Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2014

In Between

I love learning about the Church Calendar and how it points us to Christ.  I discovered that the Twelve Days of Christmas are part of the Church Calendar.  It is the twelve day festival, starting on December 25 and ending on January 5.  This is known as the season of Christmas that follows Advent and precedes Epiphany which starts on January 6.  Both Christmas Day (December 25) and Epiphany (January 6) are permanent Feast Days—meaning they are always celebrated on the same dates no matter whether it is a certain day of the week—and they do not change depending on cycle of the moon as some Feast days, including Easter.              I love taking these twelve days to focus my heart on taking a spiritual inventory.  Its perfect timing for me since my birthday occurs on the third day of Christmas.  It also gives me permission to leave up my Christmas decorations and Christmas lights until January 6.  It’s a great time for reflection since New Year’s Day occurs on the Eighth …

Waiting with Peace

Deep breath—Christmas is here.  Peace is in the air.  The angels sang: Peace on Earth Good Will to Men.  They should know.  Angels are messengers of God’s peace.  They bring the message without delay.  The question is: Do we receive the peace the angels describe?                 Peace in your soul evolves from a heart that has received the message of Christmas—that God gave His only Son to live, die, and rise again.  This reality is what leads to peace.  Peace is the destination we all desire in our souls.  Advent paves a way to peace.                  Peace begins when we hope in the promised Savior Whom the prophets foretold.  A Savior taking on flesh to save the world can have no other motivation than pure love.  The love of heaven to earth is unlike any other love.  It is the love our hearts were created to enjoy.  God proved His love for us through sending Jesus to us.  He sent Him to become one of us.  There is no greater love than taking on the sin of the enti…

Waiting with Joy

Every heart requires joy!  Joy is what makes us feel alive.  It is eases the pain of living in a fallen world.  Joy is a side effect of a personal relationship with Christ.  No one talked about joy more than the Apostle Paul.  Obviously his joy didn’t come from his circumstances.  In fact in the book of Philippians he writes (from his prison in Rome) the reason for his joy and encourages others to be joyful.             When was the last time you belly-laughed?  Now that doesn’t happen every day for me.  I have a smile on my face from the memory of my last belly-laugh.  It was after a long week of ministry to women in India.  A wise video-photographer asked our women’s team to talk about what we had experienced.  By that time we were all a little giddy from the way God had used us, and we decided to practice a Bollywood dance that we hadn’t had time to use to open up our talk.  He was very smart and followed us while we practiced before we could figure out that we didn’t …

Waiting with Love

In the best of times Christmas warms our hearts with love.  In the midst of the hustle and haggling of the season, even the news is peppered with nostalgic tales of loving-kindness expressed to strangers at Christmas.  Hearts seem to grow warmer, not wanting anyone to miss out on the joy of feeling important during the Christmas season.                  Mother Teresa said the greatest poverty in the world is the lack of love.  Our world certainly can use all the love we have to give.  As we move into the second week of Advent, the focus is on love.  It is the Bethlehem candle.  Bethlehem cradled the Love sent to the entire world.  Mary is a perfect example of human love.  Her example calls us to the greatest love human hearts can hold.  It is love of God.  Mary demonstrated her love for God so fully in her response to the angel’s bizarre assignment that she had been chosen to become the mother of Jesus.  Unlike her Uncle Zechariah, she simply said, I am the Lord’s servant.  Her chi…

Waiting with Hope

Advent is a season of waiting.  For the first two weeks, the focus is on waiting for Christ to be born.  The last two Sundays in Advent focus on the whole world, including creation, waiting for the second coming of Jesus Christ when everything will be made right ( Romans 8: 18-22).  Advent is the beginning of the church calendar, so it launches a new year.             What is the best way to begin a new year?  What about taking inventory of your soul?  The color of advent is purple signifying penitence and fasting.    The celebration of Christ’s birth is made more joyful with a clean heart.             It’s hard to take a good, long look in the mirror.  No one wants to do that.  Perhaps that is one reason the Christmas season has drifted so far from a focus on waiting, anticipation, and penitence and certainly not fasting.  Rather the first glimpses of Christmas appear just after Halloween; commercials broadcast great ideas for gifts and engage in rationale about why you …

