Monday, February 28, 2011

"Anywhere can be peaceful if you have God in your heart. But if you don't, then even a place as beautiful as this can be hell."

These were the words of a monk, Fr. Nikon spoken to Michael Hyatt, CEO at Thomas Nelson Publishing when he visited a monastery in Greece.

It was a beautiful day overlooking the Aegean Sea and Michael was expressing the thought that he hated to leave this beautiful, peaceful place. That's when Fr. Nikon told him that if--and he paused for emphasis, if a person has God in their heart they can have peace anywhere. But if not, even a beautiful place can be hell.

So true!

However, don't accept this as true just because a monk said it and I believe it.  Think about it. Meditate on it,and if you come to believe it, rejoice if you already have God in your heart and if you don't then do not waste another minute--invite Him in. 

"Anywhere can be peaceful if you have God in your heart. But if you don't, then even a place as beautiful as this can be hell."


Friday, February 25, 2011

Talk about stepping out of your comfort zone, that's what our blogging friend Micey is doing in Uganda.

In her post for Spiritual Sundays this week she wrote about having to relieve herself in a pit latrine which is just a hole in the ground with no place to sit. When using this pit your have to squat in just the right approach.

Mercy me. Tell me again about your comfort zone city slickers.

Micey is a nurse and this is not the first time for her to uproot herself and head off into the mission field.

People who see their dreams come to pass are people who have backbone and refuse to settle for less than whats in their heart.

By faith Abraham, when called
to go to a place he would later
receive as his inheritance, obeyed
and went, even though he did not
know where he was going.
                                                                                        Hebrews 11:8

Abraham had great faith and he obeyed God and followed Him all the way to the Promised Land.

We can have that kind of faith. We really can.

Don't fall into a complacency trap. Don't develop a negative attitude. Dare to step out of your comfort zone.

Oh no, I'm not saying you have to go to Uganda and relieve yourself over a pit and do a balancing act just to keep from tumbling in. But of course somebody needs to go. Micey did.

But we all do need to be open to God's leading. If he puts a dream in your heart, whatever it is---step out.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

God told Abraham, "I will make you a blessing to others." (Genesis 12:2)

"A blessing to others." Now there's an idea.

When am I going to get started on that?

Every day I'm wanting God to bless me. And he never fails.

I am blessed to be a blessing.

Again, here's the question: When am I going to start blessing others?

Ok, ok, I get it. I'll start looking around. You know, trying to be more observant.

You know. Like that woman sitting on the KFC parking lot in a car with the front end all banged up and a small boy in the back seat. The police are just leaving the scene of the accident and she looks all confused about what to do next.



Why not?

No,silly. I was thinking of something more high, holy, spiritual, other worldly. No, that's too practical.

I'm sure I will know how to be a blessing if and when the occasion calls for it.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Therefore, put on every piece of God's
armor so you will be able to resist
the enemy in the time of evil. Then
after the battle you will still be
standing firm.
Ephesians 6:13

Some days are just downright difficult. Tough. Hard to get through.

Many of us give up. Instead of hanging in there and toughing it out we get all bent out of shape.

Some things are so bad that it is understandable that we get so discouraged we don't know what to do.

Yes, we do get down but the good news is we don't have to stay down.

Even when things are crumbling all around us we can have an attitude of faith.



When the smoke, fog, and crap of life clears away---you will still be standing!


Saturday, February 19, 2011

I have been young and now am old and all along the way there have been those who encouraged me.

I have known the heights of joy and the depths of despair.  The thing that kept me on my feet was the words of encouragement.

As a child, teen, college student, young married, young preacher, old preacher--all along the way, the encouragers were there lifting me up, encouraging me on.

I feel the same is true of you. Hopefully it is. However, sadly there are some in life who either are not encouraged or for some reason they are unable to respond to it.

I have made up my mind that in my final season of life I am going to be an encourager. The world needs encouragers.

My wife, my children--other family members encourage me.

Blogging friends I have never met--encourage me.

