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Posts Tagged ‘religion’

mI visited Agape Hope House in Nairobi, Kenya earlier this month. My thoughts and emotions ran the gambit that first day as we spent 6 or 7 hours with the children in the orphanage and then talked (and prayed) with Oliver and Maggie that day and over the next few days. My thoughts have turned back to Kenya and the children many times in the two weeks I have been home. Today, I hope to convey something of the raw… actually a better word is pure, emotion that God is stirring in me as I pray and ponder what I can do to help… how can I further God’s work in these children’s lives and in the lives of those God wants to use to join Maggie and Oliver, LJ and Danee, Coleman and Serving Orphans Worldwide, and me in ministering to “the least of these”.

 

The smiles belie a sad reality. Opportunity in Kenya is scarce. The path ahead for these children is not well trod. There are many obstacles in their path and the way is overgrown and hardly discernable. Yet smile they do. Because they are children they don’t comprehend how difficult the path ahead is.

  • These children have never slept in their own bed… and yet they smile.
  • These children have never had a birthday party at Chuck-E-Cheese, or McDonalds, or the skating rink… and yet they smile.
  • These children have never bought a new piece of clothing or shoes… and yet they smile.
  • These children don’t have a clue what it is like to have your own room, your own bed, your own “stuff”… and yet they smile.
  • These children eat every meal in masse, attend class in masse, go to bed in masse, and generally get attention in masse. With individual attention given by so few to so many, rare is the child who knows the tender love and attention my children (and grandchildren) get on a regular basis… and yet they smile.
  • The mental picture of “Mom” and “Dad” for many of these children is sketchy… and yet they smile. (Thank God for Maggie and Oliver who pour into them as much as they humanly can and who bring some balance to the term Momma and Daddy.)
  • These children have never had anyone wash their clothes, make their beds, clean up their room… and yet they smile.
  • These children have never had a choice of what they would like to eat… and yet they smile.

But, because of Agape Hope House and a few faithful donors these children have hope and a window of opportunity that is greater than their peers living outside the compound walls. The path from where they are may have as many obstacles, but the education, the encouragement, the guidance, and the faith they gain at Agape Hope House equips them to navigate a path to a better life. Today there are those who have walked the path to a better, faith-filled life of adulthood from Agape Hope House. While still a challenging path, knowing that others have taken the path and been successful is in itself a great encouragement. Some of those who have grown into adults with the benefit of Agape Hope have returned to mentor, to support, and to help.

The love of Jesus and the children is the motivator for Oliver and Maggie. They have given their lives to the work. The ½ acre piece of ground with 19 buildings, 140 orphans the day I was there, and a school enrolment of 487 stands as a light in a dark and difficult environment. The contrasts on this day buffeted me. The time of play with the children was just plain fun. The talk with some of the children on how they came to be at Agape Hope tore at my heart. The shy smiles of some and the mugging for the camera by others made me laugh. Noticing the girl sitting alone after doing her laundry while all the others played made me wonder – “what’s her story?” And every time a child slipped their hand in mine or Coleman’s or one of the other adults the bitter sweetness of the moment stung and stirred.

If this touches you, stirs you, or simply makes you curious, please take a few moments to look up Serving Orphans Worldwide on the internet at soworldwide.org. Visit Agape Hope Children’s Home on their page to learn more about the work Oliver and Maggie are doing for children in Nairobi.  Finally please join us in prayer.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ ‘ Matthew 25:31-40

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I recently traveled to Kenya to support some friends who are serving in an orphanage and school in Nairobi. It was an awesome trip and I was greatly encouraged by the Davis family’s faithfulness in serving the Lord and the dozens of young people under their charge. I told a friend last night that the trip was amazing, but somehow that word really isn’t sufficient. My wife and I travel for leisure a fair amount and seeing new places, experiencing new cultures, and making new friends is not a new experience for me. My common response is that a trip is “amazing”. This was so much more than that. It was inspiring. It was hard work. It was uplifting talking to LJ and Danee about the work. It was wonderful to hear from the Lord frequently and be able to obey with the encouragement and activity that He directed.

 

It weighed on my heart to see the poverty, filth, and lack of opportunity that is so much more prevalent than in the USA (or any of the places we travel to for fun). But as heavy as that was, the light of God’s goodness in the work being carried out stood out in stark, highly desirable contrast. There are many lessons that I have taken from the trip. Some were fully formed while I was there. Some are still being processed. Yesterday we hosted friends for our home group and the Lord brought a new consideration to light that I want to share today.