Learning from the Holy Spirit

Returning from a mission trip, I’m more aware of the work of the Holy Spirit.  I love the way the Holy Spirit works in my life.  I’m always a little bit surprised and can never get used to the way He works.  I love considering the intimate and personal connection God has been able to make with me because of my faith in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.             What stands out to me from my recent trip was when the Holy Spirit wanted order and quiet in a meeting I was leading.  I am not easily distracted by what is going on in the room when I am speaking.  I speak to adults and if they want to listen, they will listen; but they are free to leave and do whatever they need to do.  When I was teaching about Jesus and what it means to be a sinner, there was a conversation going on in the back of the room.  I usually don’t have trouble staying focused and sharing what I feel God has led me to share no matter what is happening in the room.   I experienced the power of th…

Accounting for Our Lives

I'm not much of an accountant.I basically try to spend less money than I make and go from there.So far I have been able to get away with it living by this philosophy.However, I do take account of how I live my life here on earth.I could be more mindful of my choices, and I have a lot of help from the Holy Spirit.My spiritual account is the most important account I will ever be held responsible for. There is a healthy reality that God has made clear to us in His word.Though heaven is about relationship and faith in His provision of His Son Jesus Christ to cover our sin, how we live here on earth will matter in eternity.It doesn't hurt us to give regular attention to this account as best we can. I'm not saying that I have any idea how God will see the account of my life.I know it’s not just what I do, but why I do it.He tells me I don't even know when my heart is pure or poisoned (Jeremiah 7:9: The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who ca…

Miracles are Ordinary

Miracles are not extraordinary; they are ordinary.  This is what Father Ted Nelson taught me in our time together.  Father Ted exited this earth’s journey on October 31, 2014, at the age of 88.  I am so blessed that I had the chance to know him personally.  He was one of the happiest and most joyful people you would ever meet.  His was the name I wrote down in Bible study books when they asked who is the most spirit-filled Christian you have known?  I never knew Father Ted to sin around me; but if he sensed he was being the least bit prideful during our conversation, he was quick to point out his blunder then quickly move on to teach me about his great love for God.             Most people loved and admired Father Ted.  He always conceded the fact that others thought highly of him until they met his wife Lee Ann.  They are a team.  She has always been the wind beneath his wings.  He became well-known in the Dallas area in the seventies-eighties when he was the rector of The Church of …

What to Fear About Ebola

I live in Dallas, Texas, where the first person with Ebola had symptoms (patient zero) while already in America.  Suddenly a part of town that rarely gets attention (mainly impoverished) was flooded with a national media barrage.  One sick man created frenzy around our nation.  Everyone was on edge and many in Dallas still are.  The local news has a calendar to count down to when the last person who rode on a plane with a nurse infected while treating patient zero has passed her 21-day observation period, and we can all feel safe.  Then we should have nothing to worry about, right?             The degree of worry and upset that three Ebola victims in Dallas has created in our nation and around the world is astounding compared to what we really need to be worried about.  The truth is, the number of our days here on earth is known by God.  If we spend all our days on earth trying to get the best life possible—Ebola free, and that makes us feel safe—we will leave ourselves o…

The Best Prayers

I love to pray biblical prayers.  I’m grateful that God is willing to listen to my babble and lists, but I feel even more connected to Him in prayer when I pray His own words back to Him.  Typically I pray the Lord’s Prayer two times a day.  I try not to do it as a ritual, but as an example of how Jesus tells me to pray.  I reflect on the meaning of each phrase to me as I say it.  I have been drawn to the Prayer of the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:21-28.  It has become a model for me. Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. He replied, “It is not right to take t…

Boundless Gospel

While celebrating our 75th Anniversary, our church is going back to the basics remembering what we have been about all these years.  Our values as a church have never changed.  The basic value that caused a group of people to gather together and start a church 75 years ago was inspired from recognizing the boundless gospel.  The boundless gospel is the beginning of every real Christian church.  Our church founders wanted to spread the gospel to a section of Dallas where the gospel could reach more people.             As I have I have been reflecting on and teaching this value, I realized how easy it is to begin with the boundless gospel and then think we understand it and move on to deeper things.  The truth is that the boundless Gospel can never be comprehended—it is truly boundless.  It is so amazing, so incredible that I could contemplate it every day of my life and never fully understand the ramifications of this boundless gospel on my own nor be able to see its true …

Come, Deny, Follow

I spend my life trying to follow Jesus and teach others how to follow Him also.  I love to hear how unique each person’s story of transformation in Christ becomes.  There are no instant formulas to transformation and Christlikeness.  I stopped looking for the formula long ago.  There is a pattern of transformation.  Christians for centuries have been talking about spiritual growth using three stages—purgative, illuminative and unitive.  I have recognized these patterns in my own transformation and in the lives of others.  I find them helpful to understand what is really happening to our souls.             I am astounded when I find myself at peace in a storm or not fuming at someone who has acted against me.  That is not me!  I know that it is Christ living in me.  How does that happen?  How do we open ourselves to the kind of transformation that makes us better than we are?             I see the pattern in Luke 9:23.  It is the instruction that Jesus gave to his disciple…

