Tuesday, January 26, 2010


"We must not only think of our waiting upon God,
but also of what is more wonderful still,
of God's waiting upon us."

Thus begins today's thought from the classic devotional work, "Streams In the Desert," and I must confess, it took me back for more than a minute. Matter of fact, here it is 3:25 in the afternoon, 8 hours after I first read it, and it continues to rattle around in my heart and mind. Why? A couple of reasons, I believe (at least for me - you fill in yours for you):

First - I hate waiting! Thus, I can get more than a little frustrated when it seems that God isn't doing what I asked or expected. While I know that waiting is a normal part of the Christian life, I still don't like it! My Type-A personality wants to scream, "But look at all the time I am/we're wasting just waiting around!" And just when I am about to this point, invariably I come across something like today's thought.

Second - As I ponder this concept, I can't help but get a somewhat erie feeling that maybe the reason God hasn't done what I'm expecting (or what He is prepared to do) is because He is waiting on me. Just maybe I have been entrusted with and been holding the key to turn the lock and haven't even realized it!

Have you ever found yourself wondering what your life would be like if you could be totally obedient to what God asks of you? When I look at the amazing things that God has done throughout my life (in spite of me being less than the model Christian at times), I can't even imagine what He'd do if I'd really get my act together...all the time.

But still He waits...real love always does. I'm looking at a quote on my wall right now by Brennan Manning that fits here as good as anywhere:

"God loves you unconditionally as you are
and not as you should be, because you're never going to be as you should be."

And while I can rest in that love, I dare not presume upon it and neglect the very things that are hindering Him from acting, and me (who knows, maybe the entire community or world) from not having to wait anymore!

I'm sure there will always be things I find myself waiting upon Him for, but I pray that by God's grace, He can do a lot less waiting on me in 2010. Maybe I'll discover that there's actually a "Waiting Equation" of sorts...you know, something like this: "The amount of time required in waiting on God is inversely proportional to the level of obedience in my life" - translated: "More obedience = less waiting." I can't wait to find out!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The More Important Question

As I’m sure you are all aware, there is a battle raging in our government right now (yes, another one). While there's always something being contested, the largest right now is healthcare. Now, relax…this is not going to be a political message! Why has it taken so long to get something done? One of the biggest challenges has been the struggle with Abortion. This is not a Republican and Democrat issue, but one which tests the heart and soul of every person. It is a deeply emotional, personal and important issue. Don't worry, I'm not going to try and tell you where you should land on this topic. But I do believe it’s important that we wrestle a bit with what the stance of the believing Body of Jesus Christ should be on this.

If you asked a pregnant 16-year-old about the response she expects to receive from any given local church, what do you think she’d say? More than likely, nothing too flattering. Why? Then I guess it’s pretty important that we get figured out, once and for all, if the Church’s view aligns with the view of Jesus Christ, huh? This is definitely the more important question!

As a “pro-life” pastor, I value you…young, old, male, female, rich, poor, farmer, doctor, housewife, sinner and saint. Why? Because God values you! Why? Because you are a special work of His creation. On this 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, with over 55 million innocent lives ended via abortion, it is imperative that as God’s children we are also “pro-life.” Now before you get all worked up about my statement, I’m not talking about how the media portrays it…it’s not that simple.

Right now, it is legal in this country for any woman to end any pregnancy at any time for any reason. As much as that grieves me, what’s interesting is that I have yet to speak with what we call a “pro-choice” person who is “pro-death” (the logical flipside of “pro-life”). No one wants people to die! No one wants the life of another to end. And when it comes right down to it, any time a life & death decision has to be made, even when it is determined to be the right thing to do, it is incredibly painful, heart-rending and life-impacting…for everyone involved!

Now, back to our 16-year-old. Let’s say that this girl walks into your church or youth meeting... how would you respond? More importantly, how would Jesus respond?

First, I believe it’s vitally important to understand just how much He loves life; the life found in each one He has created: Psalm 119:13-16 & 1 John 3:1 make this crystal clear! This means Jesus loves even our pregnant 16-year-old…especially her! In the midst of her fear, turmoil, pain, anxiety and aloneness, He loves her as much as ever…perfectly…and will never turn His back on her!

Second, the Christ-like life should always be marked by grace and compassion. Take a moment to look up an amazing story from Jesus’ life and this, too, will be crystal clear. See what you find in John 8:3-11. Not only does Jesus love this woman in her sin, He is the only one who loves her…maybe the only One who ever truly had!

