Monday, August 12, 2013

The Bible: An Essential for a Life of Significance

The Bible --- God's holy word.  Over the centuries, it has been a beacon of hope to the despairing.  It has offered grace to the broken.  It has convicted of sin, corrected aberrant behavior, encouraged the downtrodden, and instructed Christ-followers in how to become more like Jesus. 

The Bible --- God's holy word.  It is the sword of the Spirit, a lamp for the feet, the guide to eternal, abundant life, a love letter to the most unlovable.  It is God's story.  HIS story of His relationship to the crown of His creation, His jealousy for our affection, His grace and mercy towards sinners, His tenderness toward the weak and humble.  It is His story of the divine plan to provide THE Way for a frail and flawed humanity to be made acceptable to a holy, perfect, righteous God. 

The Bible --- God's holy word.  It is the story of Jesus, the only Son of the heavenly Father, Whose part in that divine plan was to live among us as one of us enduring every form of temptation and stress that we face and yet without sin.  It is the story of how, though He was perfectly sinless, He died a criminal's death and was raised from the dead and now sits at the right hand of God the Father to intercede for those of us who submit to Him and yet fail.  It is the story of how HIS righteousness is given to us at the moment that we submit and follow Him.  It is the story of how the Holy Spirit comes to live within His followers giving us guidance and strength and wisdom and courage that often defies conventional understanding.  It is the story of God's ultimate plan to deliver unto Himself a pure bride called the Church and how one day, that bride will be called to a great wedding feast in heaven where we will live in His presence for all eternity.  No more tears, no more sickness, no more suffering, no more drama, no more pain, no more sin!

It is the Bible, God's holy word.  Intellectuals, rulers and governments have tried to discredit and destroy it.  Yet, even when it has been burned and banned, its effects on the hearts and lives of millions who have hidden it in their hearts have kept it among the best sellers list for as long as there has been a best sellers list.  It is the Bible.  God's holy word.  The only book that no matter where or when you open it, the Author is always present, willing, and waiting for you to talk with Him about what's in it. 

Do you understand the Bible's importance, especially in the life of someone who identifies themselves as a Christian??  It is GOD'S HOLY WORD!  And that's why we must be diligent in pursuing it in our minds, our hearts, and our hands.  It is essential for eternal, abundant life.  It is our road map for maneuvering those inevitable delays, detours, and unexpected destinations that crop up in our life journey.  It is the Bible . . . His voice renewing our minds, purifying our hearts, and motivating us to reflect our heavenly Father in our thoughts, words, and actions. 

It is the Bible, God's Holy Word.  Hear it, Read it, Study it, Remember it, Meditate on it, and Apply it!  And He will change your life!

John 5:39-40;  John 8:31-32;  Romans 10:17; I Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 2:15; Psalm 119:11; I Peter 1:23-25;  Psalm 119:97;  James 1:22;  Ezra 7:10;  Deuteronomy 5:1;  John 17:17-19

Friday, May 17, 2013

My Two Favorite Words . . .

