Category Archives: Monthly thoughts

The path belongs to Him

Make me know Your ways, O Lord;
Teach me Your paths.
Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
For You I wait all the day. (Psalm 25.4-5)

It was my first camel ride. Sitting high atop this ship of the desert, in the pitch-black darkness, I bounced my way up the side of Mt. Sinai in Egypt. The only sounds were the grunts of the camel and the sixteen-year-old bedouin boy shouting at the camel to “go” in Arabic. (…at least, I think it was “go” … and surely he was shouting at the camel and not me.) On occasion, I would catch a glimpse of the steep cliff on the side of the dirt trail, but the camel never slipped, never faltered, and its step was ever sure. It had traveled this trail many, many times before. And my young guide knew the way very well. He lived in this area. I was in the best of hands. Eventually, I relaxed, looked in awe at the brightness of the star-filled sky and anticipated standing at the top of God’s mountain to watch the sun rise.

Maybe you are anxious about the direction your life is taking or you are experiencing suffering along the way. Maybe you have far more questions than answers. It’s not so important how dark your trail has become. It’s not even important if you can see the next step you are to take. Just realize you are not your own (1 Corinthians 6.19). If you have given your heart to Jesus Christ, you belong to Him.

He knows all the trails and trials of life. He wants to be your guide and your goal. He wants to be your God. Let Him.

One day, Jesus said to His disciples that He was going to leave and prepare a place for them “‘that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.’ Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.’” (John 14.3-6)

In this life, Jesus is both the destination and the only way to get there. The ride will often be bouncy and sometimes painful, but His love for you is beyond doubt, His knowledge of your life is complete and His plan for you is perfect. Keep your eyes on Him as He guides you along a path that belongs to Him.

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Call out to Jesus!

And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. (Mark 10.46 ESV)

You are blind Bartimaeus. You are sitting by the road of life, a beggar, a victim of circumstances, until you recognize that Someone is near to lift you up.

Get sidetracked by Bartimaeus’ physical blindness and you could miss the whole point of this amazing story. Humans tend to do that, looking at the outward appearance and miss the inward activity, the spiritual miracle that God is performing in the heart.

God worked on the heart of this man and displayed His love and power to us as an example. This may be one of the most important true-life stories in the Bible.

Bartimaeus’ eyes were without light, darkened. He was a beggar, sitting by the roadside. The joys of life, great and small, were passing him by. People were moving, ever-onward toward their destination, but poor, blind, beggarly Bartimaeus sat on the sidelines – his very life was passing him by and his only hope: that a crumb would be tossed his way … now and then.

You are on a highway, today, a travelled way, making decisions that lead you toward your destination. You are there passively, as a beggar and victim, or you are a person seeking to fulfill the calling and vision of God for your life. It is your choice. It’s always your choice.

And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47-48 ESV)

Call out to Jesus! He is your only hope. He is your only answer to life’s questions. You can try to cast blame on others for your supposed predicaments; you can try to make excuses; you can wallow in self-pity; or you can seek the One, the only One, who can give you life and joy now!

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No Greater Love

“A life not lived for others is not a life.” ― Mother Teresa

Jenni Lake of Pocatello, Idaho, was only 16 when she was told that she had a 30% chance of surviving brain cancer. “Her father said: ‘She didn’t break down and cry or anything.’

“Her mother said: ‘When they told her that she might not be able to have kids, she got upset.’”

After aggressive chemo treatments, the tumors had begun to shrink.

Jessie Bonner of the Associated Press wrote in an article: “She had learned that she was pregnant … Jenni’s journey was no longer her own.”

A little more than one year after her diagnosis, Jenni, 5 feet and 4 inches tall and weighing only 108 pounds, was at full term in her pregnancy. On November 9, 2011, her son, Chad Michael Lake, was born. Jennie died 12 days later.*

She sacrificed her life for her little son. I was especially taken by the reporter’s words, “Jenni’s journey was no longer her own.”

Is the life you live ever, really, all your own?

*(From “Mother of the year” by Don Surber, December 28, 2011, quoting an AP article by Jessie Bonner.)

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Light Out of Darkness

“A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.”  –  C. S. Lewis

I can see it through the window. Rising above the hill before me, a great cloud begins filling the horizon with darkness, portending an abundance of rain and cold temperatures. It is a November fall day, after all, when the last warm days of summer and the first cold days of winter compete for attention with rain tossed in for good measure.

