Do It Again

Do It Again

Several years ago, my wife LaVonne and i traveled with a team of university students to a country in the Middle East. God had granted us an opportunity to “sow seeds of the gospel” in a place where there were no known churches and very few followers of Jesus. Ironically enough, we were going to one of the places where the gospel was first proclaimed by the Apostle Paul and others two thousand years ago, but, in recent days, the lies of false religion had taken hold and now very few knew the truth.

The “seeds” we were sowing were four-fold. First, we would conversationally share our testimonies and the good news of the gospel whenever we had opportunity with those who could speak some English, since only a few of our team members knew the indigenous language. The second and third seeds were, respectively, videos and CDs in the native language that told the story of Jesus and the truth of the gospel. The fourth seed was a written booklet explaining the gospel in the indigenous language. In enlisting our help, our partner informed us that he had not previously done what he was asking us to do among this group of people. He had no idea how the people would react or respond to us. Since, at the time, we also had never done this before in this particular context, it would be a new experience for all of us – our team, our partner, and the people we would meet.

I Can Only Imagine

I Can Only Imagine

Again, this is not the blog that i planned to post this week. My plan has again been redirected by life. Our plans often are. But not to the same degree as the life of another one of my friends. Yesterday, i was with my dear friend Amaury Santos whose wife, Stephanie, passed away last week without any warning due to a sudden heart attack. This was my second time in as many weeks to stand with friends who were walking through that unwelcome experience. Both of these dear women had been in perfect health. Neither of them had shown any previous signs of health issues. Both of them were going about their active lives when death suddenly occurred. Both were living lives of great Kingdom impact, and we would have expected both of them to enjoy many more years of life on this earth ahead. Then in a moment, both had suddenly – and unexpectedly – entered into the presence of the Lord, and their husbands and children had been left to walk through the unwelcome valley of the shadow of death and sorrow.

As I spoke with both of these friends, I told them that “i cannot imagine” the pain and the sorrow they are experiencing. i have not walked that road, and i cannot pretend to understand what they are feeling or experiencing.

More Like Jesus

More Like Jesus

He must increase, but I must decrease.(John 3:30 ESV)

Today, as i read that verse, i was reminded of a brother in Christ i met several years ago (this very week) by the name of H. J. Sadhu Dayapara. Brother Dayapara was a 70-year-old pastor faithfully serving his Lord in the City of Bangalore, in the State of Karnataka, India. Several friends and i were in Bangalore to lead a three-day visioning retreat for pastors that were serving throughout the State of Karnataka. To this day, i will never understand why the Lord directed for us to be the presenters at the conference for these brothers. As i stood before them, i knew that it was i who needed to be sitting at their feet, learning from them.

Pastor Dayapara sat there on the very front row all three days, taking in everything that we shared. Though we were separated by a language barrier, we were drawn together by a kinship in Jesus. Throughout our time together, as i watched him and listened to him (through an interpreter), i was drawn to the image of Jesus that radiated through him. i was overwhelmed by the humility and overflow of the fruit of the spirit that was pouring out of this brother. He did not pastor a large church, and probably never would, but he bore all the characteristics of a good and faithful shepherd, who was as much concerned about the one as he was about the ninety-nine. His life bore witness that Jesus was his life and his treasure, his desire and his dream, his purpose and his path. His life evidenced the very truth that John the Baptist spoke – “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Madness or Faith

Madness or Faith

Take your son, your only son — yes, Isaac, whom you love so much — and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you” (Genesis 22:2). If God had not come through and stayed Abraham’s hand, would we consider Abraham to have been a madman or a man of faith? It was not solely Abraham’s action that confirmed his faith; it was also God’s response to Abraham’s faith. 

Fifteen years ago, we were at the edge of being “mad”. In obedience to what my wife and i believed was a word from God, i had, three months earlier, resigned my position from the church staff where i had served for eleven years, but now found myself with no prospects of another position. i had no leads, no money, and bills that were piling up. The only work before me was a writing project that i believed God was directing me to undertake, but it had little prospect of being published. Three months into our journey through this unknown, people were beginning to look at us as if we were mad; and i must confess, i was questioning that as well. Did i really hear God? Was this really what He had told us to do? How far would He let us go? 

Monday Morning

Monday Morning

This is not the blog i intended to post this week. We’ll save that one for another day. But this morning i read a statement by Henry Blackaby: “Are you willing to follow Jesus anywhere, at any time, under any condition?

On Monday morning two good friends awoke together, just as they had for over thirty-five years of Monday mornings. They probably walked through their typical morning routines then headed off in their respective directions as they followed Jesus in pursuit of all that was in store for the day. Little did they know the turns the day would take.

