Monday, April 30, 2007
An early lesson in delegation. God gives us all talents. We work best as parts of the body and will burn ourselves out if we try to do it all. Good advice from a caring father in law.

Exodus 18

  posted at 5:56 AM  

Sunday, April 29, 2007
Remember the pesky raccoon(s) that ruined our pontoon boat and kept it out of commission all last season? Well, we're hoping to keep it / them at bay this year with ... dried coyote urine! A natural predator of coons, dried coyote urine stuffed in some old nylons is supposed to keep the masked bandits away. And it sure smells good, too! Will let you know if it works. (And, no, I didn't go collect it myself though we do have a number of coyotes around these parts. It is commercially avilable, collected I assume on some wonderful coyote farm someplace.)

  posted at 9:03 PM  

EXODUS 17 (The Message)
Did you ever notice that the world gets louder the more off track it is?

When metal is molten in order to be cast into some shape, all of the garbage raises to the top of the pot. It is called "dross" if it is solid impurity and "slag" if it is liquid. The more impurity in the metal, the more the junk on top hides the good stuff underneath.

Life seems that way, too. You can be doing the good stuff, always feeling like you're following God and yet all the "junk" of the world hides you. And, the more off track the world is, the more you may feel buried by it.

The bright shiny molten metal at the bottom of the pot doesn't care when the dross and slag hide it. Ultimately, those things will be skinned off and the pure metal will be allowed to be formed into what it was intended. Purity prevails in the end.

If we're following God, we can reside in that same level of faith.

In seventh grade, I had a teacher write something on my grade card which I think ultimately has had a major impact of encouragement on me. I was always a pretty quiet, shy kid. What she wrote on my grade card was that "Great things often come in quiet packages." I don't think she was necessarily correct on the "great" part but over the years her comment has provided me encouragement that, so long as I am doing what I know to be the "right" things, the noisier "slag" that seems to be hiding my efforts really makes no difference. She gave me assurance that it's okay to be humble. Unfortunately, in the schoolyard, that message doesn't come out all that often to kids.

God calls us to humility and he works through and protects the humble. The Israelites, finally released from slavery to the Egyptians, are a good example of this. As Pharaoh became increasingly loud and agitated, the Israelites stayed humble and, despite some bickering and issues along the way, they remained faithful to God. His faithfulness to them, of course, was ultimately revealed.

Exodus 17

  posted at 7:39 AM  

Saturday, April 28, 2007
EXODUS 16 (The Message)
Exodus 16

"Mose and Aaron told the people ... "You haven't been complaining against us, you know, but against God."

Gotta remember that.

  posted at 6:48 AM  

A man sits alone in a coffee shop.
He looks like he lost his last friend long ago,
And that was when he stopped caring.

A worn-out mom stares at her three kids.
She wonders where they came from. Not born from love,
She wonders how she can ever love them.

You taught us love,
And you taught us grace.
You showed us a better way,
If we can just find it.

I'm not here to judge, not here to condemn.
But as I walk this earth,
I see two types of folks.

Those who know they were created from love
and those who have lost sight of all love.
Those who pull back, and those who go forth.

You taught us love,
And you taught us grace.
You showed us a better way,
If we can just find it.

Those who never love are damned to die lonely.
Those who love, will always live in love.
The love of our savior that knows no end.

I want to live love,
And I want to live grace.
Because you showed a better way,
If I can just find it.

  posted at 6:25 AM  

Friday, April 27, 2007
EXODUS 15 (The Message)
Exodus 15 starts with the Israelites involved in wild abandon as they celebrate and praise God for delivering them from the Egyptians. Imagine the freedom they must have felt! But three days later, hot, thirsty and tired from wandering the desert, they begin to question God. Why did He send us here? Now what? We don't even have good water to drink! Of course, God provided. This so closely mirrors my life and the lives of, I suspect, many of us. We may (or may not) remember God's faithfulness and provision for us but, when we go through a time of trial, the focus turns back on ourselves ... we complain, we worry, we fret ... we stop the celebration.

  posted at 6:08 AM  

Thursday, April 26, 2007
EXODUS 14 (The Message)
Oh, to have the kind of faith that would allow us to back ourselves against the water, our enemy at our heels, knowing that God will provide a way across!

Exodus 14

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.

  posted at 5:31 AM  

I finally finished reading Philip Yancey's book "What's So Amazing About Grace?" I tend to read Yancey's books fairly slowly. They are so hard-hitting in terms of what they say that I can easily get overwhelmed so I tend to read them just a few pages at a time, usually with a couple of days in between.

The last two lines of this bok are:

The world thirsts for grace. When grace descends, the world falls silent before it.

If we, as Christians, were to all unite and suddenly embrace and embody the kind of grace that Yancey explains we are called to live out, the world would stop, take note, and be forever changed ... I am certain of that.

Yancey starts the book by telling a story that ends up as a recurring theme throughout the nearly 300 page book. He tells the story of a prostitute in Chicago who had even been forced to "rent out" her two-year-old daughter to earn money. Broken and at the end of her rope, someone asks her if she has ever thought about turning to the church for help and as a way to get her life turned around. To this, she exclaims "Church! Why would I ever go there? I was already feeling terrible about myself. They'd just make me feel worse."

I think we can all see where she's gotten that impression and, depending upon the church she entered or the person she ran into there, she is probably right.

And that sets the stage for Yancey to explain what Jesus-style grace, truly lived out, would look like, and just how badly we often miss the boat. Because we cannot embody radical grace, giving it away with no expectation of anything in return, we come across as judgmental, non-compassionate and holier-than-thou.

It is more than just a change of attitude that is called for from the church in order to change this -- it calls for a whole different step in our transformation and discipleship ... a step that is rarely taught but instead must be caught -- embraced and embodied.

I pray that I can catch ... and live out ... that kind of grace. For each of us, as we examine this opportunity for grace, there is only one place to start and that is with ourselves.

They'll Know We Are Christians

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
And we pray that all unity may one day be restored
And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
They will know we are Christians by our love

We will work with each other, we will work side by side
We will work with each other, we will work side by side
And we'll guard each one's dignity and save each one's pride
And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
They will know we are Christians by our love

By our love, by our love

And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
They will know we are Christians by our love

We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand
We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand
And together we'll spread the news that God is in our land
And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
They will know we are Christians by our love

By our love, by our love

And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
They will know we are Christians by our love

Love is patient, love is kind
Never boasts, not full of pride
Always hopes, always trusts
The evidence of Christ in us

  posted at 5:02 AM  

Wednesday, April 25, 2007
A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I was trying something called prolotherapy to try to help my knee problems. It involves getting about 50 injections in each knee every week or so. The injections are actually sugar water with some calcium in it. The goal is to inflame the tissue in there, speeding healing that rebuilds the tendons and ligaments to be larger, stronger, more fibrousy. The purpose of this is to stabilize the joint itself. Most joint pain actually does come from instability in the joint.

I am pleased to say that, though I still have more sessions to go, the prolotherapy is definitely making a dramatic difference. My knee pain has decreased significantly.

Now, if the idea of 50 injections in each knee doesn't make you wince a bit ... here is something that might ...

I have also started getting injections in the back of my neck ... about 25 of them. I have been having a lot of migraine headaches ... frequently ... the doctor thinks they are stemming from neck problems ... the prolotherapy should help. I have had the neck injections only twice but I have not had a full-fledged migraine since starting them, which is unusual for that length of time.

Many folks with fibromyalgia are having success with prolotherapy ... I am sure it doesn't work for everyone but, thus far, I certainly feel blessed to have found it.

  posted at 10:01 PM  

Boris Yeltsin's funeral was held today in the Christ The Savior Russian Orthodox Church. Fascinating and fitting. Though his presidency was not without its problems, Yeltsin led Russia out of the darkness of communism, closing that chapter for now at least. The former Soviet countries still struggle but there is hope ... and I believe that hope exists because God exists there once again.