I have to say, I thought the biopsy would come back clear.  BUT, it didn't.  So, in the most convincing way possible, I was confronted with my own mortality.  When the doctor talked with me about life expectancy projections and I heard myself saying, I'd like 12-15 more years, I realized that I am on the down side of the mountain of life and there's nothing I can do to change that.  I've already lived far longer than I have yet to live.  Each day that passes pushes me closer to the end of this life.  But it's not a sad thing.  In fact, it's a joyous thing because it has kindled a new sense of urgency in my life.  A different kind of urgency.  It's an urgent desire to finish well. 
Even without the cancer diagnosis, if asked, I would tell you that I'm in the twilight of my life.  But now, with the diagnosis, I am moved to evaluate my life thus far.  And when I do, I'm not that impressed. 
I have been blessed far beyond what I deserve.  I have the most wonderful friend and I've been privileged to call her my bride for almost 36 years.  I have 2 boys who have been such a beautiful mixture of challenge and blessing.  My life has been so enriched by the 3 of them.  And then, one of them brings home the daughter I've always wanted but never had.  I'm proud of them all.  It's been a life of pain and glory, storms and sunshine, and through it all, with all of our flaws, we survived it together. 
I guess my life has been gratifying.  But what concerns me now is how I've short-changed my heavenly Father over the last 35 years of vocational ministry.  I spent part of that time hoping to 'climb the ladder' of my denomination.  I spent part of that time seeking comfort and security for my family and me.  I spent part of it wishing I could be somewhere else, doing something else and occasionally wishing I could BE someone else.
When I reflect on my Father's guidance and blessing over the last 3-4 years, I wonder why it took me over 30 years to practice what I had been preaching.  In seeking comfort and security, in seeking promotion and prosperity, I have robbed myself of the thrill of trusting God with all my heart.  Risky Obedience!  It's what Peter did when he stepped out of the boat on the stormy sea.  Why?  Because Jesus said to do it!  That urgency I spoke of earlier . . . is an urgency to embrace the risk of obedience to my Father.  It's an urgency to never fall back into a "safe" faith.  It is a willingness to spell faith    R-I-S-K.  It's an urgency to give as many people as possible the chance to know and experience Jesus the way I have over the past 3 years.  It's an urgency to finish the race with a sprint! It's an urgency to hear those words "Well done, good and faithful servant." 
For now, as the day of surgery approaches, I will cling to those two words from the scriptures that I have come to love so much  --  'But God . . ."  And I will use them to preface the great words of Ephesians 3:20-21.  I have cancer.  But God ". . . Who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us---to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen."   I'm sure He will do more that we can ask or think if we will simply yield to His sovereignty and submit to His care!  It's worth the risk.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Three Little Words

Words CAN be life-changing.  I had life-changing words spoken to me on March 13, 2013.  Three little words:  "You have cancer."  Now I understand that prostate cancer is not exactly a death sentence.  When diagnosed early, the survival rate is in the 90+ percentage range.  It's not lung cancer or colon cancer or lymphoma or myeloma.  But it IS cancer.  And when you hear those words directed at you, you know that your life is about to change.  It was confirmed that I had, within my body, mutated cells that could take my life if left untreated.  It was early, probably localized, and definitely treatable. 

SO, there were decisions to be made. Basically, I had three options:  1) Watch & Wait - This cancer (I think it's called adenous carcinoma) might be small and slow.  We could do quarterly PSA tests (should be <2 for a man my age.  Mine was 3.9) and watch for increases.  Then, a year down the road, we would do another biopsy to see if it had changed.   2)  Radiation Therapy - There are different variations of this and it does NOT do the more widespread damage to "good tissue" that used to be a major side effect. But there is no guarantee that cancer will not occur in other parts of the prostate in the future.  3)  Prostatetectomy - Cut it out.  As one general surgeon friend said to me, "You cut, you cure." 

With each of the options comes the reality of physical and lifestyle changes.  I will be 59 years old if God grants me life until June 24, 2013.  Prior to the diagnosis, I would have told you that my life expectancy was another 12-15 years.  Now, I'm not so sure.  Along with the physical issues I face, I'm also skeptical about the availability and affordability of future healthcare.  IF I were to lose my job and/or my health coverage, I'll probably not be a desirable candidate for many jobs and would most certainly be considered uninsurable.  I'm too young for medicare, too young for social security, too young for my annuity, and not sick enough for disability.  When I look into the future, I see the fight for my health as a drain on my family's resources and one more thing to add to the stress level.  For a while, I was stunned, uncertain, and breathless from the competing emotions of fear and excitement.

