed at the King's table, and didn't have to worry about losing those privileges nand blessings.

I wonder how long it will take ME to do the same!

If you're covered by Jesus, you have been graciously given a place at the King's Table...enjoy it! Celebrate it! Revel in it! Thank God for it!

...but DON'T refuse it!

Monday, October 5, 2009


Many people believe in God...most Americans do, according to polls. why don't we experience more of Him in our lives?

I believe that many of us want a God we can control...a god that will do what we want him to...but no more.

Certainly, we don't want a God who asks stuff from us~!

Yet, this is 'GOD'! He is over the entire Universe!

He doesn't work for me--rather, I exist for Him!

...and unless I get that straight, I will never experience Him in any sort of a powerful way in my life.

I was reading in 2 Samuel 6 today, and was reminded of this.

King David was marching with the people, bringing the Ark of the Lord into Jerusalem. As he did so, he went 'leaping and dancing before the Lord'. He was celebrating and worshipping! He was giving it all to God, not really caring what he looked like or what others thought of him.

One of his wives (I know, I know...but that's for another discussion), Michal (who was the daughter of Saul) saw him doing this and "she despised him in her heart". Later, she sarcastically insulted him for doing this in front of everyone--even servant girls.

His response? "It was before the Lord (in other words, I was worshipping God--not paying attention to you, the servant girls, or anyone else around me)...that was a 'me and God moment' [that I was worshipping]...I will celebrate before the Lord, and I will become even more undignified than this, and be humiliated in my own eyes..."

In other words, David is saying "WHO CARES what others think of me when I'm worshipping the Lord?" The point is not 'them', but 'Him'!

David had a tight, vibrant, intimate relationship with the Lord...partly because he realized and embraced his postion--as a servant to God!

As a result, he was able to lose himself in worship to God...not giving a rip if others thought he looked 'undignified'!

I want to worship God that way...focused entirely on Him...not caring about me or how I look, what others think, etc. Yet, I often don't. I try to keep God in a

Yet, the God of the universe cannot--and will not--be controlled by me or anyone else.

May He teach me--and you--to love Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, and to worship Him with abandon!

Let's get 'undignified'...for HIS glory!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Impact...Let it Shine!

Do you remember the childrens' song of faith, "This Little Light of Mine"?

It was all about what Jesus says in Matthew 5:13-16:

“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father."

One of the lines of the song said "Hide it under a bushel? NO! I'm gonna let it shine!

I'm learning...again...that PART of the reason that the Lord has rescued us and given us New Life in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) is to make a difference in this world! To share the the stuff that He's done in us...with others.

     For the record, I do NOT believe that this is only about 'going to heaven'...I believe it's much more than

It's about really ENJOYING an intimate realationship with our Heavenly Father...
It's about really LOVING His people, and being a blessing to them--across the church aisle, the country, and the world...
It's about CHANGING THIS WORLD to reflect the peace and wholeness that He will give.

I confess, I've been too focused on "My faith" being about "ME"!

I am His...I exist for His glory...I will live my life out for Him, no holding back! matter what this world says.

As the song says, "Won't let Satan blow it out, I'm gonna let it shine!"

Let it SHINE!
Let it SHINE!
Let it SHINE!

Monday, September 28, 2009

In, But Not Of

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. " (John 3:16)

"Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. " (1st John 2:15)

How can we learn to live in this world,  to love it as God does, but not the "things of this world"?
How can we learn to live here--and be very much involved here--but not be 'defined' by the 'stuff' of this world?
Can we live in a materialistic world without becoming materialistic?

All of these questions have been bumping around my brain since my trip to Africa. As I shared in church yesterday, the people in Uganda and Kenya have very little. They are living day-to-day off the land, some are trying to make a living selling things harvested, while others have gone to the city in search of a more prosperous life, only to find that it doesn't pan out.

They look to America...and the American proof of God's blessing. Specifically, they assume  that we must be loved by God and pleasing to Him BECAUSE we are blessed, materially and financially.

They think that, if they could just figure out what we've done to be blessed, they and thier churches would be better off.

Strictly from a 'this world' mindset, they're probably right--thier infrastructure, thier government, their laws, their organization (or the lack thereof), if addressed like America's would probably go a long way toward improvement of life.

...but from a Spiritual standpoint, I'm not too sure they'd be better off.

They are amazing in their all out abandonment to God in worship, their grace and optimism IN SPITE of their poverty. They see God as very real, very present, very important and very concerned about their lives now. Their connection with Him is close, intimate (with some exceptions, of course).