I have heard those who visited communist USSR say that everyone there seemed like they carried a huge weight. I have heard the citizens at that time likened to battered and abused children.

I do not like generalizations anymore than anyone but, now that Christianity is gaining a foothold in those countries (aside from inside prisons there where I understand it was always strong), things are brighter. And, regardless of whether he fully walked the walk of a Christ-follower (and I really don't know but I have read shadows of doubt cast on this), it is fitting that Yeltsin's funeral was inside a Christian church.

Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn once wrote that, throughout communist rule in his country, there was a saying that "Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened." He frequently pointed to the government-mandated lack of God as being the reason for the darkness that preveailed over the USSR.

I look at our country today ... how it seems to be flying out of countrol ... how media and music are displaying a lack of morality that shocks even this 40-something guy ... and I think about that old Russian saying "Men have forgotten God" ... and I wonder.

President Yeltsin, I pray that you rest in peace ... and that, just as you helped to pave the way for it in your country, a re-awakening to God may bubble up with love and compassion and grace in our country ... may we be raising up leaders who will grasp this concept and ensure that, in future years, no one will look at the USA and say that "Men have forgotten God."

  posted at 7:56 PM  

I am not necessarily a full-fledged tree-hugging, granola-eating environmentalist ... yet ... but I have really been thinking a lot about the environment lately. Specifically, what role should each of us be playing in protecting the environment?

I think that sometimes it is very easy for us to think that, as individuals, our environmental efforts are meager. We would like to think that we can leave it up to "the man" -- big business -- to take care of things. I am beginning to realize that that is not the way it should be. We need to all play roles.

We expect big business to spend extra money for environmental efforts. We seem to think that they owe it to us ... and to the environment ... to spend whatever money they have to in order to be good stewards of the earth.

But are we willing to do the same thing?

Where do you buy your gasoline? Do you look at price or do you consider the environmental record of the company that produced it? It takes money to be environmental.

Do you buy the 25 cent incandescent bulbs or the much longer last and energy efficient $5 fluorescent bulbs?

Do you leave the water running when you brush your teeth?

Have you scaled back your thermostat in the winter and turned it up in the summer?

Car pool? Even if only with your spouse when you can?

I must admit -- I cannot give the environmental answer to any of these things. As long as I cannot do that, then I have no right to shake my finger at "the man". I need to look inward.

God gave us an amazing earth ... and he calls us to populate it ... to fulfill that, we must protect it.

We are truly called to stewardship ... like anything, baby steps are better than nothing ... and I am pledging to work on that. We must not only talk the talk but also walk the walk.

(And if anyone would like to take a major step by buying an envrionmentally-friendly aluminum roof, please contact me!)

  posted at 6:59 PM  

EXODUS 13 (The Message)
God took what he did to the Egyptians very seriously, commanding the Israelites to remember and revere it in this way.

Exodus 13

  posted at 6:09 AM  

The following came from At God's Table Ministries. We indeed live in a consumerist world gone wild. The life transformed in Christ is called to live beyond that in many respects but it is one of those very difficult things. I think Lisa and I do reasonably well in this respect, particularly in terms of where our priorities are at. But we still have far more "stuff" than we really need. All of this accumulation is a bit humorous in that, in recent years, one of the biggest growth areas in construction has been with self-storage buildings. It seems that, as a society, we have accumulated so much "stuff" that we don't even have enough places to keep our "stuff". A consumerist world gone wild. I wonder if hedonistic Amish buy videotapes showing us and all of our stuff and our consumer ways? (I was joking there.)

And He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of possessions.” Luke 12:15

Abundance -- Did you notice the assumption implied in Jesus’ statement? It’s in the first part of this phrase – “not even when.” Jesus points out that even after we have all we could want, life is still not about what we own. If that’s true, then it raises a very important question. If life isn’t about accumulating possessions, then why are we so determined to chase after all the toys?

A few years ago you might have seen the bumper sticker that read, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” It’s not so popular today. Perhaps that’s because we have all the toys – and we still have aches in our hearts and emptiness in our souls. More than 66 percent of America homes have at least 3 televisions. Televisions in the average American home are on more than 6 hours a day. Americans watched television 250 billion hours last year, but they spent less than 3.5 minutes a day in meaningful conversation with their children.

The average American home has 2.1 vehicles. The size of the home has increased 55 percent since 1970, but the average family size has decreased by 13 percent. More than one-third on new home buyers considered a home theater as a must. Luxury homes (the ones where I get whatever I want) now represent 16 percent of the market.

The American model of consumption is the dream of the world. Have it all, right now! Jesus would be unwelcome in most pulpits. He is not a proponent of your best life today. A life that seeks more than enough is a sure sign of crushing, interior loneliness. We fill the closets while we empty our relationships.

The Greek is perisseuo. It’s about excess. Over the top. More than full. Beyond. Better than. Over and above. If your life circulates around this Greek adjective, you might want to seriously consider Jesus’ warning.

If abundance were the answer, Americans would be the happiest people in the history of Mankind. We would have fewer problems, greater compassion, deeper relationships and more meaningful existence than any people who ever walked the face of the earth. But the truth is far, far more painful. We live with the Midas touch. Our world has been turned into a commodity nightmare where everything that really matters has been converted into one more item on the sales list.

Jesus knew it was all tohu (vanity). So did Solomon – and he had everything. When do you suppose we will learn? What matters is what rescues and delivers. The rest is excess.

  posted at 5:53 AM  

Tuesday, April 24, 2007
EXODUS 12 (The Message)
Exodus 12

The tenth plague is told in much more detail than the previous nine. It includes explicit instructions for behavior of the Israelites in order that they may avoid the plague. As I recall, they were saved from the other plagues purely through God's grace and not through any great actions on their own part.

With the tenth plague also came instructions to remember this day -- the Passover -- when their homes were passed over and, unlike the Egyptians, they were spared the death of each firstborn. In particular is the reminder to eat unleavened bread which was going to be necessary as the Jews started their trek into the desert.

All of their homes were to be marked by the blood of the lamb in order to save themselves from the tenth plague. The blood was to be an ongoing reminder of their redemption out of slavery to man.

And, in His final passover meal with His followers, Jesus told them to remember a different kind of blood -- His own -- which was soon to be shed. It would from there foreward be a reminder of our redemption out of slavery to sin.

When it was time, he sat down, all the apostles with him, and said, "You've no idea how much I have looked forward to eating this Passover meal with you before I enter my time of suffering. It's the last one I'll eat until we all eat it together in the kingdom of God."

Taking the cup, he blessed it, then said, "Take this and pass it among you. As for me, I'll not drink wine again until the kingdom of God arrives."

Taking bread, he blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, given for you. Eat it in my memory."

He did the same with the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant written in my blood, blood poured out for you. (Luke 22:14-20, The Message)

  posted at 8:13 AM  

The following was written by Steve Troxel of God's Daily Word Ministries. It showed up in my email this morning but mirrors, at least in general terms, a conversation we had in small group last night.

We begin our Christian life in faith; "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith" (Ephesians 2:8). And just as we begin our life in faith, so we must also continue to walk in faith; "Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him"
(Colossians 2:6). We are to live in Christ, and continue to walk with Him, in the same manner as we received faith.

We cannot come to Christ without faith and we're unable to live a victorious Christian life without continuously walking in faith. Our faith is of great worth!

1 Peter 1:6-7
"For a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed."

One of the beautiful truths in God's Kingdom is that everything along our walk has a purpose; "In all things God works for the good of those who love Him" (Romans 8:28). Even our difficult times of hardship and trial are being directed by God "for the good." As we continue to love Him with all our heart, God will use our trials to reveal and strengthen our faith. And a truer understanding of our faith is one of the greatest "goods" we can receive.

