Sunday, September 20, 2009
Is there anyone better to teach creativity than the Great Creator of the universe? I think not. It is humbling to think that the greatest Creator ever would take time to teach anyone, much less me, but He does.
By way of background, the concept of “chance” has no place in my life. Rather, a finely tuned knowingness alerts me to the slightest whisper of the Holy Spirit as He brushes by touching each moment with His wisdom and leading. It’s the Spirit who tells me to look up to discover a new perspective or a new idea. It’s the Spirit who tells me to go left instead of right to discover the best light for the next image. It’s the Spirit who uncovers sweet secrets that I'd otherwise miss.
I’ll share some of the teaching and insights that I’ve received so far. I hope that this is only the beginning of the teachings. Note that in some cases, I’m taking the teachings and insights out of the context of a specific situation or a longer conversation; but for the sake of brevity, I’ll provide the brief version.
“You have to believe that there is a new song hanging in the air around. You only need ears to hear it.” I believe that heaven is filled with music, literally overflowing with music. And I believe that much of that music is, indeed, flowing around us as we walk in the Kingdom on earth. We only have to ask for Kingdom ears to hear the divine symphony.
“Creativity is not random chaos. Rather there is beauty in orderly structure. Structure is part of all creative things.”
“It is your vision of what can be from what exists that’s creative.”
“Habit inhibits creativity. If you travel the same road every day, you see the same things, and your senses become dulled. Take a new way. See new things. Open your eyes to what is around you. Be aware of My voice and My leading.
I hope to add to this article in coming weeks. If you have insights to share, I'd love to hear from you. Just drop me an e-mail or respond to this article.
Monday, July 13, 2009
- The life you live testifies louder than words. Live so that others see Christ in you.
- It's not what happens but how you respond to it that makes the eternal difference--for you and for others.
- If you do everything with a heart of love, you'll have no regrets.
- Every single thing is transformed in His presence.
- There are 365 "Fear not's" in the Bible--one for every day of the week.
Monday, May 4, 2009
* Love looks through the lens of eternity with Kingdom values in sight. Love endures through eternity, for God is love. And without forgiveness, there can be no love.
- “Stop limiting yourself in your thinking. You have all of the resources of heaven at your disposal. Do you need more than that?”
- Stewardship is moving the Father’s resources to new places to advance the work of the Kingdom. It is using what He gives you for His purposes.
- There are not two sets of priorities—yours and God's. There is only one set of priorities—the Kingdom priorities. There is no division. There is one purpose in heaven and on earth—that the Father’s will be done. That simplifies everything.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
That time away from the Lord was long—around 30 long years. In those years, I worked to acquire status, a modicum of fame, and worldly possessions. In short, I had it all.
Then I interviewed a professional photographer for a feature article that I was writing. During the one-hour telephone interview, I was struck again and again by the photographer’s profound peace. I couldn’t “see” his peace, but I could hear and sense his peace. By the end of the interview, I had only one burning question—how had he achieved peace?
In response, the photographer told me about the religions that he’d encountered during his worldwide travels. And then he told me that he was a Christian—a Christian who grew up in a country where Christianity is a minority faith. He told me quietly. He didn’t ask me if I was a believer. He didn’t try to convert me. He answered my question simply. And still his profound peace hung heavily in the air.
When we hung up, I was determined to find that peace for myself. I had everything that I needed and wanted, and I considered myself to be happy. But after experiencing this man’s peace, I knew that I wanted that kind of peace.
I set about studying different religions—Western, Middle Eastern, you name the religion, I explored it. I read books. I talked to different people. But nothing rang completely true. Finally, I decided that I should give the Bible another chance. I began reading. And as I read, and over a period of weeks, I knew that the right and true answer was Christ. My decision came slowly, but the first gifts were a profound peace and abiding joy.
I recount this story because in study and prayer this morning, the Lord reminded me:
“The life you live testifies louder than words. Live that others may see Me.”