One such friend living here in the Phoenix area wanted to hear me preach. When she heard I would be preaching in September she made plans to hear me. The churche's schedule changed and I didn't preach.
At Christmas time I sent her a CD of an old sermon from the past. She sent me an email telling me that she cried when she read the note I included. She sent another email the next day saying she listened to the sermon and then later another email that she had returned to it again. Her kindness warmed an old preacher's heart and encouraged me.

I have been writing about those who have encouraged me. But what I really want is to encourage you to be an encourager. Just do it. You will always be glad you did. It's a good thing to do!

Jonathan went to find David and encouraged him 
to stay strong in his faith in God.
                                                                                        1 Samuel 23:15

Think of ways to encourage one another...
                                                                                         Hebrews 10:24


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

JESUS and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist
Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper 
By Brant Pitre

OVERVIEW: In this splendid book Pitre answers the questions: What was Jesus' purpose in instituting the Eucharist during the feast of Passover? And, most important of all, what did Jesus mean when he said, "This is my body...This is my blood"? Pitre explores ancient Jewish beliefs about the Passover of the Messiah, the miraculous Manna from heaven, and the mysterious Bread of the Presence. As he shows, these three keys--the Passover, the Manna, and the Bread of the Presence--have the power to unlock the original meaning of the Eucharistic words of Jesus.

AUTHOR: Brant Pitre is one of the most exciting new Catholic scholars in this generation. A professor of sacred scripture at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, he received his Ph.D in New Testament and ancient Judaism from the University of Notre Dame, Indiana. He travels widely to speak about the Eucharist and its origins in ancient Hebrew tradition and he is the author of Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of the Exile.

MY REVIEW: This is one of the best books I have read on this subject. It is scholarly and yet so well written that you do not bog down and want to give up. Brant Pitre is able to take ancient Hebrew tradition and open it up to give meaning to our worship today. The most important question he deals with is what did Jesus mean when he said, "This is my body...This is my blood"? He does an outstanding job with this and he helped me understand the Catholic teaching on this better than I have ever understood it before. However, I remain convinced that the bread and wine of the Last Supper are symbols and are not miraculously changed into his real body and blood. I do not believe in transubstantiation! I do believe in miracles. I just do not believe this is one. Now, what I believe about this has nothing to do with the value of this book. As I said before, Pitre makes the best presentation of the Catholic view that I have ever heard or read.

Author Scott Hahn said: "Clear, profound and practical--you do not want to miss this book." New York times bestselling author, Carl A. Anderson said, "What an exquisite view of the Eucharist as a personal encounter with Christ and the first Eucharist as a humanity-wide encounter with God!" And I like the comments of Elizabeth Scalia, managing editor at Patheos.com., "Brant Pitre puts the Eucharistic Christ into thrilling context by examining the realities of Jewish life in the first century. Believers and nonbelievers alike will better appreciate the rich cultural, traditional, and scriptural wells from which Eucharistic understanding has been drawn and developed since Jesus of Nazareth first proclaimed, 'my flesh is real food, and my body real drink.'"

As I said before, I do not agree with Pitre's doctrine of transubstantiation but I love his scholarly research and clear presentation of ancient Judaism, ancient Hebrew tradition the Eucharist and its origin. If you are a student of the Bible and interested in church doctrine you will appreciate this excellent study.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Revolution of God, Self and Society
By Jay Bakker with Martin Edlund

OVERVIEW: In this book Bakker explores the true nature of grace and what it means in everyday life. With disarming humility, poignant observations, and spot-on-theology, Bakker both challenges Christians to reassess their understanding of salvation and entices non-Christians to give Jesus a chance.

AUTHOR: Jay Bakker is the son of disgraced televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. At the age of eleven his parents' PTL ministry was caught in a high-profile accounting fraud scandal, and his family was devastated by his father's affair and his parents' subsequent divorce. A disillusioned Bakker turned to drugs and alcohol and left his childhood beliefs behind. But along the way an interesting thing happened: Bakker came to understand, through all his pain, what God's grace was really all about. Jay was assisted in writing by writer, Martin Edlund.

