Friday, May 30, 2014

REAL LIFE SUPER HEROES

I was invited to the movie Return To The Hiding Place this past Monday. I'm so glad he did because I probably wouldn't have gone otherwise.  The movie was the most moving and inspirational film I've seen in a long time.  It is the true story about Corrie ten Boom's "teenage army" told from the perspective of Hans Poley, one of the young leaders of the resistance fighters in Holland during the Nazi occupation.  "Return" is an incredibly compelling movie which gives us a better understanding and new look at the story of Corrie ten Boom's The Hiding Place.  

Poley is a college student who along with other students, work to help save hundreds of Jews and other Christians who are fighting the Nazi occupation. These young people sacrifice much, many with their lives for their fellow Christians and Jews who were being systematically exterminated.  They do it because of their faith in Christ, because it is the right thing to do. The acting is exceptional and the story keeps you riveted from the opening scene to the closing credits.  

As I watched spellbound by the difficult choices these teenagers make and their commitment to Jesus, I thought how these young men and women are the real, true inspirational heroes.  Their stories, even though they are from another time, need to be told to our young people.  Contrast these young adults to our culture's role models, sports stars and entertainers, who do their thing to gain fame and money, sacrificing little of consequence along the way. There is no question who the real hero is.  What a crazy messed-up culture we have created, where our young people can name a hip-hop artist's 12 top hits but couldn't tell you who fought in WW2.  One of the great quotes from the movie is, "As the will of the students go, so goes the nation".  It is so true looking back at history in Holland but it is a scary proposition for the future of America.  

If you have or know teenagers, take them to see Return To The Hiding Place this weekend.  Then have a discussion afterward about what they saw.  It will be a powerful lesson in history, faith and an inspirational couple of hours that will stay with you for a long time.  REAL LIFE SUPER HEROES

Monday, May 26, 2014

How High Can You Fly?


Visiting Alaska allows a rare opportunity to see the majestic bald eagle up close. These magnificent birds soar beautifully as if they rule over the skies in which they fly.  Even when they are perched in the top of a tree or on a sign, they seem to radiate freedom in the open skies of Alaska.  It's as if God is speaking to us through his magnificent creature saying that he wants us to be like the eagle, to be free and soar by His grace.

Isaiah 40:31... but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. 

Notice that we are not soaring on our own, but we are riding on the wings of the eagle, on the grace of God.  
Earlier today I was somewhat weary and discouraged after reading several articles concerning well-known evangelical pastors and religious leaders in conflict over doctrine and disagreements over methodology.  God led me to Chuck Swindoll's devotional, Grace Awakening where I was reminded by this scripture that my faith is in the one who provides me the grace to soar above the petty disagreements in which all humans fall prey.  
Swindoll writes, "Instead of being places of enthusiastic, spontaneous worship, many churches and Christian ministries have become institutions that maintain a system of religion with hired officials to guard the gates and to enforce the rules." 

Swindoll goes on to point out the men and women of faith in the Bible all were freed from religion to exhibit an adventurous, risk-taking faith that unleashed them to have a God-sized vision and the fearless pursuit of that vision.  Much like our heroes of the faith, we too can live with the same pursuit of God-sized goals when we live in God’s grace. 

"Grace scales the wall and refuses to be restricted. It lives above the demands of human opinion and breaks free from legalistic regulations. Grace dares us to take hold of the sledge of courage and break through longstanding stones. Grace invites us to chart new courses and explore ever-expanding regions, all the while delighting in the unexpected. While others care more about maintaining the wall and fearing those who guard it, grace is constantly looking for ways to freedom. Grace wants faith to fly, regardless of what grim-faced officials may say or think or do."

When we become weary, disheartened by the pettiness and constant infighting of our fellow believers, remember that God's grace frees us from all of this. Don't allow the religious gate-keepers to discourage you and hold you down! Only when we live from God's grace can we soar above the confines of this earth and the humans we must live with. Just as the eagle has the freedom to fly, so can we!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Is knowledge the key to success? Righteousness?

We live in an incredible age where we can retrieve almost any piece of information we need within a few seconds.  When we look back through history and study the advancement of the accessibility of knowledge, it almost takes your breath away to think how far and how fast we have come.  Only a few centuries ago, very few people could even read and only a select few had access to written material, including the Bible.  Just one generation ago, people had to spend a lot of money to buy books or to go to college and graduate school to gain the knowledge needed to advance in their desired profession.