Do we really believe our faith is "of greater worth than gold"? Until we've been sustained through times of great trial and testing, it's difficult to understand the true value of faith. Our faith is shown to be real ("proved genuine") only as we trust Him when no other hope can be seen. We never need to prove our faith to God - He sees deep within our heart and already knows the genuineness of our faith. God gave us our faith and calls us to live "in accordance with the measure of faith God has given" (Romans 12:3).

But our measure of faith is ALWAYS greater than what we believe we have, and can sustain us through greater trials than we believe possible. As we more clearly see the strength contained in this wonderful gift of faith, we are able to give all praise, glory and honor to God as Jesus is revealed through the testimony of our life. As we trust Him with all our heart, He will cause us to emerge from our trials much stronger and more confident, more "mature and complete, not lacking anything" (James 1:4), because we will KNOW He is by our side.

As our faith is strengthened and refined, the presence of God will cease to be an interesting theory or an empty hope; it will become real and an integral part of our life! Let's rejoice that our trials last only "for a little while." But let's also rejoice that our trials are being used for His glory and for the purpose of proving our faith.

  posted at 7:48 AM  

Monday, April 23, 2007
EXODUS 11 (The Message)
Exodus 11

  posted at 9:01 AM  

Sunday, April 22, 2007
Here are the lyrics to Your Grace is Enough by Chris Tomlin. We've sung it many times before in church but there was one line that really stood out to me today as we sangf it. "You use the weak to lead the strong." Wow. I am not sure exactly what Chris Tomlin meant as he penned those powerful words but they resonate with me right now. Over the course of my life, I have befriended a few people who, for one reason or another, would be considered "weak" in the eyes of the world. As I grow older, I am finding myself more and more drawn to these folks. And the reason is because of the things I learn from them ... the ways in which I am led by them. I learn compassion. I learn love for God above all things. I learn a desire for relationships and interaction with others. I learn "presence" in the midst of busyness. I learn a lack of "self". Again, I am not sure what Chris Tomlin meant exactly with these words ... and I by no means consider myself "strong" ... but I wanted to share what those viewed as the "weak" of this world bring to me.

Great is Your faithfulness, oh God
You wrestle with the sinner's heart
You lead us by still waters and to mercy
And nothing can keep us apart

So remember Your people
Remember Your children
Remember Your promise
Oh God

Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough for me

Great is Your love and justice God
You use the weak to lead the strong
You lead us in the song of Your salvation
And all Your people sing along

So remember Your people
Remember Your children
Remember Your promise
Oh God

Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough for me

So remember Your people
Remember Your children
Remember Your promise
Oh God

Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough for me

Your grace is enough
Heaven reaching down to us
Your grace is enough for me
God I see your grace is enough
I'm covered in your love
Your grace is enough for me
For me

You use the weak to lead the strong

  posted at 8:18 PM  

EXODUS 10 (The Message)
I really like The Message translation ... this is getting exciting!

Exodus 10

  posted at 8:14 PM  

Washington DC. Traverse City. New York City. Mt. Shasta. Vienna. Honolulu. Sydney. Jerusalem. Phoenix. Tucson. San Diego. Anaheim. Italy. Jackson Hole. Savannah. What do these places have in common? Along with many, many others, I think these are all places where, after visiting, I came home and told Lisa, "Wow, that would be a nice place to live. If only we could move there. Life would be good. Our sinus and allergy problems would end. Evan would learn so much. We'd be so happy ... maybe someday."

She was polite at first when I would come home with these revelations. Then the eye-rolling started. Well, she was probably too kind to actually roll her eyes but I suspect that eye-rolling was a strong temptation for in those monents and it certainly would have been within her right to do so!

It's a good thing I don't spend a lot of time watching the Discovery and Travel networks. We'd really be in trouble then.

It seems I am always chasing happiness somewhere ... chasing that better life, that happier place.

I always thought it was "cute" when I'd come home from a trip and announce to Lisa that I wanted to move there. I felt like it was part of my devilish good looks and incredible charm. (Okay, a hearty LOL on both accounts!) Sometimes I felt like announcing these things was just a stupid thing that men do ... and it was part of our cuteness ... what makes women want us.

(Speaking of the dumb things men do to try to impress their wives ... have you seen Burger King's "Sponge Bob No Pants" commercial? It cracks me up because it is so much like how we men behave. I tried a vaguely similar stunt with my wife a few days ago (I won't embarass myself by providing details) and, well, let's just say it didn't get the reaction that I stupidly was expecting.)

I am probably only really recently starting to come to grips with this "thing" in me that is always thinking "what if," "if only," and "just wait until...". And I probably have a long way to go yet in coming to grips with it.

I do this in other ways, too.

I am always a succor for the latest goody that might help with the fatigue and aches and pains of fibromyalgia ... "if only I could get to feeling better ..." "If only, despite the sloth-like metabolism that comes with this disease, I could lose 50 pounds, then I'd feel better." I have chased lots of cures, usually suggested by someone who said it was the "only thing that worked" for them and then I'd see them two months later and they'd say "Well, it turned out to not work long term," with a down cast look on their face. I knew then that it wouldn't work for me either.

At work, I am always looking for that next big account or that next big sale.

Or, sometimes, I am thinking "If only I didn't own a business or if only I had a different career and a different line of work altogether, then happiness would be mine."

Or sometimes I am thinking, "Wow, what we really need is another business, only in a different sector ... or we need to buy up one more competitor."

Or maybe I am hoping for healed family relationships ... "If only "P" and "Q" could restore their relationship, then I would be burdened with less."

Years ago, I used to wish for a Corvette ... now that would bring happiness. But then I had one good friend point out that Corvettes are really only good for picking up women and that Lisa probably wouldn't appreciate that (and I wouldn't be very good at it anyway). And another friend told me that Corvettes are only for fat bald guys with gold chains (and I don't own any gold chains).

Now, I am not saying that dreams are bad. In fact, dreams and vision are good things. They lead to growth. They lead to positive life changes.

I am also not saying that I should give up on my fibromyalgia and just suck it up and endure it. Though there are many things for me to learn now in the midst of chronic pain, fatigue, and "fibro fog," perhaps God has plenty in store for me to learn someday without the burden of those things as well.

But what I am starting to understand ... in baby steps ... is that the deep, abiding, real happiness I seek doesn't come in a different place or in a fibromyalgia cure, a new business, or a different career. It comes in relationships. Relationships with loved ones here on earth, yes, but also and probably foremost in my relationship with God.

There are undoubtedly plenty of blessings in my future ... maybe even a miracle cure or two ... perhaps a new job or a new business ... but they won't mean anything and, in fact, I won't even recognize them ... unless I have a deep abiding relationship with God. Without the basis of my relationship with God, even the biggest miracle in my life would do nothing but push me harder towards that next "What if," that next "If only," and that next "Just wait until..."

He provides all I need ... I am complete only in Him ... happiness and all things good come only from God and are meaningless without Him.

I have a long way to go but, as I move ahead, I look forward to working hard to deepen and widen that relationship with the One who made me ... the One who has a plan for me that will only be unveiled in the relationship I keep with Him.

  posted at 1:44 PM  

Saturday, April 21, 2007
EXODUS 9 (The Message)
Exodus 9 makes me think about God's relentless pursuit of a relationship with us. He may not cover us with boils, kill our livestock, pelt us with humongous hail, or turn our entire world into Calaveras County ... at least not in a physical sense ... but I believe that God is relentless in His pursuit of us and His desire for an intimate relationship with us.