Maturing in faith and becoming a seasoned Christian will always include steps out of our comfort zone. In fact, growth as a believer will be an on-going series of steps that progressively move us from a place of comfort and ease into new territory that will often be a little scary and uncomfortable. But it is in stepping into the new that we learn to trust in Jesus’s presence and provision more than our own abilities and strength. I used to think that the word comfort meant ease and leisure. The actual root of the term comfort means “with strength”. Com = with, fort comes from the same root as fortress or fortification – a place of strength. When we are comforted, we are given strength to endure whatever difficulty, trial, or challenge we are encountering. Being comforted is a good thing. Being comfortable is in itself not a bad thing. However, as I have discussed in previous posts, there are times when the good can become an enemy of the best. And God wants the best for His children.

So what is the problem with being comfortable and why does God want us to move out of our comfort zone? The issue is not that God is a killjoy. Joy, comfort, and peace are great gifts He provides. But these are by-products not the end product. The end is a deepening relationship with Him and a greater intimacy with the lover of our soul. It is God’s desire that each one of us grow to know Him so well that we live in constant communion with Him. Prayer without ceasing is more than a pious platitude, it is an accurate description of the life God wants to lead us into. Which is where our personal comfort zone can become a hindrance rather than a good thing.

The Creator of the universe is without limits. His love is truly beyond our comprehension, but He wants us to experience it in ever greater amounts. To do so often means we must let go of our existing beliefs and understanding to experience the next greater level of His love. The same is true of His wisdom, His faithfulness, His mercy, His grace. Each time we let go of our current state of satisfaction and lean into a holy hunger for more of Him, we will experience a stretching and growth that reveals more of God’s nature, and by definition, will result in a degree of loss of the negatives of the world’s perspective. For me personally, this stretching often includes a letting go of self-reliance in some area to gain a greater God-reliance.

I saw this in Kenya. It was evident in my friends LJ and Danee. Masai Village-14It was also true in me. God’s specific word to LJ was “to prepare the land”. The orphanage had fallen into disrepair. Mismanagement had resulted in the loss of the license as a children’s home and much of the 14-acre compound was overgrown with brush and vegetation. The entire family responded to the call to prepare the land. Now for many of us, traveling overseas can be a daunting experience. That increases when the travel is to a third world country. Raise it another notch when we are placed next to the 2nd largest slum in the world. Kibera Children's Center-43Oh, for good measure, take the entire family with children ages 15, 14, 13, and 9 in tow. Kibera Children's Center-53I know very few people who would be able to be stretched that far. But the path the Lord has led Danee and LJ on has been a path of consistent next steps of trusting God as they go a little further out of their comfort zone, only to see Him provide exactly what was needed after each step.

While I was there, I witnessed LJ assuming the new role of overall Operations Manager for the entire compound. By his own admission, LJ is a country boy from rural South Carolina. He did not aspire to running an orphanage and school, but as I witnessed while I was there, LJ and Danee are faithfully doing whatever is required in leading, guiding, and serving the community. And the land itself is beginning to flourish. A ¾ acre vegetable garden is up and growing. Kibera Children's Center-91Soon it will be a major supplement to the food provisions for the 84 children getting their meals at LifeSpring. The livestock are multiplying. The third fluffle of rabbits are being nurtured and rabbit hutches were built while I was there.

 

Chickens roam the grounds during the day with baby chicks sticking close to mama hen for protection. Goats graze on grass where brambles once grew. To support the growing campus, LJ has hired widows and young men in desperate need of employment. The land is well on its way to being prepared.

LJ’s work as an instrument and controls technician prepared him for some of the work. I chuckle though because Google has come to the rescue many times as they encounter new situations they have never dealt with before. (Like letting me know that a group of baby bunnies is called a fluffle!) In one instance they were talking to one of the widows who had been hired to tend the garden. In Kenya all the schools are in English, so if you have had the benefit of attending school you are liable to speak decent English. This widow, who cares for her grandchild in the Kibera slum, knows zero English therefore she has never been to school. Kibera Children's Center-98Trying to communicate to her that LJ had bought four tin sheets to replace the plastic she was living under in Kibera was both humorous and deeply touching. Google translate had to translate into Swahili so the widow could understand that some men would be coming by to help her. Kenyans don’t cry. Stoic persistence to survive doesn’t leave room for expressing much emotion, but the emotion flickered on her face when she realized the act of kindness being done for her. Kibera Children's Center-93

