I noticed in a news item that Warren Buffet, the "Oracle of Omaha" and probably the most famous investor and investment manager in our country today is raising money for charity by auctioning a lunch with himself. The idea is that you and several of your friends can buy the opportunity to pick his brain over soup and sandwich to learn some of his secrets of investment success and to get the "inside scoop" on what he think markets will be doing in the future. Bids are being taken on Ebay and the article said the bidding had reached $81,000 with a few days to go. Last year a Chinese mutual fund manager won the lunch with a bid of $2.1 million! We certainly do value certain kinds of knowledge and certain kinds of prophets. Warren Buffet might be considered one of the ultimate prophets of wealth. Certainly his track record is well above average (though the article pointed out that one major oil stock he bought last year is now about half the value he bought it for). But I wonder if the bidding would be as intense for the chance at lunch with our Savior? Certainly if Jesus were here in the flesh great crowds would throng Him. If Warren Buffet has the "word" for investing to become rich in this life, Jesus certainly has the "word" for reaching eternal life. Many followers of Jesus left Him after a difficult teaching on the need to "eat His flesh" and "drink His blood". Jesus asked His disciples if they would also leave and Peter responded (from John 6, verses 68,69) "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." The wonderful truth is that each of us can spend personal time with Jesus and gain the sure knowledge needed, not to become wealthy in this life, but to live forever...starting here and continuing in His presence when this life ends. I'm glad that this is one opportunity that is not determined on Ebay.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Another gorgeous early summer morning has washed over us today. As I strolled down a familiar country lane it was comforting to be guarded by the wall of tall trees on either side with a track of brilliant blue sky returning my upward gaze. As I enjoyed the company of our Lord, I noticed a creek and a wetland area off to the side of the road. I had driven past this spot many times but had never noticed why guardrails were located there. Walking up to the rails I peered down to a lovely curving line of water surrounded by lush foliage and bordered by land sloping down like a frame. I never would have found this beautiful spot if I hadn't been walking with no purpose other than to enjoy a quiet time of reflection. I was reminded that life can be very hurried and one day following another we can become prisoners of routine, missing beauty that is apparent when we take a different path, slow our pace and give ourselves a chance to discover fresh beauty, that lies all around us. I think this is an apt picture of how it is to enjoy the Lord's company. He seems to delight in revealing the beauty and the truth that surrounds us, but that somehow often escapes us.
Psalm 85:13 Righteousness will go before Him,
And shall make His footsteps our pathway.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
This morning I had every reason to be joyful as I went out for a walk. I had just spent a wonderful day at the beach with my youngest daughter, visiting from out of state. The weather has been unusually beautiful recently and nature is abundant and lush all around. Father's Day was very special as my mother and all children and grandchildren were together. Yet, as I headed out for a stroll down a favorite country road I sensed a vague disquiet in my heart. I don't know how you can explain such a thing but I believe that there are depths of living that run very deep and that can fall outside of logic or reason, alone. The thought entered my mind to simply embrace Jesus. And so I focused my thoughts and simple appreciation on Him and very quickly the fog of uncertainty lifted and joy was restored. I realized that knowing God is not the summation of theological truth but the experience of everyday living. Truly He is with us all the time. The question turns on whether I am with Him. Sometimes the limit of my thinking is the ceiling of my brain rather than the face of God. This morning I was reminded that I am the creature, not the creator, and all is well in my life when I properly acknowledge Him and run to Him (even when I'm only walking!).
Hebrews 6:18-20We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It's an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent post as high priest for us, in the order of Melchizedek.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Friday, June 19, 2009
Our nervous system is fascinating. Millions of nerve cells transmit sensations of touch, sound, smell and many others from the far reaches of our bodies to our brains. Our brains make instantaneous decision to react, respond or ignore the signals. Motor neurons carry the signals for the body to take action. Nerve signals travel amazingly fast and are the result of a combination of chemical and electrical activity. This transmission is all the more remarkable when you realize that every signal is passed from one nerve cell to the next like a "bucket brigade" used to pass water to extinguish fires. Our nervous system was designed to to three things: Identify the need to respond, determine and act in response and ensure ongoing body functions, like breathing, heartbeats and digestion proceed properly and without conscious thought. Our spiritual life has a parallel system. A healthy spiritual condition is maintained when we sense conditions within and outside our hearts and minds. This input is processed through our spiritual core and decisions are made either to embrace, ignore or reject the input. Spiritual instructions are provided to our hearts and minds to implement action. Our spiritual "habit patterns" can help keep us breathing and walking in close relation with the Lord. We don't often think about the complex physical processes involved with our physical nervous system and we don't normally have to for it to function. Our spiritual system, however, needs constant attention to operate properly. Without proper nourishment both the nervous system and our spiritual life begin to break down. We need good health to sense our world and to respond appropriately.