But a far more ominous cloud looms above the horizon of your life. It is a personal, spiritual cloud affecting the peace of your heart and your relationship with God and others.

The foreboding darkness promises greater personal conflict, economic hardship and spiritual turmoil. The contention carried by the darkness is almost palpable: you feel it but cannot touch it; you can describe it but cannot understand it. You witness it at home, school, business and church but you are utterly helpless to resist.

This is life without God.

You know what I am describing. Intense spiritual darkness seems to surround you, often pervading your heart, bringing tears, fears and confusion to your life. Spiritual darkness is a product of the enemy of your soul, Satan, and the direct result of seeking the world and the flesh. Spiritual darkness is the result of trying to live your life apart from a close, personal relationship with the Lord.

You struggle with this darkness every day. You see it in your lack of joy, in the division of relationships, in that gnawing feeling inside that tells you something is missing in your life.

The struggles come easily, yet, answers seem hard to find … but praise God, He gives you the Answer! Some 800 years before the birth of Jesus, God sent His promise of light through the prophet Isaiah.

“Arise, shine; for your light has come, And the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. “For behold, darkness will cover the earth And deep darkness the peoples; But the LORD will rise upon you And His glory will appear upon you. “Nations will come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising.” (Isaiah 60.1-3)

In this scripture, the darkness represents judgment that comes as the consequence of sin. But the Lord brings light: spiritual deliverance, heart-felt peace and immeasurable joy.

The Lord will give you His glory!

God will be glorified and it is His desire that He be glorified in you. What an unspeakably wonderful thought! As He places His glory, His Presence on you – as Jesus Christ takes active residence in your life through the Holy Spirit – the light of the glory of God shines through you and brightens the world around you.

It is not up to you to provide the Light, you cannot possibly do that. It is up to you to say “yes” to Jesus Christ and let Him shine brightly through you.

Are you afraid? Don’t be. He is with you to protect. Are you confused? Don’t be. He is the answer. Are you ready to give up? Don’t. He is your present and your future, your Light in the darkness, your Savior and your King.

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Responding to God’s call

Overlooking the Mediterranean Sea at the port city of Jaffa, Israel, and just down the street from the House of Simon the Tanner (Acts 10.32), there stands a rather modest sculpture of a whale … a tribute to Jonah.

The word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. (Jonah 1.1-3, emphasis mine)

You know what happened next in Jonah’s brief trip of rebellion.

The biblical story of Jonah has stirred the imagination and hearts of people of all ages for thousands of years. Yet, near the possible location where Jonah boarded the ship to Tarshish, the enduring symbol for Jonah is that of the whale, the symbol of judgement, repentance and resurrection.

When God speaks, you must obey. To disobey is to be a Jonah: to seek your own direction, to do it your way. Disobedience is simply an attempt to escape His presence.

In what is often referred to as “The Roll Call of Faith,” Hebrews 11, there are listed many of the great biblical names of people who lived lives of faith, such as Noah, Moses, David and Samuel. One name noticeably missing, however, is Jonah. The Lord spoke to Jonah and gave him undeniably direct instructions to go and call Nineveh to repentance, yet Jonah purposely did the very opposite of what God had called him to do. It was an act of self will, the opposite of faith.

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Approaching God

Now Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law … to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. (Exodus 3.1)

Life is a wilderness. Each day presents a never-ending array of contradictions and challenges. In the wilderness you experience trouble and peace, faith and fear, joys and heartaches, comfort and suffering, living and death. The wilderness of life is unpredictable, incomprehensible, uncontrollable, yet, there you live.

And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. So Moses thought, “I will turn aside to see this strange sight, why the bush is not burned up.” (Exodus 3.2-3)

In the commonplace struggle of life, Moses came to the mountain of God. It is in the wilderness of life that you come face-to-face with God. It is in the wilderness of life that God speaks to you. Your choice is quite simple: keep your eyes on surviving the daily busyness or turn your eyes to the One who seeks your attention.

When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” (Exodus 3.4)

When, in faith, you look away from yourself and look to Him, you will hear God speak. You will not hear Him speak otherwise.

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Living in His Shadow

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. (Psalm 91.1)

This verse, essentially, is saying, “If you have decided to make your home under the covering, in the hiding place, of the Most High, then you will live permanently in His shadow, the shadow of the Almighty.”

