I’m Confused (Part 1)

Recently, I have taken to riding my bike and praying.  Not “Lord, please don’t let me get hit by a car along this main roadway”, but more like “Father, thanks for coming along with me on this bike ride…after I spend a little time telling you how awesome I think you are, can we talk about some stuff?”  It’s a bit of an understatement to say that I have come to really look forward to these bike rides.  I love these conversations I’m able to have with my Heavenly Father and the best part is I have them out loud.

My oldest son recently gave me a book that I’m devouring.  It’s about a missionary family in Turkey living in community with their Muslim neighbors.  It’s a passionate story of an entire family that desires nothing more than to see the people they have come to love come to know the Savior who loves them.   I found myself praying for this family this morning as I was riding.  And due to the way in which God’s story is unfolding in their lives, I found myself wondering how this family, including their teenage son and daughter, endure the deep, dark days of confusion they have undoubtedly encountered.  Then it hit me.  Then my Father starting speaking to my heart.  This is usually the time when I look for a quiet place to sit rather than ride, which is exactly what I did this morning.  So now He has my attention and what He says to me is basically this –

Confusion is to be expected.  Confusion is to be embraced!

Really?  Yes, really.

What I’m most thankful for when I believe I’m hearing God reveal something to my heart is when He immediately takes me to Scripture to show me what He means.  So, where did He take me?  Glad you asked…

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.  Isaiah 55:8

Yep, recipe for confusion.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  Isaiah 55:9

We get confusion instead of control.  On most days, we don’t like that.  Maybe more than most days.

Then, before I got back on my bike and rode off in exasperation, as this is not the entirely soul-satisfying answer I was looking for, my Father reminded me of the conversations I’ve had with friends  in the last few days around that verse “how wide and long and high and deep” His love is.  Here are the verses I’m talking about –

“And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him.  May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love.  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it.”  Ephesians 3:17-19

What I can’t get my head, or my heart, around when I read this passage is how vast God’s love really is!


A big obstacle to grasping the magnitude of love we’re speaking of here is that we immediately try to process it through the grid of our own personal experience with flawed people.

Big-time confusion.

But perhaps the most profoundly confusing truth we will wrestle with, on our personal journey with God, is embedded in this verse in seemingly contradictory pleas in the Apostle Paul’s prayer…”and may you have the power to understand…though it is so great you will never fully understand it

Glorious, soul-satisfying confusion!

How vast, how lavish is God’s love for you?  It is heart-bustingly confusing!!  And THAT is a really good kind of confusion.

This path of confusion is leading somewhere…somewhere with more clarity. We’ll get to that in I’m Confused Part 2. Stay tuned…


Missions Mandate

Talk about a missions mandate!? In John 9:1-5, as He is walking along, we read about Jesus’ encounter with a blind man.  In answer to his disciples question, “why was this man born blind?”, Jesus answered, “He was born blind so that the power of God could be seen in him”.  We are ALL born blind…we are all born with sin.  The natural condition of sin is accompanied by “blindness”. We all need to be healed of our blindness.  We all need to see with new vision, eternal vision, selfless vision that is submitted to Jesus, rather than selfish vision that submits to no one.

How urgent is the need for this healing in every man, woman, and child?  Jesus answered that question next…”All of us must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent me, because there is little time left before the night falls and all work comes to an end. But while I am still here in the world, I am the light of the world”.

There is a mindset in hockey that a player needs to be “quick, but not in a hurry”. Jesus is advocating the same mindset.  We don’t have a lot of time.  We need to be aware and intentional about what we are doing.  “What we are doing about what?” you might ask.  What we are doing about being used of God to heal people of their blindness.  Those who have “new vision” through the grace of God, the blood of Jesus, and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit ought to now have a “holy unrest” to see others all around them come to the place where their blindness is turned to sight!  Jesus himself said, “there is little time left…”.

