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Count your days to make your days count

“Look at the numbers on my new watch,” Gerald said. “Nine years, 6 months, 12 days. That’s how much time I have left.” Needless to say, we all had a puzzled look trying to decipher the hidden meaning of his words.

I was in Atlanta, GA, for Walk Thru the Bible Ministries InstructorFest 2015, a gathering of WTB instructors. After flying in from various parts of the country, half a dozen of us were standing at the MARTA station on Wednesday afternoon waiting for a shuttle to take us to our hotel.

Over the course of the past two years, Gerald had cancer of the tongue. Surgery removed a portion and chemo treated the rest. He came through, returned to ministry, and is pastoring a church in Iowa.

With the hopes, plans, and dreams he has for ministry, Gerald explained that he asked God to allow him to live until 73 years old in order to complete them. He set his watch to count down to his 73rd birthday to remind him to live with intentionality.

Sunday evening, I received word that Brian had entered heaven unexpectedly. Brian lived with passion and invested in junior high students, including my own children. He invested his life in eternity and is now reaping the rewards.

While I was in Russia last month, I taught Psalm 90 to the two groups I was with. The theme of the psalm Moses wrote at the end of his life is found in verse 12, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” After conducting countless funerals over the course of 40 years in the wilderness, Moses understood well about the brevity of life. So he asked God to give him the wisdom to know how to live properly.

Gerald and Brian are not much older than me. I need to learn from their example and live my life with purpose and intentionality. I want to invest in the things that will count for eternity.

 
 

Experience oriented theology

How many of us are like Linus, and base our theology on personal experience rather than on what Scripture says?

Peanuts - prayer

While we may affirm that the Scriptures are the final rule for faith and practice, we often live by our own rules and what works. If my experience and/or desires conflict with the Scriptures, then oftentimes my personal experience wins out. Hmmm.

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2015 in Bible Study, Prayer, Theology

 

Well done, Brian

11084007_10206045969729142_5783449892161546938_oWhile it is difficult to understand and accept God’s timing, you have to trust his plan and rest in his sovereignty.

On Saturday, Brian Key was called home to heaven. Brian was a numbers guy who worked in the financial sector. While numbers may have been his vocation, students were his passion. He served as a lay leader in the junior high ministry at Crossroads Bible Church in Bellevue, WA, for 20+ years. He impacted countless students, including three that lived in my house and share my name. He and his wife, Susan, always had kids over to their home. Brian went on numerous Summer Trek trips, the junior high ministry trip to Camp Bighorn in Montana where students served in various ways. One of the summer projects was building a trail up to the cross. If a student memorized a certain number of verses, Brian would reward them by taking them to a Seattle Mariners game. He took his boat out to the Columbia River for Summer Safari, the junior high summer waterskiing camp. As parents of three junior highers, Carol and I benefited from his investment into the kids. Since we helped cook for Summer Safari, we saw Brian and Susan’s service up close. Last year, Brian retired from his corporate job and he and Susan became missionaries with TEAM. They recently moved to La Paz, Mexico, to serve that community. Brian was hiking in the area on Saturday when he had a heart attack and God called him home.

Brian’s sudden departure took us all by surprise and reminded us once again that our times are in God’s hands. While we rejoice that Brian is now in heaven reunited with his son, Justin, we grieve with Susan and their other son, Aaron, who are left behind.

His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

Matthew 25:21, ESV

 

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2015 in Heaven, Photos, Scripture

 

After the Confetti Settles

fork-in-the-roadEach one of us experiences many turning points in our lives. They are events which paint a distinct before and after picture. Before the event our lives were headed one direction. After the event, we headed off in an entirely different direction. Before we thought one thing; afterwards we had an entirely different perspective.

Sometimes the turning points are joyous occasions. Graduations, weddings, the birth of a child are events that drastically change a person’s life. Sometimes the events are traumatic such as an accident or doctor’s appointment where we are told we have cancer. Sometimes our life changes because of someone else’s action or decision. Whether the turning point is good, bad, or indifferent, life is never the same again.

Triumphal entryThe day Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday is one such event. Matthew 21:1-11 records his triumphal entry. On this occasion, Jesus presented his credentials as the Messiah/King, the Son of David. The crowds shouted his praise. But what happened after the confetti settled and the parade was over? How was life different for the disciples or the people of Jerusalem? In the same way, how is life different for a Christ follower after Jesus enters his or her life?

Matthew 21:12-22 gives us an answer to that question. (Mark 11:11-12 adds the perspective that these events take place the day after Palm Sunday.) These events help us understand that life is never the same after King Jesus arrives. Jesus will challenge our priorities (12-13), heal our hurts (14), confront our biases (15-16), and expect fruit in our lives (18-22).

Cleanse templeThe day after entered Jerusalem, Jesus makes his way to the temple. There he observes how the temple complex had been turned into a place of commerce. There were pens of sheep and livestock available for purchase to use as sacrifices. If you could not afford those, you could buy pigeons or doves. Before making any purchase, you had to exchange your regional coins for temple money.