LJ and Danee went to Kenya following the Lord’s clear leading. But following the Lord’s leading and knowing all that we are getting into are often two different things. In some cases, the Father will give us a degree of insight into what’s ahead. I think of Paul the apostle heading to Jerusalem where he would be arrested. God clearly told him to go to Jerusalem. And he was also clearly told that difficulty was ahead. But God gave Paul an assurance that walking this difficult path was God’s will and that God would be with him. Paul was called out of his comfort zone over and over again. In stepping into God’s call out of the comfort zone and into the unknown, Paul grew into the apostle God created him to be. Today the Church is blessed because of Paul’s faithfulness in living outside of his comfort zone since much of the New Testament was written by Paul.

As the Lord opened my eyes to the reality of our growth as believers being tied to stepping out of our comfort zone, I realized all the saints in the Word were taken out of their comfort zone. Abraham left his family, his land, and ventured many long and difficult miles to a “promised” land. There was comfort in the land of Haran, but God’s call was to step out and follow Him. Mary was a young woman engaged to a kind carpenter, when an angel said you have been chosen but it will take you out of your comfort zone. Mary said “let it be done to me as you have said” and she stepped out of her comfort zone and into God’s plan for the salvation of humanity. Jesus was a good Jewish lad, well versed in the law, but God had a plan and a call upon His life. Jesus was unique. He was fully God, but at the same time fully human. Being fully human, He experienced a degree of comfort as a carpenter’s son, then apprentice, and finally working as a carpenter in His own right. But when God said step out of your comfort zone and into my call upon your life He did. Jesus ministered for three years outside of His comfort zone – forty days fasting in the desert, speaking to crowds that wanted signs and wonders, but not necessarily the all-in life with God He was espousing, doing battle with the persons of power and influence who chaffed at His familiarity with God, and finally suffering a painful and humiliating torture and execution at the hands of both Roman authorities and Jewish leaders. Jesus modeled a life of stretching our human boundaries of comfort in faithful response to God’s call to something better, something richer, to life in union with God and His unique plan for each person.

Friends I am deeply stirred that God has a call upon every person into a life that is beyond amazing. He has a call upon you. But it is a journey that will frequently take us out of our comfort zone. God will ask us to step in faith in Him and not in sight by using our own wisdom and strength. We will have to rely upon Him. We will be stretched. At times it won’t be “fun”. At times it will even be difficult. But as we listen and lean upon Him, He will be with us to bring about His good will in us and through us. And this is so much better than the “good” we might experience in the comfort zone. Because it is the best.

What burden or desire has the Lord put on your heart that gets shelved because it is outside your comfort zone?

Where do you see injustice, need, or sin that really pushes your buttons, but thus far you have done little beyond complain about it?

Do you have a passion for something the Word says to do, yet thus far you have not truly considered the possibility of you doing something just because?

Take a few moments and ask the Father to bring your next step into clear focus. Ask with a willingness to take the next step. Realize these will not usually be huge leaps out of the blue, but a gradual revelation where God draws you to a faith place that makes each progressive step a stretch, but doable with a little courage and trust in the One Who has provided for you in the past. For the Davis’ it was a few years walking out many progressive next steps into mission work. For me going over to help them was similar, taking about a year of progressive faith steps. Having been, my faith is stirred to help even more. Will I be more comfortable? Walking in God’s grace and lifted by His love, I reckon I have all the strength a person needs. So the answer has to be yes, but in a new way. When we walk His path, taking new steps into the unknown that He directs we will be comforted with His great comfort. And that is way better than just being comfortable.

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I wonder how many people in Jerusalem realized how special the approaching high Sabbath would be 2000 years ago?  The pivot point of all human history was days away and I suspect no one aside from Jesus really grasped the import of the times.

Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea come to mind as two persons that may have had an inkling, but I am certain they didn’t quite comprehend the plan God had in mind.  The hustle and bustle of the ceremonial season would have been a bit of a distraction to them or to any religious leader trying to discern the course of the itinerant preacher named Jesus.