Who are those who abide in Him except those who have turned to Him, listened to His voice and obeyed?

Are you living safe and secure in God’s Presence, or is He looking for your heart as He did Adam’s, asking: “Where are you?” (Genesis 3.9)

When you have made the conscious, heart decision to live permanently in Him, always watching to see His every move, always listening to hear His voice, always ready to move into action when He says, “Go,” then you know an overwhelming Presence, a warm, loving Presence, the shadow of God, always with you wherever you go.

Our loving heavenly Father casts His shadow. You must decide to live where His shadow is cast or to take your chances outside of His will. It is your choice. It is always your choice.

For those who have humbly submitted to Him, He promises deliverance, protection, His faithfulness, and freedom from fear.

“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.” (Psalm 91.14-16)

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He said, “Go.”

“The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.’” (Jonah1.1-2)

One could almost hear Jonah thinking, “Nineveh? Why, they’re a cruel, pagan people, an enemy of Israel. Besides, there’s still lots of preaching to be done in my own country with my own people.”

So, “…Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish.” (Jonah1.3a)

We know how that little excursion of disobedience turned out for Jonah.

The LORD had one thing to say to Jonah: “Go.” He gave no leeway, no options, and He asked no opinion from Jonah. The LORD simply said, “Go.”

Options are the unprincipled distinction of the self-controlled.
Commands are the wonderful privileges of those under God’s authority.

Options are the prideful considerations of those serving self.
Commands are the humble honors of those serving Him.

We do not pick and choose our areas of service to God. We receive His call and obey as willing servants.

At the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus said, “Go.” (Matthew 28.19; Mark 16.15) He also said to His disciples, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the most distant part of the earth.” (Acts 1.8)

Nineveh was not a lovely side trip to which Jonah was called. Neither was it to be considered a burden. The omniscient God, our Creator God, the God who loves us and loved Nineveh said “go and preach repentance” to that city. It was an order to be obeyed, plain and simple.

When God speaks to us, we can do no less.

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Look to Him

A towel lies on the beach sand. Most of the day, it provided comfort and place to those who sit, talk, watch the waves and soak up the sun. At the end of the day, the towel is picked up and given a hard shake to remove all remnants of sand. A powerful ripple moves from one end of the towel to the other, dislodging sticky sand and causing it to fly everywhere.

Such is the image that comes to mind when I think of the terrible “shaking” experienced by the earth these past months. There have been earthquakes, tsunamis, release of radioactive particles from nuclear power plants and a great loss of life in Japan. The Middle East countries counties continue to be embroiled in political unrest, threatening peace throughout the world. Many people in the U. S., especially in the South and Midwest, have seen fires and record incidents of tornadoes and a terrible loss of life and property.

These are just a few examples of unrest and turmoil throughout the world in every aspect of society.
Why? What have we done? Did we do anything to deserve such trouble? Is there anything we can do to stop such disorder?

I have no answers. I wish I did. I’m not even certain I know the right questions.

But at times like these, the only thing I can do, the best I can do, is point to the One who has all the answers, our heavenly Father who loves us completely.

You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on You,
because he trusts in You.
Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock. Isaiah 26.3-4

If there is nothing else that we learn from such tragedies, we should learn to let our minds be fixed on Jesus Christ.

He wants your attention and your heart. Lasting peace is found only in Him.

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God’s intention: Life!

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1.1

Revisit the creation story often. Allow yourself to be enthralled by the majestic hand of God bringing substance to the universe with the incredible attention to detail which could only point to divine genius.

But, as you revisit the Genesis account, allow yourself to be completely astounded by the heart of Almighty God as He creates human beings.

On the sixth day…
Then God said, “Let us make man in Our image, after our likeness…” So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1.26-27)

Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. Genesis 2.7

God brought life into the world because He is life. God brought love into the world because He is love.

The devil, in cooperation with the original human pair, brought suffering and death into the world, but God’s original intention was life.

It still is.

For You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made…Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139.13-14,16).

This Sunday, from 2-4 PM, with the help of the Pregnancy Care Center, we will continue our tradition of a Blessed Baby Shower at St. Paul’s. In this culture of death in which we live, we give honor to three young mothers who have chosen life for their respective unborn children. Abortion is the choice of death but we praise God for these young women and the many others who have recognized that life is God-given and a very holy thing.

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