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God is lavish.

September 22, 2014

Every Thursday I am in town I attend the community Bible study at Advancing Native Missions, an organization that supports indigenous missionaries around the globe. The gift they give to our community is this Bible study on Thursday mornings. It is a highlight of my week. Not only do we have a Bible study but we are given a mission report from somewhere in the world where God is at work be it Africa, the Philippines, Egypt, Turkey… As an American I get so myopic and see everything through my own cultural framework. That’s normal. But it is good to shake that and see the world from different points of view with the Biblical worldview…

I’ve mentioned to you before that as I walk the hallway, I feel I walk amongst giants. I am so privileged.

So…I went last Thursday and one of the chaplains was teaching on the story of Jesus changing the water into wine. It is a familiar story I have always liked. Jesus was at a large party – a wedding. A happy occasion. Jesus enjoyed having fun. He is not the grim, always serious person we make Him out to be so often. I mean all you have to do is look at the platypus to know He has a sense of humor!

Everyone was enjoying themselves but with so many guests the wine ran out – a huge embarrassment for the groom. Jesus’ mother tells him in an apparent effort to get Jesus to do something about this. He reminded her that He was not on earth to “fix” things. Mary was not focused on His true purpose. She knew what it was – the angel told her at the same time he told she was going to have a child. But she lost the focus for a bit. No doubt she relied on Him heavily after Joseph died (We assume he died during Jesus’ childhood, but we are not told.) and she was just used to taking everything to Jesus.

But Jesus does take things in hand and tells the servant to fill six water jars that were standing nearby. These jars were used to hold water for washing hands and feet before and during a meal. Big jars – each holding 20 gallons – that’s 120 gallons! When the jars are filled to the brim Jesus tells the servants to take a sample to the steward. When he has tasted it he declared it was the best wine and was amazed that it being served at the end of the party when most people would have had too much wine and wouldn’t know the difference.

I know there are discussions in some circles as to whether Jesus actually turned the water into wine. I believe He did. And am not sure the point is worth arguing! What I want to note is the lavishness of the event. At lease 120 gallons of wine – not just an extra bottle or two – 120 gallons! That figures to be about 1500 bottles. At $100 a bottle (for really fine wine) that’s $150,000.

How extravagant! How lavish! That’s how God does things. He is not stingy – reluctant to give us of His bounty. But I confess that often that is how I see Him. But that is wrong. He loves to give to His children. We are told in Luke that “It is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12) Also He says “And why are yo anxious about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin. Yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these. But if God arrays the grass of the filed, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more do so for you…?)” (Mt. 6)

You can be sure Solomon was dressed to the nines. Nothing spared. Solomon was known for his lavishness and excess. The Queen of Sheba testified to that saying, that while she had heard of Solomon’s greatness, the half had not been told!

We have a greater that Solomon taking care of us! He is lavish in His love and care. He is extravagant. What is more excessive than giving your only Son to die for a bunch ungrateful, prideful sinners on planet earth just for the pleasure of having their company?! He loves us like that!

You’ve heard the ad on the radio with Tom Selleck’s voice saying, “Take time to be a dad today.” Take time to praise God today!

Child Abuse vs. Spanking

September 18, 2014

NFL’s Adrian Peterson was suspended from the Minnesota Vikings, reversing an earlier decision to let the investigation proceed before making a judgment. What happened to “innocent until proven guilty”? The man has been judged as having abused his child for spanking him with a “tree branch”. In reality it was a “switch” – a flexible twig meant to sting the legs.

My mother used them on my siblings and me. She made us go pick our own switch and if it wasn’t strong enough then she would go choose one. If we were disrespectful we got a good “switching”. My parents believed in corporal punishment. It wasn’t child abuse! When does the NFL and the corporate sponsors like Nike, get the right and authority to tell a man how to discipline his child? This is getting way out-of-bounds.

If there was, indeed, child abuse (and there are those that think spanking is child abuse, I do not) then let it be determined. But the media has taken this and run with it so that a man’s reputation and career are in the balance.

