Saturday, December 29, 2007

This Isn't Working!

So, Have you noticed that I haven't been here lately?

Me too.

I need to ask for your advice; I'm really struggling with this task.

Here's what's happened. Before I started to blog, I was in the Bible every single day. It wasn't hard. It wasn't work. It was my life, and I loved the regularity of it -- hearing from God in his word. Applying it to my life. The encouragement. The correction. The LIFE! I thought that if I blogged through the word, I could share that LIFE with you.

But it isn't working.

Here's what happens!

I get reading ahead of where I'm blogging. For instance, I went through the book of Judges while I was blogging through the book of Romans. And while I was finishing blogging Romans, I went ahead and read 1st Corinthians. So, here I am. Two full books ahead of where I'm blogging. What's a writer to do?

Here's what happens. I start feeling guilty. I can't ever catch up. And then...

I stop reading the word, so that I can "catch up" with myself.

It isn't working. My life has fallen out of balance. I'm like a dog chasing my own tail. I eat too much. Sleep too much. Work too hard. Struggle with my prayer life. And find my emotions directing my life instead of following it.

I know what's missing. It's the quiet time in the word! The regularity of it. The stability of it. The LIFE in it.

But how can I get this whole thing to work? Do you have any ideas? Any suggestions?

I'm thinking that I ought to stop feeling responsible for commenting on every single important idea in the Word. For your whole experience with God's word. Maybe I ought to just do what I can, when I can, and let God do the rest.

I can tell you this. Once you start to experience the LIFE of the word of God, there is no going back. Maybe that's the whole point of my entire experience. I need to do something different.

Any ideas?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Working Together for Good

I'd be missing a great opportunity if I went through Romans and skipped Romans 8:28.

After all, it's a cornerstone for many Christians. The rest of the world hears us preach it all the time. We claim it at every turn -- in everything from missed parking places to flooded homes, from ear infections to cancer. To those who don't understand, our preaching sounds glib, perhaps uncaring. Even rather naive.

But the verse, "And we know that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them," has deep meaning. It is an anchor, which we believers toss overboard when the winds of trouble begin to blow. It keeps us. Holds us.

But what does it mean?

Certainly not what unbelievers may think. Not, "it doesn't really matter in the long run." Not, "it'll all work out eventually." Not, God's going to give me something better."

The meaning of the passage is found in the verse that follows. "For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn, with many brothers and sisters.

The meaning of the verse reflects our deepest calling as people of the King.

As we grow in Christ, we are to become ever more like him. In every part of our lives, in our frustrations, our disappointments, in our love lives, in our kindnesses, in our business, in our finances, in our worship, in our family lives, YES, even in our freeway driving, we are to reflect his character. Day after day, week after week, year after year we are to grow ever more like him. In every way, we are to reflect him.

Recently I had the privilege of seeing this lived out in the life of a dear friend. Kerrie is now battling stage three lymphoma. But before the diagnosis was final, before she knew for certain, she sent me an email.

"Perhaps Cancer is a gift," she wrote. "Yes, I see pain. Incredible darkness. Bleakness. Weakness. Much suffering. Sorrow. Wanting to give up. A fight against depression, hopelessness. I see that too. I'm not looking through rose colored glasses into LA LA land. Yet, even in these dark things, I see the facilitating of the treasures that cannot be bought, and depth that is not attained by blissful living.

What if cancer isn't a plague of the enemy, a way to wipe us out of the running? What if it's a way to actually make us a force to contend with? What if it's a way to prepare us for battle and to help wipe out the enemy instead? What if it's a way to grow in us those character traits of God, that we could act and look and smell and touch more like he does? What if it's a way to make our shadow more dangerous?"

You see this is not the blissful, clueless, "blonde" approach to difficulty.

In fact it is exactly the opposite.

It is the mature, willing, thoughtful embracing of difficulty.

We embrace difficulty because we believe it has purpose in our life. It shapes us. Carves us. Knocks off the edges of selfishness and foolishness.

And the purpose of difficulty is to reflect, like a mirror, the perfect image of the one who made us.

In my trouble, he polishes his image in me.

Find someone who loves Jesus. And watch. See if you see his image.

And by the way, Mr. MacGregor, YES, it was in 1974. I was 19 at the time.


Friday, November 30, 2007

A Dead old Man

This summer, on our boat trip, I visited with a dear friend. We got to talking about this idea:

Can people really change?

REALLY change?

Or, are you stuck the way you were born?

It was an important issue to my friend. He has more integrity than any man I've ever known. But in his business life, he's been stung, by people who repeatedly rip him off, or make bad business decisions which affect his business. He's known scoundrels, and cons. He's seen alcoholics and adulterers. You know the drill. His question is a wise one. He's really asking, "Can I ever trust anyone like that again?"

Good question.

Romans addresses that very question. One of the prominent themes in Paul's book is the issue of man's sin nature. Paul reminds us that we were BORN to sin. Man is basically selfish. Instead of submitting to God, man is born to want his own way. But when we turn to Christ we are set free from that sin nature.