Third, note that this is not a wishy-washy, do-whatever-you-want, walk-all-over-me kind of love. It’s a love that asks, expects and demands the best from us. What are Jesus’ parting words to this woman? “Go now and leave your life of sin.” We, as the Body of Christ, must never cease to call people away from sin and towards the life that can only be found in Him; loving, nurturing, teaching & directing as we travel this road together.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7, puts this perfectly: Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. If you love someone, you will be loyal to them no matter the cost. You will always believe in them, always expect the best of them, and always stand your ground in defending them.

How then, should we live? You see, “pro-life” spreads its arms wide to each and every human being who struggles: the unborn, unwed, unemployed, unhappy, unfulfilled and unremembered. I’m talking about God’s children being people who value people…period…because He does…in every shape, size, gender, age, profession and capacity.

We must continually grow in our commitment to compassionately express the love of Christ, lest no one object when “inconvenient pregnancies” become the “inconvenient elderly… handicapped…criminals… terminally ill…failing students.” Each of us is here because God placed us here, warts and all, that we might know Him, strengthen one another and be His conduits of redemption to our world. May we take our cues from Jesus Himself, who values all life...period!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Don't Be Deceived!

I just spent the better part of a half-hour with a distraught friend who also happens to be a mother & wife that my family has known for years. Through tears and sobs, she proceeded to tell me that her marriage is over, divorce is imminent and she can't imagine ever being the same again (not to mention the toll this is all taking on her kids). I couldn't help but wonder...what happened? How did it happen? What makes a, by all appearances, godly man, walk away from it all...his faith, his family, his church...himself?

It has been a haunting reminder to me of the Apostle Paul's words in Galatians 6:7, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; a man reaps what he sows." Now, I am not one to cast stones, for I know that anyone can be deceived in the right set of circumstances...me included. But I just don't know how anyone can walk away from everything that they've held dear.

I'm sure I don't know all the facts, just as I'm sure that I have some personal bias in the situation. I have prayed for grace for the wounded and conviction on those doing the wounding. My emotions have gone from grief to joy to anger to uselessness. But rather than get into an analysis that I'm unqualified to give, God is challenging my own heart afresh with a truth so easily preached at times, and so much more difficult to live at others.

The truth? In marriage (and probably in any relationship), whatever is done for self is done against your marriage. More pointedly: whatever I do for me is done against us. There are no little choices in marriage - they all matter. Selfish choices will destroy the unity; selfless things will build it. Every word, thought, choice & action done for me is damaging us.

At this point, there may not be anything I can do for my friends other than continuing to pray, but there is tons I can do to make sure that my marriage (and for that matter, my friendships) never ends up "on the rocks" like this. There's only one Rock I want to spend time with, and this Rock will prove to be "an anchor for my soul," keeping me from drifting aimlessly in selfishness. How about you??

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Fear Factor

“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him?” Matthew 7:9-11

A recently popular show, “Fear Factor,” was designed around the concept of having contestants face some of their deepest fears head on in a competitive manner. Their ability to do so quickly and successfully carried the potential to win them some significant rewards. While there are definitely some things to fear in this life, I want to assure you that God is not one of them!

A Gallup poll was once taken asking people why they didn’t trust God with their lives. Their responses were intriguing: Fear that He would send them someplace they didn’t want to go OR Fear that He would make them be with someone whom they didn’t like. In a word…they didn’t dare trust Him because they feared Him!

I’m not sure where this concept started (fear as in being afraid, not fear as in revere), but somewhere along the line we determined that those who choose to do things God’s way somehow lose. Thus, many avoid His ways. Quite the contrary: God’s ways work and He can be absolutely trusted in them!

So many people think that following God will take all the fun out of their life. What they don't realize is that God created them to have fun and enjoy life; finding Him is the beginning of the greatest adventure of their life, filled with more fun and happiness than they could imagine! Not only will God’s ways always be perfect…they will be perfect for you…exactly what you need…because He is the Perfect Father (see above Scripture again). And the rewards from not fearing God, but embracing His ways are not only significant…they are eternally great!

I don't know what new opportunities God will bring your way in 2010, but I do know that He can be trusted in them...you need not fear them because you need not fear Him! Trust Him to bring exactly what you need in the coming year. It may not always be what you want, but it will be perfect for you...in timing, magnitude and style!