Psalm 119:65-72 Be good to your servant, God;
be as good as your Word.
Train me in good common sense;
I'm thoroughly committed to living your way.
Before I learned to answer you, I wandered all over the place,
but now I'm in step with your Word.
You are good, and the source of good;
train me in your goodness.
The godless spread lies about me,
but I focus my attention on what you are saying;
They're bland as a bucket of lard,
while I dance to the tune of your revelation.
My troubles turned out all for the best—
they forced me to learn from your textbook.
Truth from your mouth means more to me
than striking it rich in a gold mine.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Speed and victory are normally associated. The faster car, the faster runner, the first one to respond correctly on the Jeopardy game show all are associated with winning. But sometimes you have to slow down to win. At the beginning of this year I set out to read through the Bible during the year. The plan called for three chapters of reading daily and I tore into the plan with determination to continue and to finish. Two things happened...occasionally I got off track and missed a few days and that discouraged me from continuing and when I did read I found myself constantly thinking about how much more I had to read to finish my daily assignment, rather than enjoying and meditating on the Word. So I decided to slow down. Now I read a chapter a day and will extend my finish line a few years. I've found that by slowing down, I can relax and savor the one chapter I read each day. If I miss a day, I don't beat myself up because I remember that the most important race has already been won for me. Now I'm reading about how He ran and won the race for me. I'm sure the earlier reading method is just fine for many people, but for me it has proven useful to "slow down so that I can win".
Jeremiah 2:25a "Slow down. Take a deep breath. What's the hurry?
Why wear yourself out? Just what are you after anyway?
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Jesus asked the disciples who the crowds of people thought He was. They had been moving among villages and towns and He had performed many miracles, healing, providing food for thousands from a few loaves and fish and teaching the reality of God's Kingdom. The disciples answered that there were many opinions held by the people as they witnessed these events and were in Jesus' presence. Some thought He was John the Baptist brought back to life or a new visit by Elijah the prophet from centuries before...or perhaps another prophet. It seemed they were trying to identify Him with familiar men of God from their Hebrew tradition. But Jesus wanted to know if they had "made the leap" to recognize His deity, not just His Godly humanity. And so He pointedly asked them "But who do you say that I am? Peter was the first to answer, apparently, and He gave the right answer: "You are the Christ." I think it's easy to have a "third party" opinion of Jesus. He can almost be just an historical figure who did amazing, even miraculous things, while on the world's stage. It's interesting that after Peter rightly identified Jesus as Lord, Jesus warned the disciples not to tell others His true identity. Apparently He wanted people to answer this question for themselves. It seems that new life begins when we grasp this truth personally. And I especially like the directness of the question. It's not so much who others say Jesus is. Like Peter, Jesus looks into each of our eyes and asks: "But who do you say that I am?" And, like Peter, the correct answer doesn't come just from the facts of the story, but from God revealing the truth to our hearts!
Matthew 16:13 When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?"
14 So they said, "Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
16 Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
17 Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
20 Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Recently I was in the garden section of one of the hardware superstores. I was struck with the brilliant colors of the various flowers on display. There were sections of purple, yellow, red and blends of color presented by the blooms. This morning, on my walk, I spotted and picked a few wild Black Eyed Susans for Shirley. The thought occurs that it is a marvelous thing to see the brilliant color that God brings out of the ground. After all, a plant starts as a seed or a piece of another plant and somehow when planted in soil it grows and reaches a point where it may burst open in one of the rainbow hues. I know that there is practical function in the color as the birds and the bees are drawn there for pollination, food supply and honey. But I think it borders on the miraculous that something can be stuck into brown dirt and proceed to grow into something colorful. It makes me think of us...the people...who are also from the earth. The Lord has fashioned us from the elements of the earth...cleverly organized through DNA coding into complex life. Ultimately He produces color in and through our lives. We don't make ourselves colorful and plants don't make themselves colorful. The Lord expresses Himself and His colorful nature through all of His creation...starting with the dirt beneath our feet. One day our bodies will return to dirt to be used in another fashion, but our color will live on in God's presence.