I wonder: If they started to prosper like we have, would it remain so?

Prosperity brings it's own set of difficulties and temptations.
We become TOO enamored with the 'stuff' of this world, and it distracts us from our love of God and the things He loves.

"Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity. " (1st John 2:16, the Message)

So what are WE supposed to do? Are we supposed to sell everything we have? Is poverty somehow more 'spiritual' than wealth?

No...that would be too simplistic and easy, and it would lead to legalism and self-righteousness.

Instead, we must simply try to keep our focus on loving the Lord, with all our heart, soul, mind, and loving others as we love ourselves. We can do so with material goods, but we must never trust material goods to give us peace, or choose material blessings over the blessings of God.

This seems to leave a certain amount of 'tension' in this issue. It would be easier if someone would just tell us to do one or the other--go for poverty, or go for riches. Jesus seemed to lean that way when He told the 'rich young ruler' to "go, sell everything you have and give it to the poor, then come and follow me" (Mark 10:21). This man went away sad, because he loved the things of this world more than he loved Jesus. This was not Jesus' words to everyone who had wealth...He simply knew this man's heart, and exactly where he needed to be challenged.

What are WE to do with this? How can we live in this world without being distracted so much by material wealth that we forget that HE is to be first?

We have to live with the tension...we have to allow His Holy Spirit to examine us. We have to start asking, when making a purchase or deciding how to spend the money He allows us to have, "Lord, what do you want me to do with this"?

It may be that He gives you the freedom to go ahead, without condemnation, and make that may be that He moves you to choose to do something else with the either case, it's the practice of putting Him in His rightful place--#1--that is important.

Today, start asking Him to help you think think about the wealth you've been given as a tool to be of service to Him. Submit your 'stuff' to Him...learn to love the world, but not the things in this world.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

What "Sticks"?

O.k., so I survived. We arrived safely home yesterday (albeit a little late). Soon we'll be sleeping on Michigan time again (I hope) and eating a US diet..., is that all there is? Are we supposed to just "slip back" into "Normal", and go on with life in Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA, 2009 as if nothing's changed?

I don't think so.

Some of the things I've seen, heard, smelled...many of the people I've talked to and learned from (Ask me to show you the "African Handshake") should impact me...and I hope WILL impact me...forever.

What "sticks"?

Psalm 139:23-24 says:
"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."

As I let God examine my heart and teach me to remember the things He wants me to, I think there are at least 4 lessons that should "Stick":

*How to live in a materialistic society without being materialistic.
*How to live in such a way as to impact the world for the good.
*How to allow God to teach and mold us, on a continual basis.
*How to listen to, hear, and follow the Holy Spirit.

Each one of these things has implications for me, personally, for my family, and for my church, KCC.

Over the next several days, I hope to share those things with you...and to let God cause the right things to "Stick".

Here's an important point, however: You don't have to go to Africa to let those things impact you. God might be teaching you things right where you are--in fact, I'm SURE He is.

What does He want YOU to let "stick"?

Monday, September 21, 2009


Today I had the experience of a lifetime!

We were able to go on a ‘safari’ around the Muranchu Falls National Park, and view the beauty and the wildlife! Seeing giraffes, water buffalo, hippos, several kinds of antelope, baboons, in their native habitat was an amazing experience! The ruffed beauty of Africa is amazing!

From there we went on a cruise down the Nile River, and saw Alligators, Hippos, and various kinds of cranes and other beautiful birds…ending up at Muranchu Falls—a POWERFUL place!

These experiences reminded me of the creative handiwork of Almighty God, his power and majesty!

It was a breathtaking, wonderful experience.

After all this, we traveled about 7 hours to see Pastor Solomon and his church again…we hoped to get back in time for the service, but were quite late…in spite of that, many people stayed to greet us and thank us for coming, and some of our “Armor Bearers” were there, asking us to come back soon…it was humbling!

I noticed some things on the way back to Kampala, however: The beauty and freshness which had been so wonderful at the National Park were quickly replaced by pollution, crowded roads and noise as we got back to the city. This is a big city—approx. 1 million people…but the roads are chaotic and exhaust-filled, and there is not a lot of room to move anywhere!

I found myself not wanting to come back…I didn’t like the idea of staying in the city a couple more nights. I wondered why people would CHOOSE to life here, when there was so much beauty available in the countryside.