The political intrigue of the religious leaders and the secular authorities would have kept the insiders guessing.  The young and zealous desiring freedom from Rome were a constant threat for bringing down the heavy heel of the Roman legions.  The Roman and Jewish leaders sought to walk a fine line between some autonomy for the people to continue their religious practices and the rule of Rome.  People were pawns to them and the game they played would have kept them clueless to the miracle of miracles that was drawing nigh.

It would seem the most likely to have some insight into what was about to unfold would have been the common folk who traveled with Jesus.  Jesus had told them on a number of occasions that He had to go to Jerusalem to die.  But they too were not able to put the pieces together in this week of preparation.  Some perceived Him to be the Messiah sent from God, but dying???

Even today, we risk overlooking the importance of what God is doing… here, now.  We have the benefit of 2000 years of history pointing to the validity of God’s marvelous plan.  We have written records that clearly demonstrate God moving, saving, recreating, releasing, and empowering the Church… common folk and noble alike.  All who turn to Him can be saved and given new life.  Jesus is alive and at work RIGHT NOW.

But we so easily miss the best because of all the rest.  Political intrigue… yep it’s still here and many are distracted by it.  Religious ceremony… check, we will have our “bells and smells” and Easter egg hunts, our new Easter clothes and church’s filled with CEOs.  (CEO = Christmas and Easter Only).   Sadly, even Jesus-followers sometimes struggle with perceiving how special this time is because of work or vacation (can anyone say “spring break”), or the pressures of life… each of which demand our attention.

Do you sense the importance of what Jesus did this week 2000 years ago?  Do you sense the importance of what He is doing right now?  It is not my intent to beat you up from afar, but I do want you to consider what Jesus did and He is doing.  I encourage you to set aside time to just meet with Jesus this Holy Week and ask Him to help you see it with new eyes.  We are easily distracted, but this most special time is worth the effort to anticipate and experience with wonder.  God gave us the most precious gift in His Son, Jesus.  Jesus offers us salvation (and so much more) through the gift of His life.  He took our sin and exchanged it for His righteousness on the cross.  In this final week before He submitted Himself to the most excruciating of deaths, Jesus poured out such amazing wisdom.  Check out the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ last week.  Matthew 21 and following, Mark 11 and following, Luke 19:28 and following, and John 12:12 and following.

I have found that my blessing in Easter grows immeasurably when I allow Jesus to help me in Holy Week to see how special it really is.  My prayer is that you too will experience Jesus in a new a fresh way this Holy Week and into Easter.

Blessings upon you today my friend.

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Over the past few weeks I have taken more time to study one of the chief “villains” in the Easter story, Caiaphas, the high priest who orchestrated Jesus’ crucifixion.  While I have contemplated the Easter story hundreds of times through the years, I have always just lumped Caiaphas and his father-in-law Annas into the group of evil religious leaders who conspired to have Jesus killed by the Romans.  While true, I realize this superficial look misses a vital lesson that we need to consider in our walk with the Lord.

  • How did these men who were steeped in the religion of the Jews miss the coming of the Messiah?
  • As the prophecies were fulfilled why did they not stop, reconsider, and acknowledge that Jesus was who He claimed to be?
  • Finally when Jesus rose from the dead, why did they not get the message then?

Answers to these questions will help us find the right path that they failed to see.  Simply stated “Wrong Motives Made Them Miss the Messiah

For these men, religion defined by their interpretation of the Law, meaned everything.  Most importantly it trumped the relationship aspect that God desires to have with His children.  King David was called a man after God’s own heart because He was passionate to know the Lord.  You can’t help but see this intimacy in many of David’s psalms – see Psalm 51, 91, 139 for good examples of this intimacy.  For Caiaphas the protection of the “purity” of the Law was His responsibility.  As high priest he was the final arbiter in disputes and interpretation of how it was applied.  Viewing his role as the primary custodian of the Law, Caiaphas took exception to any view of the religion different from his.  When asked by one of the religious leaders what the greatest commandment was Jesus response was not about religion but relationships.  From Matt 22:35-40:

One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 22:37 (Deut. 6:5) 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 22:39 (Lev. 19:18) 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Jesus’ message of a relationship with God and particularly His boiling the Law down to two keys struck the religious leaders as a direct attack on everything they stood for.  They saw their religion threatened and their defenses were on the alert to any further subversion of their religious practice.  Their religion made it hard for them to see the living God among them.