It is as if we are born with leg irons on. We drag around this propensity to sin from day one. It's a heavy burden. We are slaves to our sin nature. Even when we are aware of it and want to do things differently, we can't. Oh, maybe we can behave differently for a while. But my friend is right. Eventually, the good behavior wanes, and the old nature begins to show itself. The bad behavior returns -- or perhaps it morphs itself into some new bad behavior.

Paul says it this way, "I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn I can't make myself do right. I want to but I can't."

So, what hope do we have for change? Check this out!

In Romans chapter six, Paul says this delicious line. "Our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are NO LONGER SLAVES TO SIN." (Romans 6: 5-6)

So, how is that good news?


What happens, when a person comes to Christ, is that GOD CHANGES HIM. I've seen it a thousand times. People who wouldn't care about church suddenly want to find one that fits their needs. People who never cared about others suddenly exhibit kindness. People who were thieves stop thieving. People who swore suddenly don't want to swear any more. People who didn't care about society suddenly care about the poor. People who leave a legacy of broken relationships suddenly want to repair their past. I could go on and on.

I know people can change. It happened to me. When I came to Christ, I'd made a rather tangled mess of my own life. Even though I looked pretty good on the outside, I was living a lie. The lie was killing me.

When I turned to Christ, he set me free from bad relationships that I had no power to break on my own.

It isn't about stopping bad behavior. It's about becoming a different person. God gives you the freedom to become a different person. He starts over IN you. And your leg irons drop off, and you have a new heart, and it has new concerns.

The new concerns move us to new behaviors.

And that is what it means to be FREE in Christ.

When I came to Christ (in 1974) I prayed that I would never regret that decision.

Do you know that I haven't? Not for one instant in the ensuing 33 years. Not one regret!

How's that for free?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Utterly Helpless

This one will be quick. I know that most of you are in the throws of Thanksgiving Celebrations. It's the one weekend all year that I ALWAYS have my kids at home. All four. I insist on pictures; I'll post mine soon.

I'm stuck blogging in Romans 5, where I find two completely disarming statements.

"When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time." (verse 6)


"But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners." (verse 8)

I love that idea. What could be better than "utterly helpless," or "while we were still sinners?"

You see, we STILL ARE! We are utterly helpless. Dependant on every breath. Dependant on the fact that our immune systems work. That our body makes energy from food. That our brains function enough to make a Christmas list, or start the car, or put one foot in front of the other. WE ARE HELPLESS. We can be rich, accomplished, wise, smart, motivated, talented, and we are STILL UTTERLY HELPLESS. Dependant!

God loves helpless people.

Pretty cool, eh?

And, if you are reading this blog today, remember that Christ died BEFORE you were born. ALL your sins were -- at the time of his death -- future tense sins. They had not yet been committed.

He died for the sin you had yet to sin.

So, if he died THEN for you, for sins you had yet to commit. What can you expect from him now? That his love has changed? That he NOW expects you to be perfect?

No way. When you were utterly helpless, and completely sinful, he chose to die for you!

You don't have to perform, to win, to dazzle God. He's completely smitten with you. He was smitten even when you were ugly, selfish, and evil.

Why not sit back and thank him for THAT!

That's worth a turkey dinner, if nothing else is!


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Taking Part in the Process

I've finished Romans and moved on to Judges; but of course, I haven't blogged on it. No excuses. Here's my life:

I spent five days in Portland with Kerrie. She has survived her first chemo, though there were moments she wished that survival weren't an option. Honestly, anyone who does cancer treatment deserves much more than their life. I'm suggesting an island in the South Pacific. What do you think?

Kerrie had a bout of nausea that lasted about six days. The doctor tried to help. But even in the best of moments, she was either barfing her guts out, or completely unconscious. Not good for a self-employed artist. She's only recently started eating again. Just in time. She has her next treatment one week from Thanksgiving Day. This coming Tuesday, she is planning a "shave my head" party. Trying to make the best of it all. She's my hero! I had no idea what chemotherapy involves.

Our Bible study group at church just finished the trial version of the Jeremiah Bible study. They had a great time, and showered me with thank you cards and CHOCOLATE! Now, my goal is to finish editing that version and ship it to the publisher by mid-December. It's harder than it sounds. I've never done anything like this before.

I spoke at a Women's Gig at Lighthouse Christian Center in Puyallup this past Monday. Woke with a sore throat, downed zinc and Airborne. When I walked up to the podium, I didn't think I could do it. But God gave me the strength I needed to do well. He is good!

I'm ready to have my kids home. The oldest returns from California on Wednesday. The middle child perhaps then too? My two WSU students are heading home tomorrow. I've gotten the carpets cleaned and we are re-coating the wood floors in my kitchen. Life is VERY busy.

So, where do I want to stop in Romans? Try Romans 5:1-5. The context? Well that begins in the chapter's first verse. "Therefore, since we have been made right in God's sight bty faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God's glory."

The context for the next passage begins with our new position in Christ. Because of him, we have confidence and joy about our future. Certainly, some of that future concerns what awaits us in heaven. But there is more. Paul continues in verse three.

"We can rejoice too when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us -- they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of chartacter in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation. And this expectation will not disappoint ius. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love."

So, what is the point?