And then . . . I hear a young theologian named David Platt say, "When the disciples left everything everything to follow Jesus, they didn't always know where they were going or what they were doing, but they always knew WHO was with them."  It was like being doused with cold water.  It was as if God were saying to me, "Wake up!  Don't forget My promise.  I will be with you."  There was a sense of peace that really was beyond human comprehension.  I know I can't explain it well.  I wanted to cry.  I wanted to say why me.  I wanted stress over the future.  But I was reminded that in all things, Jesus' call to me was simply to follow Him.  Those disciples followed Jesus in the light and the dark, the valleys and the mountaintops, the prayer garden and calvary.  Sometimes they stumbled.  But even then, Jesus was there. 

I was reminded that I just needed to follow Jesus wherever He leads me.  If following Him takes me through physical illness, it has not caught Him off-guard.  If following Him takes me through financial strain, again . . . He's not surprised.  When I look into the future and nothing but darkness, that's OK.  I don't really have to know what my destination or how I will get there.  I just need to follow Jesus.  That's what He called us to do:  Matthew 4:19; Luke 9:23; Luke 14:26-27; John 12:26

I'll be writing more on this journey over the next few weeks, hoping to pass along some of the things God is teaching me during this battle.  But today, know this!  Whatever you are facing, whatever valleys you maneuver, whatever mountains you face, whatever unknowns crush your spirit . . . you don't need the answers.  You just need to follow Jesus.  And like those disciples, even when you don't know the hows, whys, and whens, you will always know WHO is with you! 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Deja Vu All Over Again

"I'm going fishinig," Simon Peter said to them.  We're coming with you," they told him.  They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.  When daybreak came, Jesus stood on the shore . . ."   John 21:3-4 (HSCB)

I've had a five month sabbatical from writing.  No, from blogging.  I've missed it and I've been convicted of not making good use of this marvelous tool.  I feel like I think Peter felt after the death, resurrection, and first couple of appearances of Jesus.  The busyness around my work schedule, a change in my personal life, the responsibility of a new church plant, fighting fires . . . some, if not most of you have been there.  Something had to give and for me, the blogging was the first thing to go.  Then I began to cut back on my reading.  Like Peter, after all the excitement of what God has been doing around me and for me, I went back to fishing, so to speak. 

Everything I did from daylight to dark focused on some form of work.  Sermon prep, visitation, committee/team meetings, WMU, Men's Ministries, weddings, funerals, chaplaincy calls.  When the enthusiasm wanes into routine, it's easy to fall back into a rut . . . like fishing. 

Do you remember what Simon Peter was doing when Jesus FIRST called him?  Go back to Luke 5 and check it out.  It was the middle of the day and Jesus told him to go out into the deep water and put out the net for a catch of fish.  This was the WAY it was done, this was not WHEN, this was not WHERE it was done.  Simon reluctantly obeyed and a miracle occurred.  So many fish were in the net that the boat began to sink.  Simon called for his partners, whose boat also began to sink. It was at that moment, in that sinking boat, that Simon's perception of Who Jesus was changed.  He simply bowed and said, "Go away from me, for I am a sinful man, Lord."  Jesus said, 'Don't be afraid.  From now on, you will be catching people." 

Even in the aftermath of spiritual pinnacles, we can, like Simon Peter, fall back into the rut.  "I'm going fishing!"  And so, once again, Jesus comes to lovingly confront Peter with his initial call -- "Follow Me and I will make you to become fishers of men."   Matthew 4:19    The miracle of John 21 was very much like the miracle of Luke 5.  And the result was the same.  There was the issuing of call.  In John 21:22, Jesus said to Peter, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?  As for you, you follow me!"

In the quiet of my little fishing boat (or more likely my office when no one is around), Jesus came again.  This time, he re-issued my call with great patience and encouragement.  And he said, "Don't settle for the rut.  Feed my little ones.  Take care of my sheep.  Nourish my growing ones.  Don't worry about what I've called others to do.  YOU FOLLOW ME!"

Okay, Lord!  It's like deja vu all over again.  Thanks for the reminder and for pulling me out the rut!