There was also the potential political threat of Jesus teaching.  Jesus was amazingly popular.  He brought a message to every man, woman, and child of a God Who loved them deeply, Who care for them intimately, and through signs and miracles wrought by Jesus’ hand, was actively engaged in people’s lives.  Under the Roman occupation though popular figures were considered a threat who could marshal the masses to rebel and this was not acceptable.  Both the Romans and the Religious leaders were determined to prevent a rebellion, therefore Jesus walked under a cloud of suspicion.  On a number of occasions Jesus pointedly rejected the political route even though many in the crowd clamored for Jesus to fulfill the popular interpretation of the conquering, kingly Messiah.  But both the Romans and the Religious leadership heard the crowds, they saw them growing, and they felt the threat to the delicate balance in this hotbed of sedition.  Their political view made it hard for them to see the living God among them.

Annas’ was of the Zadokite clan.  The high priesthood had resided in the Zadokite clan for hundreds of years.  When Alexander the Great conquered and rose to power he transferred power away from the Zadokite clan.  The Romans however restored power to Annas’ ancestors building a political and financial relationship that was mutually beneficial to both parties… at the expense of the general population.  Taxes, fees, exchange rates, and monopolies on religious essentials allowed the priestly families to become incredibly wealthy.  They in turn shared some of this wealth with the Roman’s in the form of tribute.  To the religious leaders Jesus assault upon the money-changers and vendors selling animals in the Temple was more than just an attack on their prescribed religious practices, it was an attack on their carefully crafted and extravagant livelihood.  Their lifestyle and the financial pipeline from the religious practices that poured lots of money into their pockets made it hard for them to see the living God among them.

Finally as the story of Easter plays out the religious leaders’ anger, hatred, and rage finds its full vent upon Jesus.  That Jesus does nothing to resist them, nor does He do anything to try and deflect their accusations causes the mock trial, torture, and execution to progress rapidly.  In approximately 24 hours Jesus goes from kind and gentle leader of a small band of disciples to a dead body in a grave.  The book “Killing Jesus” by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Duggard brings to light much of the context and backstory that we may not pick up just from reading the biblical text.  The high priest and religious leaders broke numerous religious laws in the way they handled Jesus’ case, however they justified it all on religious and political expediency.  On the third day, when the tomb is opened and the body of Jesus disappears despite a Roman guard stationed at the tomb, I would think that they might have second thoughts about who Jesus was and the validity of their actions.  Instead they make up a story about the body being stolen and attempt to carry on life as normal.  Their pride and their guilt made it hard for them to see the risen God among them.

We’ve looked at roadblocks to recognizing and accepting the Lord for Who He is.  It is also true that these same obstacles will keep us from growing in our faith.  Jesus has called us to live an abundant life.  But it is important to realize that this abundant life begins and ends in our relationship with Him.  Every one of the areas mentioned above: our religious observations, our political leaning, our lifestyle and financial provision, even our emotions are to subservient to our knowing and growing in Christ.  The message of Easter is that Jesus is Alive.  Let us live fully in the reality that Jesus is Alive and wants to live in us more fully every day.  Say “YES!” to Jesus’ continuing work in you and you will experience His love in greater and greater measure day by day.

Be blessed my friend and be God’s blessing right where He puts you today.

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Semantics, the subtle nuances in the meanings of words, has always fascinated me.  I enjoy good puns and having a good grasp of semantics is essential to delivering or catching a good pun.  (I know many family members would question whether the adjective good should be applied to my puns, but humor me here please.)  As a reliability consultant the past 3-1/2 years I have been asked for guidance on all elements of reliability.  For many of these elements I have a deep knowledge and I can answer with total confidence.  These are things I know.  For some elements I have a good knowledge and I can answer with only slight qualifications to the veracity of my statements.  These are things I believe.  Occasionally I have to give my best guess.  These are the things I think to the best of my current knowledge.  I use these three compartments: What I Know, What I Believe, and What I Think not just to help me express work-related information but to guide my actions and define who I am.  I suspect everyone has these compartments even if they don’t take the time to mentally process each statement.  In my opinion the statement “As a man thinks, so he is” is true in the broadest use of the word think.  However in my definition it is what a man believes and knows that more accurately defines who he is.

A person’s worldview is the set of beliefs that determine their understanding of the world and how they interpret future data that they take in.  Fundamentally a worldview can be broken down into a list of value statements that a person holds.  Here are some examples.