I believe that, with the plan He has for our lives, He will continually work in ways to cause us to pursue it. Unfortunately, all too often, pride, lack of faith, lack of vision, lack of courage -- those things hold us back and we give up on God. But, God, with His grace and faithfulness, will never give up on us.

  posted at 7:53 AM  

Friday, April 20, 2007
A good friend pointed out to me that, in Exodus 4, I missed an opportunity for a good story by not commenting on the whole ordeal with God trying to kill Moses but then Moses' wife intervening and somehow saving him by cutting off one of their son's foreskins and throwing it at him. I have to admit, that's one heckuva story. Here's a link to something that may help explain it a bit if you're interested ... Moses, Zipporah, and the bris. ... I remember having my parents read Exodus to me when I was a child ... I think they skipped this part. I need to check out The Brick Testament and see if he made a Lego scene for this. (After checking to see for myself ... I'll be darned ... he did make a Lego scene for it. This oughta drive some traffic to his site.)

  posted at 11:48 AM  

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Exodus 8

I wish that I could read Hebrew. It's very interesting to note that, in Chapter 7, it says that God hardened Pharaoh's heart but here in Chapter 8 it says that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. I would like to better understand that distinction.

I believe that God has the power to step in and harden someone's heart, just as His love can soften someone's heart. I do not say this in a Calvinist fashion but rather just simply from the fact that I do believe God has that power. However, to me, Exodus is saying more that God allowed Pharaoh's heart to be hardened ... He allowed Pharaoh to stay in his natural humanistic state.

But I am in way over my head on this one already at this point.

In the meantime, yes, I have been at it again -- playing with my Legos. Here is a scene of the second plague from Exodus 8 -- FROGS!

Okay, actually, I have found the source of these Lego pictures and it is here: The Brick Testament

Rev. Brendan Powell Smith put a lot of time into creating all of these scenes from Legos. I am undoubtedly in violation of his copyright by posting his pictures here so I will not do that any more. However, I will invite you to visit his site and check them out for yourself. It really is pretty cool.

(I have gone on now and done some further research into the Pharaoh's hardened heart situation. Apparently, I have stumbled onto something that is subject to much debate and discussion. The more I read, though, the more I wondered if it isn't much ado about nothing. The Pharaoh was selfish in his response to the plagues, the Israelites continued to suffer, and Moses continued to hit roadblocks. The real story here is what is going on between God and Moses, not debate about the source of Pharaoh's response.)

  posted at 9:06 PM  

Check out my perty girlfriend's perty new blog design ... Thankful Moments ... and her great post today.

Wow. I am a lucky man. Thank you, God.

  posted at 8:15 PM  

I was reading Tell The World tonight and Julie prompted me to go listen to one of Rob Bell's recent sermons. I don't know if you have ever listened to Rob before but I would encourage you to do so. He speaks to our world in an incredibly honest and relevant way. I can listen to him and want to take voluminous notes but then I realize that I really need to just let the Spirit work through Rob's teachings and see where I am led.

In a recent sermon, he talked about complete immersion ... and how it is our responsibility to immerse those around us in God's love ... just as Jesus did to the disciples and others he encountered. If we happen to be hanging out with ex-convicts and atheists, all the better -- we start to resemble Jesus a great deal then. But the idea that really hit me was this thought of immersion.

I work in an industry that probably has its share of ... well, ex-convicts and atheists. I suppose every industry does. Mind you, I am not making reference to my actual co-workers but to others I encounter in our industry. I could go back and do some research but as I recall, Todd R, one of my co-workers, once blogged about this as well. (Sorry, Todd ... I just drug you to this slippery precipice with me.)

But think about the opportunity I have ... okay, I take that back ... the responsibility ... I have to immerse others in God's love. Not in a condemning way. Not to point fingers. Not in ways which make me feel better about myself. But to instead truly lavish on them God's love ... just as He has so lavished it on me.

What does that mean? I am not entirely certain but I know that I have a responsibility and an opportunity. It is His wish that I do much with those things.

  posted at 8:02 PM  

Wednesday, April 18, 2007
I came down with a nasty sinus infection yesterday while flying. A huge blessing is that my hotel room had a full box of Kleenex when I arrived. Normally, when I check into a hotel, it seems like the Kleenex box is already down to the peach-colored Kleenex which warn the maids that it is about empty. Thank you, God!

  posted at 6:02 AM  


It must have been hard for Aaron to always be in his younger brother's shadow. We will see his frustration a bit later in Exodus with the whole golden calf incident.

By the way, in my spare time, I enjoy using Legos to re-create scenes from the Bible. Here, we have Moses turning the Nile into blood as Pharaoh looks on. I think I captured the scowl on Pharaoh's face very nicely, don't you?

(Just kidding ... I scarfed the picture off of the web someplace.)

Exodus 7

  posted at 5:24 AM  

Tuesday, April 17, 2007
EXODUS 6 (The Message)
Feeling unworthy or incapable? So did Moses.

Exodus 6

  posted at 3:37 AM  

The following real cool bit was written by Os Hillman of Today God is First Ministries. Thought-provoking and inspiring stuff!

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12

In the old west it was common to see a poster on the wall of the town jail or post office with a man's picture below the words: Wanted: Dead or Alive! These were the most notorious criminals who posed the greatest danger to society.

Let me ask you a personal question. Is there a "Wanted: Dead or Alive" poster in hell with your name on it? Are you a real danger to hell? Do you cause problems for Satan's legion of demons? Are you pushing back Satan's agenda on planet earth?

Are the unsaved in danger of receiving salvation through you? Will someone receive healing because you dared to pray for them? Will someone's life be impacted because you chose to pray for them in your workplace during a difficult time? Will a city be impacted for Jesus Christ because of you?

Millions of believers sit on the sidelines everyday having no impact on the Kingdom of darkness. Their names will never appear on a Wanted poster in hell because Satan sees that they are no threat. However, God wants you to be a threat to Satan's kingdom.

What are some things you can do that will pose a threat to Satan's agenda? Perhaps you can begin praying for one of Satan's most notorious talk show personalities. Or maybe you are called to visit an elderly home to bring the love of Christ into a lonely place. There are many ways you can earn a reputation in hell.

Are you willing to be a force to be reckoned with by Satan's legions?

  posted at 3:31 AM  

Monday, April 16, 2007
“We must in all things seek God. But we do not seek Him the way we seek a lost object, a “thing.” He is present to us in our heart, in our personal subjectivity, and to seek Him is to recognize this fact. Yet we cannot be aware of it as a reality unless He reveals His presence to us. He does not reveal Himself simply in our own heart. He reveals Himself to us in the Church, in the community of believers, in the koinonia [liturgical assembly] of those who trust Him and love Him.

Seeking God is not just an operation of the intellect, or even a contemplative illumination of the mind. We seek God by striving to surrender ourselves to Him whom we do not see, but Who is in all things and through all things and above all things."

  posted at 8:32 AM  

EXODUS 5 (The Message)
"Let my people go," Moses says to Pharaoh.

"Uh, no way. Why would I do that? And, just to make sure that you don't lure them away, I am going to increase my demands on them and, if they do not perform, they will be punished."


And the Israelites said, "Moses, what have you done? May God punish you for the hardship you have brought on us in His name!"

And Moses wondered, doubted, and cried out to God.

Exodus 5. Ever been there, at least to some degree? Are we really following God if we haven't?

  posted at 5:49 AM  

Sunday, April 15, 2007
Exodus 4

God is pretty serious when He calls us to do something. No matter how unsure or intimidated we feel, He will help us ... and He is very serious about His call on our life.

  posted at 5:09 PM  

I guess that you have to be first at something.

A few years ago, Ohio was one of the first states to introduce special vehicle license plates for people who have been convicted of drunk driving. I actually haven't seen a lot of the yellow plates with red letters but every once in awhile I see them. I am still trying to figure out what I am supposed to do when I see one of them. Slam on my brakes? Pull to the other side of the road? Wag my finger? Follow them and hope they lead me to a fun time? I am just not sure.