MY REVIEW: The best thing about this book is the subject―grace. Jay Bakker had been around churches his whole life, yet he didn't discover grace―true grace―revolutionary grace―until he was twenty years old. Even then, he said it took him fourteen years to really get his head around it and begin to understand its implications. When I read his words I thought to myself, "that's about how long it takes most of us, if not longer."

I can remember seeing Jay or Jamie as he was called as a child, on television and feeling sorry for him. As a child and as a man Jay has endured and lived through a lot of crud. It's not my place in this review to dredge up the past. The life he and his parents lived is an interesting story and one that helps understand Jay's discovery of grace. He tells enough of that story in his book to help you understand his "fall to grace." 

So, if you are interested in the life of the Bakker family, the PTL ministry, and their rise and fall, you will appreciate this book. As with most books and views on theology, I found a few things to disagree with. You may also but this is a good book and one I hope you will read.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Born to lose, I've lived my life in vain
Every dream has only brought me pain
All my life I've always been so blue

Born to lose and now I'm losing you.
Much of the music I listened to growing up in Oklahoma was about unrequited love.
The songs all seemed to be about loving but not having loved returned.
Over the years the theme for many of our songs remains the same---unrequited love. 

Experiencing this failure of love, many hold back, afraid to love for fear of being rejected.

Don't do it. Will your love be rejected. Probably not. But it may be!



I like this quote by C.S. Lewis from his book, The Four Loves. My copy, printed in Great Britain in 1960 is old and turning yellow but the words are just as true today as when he first wrote them.

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable."
C.S. Lewis (The Four Loves)


Friday, February 11, 2011

But you walked away from your first love―Why?
What's going on with you, anyway?
Do you have any idea how far you've fallen?
A Lucifer fall!
Turn back! Recover your dear early love.
No time to waste...
Revelation 2:4-5

Why do we do it? Why do we forsake our first love? In this case―our love for Christ.

Are we just human, weak, silly, sinful―the list goes on. 

Regardless of why, some of us do walk away from the one we should love. 

What is written here about the church at Ephesus and their first love applies to us today.

And in principle what applies to us and our love for Christ also applies to our love for our mates.

Some having problems in their marriages need to consider:

1. What's going on? Do you have any idea how far you've fallen?

2. Turn back! Recover your dear early love. There is no time to waste.

3. The NIV translation reads: "Repent and do the things you did at first." Excellent! Change. Remember those early days of courtship and marriage. 

It works for our love for Christ and our love for our mates: Think back to the passion you had at the beginning of your relationship. Remember how it was and return to it.

This year we will celebrate 53 years of marriage. 


Wednesday, February 09, 2011

No, I'm not thinking about Valentine's Day.

Not that I have anything against the celebration of the love of a man for a woman and a woman for a man.

I just have something else in mind. Today I'm thinking about the love we have for God.

I really don't know much about the history of Valentine's Day, Saint Valentine and all that stuff. And I will be doing something loving for Charlotte next Monday. But like the celebration of Christmas I don't think the celebration of my love for my wife should just be one day a year.

The love I have in mind today is found in Mark 12:30 "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength."

A sect of Judaism known as the Pharisees compiled a comprehensive list of religious dos and don'ts―six hundred and thirteen of them.

Jesus peeled them back to one statement―the Great Commandment.

It may sound simple but it isn't. Jesus called it the most important commandment.

This is the love we need to get excited about. This is the love we need to go all out for!

Love the lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul
and with all your mind
and with all your strength.


Tuesday, February 08, 2011


How Introverts and Extroverts Can Benefit from One Another

Sometimes I think that introverts and extroverts are from different planets. This is fine, until they find themselves married to one another or working in the same office. If they are not conscious of the differences, they can quickly frustrate one another—or worse.
Green Apple and Orange - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/iSailorr, Image #11794209
Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/iSailorr
I am speaking from personal experience here. I have been married to my wife, Gail, for thirty-two years. She is an extrovert; I am an introvert. Early in our marriage, this was a constant source of friction. Frankly, it’s a miracle we survived it.

