Thursday, February 24, 2011

Turmoil in the Mideast and the Book of Daniel

Daniel 11:32 "The people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits."

Just finished a short but excellent study of the Book of Daniel- helped immensely by the late pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia and his commentary: "Daniel: An Expositional Commentary". Daniel is such an interesting book- there are a few passages that are just plain strange.

Have you noticed recent headlines?
Iranian warships enter Suez Canal...
Federal, state and local debt exceeds size of entire economy...
Deadly quake rocks New Zealand...
Witnesses report bodies in streets (Libya)...
Colossal volcano eruption sends ash plume 2 miles high in Philippines

Anytime you read a book of the Bible that contains apocalyptic visions- you become a little more sensitive to the current movements of nations and events.
I experienced this a lot during a two year study of the Book of Revelation which caused me to see the books of Daniel, Jeremiah, many OT passages, and the Olivet Discourse (Matt 24) as key companions in interpretation and application.

A quick warning, however, is to avoid the temptation is to 'tea-leaf' the passages and apply them exactly to what is happening in the world of current events. A better approach is to cultivate the enduring principles and apply them regardless of how things shake out literally. Any reading of the above passages tell a very clear message.

Here is that clear message: God exists- He is in control- Conflict is evidence for sin and rebellion- there will be ebbs and flows of war and persecution- there will even be periods where it looks like God has lost the day- but there will be a day when time will be ended- it could be VERY soon- so are we prepared to meet the King? Are we an enemy because of independent rebellion or an adopted son? Have we spent a selfish life ignoring and  not thanking the Creator or do we acknowledge His authority and live lives of gratitude? Do we expect to stand before him touting our own righteousness or do we throw ourselves on the mercy of God by clinging to His Son's sacrifice as our only hope of forgiveness? Are we in love with the city of man or do we seek the kingdom of God? Will we incur God's wrath or will we hear the tender sound of a Father's love?

Practical Applications:

1) Regardless of your interpretation you have to get ready now. The signs are all in place ( they have been since the ascension of our Lord) and time is ticking. You can't wait for a warning signal. Your time is now. Simply bend your knee, ask forgiveness and set your heart to follow Him, and ask Jesus for His help and tell Him He is your only hope. There are some who will meet judgment day today just due to their individual life coming to an end.

2) It is likely that living for Christ will get harder as time ticks by. Whatever your circumstance- hard physically, hard socially, hard economically- find a support system to persevere NO MATTER WHAT.
I am so thankful to live in a country where I have the freedom to follow Christ and we have blessings of liberty and relative peace and prosperity- but it is not a guarantee. But we need to be of the mindset that if the bottom fell out tomorrow- we would still follow our King in confidence and joy. Think of it this way- if it got HARD quick, rejoice- the end is that much closer- and the end is sweet!

3) Search the Scriptures and pray so that we will be wise enough to follow our shepherd's voice in times of confusion.

4) Be steadfast and confident- people who know their God never hand ring or whine or collapse in despair. We walk on through in joyful peace!

Want to read some of these passages? (Daniel 11:36-12:4- Matthew 24- Rev. 20 and 21) I firmly believe that the many of these prophetic verses speak of future events (not everyone will agree with this). Part of the confusion is that some events recapitulate in an ever growing circle as types and shadows of the final reality. Be careful about buying into some of the more modern preaching on prophecy- I don't believe ANYONE has it exactly right (especially me). But here are things to read and consider. In all of this- don't get freaked out or afraid- there are beautiful promises to cling to- let's continue to worship, sing, live and hope.....

Goofy Guesses: (This is what I said NOT to do)

Scenario A: There will come out of this recent unrest in the Middle East as very powerful person or nation that will dominate and stabilize the world markets. It is possible that he will subdue radical Muslim elements and be very attractive as a 'secularist'. This individual or nation would be one we should be very wary of.

