Monday, January 30, 2012

Starting my 65th year...

At 1:45 a.m. this morning sixty-four years ago in Portland, Oregon, my mother gave birth to twin boys.  My brother, Dennis, pushing hard, followed me seven minutes later into a bright hospital delivery room where my mother battled for her life with toxemia.

Fast forward sixty-four years; Mom is eighty-seven and doing fine, and my brother, Dennis, and I, along with our wives, will celebrate our birthday together tonight.

At some levels this is the most frightening year of my life.  I am retiring at the end of this year from more than forty-five years of doing something I love, and I'm uncertain what exactly God has in store for me in the future.  I can hear my wife, Beverly, reminding me in the background, "walk by faith".

By the same token, this is also the most exciting year of my life as I ponder more time with my children and grandchildren, additional time in Haiti., the start-up of my own counseling-coaching business and more discretionary time this year to do the things I love to do.  What could be better!

I see this as a serious time for remaining true to some parameters God has helping me put in place in my life as  I look ahead.

1.  I want to finish well.  I'm not done but entering the final quarter of my life, I don't want to retire from serving the Lord.

2.  I want to enjoy my family and friends.  I have been blessed with both and it is my desire to affirm these relationships that have been so meaningful to me.

3.  I want to discover some new challenges. I want to stretch myself beyond my comfort zone to use my discretionary time in creative ways to minister to others.

4.  I want to be physically active.  I hope for more time to hike, ride my bike, camp in my trailer, take long walks with my wife.

5.  I want to deepen my relationship with God--more time in His Word, more time in prayer, more time worshipping Him in the spirit of Romans 12:1.

As I start my sixty-fifth year, it is with the quiet confidence that the God who has called me to Himself, will continue to care for me and will complete the work He has begun in me before he calls me home,   Philippians 1:6.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"little faith"

Matthew 17, Mark 9 and Luke 9 all tell the story of a father's concern for his demon-possessed son who manifested alarming characteristics of a frenzied-like epilepsy.  When Jesus hears his story, tinged with all the emotions of a grieving father who had unsuccessfully sought the disciples' help in casting out the demon, He responded to the desperate man's request--"But if you can do anything take pity on us and help us"--with a short question, "If you can?"
"If you can?" Jesus seems almost incredulous at the request.  He could have been thinking--"You've seen me to do miracles. You've heard about my demon-casting out power (or you wouldn't even be here).  You've come to seek my help.  And, yet, you doubt my ability."  "If you can?"

Jesus continued.  "Everything is possible for him who believes", and the embarrassed father responded,        "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief."

And Jesus miraculously delivered the young boy from the demonic presence.  as the boy lay like a corpse like he was dead on the ground, "...Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet and he stood up".  Luke records, "And they were all amazed at the greatness of God".

All the gospel writers record the disciples' frustration that they could not cast out the demon--"Why could we not drive it out?" Mark observes that Jesus answered,  "This kind can come out only by prayer", intimating that the disciples had acted in their own strength, not availing themselves of the divine power of God. Or, perhaps, they had not been  totally confident that God could accomplish this act of deliverance through them for Matthew records Jesus' response in these words  "Because you have so little faith.  I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to the mountain 'Move from here to there' and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you."

The father of the demon-possessed boy had faith; he brought his son to the disciples and, ultimately, to Jesus.

The disciples had faith.  They attempted to cast out the evil spirit, no easy task.

What they had in common was "little faith".

"Little faith" is not about the quantity of faith--Jesus had said it only has to be as big as a small mustard seed--but about the quality of faith.

Do you believe Jesus can--is He big enough?  Have you come to  Him in prayerful dependence so that you can accept His will and purpose no matter what the outcome?  It takes  genuine faith--focused on a sovereign God with a  plan and purpose for our lives--to believe that He is able to do the perfect thing that we need for our good and His glory.

How "little" is your faith?  How big is your God?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Prayer for Papau, New Guinea

Six of our church members are currently ministering in Papau, New Guinea.  They are there for three weeks with a number of tasks--teaching at the pastoral training school, holding VBS's in the villages, and ministering to the forgotten women of that area, affirming their value in God's sight.

This required enormous preparation.  Materials for 2000 chidlren were prepared in advance.  Teaching posters were masterfully and artisically produced as visuals for the women and children (Thanks, Debbie).  Pastor Mark and Logan have studied for several months studying the book of Hebrews to be taught to the young men at the seminary.  The rest of the team--Desiree, Mikel, Mary and Morgan--have been getting ready for their parts, as well, training themselves to clearly articulate the gospel that they will be sharing in the various venues provided.

This is an all-church venture.  Many helped cut out and assemble the materials for the children.  Otghers helped by donating 100 study Bibles for ther pastors.  Otehrs have given to help cover the costs of travel, food, medical supllies and all the other necessitities associated with a ministry as      far-reaching as this--nearly $30,000.  A commissioning service with congregation gathered in prayerful affirmation around the team the Sunday they left was an opportunity for us all to be bound together in this ministry.

The key component, however, is prayer.  "God moves in response to the prayers of His people", writes Billingham in his book, DESTINED FOR THE THRONE.  Some of us are gathering by a small white cross outside of Jackson on Hwy 88 at 7:45 a.m. Thursday mornings; others are meeting together for prsayer in cae groups and Bible studies, remembering the team.  Sunday morning we took time in oiur worship service to join hearts together for the people of Papau, New Guinea--part of the church--the body of Christ around the world.

Everywhere I go people ask me, "Have you heard from the team?"  That m,akes me believe that we are heeding the command to "Pray without ceasing" and even though not physically on our knees before God, our hearts are continually turned towards Him in behalf of those we love--our team and the people of Papau, New Guinea.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

When all else fails...

What happens when someone you love is overwhelmed by drug addiction and spirals downward into evidences of psychotic and self-destructive behavior?

What happens when a mother--much too young to die--succumbs to a horrible tumor and the vibrancy of her life is snuffed away?

What happens when you've searched for a job for three years and every door has been closed, even though you have exhausted your alternatives in seeking employment?

What happens when you are forced to stand by helplessly when an undiagnosed virus literally ravages a life...and before you can prepare yourself, death overtakes it?

What happens when you've invested all your resources in someone only to watch them walk away and pursue a path of certain failure?

The answer to all of these questions is...we grieve.  We suffer.  We ask what else we could have done? We introspectively assess our last words, our actions, our motives.  And we grieve some more.

I have been involved in situations like this almost daily for the last several months.  If not personally, as a friend, a  pastor, a counselor.  Someone who cares.  Someone who grieves.

And I am convinced that the reason God has allowed me to minister in these kinds of  situations for almost forty-five years is because I am persuaded that when all else has failed...there is still God.

A God who can break the bonds of drug addiction.

A God who can comfort a family who has laid their mother to rest. knowing she is with the Lord.

A God who can supply all of our needs--even when our employment situation is not what we would have chosen--and use the situation as a means of becoming more dependent upon him.

 A God who can remind me, even when death has seemingly triumphed, that Christ is the ultimate victor, and an eternity awaits those who have trusted in him.

A God who loves that person who walks away even more than I do--a God who is vested with divine resources that far outstrip mine in accomplishing His purposes in the life of the one I care for.

When all else fails...there is still God.

"But our citizenship is in heaven.  And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body..."  Philippians 3:20,21.