The NFL player that knocked his now-wife out with a punch needs some anger management and she needs counseling. That was a clear case of abuse. And they don’t need my 2 cents worth. But spanking your child is not in the same ball park.

I spanked my children. I used a wooded spoon. My mother used a switch (“tree branch”), belt, shoe tree and once a brush – she hit my sister with the wrong side so my sister went to school with red bumps on her legs like measles! It was not child abuse! We were being disciplined for disrespect, lying. We didn’t see it as or feel it as abuse but parental love.

Now before you jump all over me Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived said, “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.”

After I posted this I was in my car listening to Glenn Beck. He was talking about this incident. He had seen a picture of the 4 yr. old son of Adrian Peterson. Glenn said the boy was badly bruised all over. Glenn said it was a clear case of abuse. He made the point not to spank a chile in anger – it can quickly escalate. That is not what I am talking about or advocating.

There is no place for an adult, especially a big football player, to beat a small child…any child.

My first “Selfie”

September 17, 2014

I am just back from a two-week beach vacation. I had a wonderful time – one of the best vacations I have ever had. Maybe because I needed it more than I ever have! I didn’t do anything particularly different. I was in the same house, on the same beach with the same people as in previous years.

What was different? I do think part of it was that I did need to get away. I was closing in on burnout. But this year I gave myself permission to do nothing. Oh, I took a sack full of books I needed to read and things I wanted to write. But I didn’t touch some of the books and I didn’t write anything worthwhile. I just relaxed.

As I re-read that last statement I realize how foolish it is. Relaxing is worthwhile – very worthwhile. So I did a lot that was important. No I wasn’t busy. No I didn’t check things off of a list. And to be honest, it felt very good. I came to see I need to do more of it.

Relaxing feels good. We do far too little of it. And when I say relax I am not saying be lazy or a sluggard.
Here are some photos! Notice my first attempt at a “selfie”!
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I am saying give yourself a break. They say that if you are sitting at a desk working you should get up and walk around ever two hours or so. Go outside and breathe fresh air. Well, that should apply to our months and years. When we work steadily at a job we need a break once in a while. That’s why most companies give paid vacations. It makes for better workers. Even God rested! And He knew we needed rest – that’s what Sunday is all about! A day of rest. Sabbaticals are necessary for everyone. We function best when rested.

There are no crowns for exhaustion!

Silence and Praise

August 18, 2014

I read Psalm 65 the other morning (I love the Psalms!) then just before I closed my Bible I paused for a moment. Verse one says “there will be silence before Thee and praise in Zion…” I wanted to think about that. Silence. And praise. One does not overrule the other. You can praise in silence. (Something some of these newer churches don’t seem to understand – there isn’t much room for silence in their services…but that’s a subject for another blog!)

Anyway, I reread the chapter and certain words caught my eye…

God hears, forgives, chooses, blesses, brings near, satisfies, establishes, stills, causes joy, visits. He is not up in heaven just idly observing us – closely. He knows what is going on and is active on our behalf.

Words like overflow, greatly, enrich, full, prepare, abundant, soften, bless, crown, bounty, fatness, rejoicing, joy and sing fill this chapter! Such lavishness. It catches one’s breath and silences us. But then the praise cannot be contained! We must sing and shout the goodness of our mighty, lavish God.

It reminds me of II Corinthians 9:8: “God is able to make all grace abound to you so that in all things and at all times, having every thing you need you will abound to every good work.” He gives so that we will be able to give. He fills so that we will pour out.

What are we giving? What are we pouring out? Can these same descriptive words be said of us? Me? Do I listen to people and really hear what they are saying? Do I readily forgive – even the repeated slights? Do I chooses to engage and bless others? Is my life one that softens a situation? Is my life marked by joy and singing?

Even as I write these questions I am convicted that it is not always true in my heart. I am too frequently more tuned into self than others. My heart is so burdened by my own concerns I don’t see or sense another’s anxiety. My burdens suffocate my capacity for joy and singing. I am not very God-like, I am grieved to admit.

But the good news is that I don’t have to stay that way! Going back to Psalm 85. God hears, forgives…

Suicide

August 15, 2014
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Suicide is a very serious thing. It has been in our news this week as actor Robin Williams took his own life.