I have thought to myself that if I had a problem with friends always wanting to borrow my car, perhaps having the yellow plates could be a blessing. It could put a stop to that right then and there.

I suppose that if bar owners monitored incoming cars for the plates, that maybe could be helpful ... I don't know. Or maybe AA groups could use the plates to find potential members. That would probably be the absolute best thing. Or perhaps if Christians just looking for someone to show God's love to who probably isn't really feeling a lot of it at the moment were to watch for these plates.

Now, some in Ohio are wanting to up the ante on "scarlet letter laws" with a proposal that those convicted of sexual predator crimes be required to have special license plates as well. A similar proposal was actually made a couple of years ago involving pink license plates. It failed but this recent proposal, involving green license plates, just might make it.

Believe me, I am not at all in any way shape or form discounting the seriousness of these crimes but I am really struggling with seeing how these laws are helpful. Of course, it's hard ... very hard ... to fight the argument that "if just one child is spared ... if just one life is saved, then this is a good law."

Of course, that theory could be taken further as well though. What if we required everyone in AA to have the yellow plates? I mean, think about it ... people do fall off the wagon on occasion and very bad things can result from that. Why not go further and just warn us all about everyone who has ever faced their demons and are in recovery for anything? That could spare a child or save a life, too.

Why not psychological testing of everyone and then we all get labeled according to anything we might be prone to?

Again, I am not making light of things but I can see all sorts of ways to warn people of potential crimes and criminals. Ever touch or handle a gun, knife, other deadly weapon, or black leather gloves? Let's brand you with "PM" for "potential murderer". Ever shoplift a pack of gum as a kid? A giant "K" branded on your forehead would be good. Ever look at a member of the opposite sex and perhaps not have the most pure of thoughts? How about "PA" for you for "potential adulterer"? Ever say something that wasn't 100% true? I'd like it if folks I am negotiating business deals with were branded with an "L" for "liar". Ever be late on paying a bill on time? Well, wait a second, credit reporting agencies do handle that. Carried to this extent, we could all be labeled, many times over I suspect.

Again, I am not making light of anything ... but I am really struggling here. These license plate laws seem more about public humiliation and ostracization than they do about really accomplishing anything. Some crtics of these laws have pointed out the possibility of hate crimes against those with the plates. That really has not been on my mind at all ... I think that the potential for another crime is poor justification for not passing a law that is designed to protect people. But, just the same, I have real problems with what looks to me like nothing more than a desire to cull out those folks who have made mistakes, been caught in them, and gone through our judicial system.

We recently had a convicted sexual predator move into our neighborhood. Just maybe 20 houses away. Ohio was among the first states to track where sexual offendors live so we were made aware of this gentleman's presence in our neighborhood. Knowing that this ex-convict is living there probably makes me keep a bit of a closer eye on his house. But, I also have to wonder ... the guy living across the street from me could be a convicted murderer and I wouldn't know it. (Sorry, Don ... I don't really believe that about you though I did see you carrying that axe the other day.)

I still wonder, though, what I am supposed to do in the case of this guy who lives 20 houses a way? Stare at him when I drive by? Shout obscenities at him? Paint his mailbox pink or green? Steal the invitation to our neighborhood's annual block party out of his mailbox before he gets it?

I just do not know what my reaction is supposed to be.

I can tell you one thing ... I can recognize that he is a man who probably isn't feeling much love at all from his neighbors nor from those who apparently consider themselves a part of the moral elite. And that's a shame. He is my neighbor and I am called to love him.

Are the plates a deterrent to crime? I have heard that claim made -- that people won't commit these crimes because they don't want to be labeled. I hate to say it but people who are dealing with obsessive compulsions and addictions already constantly live in fear of getting caught and being exposed ... the possibility of a special license plate is not going to keep them from the bad choices and harmful behavior to which they are so painfully driven.

These are tough things, I know ... but I think there is a point where vindictive and / or fearful mindsets start to rule over common sense ... perhaps we have reached that point in Ohio. Real healing cannot occur on the part of those who have made bad choices by just shutting them up in labeled boxes and pointing fingers at them.

Perhaps, what we need to seek is that real, deep healing for these folks ... not a different color of license plate.

  posted at 7:32 AM  

Thursday, April 12, 2007
The following was written by Dr. Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade.

"Stay away from the love of money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, 'I will never, never fail you nor forsake you'" (Hebrews 13:5)

Malcolm Muggeridge, one of England's leading intellectuals, came to our Christian Embassy headquarters for lunch one day. Together we talked about the things of God - the Christian adventure. On that day, he offered little hope for the future of the Western world.

"We are," he said, "like a pan of frogs in cold water placed over a low flame. As the flame warms the water, the frogs relax. And by the time the water is boiling, it is too late for them to jump out of the pan. They are boiled alive. In contrast, if the frogs were placed in a pan of boiling water, they would leap out instantly."

He continued by explaining that the average person in America and in Western Europe was being destroyed by materialism, the love of money and the love of things. People are greedy and are grasping for more than they have. Our appetites know no bounds; we have become insatiable.

As a result, no doubt there is more vital Christianity in Eastern Germany than in Western Germany, in Poland than in Italy, in the Soviet Union than in England. The Christians who are willing to pay the price of persecution in these countries have learned to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and to be satisfied with what they have.

With the apostle Paul, they are able to say, "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content" (Philippians 4:11, KJV). You will observe that the admonition was to stay away from the love of money. There is nothing wrong with money. Thank God for able, dedicated, godly men and women to whom God has given the ability to make money, but who recognize that there is no satisfaction or fulfillment in making money. It is in the stewardship of that which God has entrusted to them that they find fulfillment and true meaning to life.

  posted at 7:04 AM  

Hopefully my girlfriend will post this on her blog, too, as she is the one that heard it first-hand but I cannot resist posting it.

Here's a joke Evan supposedly made up ... or maybe he heard it somewhere and just wants to take credit for it.

Q: If you have a pie and you need to weigh it, where do you take it?

A: Over the rainbow, of course!

("Somewhere over the rainbow, weigh a pie...")

Unfortunately for our son, the acorn doesn't fall far from the tree.

  posted at 6:48 AM  

I recently had a two-day trip to St. Louis. Fighting sinus problems and a bad headache, this could have been a miserable trip. But God was with me and I was blessed continually.

First of all, if you ever need to rent a car in St. Louis, choose Enterprise. The folks there are at the top of their game in terms of professionalism and customer service. It was an amazing experience, and quite an eye-opened for someone like me who tends to be pretty passionate about customer service.

The evening I was in St.Louis, I was supposed to have gone to a dinner with a number of my colleagues. But I opted out at the end, deciding I needed some extra rest. Turns out the dinner was a bad experience -- in a cold and drafty room with poor service and questionable food. I, however, was warm and coze in my room and room service was excellent for dinner.

Coming home yesterday, I saw the opportunity to call Southwest and try to book an earlier flight. After calling my office to see what numbers correspond with 1-800-I FLY SWA, (my new cell phone has a full keyboard rather than the three letters on each number), I called Southwest and found out that they had one seat left on the flight I wanted. I was in my Enterprise car hurrying to the airport and couldn't possibly give them a credit card so they put the ticket on "courtesy hold" until I arrived at the airport.

Once on the flight, I ran into a friend of mine and, with Southwest's open seating, I was able to sit next to him and enjoy good conversation on my hour flight.

After arriving in Columbus, I learned that the flight I was supposed to have been on was cancelled. I arrived home 4 hours earlier than expected, stopping at one of my favorite spots (Panera) for a quick bite on the way. With my real flight being cancelled, it's hard telling if I'd even be home now had I stayed on it.

So, all in all, an amazing trip full of God watching out for me. Thank you, Lord.

  posted at 6:34 AM  

EXODUS 3 (The Message)
What burning bush does God have in front of you right now ... this very moment ... calling you to follow Him ... and, perhaps, to lead others?