  • In my work we have built a Model of what excellent Reliability looks like.  The heart of that model is the 310 value statements which give discrete elements of what equipment reliability is.
  • We are in an election year and the presidential campaigns are busy laying out their candidates value statements (or trying to pin negative value statements upon their opponent).
  • Marriage is established upon certain value statements… we are faithful to one another, we will communicate consistently, I will take out the trash… important things like that.
  • I can think of many examples throughout history when groups of people found it necessary to document their shared beliefs as value statements –
  • the Apostles Creed in the early church,
  • the Magna Carta in England,
  • the Mayflower Compact as the Pilgrims arrived in the New World,
  • our Declaration of Independence.

These are all attempts to capture what a group of persons collectively know and believe.

It is a worthy activity for a person to take the time to assess their own Life to understand what their core beliefs are and where they come from.  Over the past several months I have taken a closer look at this in my life.  I have determined that one of the greatest sources of discontent is when our actions do not align with our core beliefs.  A corollary to that is one of our greatest sources of disconnectedness with others is when our core beliefs are not well founded upon truth.  While I may cover a few of those beliefs, my main goal today is to describe an effective process to define core beliefs.

What are the sources for what you believe?  The most common is experience.  The older we get the larger the repository of experiences that we have had.  I am convinced experience provides us many lessons.  It’s important to remember that even our experiences are interpreted through our existing worldview, but that is the case for all of us.  The important point is to consider our experiences as objectively as we possibly can AND allow the other sources to shed greater light upon our experiences.

The next source is what others we trust and love have experienced.  Being married provides (or at least it should provide) a level of intimacy with another that gives us a very deep experience base.  A little less intimate, but still quite valid are parents, siblings, children, and close friends and other family.  We are not meant to do life alone.  The knowledge and wisdom of family and community are an essential safety net when we are building our core beliefs.  There is a reason that terrorists isolate themselves into cells.  They must do this to stoke the misguided beliefs they hold and to keep truth and rational thinking out.

The next source is the accumulated historical wisdom that has been handed down from great thinkers and doers in history.  For me as a believer in God and a follower of God’s Son, Jesus, I recognize that He has given us a guidebook for life.  I consider the Word of God to be paramount in setting my beliefs.  However I also recognize that the Word of God must be considered within the context of the entire bible.  I know that it has to be accurately interpreted.  (The Holy Spirit helps us with this, but at least for me I sometimes don’t listen as well as I should.)  There are more sources which do not carry the same weight as the scriptures but are nonetheless helpful.  The writings of CS Lewis are a great example in my life.  Another recent example for me was reading the Federalist Papers.  I was fascinated with the thought processes behind the development of the US Constitution.  Also I put some of the schooling and training I have had into this group.

A fourth source, and I put this source a good bit behind the first three mentioned, is the third-party accounts of others.  While there is still value in these, They must be treated with more discernment.  I have three major considerations that I find necessary for third-party accounts.  The first is that I do not know their worldview and whether truth is their standard or not.  The second is the timeliness of the information.  While prompt gathering of evidence is crucial in getting complete and exact data it takes time to get all the information to make a correct assessment of what it really means.  When building an accurate worldview, we cannot base it upon snippets of information.  The third is the accuracy of the communication from the third-party to me… did they effectively verbalize it and did I effectively hear and interpret it.

The last source is all the various means of information sharing that exist today.  The tops in this category are the few periodicals, websites, and a small number of news shows that I have developed confidence in their striving for truth.  Most fall far short of these.  I still occasionally tune in to network news, but I always take what they say with a grain of salt.  Sadly the biases on these programs must be taken into account.  (Even sadder is that many people do not and their worldview is skewed by these biases.) I also look to blogs such as this one and others that I have developed confidence in.  In a way some of these are like third-party accounts mentioned above.

Two other points before I wrap up today’s post.  First every person has a worldview whether they realize it as such or not.  I have mentioned all the primary sources of information where we gather facts to construct our worldview.  Our worldview sets the direction and course of our life, it puts boundaries in our life, and ultimately it determines who we are.  This worldview is the sum of all the value statements that we hold to be true.

Second as a believer, God has given us His Holy Spirit.  In John 16:13 Jesus describes one of the roles of the Holy Spirit, “13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.  We are bombarded by lots of information every day.  Some true but a lot of it not.  We must have help in discerning that which we should hold and that which is proper to discard.  The Holy Spirit desires to help us in this and He will if we but ask and trust.

