Aug 17, 2017

I Have Calmed and Quieted My Soul

Psalm 131 English Standard Version (ESV)

A Song of Ascents. Of David.

    O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
    my eyes are not raised too high;
    I do not occupy myself with things
    too great and too marvelous for me.

   2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
    like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child is my soul within me.

   3 O Israel, hope in the Lord
   from this time forth and forevermore.

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Aug 10, 2017

I Don’t Understand

We all been there. Someone is trying to explain something to you and after going through an explanation you respond with; “I don’t get it.”

And, so, with all of the confidence of an American Ninja Warrior trying to run up the “warped-wall” one more time, they take another shot at it.

And you respond once again; “I still don’t get it.”

And they respond by trying to explain it to you again and you end up being even more confused and dazed; or was it the other way around…

So how do you feel? Lost, confused, ashamed, stupid, wondering what is wrong with me…all the above?

The problem is that much like anything else that is explained to us, we don’t always grasp what is being said simply because we don’t always have the same vantage point as the one who is trying to teach us or explain something to us.

In Luke 18:31-33, we read a story when Jesus is telling His disciples for the third time how He is going to die and then be resurrected.

These are men who had been with for three or more years. These are men who were with the greatest Teacher to have ever walked the earth. These are men who at any time could ask Him anything! These are men who were hand selected to be a part of His team…
And Jesus is trying to make another attempt to get them to understand something very important.

Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished.  For He will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon.  They will scourge Him and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.”

And yet, as we will read, after all the teachings and all of the time that they spent with Him, they still don’t understand what He is talking about.

V.34 “But they understood none of these things; this saying was hidden from them, and they did not know the things which were spoken.”

After all of the teachings and all of the time that they spent with Him, even they still don’t understand.

I guess that means that we also are qualified to be a disciple of Jesus Christ; right?

Yes….But, let me remind you, the problem is that much like anything else that is explained to us, we don’t always grasp what is being said simply because we don’t always have the same vantage point as the one who is trying to teach us or explain something to us.

I like how Oswald Chambers puts it:
God called Jesus Christ to what seemed absolute disaster. And Jesus Christ called His disciples to see Him put to death, leading every one of them to the place where their hearts were broken.

His life was an absolute failure from every standpoint except God’s.

But what seemed to be failure from man’s standpoint was a triumph from God’s standpoint, because God’s purpose is never the same as man’s purpose.

This bewildering call of God comes into our lives as well. The call of God can never be understood absolutely or explained externally; it is a call that can only be perceived and understood internally by our true inner-nature.

The call of God is like the call of the sea— no one hears it except the person who has the nature of the sea in him. What God calls us to cannot be definitely stated, because His call is simply to be His friend to accomplish His own purposes.

Our real test is in truly believing that God knows what He desires. The things that happen do not happen by chance— they happen entirely by the decree of God. God is sovereignly working out His own purposes.

If we are in fellowship and oneness with God and recognize that He is taking us into His purposes, then we will no longer strive to find out what His purposes are.

As we grow in the Christian life, it becomes simpler to us, because we are less inclined to say, “I wonder why God allowed this or that?” And we begin to see that the compelling purpose of God lies behind everything in life, and that God is divinely shaping us into oneness with that purpose.

A Christian is someone who trusts in the knowledge and the wisdom of God, not in his own abilities.

If we have a purpose of our own, it destroys the simplicity and the calm, relaxed pace which should be characteristic of the children of God.

So the next time that you find yourself in a quandary because you don’t understand, remind yourself that you may not be seeing the fuller picture.

Remind yourself that you are in great company and let the Lord take you to place of retelling you what you need to know as you once again say; “I don’t understand.”

Aug 3, 2017

Pondering Pasta

It is very simple to make your own fresh pasta: Combine flour and salt on a flat surface and make a well in center. Whisk eggs, milk, and oil in a bowl until well blended; gradually pour into the well in flour mixture while mixing with fork or fingertips to form a ball of dough.

Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead the dough for about five minutes, adding more flour to prevent sticking if necessary. When completely mixed, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest.

After about fifteen minutes, unwrap dough and knead briefly on a lightly floured surface. Using lightly floured rolling pin, roll out dough to about one-eighth inch thick. Let the dough rest for about fifteen minutes or until dough is slightly dry.

Press dough gently with hand and cut into strips of desired width with sharp knife. Carefully unfold the strips.

Dry the pasta for an additional fifteen minutes for soft pasta, and for at least one hour for hard, dried pasta. If you want to use it in the future, place the pasta uncovered in a dry area for twelve to twenty-four hours, turning it a few times.

