Thursday, May 31, 2012

Alaska Mission Trip - Post 2

Those snow capped mountains were, in fact, clouds. But we did see a few peaks with "trails" of snow. Streaks of white against the brown and green. Will post pictures soon.

We left DFW late so our 1-hour rest period in Portland turned into 20 minutes of hustle from gate to gate. That wasn't too bad except we've not eaten in over 4 hours and didn't have time to pick up anything. Terry's baggie of trail mix was looking pretty good!

But we let Terry keep his snack and I bought Riley the Kid's Snack on the plane. We split it. He's playing with wax pipe cleaners now. Don't tell his mother, but she's getting a couple of snazzy gifts when we get home! And they came from Alaska Airlines. That counts as an Alaskan souvenir, doesn't it?

We are ready to spend some time on the ground! Sight-seeing is on the agenda for Friday and Saturday. We'll worship in Wasilla Sunday with Fairview Loop Baptist Church, then get to work bright and early Monday.

Well, probably not since we are in the land of endless summer days. "Bright and early" may come shortly after midnight. But some go-getter will wake us up earlier than I'm used to getting up.

"We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thessalonians 1:3 NIV)

The men with me are doing work produced by their faith. They will labor because they love the Lord and his mission. They will endure as they hope in the Lord. Please pray for us over the next 10 days.

Alaska Mission Trip - Post 1

I'm 30,000 feet above Texas or New Mexico or Colorado. Headed to Portland, Oregon then on to Anchorage. Final destination today: Wasilla, AK. I hear that you can see Russia from there.

A group of seven from Cross Road Baptist Church will join with about 40 others from Pulaski Baptist Association to begin construction on a building for Fairview Loop Baptist Church. A group from PBA helped construct an education building several years ago. Now for the sanctuary.

As I watch the flat farmland and cattle farms give way to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, I am impressed with the beauty of God's creation. The dry Spring has left the quilt beneath me mostly brown. The irrigated plots were easy to identify. As the terrain changes, the shadows cast by the rolling hills add a new dimension to both topography and color.

Clouds at the horizon appear to be snow capped mountains. Not likely on this last day of May in Texas or New Mexico but maybe Colorado.

It's turned out to be a pretty day for flying. God is showing off his handiwork. He's awesome and his creative power is amazing.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day

To my knowledge, I don't have a family member who gave his life defending our country. My grandfather served in the Pacific during WWII. I never heard any stories. I have friends from school, church, and work that have served.

Respect. The hardship they endured (and their families) is beyond what I can imagine. The separation from family. The uncertainty of tomorrow. The enemy taking aim. And much more, I'm sure.

Memorial Day is traditionally a time to remember and honor those who gave their lives defending the country. I thank them because of the freedom they secured and maintained. Especially the religious freedom.

And I want to thank our veterans and current service members.

Their sacrifice and commitment are worthy of our attention everyday, not just a weekend.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Time, Attention, Effort

If you open your Bible to the very center, you'll most likely be in Psalm 119. It's the longest Psalm and the longest chapter in the Bible. This Psalm has twenty-two eight-verse segments, one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. In fact, all verses in a stanza start with the same Hebrew letter. Twenty-two stanzas, twenty-two letters of the alphabet. Pretty cool, huh?

What's even more cool is that the content of all 176 verses focuses on the word of the Lord. Read the acrostic poem called "Psalm 119" and notice how often God's word or law or precepts or commands are mentioned. The central theme of the central chapter of the Bible is God's commands.

I've been a Christian for almost 40 years. I've been in ministry for almost 30 years. I don't know all the commands of God. The Bible is a big book! But I know that I'm supposed to align my life with what the Bible says. I am to give my life to the one who gave me life and gave his life for me and gives meaning to my life.

So reading the Bible, studying God's word, following the commands, and applying the principles is a priority. Priorities require time and attention. And effort.

Riley recently told me that when he gets to the MLB (pro baseball) he wants to be a pitcher. I told him that in order to do that he would have to put in a lot of hard work starting now. He can't wait until he gets to there to start working on his pitching. He can't wait until he gets to high school to start. He can't even wait until next year. If he wants to realize that goal he has to get started now. Put in the time, pay attention to detail, and make in the effort.

I want to honor God so I have to put in the time, give attention to detail, and make the effort. Is there any other way? That's the path for you, too, if you want to honor God. Can you imagine anything better than entering heaven and hearing God say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant"?

Put in the time, pay attention to detail, and make the effort. Today.