I believe there is ultimate truth and it rests with God.  Every person sees and experiences only a small slice of life from which to build their worldview.  Consequently we have varying elements of our worldview that are and are not true.  For me it is one of my life goals to know and align with what is true.  I can only do this if I am humble enough to admit that I may not have it right… that what I think and what I believe are not true.  Finally I have to objectively and prayerfully analyze the data I receive each day considering the source and how it relates to what I know.

I want to please God by discerning and living a true, faithful, and honorable life.  Since my worldview defines me, I need to get it right.  Asking God to help me, this I strive to do.  I encourage you as you strive to know what it true too.

God bless you today and always my friend.

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I mentioned to a loved one recently that I was so thankful for the conversion of our oldest daughter.  They got this bewildered look and said, “Conversion?  What did she convert to?”  When I said, “To Christianity”.  He said, “But wasn’t she already a Christian?”

If you had asked her for a religious preference she would have put down Christian.  She could have recited some bible verses for you.  She would even tell you that Jesus was God’s Son and that He died for the sins of the world.  But was He Lord of her life, I know she would tell us no, he was not Lord of her life.  And this makes all the difference.

Judas was one of the 12 persons closest to Jesus.  From the hundreds of followers Jesus selected just 12 to become His disciples.  These men were given intimate access to Him for 3 years as He healed, taught, traveled, and preached across Israel.  Judas knew Jesus personally… closely.  Judas was committed to the cause.  He had given Jesus his life.  But, he had not given Jesus his heart.

There is a school of thought that Judas’ betrayal of Jesus was based upon a misguided attempt by Judas to “force Jesus hand” to make Him declare Himself king.  The main thinking is that Judas was simply a greedy manipulator that Jesus selected knowing he would be a willing pawn in satan’s plan to have Him killed.  Either way, Judas chose his own way rather than to put his whole trust in Jesus.  At this crucial point in history his heart guided him to forsake an intimate life with Jesus and the family of God to do his own thing.

Although everyone’s story is unique, our daughter’s conversion has the characteristics that define a heart surrender to Jesus.

  • She had lived her life following her own rules for a long time, long enough to know that it didn’t fulfill her.
  • She recognized that there was something more, a sense of joy and peace that some people possessed that she couldn’t seem to attain.  She could do happiness and laughter, but these were always for the short-term.
  • She recognized that she did some things that broke even her own rules.  And that she broke God’s rules even more.
  • She came to a point of a broken heart.  She wanted to be a better person.
  • She trusted God.  She asked Him to help her.  She surrendered her heart to Him.
  • He entered her life and made her a “new creation”.
  • The transformation on the inside began immediately and it is visible on the outside as well.
  • She had worn a lot of masks and her life contained a good bit of lies and half-truths.  Part of the transformation is that she and God are identifying and discarding these.  This process, which the bible calls sanctification, is a life-long activity.
  • Today she is practicing reconciliation on a consistent basis.
  • She has given up several habits that were either harmful to her and others or were simply not helpful to growing in her new life in Christ.
  • She and her husband are closer than they ever have been as they are growing together.
  • She is devouring the bible and the Holy Spirit is opening her mind to the truth it contains.

I could go on, but the point is established – there is a fundamental difference between knowing about Jesus and knowing Jesus.  When you know Jesus, His love captures you and your heart is His.  You can know about Jesus and not experience the life-change that comes from a conversion experience.

On Easter 2000 years ago, Jesus emerged from the grave alive.  He is the living Lord.  No one else has ever died for you and risen.  Since He is alive, He is available to meet and talk with you.  It is His desire to meet with you.  To talk with you.  To help you with your needs.  To show you the right path.  To be your friend first.  But to also be your Lord.

Everyone has gods that they serve.  Some are obviously bad for us.  Others, like religion, promise to help us please God.  Religion is man’s attempt to reach God.  But God came to us.  He wants relationship, not religion.  Religion is like the workaholic father who buys his wife and kids all the stuff they want but does not invest time with them face-to-face.  Stuff and activity on their behalf is not what is needed.  Intimacy… time… relationship is what is important.  Religion can never substitute for relationship.  The best it can do is help give depth IF the relationship with God through Jesus already exists.  The worst it can do is kill people in the name of god.  More on this in another post.