Many religions differ on what difficulties mean to our lives. For some, handling difficulties well enables us to achieve a higher status in some future life. For others, handling difficulties well banks good "karma" for the future. The lady who does my pedicure faces difficulty aspiring to disconnect herself from her pain. For her, being disconnected is the highest goal.

But Paul tells us that for believers our difficulties "shape us." They make us better. And because of our new standing in Christ, we have a kind of deep inner peace as we face any difficulty. We know that God controls our future. And more than that, God has INVESTED in our future.

He has given us the HOLY SPIRIT, who lives inside us and HELPS to grow character in our difficulty.

You see, growth isn't all up to us. Neither is it God's sole responsibility. And difficulty is not some random thing that happens TO us. Instead it has purpose. Design. And when we cooperate, we experience the satisfaction of seeing growth in our lives.

Now THAT, my friend is VERY good.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Lifeline

I'm thinking about lifelines today. My friend Kerrie is in the bed nearby, with her port connected to a tube which will give her chemotherapy. The chemo is going to save Kerrie's life.

You could call it a lifeline. It's not unlike the spiritual lifeline that I've found in the book of Romans.

Now, I agree with you. Romans is a tough book. Paul doesn't leave much room to guess about his meaning. Try this for instance:

"For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the Jewish ceremony of circumcision. No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not a cutting of the body but a change of heart produced by God's Spirit. Whoever has that kind of change seeks praise from God, not from people."

The whole point of the book of Romans is to answer that one question: How does one make one's heart RIGHT WITH GOD?

In chapter after chapter, Paul will make sure that we understand how it does NOT happen. In chapter two, he makes it clear that being right with God is not about outward things, but rather about inward things.

We don't impress God by our outward appearance. He doesn't care if we are circumcised. He doesn't care if we've been to First Communion, or to Confirmation. God is only concerned by out inward condition. The true Jew, and the true believer are ones whose heart have been made right with God.

In chapter 3 he tells us how this transformation occurs:

"We are made right in God's sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done. For all have sinned; all fall short God's gracious standard."

And later, "He has freed us by taking away our sins."

So, here is the problem.

We want to be right with God. So we try to "act right" enough to get him to approve of us. The problem is that we can't possibly be good enough.

So, he provided a way. That way is Jesus Christ. In Christ, God has taken away all of our sins. And in Christ he has made our inward selves right with him.

It's so simple that even the lowliest of us can understand it. But it's so difficult that only the courageous will grab hold of the lifeline there.

Have you? Have you grabbed onto the lifeline of Jesus Christ?

Monday, November 5, 2007

He is

Welcome to the book of Romans.

I've decided that I'm a "bad blogger." (You should read that like out loud in the same tone that some people say, "Bad, dog.")

It's hard to keep up in the midst of life, isn't it? Right now, I'm in the waiting room at Good Sam hospital in Portland, OR, waiting for my friend Kerrie, who is getting a new port installed. It will be the system her oncologist uses to infuse her with chemotherapy drugs.

And something I observed this morning brings me directly into our blog subject. There is a nurse in the day surgery area who desperately needs Jesus. She is stomping around the hospital with frozen lips -- completely unable to smile or respond to the humanity of the people around her. I know. I made it my personal charge to try to get a smile out of her. Nothing. No response. When someone asked how she was, she said, "I've been better."

Okay, so we all have bad days, yes?

But this lady is definately having a bad life!

And i think perhaps she has no idea that there is more to life than IVs, vials of blood, patients and surgery schedules. In fact, Paul, in the opening chapter of the book of Romans says that there IS GOD! Paul says it this way.

"For the truth about God is known to them instinctively. God has put this knowledge in their hearts. Fromt he time the world was created people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his invisible quqalities -- his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse whatsoever for not knowing God. 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."

How does that relate to Grumpy in Day Surgery?

Her problem is that she has made herself the center of the known universe. The patients, the doctors, the orders, the orderly and even the housekeeping lady all revolve around her! No wonder she is so dissapointed when things don't go the way she expects. Every little bump throws her off her own throne!

We were never meant to be the center of the universe.

When we realize that, we are able to smile at our difficulties, to comfort others in their trials, to laugh when appropriate, and to work with a servant's heart.

When we realize that He is LORD, that He is in absolute control over every difficulty of our lives, we have peace. Even as we wait for surgery to end. Even as we anticipate chemotherapy. Even when we realize that our bad hair days will soon be "bald hair days."

He is God. And that is enough to bring peace even to the most chaotic of days.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The War is On

I ran into a friend who reads this blog yesterday. She laughed and asked, "What was that sheep thing about? It was so random!"

So first, a bit of business. The sheep story came out of an experience I had last week. I'm part of a writer's group. Or, I should say, I WAS part of a writer's group. And last weekend, a group of "leaders" in my group behaved exactly as did the sheep in my story. The point was simply this: We who believe are so susceptable to deception. Those leaders did evil, and they called it good. I can't be a part of their evil, and found I must withdraw from the group. It was a sad day! Even Jesus cried.

And second, many of you are wondering about my friend Kerrie. The diagnosis is Large B-cell Lymphoma. The doctors will stage the disease and begin chemo this coming week. Please continue to pray, if you would? I'll keep you informed.