I’ve been investigating getting lasik surgery, for awhile now,  so that I can see better…and I don’t yet know how much it costs, but I know it costs quite a bit.  If I am willing to pay money so that my natural vision might improve for what little time I have left on this earth, how much more should I carry within me the sense of urgency to share with everyone I encounter that there is “clarity of vision” awaiting them – a permanent cure for spiritual blindness – that is far greater than lasik surgery! While there are billboards everywhere for eye doctors who will gladly perform this surgical procedure for a sum, how much greater is it that we have a Savior who has already paid the price that we might see! “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me.  I once was lost but now am found, Was blind, but now I see.”!


S.O.A.P. – The Pay-off

I SOAP. No, this is not a reference to my personal hygiene. Rather, it has to do with my spiritual cleanliness. SOAP is an acronym for Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer. It is a method of reading the Bible advocated by author Wayne Cordeiro in his book, The Divine Mentor. SOAPing is simply an intentional framework for digging into God’s Word. Having been someone who believes my Heavenly Father has limitless wisdom and Truth to impart to me day in and day out, for years I have come to His Word for life direction and instruction. But when I started SOAPing about a year ago, His voice in my life elevated to a new level of intensity. Now when I sit down and open His Word, I have a heightened expectation and anticipation that He is going to speak to me in those moments in an unmistakably personal manner. I am naturally predisposed to journaling and recording my thoughts and introspections on paper so SOAPing fits me perfectly and I am grateful that Wayne Cordeiro followed through and wrote his book that carries the tag line, “Growing your Faith as You Sit at the Feet of the Savior”. I can testify that that is exactly what I have experienced and continue to experience each and every time I meet with my Father.

I’ve decided to start sharing some of my SOAP entries here. I have a two-fold purpose: First, to share with anyone interested my daily life “lens” through which my Father’s guidance is seen and applied. Secondly, to further solidify what I hear Him say and the instruction He delivers into my daily life. The first point hopefully serves as an encouragement to others. The second point encourages me.

So, here we go! The title of my SOAP entry yesterday (09.15.11) was The Pay-Off. As a prelude to this entry, I offer this lead-in. Football season is now in full swing, which means a lot of banter with virtually everyone you come in contact with as to why your team is going to achieve peak performance this week and produce extraordinary results…boiled down, you make the case for why they will WIN. From now til early February, all this chatter boils down to WINS and LOSSES, VICTORIES and DEFEAT. There’s that word…victory. Another variation is this…victorious. What does it mean to be victorious? What awaits those who are victorious in life in the eyes of our Father? Why would anyone place ALL of their hope, faith, and trust in an invisible God? What’s the pay-off? Turn with me to the last book of the bible, the book of Revelation chapters 2 & 3. I count the word “victorious” used seven times! That gets my attention. Specifically Jesus, through John (the writer of Revelation), repeatedly uses the phrase, “to all who are victorious…”. Don’t you want to know two things? First, who ARE the victorious and second, what do they get?! I’m pretty simple-minded and that’s what I want to know.

Well, let me try to paraphrase it all for you. Everyone who is victorious will – eat VERY well from the most perfect fruit-bearing tree, which is situated in a place that is literally paradise who’s host is The Host, Our Heavenly Father. Furthermore, everyone who is victorious will not be hurt by death! Do we need anymore benefits?! No, but there are more, can you believe it? We get right back to food (this is shaping up to be a really good dealJ). Everyone who is victorious will eat this amazing food that has been kept aside and hidden. Have you ever had some food you didn’t want any of your pesky family members to eat so you hid it? Yeah, I thought so. Me too.