A Walk Like Enoch's

A Walk Like Enoch's

This week in my quiet time, i have been reading the short epistle of Jude. It’s only one chapter and only contains twenty-five verses. i think i have too frequently breezed through it in the past. But this time the Lord told me to slow down and walk with His servant Enoch. In Jude 14-15, we read “Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness….”

That got me to thinking about Enoch. There are only two people of whom i am aware who never experienced death. One was Elijah, and we read that he was taken up into heaven by a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11). The other was Enoch, and apparently, at one moment, he “was” and then, in the next moment, he “was not” because “God took him” (Genesis 5:24). i have often thought that if i could be anyone in the Bible, i’d like to be Enoch. Not because he didn’t pass through death (though that would be an added benefit), but because of the walk he had with God. When i picture Enoch’s walk with God, i don’t picture him as struggling or striving in that walk. i picture him as walking peacefully and contentedly in stride with his Creator. What was his secret? How did he find that stride?

Lord, What About Him (or Her)?

Lord, What About Him (or Her)?

Several years ago i participated in a wilderness safety, survival and security training in the mountains of Idaho with about thirty other people. Though i didn’t know most of the folks going into the training, a shared experience like that creates a bond that sticks with you for the rest of your lives. Two of those folks – a husband and wife – and i were teamed together for several of the exercises. They – like the rest – will forever hold a special place in my heart. Over the years since then, i have seen God use this couple – Steve and Laura – in phenomenal ways in the advancement of the message of the Good News across the globe. He has ordered their steps and worked through them to have eternal impact for the Kingdom. In the midst of that activity, Steve was diagnosed with liver cancer. In recent months, he has been in and out of the hospital – more in than out. The physical battle is intense – and while we pray for healing, we pray for grace and strength, and restorative rest in the midst of the battle. i am mindful that one of their prayer requests is that God would grant Steve the time on this side of glory to finish the work that He has placed before him. (i would ask you to join with many throughout the world who are interceding on behalf of this dear couple and their family.)

 

In times like these, we tend to want to ask God, why them?

Hold On

Hold On

i don’t know about you, but i am a wimp when it comes to pain. When i go to the dentist, Novocaine is my best friend! i recently had surgery on my eyes and the surgeon asked me if i would like to stay awake, or if i would prefer to be put to sleep. He asked me the question in a way that clearly communicated his view that a manly man would stay awake. But i failed to be intimidated – i told him i would enjoy the good sleep! i mean, if i can sleep and avoid the pain and discomfort, why not? Given the choice to go through pain and suffering or not, why would i? Every part of my being screams that pain and suffering is to be avoided at all cost.

That’s not only true for physical pain, but also for emotional or relational pain….

Tremble

Tremble

A few years ago, my wife and i found ourselves in the midst of a gathering of twenty-four worship leaders that God is using, not only to lead their local fellowships in worship, but also the greater body of Christ through the worship songs they are composing. On one particular night, we were all led in the darkness through a wooded area to a room that was away from the main campus where we were meeting. The intent was that we would experience a taste of the daily lives of our persecuted brothers and sisters in many parts of the world who need to gather in secret to worship. The evening was facilitated by good friends – Nik and Ruth Ripken.

As the evening went on, Nik shared the testimonies of men and women that God has permitted him to meet – testimonies of God’s mercy and grace in the midst of persecution. Nik explained that each one of these men and women had a heartsong – a song that God had stamped in their hearts. It was a song of God’s faithfulness, His goodness and His grace….

Expect the Unexpected

Expect the Unexpected

It was Wednesday, January 19, 1977 and it was snowing. Now that doesn’t seem very unexpected unless you are in West Palm Beach or Miami, Florida or Nassau, in the Bahamas! It had never snowed in that part of the world before then, as best anyone knows, and it hasn’t snowed there since. My wife and i remember the day well. Traffic virtually came to a standstill, and people stopped wherever they were in order to turn their heads toward the sky. What was this foreign substance falling to earth? I remember trying to catch a few snowflakes on my tongue. Bear in mind, i don’t think any snowflakes actually made it to the ground! The snowbirds who had come to Florida to escape the snow indeed felt cheated, but the natives were simply amazed. 

A story is told that early in 1976 while the political campaigns for the U.S. presidency were underway, Jimmy Carter was considered by many to be a long shot for the Democratic nomination. As the story goes, a radio talk show pundit, Neal Boortz, was conducting an on-air interview and asked his guest about Mr. Carter’s chances of being elected. The guest replied that it was highly unlikely, and to add emphasis said, “It will snow in Nassau before Jimmy Carter is sworn in as President of the United States!” By the way, President Carter was sworn in as our 39thPresident on Thursday, January 20, 1977. Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?!?

But, as i think of that day, i am reminded that our God is the Master of the unexpected – not only with snowflakes in South Florida – but in much greater and much more significant ways….