Journaling to Peace

There is no better place to learn how to talk to God than in the Psalms of David.God pointed David out to us as a man who had a heart for God.As you read the Psalms of David, you are reading the very words spoken from the heart of David to the heart of God.Though God’s communication is not directly written, the guidance He gave to David’s heart in the midst of his despair is clear.Once David started his anguish regarding his present circumstances directly to God, who God really is became a reality in the midst of the storm.He began painting a picture of where God is and who God is when his world was falling apart.This is a great pattern for us.The Psalms, more than any other book of the Bible, contain words that connect our hearts to God’s heart.
You could look at the book of Psalms as personal journal excerpts David wrote during the most devastating circumstances of his life.Psalm 57 is a perfect example.David wrote these beautiful words that have been sung for centuries as part of wo…

God at Work

Jesus said: My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working (John 5:17). God is at work in every moment of every day you live.It takes faith to see His work.
Having just returned from a mission trip, I am reminded again of how often God’s work through our team is far from what I expected.Working with Jesus is like that.You feel the call to go where He leads; you plan what you think He wants you to do.You only see His real work while you are obeying.
Jesus was always surprising the disciples with the meaning of His words and questions.The disciples discovered before we did that often God’s work is far from what we expected it to be.Even after His resurrection, Jesus was constantly showing up in places that took the disciples off guard.As you grow spiritually, you will become comfortable with this way of recognizing God’s working through you.
Caussade says: There is hardly a moment when God does not approach us disguised as a challenge or responsibility.Our response…

Passionate Prayer

I hope that none of us lives a whole day without prayer.I know it happens from time to time, but hopefully we are smart enough to know a day without prayer is not worth living.Each day needs prayer but there are times and circumstances that require passionate prayer.
Passionate prayer is how you pray when your loved one is facing the battle of his life.An example of passionate prayer is the Woman from Cana.Here’s a description of her prayer life from Matthew 15:21-28.
21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”
23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
26 He replied, “It is not right to take the …

The Bliss of Knowing You are Loved by God

There is bliss of knowing that you are loved by a real and intimate God.I have felt that bliss. I don’t experience it all the time and sometimes it takes me a while to notice how much I miss it.Often I come back to my senses when I read the spiritual writings of one who is explaining how great God is and I am reminded how good He is to me.

I suppose the saints stayed more connected to the bliss of God on a regular basis and missed it far less than me.I wish I knew their secret; all I can tell you is that it is a cycle for me to find myself unaware of God for a time.It is often a struggle to reconnect each day.
What brought me to my senses recently was a huge blessing He sent my way.This good thing literally came to me directly from the hand of God.I didn’t even consider sharing the joy I was feeling with anyone else but Him.It was so personal only God could give me this gift in the way it was given.Sometimes we get what we want and forget God for a while, we are so overcome by the eart…

What is Faith?

Thomas Keating wrote: One who has this faith simply opens his eyes and, wherever he looks, finds God.

Hebrews 11:6 describes what that means: And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Faith is a leap into the unknown, the invisible and the incomputable.Faith is finding the light of God in the darkness of your circumstances.There is a darkness of faith that is illuminated by experience.Faith grows deeper when we learn how to see God where without faith all we see is darkness.God asks us to accept Him for who He is.This is where faith becomes faith.When we can see our faith growing in the midst of the darkness of seemingly insurmountable circumstances, we are moving towards real faith.Since God is infinite, perfect, and incomprehensible, faith in God believes that He is and that He rewards, if not here on earth, in eternity.
Faith deepens as we experience t…

REST

I love the saying: When I have a lot to do, I make sure to scratch nap off my list first.I love a good Sunday nap.I take Sabbath rest literally and use the day to restore my body, mind and spirit.When I have extra things to do on Sunday I feel it the rest of the week.
When I forget the benefit of rest during a busy season of ministry or family life, I soon feel the demand from my body or my spirit, whichever one gives out first.God did not rest when He was tired.He rested when it was time to rest.Rest for our bodies, minds and souls is mandatory to be faithful to our kingdom work.
So why do I have to crash before I remember to rest?It has to be my pride that tells me I can do everything I want to do.I need to recognize when enough is enough.God demonstrated the rhythm of rest from the beginning of creation.Jesus spoke about rest in Matthew 11:29: Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.Jesus also demonstrated re…