Questioning God

We often tell our children that, "Why?" for the sake of understanding is fine.  But it should not become a challenge to our authority and decisions.  I should heed my own advice when approaching God.

Today, I finished a study on the Book of Job.  Many use it to illustrate how God will allow bad things to happen to good people.  The other, no less important lesson, I think is how we respond when we face adversity.  Though Job never wavered in his faith in God's goodness and greatness, his "Whys" crossed the line particularly when he questioned whether there was a purpose for his suffering.  But don't we do the same whenever we ask "Why" with despair, anxiety or even anger?

To have faith in God is not just accepting His existence.  True, saving faith requires us to embrace the goodness of God.  God cannot be wrong and He cannot do wrong.  In our Christian walk, He wants us to question and to grow in our knowledge of Him and His righteousness (Prov 1:2, 7).  But we must approach Him with care and humility -- though we are to strive, we will never reach the goal of understanding.  "Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know."  (Job 42:3)

Peace be with you, children of God

For a few weeks now, I've been chewing on the concept of peace in Scripture.  Each time I think I've grasped it, peace seems to take on a different form with a different definition.  On one hand, there's the common, layman's definition, which is the opposite of conflict.  Then there's the peace used as greetings throughout the various Epistles.  Jesus himself is described as the Prince of Peace.  And which of these does Jesus mean in the Beatitudes, "Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God."?  (Matt 5:9)

You ever sit through a service believing it was intended for you alone?  Today, for our Christmas service, Pastor Mike expounded on the peace promised in Luke 2:14, "peace to men on whom his favor rests."  I was reminded that it was my arrogance that tried to simplify God's peace to a single definition or application.  Peace comes in different forms and can be grasped at different depths.  The ultimate form, that which our Father in heaven wants for us, is to have the peace which can only come by being reconciled with Him.

A few months ago, I met with Pastor Mike to explore the stirring in my soul, a sense of spiritual restlessness.  He asked pointedly, "What do you want to do?"  Without thought, I answered, "I want to be a peacemaker."  Only after have I sought to understand what that truly means.  On the surface, though no less true, a peacemaker seeks to manage or resolve conflicts.  Though important, that's not our ultimate object.  As Jesus explained (Matt 10:34), he did not come to bring that kind of peace, for that's a temporary, worldly peace.  However, the strong emotions that accompany conflict can keep a choke hold on us and prevent us from seeking and worshiping our Lord.  I think it's for this reason that anger suffers the same judgment as murder (Mat 5:22) -- both keep us from the grace of God.  Similarly, we commanded to resolve our conflicts before worship (Matt 5:23-24).  Allowing someone to stay angry with us is to keep them out of God's grace.

Thankful vs Lucky

During this season of Thanksgiving, I'm exploring what it means to be thankful.  To understand something, I find it useful to first understand what it is not.  When we look with pleasure at the circumstances in our lives, we can either feel thankful or lucky.  To feel lucky is to believe that the pleasing circumstances came about by random chance.  To be thankful, on the other hand, is to believe that there's someone to whom we should direct our positive feelings, our thanks.  (To thank is what's called a transitive verb, meaning it requires an object of that thanks.  Okay, grammar lesson is over.)

Most Christians believe in a God who has the power, the knowledge, and the love to be involved in every aspect of every moment of our lives.  In theological terms, we believe in a Sovereign God.  What we have in our lives is credited to Him.  Many Christians, you'll notice will replace the word "lucky" with "blessed".

This may seem nit-picky to some, but I believe words should express what we truly mean and we should truly mean what we say.  So in this season when many of us are openly expressing our thanks, let us not forget the object, or the "you" of our thanks, God.

Opportunity?: Prayer Request

For months, we've prayed for guidance on how we should serve.  We've explored options as extreme as moving to Taiwan or China to care for orphans.  There may be an opportunity at our home church.  Though not quite the upheaval to our lives as moving to another country, it would require a significant commitment by the entire family.

Heavenly Father, We thank you for any opportunity to reflect your glory.  All of our blessing comes from you.  Our heart's desire is to serve you and follow in the path of righteousness you set before us.  Please light the path that you would have us walk.  In our blindness and weakness, we need your guiding hand to keep us on course.  Whatever opportunity you set before us, equip us in all ways to serve and bear fruit for your holy kingdom.