For you power-mongers, this will get your motor running. Everyone who is victorious and is obedient to the end will have authority over all the nations! Did you ever dream of being President of The United States when you were a kid? Well, our Father is ready to take it a step further! And on that note, Jesus goes on to say that all who are victorious will be people of stature in the Temple of God and they never have to leave! They will also have new citizenship in a city that won’t need a mayor, councilmen, or anyone else for that matter because this is the city of God called the new Jerusalem. As we continue, when you talk about “the best seat in the house”, could there be a better seat than Jesus’ very own throne?! He tells us that he will invite everyone who is victorious to sit with him in that very spot. Amazing food, amazing health, amazing and fulfilling responsibilities, an amazing place to call home, and one amazingly comfortable chair! I’m overwhelmed just writing out this list. But that’s not all. The best is yet to come and here it is.

“All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine.” Revelation 3:5

That takes my breath away. That leaves me speechless and in awe.

Here’s my SOAP from yesterday:

The Pay-Off

S: “All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine.” Revelation 3:5

O: Talk about wanting to see your name in print! Talk about wanting to hear your name announced! There’s nothing wrong with wanting Jesus to provide the ink (his blood) that allows my name to be recorded in my Father’s Life Book! There’s nothing wrong with wanting Jesus to get on the PA system in the heavens and announce my name before my Father! In fact, there’s everything right about that!

A: What am I living for today? The approval and applause of the people around me? Or the the approval and applause of my Lord and Savior? I’ve read several passages in Revelation 2 and 3 that speak of what’s in store for “all who are victorious”. I want to be counted among that number! To be victorious…what does it take? (more than turning the dial to the latest Teen Nick show by the same title…sorry, I have a young daughter). To be victorious, it takes EVERYTHING that He IS and NOTHING I do or give.

P: Father, I need to continually, day after day, die to my own selfish ambitions, worries, anxieties, fears, insecurities, jealousy, envy, and discontent. The list could go on. Father, strengthen me please to make MUCH of you at all times everywhere. I pray for your Holy Spirit to pour out on me with a fresh assurance of His leading and fresh reminder that I am to follow diligently and obediently. I love you and NEED you, Father. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


Get Involved

In the book of John (chapter 5, verse 6) it paints a scene of a man in need and we read “When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’”

Why do we, in many cases, see situations and know about circumstances but fail to even ask the most basic of questions?  Is it because, at some level, we don’t really want to get involved?  Is it that we don’t really want to expend the energy necessary to make a difference in someone else’s life?  Is it because, as author Mark Batterson writes in his book Primal, we’re not really  interested “in being great at the Great Commandment” which is to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength and love others as we do ourselves?

These are questions I’m asking myself today.  Interested to see how God will respond to this Great Commandment curiosity.  It’s worth noting that Jesus didn’t immediately try and fix the man’s problem, rather he sought to foster a relationship.  Foster relationships…that’s a great idea every time!


She Follows Me

One of my favorite poems is called A Little Fellow Follows Me.  It goes like this –

A careful man I want to be,

A little fellow follows me;

I do not dare to go astray,

For fear he’ll go the self-same way.

I cannot once escape his eyes,

Whate’er he sees me do, he tries;

Like me he says he’s going to be,

The little chap who follows me.

He thinks that I am good and fine,

Believes in every word of mine;

The base in me he must not see,

The little chap who follows me.

I must remember as I go,

Through summer’s sun and winter’s snow;

I am building for the years to be

That little chap who follows me.

When I read I always have a highlighter in my hand.  So my daughter Sabrina saunters into my den this morning as I’m just sitting down to read (with highlighter in hand) and climbs up on my lap.  I have to admit, that as she proceeded to try and engage me in conversation, I was trying to disengage her from my lap so I could get started.  My desire was granted and off she went…only to return moments later with her Bible in her hand.  She asked me for a “marker” like mine.  I handed her a fresh one out of a new package.  She asked me to find the book of Daniel for her, which I did.  A few minutes later she comes bounding back in and, with much joy, shows me Daniel chapter 1…completely highlighted!

I have a couple “little fellows” that follow me – my two boys.  I also have a little girl who follows me.  And the littlest, seemingly insignificant acts are caught in her little eyes and heart.  And then, watching her replay what she has seen reminds me that when little ones are following you, the “ordinary and insignificant” can turn into the “extraordinary and profound”.

