Monthly Archives: March 2012

What encourages me

Proverbs 25:11 contains this wise statement, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” If this is true, then I have received some rare and highly valued fruit recently.

Since leaving my previous church, I have received several cards, emails, and phone calls from people around the world. A small few have taken the opportunity to get in a personal dig or criticism, but the vast majority has encouraged us greatly.

Generic statements like “Thanks for your service” were ok, but the ones I found the most encouraging were the ones that were specific in what they said.

  • One gentleman thanked me for my ministry to him following his father’s death. He said my words helped him during a dark time. He thanked me for my advice and counsel that helped him relate to and encourage his mother.
  • One woman said her late husband always commented on what he learned from my sermons on their drive home from church.
  • Another woman pointed to a specific message I preached early in my tenure at the church that gave her a healthier perspective on her marriage. It transformed how she viewed her husband.
  • A couple took Carol and me out to lunch and encouraged both of us about the contributions we made to the church. They thanked me for encouraging them to go on a short-term ministry trip. They said the advice I gave them right before their departure—look for ways to serve and be flexible—made all the difference in the world as to what they did on that trip.
  • One couple wrote to say I contributed to their spiritual growth.
  • Another couple pointed to specific things Carol did in administrating and leading the children’s ministry and specific things I taught that challenged and encouraged them. They also pointed out that the way I prayed and the things I prayed for prior to my sermons both encouraged them and modeled how to pray and how to lead through prayer.
  • During a lunch meeting two days ago, a gentleman said I dragged him kicking and screaming with me to Russia several years ago and it transformed his life. Since then, he has been on two other ministry trips to Kyrgyzstan and is planning two more to India and possibly Ethiopia. Through my encouragement, he caught the bug for missions and has not been the same since.

These specific words of encouragement remind me that God called me to ministry and has used me to make a difference.

Several people said they are praying for us. A few of them asked, “How can we pray for you?” A smaller number said, “Can I pray for you right now?” The ones who asked how to pray and took the time to pray were the most encouraging.

These folks challenged me to be an encouragement to others. They reminded me of two principles regarding encouragement:

  • Being specific in my praise and encouragement is more profitable than being general and vague.
  • Asking how to pray for the individual and taking the time to pray then and there is more encouraging than promising to pray, especially if I forget to follow through.

What encourages me most likely encourages others as well.

Thanks for the encouragement!



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Posted by on March 30, 2012 in Personal growth, Scripture


Growing up on the backside of the moon

Book Review: Crater (A Helium-3 Novel), by Homer Hickam

Crater, the first volume of Homer Hickam’s new trilogy, is a coming of age story that takes place on the moon. The main character is a 16-year-old Helium 3 miner by the name of Crater. An orphaned teenager with a brilliant mind, he is nonetheless content to work the scrapes as a miner. After saving the life of another miner in the colony, he is recruited for a secret mission. He joins a long-haul trucking convoy as a scout, is attacked along the journey by raiders, meets a host of interesting characters, discovers romance, rides an elevator up into space to retrieve a mysterious package, and deliver it back to his boss on the moon. In the process, Crater discovers new skills, learns to stand for his convictions, gains confidence in his decision making abilities, fights off enemies, and gradually begins to understand who he is.

Hickam’s novel presents his vision of what life will be like on Earth’s eighth continent during its raw, wild west, frontier mining days before everything gets civilized. It is based on his knowledge and biases of the moon, the space business, the mining profession, war, and history.

The novel is fast paced, action packed, and aimed at young readers. Parts of it seem a bit improbable, but the story pulls you in and carries you along to its conclusion. It was very enjoyable and entertaining to read. I look forward to the second installment in the series.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com http://BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Posted by on March 28, 2012 in Books


Resonance & dissonance

Growing up with a piano in the house gave me opportunities to watch a piano tuner in action. Time, continual use, and changing seasonal temperatures would cause the instrument to grow out of tune. The piano tuner would answer our call, come to our home, sit down at the piano, and take out a magical tool that helped him do his job.

The fundamental tool of his trade was a tuning fork. That, along with highly tuned ears, and the knowledge of how to use the tool helped him accomplish his task. He would strike the tuning fork so that it played a note, and then he would adjust the tension on the piano strings until they resonated with the fork. The tuning fork played a true note, and when he played our piano, you could hear the tension when our piano was out of tune. Our keys and his fork were dissonant or not on the same wavelength. His task was to get our piano on the same wavelength as his fork.

Reading through the description of various churches and pastoral job descriptions, I experience resonance with some and dissonance with others. At times, I feel like Goldilocks sampling the porridge of the three bears. “This church is too ______; this church is too ___________; this church is just right.”

Two weeks ago, two churches sent me information packets on their respective ministries. One struck me as a potential good fit; the other as a potential great fit. With the former there was close alignment; with the latter there was a feeling of resonance.

We’ll see how the process progresses and where God leads us. I need to keep my ears attuned to his divine tuning fork in order for him to lead me to the place of greatest resonance and where we can make the best music.