After the pasta is completely dry, place it in an airtight container or zipper-lock plastic bags so that no moisture can affect it.

When we want to use the pasta, we (once again) place it in salted hot water to make it soft again. And then when it is cooked, we drain all of the extra water away leaving us with only the portion that has any use.

Seems like a lot of steps that are either adding water or taking it away (drying) just to make and use pasta!

Pondering this, I thought this is so much like how the Lord uses us for His work. The pasta serves as an image of waiting through seasons that don't make sense.

Seasons where it seems as though we are being mixed up and flattened and then made to rest.

When we reach the point at which we are used to the resting, He flattens us once again; sometimes adding water and sometimes adding flour; depending on what we need to become the right mixture to be shaped into what He has determined us to be. And then He makes us rest.

And, again, when we get used to the resting, He once again continues to mold and shape us until He is satisfied with the outcome. And then He makes us rest.

In time, when the rest has removed all of the unnecessary elements that will cause us to deteriorate or rot, He places us into storage...And we sit and rest once again until His appointed time.

When we reach the point at which we are used to the resting and have even given up on ever being used, He takes us out of storage and prepares us for service by placing us into situations which don’t make sense.

Oftentimes we have become hard and cold and inflexible as we have lost our understanding of who we are and what we were created to do.

In these places or seasons, the temperatures will increase and all around us may become turbulent as His perfect plan is accomplished and once again we become soft and useful for His work. Salt will be added to give us flavor as it penetrates into our very being and causes us to be changed.

And just when we have become used to the temperature, He drains all of the unnecessary things that surround us; leaving us exposed as the vapors of what had been escape us…

It is then, in this final stage that we have fully become what He had created us to be and we are consumed and poured out as we give glory to His Holy Name.

Patience                            Anticipation

Jul 27, 2017

"You Are For Me"-reissued

The following was originally published July 2010. After a crazy couple of weeks I reissue it because I needed to remind myself and the truth remains.

You Are For Me 

Jul 17, 2010

One of the downsides of being bi-vocational is that at times it can seem like I have too many people needing something from me. On most days, I can handle my daily load. On other days my load can seem to be too much. This has been a particularly full week for me in that on some of the days my mind was “over-loaded” by 2 o’clock in the afternoon and I still had things to do in the evening. 

Most of the time I believe that Jesus wants to help me or that He is for me as I go through times of great stress; and if I look, wait, and listen I am reminded how true it is. I say ‘most of the times’ because I, too, can at times question His love for me. 

As I observed in my own life this week, sometimes the stress of too much crammed into 24 hours can crowd out times with God and I can hear a nagging voice in my head questioning whether or not God is really for me. It is what I do next that makes all the difference in what happens next. Will I continue the downward spiral of my thoughts in thinking that God just doesn’t care; or will I cry out to God and cast all my cares upon Him, knowing that He cares for me (1Peter 5:7)?

Whether you came from a large family or a small family, at times it is possible to feel as though no one notices that you are there. There are approximately 6.8 Billion people in the world and similarly, it is hard to believe that anyone notices you, let alone that God would notice you. 

As I went through this week, I discovered (once again) how true it is that He cares for me (and for you). Every time (I’m not exaggerating), I listened to the radio, the same song came on. It didn’t matter whether I was in the car, in my office, or my home, or even my garage (I have a radio always on), the same song was always on! 

The song was; “You Are For Me” by Kari Jobe. The chorus goes:" “I know that You are for me, I know that You are for me. I know that You will never forsake me in my weakness. And I know that You have come now even if to write upon my heart. To remind me who You are” 

Pretty simple lyrics, and yet God spoke, dare I say “screamed”, to me that “YES I AM FOR YOU!” And through the song a flood of scripture passages called out for me to come to God in my current state. Passages like “… come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16) and where Jesus said “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). And the “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4). I believe that God was trying to let me know that no matter what is going on in my world, He is still for me. And I heard Him.

My Friend, I’m writing this today to let you know that you are loved and that God is for you. Do you really believe that God notices you; that God thinks good things about you? Do you really believe that God is there for you and that He will never forsake you in your weakness? Have you ever stopped and asked Jesus to be your Savior and the Lord of your Life; or are you still trying to figure it all out? 

One reason that you may feel distant from God is because you don’t really know God; not the God of the Bible and who He really is. Another reason is that when we are in sin it is hard to hear His voice gently calling out. Do you realize yet that the reason God hates sin so much is because it separates us from God and we no longer hear that He is for us? The Bible says that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8) and that where sin abounded, grace abounded much more (Romans 5:20-6:4). 