Most people assume that I am an extrovert, because I am a CEO of a large company and do a lot of public speaking. But things are not always what they seem. Many leaders I know are introverts. They can “turn it on” when they need to, but are much more comfortable away from the crowds and the lights. The real difference between introverts and extroverts is in what energizes them. Ask yourself this question, “Where do you get your energy: by being alone or by being with others?” Or conversely, “What drains you: being alone or being with others?”

Introverts—like me—are energized by being alone. People drain us. Extroverts—like Gail—are energized by others. Being alone drains them. These are not hard and fast rules but general tendencies. I enjoy being with people and she enjoys being alone—this is just not our dominant way of recharging.
For example,
  • I am content to spend time with a small, tight-knit circle of friends. I am not really interested in meeting anyone else. I have enough friends, thank you very much. Gail, on the other hand, views strangers as “friends-she-hasn’t-yet-met.” She loves meeting new people. The more the merrier.
  • My idea of a great vacation is being somewhere alone—just the two of us. I want to spend the time reading or taking quiet walks. She, on the other hand, wants to meet the locals and go on sight-seeing adventures. The more activities, the better.
  • I want to leave immediately after church—being with all those people is exhausting! On the other hand, Gail can’t wait to get to coffee hour. And she takes the hour part seriously. If she is not the last one to leave, she feels cheated.
Which perspective is right?
Neither. The truth is that you need both. Our marriage is so much richer because we are able to draw from two perspectives. My introversion ensures that we go deep and make time to nourish our souls. Her extroversion ensures that we don’t get stuck there, focused exclusively on ourselves. We reach out to others.

The key is learning to appreciate one another—and serve one another.
If your spouse or colleague is an introvert, you need to give him the space to be alone without making him feel guilty for not being more social. If your spouse or colleague is an extrovert, you need to allow him the freedom to socialize without getting annoyed that he isn’t ready to leave when you are. The key is appreciating your differences rather than resenting them.


Saturday, February 05, 2011

All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
                                                                                       Psalm 139:16

As with the psalmist, all  your days are ordained by God. 

The God who ordained your days even before one of them came to be has a purpose for you.

We each have a holy responsibility to discover what God has in mind for us.

David fumbled and bumbled along making huge mistakes but he figured out God's purpose for his life.

Listen to this: "When David had served God's purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep." Acts 13:36

That's what I want in my life: serve God's purpose and then fall asleep.

It's the only way to live---and die!

Doesn't it just blow your mind to know that God ordained your days even before one of them came to be?


Friday, February 04, 2011

discovering your divine destiny
By Mark Batterson

OVERVIEW: In Soulprint, Mark pours the insight and energy he's known for into helping you experience the joy of discovering who you are...and the freedom of discovering who you're not. The wonderful fact is that your uniqueness is God's gift to you, and it's also your gift to God. A self-discovery book that puts God at the center rather than self. Soulprint encourages you to recognize and explore the five defining moments in your life that will determine your destiny. Along the way, you'll find that you're not just turning the pages of a book. You're turning the pages of your remarkable, God-shaped, world-changing life.

AUTHOR: Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C. NCC has been recognized by Outreach Magazine as one of the most innovative and influential churches in America. Mark is a daily blogger and the author of three best selling books.

MY REVIEW: The year is young, but this is the best book I have read this year. It may be one of the best books I have ever read. Soulprint is a book that everybody needs to read. Yes, needs to read. Few, if any of us realize our true value. Batterson makes it clear that God has given each of us an identity that makes us unlike anyone else. He calls this divine distinction our soulprint. He has a sincerity that comes across clearly in his communication. I felt challenged and stretched by this book in a way that I haven't been in a long time. This book will help you to realize that you have a divine destiny to fulfill. "Most of us live our entire lives as strangers to ourselves. We know more about others than we know about ourselves. Our true identities get buried beneath the mistakes we've made, the insecurities we've acquired, and the lies we've believed. We're held captive by others' expectations. We're uncomfortable in our own skin. And we spend far too much emotional, relational, and spiritual energy trying to be who we're not." In this splendid book, Mark Batterson encourages us by giving us the faith to believe "it's never too late to be who you might have been."