Sunday, March 22, 2009
In fact, is you Google Olympic training, you’ll find that six training sessions of four to eight hours a week is a minimum for a person training for a triathlon. And for gold medalists, training is year-round and often 10-12 hours a day. For Michael Phelps, peak training involves swimming 80,000 meters—nearly 50 miles—every week during two-a-day practices, and sometimes three times a day, every day including Sundays.*
Winning an Incorruptible Crown
The Olympic games must have been familiar to the Apostle Paul, a Roman citizen living and traveling during the height of the ancient games in 55 AD. During the time of Paul, the games were held every four years. (Note: the games ran from 776 BC to 393 AD when they were banned by the Christian Byzantine Emperor Theodosius I.) The victors were crowned with wreaths made from a sacred olive tree that grew behind the temple of Zeus. Legend had it that Hercules, the founder of the games, planted the olive tree. Victors paraded around a grove to the music of a flute while fans chanted songs written by prominent poets.
In fact, Paul uses the games when he writes to the church at Corinth. As a thriving city of trade, Corinth was home to at least 12 temples, including a temple in the center of the city dedicated to Apollo, the son of Zeus and a pagan Olympian deity. And Corinth held foot races in their own Isthmian games every other year. These games were second only to the Olympics.
So when Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he used an analogy that most Corinthians would identify with immediately—a regimen of athletic training. But Paul wasn’t talking about training for athletic competition. Rather he referred to the race we as Christians run in following Christ.
In I Corinthians 9:24-27 (NIV), Paul says, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”
Keeping an Eye on Training
I can’t help but read Paul’s words and know that Christian discipleship requires far more training and has far more at stake than any Olympic race. Paul continues, “Therefore, I do not run as a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
Clearly, Paul refers to the need to train himself to resist temptation and sin even as he preaches the Gospel. And like Paul, we must be vigilant and unyielding in resisting temptations of our sinful nature. Our goal, like Paul’s, is to glorify the Lord Jesus in all that we do. Ours is not an aimless race toward a finish line that is arbitrarily set for the duration of a competition. Our finish line is winning the incorruptible crown of life.
The Lord calls us to run like winners. As I considered Paul’s words, the Lord reminded me that winning requires all that we are and all that have. It’s easy to compete for personal glory and for the accolades of bystanders. But He reminds us not to listen to the world. Rather we are to listen only to the Lord, and He will guide us over the finish line.
* From USA Today
Sunday, March 1, 2009
In Mark 1:35, we read: "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed."
Jesus knew the value of prayer, and before He faced His day, He had long conversations with the Father. Only then did He walk out to minister, heal, encourage, feed the hungry, and to do the Father's will.
How would your life change if you spent hours in prayer before setting out on your daily journey?
You'll never know until you try it.
Here is the challenge:
Spend at least as much time in prayer this week as you spend watching television.
If you take the challenge, I'd love to hear from you. Just e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what happens in your life as a result of your hours of daily prayer.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
When I was growing up, our rural Oklahoma church was one of a group of German Congregational churches in the central United States. Every year, all the member churches would convene for an annual conference hosted by one of the churches. Each conference included many sermons, business meetings, teachings for all ages, and wonderful combined choirs. One of the kid events was a Bible memorization contest.
Much like a spelling bee, the contest was organized by ages, and each contestant recited Bible verses with Scripture references. Contestants stood in a line and the first child recited a verse. The judges verified the accuracy of the recitation and Scripture reference. Then the next child recited, and so it went until one or another child ran out of memorized verses. The last child standing won the contest.
So every year, well before the annual conference, my parents would get me started memorizing Bible verses. I remember being somewhere in the vicinity of 7 or 8 years old, as I walked from room to room in our farmhouse practicing my Bible verses. Of the two or three years that I competed, I remember winning only one contest. That year the conference was hosted by a member church in Kansas. The contest was held on an exceptionally hot summer afternoon. I was wearing a pretty dress that Mom had made, but suddenly the yards of fabric in the full skirt seemed heavy and close that afternoon. And the hotter I got, the more firmly my curly blonde bangs stuck to my forehead like glue. But I kept reciting verses, searching hard and fast for verses that hadn’t been recited by other contestants.
Then I remember realizing that I was the only person standing on the stage. Mom and Dad were smiling at me, but I was completely mortified to realize that I was on the stage all by myself. (Clearly I was too young and naïve to know what winning a contest meant.) Whether I got a prize or not escapes me, but I remember the great sense of relief I felt when they told me I could go back to my seat.
In the 1950s, we called Bible verse memorization, “learning by heart.” As a child, I always assumed that was just another way to describe memorization. But these days, I’ve learned that it means much more.