Scenario B: There is a rapid explosion of militant Islamic outbursts becoming deadly to Christians and Jews. This would launch the great tribulation and would be an unprecedented time of suffering for God's people.

Scenario C: Slow erosion of economic and political influence of the US. This would make it easier to interpret passages in Revelation by America's absence from the world stage.

Scenario D: Christianity explodes as a golden age of gospel expansion comes out of the political and economic unrest. This would be primarily a result of the growing church in China and Africa. The conversion rate is so powerful that even many Jews are converted in the process and would make post-millenial proponents of Rev 20 look good.

Scenario E- All of the above or none of the above

SEE WHAT I MEAN!- Don't draw charts, just take steps of faith today. Be thankful and serve well.

Again- no matter what happens- God is always worth sticking with- and only by His grace can we stick with Him. Let's keep encouraging each other to 'STICK WITH IT' run the race with perseverance.

Not sure what book I will go to next- I have really been enjoying the OT for the past few months.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011



 The following blog post is a note summary of the amazing book by Os Guinness: The Call- Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life

Other than my Bible reading, this has been one of the most important books I have ever read. Again, part of this is the fact that I was sent reeling after losing my job on Dec. 9. But to be honest, these last 9 weeks have been amazing and refreshing. I have never been more ready for a new assignment in my life. Of course I will mess up and make mistakes- but I have a deep confidence in what God wants me to do.

The problem these last few days is finally picking the PLACE OF SERVICE. I am so grateful to have options ( 3 of them)- and my family finished 7 days of prayer last night and I expect to 'answer a call' in just a few days. I have a high expectation that this will be a clear call.

The notes below are partially paraphrased- but it is the best of the best. What is missing are the dramatic stories and illustrations that Guinness uses- I HAVE BECOME A BIG FAN!


Our life purpose comes from 2 streams: who we are created to be and who we are called to be- this is NO TIME FOR SLOGANS

Calling is something that extends beyond ourselves and encompasses being pursued by the Creator- NEVER FORGET THAT IT IS A DESTINATION AND A JOURNEY AND A RELATIONSHIP.

As a man, part of who I am is tied into what I do- what are my deep longings? To have a name- to long for home- to be loved and secure- calling is attached to those deep needs- a longing for what only the Father can provide.

Our primary calling is TO BE- this does not change- THE CALL
Our secondary calling is TO DO: the details and roads can and do change- A CALL

My call will be in alignment with my S.H.A.P.E.- my unique composite and fit (this is my input)
S.piritual giftings
H.eart desires

God NORMALLY calls us along the line of our giftedness, but the purpose of giftedness is stewardship and service- not selfishness

William Temple: “To make the choice of career or profession on selfish grounds, without a sense of calling is probably the greatest single sin any young person can commit, for it is the deliberate withdrawal from allegiance to God of the greatest part of time and strength.”

Cotton Mather: Choosing a job
1) A warrantable calling- not only aiming at our good, but the public good as well
2) Aligns with our gifts
3)A sense of God’s guiding us toward it

Callings are sometimes born out of crisis- a call to stand- instead of lying on the ground beaten and bruised, you need to see the crisis as an opportunity- this has always been true with people of faith

 There are competing voices coming at you- the devil is a master at the subtle slide and rationalization, his words tickle the ear and  temporarily soothe- 

WORDS are the deepest, fullest expression  in which God has disclosed Himself- so listening to HIM , trusting HIM, and obeying HIM means that we ‘let God be God’ and have His way with us. His calling has many dimensions- often taut and balanced: summons and invitation, law and grace, demand and offer. But don’t forget- I AM A SON


Luther: “My conscience is captive to the WORD OF GOD. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to GO AGAINST CONSCIENCE is neither RIGHT nor SAFE. God help me. AMEN.”

A life lived listening to the decisive call of God is a life lived before the AUDIENCE OF ONE.

God’s call is the key to igniting a passion for the deepest growth and highest heroism in life.