Handicapping God

Imagine on Judgment Day, all of our sins are laid out as blocks on a table.  For some of us, it'll be a very long table.  Now, imagine Jesus comes up beside us as our Advocate.  As he approaches, the blocks start melding and forming into a ball.  Jesus arrives at the table, takes hold of that ball, and throws it.

Most of us won't be able to help ourselves.  Stretching our necks we follow the trajectory of the ball to see where it lands.  We assume that the ball will remain within sight.  Should He choose to, our Judge can still fetch the ball.  For some, the ball will be too big to toss very far.

Scripture tells us differently.
God brought you alive—right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross.  (Col 2:13–14, MSG)
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him;  as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. (Ps 103:11–12, NIV)  (One of my favorite songs, by Casting Crowns, is based on this verse.  Enjoy.)
Our ability to forgive is limited.  Even when we intend to forgive, in the recesses of our minds, we keep tabs.  Forgiveness, for us, is never absolute.

Let us not impose the same limitations on God.  He is love.  He can forgive.  He knows all.  So He forgave knowing what we would yet do.

The Cure for Impatience

How often have those of us who pray asked for patience?  Not a day goes by that I don't feel the need for greater patience.  There are times that I pray that God would hurry and give me patience.

But then perhaps I'm praying for the wrong answer?  While we humans may believe that patience is the antidote for impatience, I've come to believe the God has another answer in mind.  To illustrate, let me take you back over my last 24 hours:

  • "Just pull out of that space already!  Why is it so stinkin' hard?"
  • "Green means go!"
  • "The sign says slower traffic stay right!  If I'm on your tail, then you're obviously slower traffic!"
  • "Why do I have to keep explaining this when you're not paying attention?"
  • "I've been praying for the same thing for weeks now.  Why hasn't God answered?"
First of all, it's a good thing I work from home so I don't have to drive much.  (Maybe that's how God's answered my prayer....let me think about that some more.)

If I'm honest as I peel back to get the root of my impatience, what I'm really saying is "My time is more important than yours" and "I know the best way for doing things, and, naturally, it's my way."  In other words, the root of impatience is pride or self-conceit.  When I'm impatient, am I not just trying to put myself ahead at a cost to others?  If I truly have a servant mentality and consciously lift others up above myself, that impatient urge should be tampered.

In the Bible, patience in one translation will often be translated as "long suffering" or "perseverance" in another.  Patience, by its nature, requires the bearing of discomfort.  For example, according to the Apostle Paul, love isn't just warm and fuzzy.  "Love is patient."  (Cor. 13:4)  In the KJV, "Charity suffereth long."  In my simple mind, love requires us to suck it up and stop acting/thinking as if we deserve more or better.

So...the cure for impatience is not patience, it's humility.  

It's a little trickier when combined with parental duties but we'll leave that for another post.

See Love Is Patient on Desiring God.

Lord, Forgive all the times that I show impatience.  As You have been patient with me, who deserves nothing, let me be patient with others.  As You have loved me, let me love others.  

Serving God...NOW!

Since returning from Cameroon almost six months ago, I've been restless.  To be truthful, even while in Cameroon, I was already coming up with grand schemes on how I could serve God.  Like Peter, all that we'd experienced on the trip had inflamed my passion for service.  Reading books by David Platt and Richard Stearns only added fuel.  Again, like Peter, who'd offered to build tabernacles for Jesus, Moses and Eijah, I wanted to do something...something BIG!

Needs abound while we are so blessed.  Millions die each day from lack of necessities or from preventable diseases.  The number of orphans or children who've been abandoned continues to grow.  Natural disasters indiscriminately devastate in the U.S. and worldwide.

Peg and I have talked about things we can and should be doing.  Perhaps we (including the kids) will go on a short term mission to an orphanage in Mexico.  Or, there's always seems to be a need for volunteers in the South or the Caribbean after a hurricane.  Or maybe we're to serve longer term in China or Taiwan where I can speak the language.