The only way it's possible to obey any of God's commands is through Jesus Christ. On your own, you won't try to please or honor God. We are too selfish and sinful for that. God dealt with this impossibility through the death of his son Jesus. Your sin demands a sacrifice. You aren't able to make a sufficient sacrifice, but God is. He sacrificed his own son - the perfect Lamb of God - to atone for your sins and put you in right relationship with him.

Will you trust God to forgive you and make you right with him? Click here for more about claiming Jesus as your Savior. I'd love to hear about your decision and help you get started with this "Time, Attention, Effort" thing.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Weekly Devotional - May 18, 2012

"Oh, the depth of the riches of the
wisdom and knowledge of God!"
Romans 11:33 NIV
There's a lot I don't know. As a matter of fact, I don't even know what I don't know. And I've learned that the more I know the more I know I don't know.

I'm told that humans use very little of their brain capacity.  We could know much more than we do! If we don't even know what we could know, how could we ever completely know God?

Knowing God is not an event. You don't wake up one morning and have everything about him stored up in your mind as if you had studied and prepared for a history test. Knowing God is a journey.

Some things about him you learn as your study the Bible. The Bible is the record of God's revelation of himself through Jesus Christ, through his interaction with people throughout history, and through his natural creativity. If you want to know God you have to pick up the main resource. And you have to begin the journey of getting to know him through study and application.

Some things you learn through experience. In the process of living life you come to times when you need comfort and God is there to comfort you. Or you need courage and God is there to embolden you. Or you need strength and he is there to empower you. Or you need joy because life gets hard and God is there to lift you up spiritually and emotionally. Experience never trumps the truth of Scripture but through experience you often can more easily apply those truths. The Bible is the text; experience is the lab.

Your journey is already underway. You began this trip the day you were born. Some lessons have been unnoticed, like the way you have come to depend upon his oxygen for life. Some lessons are unexplainable, like the way he created this whole world. Some lessons are unforgettable, like how he saved you from sin. Pray that God will bring you along the path of knowing him.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Monday Mornings

How many of you dread Mondays? If that was a question on the old game show "Card Sharks" I would have to say that number would be very high. But a Facebook friend asked why anyone would want to so easily give up on 1/7th of their lives. That's about 15% of every living moment. Rather than dread Mondays, we need to find ways to leverage the day for something good.

Let's take a look at Monday. How do you prepare for the day? Being in church on Sunday would be a great way to prep for Monday. Worship draws us to God. Fellowship binds us with one another. Bible study equips us for the spiritual battles that take such a toll on Monday. If you're not in church on Sunday then what are you doing? Probably focusing upon yourself. That won't prepare you for much. On Monday you'll be expected to focus on the job and other responsibilities that you break from over the weekend. No wonder Mondays are so dreaded - the selfishness you enjoyed on Sunday is ripped away bright and early the next morning. I just think a less selfish Sunday - a more God-centered Sunday - would lessen the stress of Monday.

How do you start Mondays? Sleep as late as possible and hit the snooze button at least once? Now you don't really have time to wake up. Probably don't eat a good breakfast. Let me rephrase that; probably don't eat a breakfast that's good for you! prayer and Bible study? No time for that! So there you go - out the door with your shirttail barely tucked in, and your look even more disheveled on the inside. You may not want to hear this, but you will probably agree with me: give yourself a few extra minutes on Monday morning (any morning) for Bible study, prayer, and a good-for-you breakfast. If you feel better inside and out as you pull out of the driveway, you are bound to have a better day.

I'll not go on with this exercise except to say that when you focus upon God and others, any day and any point in the day will be better. The circumstances may not change much but how you respond and react will change for the better. I challenge you to give it a try. Put God first and see what happens. Maybe your life will suddenly get 15% better!

Friday, May 11, 2012

My Mother

Outside of referring to her when writing blogs and devotionals or when talking to others about her, I have never called her "mother" or "mom." She is Tuti. I don't really know how that name got started. Probably my older sister had already pegged her with that name before I was able to say my first word - which was probably, "Tuti."

As Mothers Day comes around this weekend, I want to say a few things about her. First, Tuti is the most generous person I know. Taking from the "5 Love Languages" book, her love language is giving. She gives and gives and never asks for anything. I'm 48 years old and am still on the receiving end of the relationship. Not that I'm complaining!

She cares. Tuti rejoices when I rejoice and cries when I cry. It was Mothers Day in 1992 when I told her I was getting divorced. She cried tears of sadness. In 1982 when I told her I had been called to preach, she cried tears of joy. And maybe tears of grief because she knew the trials a pastor and his family would face. Our phone calls always have the standard "how are you doing?" from both of us. Her answer is always short. She wants to hear about me and my family.