It is very sad. Robin Williams was very talented. I don’t know if he knew God or not. He made light of God in his comedy routine and he could be very crude and profane. My prayer has been that the only One who could have offered him hope and solace met Robin in his deepest despair.

God is faithful. There is no question about that. Faithfulness is a part of His character. However, we all have choice – His faithfulness does not overrule our free will to choose.

There are those that see no way out, they have lost all hope – in life, in God. They cannot see or feel the faithfulness, love, mercy of God at that moment. It is all darkness – no hint of light so they resort to something that they think will bring relief – they take their own life. It is a mental illness.

I do not believe, as many do, that if someone takes their own life they automatically go to hell. The unpardonable sin is the ultimate rejection of the Person and work of Jesus Christ. He came to seek and to save those that are lost. He came not to condemn us but to save us.

I find great comfort in something my mother said long ago, “God did not call them home, but He welcomed them home.”

Prayer Circle in Washington, D.C. (some photos too!)

August 6, 2014

On Monday night I had the joy of meeting up with my friend Sarah who lives in Washington…she is so interesting as she knows the city well and little details you don’t get from a tour guide. On Monday evenings she a group of her friends walk around the impressive government buildings, praying. She asked if I would join them. I was more than eager to do so.

It turned out to be just the two of us…we walked from the Tidal Basin around the White House, Executive Office Building and the Treasury. (A prayer circle – read Mark Batterson’s book by that title.) It was a muggy night but beautiful. Official Washington D.C. is really one of the prettiest cities in the world. As we walked, we stopped at various locations and prayed aloud – to those around us it would have sounded like normal conversation – we were not making a spectacle of ourselves! But God heard us as we directed our requests, with thanksgiving, to Him.

The buildings and scenery are impressive but the people in them are not in control – contrary to popular opinion. God is. He is Almighty. He is the Creator. Sustainer. He sits on the eternal throne and He is holy, just, merciful and mighty. His plans are being carried out. What a comfort!

It was a special evening! (I have attached photos.) I felt honored, humbled and privileged. And overwhelmed by the needs of those serving in our government as well as the military. They have huge responsibilities and without God’s wisdom they just cannot do it well. PLease pray for all in authority – as Paul wrote to Timothy. He didn’t say we had to agree with them or even like them – we were to pray for them. And Jesus told us to pray for our enemies. And don’t forget Jerusalem! The need is even greater in these uncertain times.

Pray for Sarah as she faithfully does this week in and week out. What a dedicated precious young woman.

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Israel – What Can We Do?

July 21, 2014

I was reading Psalm 89 this morning. It mentions God’s faithfulness to His covenant with David. This Psalm is a powerful description of how God holds His covenant with King David.

My heart breaks for all that is going on between Israel and Hamas. Israel is fighting for survival – it is not invading just protecting itself from this evil aggression that threatens all of civilization. Our media makes Israel out as the aggressor – it is not.

As Christians we are grafted into the Jewish family – we are deeply connected to the soul & soil of Israel. We need to be in earnest prayer for them. (See my last post.) Israel is at the very heart of God and His people.

My friend, Lydia, has suggested we read the book of Deuteronomy. A marvelous, reassuring book for these days and made me aware of some excellent organizations that are working to aid those suffering in this tragic conflict in Gaza -

a) CMJ – has begun”Operation Respite” at all their guest houses in Israel to offer shelter and relief to families (Arab and Jewish) who are being bombarded by Hamas rockets. Pray for these efforts and funds to support the loss of income at the guest houses.

b) Fellowship of Christians & Jews – This group provides relief of every kind from bomb shelters, food, medical care, humanitarian & spiritual assistance.

c) Christians United for Israel – Is having their annual Conference in Washington, DC, to promote relations between Israel and America as well as between Christians and Jews. A Night to Honor Israel will held tonight, July 21. They will contact our senators, representatives and political leaders.

We can too…call write…your representatives. They need to hear from us. Our voice can be heard. And will be in heaven!

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