I'd hate to recount all of the burning bushes He has placed before me that I never saw ... but instead later smelled the stench of my own "self" and my lack of faithfulness.

Exodus 3

  posted at 5:56 AM  

Exodus 2 (The Message)
Moses' mother saw something special about him. Whether she was acting in defiance to the law or faithfulness to God (or both), she hid him, resulting in his being raised in the Pharaoh's house. He later kills an Egyptian and, as we so often do, thinks it is a "hidden sin" that will never be found out but yet quickly he realizes that is the case. He then runs away and even though he is seen as being Egyptian, he is given grace and love by a Jewish priest and his family. What an inter-twining of emotions and cultures this story is. Throughout, though, you can see God's hand in crafting it.

Exodus 2

  posted at 5:40 AM  

Tuesday, April 10, 2007
I guess it's that human nature, always dragging us down.

I saw two guys walking into an airport. One was fairly young and the other fairly mature. They apparently did not know each other previous to this encounter but had discovered they were going the same place. As they walked, they hit a point where the younger guy was following signs and wnat to turn right. The older gentleman was going straight. The younger guy asked him "Does that go there, too?"

The older gentleman replied, "Why, yes, it does."

The younger guy asked, "Is it faster that way?"

And the other guy said. "Oh yes, much."

Now, the younger guy had a decision to make. The older guy was walking along quite leisurely, quite confident he had chosen the faster route and he'd get where they were going in plenty of time. No sweat.

The younger guy's eyes darted anxiously between the two routes. He then called out "Well, I will take my chances" and kept heading down his own path, separate from the faster path the other gentleman was taking. As soon as he turned the corner and was out of eyesight of the other gentleman (still strolling along leisurely, mind you) I chuckled as I saw the younger guy break into a mad dash.

  posted at 10:09 AM  

We had our small group meeting last night. We covered a lot of ground. Our pastor's Easter sermon had been on "finding your miracle" ... a reminder that God is always at work ... that miracles may not be what we expect or come as we expect them but He is still with us.

One of the things we discussed last night, though, was what pre-Christians think of Easter. It's funny but when you got buy Easter cards, it is hard to find a religious one sometimes.

I was telling our group last night ... due to commercialization, if I really stretch my mind, I can almost think about Christmas without thinking about Jesus' birth.

But it's impossible for me to think about Easter separate from Jesus' crucifixion, death and resurrection. It's completely unfathomable to me for that not all to go together.

I guess that the card stores and others are pushing for us to think of Easter as the start of Spring or something ... and I am sure they have been successful to a large degree. I sure don't wish them success though. If that is not Satan working in the world, then I do not know what is.

  posted at 6:19 AM  

"A chapter a day keeps Satan away."

Well, I don't know about that but, in continuing my attempt to look at one chapter of the Bible each day, I am starting the book of Exodus. I remember reading Exodus with my family when I was a child but that was a long long long long long (okay, enough) time ago and I do not believe that I have read it since so here goes.

I really don't have anything to say about it but Exodus 1 is pretty cool, especially verse 19.

  posted at 6:13 AM  

Monday, April 09, 2007
I once was a drug-addicted kleptomaniac transvestite. Well, not really, but I got your attention, didn't I?

I have been thinking a lot lately about how, as we go out into the world to carry God's love, we each need to know what our story is. We need to be able to clearly relate to others the impact That God's power has had on our lives. We talk about freedom in Christ but, for each of us, that freedom is something a little different ... or perhaps a lot different.

Because of God's planning, I believe that He brings people into our paths for whom our own personal stories of His redemptive grace will resonate and impact. But, if we cannot clearly articulate our own stories when those times come, we are falling short of His plan for us.

I need to work on my testimony. It seems rather boring and mundane but overall the primary theme is freedom over things of this world and an ongoing struggle with pride and my "self". Somehow, i need to craft that into a message which can roll readily from my lips when God brings me into those moments and places where He wants me to share.

"The Next Thing You Know" by Matthew West

I remember when I was thirteen
I saw a picture on my T.V. screen
The Reverend Billy Graham and the people singing "Just As I Am"
And it felt like You were talking to me
And the whole world seemed to fade away
Until I heard my mother say "Son, are you okay? Do you wanna pray?"
And that became the hour I first believed

Next thing you know I'm high and flyin'
Next thing you know
My heart is in your hands
Next thing you know
There's no denyin'
Next thing you know I'm a brand new man

Well, I wish I could say I always stayed right there
And I did until my freshman year
But the world was pulling me a long way from thirteen
And you were calling but I didn't hear
Still I knew there was something more
So, one day my knees hit the dorm room floor
I said, "If you're there, and if you really care,
Come and talk to me like I was thirteen."

Got a picture in my head today of how heaven might look someday
I see the people there, so I pull up a chair
And their stories, they blow me away
'Cause I can see it on every face
The evidence of grace
And as I listen it occurs to me
Everybody's got their own thirteen

So, what's your story about His glory?
You gotta find your place in the history of grace
Yeah, what's your story about His glory?
Come on and find your place

  posted at 6:12 AM  

Here is the daily devotional which I receive from A very good reflection on the adversity we all face in life.

“But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless those cursing you, do well to those hating you, and pray for those abusing and persecuting you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:43-44

Enemies – Is God sovereign? Does He have His hand on every aspect of your life? If you answered, “Yes,” then you might be surprised at one of the implications: God picks your enemies according to your needs.

Did you think that your enemies were just accidental encounters, the result of bad karma or a twist of fate? Not if God is sovereign. Your enemies are deliberately placed in the engineering of your life in order that God’s glory might be accomplished in the process. That means they are exactly what you need to become more like His Son.

Jesus probably used the Hebrew word ‘oyev. In the Greek text, the word is echthrous. While the Old Testament usage includes nations, apostates, the wicked and all those opposed to Israel and Israel’s God, this New Testament word focuses attention on the personal enemy – the one who is hostile to you, to your God and to all things God desires. The ultimate example of the enemy is Satan, who unashamedly hates God.

Do you have enemies? If you are living according to God’s point of view, you can’t avoid having enemies. Jesus told us that if the world hated Him, it would also hate us. We should expect enemies. They are part of the plan. If you don’t have enemies, you might want to question just how committed you are to God’s holiness.

The amazing thing is not that you have enemies. Rather, it is that these enemies are hand-picked by your Lord in order that you will have the opportunity to glorify Him. Let that sink in. Then you will know why (and how) you are to pray for your enemies. You can start by thanking God for them. They are the sharpening stones of your sanctification. Then you can bless them. They are God’s creatures, desperately in need of His grace. Then you can lift them up before His throne, earnestly interceding on their behalf that they will find the true comfort of their souls. Finally, you can offer yourself as the sacrifice needed to rescue them. Who knows your enemies better than you? Your presence in their lives is no accident. You carry the cross of their reconciliation.

We are all enemies until the Lord redeems us. Those who oppose you today only stand in the shoes you wore yesterday. If God can count you as friend, you who so violently cast Him aside, how can you not embrace the one who stands where you were?

  posted at 6:10 AM  

Great instruction. I don't know what else to say.

Hebrews 13

  posted at 6:08 AM  

Sunday, April 08, 2007
HEBREWS 12 (The Message)
He Is Risen!

For some reason, I have kept putting off Hebrews 11 and 12 ... I finally covered 11 a few days ago but still kept putting off 12 until today ... Easter Sunday.

Hebrews 12

Check out verses 2 and 3 ... how appropriate to be looking at those today.

This life we go through can be tough ... real tough. Relationship issues that leave us hurt or angry ... financial concerns that bring undertainty and discomfort ... deep-seated anxieties and phobias that just end up being driven by all of the other "stuff" we face ... tragic occurrences we just don't understand ... these things are just the tip of the iceberg. Life is fraught with difficulties and confusion.