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Posted by on March 28, 2012 in Church, Personal growth


The past is prologue

Everything that happened in the past has prepared me for God’s next assignment.

I was reminded of that truth this morning as I had a conversation with someone from a church that is searching for a new senior pastor. As we compared notes about our respective backgrounds, we discovered that we knew some of the same people, went to the same school though we overlapped on the dates, and were in the same location at the same time though we weren’t sure if we crossed paths at that point.

I was reminded of God’s sovereign hand in guiding our paths towards his purpose. Years ago, Prof Hendricks sent me a note while I was going through a difficult season of life. He wrote, “The disappointments of life are part of God’s curriculum preparing you for an even more determinative ministry. Nothing is ever wasted in the will of God.”

God has used the past 26 years of ministry—highs & lows, victories & defeats, successes & failures, as well as the routine, mundane, ordinary parts—to prepare me for his next assignment.

I am grateful to serve a sovereign God who is in control of the details of my life.

“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. (Job 42:2, ESV)

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Posted by on March 27, 2012 in Character, Personal growth, Scripture


Living in a beige world

Getting our house ready to sell has created a unique tension for my wife and me. We’ve entered the colorless, neutral world of beigeness.

While we aren’t the boldest pickers of color, our daughter’s bedroom was a burnt orange, a shade slightly darker than UT “Hook ‘em Horns.” Our bedroom was a faux blue color. Our bathroom and kitchen cabinets were a natural oak.

Our realtor advised us to repaint them all. Now the bedrooms are beige and the cabinets throughout the house are white. They look nice, but it’s just way too neutral and boring for my taste.

That’s where the tension comes in. All the ads we receive from Lowes and Home Depot speak of adding color to your home. Target features a commercial where colorful people leave a hot air balloon and magically add color to individuals, homes, and communities. Yet we are asked to make our home less colorful and more beige.

Now, I understand the philosophy of making the home more neutral so that a prospective buyer can imagine how they would decorate and add their preference of color. It just means that the house now feels less like our “home” and more just the address where we reside. Then again, it ceased to be our home once we started down the path of preparing to sell.

That only leaves one question, how will we paint and decorate our future home so it reflects our taste? Bring on the color charts!

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Posted by on March 24, 2012 in Home


Breaking the ties that bind

How do you break free of generational sins? How do you stop the cycle of sins being passed down from one generation to the next? How do you get sin out of a family legacy?

That is a question two of my friends have addressed recently. Tom Fowler taught on “Breaking the chains that bind” at a men’s breakfast at Crossroads Bible Church in Bellevue, WA. John Musgrave preached a sermon on the topic at the Holy Trinity Church in Anapa, Russia, a few weeks ago. Both men got their inspiration from the family history of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were deceivers. Abraham lied about his wife Sarah being his wife (Genesis 12:10-20; 20:1-18). Isaac perpetuated the same exact lie (Genesis 26:6-11). Jacob took it one step further when he impersonated his brother and deceived his father in order to steal his brother’s blessing (Genesis 27). Yet the sin stops with Joseph. Far more than his father, grandfather, or great-grandfather, Joseph lived with integrity. He took a stand for his convictions, even when the cost was prison (Genesis 39). The cycle of deceit stopped with Joseph’s generation.

To break the cycle of sin in a family, you have to acknowledge the sin, confess it, and vow not to repeat it. You have to intentionally say that the sin will stop with you. And then you need to pray with great fervor and depend on God for strength.

While one person can break the cycle of sin in a family, can one person also break the cycle in a corporate setting? That is a question I have wondered about. If you find yourself in an Enron culture, how do you stand your ground and stop the pattern from continuing? One person can make a difference, but you also need a “band of brothers” that will stand with you and watch your back.

What if the cycle of sin is found in a church? A friend recently told me about a church that ousted five pastors over a period of 25+ years. She said a small group of people would raise the specter of a “no confidence vote” whenever changes were proposed and things did not go their way. Though now out of the area, she recently learned that the pattern had once again repeated itself.

Can one person change the culture of a church and help root out the sin of rebellion and contentiousness? Considering the trouble Moses had with the nation of Israel over the same issue, it is certainly a thorny issue indeed.

In Bruce Wilkinson’s 7 Laws of the Learner, he addresses the issue of breaking free of sin in the 7th Law: The Law of Revival. He explains that revival becomes more difficult when the following factors are in play: (1) The length of time the sin was practiced; (2) The number of times (frequency) the sin was practiced; (3) How the surrounding culture views the sin; and (4) How the Christian community views the sin. It doesn’t mean revival is impossible, but you have to work hard and pray fervently to see it take place.

Can one person make a difference and turn the tide? Yes. But it becomes more challenging as more people get involved—group, church, corporation, or culture.


Bear one another’s burdens

Maybe it was the size of the pile—a mound of 12 yards of bark. Perhaps it was size of the shovel in my hands. Then again, it may have been the weary, haggard look on my face. Without knowing the exact reason, a neighbor pulled up to my driveway and offered me the use of his Ace grain scoop.