Get this book, read it and discover who you are. You owe it to yourself. When you have finished reading it, pass it on to someone else. I predict you may buy a few copies to give to those you care about.

I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.


Thursday, February 03, 2011

[God's 5 promises when life is hard]
By James MacDonald 

OVERVIEW: This book contains five promises God makes over and over, to every, person of faith, in every generation. When you make these truths your own, they'll become intensely personal, incredibly practical, and profoundly reliable.

AUTHOR: James MacDonald is the founding and senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in suburban Chicago with a weekend attendance of 13,000 and more than sixty church plants across North America and around the world. Pastor James's teaching can be heard on Walk in the Word, a daily thirty-minute radio program heard on 1,100 outlets across North America. Pastor James  is a frequent speaker around the world and serves on the Board of the Gospel Coalition.

MY REVIEW:  Always True is a book I needed to read. It came to me at a time when I felt a need for reassurance that what I am always posting on my blog and "preaching" to others is really true. Oh, I know the Word of God is true. I have no doubts about that. But sometimes I get to thinking that maybe what I'm telling my friends is not what they need to hear at that time. James MacDonald's message from the Bible is intensely personal, incredibly practical and profoundly reliable. I am familiar with the five promises he writes about but I have now committed myself to memorizing the verses I don't have in my memory. I don't want to have to try to recall them and then search for the Scriptures. I want them ready for instant recall.

Life is hard and we all need more than just lessons—we need life support. These promises from God are what we need "when out of nowhere a boulder drops from the sky and crash lands on our lives. It might be a serious illness, a job loss, or something that just wasn't in the plan...But the weight is often sudden and crushing. We're desperate for help to come or we might not make it." This book was born out of that kind of situation and I believe it will be helpful to anybody who will read it.


Wednesday, February 02, 2011

I have strong beliefs about Islam, what they believe, teach and practice.

The only person I have ever heard proclaim anything even remotely close to what I believe is Franklin Graham.

He was viciously attacked and he stopped stating his beliefs about Islam—or at least I haven't heard him.

The only reasons I can think of for not hearing the truth about Islam is ignorance or lack of "guts" to proclaim it.

I must admit that I am timid and a little fearful to post what I feel.

Maybe it's a God thing. I'm not claiming that. But something in my mind and heart keeps telling me "somebody has to do it."

This morning I came across a great article by Dave Gaubatz titled Radical Islam or Mainstream Islam?

Dave Gaubatz had the knowledge and the "guts" to write this article and to publish it. Since he states what I believe I want to encourage you to read what he wrote and to think about it. That's all. Just read it and make up your own mind.



Tuesday, February 01, 2011

I'm easily intimidated.

I thought long and hard before joining a health club.

Strip down to shorts and a light shirt for exercising? I can do that. It gets hot in Arizona. I often wear shorts.

But have you been to a gym lately? Many of the people running around there look like they could be personal trainers. Well, many of them are. But most of them just walked in off the street like I did.

But they don't look like I do.

Oh some of them do. In fact some of them look worse than I do. I take no joy in that. Well, maybe a little joy.

But the thing that really intimidates me is that some of these heavy lifting, muscle bounds are women—old women.

Last September I decided to step out of my comfort zone. I signed on the "dotted line." I joined the club.

Charlotte and I have been working out four days a week ever since.

We feel great. She looks great. And I am starting to look better. There's hope!

I have been thinking. It's the same way with faith. It doesn't take anymore effort to stay filled with faith than it takes to develop a negative attitude.

I dare you to step out of your comfort zone. God has much more in store for you. Keep believing. Stay faithful. Stretch your faith. See what God can do with your life.