Monthly Archives: April 2008

breathless expectation

By | Just Thoughts | No Comments

I love to read “My Utmost for His Highest” along with my daily Bible reading. Of course, reading this inspiring and insightful book holds more meaning if you know the story of Oswald Chambers, Abandoned to God, which I highly recommend.

In today’s excerpt, the subject is Gracious Uncertainty. Here’s a little bit of the main point:

“To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, we do not know what a day may bring forth. This is generally said with a sigh of sadness; it should be rather an expression of breathless expectation. We are uncertain of the next step but we are certain of God. …. He packs our lives with surprises all the time.” He goes on to say, “When we become advocates of a creed, something dies; we do not believe God, we only believe our belief about Him. ………. If we are only certain in our beliefs, we get dignified and severe and have the ban of finality about our views; but when we are rightly related to God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy.”

I love that! Mark and I often talk about our life so far and what an amazing path God has taken us on. Even as our perspective has changed over the years, one thing always becomes clearer and that is our personal relationship with our Father. We see Him work in our lives in such an amazing and personal way… but never in predictable circumstances. Our journey with God has been full of uncertainties and surprises and even in the difficult times, God has always been faithful and loving and kind, always guiding us at every turn.

A few years back I wrote this little journal entry alongside this day’s reading in Utmost.

What a joy it is to accept my uncertainty as part of God’s plan; not uncertainty about the Person of God or about His kingdom or His plan, but uncertainty about my life’s path and the challenges I may face. My uncertainty is only the result of my limited perspective. I can’t see the future, but God can. After all, He’s the One in control. As long as I’m not driving the car I’m in I don’t need to see down the road ahead. I’ll trust the One Who is driving with the view necessary for speed and steering.

Based on all the incredible things God has already done, I plan to live the rest of my life in breathless expectation of God’s plan for my life.

Matter of the Heart

By | Just Thoughts, Next Step | 2 Comments

Last night I saw the movie “Expelled” for the second time. If you haven’t seen it, it is certainly worth going. If you have grown up immersed in the secular education system, you might especially find it an eye-opener. In Starting Point groups, we discuss some of the same things that were brought up in the movie and also some of the implications that go with both sides of the debate. [By the way, new SP groups are beginning May 3 and 4 and there’s still time to sign up.]

One of the things I found most intriguingin the movie was an answer Richard Dawkins gave at the end of his interview with Ben Stein. I don’t have the exact quote, but Ben asked Richard if it turns out that indeed the God of the Bible exists, what would he (Richard) say to God if or when he should encounter Him. Richard’s answer was a quotation from another person, and again, I don’t have the exact words, but the essence of his answer was, “Why have you worked so long and hard to hide from me?” That made me think of many scriptures that speak of God’s revelation to us even through His creation — of which we are a part. For instance, Romans 1:19-21:

19 They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. 20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

 21 Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused.  

But also, as I read our Odyssey ’08 passage today, I was taken by how specifically it speaks to the issues raised in the movie.

The first thing I saw was the parallel with Gideon. When God called Gideon to lead a special mission which would deliver Israel from her enemies, the first thing God told Gideon to do was to tear down the altar to Baal, burn the Asherah pole, and set up an altar to the true God.

One would think that since earlier in the passage, (Judges 6:6) it says the people had cried out to God to deliver them, they would be ok with seeing the Baal thing go down, but no! The next morning, a lynch mob came to kill Gideon because he had torn down their false worship system. Notice the answer Joash (Gideon’s father) gives to the mob, “If Baal truly is a god, let him defend himself and destroy the one who broke down his altar!” In other words, he’s saying, let’s just be honest, we all know Baal is just a fake. We’ve just created an alternative deity because we didn’t want to listen to the true God, even though He was very good to us.  I notice that Joash’s answer closed their mouths and stopped the lynching.

 In the Luke passage, we have Jesus’ mock trials before Pilate and Herod Antipas. There is so much here, but what parallels with the movie is the verse at the end of that passage. Luke 23:12 “(Herod and Pilate, who had been enemies before, became friends that day.)” I’m not good with quotes, but isn’t there one that says, “A common enemy makes for strange bedfellows”? Even though Herod and Pilate had been enemies, they now both shared a common enemy, Jesus, so they became friends. You might have noticed in the movie the discussion of an unusual partnership between the religious left and the atheistic evolutionists. Even Dawkins comments on the obvious contradiction between the two, but they share a common enemy – those who believe in intelligent design.

That reminds me of a Starting Point group member, who was condemned by his former pastor for teaching creation to teens in his previous church. This was in a church where one would just assume the Bible was regarded as truth.

In the Psalm passage, we really get to the bottom line. Psalm 95:6-7:

 6 Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our maker7 for he is our God. We are the people he watches over, the flock under his care. If only you would listen to his voice today!