I found out why: The countryside is a life-and-death existence…desperately trying to figure out a way to grow enough food to feed your own family, how to make any money for buying necessities, etc. There are VERY few jobs in the countryside…and if a person wants to have ANY opportunity for advancement…for breaking out of the cycle and doing something one enjoys or is good at, the city seems to be the only real option.

The numbers of people trying to find work and ‘a way out’ around here is staggering. Crowding each other in the streets, cutting each other off in traffic trying to get to the next place…they are everywhere!

Interestingly, Muhamar Khaddaffi, the president of Libya, has seen this—he has placed a HUGE mosque on one of the highest points in the city…he has bankrolled schools…he has bankrolled shopkeepers…all to get the message of Islam out.

But—and I’m going to be very politically incorrect here—I believe the message of Islam is the wrong one! I believe the message of Jesus is the right one—Gods’ grace, as seen in Jesus Christ—paying for our sins and making “the Kingdom of God”—both here on Earth, and later in Heaven—possible.

Jesus said “Lift your eyes and look at the fields…they are RIPE with harvest!” As I look at the city here, AND the countryside, I’m realizing that God loves these people just as much as He loves me…and we must do what we can to get the message out—because others are trying to get a VERY different one out, and they’re not wasting any time!

So Many Options…

I met some people today (Saturday) who welcomed us like Kings! The entire village seemed to come out and welcome us with a song and dance—young and old, men, women and children…we were treated like royalty!

They shared with us the reality of their situation in this remote African town of Nebbi. They have many orphans, not much opportunity for employment, but they have a LOT of natural resources, and some good ideas. One thing they do NOT lack is vision!

As we listened, they explained their plans for making a Mango factory, using the labor around the village and some property which had been donated, along with the natural resources of the Mangos. This area is STUNNINGLY beautiful, and there really are opportunities…

They also shared how many in the village have taken children in because of parent deaths due to AIDS and war. Amazing and staggering!

When we went to see where they were thinking of the Mangos, we saw their goat operation (great idea—they have several goats and give out female goats to widows—to provide for their children—under one condition: the first female that one has, they must give to someone else—in this way, they’ve gone from 4 goats to 18 in just over 1 year, and have blessed many!

Again, they are very resourceful and very dignified people. The fact that many have been forced out of their homes by decades of bloodshed and war causes them, at times, to live in clusters of thatched huts. Educated, skilled farmers who once had land and a profitable farm are now living, eating and sleeping all together in a hut the size of most of our large bathrooms!

Another stop took us to a boarding school, at which dozens of kids among the 100 students are AIDS orphans, and are sponsored. Their building (2 story brick), serves as a High School for these kids. They don’t have walls and windows…yet…but they DO have plans!

There are so many choices. They ALL deserve help! Combining would make sense—and they are open to it…but what is the wisest way to go? How can we get our churches involved in ways that make sense, but are not too lofty—at least for now? Sponsor a child at the school? Sponsor a goat? Buy a mango making machine? Many choices.

We need wisdom, and guidance from the Lord as to how to best do this…but one thing is for sure: We need to do SOMETHING! We cannot simply sit in our part of the world and say “not my problem…I have to make my loan payments!”

I believe the Lord is waking the Church up to the world around, and is calling us to Repent for our self-centered lifestyle, and to get busy helping our neighbor…even the ones in Nebbi!

Friday, September 18, 2009


What is ther RESPONSIBILITY of a follower of Jesus Christ in a world which is racked by sin, corruption, suffering, and poverty?

Where does our responsibilty start and stop to "Love the Lord our God with all your heart, soul and mind", and to "Love our neighbor as ourselves"?

Honestly, I'm struggling a little bit to figure that out today.

Today we had the last 1/2 day of the Pastor's Leadership Conference and it was GREAT! The speakers were very good, and the worship...well, it was FREE and total!

The people were, as always, gracious and thankful...I tried to tell them that THEY were the blessing, and that WE were humbled to be there...I guess it was mutual.

One really neat thing about the conference...Pastor Solomon had set up "Armor Bearers" for us--personal assistants that carried our bags, got us water, and helped us in every way...VERY neat people, and after only 1 1/2 days, we developed a real bond with them. I really enjoyed all of them...Richard and Johnathan especially....anyway, at the end of the conference, we wanted a way to show them honor and appreciation, so one of our Pastors' came up with the idea of washing their feet--like Jesus did with His disciples. I had never done that before, but I found that to be one of the most beautiful, meaningful things I've ever done! It was very powerful, for us all. (Pastor Solomon joked by asking "When was the last time you saw a white American wash a black Ugandan's feet!" I thought it was hilarious!)