God’s call is personal- but not purely individual- it is a call to labor within the body.

Understanding calling is the realization that we are always on a road- it is a journey that will not have a destination in this life.


PRIDE: We can get so wrapped up in self importance- a sense of legacy or self-flattering ambition- a warped sense of destiny- that pride destroys the whole thing- this is a surgery and process that only God can accomplish. HELP

ENVY: Calling involves giftedness and desires and these always teeter on the edge of the cliff of envy.- we evaluate by comparison and competition and rejoice at the failings of others. Full blown envy is dejection plus disparagement plus destruction.. HELP

CONSUMPTION AND MATERIALISM: calling can lead to prosperity which can seduce us into living for things and pleasure. Eating the fruit of our labor and getting lost in the process.
Cotton Mather: “Religion brought forth prosperity and the daughter destroyed the mother.”

LAZINESS: Calling combats sloth- the noonday demon.
Dorothy Sayers: ‘the sin which believes in nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and only remains alive because there is nothing it would die for.”


“Success” may flatter us on the outside as ‘significance’ eludes us from the inside.
Calling prevents us from settling for the comfortable, the mediocre, the banal, and the boring. God jerks us wide awake.

Calling combats secularization- the trend of religious ideas being marginalized
Calling combats privatization- Jesus is Lord of All- but world says keep it at home
Calling combats pluralism- we live a focused life- the world offers too many choices




CALLING HAS A COST: DISCIPLESHIP- often requiring suffering or rejection

CALLING HAS A 'TIMING'- Calling happens in God’s good time- our sense of timing is off pace- waiting for the time:

CALLING HAS A CHALLENGE: TO FINISH WELL- put the end mark on the ‘other side’ of the finish line- live past the point of life.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Prayer for the Future Husbands of My Daughters on Valentine's Day

Father in Heaven,

You have given many wonderful things- but marriage is one of your amazing gifts. It is not easy- like many things of great value- the work and forgiveness and perseverance over time produces a deep and real reservoir of love and support.

And Lord, I worry at times about the future of healthy marriages in a land that seems to see less and less examples of good ones. I understand the skepticism and cynicism and suspicion for such a commitment.

So here is another area that I call out to You- Lord, prepare future men of God who will love my daughters with a love that only You can give.

Wash him in Your forgiveness and bathe him in Your Word. Allow him to go through a life that teaches him to value what You value. Teach him to learn how to stick with it when times get tough.

As all men are sinful Lord- allow his mistakes to train him to hate sin, love the sinner, and cling to the cross. I don't want a man of perfection for my daughter- a want a man who holds the good news of Your salvation like a pearl of great price.

Give him a picture of a healthy church and a loving family and a service oriented community and a mission minded ministry. Let his boyhood be amazing- fun- full of adventure- let him catch fish and stare at sunsets- and sleep with a smile on his face and with a smudge of hard playing mud on his cheek.

Teach him to laugh, teach him to be tender, teach him to have fun with a heart of gratitude and joy. Teach him to forgive, teach him to humble himself enough to ask for forgiveness.

Lord, also teach him to be tough- a leader- a wise man, able to discern when to stand and when to move. Teach him to pray. Give him vision of a family that is built on You.

If you bless them with children, help him to become a loving father and serving husband. Protect his health and provide the strength to stand against all kinds of dark attacks and temptations.

Lord, walk with this man in love and blessing. Let him pursue You- let him love You first, even more than my daughter. Let his pursuit of You inspire my daughter to seek You in a deeper and growing relationship.

So I pray today, Lord for a young man that You call out to- give him a special smile of your presence today- Let him feel the breeze of Your embrace. You see into the future- You are already there.

And prepare me to be a blessing to him as well. With a firm handshake and a welcoming smile- let him know from day one that I am there to support and pray and serve in any way that he desires. I want to present to him one day a beautiful girl who will love Jesus first and him second. And let their adventure be incredible!