Now, my neighbor could have sat on the sidelines and laughed at me for using a small shovel to attack a mound of bark. He could have criticized me for using the wrong tool, even though it was the only one I had. He could have chastised my attitude.

But my neighbor did none of that. Instead, he came alongside and said, “Here, use my grain scoop. It worked for us. I bet it will do the job for you. Just put it by my garage when you are done.”

You know what, he was right. I was able to fill my wheelbarrow with four scoops of his shovel whereas it was taking 8-10 scoops with mine. And six and a half hours later, the 12 yards of bark were distributed around the house. With my shovel, it would have taken me a week.

My neighbor’s approach illustrated how believers are to respond to those who have fallen into sin. Rather than ignore, chastise, or criticize, we are to come alongside and help them carry their burden with the goal of restoring them to fellowship. As we do that, we have to guard our own attitude so that we do not become proud, self-righteous, or judgmental, and in turn fall into temptation. As we lend our shovel to help someone carry their load, we demonstrate Christ’s love and live out his commandments.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1–2, ESV)

It’s amazing what you can learn while working around the house.

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Posted by on March 19, 2012 in Home, Photos, Scripture


Navigating life’s rapids

Book Review: Great Day Every Day: Navigating life’s challenges with promise and purpose, by Max Lucado

There are days when it is easy to praise God. And then there are the rest of our days—days when we get stuck in traffic, the baby gets sick, our boss chews us out, our friends forget what they promised, our spouse files for divorce, our kids disobey our instructions—you know, “normal” days. How do we find joy on those days?

Max Lucado’s prescription is to saturate our lives with G.O.D.—God’s Grace, Oversight, and Direction. That is what can make every day a great day. Lucado divides his book into three parts. The first part explains how to saturate your day with God’s grace by experiencing mercy, gratitude, and forgiveness. The middle section describes how to entrust your day to God’s oversight through peace, hope, and faith. The final section encourages the reader to accept God’s direction by finding purpose and opportunities to serve. The book also includes a study guide for small group discussion as well as a 30-day devotional.

The book is vintage Max Lucado. It is filled with biblical principles, encouraging stories, descriptive word pictures, and practical advice. Being in a season of less than ideal days myself, I found the book to be personally encouraging. It was a good reminder to refocus my attention on God and to experience his grace on a daily basis.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com http://BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Posted by on March 18, 2012 in Books


The weaver and the tapestry

I sit here on the wrong side of unemployment. I seek answers to the unanswerable questions of what? why? when? and how? I feel discouraged, dejected, and grieving.

It was certainly God’s grace that led me to the following story this morning in the midst of my remodeling/painting chores. It was a fitting reminder of who is in charge of my life.

Over a hundred years ago in England, the borough of West Stanley endured a great tragedy. A mine collapsed, trapping and killing many of the workers inside. The bishop of Durham, Dr. Handley Moule, was asked to bring a word of comfort to the mourners. Standing at the mouth of the mine, he said, “It is very difficult for us to understand why God should let such an awful disaster happen, but we know Him and we trust Him, and all will be right. I have at home,” he continued, “an old bookmark given to me by my mother. It is worked in silk, and, when I examine the wrong side of it, I see nothing but a tangle of threads, crossed and re-crossed. It looks like a big mistake. One would think that someone had done it who did not know what she was doing. But when I turn it over and look at the right side, I see there, beautifully embroidered, the letters GOD IS LOVE.

“We are looking at this today,” he counseled, “from the wrong side. Someday we shall see it from another standpoint, and shall understand.”

Cited in Great Day Every Day, by Max Lucado

This was the reminder I needed to trust the weaver. He knows what he is doing and when the tapestry is complete.

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Posted by on March 17, 2012 in Books, Character, Personal growth, Theology


Divine delays

Our roof was to be cleaned on Tuesday. It was snowing and the roof guy could not see the roof. The cleaning was rescheduled for yesterday. The company cannot treat the roof until it stops raining, and no one knows when that will be. Bark was supposed to be delivered this morning. The order got lost and it is coming later this afternoon. We hoped to list our house for sale by April 1. Since the kitchen countertops won’t be installed until April 6, the house won’t be listed until April 11 at the earliest. I need to refinish the deck, but I have to wait for at least two sunny days, and again, who knows if/when we will get that much sun in March. I had hoped to be part of a significant, fruitful ministry by now, but that hasn’t happened yet either.

Thinking about these delays, I was reminded of James 4:13–15.

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

While my plans may not unfold on my timetable, they are occurring according to God’s plan and purpose. Our times are in his hands. He will accomplish his good will and purpose.

A good thing to reminder as I wait for paint to dry (seriously, so I can put a second coat on). Perhaps it would help if I reread an article I wrote some 20 years ago, “Hurry up and wait.”

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Posted by on March 15, 2012 in Character, Home, Scripture