I think she’ll get a package of highlighters as a stocking stuffer!


Holy Convocations

No, this is not a batman expression. Rather, Holy Convocations are feasts! They are celebrations. I had to look up the word. A “convocation” is “a group of people gathered in answer to a summons; assembly; a formal assembly at a college or university, esp. for a graduation ceremony; an assembly or meeting.”

God is issuing the summons. He’s asked us to gather frequently and regularly and hold appointed feasts or holy convocations. A common thread woven throughout these gatherings is this – there is not to be any ordinary work done during these celebratory times. Why? It would detract from the very reason He has us here, the very reason He made us, the very purpose of our lives which is to love Him and love others. A lawyer asked Jesus, “which is the greatest commandment?”. Jesus sometimes would answer a question with a question. Not here. Jesus is quite direct, in fact you could say He offers up a two-point sermon comprised of forty one words. The title of the message? The Great Commandment – “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Holy Convocations. Celebrations. Parties. No other work to be done. Just celebrate God and celebrate each other. How about taking your Labor Day celebration to a new level this year? How about turning it into a Holy Convocation?


Unfamiliar Surroundings

Tomorrow morning I will be boarding a flight with my thirteen year old son, along with two other dads and their sons. We are going on a mission trip to Laos and Thailand. We have been preparing over the last several months for this adventure. I’m curious? Have you ever embarked on a mission trip or another type of global travel that took you to very unfamiliar surroundings? What do you remember most from that experience? What was one thing you learned that you haven’t forgotten? Would love to hear your story. Better yet, would love to sit down with you when we return and hear your story. By then, hope to have a few of my own!

What we will be doing:

  1. The first part of the trip, in Thailand, we will be twelve helping hands and feet during an intensive youth discipleship camp.
  2. The middle part of the trip, we will be trekking into mountain villages in northern Laos , led by our host missionary and his son, sharing God’s love and His message of hope!
  3. The last part of the trip, we will help out at the English Teaching school they operate. We will be there to help build relationships with the students.

Most importantly, we will be WORSHIPPING. I’ve read that missions exists because worship doesn’t…that worship is the fuel and goal of missions.

Psalm 97:1 says “The Lord reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!”

So our goal for this trip is simple: to worship God as we let His love work through us into the lives of others, our friends in Laos.


Walter Cronkite

If you’re over forty years of age, you likely have distinct memories of one of broadcasting’s most distinctive figures – Walter Cronkite.  Was there another anchor worthy of delivering the news when I was a child?  If there was, I certainly wasn’t aware.

Many would agree, there was something about this man that set him apart.  I wouldn’t have been able to put my finger on it as a kid.  And given that the character trait I’m about to attribute to Walter Cronkite is a LEARNED one, it is a trait within the grasp of each and every one of us.  What am I referring to?  Walter Cronkite demonstrated CONTENTMENT.  He had an ease and a calm about him that conveyed a strong inner foundation.  When I reflect on his life, I think of a man who’s professional position did not supercede his personal position.

The dictionary defines “hero” as a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.

Personally, I need to look no further than the longevity of his marriage to consider Walter Cronkite a hero, a man of noble qualities.  On March 15, 2005 he lost his wife of 64 years, Betsy, three weeks before their 65th anniversary.  In addition, their family tree consists of three children and many grandchildren that look upon the lives their parents/grandparents lived with great admiration.  In fact, The Walter and Betsy Cronkite Fund for Fair Play was established by the Cronkite’s children to honor the lives of their parents.

We can learn alot from a man who shared these thoughts about his wife shortly after her passing –

Walter, wondering about how different his life would have been if he had not detoured to Kansas City, 8/2005: “But I can’t say that my private life would have turned out as happy. Perhaps I might never have found my Betsy, who, after 64 years of marriage, was still as beautiful when she died this year as the day I first saw her. Meeting such a bright and supportive woman brought me a lifetime of joy and tenderness. And for me, that was key.”