I hope you will read this entire passage, but I want to extract a couple of phrases from their context (regarding the nation of Israel) so that you can see how similar we are today. Psalm 95:9b & 10b

 9b …even though they saw everything I did. 10b … ‘They are a people whose hearts turn away from me.

This issue isn’t really about science, although creation is the only true scientific explanation for how life began, but the real issue is a matter of the heart. It’s a choice we all make whether or not to acknowledge and trust our Maker. I’ll end this post with another quote from Psalm 96:7-8a:

7 O nations of the world, recognize the Lord;
      recognize that the Lord is glorious and strong.
 8 Give to the Lord the glory he deserves!

 

The Nest

By | Family, Just Thoughts | One Comment

It was a couple of weeks ago that we discovered her presence. Our little dog, Fred was going outside first thing in the morning as is his custom and I was startled to hear a lot of commotion outside. When I looked through the front window, I saw a duck with her wings fully spread flying straight out from our house and little Fred running out ahead with terror on his face.

Apparently, Fred had inadvertently discovered a mama duck sitting on her nest right in our front flower bed. She must have felt safe up against the house, but she was also very visible to us as we have a large window right over that bed. As I looked down at the nest she had flown from I discovered four eggs carefully arranged and cushioned with a bed of feathers and other nesting materials. When mama duck felt safe again, she came back to the nest and I have been watching each day and waiting for that big moment.

During the last few weeks, she has endured some difficult weather. When hail came our way, I watched as she sat there with hailstones landing right on top of her, never leaving the nest. She stayed through cold nights and long days. I had to wonder when she ever got a break. How did she eat?

Then a couple of days ago, I glanced down as I was going by the window. There they were! The ducklings had arrived! I grabbed my camera and tried to get a couple of shots of the ducklings who were waddling around the nest. As soon as mama duck spotted me, she had them all come back into the nest under the safety of her wings. I did get one shot that shows the watchful eye of the mama and one of the little ones.

Spiritual Warfare

By | Family, NewSpring | 2 Comments

Sorry I’ve been slow posting, but these last few days have been really challenging. Do you believe in spiritual warfare? I do. I know it’s real because it has a particular quality to it. I make that distinction because life always has its challenges, and I don’t want to get to the place where I think there’s a demon behind every tree. But when you’re under attack you know it. It’s not just normal run of the mill “having a bad hair day” kind of stuff.

Three weekends ago, I brought the second installment of the “How Life Works” series, and we wound up talking about Satan and how he subtracts from us. We stripped his disguise off, and showed him for what he was. It wasn’t a talk I enjoyed, but the response was deafening. God worked at NewSpring in a way that surprised the daylights out of me. I couldn’t believe the excitement that weekend as I heard from so many people who woke up to what was really going on, and determined that the thief was through carrying off their valuables.

I think I knew it was coming. I’ve learned that when the Enemy is exposed and precious lives are wrestled out of his clutches he doesn’t take it lying down.  Soon after that, stuff just began happening. Especially heath issues in my family. Hey, I’m quick to make the point that health issues aren’t always an attack of Satan, but these were just too obvious. It was like they pancaked on top of us.

Could I tell you something? I’m totally excited about what’s coming next. There have been many times of desperate prayer, which I’m sure, served to deepen my walk with God. (By the way, if I was the devil the thing that would make me mad as, well, you know where, is that when he sets out to damage God’s child, and that child runs to the Father, all Satan succeeds in doing is making that Christ-follower more dangerous to the powers of darkness.

I don’t profess to be spiritually strong. I don’t enjoy these battles. If it were up to me, I’d bypass every one. But experience has taught me this. If I don’t cave, if I don’t capitulate, If I don’t get mad at God and check out, even if I emerge from the struggle pretty well torn up, on the other side of the attack is SOME KIND OF HUGE PRIZE. And just as the attack has a kind of peculiar quality to it, the prize has God’s clear signature on it as well. If you’re feeling under attack today, remember, Jesus has already triumphed!

I believe!
Mark

Prayer

By | NewSpring | 3 Comments

I’m thinking about prayer tonight. Last night, right before I went to bed, I prayed for a NewSpringer who was facing a tough prognosis. The doctors had weighed in, and said it was cut and dried. To be honest, when I prayed, it seemed as though likelihood that what I was asking for was just about nil. I found myself praying more just out of obedience to God and love for the individual than in any spirit of confident faith. And yet, today, I got the awesome news that God had answered prayer and what looked impossible last night is now reality tonight.

Tonight, I’m praying for someone else. I got a call this morning that someone else who I love is dealing with a fairly serious medical situation. I’m praying for him tonight. I’m asking God to work again and bring healing.

Prayer is an awesome thing, isn’t it? That you and I can talk, and no matter where we are, God can hear what we are saying. It’s more than that. If we just aim a thought toward God, even in silence, God hears the desire of our hearts. For some reason tonight, this particular verse is on my mind. I need it. Maybe you do too.

1 John 5:14

14 And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. 15 And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.

Holy Bible, New Living Translation ®, copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.

Mark