Last month, I had lunch with our Pastor.  At that point, my urge to do something had become like a nervous tick.  I spent hours on the Internet looking at various mission opportunities.  Pastor Mike wisely advised that we not make any decisions out of restlessness but to do it out of peace.

Christian Music

Christian music can be entertaining.  There's nothing wrong with that.  More importantly, however, is music's ability to inflame the recesses of our hearts.  I think that's why the Psalms can be so potent for those hungering for that connection with God.

It'd been a while but Peg and I were able to enjoy a MercyMe concert last Saturday.  They certainly didn't disappoint.  Over the ten years since "I Can Only Imagine" became a hit, the band, rather than losing their passion for the Lord, has only grown in their fervor.  The music can be fun, uplifting, and enlightening in our souls.  Their lyrics challenge us to see the world through God's eyes.

With all of the tragedy and violence in the world today, it's easy to be discouraged.  Throughout the day, I find it useful to have a good, uplifting chorus ringing in my head.

Here are a few more of my favorites (and favorite song by them):

  1. Casting Crowns ("Who Am I": Despite our relative insignificance, God cares.)
  2. Third Day ("Cry Out to Jesus": ...There is hope for the helpless, rest for the weary...)
  3. Sidewalk Prophets ("Change This Heart": We're helpless to escape the darkness yet run away from only hope.)
  4. Sanctus Real ("Lead Me": As a husbands and fathers, we can get caught in the superficial assurances, ignoring what our wife and children really need from us: Strength and Love.)
  5. Steven Curtis Chapman ("I Will Be Here": Our wedding song.)
  6. Tenth Avenue North ("Oh My Dear": "Oh, my dear I'll wait for you.  Grace tonight will pull us through."  We often allow our guilt and our own lack of grace to come between us and God, the Lord with eternal Grace.)
  7. Kutless ("What Faith Can Do": "Impossible is not a word. It's just a reason for someone not to try...You will find you way if you keep believing.")


Abandoned on the side of the road in her condition was effectively a death sentence.  In Kenya, and throughout Africa, it's said that everyone is directly affected by HIV/AIDS.  Many still mistakenly believe that it can be spread by touch.  In some villages, those with HIV/AIDS are forced to live outside of town and away from their families.

The New Hope Village outside Mbingo Baptist Hospital in Cameroon is a leper colony.  Shunned and feared by their own family, those with Hansen's disease are left to fend for themselves.  For centuries, lepers have been treated as the untouchables. 

Imagine a life where everyone you met was afraid of being too close to you.  Imagine going weeks, months or even years without physical contact.  People walk by as if you don't exist.  Even when you're acknowledged, it's with a frown of disapproval.  Even friends and family illogically believe that they'll catch your condition just be being close to you.  Some may even believe that you're deserving.

Sadly, this is what the homeless face everyday in America, this great land of opportunity.  Many of us find comfort with the justification that they brought it on themselves.  Our thinking implies that since they deserve their condition we have no obligation to help.  They just need to buck up and work harder, right?

Throughout Scripture, we, of the faith, are told again and again to care for the hungry and the downtrodden.  (See Prov 25:21, Matt 25:35, Matt 25:42, James 1:27....and so on)  Our calling is to love our neighbors without condition.  Where would we be, as believers, if our Heavenly Father imposed the same conditions for his love?  We are called to love without judgment...a love that requires action.  It's not enough to say that we give to charities and do no harm.  We must not cross the street to avoid the downtrodden.  As His light, we are called to walk to them and give them hope.

In Kenya, the "Samaritans" at HEART rescued the woman from the side of the road.  Today, after some vocational training provided by HEART, she's able to support herself and her loved ones.  More importantly, she has hope.

In Cameroon, the Baptist Convention provides the residents of New Hope with the health care required.  However, the healing that matters most comes from the visitors who reach out to touch them.  After all, aren't we all to follow Jesus's lead?

Inspirational Youth

My heart was bubbling with pride and ached for the children.  Possibilities swarmed my mind for ways to serve our Lord.  All of this because some 'youth' from our church retold their recent trip to Kenya.  Their genuine love for the children they met was evident in the sparkle in their eyes, the tears held back so they could speak clearly. What would drive these teenagers to leave material comforts to brave stifling heat carrying 40lb sacks for 'strangers'?