Today, with the internet, we have access to free knowledge any time we desire.  Those desiring to study the Bible have a plethora of programs, websites and graduate level videos and pdfs for free.  Our biggest challenge is finding the sites we trust and making the time to study. We have no excuses anymore.  For someone to say I've been a Christian for a long time but don't know much about the Bible is a cop out.  Most Bible translation or Bible study on any verse is accessible and free.

I would suggest one great site that provides graduate level study mostly for free: Bible.org On the research tab, you'll find a link: Theology questions and answers.  This has 258 theology questions with a 10 - 20 minute classroom video for each question where theology professors walk you through the question, giving you answers that are biblically based.  This is a Theology course that focuses on the authority, nature and interpretation of the Scriptures.  It is like taking a graduate level course at Dallas Theological Seminary.  It is available to anyone, for free.  No excuses for being biblically illiterate.  

All that being said, although knowledge is very important, knowledge is not everything.  Knowledge without the application can be dangerous.  As believers, it is even more incumbent upon us, now that we have no excuses for being spiritually illiterate, to put our knowledge into action. Adam chose the knowledge of good and evil and it destroyed man.  But Peter gives us the most excellent way in 2 Peter 1:5-8.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.

It starts with faith in Christ and as we pursue knowledge about God, we apply it to our life and it should manifest itself in love.  We have no excuses. Everything we need to live a Godly life is available to us in this age from information to the Holy Spirit.  How will we respond?

Friday, May 2, 2014

Preparation vs Planning


The cartoon would be funny if it weren't so true and painful. We go to such great lengths to plan out our life and God rearranges it all making reality nothing like what we planned or desired. The best laid plans...

Dwight Eisenhower said, "In preparing for battle I always found that plans were useless, but planning was indispensable."  


Wise words from one who was in leadership most of his life. This perspective cuts both ways.  To the planner, who has to feel as if they are in control, Dwight would say that all of your detailed plans will be useless once you are on the battle field.  And for the non-planner, the let's just wait till we get on the battle field type, Eisenhower would say you will be sorely at a disadvantage if you have not prepared appropriately. 

The principle is that daily preparation is much more important than making detailed plans. The soldiers prepare for war by training and repeating the disciplines so that on the battle ground they are able to adjust to whatever the situation calls for.  Sure there is a plan, but things change in battle and you have to be able to adapt. 

"You need a plan ... but don't become consumed by it. Winds change." --Joseph Ehrhard.  The principle is applicable to ministry also. I experienced it over and over while leading my many mission trips. I quickly learned that our planning for the trip, more times than not, was altered or totally scrapped once we were in the country.  This can be really difficult for one who is task oriented and doesn't feel as if they are successful unless they have accomplished all their well thought out plans. 

So I learned to make a broad plan but did more preparation than planning. I discovered that it was important for each person going on the mission to be prepared to share their story.  So, whenever we needed someone to preach or teach, our stories were the foundation of the teaching. We also needed to prepare our heart and get our attitudes right, understanding that we were there to learn, to build relationships and share God's love more than to change their culture or teach the people the 4 step "western" way of doing things.  Prayer and preparation were the key for us.  

Mike Breen writes about the importance of preparation for pastors in his book, Leading Kingdom Movements. "What I always teach my leaders and teams is that preparation is vital.  If you are not speaking out of the overflow of what God is already doing in your life, you're not giving anybody anything." This preparation Breen calls excavation and it is not the cramming for a sermon, but the daily spiritual disciplines of a believer.

John Wesley put it this way, "Every Christian should be prepared to preach, pray, or die at a moment's notice."  So it's not a matter of whether you've had enough time to plan, but whether yesterday you have spent time with God in the Word, and the day before that, and the day before that.  If you have been doing that long enough, if you have been abiding in Christ, you'll have plenty of material to draw from.  And if you have been putting your faith into action, serving, going and ministering to people outside of the church, you'll have plenty of stories to tell. 

So set your goal, make your broad plan to accomplish your goal, then prepare, prepare, prepare.  And in carrying out your plan, always remember that the most important thing is to accomplish your goal, not to carry out all plans.  

A new low on violating religious freedom in the USA

I read in dismay this past week about a powerful senator indicating he would vote no for Russell Vought, President Donald Trump’s nominee ...