Back to CONTENTMENT.  Through a Crown Financial Ministries small group study several years ago, I learned that contentment is learned.  The Apostle Paul wrote, “for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

I believe contentment breeds trust.  And since his passing last week, we’re reminded that in his era Walter Cronkite was dubbed “The Most Trusted Man In America”.  In my next post, I’ll share some thougths on this designation attributed to a broadcasting legend.


Parents Are Prophets

My favorite blogger is Mark Batterson, pastor of National Community Church in Washington D.C.  Here’s what he wrote today:

“When our kids were younger I started writing them annual letters. They were collections of cute things that our kids said and did. But I also tried to capture those moments that I believed were prophetic glimpses of who they were becoming. I’m sad that there are missing years, but I’m not going to allow the fact that I missed a few years keep me from picking the habit back up. As a dad, one of my roles is to function as a biographer for my kids. In a sense, my letters are their journals before they had the ability to write or remember.

It’s Summer’s birthday today and I’m writing her an annual letter. Letters force me to say what I mean and mean what I say. And they are something I envision her hanging on to and accumulating as the years pass. Honestly, I think they will be far more meaningful ten years from now. The letters take a backseat to the presents now. But someday the presents will take a backseat to the letters. I was really inspired to pick this habit back up a few weeks ago during a baby dedication at NCC. A new father sent me an amazing letter he had written to his son before he was born and it deeply impacted me. I imagined his son reading that letter when he turned 16 or 18 or 21.

The bottom line is this: parents are prophets. And we’ve got to find ways to speak faith, hope, and love into the lives of our children. An annual letter on their birthday is one way of doing it.”

I enjoy journaling.  I really like journaling in written long-hand.  As time moves on, there’s something about seeing words I have actually written recording thoughts, perspectives, emotions, challenges, life lessons learned and those being learned.

When my first son was born, I started a journal dedicated just to him.  I did the same when my second son was born.  It was my intention to record anectdotes, funny things they said, personality traits as they developed and thoughts I wanted to share with them that would speak wisdom into their life for future years.

As with Mark, sadly I have let quite a bit of time slip by without regularly spending a few moments further creating these most treasured archives.  At the beginning, it was my intention to compile these over the years and present them to my sons on the occasion of their 18th or 21st birthday.

Reading Mark’s thoughts today have compelled me to pick up again this process of pouring my life into the lives of my children.  I won’t worry about all that I’ve missed in recent months of neglecting this exercise, I’ll just choose to make a “course correction” today and journal.  I have nothing of greater value to leave my children as a legacy of my love for them than words I record about our lives together and the men they are becoming as God leads their lives and they follow His plan and purpose for them.

One note:  I will likely give way to technology and begin journaling electronically versus hand-written.  I would rather maintain consistency and get the words out than worry about the manner in which they are recorded.  Function over form.

Here’s Mark’s blog site if you want to check out his other posts:  http://evotional.com/

July 13, 2009 | Filed Under Heritage, Legacy

A Stable

I’ve read that a change of pace + a change of place = a change of perspective.  This morning I find myself in a new place moving at a slower pace and gaining a fresh perspective as I look upon a stable across a meadow and reflect on a single life born in such a place – a life that has transformed the ages as well as transformed me.

This stable before me is far from perfect.  In fact, it’s quite weather worn.  It’s missing planks and many others are loose or askew.  The gates are crooked.  There’s an overall “tatteredness” about it.  Over two thousand years ago, a young couple found themselves forced to call a shelter such as this the address where their child would be born.  As I look out on this stable, I wouldn’t delight in calling it my bunk for the night, much less the birthing suite for my child.  Yet, within this most imperfect structure emerged a loving Father’s gift of perfection capable of transforming all that is tattered.

A heritage of love, a heritage of giving, a heritage of perfection living among all that is imperfect.