And as for Joshua. I've been so overwhelmed with life, that I'm behind -- as you can tell. So, I'll just give you one more observation from Joshua, and then we'll move on to Romans. I've found that I can't work backwards. So here we go!

The book of Joshua is generally about the Israelites taking the Promised Land. God has instructed them to completely remove the people living in the land, and to occupy it. This is the bloody part of the Old Testament, and many critics use it to say that the Jews are no different from contemporary Muslims, etc.

However please note the differences. One: They weren't conquering the entire world. They had a specific and limited geographic objective. Two: The mandate to conquer via war was limited in time. It was ONE event in their entire history, and did not repeat itself in the same way EVER again. Three: The people being conquered were involved in idolatry that involved prostitution, and child sacrifice. Even those with NO moral framework might consider these behaviors questionable. God considered them abominable. He planned the Joshua wars to eliminate these terrible behaviors from the land. Four: No one could claim that this war was won by capable stratigic planning. In fact, no explosives were used. For instance, the Jews once conquered a town by circling the town seven times and then shouting. It was nothing more than miraculous. Not a battle won by cunning and bomb vests.

These are just some of the ways the Jewish conquest of the Promised Land differs from other "Holy Wars"

Now for the observations:

In one of the battles, Joshua and the Israelites defeat the northern kings. God gives them this instruction. "Do not be afraid of them. By this time tomorrow they will all be dead. Cripple their horses and burn their chariots."

Why did God say that?

I would have to look at chapter 23 to see the point. Note these words, "The Lord your God has fought for you against your enemies.' (vs 3) and "For the Lord your God will drive out all the people living there now." (verse 5) and "For the Lord has driven out great and powerful nations for you, and no one has yet been able to defeat you. Each one of you will put to flight a thousand of the enemy, for the LORD your God fights for you, just as he has promised." (verse 9 and 10)

"I gave you victory over them. I sent hornets ahead of you to drive out the two kings of the Amorites. It was not your swords or bows that brought you victory. I gave you land you had not worked for, and I gave you cities you did not build..." (24:11-13)

I think the ultimate point of Joshua is to remind us that in all battles, we are to let the LORD be our commander.

He wins the battle for us.

Today, as we fight for marriages, our children, our churches, our communities, our relationships, our pastors, and for the nations of the world, WE MUST LEARN TO DEPEND on the commander of hosts. Spiritual battles cannot be won, except on our knees. Then, as did the Israelites, when we have our instructions from the Commander, we are to go out and OBEY, as did Joshua. So why did the LORD instruct his people to cripple the horses?

As a reminder. We are NEVER to take the strength of the enemy as our own. If we did, we would begin to trust in armies, in weapons, in strategies. God does not want us EVER to depend on these things. We are to depend ONLY on the LORD of hosts. We are no longer seeking to conquer a land. But we are in battle never the less. We battle for souls, for destiny, for ministry, for unity. And our weapons are not of flesh and blood...

Neither were Joshua's.

Enough said? Let's move on to Romans!


Monday, October 22, 2007


Once upon a time, there was a flock of sheep. This motley group had many individuals who wanted to be the shepherd. Each had their own idea of how to spend a fine spring day. "Follow me!" they bleated arguing with one another. "I know the way to the good grass, the deep water. Follow me!"

One day, the shepherd hovering over the flock decided to teach his sheep a lesson. "I know what they want to do," he said to himself. "I will allow them to do it. Then they will see that I am the Good Shepherd. That my ways are right. That my way is the only safe way!." And so the Good Shepherd sat down behind a rock, where his sheep could not see him. He turned his back on the sheep and left them to their own devices.

"Let's go," Sherry Sheep said. "Let's get out of this boring place."

"No, Sherry," said Dull Dale. "We should stay with the shepherd. He wouldn't want us to leave him."

But the sheep would not listen to Dull Dale. Instead, they followed blindly as Sherry led them out of the pasture, and through the woods to a dark pond. The sky darkened as black clouds covered the sun. The wind began to blow, and the sheep grew cold in spite of their thick white coats.

"Drink here," Sherry said, pointing with her face to the dark pond at her hooves.

"But the water is not clear and clean, like the stream in our pasture," said one rather unimaginative sheep. "Maybe we should go back!"

"Silly sheep," Sherry replied. "We don't need clean, clear water. This water is just as good. You'll see. Drink."

And so, one by one, the sheep lowered their mouths to the pond.

Moments later, one of the sheep lifted her face, looked at Sherry and said, "My goodness. Sherry, your coat is no longer white and fluffy. In fact, your coat is black and the hair is not curly."

"And your snout is growing longer," said another.

"And your teeth are turning into fangs!" said Tommy Tearful.

"In fact," said Samantha, "You look a lot like a wolf!"

And she was right. All the sheep who drank from the pond no longer looked like sheep. Instead, they now looked like a pack of wolves.

"Forget that," growled Tommy. "Let's get some food."

"I have an appetite for Mutton," said Sherry. "Let's go look for some dinner." She led the other wolves back toward the Good Shepherd's pasture. "Finally, we can have real meat for dinner!"

As they approached the pasture, Sherry said, "Let's get Dull Dale! We can seperate him from the rest of the sheep and then attack! He will make a great dinner!"