Genesis 2: At the time God made Earth and Heaven, before any grasses or shrubs had sprouted from the ground—God hadn't yet sent rain on Earth, nor was there anyone around to work the ground (the whole Earth was watered by underground springs)—God formed Man out of dirt from the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life. The Man came alive—a living soul!
Saturday, June 13, 2009
I believe that a high view of Heaven leads to a high view of life. The interesting thing is that we don't actually see Heaven, but we can reflect on the continual presence of God and consider that all of life on the planet is in the context of a greater kingdom. There is something about considering and reflecting on the greater kingdom that helps raise our view of life's purpose in the here and now. And we understand that there may be more value in asking the big questions than in having all the answers. Have you ever experienced a big event for the first time, like a major league baseball game or a 3-ring circus, and found yourself amazed that the reality of the experience was different than you had imagined! I think it is a good exercise to contemplate Heaven as an amazing experience in a place we've not yet been. One day we will go through heaven's gate, if we have placed our trust in the work of Jesus on the Cross, and I have a sense that we will be amazed at the reality. I wonder...what is your view of Heaven?
Deuteronomy 10:14 Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the LORD your God, also the earth with all that is in it.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Where do dreams come from? A quick search on the internet suggests that a part of our brain is always functioning, even when we're sleeping. Memories, observations, problems and even spiritual concerns seem to come together in some kind of whirlpool of neurons to form stories that make perfect sense while sleeping but become obviously irrational upon waking. Diet, medicine, and all of our actual life experiences seem to play a role in the nature and the extent of our dreams. It's almost like when we sleep all the restraints come off our imaginations and there is no conscious ability to channel our minds. Of course sometimes we leave the rational behind when we're awake, too. We call that daydreaming. There is another kind of dream and it has to do with finding our ultimate fulfillment...our ultimate purpose...our ultimate happiness...our best picture of what life can mean. We need to dream...for rest...for relaxation...and most of all to reach up for a reality greater than our minds can contain...the dream of heaven's truth revealed.
Job 33:14 For God may speak in one way, or in another,
Yet man does not perceive it.
15 In a dream, in a vision of the night,
When deep sleep falls upon men,
While slumbering on their beds,
16 Then He opens the ears of men,
And seals their instruction.
Monday, June 8, 2009
Yesterday was a gorgeous Sunday afternoon. I took off in my little convertible to explore the "Northern Neck", the Virginia peninsula that lies between the Rappahannock and Potomac rivers. I crossed the beautiful Norris bridge that arcs high above the Rappahannock and spotted some scenic spots fronting the river on the far shore. I decided to try to find a place where I could drive to the river's edge. It's a dream to one day have a cottage overlooking a lake or river and I wanted to see if there were any specific places to set my dreams on. I found a road that wound its way through thick woods to the riverfront, but as I drove down that road I realized that all the property was "private property" with large estate-like homes that discouraged anyone who was just visiting from intruding. To see the river, it seemed I'd have to trespass on private property. Just then I spotted a narrow lane and looking down the lane I caught a glimpse of a screened cottage with the river beyond. I was able to drive down the lane, park the car and walk up the driveway of a very humble place to see the grand river view beyond and my dreams were well fed. I thought later about the access we have to our Lord. We may dream of life with a clear view of our God and a clear sense of personal purpose. We know that if we just see Him we will be satisfied. Fortunately, although many have "bought in" to this view there is unlimited access to all who long for it. You just have to drive down a narrow lane and stand on the high banks and look out into His face. I hope you find this narrow path!
Matthew 7:13 "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
John 14:5 Thomas said to Him, "Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?"
6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
When we buy large items or make significant investments of money we consider many factors. Among those factors are how long the item will be useful and whether the investment will appreciate or depreciate in value. Some things are extremely valuable and useful for a finite period of time...like cars...but they depreciate in value and ultimately must be replaced. Other investments, like our homes or perhaps a small business or farm, can provide a lifetime of useful service and appreciate as well. But this morning it struck me that the best measure of value are the investments that grow in value here and then continue to hold value for all of eternity. I thought about the things that are eternal around me and I realized that the only investments I see every day that will spend eternity somewhere are people. Even the earth was not made for eternity...but during our brief passage on earth's surface we all determine an eternal destiny. Now that's an investment worth giving a life for!