The Psalmist wrote, “I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from our commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119: 10-11 NIV)
Just as Jesus used the word of God against satan in the temptation, so the word of God serves as our shield and armor. With it, we can resist temptaton and evil. The Bible says that the word is sharper than a two-edged sword. The Lord reminds us to use His word well, to hide it in our hearts. And when we do that, it will be there when we need it.
Now, at an age when I can neither remember where I last laid my glasses nor see well enough to find them, I’ve begun again to learn His word by heart. Every week I choose a new set of verses and begin the process of learning them “by heart.” Some weeks, I learn two verses. Other weeks, I learn a lengthy passage of six or seven verses. And almost every day, I recite this week’s selection along with the passages that I learned by heart in the previous weeks.
This journey that echoes that of my childhood is rewarding beyond description. The blessing that He gives me as I recite passages is sometimes overwhelming. Other times, my favorite passages bring immediate tears of gratitude and joy. Now, as I learn by heart, I know that His words have become part of the sinew of my heart, deeply and richly embedded within me.
And I’ve found some creative uses as well. For example, I am in the last stages of a multi-stage procedure with the dentist. The dentist’s office is my least favorite place to go, and I cringe at the sound of the drill. But I finally found a good dentist--so good, in fact, that while he drills away on my tooth, I recite my Bible passages silently. If the drilling gets dicey, I just recite faster and mentally louder. And if I forget the sequence of a long passage, the Lord is there to prompt me with the first word or thought to get me back on track.
It seems improbable that it would take me all these years to understand what learning His word “by heart” means, but now I know, and I'll never forget.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
I have a morning routine that almost never changes. Here is how the routine goes:
- First, I read the Bible while I eat breakfast.
- I make coffee, and then go upstairs to shower.
- Then I come downstairs and sit at the breakfast table talking aloud to the Lord (conversational prayer).
- I then kneel to pray to the Father (usually the Lord’s prayer with some daily conversation thrown in).
- I sit down again and ask the Lord what He would have me do today. (Note: About a year ago, I gave the Lord the responsibility for scheduling my days. So He tells me what to do and in what order. When I do what He says, there is always time to get everything done. It never fails.)
Recently, during our morning conversation (and before praying to the Father), I told the Lord that I was gaining too much weight, and asked if He could schedule in time to start working out again on a consistent basis. He said He could. We continued talking about going somewhere to do some photography that day.
Then He asked, “Why don’t you go clear the snow off the deck?”
“Now?” I asked thinking that we were going out to do some photography.
“Yes,” He replied.
I thought that the timing was odd because it was before the prayer, and we had just talked about going out shooting. I was puzzled, but I got busy and started clearing snow off the deck.
For the next two hours I worked on the deck. The sun was shinning with a soft golden glow that makes all the trees an amazing shade of green. The sky had watercolor shades of Northwest blues and slate-grays, and there were enormous, complex, and stunning cloud formations all strolling from west to east where they eventually stack up on top of the Cascade Mountains. It was just too beautiful for words. And it certainly made walking back and forth across the deck over and over pushing snow seem a lot less like work.
I came back inside and was drying my shoes and socks with the hairdryer when the Lord commented that the job didn’t take very long.
“It was quite a workout,” I responded.
“Isn’t that what you asked me to do?” He asked.
All I could do was laugh.
And, as He pointed out, “It was two days-worth of workouts.”
So then I prayed. Then I went to the store and bought some orchids.
Then I did that shooting that we had discussed.
And, sure enough, there was time for everything.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
As I talked to the Lord about it, He helped me understand that I was relying entirely on self control. My self-control may last for a few days or months, but as long as I'm holding something in, it naturally wants to come out. Plus, if I think that I’m right about something, I also naturally want confirmation from someone else. (I’m not proud of that, but I’m also being honest.)
When I began to follow Jesus, one of the first things I learned was to give Him everything—all of my sins, problems, joys, worries, ideas, plans, work—literally everything in my life. And of course, I should have given Him my concern about this situation as well.
What’s more, I’ve learned that can’t obey the Lord’s commands under my own power. Obedience is beyond our natural ability. Thus I can truly obey only through His power.
I gave the concern to the Lord. And now, instead of holding in situations that bother me, I give them to the Lord. And to remind me about this lesson, I created, or the Lord gave me, a two-sentence summary that is easy to remember. I share it here hoping that it will be useful to you as well.
