Monday, September 18, 2017

Does God Really Laugh?

Just when you think things are going smoothly, they don't anymore. You read those time management books, watch the videos on becoming a minimalist, and make your five year plan. If you could just make the predictable part of your life more manageable, then maybe the unpredictable part will fall in line and get with the program.

Things don't work that way, do they. Woody Allen said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” The best comedy often comes from a dark place. Other people's painful experiences are funny when delivered with comedic timing. Because we can all identify with having the rug pulled out from beneath our feet.

If we don't laugh, we'll cry.

And we don't have to get cynical because God doesn't laugh; even when we're not looking for him, he's walking with us on the painful stretches of life's journey.

These are some of the things we explore in the 18th post from our book blogging project.

Read more here.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Book Review: Grace - More than We Deserve; Greater than We Imagine

It doesn’t come naturally

Here’s what comes naturally: judginess. Also, fantasizing about revenge comes pretty easily. It feels really good to fantasize about revenge. Doing revenge is difficult. And isn’t nearly as satisfying as watching the villain in a Clint Eastwood or Denzel Washington movie get his comeuppance. Real vengeance is messy and deflating.

Grace leads to freedom. Grace let’s God do what God does best. God doesn’t need to partner with humans when it comes to judgement and vengeance. But God loves to partner with humans in grace efforts, grace events, and grace projects. This is where the real good stuff—God stuff—gets done.

I love to read Max Lucado. He’s a writer and a pastor. As a writer, he’s accessible and humble. As a pastor, he’s an encouraging, gentle teacher. He helps you see things from heaven’s point of view. That’s a rare gift in both writers and pastors.

"Grace is God as heart surgeon, cracking open your chest, removing your heart—poisoned as it is with pride and pain—and replacing it with his own. Rather than tell you to change, he creates the change. Do you clean up so he can accept you? No, he accepts you and begins cleaning you up," Lucado writes.

Do you know someone that doesn’t need to hear this said? What about you? Are you good with what God may think of you? Are you good with what you think of others? Are you good with what you think?

Lucado’s purpose for this book is to break your natural habits of judginess, self-loathing, vengeful fantasy (although I don’t think I ever read that in this book but it is definitely the hot topic God was dealing with me about) and the bondage that comes with carrying the heavy burdens like hatred and unforgiveness, familiar though they are.

Grace. God. Exchange. Rest. Coming clean. Fear. Hearts unScrooged. Chosen. Heaven. Grace. These are the topics covered in this book’s chapters. I can feel my heart speed up a little bit as I break the topics out of the book’s chapters. There’s healing I crave for my life. Lucado’s writing directly addresses it, satisfies it, and creates a greater appetite for God’s grace.

I started off the year reading this book. And since then, I’ve had to find other books that connect God and Holiness and Holiness and Healing and Healing and Humility and Humility and Grace and Grace and God. This book of Lucado’s was the beginning of a much needed spiritual makeover. And I’m ready to cycle back through and re-read Lucado’s book about Grace.

"...if you wonder whether God can do something with the mess of your life, then grace is what you need."

There is one surprising chapter in this book where pastor and writer Max Lucado is incredibly transparent. I say incredibly because it is unbelievable that a pastor would out himself the way he did about secrecy and hypocrisy without being caught red-handed. You just don’t see that. In chapter seven, Lucado makes a confession about addiction that may seem small when compared to your own unconfessed struggles (or my unconfessed struggles), but he personally demonstrates how grace is activated at a deeper level than one may think one needs.

While I was reading this book, I jammed up my Twitter feed with excerpts from Lucado’s and his sources. I felt compelled to share what I was reading in real time. I thought I was doing the world a favor by blasting it out over social media.

Let me tell you as a friend: read this book, friend. It’s an easy read. You could probably read the whole thing in one afternoon. But spread it out over a two-weeks and read a little bit every day. Even if you’re reading something else already, your heart will thank you. If you apply what you’re reading and let it really sink in, everybody else in your life will thank you, too.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

A year goes by fast

Yesterday we celebrated the one year anniversary of our arrival in New Hampshire. After a year, it’s still surreal. Every single day I’m grateful that we’ve moved here.

I’m also grateful that I’m still so connected to South Florida through work and long-standing relationships. It’s awesome that you can move 1,700 miles away and still have a sense of closeness through technology and being a remote worker.

I think one thing that we’re most grateful for since we’ve moved to Laconia is the way the community has embraced our family, especially Allie. Allie received state-of -the-art attention at her school in South Florida; she went to an amazing school set up to lovingly serve and care for children with unique special needs. Here, there isn’t anywhere near the kind of infrastructure in place to meet the needs of physically and mentally challenged children. But what they have done is custom tailor programs, education, transportation and empower staff and therapists to meet Allie’s unique needs. And the kids in school - Allie’s peers - go out of their way to include, befriend, and protect Allie.

Allie celebrated her eleventh birthday last month. We’ve had her as our daughter for 10 years. Unbelievable!

In this post in our book-blogging project, we write about Allie’s first birthday. We could not be the parents we are to Allie without the support and prayers of those who’s love and lives have intersected with ours. You all have been amazing and we are so thankful for you.