John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
We generally think in terms of the mighty power of God and, of course, that is an accurate and proper view. We like to believe in the God of drama, who does the miraculous, transforms lives completely and runs heaven and earth by His word, alone. But it occurred to me the other morning that, possibly, it is even more wonderful to find Him in the subtle areas. When we quiet our troubled minds and allow Him entrance to our thoughts...When we look around at the natural beauty of nature's greens, blues and rainbow colors and see beyond biology to catch a glimpse of the Artist's brush...When we find a song of joy and praise welling up from somewhere deep in our heart with a force that must be expressed through our mouths...When we reflect on the harmony captured by a family..father, mother, and children...so beautifully balanced and so obviously designed by our Father in heaven. Of course we need the God of power...and He is here. But when find the subtle presence of our Lord we learn to enjoy Him in more of life.
Proverbs 30:18There are three things which are too wonderful for me,
Four which I do not understand:
19The way of an eagle in the sky,
The way of a serpent on a rock,
The way of a ship in the middle of the sea,
And the way of a man with a maid.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
We can look too far ahead for the great victories. Every day a fresh opportunity is created for victory. And there is not one day greater than another. I believe that the Lord had a strategic goal in mind when He designed life on the planet. Every day is a clean page and every day writes a story. Every day has a definite beginning and every day has a clear end. The challenge every day lies in a choice: will we purpose to set our minds on the Lord or will we let the day carry us away. This is a good plan because it allows us to start fresh over and over again. It also gives us the chance for many adventures in faith...most of which take place within the context of our everyday lives. If we live to be 75 years old we'll have over 27,000 fresh opportunities with that many days to live. I believe that our greatest victory is found today, as we purpose to enjoy His company, seek His ways, trust in His help and look for the unique ways He crafts into the day to know Him and to reflect Him. I believe that no greater victory can be won than the victory we can win each day, while it is called today. It's not so much that one day we will "have it all together" or that we will progressively build an empire of accomplishment. It's more about the daily choice to walk with the Lord, through which He builds lasting growth within our lives. I encourage you to move beyond survival and move beyond hopes for a "someday of happiness" and win the victory...today!
Proverbs 8:34 Blessed is the man who listens to me,
Watching daily at my gates,
Waiting at the posts of my doors.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Years ago our oldest daughter went on a summer youth group missions trip to Ecuador. One of her observations was that, despite total poverty, the people had a lot of joy and were enjoying life. It occurred to me this morning that, although we have much more wealth, we may not experience as much joy in "the land of the free". I think one reason is that we live largely in isolation. We often reside in neighborhoods where we spend most of our time in comfortable homes separated by manicured yards from neighbors. Our ties to the world come from cars that carry us in comfortable isolation to warehouse-like stores where we pass others we don't know as we buy familiar items and stand anonymously in checkout lines. We also drive to our jobs where we interact primarily with a handful of very familiar people, but not as friends so much as coworkers. Fortunately in our church we have built deeper relationships into our structure with small groups that meet in our homes, where we can actually know one another beyond exchanges about the weather. I think it's interesting that the latest trend in community development is comprehensive design that integrates stores, services and residences in close proximity. With all our advances and wealth, we have managed to deprive ourselves of one of the riches resources of life: each other!
Acts 20:32"Now I'm turning you over to God, our marvelous God whose gracious Word can make you into what he wants you to be and give you everything you could possibly need in this community of holy friends."
Monday, June 1, 2009
Somewhere around the beginning of the year I severely sprained my right foot while jogging. I was feeling so good at a slow pace that I thought I'd pick things up and run on the balls of my feet like I did when I was younger. Unfortunately I'm not younger any more and something stretched or snapped in my right foot. I was sure that, given a few days rest, the foot would feel normal again and I could resume running. But that was about 5 months ago and I still have pain in the foot and can't run yet! I finally saw a podiatrist and found out that I'd stretched out a tendon and that the healing process just takes time. I'm encouraged to see gradual improvement and am confident that I'll jog again someday! This morning, as I thought about this experience, I realized that healing is a process. We'd like it to be instantaneous so we can resume life on our agenda. Sometimes healing takes more time and I suppose that's because we are ultimately living on another agenda...the Lord's. I suppose one of the benefits of time passing for the healing process is our greater appreciation for the things we have taken for granted about our life. I think, also, that sometimes even with time we may not experience that total return of ability we use to have. Nonetheless we can be completely healed as we realize the Lord can fill our "deficiency" with His "all suffiency"! In a sense He is using our lifetimes to provide an eternity of healing.
Jeremiah 33:6 Behold, I will bring it health and healing; I will heal them and reveal to them the abundance of peace and truth.