Whatever you hold in naturally wants to come out.
But whatever you give to the Lord is gone for good.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
During the past three years, I’ve found a group of pastors who continue to help me grow and understand more fully this amazing daily walk with Jesus. As I listen to them, I’ve written down my favorite quotes from them on anything that I had handy at the moment. As a result, I have a stack of yellow sticky notes filled with quotes, as well as a notebook that I continue to fill.
This week, I’d like to share some of my notes from pastors including Casey Treat of Christian Faith Center in Seattle, Kevin Gerald of the Champions Centre in Tacoma, WA, Ed Young of Fellowship Church in Grapevine, TX, and Mark Crow of Victory Church in Oklahoma City.
Here are some of the quotes. Unfortunately, in some cases, I neglected to note the pastor’s name, and I only wrote down the quote. I’ll start with the unattributed quotes first.
“Every problem is an opportunity the Lord provides us.”
“God never performs His best in our yesterdays.”
Re: Joshua 3:4. “God didn’t part the Red Sea until the Israelites stood in it.”
“Worry is faith in the devil. Faith is trust in the Lord. Faith speaks to the storm. Speak joy, life, and prosperity. Believe what you say will come to pass. Speak to your storm or your mountain.” In other cases, we must walk through our storms (Matthew 14), and in still other storms, we “float” through as with Paul on the ship in Acts 13.
“Pray with unwavering faith. Determine that you will not pray wimpy prayers.” And then live as if your prayer is being answered. If you pray for rain for crops, then go out and prepare the fields for the rain.
“We’re blessed to be a blessing.” Ed Young
“What is prosperity? It's being in the will of God.” Ed Young
“What we believe affects what we receive. Don’t go back to Egypt when God has great things in store for you. Famine is temporary. God has something better in store. Believe that God will bring you into a place of favor. God is strong in battle. He is your very present help in the time of trouble.” Kevin Gerald
Re: II Samuel 15: 13-22. “Once you’ve been in or near the presence of God, you want to stay there. The Ark of the Covenant had been with Obed Edom and he was blessed. [When the Ark returned, Ittiai the Gittite followed because he knew what it was like to be in the presence of God, and he wanted to stay there.]” Mark Crow
“There are four foundational truths. 1. Value what God values. Do not love money. 2. Trust in the Lord, and do not worry (Matthew 6:24). 3. Remember God’s ability. Do not give up. God can turn things around. God’s economy never fails. 4. Focus on what God has given you.” Casey Treat
“Operate in faith rather than responding in fear. Don’t curse the shaking. Determine to love, serve, and worship God no matter what—with confidence. The world is looking at us now and at our confidence in God. Before you speak, ask, ‘Does this glorify God?’ When others see hope in you, they will ask how they can also have that hope.” Mark Crow
“This may be the greatest hour of evangelism ever—the greatest shaking ever.” Mark Crow
“Make the most of every opportunity. Opportunity comes dressed in work clothes or disguised as problems. Concentrate on adding value, not on being valued.” Kevin Gerald
Sunday, February 1, 2009
On his return, the master calls the servants to account for how they invested the money. The first servant wisely invested his mina and earned 10 more. The master praised his service and put him in charge of 10 cities. A second servant’s mina earned five minas more during the master’s absence. The master commended the servant and put him in charge of five cities.
The third servant hands the mina back to his master. The servant explains that he kept the coin in a napkin where it remained untouched, useless, and dormant. The servant said that he was afraid to invest the mina because he knew that his master was a “hard,” uncompassionate man who required what was not due to him.
By way of response, the master turns the false accusations back on the servant. At the very least, the servant should have deposited the mina to gain simple interest—especially since the servant regarded the master as a strict taskmaster who would demand an accounting from him. The master took the third servant’s mina and gave it to the servant who had 10—the servant who made the greatest use of his what had been entrusted to him by the master.
In this parable, three people start on a level playing field. At the end of the story, one ends with 11 minas, another with five, and another with zero. The only differences are the choices they made.
What's Been Entrusted to You?
Although I’ve read this story many times, I always narrowly related it to the stewardship money. But as I read the story again, the Lord asked me, “What have I entrusted to you?”