And, to top it all off, as Christians, we're called to do more and be more ... grace-filled ... practicing spiritual discipline ... purity ... These things would be impossible without God living in and through us ... He gives us power. Yet "real life" ... all those difficulties ... hearkens to us and can sometimes overpower everything else.

Yet look at Jesus ... He led a sin-free life ... painfully obedient to His father to the very end on this earth ... because He knew that He was moving toward something greater.

We can't be perfect ... that is where God's grace covers us. But we must fight the fight ... and move forward.

Philip Yancey writes that "Repentance, not proper behavior or even holiness, is the doorway to grace. And the opposite of sin is grace, not virtue." That's something to dwell on for awhile.

We're not called to perfection ... but we are called to move ahead ... to fight the good fight because where else would we really want to be after our new life is started ... to bask in God's grace when we do mess up ... to extend His love and grace to all we encounter.

Check out Hebrews 12. See if, on this bright Easter day, it doesn't speak to you and to the condition we're in as humans, as powerfully as anything possibly could. It is a tough world, full of difficulties but also full of lessons and guidance from a loving Father who has a plan for each of us and wants so badly to see us live out that plan. Because of God's grace, we ultimately enjoy an unshakable Kingdom.

  posted at 6:13 AM  

Thursday, April 05, 2007
Yes, I am still stuck on Hebrews 11. Wow. Good, powerful stuff.

Faith ... stepping out where God is calling us ... not knowing what the end result will be but instead faithfully following God ... all because we know that He is always faithful to us.

That is tough stuff, isn't it?

Being an alien in this world ... living today for eternity. These are hard concepts to grasp yet they are what God calls those transformed in Him to.

I didn't grow up with this view of being a disciple ... my view was more one of accepting Christ and then trying to live a good life ... that was what God called us to ... a lot of years of living like that have created pretty engrained patterns and thought processes.

This idea of really truly, not just on a superficial level, but really truly opening myself up to God ... seeking Him ... hearing Him ... following Him ... those really are relatively new concepts to me ... and it's not easy to break old habits.

And then you throw in that we're working for rewards not in this world but for eternity ... have you ever thought about just how much that goes against what we're all told growing up? Study, get good grades, work hard, earn a good living ... not that those are bad things to do but how often did we as children have our focus forced on the things of this world instead of livig for eternity?

What is our opportunity today to change the focus and direction of not only ourselves but also of the younger generations? I see fantastic things happening so often amongst youth today who even at very young ages are hearing God's call ... and following hard after Him. How awesome that is ... but how sad, also, that that sort of thing was, for the most part, not even on the radar screen of myself and my friends when we were younger.

My, how perspective changes ... how behavior is affected ... when we focus on living for eternity rather than for this world. But, oh my, unfortunately, how hard it is ... especially for those of us who have many years of living for this world engrained on our DNA ...

As Hebrews 11 reminds us, we are called -- just as so many before us -- to truly step out in faith and, not knowing what the future will bring -- not caring actually what this world brings us -- follow hard to have the intimate relationship with our creator that He so very much wants to have with us. Staying mindful and vigilant that our reward comes from following Him, not from chasing the things of this world.

What does this mean to me ... to my generation ... how will it affect my actions today?

  posted at 4:38 AM  

I am trying to discover what it means to really have God at the helm of my business. On a very superficial level, I have tried to have it be that way in the past but recent trials have shown the "self" in me popping up too often rather than seeking and following God's direction. I heard an amazing testimony last night from a business owner who has really put God at the helm. It was hugely inspiring.

Following is an article written by former US Senator John Grant that has also been helpful in this quest.

"In you, O Lord, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame. For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust O Lord, from my youth. Upon you I have leaned from my birth; it was you who took me from my mother's womb. My praise is continually of you."  (Psalm 71:1, 5-6)

Watching the radar weather on television wasn't very encouraging, but I proceeded to the airport anyway. A major snow storm was bearing down on just where I was headed. Fully expecting my flight to be cancelled, I approached the ticket counter and checked in, but between the counter and arriving at the gate, the flight was cancelled. I was actually a little relieved after watching the film clips. I didn't get discouraged because I trusted the pilot in control, the ultimate fly or no fly decision maker.

After a little while, I was re-routed to a nearby airport and as we pushed away from the gate, I was a little uneasy about the weather, but I trusted the pilot to make the right decision. After nearly three hours in the air, we began a decent and when got near the ground, it didn't look good. Surely we wouldn't land in this mess. I began wondering which airport we would be diverted to. Again, I trusted the pilot to make the right decision.

Then the voice of the captain informed us that the weather on the ground was accumulated ice, blowing snow, a chill factor of below zero and a thirty mile an hour cross wind. Surely we would not land, but then he said it would be bumpy, but we were heading for the ground. I trusted the pilot.

We landed on one wheel on a runway packed with about a half foot of ice and as the pilot tried to set the other wheel down, the plane started to loop around tail first. It was a bit scary, but the pilot shot power to the port engine and we straightened up and came to a bumpy halt. There we sat for nearly three hours before ground crews could plow a path to the gate. I sat there calmly, as the plane shook in the wind, because I trusted the pilot.

Life is like that. We have to trust God as our pilot. Whenever I see someone with one of those "God is My Co-Pilot" bumper stickers, I want to say to them, "If God is your co-pilot, then you're sitting in the wrong seat!"

Somewhere along the way each day   I must be willing to say, "I'm not the captain of my own ship. I'm not the pilot in control of the flight plan, the destination, or the ride. I can't fly this thing, I need help!"

I keep trying to climb out of the pilot seat each morning and hand the controls over to God and here's my four point flight plan:

-             Each day, I specifically acknowledge that I need to have God lead my life through his Word and his Spirit, otherwise I will make a mess of things. (Romans 8)
-             Each day, I intentionally rejoice, knowing that the Creator of the universe is involved in my life, working things to conform them to his will. (Philippians 2:12-13)
-             Each day, I purposely reassure my heart with the promise that I am not alone in trying to live my life and in trying to do what is right. (Hebrews 13:5-6)
-             Each day, I consciously trust that even when I've messed things up, God is going to step back in and work things toward his eternal purpose for my life. (Romans 8:28-30)

So rather than sticking God in the copilot's seat, let's let him fly the plane!

  posted at 4:27 AM  

Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. (Ephesians 4:29 NLT)

I don't watch too many sitcoms on television these days. Generally, my sitcom watching days ended a few years ago when Evan came along and our evening TV watching changed to things like Nickelodeon and Disney. It may be a little unusual but, even going on nine years old, he still doesn't watch the primary network sitcoms.

I remember back in the 80s and 90s though when sitcoms took what I still see as a major turn for the worse. Gone were the days of physical and situation comedy and instead everything turned toward the characters verbally assaulting one another. TV ushered in the "age of the put-down". Insults abounded in creative ways. A lot of this took place in the "family" sitcoms of that era which seemed innocent enough on the surface but yet the words that the children spoke one to another, as well as to their parents, were often vile and ugly.

Again, I do not watch those sorts of shows much these days but I suspect that things have not changed much.

I have been reflecting a lot recently on the words we say one to another and, specifically, the words I have said to others over the course of my life.

We were on a plane yesterday and, seated a couple of rows ahead of me, were a brother and sister, both in their teens. The entire flight seemed to consist of them putting each other down and slap fighting with one another. As we were getting up to exit the plane, an older woman next to them asked them if that was how they always behave. They answered that it was indeed how they always behave and the older sibling -- the girl -- asked "Isn't this how brothers and sisters always behave?"

Perhaps it is in the post 80s and 90s sitcom world. Perhaps it is.