Today you, too, can call out to God and He will let you know that He is for you and will help to turn to Him. He will let you know what you are doing wrong so that you can confess it (agree with what God calls sin) and repent (change the way you are going and change the way you think), and He will help you to follow Him (Read John 16:6-15 in the Bible). John 3:17 tells us “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”  
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.  Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “ For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:31-39)

You Are For Me by Kari Jobe
So faithful, so constant and so true
So powerful in all You do
You fill me, You see me
You know my every move
You love for me to sing to You

I know that You are for me, I know that You are for me
I know that You will never forsake me in my weakness
And I know that You have come now even if to write upon my heart
To remind me who You are

So patient, so gracious, so merciful and true
So wonderful in all You do
You fill me, You see me
You know my every move
You love for me to sing to You

Lord, I know that You are for me, I know that You are for me
I know that You will never forsake me in my weakness
And I know that You have come now even if to write upon my heart
To remind me

Lord, I know that You are for me, I now that You are for me
I know that You will never forsake me in my weakness
And I know that You have come now even if to write upon my heart

To remind me who You are
To remind me

I know that you are for me, I know that You are for me
I know that You will never forsake me in my weakness
And I know that You have come now even if to write upon my heart
To remind me who You are

Psalm 27:3-6
3 Though an army may encamp against me,
    My heart shall not fear; 
   Though war may rise against me, 
    In this I will be confident. 
4 One thing I have desired of the LORD,
   That will I seek: 
   That I may dwell in the house of the LORD 
   All the days of my life, 
   To behold the beauty of the LORD, 
   And to inquire in His temple.
5 For in the time of trouble
   He shall hide me in His pavilion; 
   In the secret place of His tabernacle 
   He shall hide me; 
   He shall set me high upon a rock. 
6 And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me;
  Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle; 
  I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD.

Psalm 116:3-8
3 The pains of death surrounded me,
   And the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me; 
   I found trouble and sorrow.
4 Then I called upon the name of the LORD:
   “O LORD, I implore You, deliver my soul!” 
5 Gracious is the LORD, and righteous;
   Yes, our God is merciful.
6 The LORD preserves the simple;
   I was brought low, and He saved me.
7 Return to your rest, O my soul,
   For the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. 
8 For You have delivered my soul from death,
   My eyes from tears, And my feet from falling.


Jul 20, 2017

Lessons from A Busted Gas Pipe

So, Cathy and I were headed up to the cabin with the family to spend the fourth of July eating and basking in the lake.

On the way to the cabin, Cathy mentioned to me that she had our mechanic do a temporary fix on the gas pipe of our Ford Ranger.

She added that he wasn’t sure if it how long it would last and that he would probably need to order a new part from the Ford dealership to do the repair correctly.

It was the “fuel filler neck hose pipe” assembly in case you wanted to know…the part that goes from the “fuel filler” (gas cap area) to the gas tank…

And, we wouldn’t be able to tell if what he did worked until we went to fill up the truck with gas. I looked that the gas gauge and was thankful that it was full!

I thought of the old acronym for Ford which is Fix Or Repair Daily. And I ought to know because I have owned several Ford products over the years.

The damaged part
Of course, in all fairness, all other vehicles that I have owned have also needed to be repaired at one or another…not just the Fords!

We made it to the cabin, enjoyed our time, and made several trips back and forth into town for supplies; but not gas.

One week later, on the way home, I mentioned to Cathy that we would need to stop for gas. She reminded me of the conversation from a week earlier regarding the temporary repair on the gas pipe.

I stopped at the gas station, swiped my card, removed the gas cap, inserted the gas nozzle into the fuel filler pipe leading to the gas tank, and depressed the handle of the gas pump.

At once gasoline poured out from below the truck automatically shutting off the gas pump.

I tried a second depressing the handle of the gas pump again and it once again poured out from below the truck automatically shutting off the gas pump.

I tried a third time depressing the handle of the gas pump again and it once again poured out from below the truck automatically shutting off the gas pump.
Not really our spill!

I said to Cathy that I didn’t think that what the mechanic had done was successful and then wondered what we were going to do since we couldn’t fill up the tank and we didn’t have enough fuel to make the eighty-mile trip home.

Cathy suggested that we drive as far as we could and then deal with it. I decided to drive to the nearest hardware store (which was on the way home) to pick up some sort of products to do my own patch so that we could fill up the gas tank.

On the way to the store, I remembered back in 1977 when a friend and I ran out of fuel at two o’clock in the morning on a country road somewhere between Grand Forks and Winnipeg. We had gone to Canada with great plans to sin as well as to run from the law…at least until things cooled off down in Grand Forks.