I was convicted by my biases.  These weren't mere youth.  They're leaders in all the ways that matter.  Those they served are no strangers, they are the neighbors.  The Lord, through Kenyan voices, called and they responded.

I'm proud not because of my doing or even what our church is doing...I'm proud because I believe God is pleased.

Leap or Be Still

We feel the urge to serve, perhaps in a radical way, but are not yet sure how.  One day, I feel like we need to take a leap of faith.  The next day, I feel like we need to be still and be led.  Each day, I pray that our hearts be open and that our hearts be true.  And, due to the thickness of my flesh, if He calls and I don't respond, please call again.

143 Million Orphans

UNICEF estimates there are at least 143 Million orphans in the world today.  I thought about adding a lot more data and statistics to illustrate the problem.  But do I really need to?  Considering how hard it is for us to leave our kids for a weekend, it's unfathomable to imagine the number of kids who have no Sunday night to look forward to.  For most of these kids, hope died with their parents.

For years, Peg and I have sponsored orphans through Compassion and World Vision.  Every month or quarter, money is deducted from our account to support a child in Somalia and another in India.  For ~$1/day, these children are provided with food, clothes and education.  It was an easy decision...perhaps too easy.

We recently finished reading Radical, by David Platt.  "David Platt challenges Christians to wake up, trade in false values rooted in the American dream, and embrace the notion that each of us is blessed by God for a global purpose."  (Wess Stafford, President and CEO, Compassion International)  I'd recommend it to everyone but brace yourself.  Platt challenges us to alter our thinking from "What can we spare?" to "What will it take?"  Parts of it are hard to stomach, so I can't honestly call it a "good" book.  But it's a good helping of green vegetables for the body of Christ.

We ask that you join us in heartfelt prayer as we seek ways to serve.  As Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision, once prayed, "Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God."  "Lord, We thank you for all the blessings in our lives.  We willingly give back to you all that you've entrusted with us.  We thank you for the opportunity to be your hands and feet."

Private Faith vs. Greatest Sale on Earth

For many, faith is a private matter.  That's hard for me.  One of my great fears is that I will stand at the gate of judgment and see a loved one on the wrong side.

I'm a bargain hunter (which is a nice way of saying a cheapskate).  Some of my great joys (to Peg's chagrin) stem from finding the good deal.  Imagine finding an ad for a $100 new car.  Wouldn't you want to share that with your loved ones?  Now imagine if you hadn't and they later found out about it.  My choice to accept Jesus is such a bargain.  For nothing out of our pockets, He gave us the choice of blissful eternity.  With any great bargain, there's the fine print.  1) This is a limited time offer.  I can't tell you when it expires and that expiration varies for each of us.   2) You must make a choice.  Not choosing is, in itself, a choice.  3) Though the choice itself it free, life after that choice may not be easy.  You may be shunned, mocked, or even persecuted.  But eventually, the warranty kicks in, restores us to better than new condition, and lasts forever.

I'm not here to make you choose, nor am I going to try to convince you any further.  There's another greater than I who'll do that.  However, because I'm bubbling with excitement, I'm always eager to talk about my personal bargain and try to answer any questions you may have (I do a lot of research when bargain hunting). And, when the time comes and you need a ride or just want some company, give me a call!

Why Blog?

Several months ago, when I'd embarked on an adventure to Cameroon, I created a blog to keep family and friends up to date on preparations.  I found it a useful way to exchange heartfelt ponderings.  For a self-avowed geek, my brain works slowly.  Some blog entries have taken days to evolve.  I know it's hard to believe considering the quality of some of those entries, but imagine the quality if I'd just blurted it out.

Most of my entries will center around my walk with the Lord, Jesus Christ, because much of what's on my mind and heart is Jesus Christ.  I admit, it's scary to walk so openly.  It's a step of faith, if you will, as I expect to be held accountable.  Whether you're a follower of Christ or not, I hope anyone reading (which may just be my wife) will challenge me to walk a straight path.  I will assume that any criticism you have is out of love and concern so fire away.  I blog for the sake of transparency.

While there are a lot of "I's" in this entry, I hope anyone reading will take a seat in this virtual living room and have a chat!