Jesus begins to drive the merchants and money changers out of the temple (12-13). He declares that the temple was to be a place of prayer, not a safe house for bandits. In his actions, Jesus challenged the priorities of the prevailing culture. Instead of focusing on worship, they were more concerned about busyness. By driving the merchants out, Jesus removed the weapons of mass distraction. He called for people to refocus their attention on the purpose of the temple—a place where people of every nationality could come to pray.

Jesus heal lameIn verse 14, Jesus healed those who were blind and lame. Because of their physical disability, they were not welcome in the temple. They could not worship their creator. Beyond the physical healing, Jesus removed the barriers that kept these folks from entering the temple to worship.

After showing mercy to hurting people, Jesus confronted the bias of the religious leaders who were outraged that people were not worshipping in the proper manner (15-16). Ironically, they put up with the noise of commerce but cringed at the noise of praise. As he often did, Jesus comforted the afflicted and he afflicted the comfortable.

Outside of the city, Jesus saw a fig tree in full bloom (18-22). Normally, leaves meant the presence of figs. But that was not the case. The tree had the appearance of health and fruitfulness, but it was all a sham. Because of its hypocrisy, Jesus said the tree would never bloom again. Through his actions, Jesus taught his disciples that outward appearances are not enough. He expects to find fruit in our lives. Jesus also used the occasion to teach about prayer and faith. He explained that God can do what is humanly impossible.

After  the Confetti SettlesThese same lessons should be true in our lives as well. When King Jesus comes into our lives, life is never the same again. He will challenge our priorities. He wants us to pursue a relationship with him rather than settle for busyness. He will heal our hurts and remove the barriers that hinder us from approaching him in worship. He will make us uncomfortable as he confronts our biases. And he will expect us to be fruitful in serving him.

Have you given King Jesus permission to cleanse and change your life? If we’re honest, we might have given him permission to cleanse our lives. We want forgiveness and heaven. But change our lives? Many of us want to continue living by our own standards. But that is just not realistic. When King Jesus truly comes into our lives, he changes everything. Life is never the same after King Jesus takes up residence in our lives.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at the First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on Palm Sunday, March 29, 2015. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Who asks you the hard questions?

Who asks you about the condition of your heart? Who asks you about the state of your marriage? Who challenges you to remain pure in your thought life and viewing habits? Who holds you accountable?

When I became an instructor with Walk Thru the Bible Ministries in 1987, Bruce Wilkinson, WTB’s president, challenged all the new instructors to make a commitment that we would never teach a WTB event with known sin in our lives. We had to look Bruce in the eye, take his hand, and make that promise. As much as I respected Bruce, I was also fearful of disappointing him and having to confess I didn’t live up to my promise.

Yesterday, I had to reaffirm that commitment to Phil Tuttle, my long-time friend and WTB’s current president. At the end of InstructorFest 2015 at WTB’s headquarters in Atlanta, GA, Phil reaffirmed Walk Thru’s commitment to purity and accountability. He and three of WTB’s leaders stood in front of the auditorium. The 60+ instructors who were present were asked to come forward, take the hand of one of the leaders, and say, “By God’s grace and with his help, my life is pure, my marriage is strong, and it will stay that way until we meet again.”

I chose to stand in Phil’s line. Our friendship goes back to 1980 when we were students at Dallas Theological Seminary. Phil & Ellen and Carol & I were married one week apart. Carol and Ellen worked near each other in downtown Dallas and often had lunch together. I recruited Phil to become a WTB instructor in 1988. We’ve got some history together.

Rather than shake his hand, I gave Phil a hug and thanked him for keeping this tradition alive. I explained it was one of the more difficult, but meaningful parts of a WTB faculty conference. I then took his hand and repeated my affirmation of commitment, before I gave him another hug and reaffirmed our friendship.

In close to 30 years of ministry, I can count on two hands with fingers left over the number of people who have asked me the hard questions. Most of those people have been Walk Thru family. I am grateful for their commitment, accountability, positive peer pressure, and the healthy fear of not wanting to disappoint my friends that have helped me navigate the pitfalls of temptation.

Who do you have that asks you the hard questions?

#LiveGodsWord

 

Why is winter still here?

Considering the calendar says “March 28″ and it is snowing outside here in western MA, I can understand Dana’s outrage.

why is winter still here

why is winter still here 2

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2015 in Fun, Winter

 

WTB InstructorFest 2015

I was in Atlanta the past three days for Walk Thru the Bible’s InstructorFest 2015. It was 42 hours of refreshment and renewal, encouraging conversations with old friends, challenging insights from God’s word, and recommitment to stay faithful in the battle. It is a privilege to be part of this organization where the faculty and staff share a sense of family.

#LiveGodsWord

 
 
 
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