The obvious answer, after having just reading the story, was money. But I knew that He wanted me to consider all that He has entrusted to my care. I thought of the valuable gifts that He has entrusted me. Years ago, He entrusted two children to my care, and, more recently, grandchildren, as well as a wonderful extended family. He entrusted me with the talents of writing and photography, with health and intelligence, and a home.
Then I added to the list my gifts of the Spirit, which unquestionably have been entrusted to me to invest in the Kingdom until He returns.
Following the parable, we have a choice. We can use what God has given us or not. What would I do with what the Lord has given me? One choice is to do nothing. I considered the snarly, self-centered attitude of the third servant. Was he fearful, or lazy, or was he simply determined to avoid risk at all costs? In today’s vernacular, this would be the person who says, “Why should I do this—I’m only an employee, it’s not my job?” “What if I make a mistake and lose my job. He’s just looking for a reason to fire me?” Or, “Why try? No matter what I do, it won’t be good enough; thus, it’s better to do nothing.”
The other choice is to get busy and put to work what we’ve been given. We look for ways to invest our money, talents, time, and resources in the Kingdom of God. Whatever we’ve been given will increase the more we use it. John Gill notes in his Exposition of the Bible that the Vulgate Latin version adds, “and he shall abound or have abundance.” In the case of the first two servants in the parable, abundance translated into half again as much and double what the servants started with at the beginning.
The parable in Luke 19 promises us that the Lord will give us more if we choose to put to work what He’s already given us. The only thing standing between us and the promise is a simple choice.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
"Obey God in the thing He shows you, and instantly the next thing is opened up. One reads tomes on the work of the Holy Spirit, when one five minutes of drastic obedience would make things as clear as a sunbeam. 'I suppose I shall understand these things some day!' You can understand them now. It is not study that does it, but obedience.
"The tiniest fragment of obedience, and heaven opens and the profoundest truths of God are yours straight away. God will never reveal more truth about Himself until you have obeyed what you know already." -- Oswald Chambers
Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (Westwood, NJ: Barbour and Company, Inc., 1935, 1963), p. 210.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Just as the mounds of shoveled snow began to shrink, the floods came. Some areas received their total annual rainfall in two short days. Rivers crested 5 and 8 feet above flood level washing a foot of water into homes that had previously never flooded. Roads that had been cleared of snowpack were now covered with water and impassable again. Entire communities were transformed into isolated islands surrounded by swelling lakes of water.
Through each new weather event, I prayed. Early on, my prayers vacillated between praising God for the singular beauty of the snow and praying fervently for protection and an end to the storms. As I prayed for what I thought needed to happen, the Lord stopped me. Gently, He told me that my prayers sounded like someone asking a magician to perform tricks.
His said clearly, “I am not a magician. I am the Lord of the Universe.”
Immediately, I realized that I was praying as if I thought that I knew best, and if He would just do what I asked, then everything would be okay. Instead, I should have turned over the situation to Him and prayed for His will to be done. After all this time of following Jesus, I know without question that His solutions are always perfect--so much better and more complete than anything that I can propose.And I know that His power is greatest in the storms of life.
In short, I had been praying with my limited earthly vision. I should have been praying for intervention and help that comes from His divine Kingdom vision.
But then, I was also confused. Did this mean that I should not bring my needs to the Lord? He clarified for me, “You should ask Me for help, but not as a puppet who perform miracles on request--but as your God who is all powerful.”
Enough said. The storms have passed, but more are certain to come. In those storms, I will ask for His insight and leading, and then I’ll pray according to the insight and revelations He provides.
* The Language of God, by Dr. Francis S. Collins. Dr. Collins was the head of the Human Genome Project, and is one of the world’s leading scientists. And Dr. Collins is a man of unshakable faith in God and the Scripture. His book takes the reader through modern science and how it can fit with belief in God and the Bible. He also documents his path from atheism to faith. I highly recommend this book.
* What In the World Is Going On?: 10 Prophetic Clues You Cannot Afford to Ignore, by David Jeremiah. This book is absolutely up to the minute with current news, but most important, it ties today’s headlines to the essential 10 most important Bible prophecies. This is an important book for anyone who watches the headlines with an eye toward our place in the end times.
* Understanding the Purpose and Power of Prayer, by Dr. Myles Munroe. Dr. Munroe presents an essential path to powerful and effective prayer and answers practical questions about communicating with God.