In Jesus' name I ask these things.....

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Answering the Call- Daily Drudgery or Divine Discipleship?

I wasn't surprised when I read that "The Call" has turned out to be Os Guinness's best selling book- it is amazing! One day in the near future, I am going to start a small group study and my recommendation is that we do this book (my version has a study guide in the back).
Not intending to offend- but this book has inspired me in a way that "Purpose Driven Life" did not. My guess is that PDL by Rick Warren seems to be  'Me' focused and Guiness's book hits me as a more 'God focused' piece- and that may be entirely speculative and apologies to Warren if not true.

These last 9 weeks have been the most restful and refreshing times with the Lord I have ever had. I experienced deep pain and have had God meet me in a real way every single day since then. I did a study of Isaiah ( written 2700 years ago and had direct messages to me daily) and now I am studying Daniel.

I am reading the biography of Winston Churchhill and another book on the history of the CIA.

But this book, The Call, just stays with me all day- great points and stories. It is also a surprising book, it does not follow the 'Self-help step by step plan to future success and happiness'. It has been the finishing mold to heart preparation for our next deployment.

Our family is in the middle of a '7 days of prayer' in anticipation of selecting our next stage of ministry and work. This book has me excited about all of the options in front of me.

A specific example of this was the latest chapter- (Patches of Godlight CH. 22). It explores how calling allows the believer to do even difficult or small tasks with great energy and meaning. As I mentally rehearse my next jobs, there are parts of all of them that will be tough (all jobs have their thorns) and this chapter allowed me to use my imagination to walk through all of these with grace and success. I do know this- wherever I go next- I have never been more ready in my whole life to work with my heart and energy in freedom and fearlessness and compassion.
I could quote the entire chapter- but I wanted to paraphrase a hymn sung by George Herbert as an anthem for this next mission:

Teach me- my God and King
In all things- You to see,
and no mater what I do
I do it all for YOU!

A man may look at special things
and be so impressed
Until he goes out under Your sky
and ponders the wonder You make

So whatever You call me to
Nothing is trivial or mean
And I pray the phrase "For His Sake"
will ever grow brighter and clean.

A servant with this rule
Makes drudgery divine
I will even sweep rooms
If I know it is for You I do

So this is a famous touchstone
that turns even dust to gold
When God puts His name on a task
What He owns- cannot for less be told.

And finally, Oswald Chambers:

"We do not need the grace of God to stand crises....but it does require twenty-four hours in everyday as a saint, to go through drudgery as a disciple- to live an ordinary, unobserved, ignored existence as a disciple of Jesus Christ- (we do not have to do exceptional things for God)- We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things, to be holy in the world's streets and among the world's people- and this is not learned in five minutes."

The best news of all- is that all of the options in front of me are more fun than drudgery- and more excitement than banality- I am so thankful for my choices. One of them came within 24 hours of my dismissal. Now comes the tricky part- which one of these does the Lord want me to do? I will be selecting soon......

Sunday, February 06, 2011

The Darkness Before the Dawn- Fingertips of Waiting

I have a lot of things to flesh out this early morning- but I want to recommend the commentary on Isaiah by Ray Ortlund. I don't know if I could have made it through these last 8 weeks without this book. I'm writing this blog in such a way as to one day and look back on these times and reflect and remember. I don't know if I will ever remember the depth of my hurt or really appreciate how the Book of Isaiah, written over 2700 years ago, allowed the presence of God to minister to me with wave upon wave of healing medicine on a daily basis.