"But what about the Shepherd?" asked Samantha.

"He isn't watching," Sherry growled.

And so together the stubborn group of "sheep/wolves" snuck back into the pasture. With stealth and silence, they surrounded poor Dull Dale. Then with cunning, they moved him away from the Shepherd and killed him. Together, they made a tasty meal of old Dale.

"What have you done?" shouted the Good Shepherd, running toward the sheep. "Why have you killed my beloved Dale, and eaten him for your dinner?"

"What do mean?" Sherry said. "We were only acting as a flock. You are always wanting to act in unity!"

"Flocks don't eat their members."

"Eat? We didn't eat anyone!"

"Why do you have blood on your snouts? Why is Dale's body lying lifeless here?"

"We didn't do anything!" They objected in unison.

And the angry but Very Good Shepherd chased all of them out of the pasture. As the last sheep went out, the Good Shepherd placed a tall fence between the sheep and the pasture. "You evil sheep have turned into wolves. And now you will not be allowed in my pasture ever again. Healthy sheep follow their shepherd. If you will not follow me, you will not live in this place of blessing. You have chosen."

"Now, be gone!" He turned his back on them and returned to the pasture of blessing.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Acting on Knowledge.

Last summer, I was visiting with a friend. "What's your background?" I asked. "Since you were raised in a Christian home, how do you feel about God?"

"I belive," he said. "I just don't feel like I want to be part of a church."

Not an extraordinary response, I don't think. But here in the book of Joshua, is a very different reaction. In chapter two, spies are sent to check out the city of Jericho. "Spy out the land," Joshua tells the two men.

When they arrive in the city, they are taken in by a prostitute who lives in a home built into the city wall. Soon after, the king of Jericho comes looking for the spies; and Rahab sends the king's agents in the other direction. Later, she says to the spies, "I know the Lord has given you this land... We are all afraid of you... For the Lord your God is the supreme God of the heavens above and the earth below. Now swear to me by the LORD that you will be kind to me since I have helped you." She makes arrangements to keep herself and her family safe during the coming destruction of Jericho.

I want to camp on a couple of details here. This woman isn't one of the Jewish people. She's an outsider. She hasn't been taught anything at all about God. She only knows what she has heard. But what she hears is enough to convince her that God is indeed the only God, the true God. The most powerful God.

And she knows something else. This powerful, true God is going to destroy anything that raises itself up against him. She responds to her certain knowlege of the upcoming destruction. Yep. She's feeling fear. And she's experienced truth. She KNOWS that the God of these spies is the one true God.

But she is doing more than that. She has gone beyond UNDERSTANDING, and moved directly to action. Rahab ACTS on what she understands. She takes a stand with the God of the Jews. She makes arrangements to keep herself safe in his care.

So, my friend. What about you? If you know ABOUT God, and you BELIEVE in GOD, have you taken the step that will keep you SAFE IN God? LIke Rahab, God asks us to step into his protection. He's provided it -- and we've talked about how that happens in other blogs on these pages. He's given his only son so that we can hide in the protection of the Cross.

Some day, the world as we know it, will come to an end. All of us will have to face the God of Joshua, and Rahab. The God of Matthew and Luke. When that happens, will you be found in the wall of his protection?

I live there. The wall of his protection is the only place to hang out! It's good in the coming destruction. It's great, even in the difficulties of today.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Okay, I lied!

Okay, you're right. I lied.

By our standards, Joshua was NOT a young man. He was perhaps as old as his friend Caleb, who was eighty-five years old when he took the hill country of Gilead. Perhaps slightly younger.

We know he was one of the spies sent into the land forty years previously. We know he had been Moses' assitant during the time Moses received the ten-commandments -- perhaps all through the Israelites' travels in the wilderness. So, Joshua was no spring chicken!

But a military general?

No way. Not compared to Schwartzkoff, or Tommy Franks, or Wolfowitz, or even Patton.

This guy is a civilian. And he's charged with the task of helping his people take out the entire indeginous population of Palestine so that the Israelites can take over the land. Not a simple task.

The Israelites were professional servants. Brick makers. Builders. Slaves. But soldiers? Not a chance. So how can this poor schmuck accomplish this amazing feat? The same way -- the only way -- ANYONE in this world can accomplish anything...

"Be strong and courageous, for you will lead my people to possess all the land I swore to give thier ancestors. Be strong and very courageous. Obey all the laws Moses gave you. Do not turn away from them and you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of the Law continually. Meditate on it day and night so that you may be sure to obey all that is written in it. Only then will you succeed. I command you, be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:6-9

Important words, found on the pages of the Old Testament. How will this poor guy lead this rag-tag group of slaves to victory? By OBEYING. God is going to show him how to do it. I know, because I've read the book, that ol' Josh is going to try some of the most unique and surprising techniques ever used in warfare. And he's going to learn the techniques directly from God. With God showing us how to accomplsh a task, we can expect surprising and creative answers.

The other secret to Joshua's success is one we all have access to...

God promises to be with him. Jesus promised his followers the same thing at the end of every gospel. "I will be with you, even unto the end of the age."

You know, you can do almost anything if you know you won't be doing it alone!

Have you considered, going it with God? It makes any responsibility that much lighter!