Please click through and read post 17.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Book Review: A Biblical Theology of Missions

Book title: A Biblical Theology of Missions
Author: George W. Peters
Chicago, Moody Bible Institute, 1972
Number of pages: 368
"It is my impression that the Bible is not a book about theology as such, but rather, a record of theology in mission - God in action in behalf of the salvation of mankind."
This is a missions book that has been THE textbook for my life in missions. A close friend gave this book to me. He received it from the library of a missionary who died while on the mission field in Ecuador. I immediately started underlining, highlighting, and making notes in the margins on the well-worn classic by George W. Peters. In my early days of doing missions work, trips, and talks, this book went with me everywhere. Not only is this book a valued gift, it’s been an awesome resource.

In short, Peters outlines the missionary intent of God through upward, inward, and outward ministries of the church.

He does a splendid job of defining the difference in usage of the words “mission” and “missions”.  

Mission, as used by Peters, is “the total biblical assignment of the church of Jesus Christ.”  

Missions is a specialized term. It is the “sending forth of authorized persons beyond the borders of the New Testament church and her immediate gospel influence to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in gospel destitute areas, to win converts from other faiths or non-faiths to Jesus Christ, and to establish functioning, multiplying local congregations who will bear the fruit of Christianity in that community and to that country.”

This is one of the most succinct definitions of missions I’ve ever read. This definition cuts through much of the vague we’re-all-missionaries kind of messaging that permeates from pulpits and podcasts these days. If we're all missionaries, then no one's a missionary. The clear definitions and thorough treatment Peters gives to these terms need to be revisited by our current crop of popular Christian orators. Peters definitely clears up the confusion.

Church History and the history of missions are inseparably intertwined. The book is neatly organized into three parts with a total of eight, well-presented chapters.
  1. Missionary Theology and Jesus Christ
  2. Missionary Theology and the Nature of God
  3. Missionary Theology and the Old Testament
  4. Missionary Theology and the New Testament
  5. The Missionary Task
  6. The Church and Missions
  7. The Instruments of Mission
  8. The Dynamics of Mission
If you are planning on going to the mission field, an advocate for missions, or training people for long or short-term missions, you are the audience this book was written to reach and equip. You need to have this book in your library.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

How to Pray Through Adversity and Inconvenience

Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.”—Daniel 6:10 (NKJV)

I struggle with something I’m a little ashamed to admit. Sometimes, I have a really hard time praying through adversity. That’s painful to say, especially because I’ve been a follower of Jesus for a few decades. I hope it is not the same for you.

Not so with Daniel. Daniel was a believer, a wise leader, and a target. His mission in life was to serve his God and his king, in that order. He served both well. He had no skeletons in his closet. He was humble, and this kept him moving up the ladder, no matter who was king. His humility, his upward mobility, and his holy habits made him the target of his political and professional rivals.

Daniel’s rivals worked hard to find fault. The one “sin” they sniffed out was Daniel’s habitual conversation with Jehovah God. He made time several times a day to get on his knees while facing Jerusalem, the City of Peace his heart longed for, and stay connected to his God. His opponents, through political maneuvering and manipulation, successfully criminalized prayer to anyone but the king of the Medo-Persian Empire, who had conquered Babylon during Daniel’s time there. Violation of this law carried the death penalty. The violator was thrown to hungry lions.

Even in times of adversity and inconvenience, Daniel courageously lived up to the Hebrew definition of his name, God is my judge, by aligning all of his priorities around it. Daniel learned early in life that you become what you worship. You could watch Daniel live his life and easily list all of the attributes of God that had saturated his character. If the king said, “I need a man that is wise, discerning, intelligent, compassionate, unwavering in his character, and courageous,” the obvious answer was, “Daniel’s your guy.”

If prayer were taken away from you, would you miss it? Or is prayer and worship such a habit in your life that you would do it no matter what? As privileged as Daniel was, from a young age he learned to opt out of all of the material things culture told him were necessities. He knew they were distractions and noise. What Daniel needed was God. What do you need?

Thursday, July 13, 2017

On Writing about Family

Charity and me circa 1988
Talking about your trauma can be touchy. Writing about the trauma of others - family members for example - can be very touchy. what family members experienced during traumatic times is touchy. I've learned that when I express facts only as I see them - or think I see them - I get in trouble.

We each experience pain, and even though everyone in the family is hurting, it's still difficult to look past your own pain and think about someone else's. Coming up with words to describe your own pain is a tall order. Thinking you have enough information to give an account of another parson's trial is dangerous territory. I've found this out the hard way.

Writing our story in this book-blogging project has forced me to humble myself with my family. This isn't false piety, it's forced me to really think about how my communication about my point of view affects someone I love. As I watch these words appear on the screen, I'm thinking: this is relationships 101. That's a course I've failed. I'm trying for a do-over.

In this the 16th post in our project, I had my daughter (pictured above in my arms), read this before I clicked "publish". I'd love to know what you think about what I write, but nothing matters more to me than what she thinks. Click here to read post 16.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017