Tuti is there. My successes and failures are dotted along the path of my life. One thing constant throughout is that she's been there. She and my stepfather Ralph have worn out several cars just being there for their kids. It makes this preacher really happy to have Tuti in the congregation on Mothers Day. Because of my job, I don't get to go see her on this special day, so she comes to see me. I know that won't last forever, but I'm glad it's happening this year.

When you meet her or see her again, she'd be honored for you to call her "Tuti." I'll see her this weekend and I'll tell her I love her.

Weekly Devotional - May 11, 2012

"In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit."
Judges 21:25 NIV
Anarchy is a state of disorder because there is no recognized authority. A people - like the United States - would quickly cease to exist with no rule. Civics professors, constitutional lawyers, and political pundits talk about the rule of law by which governments make decisions by applying agreed-upon legal principles. For a people to live in community, there must be laws or rules.
Around your household, the same applies. You have standards of behavior expected of your children. Even the husband and wife have expectations of one another. If everyone did as he saw fit you would have an unhappy household.
Israel was a people in chaos. Just a few generations after settling the Promised Land, they were anarchists. God would raise up a judge to rule them from time to time but they generally did as they saw fit. Each time Israel fell into this state of disarray they would be defeated by the enemy. When they would follow the judge that God set over them they would excel.
Rules provide order and are guidelines for success. Lee Iacocca is credited with turning around the failing Chrysler Corporation in the 1980s. He said, "Start with good people, lay out the rules, communicate with your employees, motivate them and reward them. If you do all those things effectively, you can't miss." His leadership made all the difference for Chrysler.
We can apply this principle to America, your family, our church, and the workplace or school. Orderliness provides the boundaries within which we are free to live. We see the principle in the creation of the world as God created everything out of nothing. All family members are given specific roles for household order. Paul admonishes believers to be orderly in worship.
We have the freedom to do as we see fit but we will live with the consequences. Or we can live in freedom under God's authority. Pray that God will help you experience a full and free life under his authority.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Excuses and Obstacles

It rains on the just and the unjust. And sometimes it doesn't. A group from our church has been walking and running every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday since the first of the year. We've never been rained out. It may rain later in the day. Sometimes it had been raining earlier in the night. But not at 5:00 A.M.

I guess God wants us to exercise so he's taking that excuse away.

I suppose God clears the way for his children to do a lot of good things. The obstacles I see when given an opportunity to help someone in need are just excuses of my own making. Maybe Satan helps a little. But where God gives opportunity, he clears the way and protects the path.

I've not always shared my faith in Christ when I knew I should. Again, the excuses were mine. Sure, God knows when I should keep quiet but if I'm sure I should speak up, then I should speak up and trust God to clear the way and protect the path. And the messenger.

As you go through the day, look for opportunities to share the love of Jesus with someone through word and deed. And trust God to take care of the obstacles. Let today be a "No Excuse" day.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012


I'm in therapy. I know, I know...some of you have thought that would be a good idea for quite a while. But it's for my knees, not my head! Misdiagnosis, huh!

Anyway, I started today. The point is to try to strengthen my hips and knees so as to alleviate the pain associated with the running I've been doing. It's a very long story that started twelve years ago.

I broke my left leg snow skiing. It was a tibial plateau fracture - the top of the bone in my lower leg. In effect, I broke my knee. I have a plate and five pins in there that make for a very nice xray.

My physical therapist back then told me that if I didn't rehab completely my left hip would get the worst of it for having to make up for the weak knee. Then over the long haul, my right leg would pay for it by having to take up the slack for the left leg.

That's where I am today. The running I've recently been doing isn't really the culprit. The running just magnified the problem.

So I'm not able to run for a few days, maybe weeks but I hope not. I really like running and hope to one day be able to run the half mile in a time as good as or better than my personal best of 2:14.8. That was in the spring of 1979. I was 14 years old in 9th grade. I may even go to the Robinson High School track. That's where I ran 2:14.8.

The therapy hurt worse than the injury at first. I whined about it in a FB post. But now, about six hours laters, there's not much pain in either knee. That's the first time in about a week. So maybe the doctor and the therapist know what they are doing after all.

I guess I'll stick with it, follow the instructions, do it all, and come out of this ok.

Sometimes doing the right thing doesn't make sense. And along the way it's uncomfortable or just plain hurts. But God works in every situation you can get into and he works to make something good out of it. So we can consider the fact that we may face trials as pure joy, knowing that God wants us to become more like Christ.

If you take that approach to your trials, I think your trials won't get the best of you.