A sheriff found us stranded, gave us some gas so that we could drive to the nearest gas station, and then he woke up the owner so that we could fill up. We paid him in Canadian money and he accepted it and we (gratefully) went on our way.

If God could take care of me when I was not following Him, I had confidence that he could also take care of me now. I just didn’t know how.

When we arrived at the hardware store, Cathy got out of the truck to show me what was wrong. I noticed that the store was closed and decided that we needed to go elsewhere. But, just as we were about to leave, a man drove over from behind the store and asked what we needed.

Our hero's store!
We explained our situation and before we completed the story, he was on his back under the truck seeing if he could assist us. He was the store manager and had just closed the store and went inside to get some tools.

In short time the man came back and once gain crawled under the truck to figure out what he could do to at least allow us to put fuel into the truck so that we could get home.

Between the two of us, we were able to figure out a way to remove the filter and reattach the pipes and clamp the whole thing together. The man suggested that we meet him at the gas station just to make sure that we could put fuel into the truck.

We took off as the man went into the hardware store to clean up his hands and put away the tools. Soon, we realized that we had no idea where the gas station was and turned back to find the man who at this time was in his car and just about to leave.

The man suggested that we follow him, adding that he realized that there is no way we would know which gas station was the one that he was referring to.

At the gas station, he waited and watched as I was able to successfully fill the gas tank with fuel! Our repair had worked and we could fill up and head back home. The man even refused to take any money from us as he waved good-bye.

We got into our truck and were very grateful that the Lord had provided this person to assist us and how the timing worked out. Five minutes one way or another and we wouldn’t have had this intersection of need and provision.

Cathy called our mechanic and asked him to order the part and we headed home.

Praise the Lord!
For it is good to sing praises to our God;
For it is pleasant, and praise is beautiful.” (Psalm 147:1)

Jul 13, 2017

What in The Heaven Is Going On?

It doesn’t matter how the tragedy comes…

A bridge collapsed, a car crashed, the economy tanked, a job was lost, a marriage came to an end, a baby dies, an injury took place, your favorite sports team lose for the fifth straight game….

And the reaction is often the same response…

(Pardon my French)

But…“What in the hell is going on???”

Why is it that we often assume that all hell itself has been launched as though God was nowhere to be found?

And if God is mentioned, He is either blamed or cursed.

Why is that? Why are we so obsessed with always seeing the negative and assuming the worst?  

Some people are so obsessed: With asking God to damn this and to damn that –marriage, home, car, etc…

Why not ask God to bless this and to bless that?

It is as though we are fixated on what is wrong and rarely focused; or even ask the question;

What in the heaven is going on?”

In Chapter 3 of the Book of Habakkuk (in the Bible), the prophet was given a vison of some impending disaster that was about to strike. His response was (at first) to have a view from below. Verse 16:

      “When I heard, my body trembled;
      My lips quivered at the voice;
      Rottenness entered my bones;
      And I trembled in myself…”

You might be thinking; “Well at least he was dealing with reality…he wasn’t sugar-coating in some Pollyanna dreamland view...some happy-happy-joy-joy everything will work out you’ll see” view point.

But I would submit that his perspective changed when God showed him a view from above and he asked (implied):

What in the heaven is going on?”

We pick up his response in verse 17:

      “Though the fig tree may not blossom,
      Nor fruit be on the vines;
      Though the labor of the olive may fail,
      And the fields yield no food;
      Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
      And there be no herd in the stalls—“

See, he was dealing with real life, real death, reality! He spoke of seeing no crops, no food, and no livestock. He spoke of truth (from man’s perspective) and said it like it is.

BUT his response was to ask (implied):

What in the heaven is going on?”

We pick up his response in verse 18:

       “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”

His response to the question; What in the heaven is going on?” was one of praise and determination to see this disastrous situation from God’s perspective and REJOICE!

It is as though he chose to say; “I choose to see and look for how God will and is responding!”

And in doing so, from God’s perspective, he could see that God was still in control and He was his source of strength to get him through this disaster!

We pick up his response in verse 19:

       “The Lord God is my strength;
      He will make my feet like deer’s feet,
      And He will make me walk on my high hills.”

The difference in how we face disasters or bad news for that matter is really about CHOICE.

Choice to ask, “what in the hell is going on?” and choice to ask; “what in the heaven is going on?”

One will feed into your fears and anxieties and one will produce hope and faith and joy!

It’s really doesn’t change the circumstance; just how you CHOOSE to go through it/them.