I've finished the whole book, so I'm on to reading Romans. But I'm still going to catch up on my posts. You may want to check daily for a while. I don't want to miss out on this adventure, so it will take me a while to get it all done. Stay with me?

And if you have time, please pray for my friend Keith who is facing some difficult days. And also for my dearest friend Kerrie, who is facing the possibility of Cancer. Both these two have chosen to go through this with God. It won't be easy, I know. But it will be easier for them with God.


Tuesday, October 9, 2007


So, are you enjoying the book of Joshua?

I know I’ve been delinquent in writing this blog. Forgive me? I’ve experienced a long list of events, struggles, and life happenings lately. I escorted my mom to my brother’s funeral in Tucson (TSA chose to hand-search my 92 year old, 95-pound mom!), helped to decorate for my niece’s wedding the very next day, woke with a virus after that and spent days crashed on the couch. This past week, I have also discovered that one of my closest friends may be facing life-threatening cancer. Last night, my husband found out that one of his closest boating friends has chosen to enter the hospice system with incurable cancer. Kim is very sad.

In the middle of it all, I continue to teach a Bible study on Jeremiah, and go through all those normal everyday motions. Life goes on, doesn’t it?

At times like this the Words of scripture take on an almost surreal glow. My heart finds assurance there, an encouragement as refreshing as cold water in the midst of a long hike through the desert.

After all, if the words of scripture are not true, we believers have little hope; and if they are (true), our hope can never be shaken. As the apostle Paul says, even death has lost its sting. Though Keith Charboneau may die, we will see him and celebrate with him again!

So, what about Joshua?

Remember the Bible begins with the story of God, and moves on to his choosing of a man – Abraham. Their unique relationship is sealed in a covenant of blood. God says, “If you will, then I will.” The condition? Obedience. God’s choice extends to Abraham’s family. Three generations later, this family lands in Egypt as guests of Pharoah. Four hundred years pass as they move from the position of guests to slaves.

After Moses leads the Israelites from Egypt (the book of Exodus), they wandered in the desert for forty years. During this season, Moses prepared the people for their new home in the Promised Land.

As the book opens Joshua, our hero, has taken over Moses’ leadership role. His job is to take this wild group of unruly people across the Jordan and into the land. There, he must supervise as they forcefully and violently take the land from its former occupants.

His is an impossible job. How does one young, inexperienced leader get more than a million untrained men to take over a country? The answer: With God.

Read on my friends!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

It Matters, Believe Me

You'll be happy to know, if you've followed this blog, that we finished our ride for the orphans last Wednesday. It was great, and the Lord blessed us with dry weather and NO FLAT TIRES! We rode through miles of broken glass along the Oregon Coast. Still, he kept us safe; we were thrilled with that... You can view pictures at:

Also, I have to confess that I've fallen behind with you all, for a lot of reasons, but here is the big one. My brother, Richard Joseph Roberts passed away last Sunday morning. He was hiking with a friend near his home in Tucson. So far, we aren't sure what happened, but he dropped suddenly and could not be revived. He was only 61.

So, why do you care?

Well, I suppose you don't have to. But his death reminds me of the facts about this life. We don't ask to be born, do we? But we don't get to choose how long we stay either! As comptroller for the University of Arizona, Dick had a few goals left to accomplish. He was looking forward to retirement, to enjoying his kids and grandkids, to spending more time with his wife.

But it all vanished, in only a moment.

Truth? It could happen to you too. In fact, it will.

When? None of us know. A bike accident. A fluke traffic accident. A fall. A prolonged illness.

And the fact that NONE of us will get out of here alive brings up the importance of the words we've been looking at. The Bible addresses some pretty important questions...

These questions aren't just philosophical. They are life and death. They address critical issues, like, "Why are we here?" "Who is God?" "What happens after I die?" "Is there a heaven, or hell?"

I don't know much about my brother's faith. I talked to him about God many times. Most of the time, he shut me out. He was too intellectual, too sophisticated for such fantasy. Raised a Catholic, he accused me of evangelizing. He didn't want to talk about it; it was too personal.

Tonight, wherever he is, I wonder if he has changed his mind?

What about you?


PS, We're on to Joshua now. Let's get on with it!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

For the Kids

“He who stops his ears at the cry of the poor,
Will himself cry out,
And will not be heard. Proverbs 21:13

I’m writing this rather humbling letter to request help. Not for me, but for some kids in Africa. These kids live in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo.

A couple of years ago, I felt the Lord encouraging me to develop a heart for the poor, a heart that not only hurts, but acts. I’m trying to obey. With the help of a friend, we’ve taken on the $15,000 task of building an boys dorm for an orphanage in Goma. Today, these children sleep eight to a mat on a concrete floor. They bathe in a small, outside bowl. They survive by selling the vegetables they grow on donated land. They are doing everything they can to survive.

These kids are victims of the African Civil war, (both in Rwanda, and of the DRC) of aids, of severe poverty – even of nature (recently, a volcanic eruption destroyed parts of Goma). Nearly three hundred have been taken in by Mama Jeanne and her husband, a pastor living in rural DRC. Mama Jeanne seeks to reunite displaced children with their parents, and to provide care, education and training for the orphans who stay.