After the conference and lunch, we went to visit a typical rural village...VERY poor. Many families have 2, 3, and even 4 families (or what's left of them) living together. Parents have died (from Malaria, AIDS, or accidents), and other family members take them in. Only problem: How does a poor family of 4 fit in another 4 or 6 kids and still survive?

Not very well, apparently.

We learned all about the living conditions, the sweet potatoe and banana planting and harvesting they must do to survive. One family owns a cow...they used to get 7 quarts of milk a day, selling 6 and splitting one among their 4 children and relatives' 4 also. Now they only get 3 quarts a day, and they sell it all because they need the money more than the milk!

This is a woman who's a Christ follower, and both she and her husband serve in the church!

So...I ask again: Where does our responsibility lie?

Our team has been trying to process this, and we know that we don't have to sell everything and move to Uganda...but what SHOULD we do? How SHOULD those of us who "Love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds" and "Love our neighbor as ourselves" respond to Uganda, and in America?

Chew on that for awhile.

I know I will!

Genuine Worship

Genuine worship

I participated in the Pastor’s Leadership Conference here in Kampala, UG today.

It was an experience I’ll never forget!

The people were so gracious and enthusiastic!

The worship was “all-out”—lots of energy, dancing, enthusiasm, volume…great! I felt the Spirit’s movement very strongly, and it allowed me to really worship the Lord with focus.

The conference itself was a neat experience too. I went last today, and tried to relax and let the Lord speak through me. I have to say, I believe—based on the response—He did!

The people were so kind, and seemed to be so genuinely grateful that we would come and speak to them. What’s more, they seemed to be convinced that we—us guys from Kalamazoo—really had something to say that they needed to hear! They were attentive, and positive.

It reminded me—their hunger for the Word of God, and their desire to ‘get better’ at Pastoring—that we should ALL have that mindset, Pastors or not! If we believe in God, and have faith in Jesus Christ, then the Holy Spirit DEFINITELY wants to bring us closer and closer, and He definitely wants to help us become more like Christ.

I don’t have to ‘wonder’ about that—He does!

That means that, if I’m NOT becoming more like Christ, it is NOT because He’s not working on me—it’s because I’m not putting myself in the right mindset, the right places, etc. to learn! It’s up to me to cooperate with Him!

As our host, Pastor Solomon, says “If you want to get better (at leading, following Christ, or whatever), you must put yourself in places or around people who are already further than you.”

That means that I must humble myself, ask Him to show me where He wants to work, then let Him lead…

I’m ready! I say “Lord, Bring it!”

Will you join me?

“Humble Yourselves therefore, before the Lord, that He may lift you up, in due time.” (1 Peter 5:6)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A vision...

Pastor Solomon has BIG dreams, and
 a big vision! Today we saw the clinic that Good News Church sponsors (they were giving free baby immunizations today), ranked 13th out of about 400 in UG!

They do LOTS of services for the poor.

We also went to the school and saw some really sweet kids and dedicated teachers...go his vision for continuing to build on the new school.

Finally, we went to their farm--at which they reaise chicken (for eggs) and mango's...lots of further potential here!

Solomon only allows kids in the school who are homeless or "REALLY" poor.

He's a good man, making a difference!

Big day tomorrow--Leadership Conference! Pray!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Uganda, Pt. 1

Today, after about 16 hours on various planes, we pulled into Uganda (thank you, Lord, for a safe trip!)

When we had been in Kazoo--as plain as it is--and then Detroit (which is really a pretty nice airport), then Amsterdam--which was really nice (but strange to hear all the different lanuages--and see all the blonde people!)...we flew into Entebbe.


Not many lights...the airport smelled like old carpet (like we used to have in our family room!). It wasn't NEARLY as nice, and it was muggy, etc...the 'creature comforts' were all gone!

Throughout the baggage claim, passport validation, etc. process, I was reminded that I'm DEFINITELY not in Michigan anymore!

But then a neat thing happened...we got ready to be picked up, and about 10 young people came, along with Solomon, to pick us up! They greeted us with welcomes and hugs, as if we were old friends and they were GENUINELY happy to see us!