God sent His Son, Jesus to live, die, and live again for you and for me.  Trust Him.  Seek Him.  Give Him your heart and you will KNOW that He is, that He loves you, and that He will live with you from now on.

If you want an intimate life with God speak to Him now.  You can pray this prayer.  You can be specific about where you miss the mark.  And about your needs.  He knows them already, but it helps us when we give them voice and share them with Him.

God, I come to you right now asking for your help.  I have run my life for so long and frankly I have made a mess of things so many times.  I am sorry for the times I have missed the mark.  I am sorry for the times I have sinned against you and others.  Please forgive me.  I turn away from my sin and I turn to you.  I want you in my life.  I want to be a new creation.  Thank you Jesus for hearing my prayer.  Thank you Lord for forgiving my sin.  Thank you Father for guiding my life from this moment on.  I give you my heart.  I accept your Lordship over every area of my life.  I give myself to you.  And it’s in the name of Jesus that I pray.  Amen.

If you prayed that prayer tell someone.  Tell me if you do not have any other believers around.  Just comment back to me.

Scripture to read – 2 Corinthians 5:17, Romans 5:1-5, Ephesians 2:1-10

God bless you today and always.

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An hour and a half before sunrise the women found the spices and death dressings they had made for the Body and quietly slipped outside. As they gathered few words were used although silent embraces spoke of the pain and grief each one felt.  The past few days were a blur of confusion.  Just days before He had entered town to such fanfare and adoration – “Hosanna!  Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord.  Hosanna in the highest.”  They had thought that perhaps this was the time He would be proclaimed as king.  The miracles that they had seen with their own eyes… even unto to some of them, was surely a testament to God’s great power that was with Him.  And yet today they were going to dress His body for the final time and His tomb would be sealed… forever.

Someone broke the silent contemplation with a very practical question.  “Who will roll away the stone?”  They had been there as Joseph and Nicodemus hastily prepared His body on the eve of the Sabbath.  The large stone weighing 2 tons or more was rolled down over the opening just before they left.  “Perhaps the guards will help us.” another said.  Word had gotten to His followers that a Roman guard had been posted at the tomb.  There would be four soldiers when they arrived.  They all remembered the centurion who was stationed at the cross when He had died.  He knew He was not a common criminal, but a righteous man.  He showed kindness toward the family.  “Perhaps…”

As they neared the tomb, the ground shook violently for a few moments.  On top of the grief, now they had a new terror seize them.  But as quickly as it came, it subsided.  They picked themselves up and now hurried to the tomb.  When they arrived the guards – seasoned, battle-hardened warriors, were on the ground looking as though they had seen a ghost.  The women’s attention did not remain on the guards, but rather jumped to the tomb.  The stone was gone and the tomb was OPEN.  What has happened?  When they looked inside they could see the clothes and spices used to wrap the Body, but the BODY WAS GONE.

“Do not be afraid.”  They looked and a man dressed in a white robe was sitting inside the tomb.  “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified.  He has risen!  He is not here.  See the place where they laid Him.  Go tell His disciples and Peter.  He is alive…”

Jesus suffered death, but death did not… could not hold Him.  Death was introduced into the world when Adam and Eve first sinned.  And since then life’s end was always death.  But with sinless Jesus and His selfless, loving sacrifice the whole order of things was turned on its head.  Death suddenly gave way to life.  Jesus made a new way.  Jesus is the new way.

Mary Magdalene did not put all these thoughts together at that time, but she knew that hope was rekindled in her heart.  It still fought with the fear and confusion of the strange things she was seeing and hearing, but hope had begun again.  Why Jesus picked Mary as the first to see Him is a mystery.  She was a woman who had suffered much, but who had been touched by the Master’s hand and delivered by His word.  It may have been because she pushed herself past her grief to do what had to be done and she was in a place to see Him.  It probably had to do with the hope that was attempting to rise up in her heart and convince her mind that He really was alive.  I am certain at least part of the reason was because Jesus knew her need and stepped in.  But Mary was the first to see the risen Lord.

As I watch the sky brighten in the east this morning signalling a new day about to begin, I think back to that new day.  Everything changed that day.  Death is no longer the end for those who know Jesus.  The power of sin can is broken as we surrender to the One who died to break sin’s hold over us.  God is real.  God is love.  God cares for us.  And God is a person who can and does relate directly with us if we but take the time to seek Him.

Alleluia, He is risen.  The Lord is risen indeed.  Alleluia!

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