And I will say this one more time- I have read hundreds of commentaries in my 30 years of being a Christian- and this is the best Bible commentary ever written. Ray writes in such a way that God's Word just leaps off the page. So before I do into my self-absorbed pontification of life- let me tell you this tip. If you ever get to a point in your life where you are so beat down that you just want to escape and walk away from the game- get this book. Take your Bible and see what passage the chapter will be on. Pray, then read the Bible passage. Then take Ray's book and slowly read it- write notes in your Bible- I promise you this- you will encounter the Living Messiah in this process. An added help to me was including praise music in the background... every now and then I would stop, my heart racing, my mind absorbed- and hear beautiful music "I lift my eyes up.." or "You shall overcome this".. or "Beauty will rise" or "If my God is for us, what can stand against"... and found myself lifted up from the mire of pity and pain.

Ok- where am I? This is the dark time of the waiting game. I have hit the road the last 6 weeks- my travels have taken me to B'ham 3 or 4 times, Huntsville, Northern Kentucky, and Savannah, GA. I don't even want to know what my cell phone bill looks like or what the cost of gas and hotel stays will add up to. This, by the way, is part of 'waiting'- it is not passive- it is an ACTIVE openness. The thing that has been most amazing in this new job search is that technology has opened up the possibilities and speed of opportunities like I have never seen.

And now- here it is- Superbowl Sunday- and my guess is that the 'searching traveling' is done ( I do have 1 more small trip next week) and now there will be a final gathering of information of the offers. I am so thankful to have options. I hope my next big trip is to to go to the place where we have said "Yes".

I woke up at 5 this morning and began to pray and process. I do know in my heart there is still a deep hurt and a deep wish. God knows these things- and I had to pray that He would handle both of these with my hands open- He is the potter and I am the clay. I am fully prepared for Him to take away the wish knowing that it may not be forever, but even if it is- I am willing to be ruled by Him.

Part of the final decision is the fact that my family is such a huge piece - trying to find a job with one daughter going to college and needing to support a family- makes this a major shift for all of us. I do think my house will sell and we will move with an understanding that finances will play a large part of where/how we live, but we are ready to walk by faith. God has always taken care of us in this area and He will do it again.

And it is now waiting..... I don't know why the Lord does it this way- but part of His proceedings is to step back in the delay. He was so present in the first few days of the hurt and now that a decision time is drawing nigh- He steps away. He gets quiet. As they say, the night gets darkest right before the dawn- God did not bless Jacob until daybreak- Jesus will one day return and the city of man will be very dark. My guess is that the darker the night, the brighter the glory will shine.

The mental picture is that I have been hanging from a ledge and waiting. My fingertips are white and my grip is cramping- and the final pieces are coming in one little dew drop at a time.

Ever felt like this? It is no fun at all. It puts a lot of strain on everyone. But I will not let go. In the end actually the truth is that He will not let me go. And it makes me pray. I am completely dependent on Him now. All the behind the scenes conversations- the conversations by the decision makers-the push back- the doubt- the debate- the decision- and pulling the trigger is all in His hands. "The heart of the King is in the hands of the Lord".

And then there will be a point in the near future where I will, by faith, say "This is the way- let's GO". I wish it were tomorrow, but I am afraid it is still days away.......

I have had over 800 page views in the past 3 weeks so I know someone is checking in on me. I hope I haven't hurt myself by being so transparent about this process. My goal in writing this blog is for someone to see my heart and be encouraged to never doubt the goodness of God and the beauty of the gospel. What you are reading is the words of a sinner- saved only by God's grace- deserving nothing- but I been given it all. It is also good for me to be able to click and go back to where I have been in the past. But as of right now- I don't know where I am going. But I do know this- I am ready to work harder and better and smarter than at any other time of my life.

Here is how Ray said it this morning:
"God meets not the brilliant one, not the lucky one, but the one who is joyfully, humbly going along in the simple, ordinary path of obedience. That's where God can be found- not with a guru on a mountaintop, but right where you are, if you're willing. You don't need to run from your life; it's where God wants to meet you. You don't need to wait for ideal conditions. You just need to use the life you do have to remember God and His ways. Are God's ways your ways? Is He the center of your lifestyle? For all of us, that's an adjustment worth making."