We became connected with them through Be A Hero, an international agency who connects willing givers with indigenous projects being run by well respected and highly accountable agencies all over the world. You can check out Be A Hero at

At the website you’ll get to see pictures of the kids and their current living conditions. You can check out our website at

We have two major plans for this coming year. Starting tomorrow, we’re bicycling part of the Oregon Coast in an effort to raise funds and awareness for these kids. The second project involves a benefit concert featuring Rising Violet, which will be held in February 2008. In the process, we hope to find matching donors, individual donors and even children who would help us meet this critical need.

On our own, we’ve saved more nearly six thousand dollars for this project. I’m committed to using my writing money for this project. If you’d like to help, we’d appreciate it. We’re asking God to give us the funds to finish the dorm and supply the linens and beds. You can send a check to Be A Hero, in care of Kerrie Hubbard at PO Box 2873, Clackamas OR 97015. All donations are tax-deductable. Be a Hero will provide a receipt.

If you’re getting this note, it’s because I trust you, and because I know that you know me well enough to trust that I have pure motives and a willing heart. I’d love it if you asked God about your part in this small project for the kids. Bette

Saturday, September 15, 2007

My Assigned Task

So, I've finally finished the page design on the Bible Study I'm working on. Yesterday I started teaching it. The ladies were excited about conquering a new and rather daunting book of the Old Testament. It was pretty cool, helping them see the landscape of Jeremiah. I can't wait to see what happens as they get into it!

In the meantime, here we are in ACTS.

Sometimes, a single phrase will shout at me, and I am left to ponder. The message Paul gives us in Acts 20:24 holds that kind of power over me. Paul says, "But my life is worth nothing unless I use it for doinhg the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus -- the work of telling others the Good News about God's wonderful kindness and love!"

Paul? His life worth NOTHING?

That's a pretty powerful idea, isn't it?

It strikes me in two ways. One: Paul knew exactly what task he'd been assigned. How many people these days are marching their way through life without a single clue as to WHAT TASK has been assigned to them? They repeat day after day, doing the same things, the urgent things, the daily things -- and they have never experienced the kind of single-mindedness that Paul understood. MY TASK. The one I am ASSIGNED BY JESUS.

It's all about purpose. Knowing your task, and then embracing it fully. Wouldn't it be great to KNOW your life purpose?

I struggle with that. Sometimes, I feel quite confident in my task. At other times, I feel like a hiker lost in a dark cave. Where am I? How do I find the light?

And the second thing that strikes me about my friend Paul is that compared to this task, his life is nothing. Now, Paul is no superhero. He has skin and bones, just like you and I. He has aches and pains. He has friends, and enemies. He probably found that wool was pretty scratchy. He got hungry, and he got tired.

But in the midst of daily life, of loving people, of making tents, of having friends, enjoying dinner, and beaufiful sunsets, Paul felt that his life was worth NOTHING, COMPARED to using his life for the task.

Do you hear the enormous value Paul puts on accomplishing this task that Jesus has given him?

I am coming to believe that God has individual tasks just for us, tasks that are more specific than the global task of taking the message into all the world. I believe we each have a special gift that we are to use to bless the world around us. I think God wants us to sense the importance of our lives -- not just because we are alive -- but because there is a task that only we can accomplish.

And if we miss the task, we miss something enormously important.

Paul understood how important it was. Do you?

Saturday, September 8, 2007


I'm home from vacation, and scrambling to meet a writing deadline. I'll be teaching Jeremiah beginning Friday of this week, and I'm feeling lots of pressure. Busy times, you know?

But I'm enjoying the book of Acts. And, because it's on my mind a lot lately, I've been noticing a trend. Remember these guys are just guys, like you and me. They have to eat and sleep, and dress -- just like we do. They have moments of doubt and moments of brilliance -- just like us. And, like us, I'm guessing they struggled with knowing what God would have them do next.

So what's the pattern?

Watch this:

After Peter and John heal a lame man, they give this amazing sermon. In the New Living Translation it says: "Peter saw his opportunity." 3:12

"As for Phillip, an angel of theLORD said to him, "Go south, down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem." (8:26)

"As he was nearing Damascus, on this mission, a brilliant light from heaven suddenly beamed down upon him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice, saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" (9:4)

"the LORD spoke to him in a vision, calling, 'Ananias," (9:10)

"One afternoon, about three o'clock, he had a vision in which he saw an angel of God coming toward him, "Cornelius!" the angel said. (10:3)

"But while lunch was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw the sky open and something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners." (Acts 10:10)

"Suddenly, there was a bright light in the cell, and an angel of the LORD stood before Peter... 'Quick, get up.' And the chains fell off his wrists. Then the angel told him, 'Get dressed and put on your sandals.'"(12:7)

One day as these men were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Dedicate Barnabus and Saul for the special work I have for them."

Okay, have you fallen asleep yet? Are you wondering what on earth these things have in common?

Try this on for controversy...

In all these cases, the Lord clearly made his will known to his children.