I have written before about how I feel that folks with low self esteem often attempt to garner self esteem by putting down others. Perhaps this has gone to a somewhat different level as we try to emulate what we see on television and in movies but generally speaking, I still feel that low self esteem drives us to attack others. It is an "I may be bad, but I am not as bad as you" ideology that seems to drive people with low self esteem. I hope, though, that television and movies have not created a situation where this sort of thing has even become more of a mainstream way of life than anything else.

Probably all of us, at some point, have felt that we were the butt of others' jokes. It hurts and, if habitual, can cause great scars on the person upon whom such cruelty is inflicted. Perhaps we have seen our own kids be the target of such things and we know how that can tear away at us. It is deeply painful stuff.

I had a friend in high school who I often said mean-spirited things to. At the time, it seemed like a "guy thing". It just seemed like it was my way of showing that he was my buddy -- that I liked hanging out with him. Today, though, I look back and think about some of the things I said to him ... some of the names I called him ... and I am deeply disturbed. What, in my mind, was intended to show that I appreciated his friendship, could have been hugely demoralizing to him. It could have really damaged his self esteem and may still be affecting him today. I hope not but I really just don't know.

I am not sure where this particular friend is today but I am going to try to find him and apologize.

As the Ephesians scripture says, words must be carefully chosen. They impact others ... for good or for bad. I am not using sitcoms as the red herring here ... the things I have said to others in my life are entirely my responsibility ... but it does bother me if television and movies are making a mockery of the words we say to one another. That sort of thing can slip into a society and be hugely damaging and virtually impossible to turn around I am afraid.

  posted at 5:11 AM  

Sunday, April 01, 2007
We've all had it happen. Whether it's in terms of physical location or instead in our mind as we try to process through things. God sometimes takes us to places that we're not sure we want to go.

I have that happening right now.

I have been reading Philip Yancey's book "What's So Amazing About Grace?" Interested in God taking you places that you're not sure you want to go? This book might do it for you, just as it has for me. (I'll bet everyone's raising their hand and jumping up and down in their seat saying "Ooo, Ooo ... I want that book, I want to go there, pick me Lord, pick me!" for that one, eh? Who was the student on "Welcome Back Kotter" who did that and always thought he knew the answers? Was it Horshack?")

Anyway, I have digressed ... chased a rabbit trail ... sought a red herring ... we tend to do that when God is bringing us to those difficult places of some gut-wrenching soul-stirring, don't we? At least I do. And it's not a "tend" thing ... I will do just about anything to avoid that kind of stuff.

In his book, Yancey does an incredible job of talking about the grace that God offers and His call for us to extend that type of grace to others. He has many stories of real-life examples of grace that can almost seem incomprehensible ... yet Yancey explains how they are exactly the kind of aggressive and lived-out grace that we are called to.

"And forgive us our trepasses ... as we forgive those who trespass against us." This book has really caused me to think about that line which Jesus taught us to pray. The ordering of the sentence is certainly thouyght-provoking. I do not think that Jesus was saying that we had to extend grace in order to receive His father's grace but there is a clear connection between the two. It's not right of me to accept God's grace for the things I have done if I don't offer grace to others.

How can I truly allow God's love to flow through me if I have not truly extended and granted grace to everyone I have ever encountered?

You want to know the really funny part of all of this? As I started reading this book, I thought of others in my life who could really benefit from reading it! Yes,, why maybe I'd just buy a copy of it for them! I am chuckling now at how that is pretty ludicrous. But, just the same, I am seeing how, in my immediate family (before Lisa and Evan), unforgiveness ... a lack of grace extended no matter how it is received ... a lack of grace extended no matter whether it is reciprocated ... a lack of grace given no matter whether the relationship is saved ... has impacted things.

And when I think of those family relationships, it's easy for me to think of myself as the peacemaker ... the one who carries no grudges ... the voice of reason ... the picture of grace. You see, generally, I think that most people would agree that I am a fairly easy going guy. I let things roll off my back easily. I move forward without regrets ... I realize that the past is past. I have written about that before. It's part of my DNA.

Yet, look at my word choice in that last paragraph ... "I let things roll off my back easily." Wow. Interesting. I may let them roll off my back ... I may show the external signs of forgiveness and grace but do I let things roll off my soul and out of my heart? How often do I let them roll off my back ... to try to avoid conflict ... to try to make peace ... but yet still harbor things in my heart? Is there a surface level and a deeper level to this grace and forgiveness thing? Could I be getting the surface level but not the deeper level?

I don't have the answer to that yet. I am doing a lot of praying about it. Certainly I realize that I do not carry full responsibility for broken relationships in my family. But the thing I am wondering about is this ... is my heart really where it needs to be in order to facilitate the mending of those relationships altogether? It's wrong of me to sit back and point fingers ... hoping and praying that others will get their acts together (maybe even buy them a book!) as well as I so smugly feel that I have. My smugness ... my working to get along with all of the others perhaps just so I feel better about myself ... that is not doing anything to bring about grace and forgiveness all around. Perhaps it is happening because I am not yet where I need to be in terms of grace and forgiveness. Perhaps I need to be someplace entirely different in all of this but my "self" is pulling me back to a visible but yet perhaps superficial forgiveness?

See, I told you ... God's taking me to places that I am not sure I want to go. But I must. Because His son went to places where He didn't want to go ... He bore horrible pain and cruelty and yet offered grace up to the very end ... and, difficult though it may seem ... as impossible as it may sound ... that is what He calls us to do as well.

Go. Forgive. Love.

  posted at 6:51 AM  

The following was written by Max Lucado.

"Then the soldiers bowed before Jesus and made fun of him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" They spat on Jesus." (Matthew 27:26--31).

The soldiers' assignment was simple: Take the Nazarene to the hill and kill him. But they had another idea. They wanted to have some fun first. Strong, rested, armed soldiers encircled an exhausted, nearly dead, Galilean carpenter and beat up on him. The scourging was commanded. The crucifixion was ordered. But who would draw pleasure out of spitting on a half-dead man?

Spitting isn't intended to hurt the body - it can't. Spitting is intended to degrade the soul, and it does. What were the soldiers doing? Were they not elevating themselves at the expense of another? They felt big by making Christ look small.

Ever done that? Maybe you've never spit on anyone, but have you gossiped? Slandered? Have you ever raised your hand in anger or rolled your eyes in arrogance? Have you ever blasted your high beams in someone's rearview mirror? Ever made someone feel bad so you would feel good?

That's what the soldiers did to Jesus. When you and I do the same, we do it to Jesus too. "I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!" (Matt. 25:40 NLT). How we treat others is how we treat Jesus.

"Oh, Max, I don't like to hear that," you protest. Believe me, I don't like to say it. But we must face the fact that there is something beastly within each and every one of us. Something beastly that makes us do things that surprise even us. Haven't you surprised yourself? Haven't you reflected on an act and wondered, "What got into me?"

The Bible has a three-letter answer for that question: S-I-N.
Allow the spit of the soldiers to symbolize the filth in our hearts. And then observe what Jesus does with our filth. He carries it to the cross.

Through the prophet he said, "I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting" (Isa. 50:6 NIV). Mingled with his blood and sweat was the essence of our sin.

God could have deemed otherwise. In God's plan, Jesus was offered wine for his throat, so why not a towel for his face? Simon carried the cross of Jesus, but he didn't mop the cheek of Jesus. Angels were a prayer away. Couldn't they have taken the spittle away?

They could have, but Jesus never commanded them to. For some reason, the One who chose the nails also chose the saliva. Along with the spear and the sponge of man, he bore the spit of man.

  posted at 6:48 AM  

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Todd M


An ordinary guy. A wife I love very much. A great son. Wonderful friends. A metal roofing business and a sales training business. A loving church family. A few trade associations. A Christian school. And a four-pound poodle. Just trying to follow God and see where He leads.

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