Granted, we then had to drive 1/2 hour on roads that...let's just say they don't really have much in the way of TRAFFIC LAWS here--and we got to the hotel...we realized it was as if everything was only partially streetlights, no neon signs, no welcome lobbies in the hotel.

Then it hit me--maybe part of the problem is that we in America get too used to using that stuff all the time--we are TOO dependent on the 'creature comforts'. It makes us soft...and maybe even a little spoiled...

The brightest thing I've seen in Uganda? The smiles of the people! THAT"S what I'm going to try to focus on this week--being willing to see past the 'stuff',and see into the hearts!

Maybe we could all do that--wheter we're in Uganda or not!

till next time,


Monday, September 14, 2009

The Comfort Zone

It's nice, isn't it--our comfort zone.

It's different for everyone, but everyone has them...the place where things are safe, predictable, and...well, comfortable.

I like my comfort zone. My comfort zone is with my family, and involves lots of 'safe' things: hanging in my backyard, planting things, watching movies, and so on.

Comfort zones are nice...but they are NOT the places to live for anyone who wants to make a difference in the world.

They are NOT the places to settle if I want to grow.

A wise friend shared a phrase with me yesterday: "You can change without growth, but you cannot grow without change."

If I want to grow, I've got to be willing to change, and this means getting out of my 'comfort zone'.

Over the next 2 weeks, I'm going to be in Africa (Uganda and Kenya) with a group of pastors, and this is DEFINATELY out of my comfort zone...but I know it will be a great experience, and place of growth for me.

I pray that I can contribute something of consequence to them, and the people we're visiting.

Jesus said to Paul, in response to a prayer for healing that "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness" 2 Corinthians 12:9. Paul response? ' If that's true, then I'm going to embrace my weaknesses--because that's when Jesus' strength comes through!' (my paraphrase).

I am stepping out, but doing it on my knees. I pray that the Lord would give strenght for anything that comes up, that He helps me to hear His voice and learn what He wants me to, that He uses me in the lives of others, and that He keeps me remembering that "When I am weak, HE is STRONG!"

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Process IS the Point!

Many of you know I'm getting ready to head to Africa next week. In the meantime, there's LOTS to do (make sure I know how to use this Blog, among other things!). So many times I look at this time of preparation as just 'something to get through' as I move on to the "main event".

But I think that's wrong...I think that kind of thinking leads to us missing TONS of opportunities for growth, impact, and glorifying God in the here and now. The "process" isn't to be merely IS important in it's own right.

The Process IS the point! In that process of preparation--whether for a big trip, a big move, a marriage, a new job, a class, or any one of a million other 'events' we prepare for, let's not miss the "God Moments" along the way.

"Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil." (Ephesians 5:15-16)

I want to keep my eyes open to God in the process...because that's often where He shows up! It may be a difficult preparation, but He is right there with me in it, teaching and leading me--if I'll listen!

Don't just go from one big 'event' to the next, assuming the time in between is a waste--the Process IS the point!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Worship with Life

Worship...we think of it as a specific task, usually done in church (mostly through music and songs)...but is that all it is? I think we miss it--I think Worship is much broader and more meaningful than that.

What is "worship"? It's the thing I'm focused on...the motivation that's in my heart...the purpose that drives me. I can 'worship' lots of things...I can worship money, success, a dream, a look, popularity, good grades...I can worship anything!

As a pastor...somebody who gets up in front of a lot of people each week to talk and (I hope) help them move closer to the Lord, I know that I can 'worship' public opinion! If someone likes what I said, it 'validates' me; if someone dislikes it, it 'invalidates' me.

That's why we get into trouble when we "worship" the wrong thing.

There is only ONE who is really WORTHY of worship...and that is the truine God of the Bible. He is the one who is perfect, and truly deserves our "worship"--our attention, our love, our service, our adoration.

Can we do that with songs? Sure! But it can be so much more!

We can "worship" God with our lives!

HOW we live, WHAT we do, our ATTITUDE with which we do it. All of these can convey worship to God.

There are times it's tough to worship God. Times when our circumstances change for the worse, our dreams go unfulfilled, our desires--for ourselves and others--don't pan out. It can be tough to move beyond those feelings...but that's when real WORSHIP can happen!

When we can stand up, look up to our Lord, raise our hands, and let those things go...when we can say "Lord, here it's my desire..take it and do with it whatever you will...I trust you!" then go on from there, living in love and obedience to Him...THAT's real worship.

...and that's what He deserves!

Romans 12:1 "Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him."