1. They didn't get it out of the written Word of God -- they didn't have one as such. And yet, God gave personal leadership to each of them. Real directions. Specific instructions. Clear leadership. Not just general stuff like "go into all the world." Somehow God gave Specifics, "Go to this street. Go to this house. Go get this man." Somehow, God made his way known. Look at the ways!

disembodied voices
the LORD's voice
and even simple old OPPORTUNITIES!

Certainly, many of these events happened in the context of prayer. But not always.

My challenge? Has God changed? Has he stopped using these means to give specific direction to his children? Doesn't he care anymore what you do with your life? Is he too busy to speak?

Or worse. When was the last time you had a vsion? A voice? A trance? A dream?

I confess, it frustrates me that I don't experience God more in my daily life. I haven't had a vision lately. I rarely have a dream from God. But is this because I don't believe he can? Or that I don't believe he will?

Is it because He doesn't speak any more? Or is it because I've stopped listening? Or have we stopped EXPECTING to hear from him? You tell me! I really want to know.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

When Bad News is Good News

August 29, 2007

The Book of Acts, up through the seventh chapter is teaming with Good News. The Holy Spirit comes. Good news. Many new believers join the church. Good News. Peter and the Apostles are arrested, and miraculously released from jail. Good News. And then, it seems as if all the Good News runs out.

In chapter seven, Stephen is arrested and brought before the council. After an impassioned speech, Stephen is stoned to death. Bad News. And, in chapter eight, we read this, “A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem and all the believers except the apostles fled into Judea and Samaria. Saul was going everywhere to devastate the church… dragging out both men and women and throwing them into jail.” Very Bad News.

Or is it?

I’m writing a Bible Study on the book of Jeremiah. Yesterday, I ended my work with commentary about Jeremiah’s arrest. In Jeremiah you read that Zedekiah threw Jeremiah in jail where he was given a loaf of bread every day “for as long as there was bread left in the city.”

Most of us would call incarceration bad news – especially if we’d done nothing to deserve it. But when I think about it, Jeremiah was living through a siege. Nebuchadnezzar had surrounded the city. They had no food coming in. There was a drought, and water was scarce. We know from Lamentations that women were eating their own children as they fell to starvation. But Jeremiah had bread, as long as there was bread in the city.

So, when is bad news good news? Often bad news is simply Grace in disguise. Jeremiah’s arrest put him in the unique position of being completely cared for by the king of Judah. The persecution of the church forced these believers out into the world. Sure, it was comfortable hanging out with the church. Eating together. Praying together. Sharing all things. Who wouldn’t want to do that? Like having full-time church!

But Grace wanted the believers to share what they had. Grace wanted to send the salt into the earth. To let the light out. To spread itself around so that all the world – you and me, my friend – could come to know the Good News, the VERY BEST NEWS, that has ever been told.

Think about it. Most of the time, we only see bad news as good news when we have the added benefit of hindsight. What about you? Have you seen Grace come disguised as Bad News?

I'm on vacation -- sort of. Our boat has had trouble, and we are now living in a boat yard in BC. It wouldn't be my plan for vacation. But I wonder. Is this Grace Disguised?


Saturday, August 25, 2007

Acts Begins

As I write, I'm deep in the heart of Desolation Sound, British Columbia -- so deep in fact, that I couldn't find my way home without a GPS and a chart plotter. But even on vacation, I take my Bible. I've started the book of ACTS, and since it's one of my favorite books, and since I'm sitting on a dock that has WY FY, here I am!

First, observe that the book is written to a Gentile (we guess from his name), who must have become a believer. The author, who is Dr. Luke says in the book of Luke, that he has gathered the accounts of the stories related to what Theophilus "has been taught." Seems that Theophilus is a new believer -- not himself a witness of Jesus death and resurrection, but a reciever of the stories. The other interesting thing is that in Luke, the text begins, "most excellent Theophilus." It seems a formal greeting, one given to someone of stature, or rank, perhaps even royalty. But, the book of Acts begins very differently. It says, "My dear Theophilus."

Luke has made Theophilus a friend. I like that.

One thing I love to do with Acts is to just keep notes. So many folks use ACTS as a platform to declare their own understanding of Spiritual things. I'm not going to do that. I'm just going to observe. Hopefully, I will honor the Spirit who inspired the text in the first place -- not by bringing my own vain imagination to the book, but by seeking his truth. We'll see, won't we?

Acts begins with a host of guys who are too excited for words. The one who died is now alive. Hope has risen. But their hope is for Jesus to accomplish their own agenda -- to free Israel from Roman rule. But the whole book of Acts is about these guys learning to abandon their own agenda for God's agenda. Isn' t that what life is about for us too?

The big event in Acts 2 is the day of Pentecost. Jesus friends are praying in the upstairs room of the house where they were staying, when something amazing happened. The passage says there was a sound "LIKE" a mighty rushing wind. And there were flames of fire above the heads of those who were there. And then, they were filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in OTHER LANGUAGES.

What an amazing thing! They hear a windstorm inside the house. They see fire hanging in the air. And they begin to speak in languages they do not know -- BUT OTHERS DO RECOGNIZE.

As a result of this supernatural manifestation of the Holy Spirit, the Godly Jews who were in Jerusalem heard them speak in languages that they understood, and because they understood, they then heard a sermon which brought them to Christ.

That first Pentecost certainly centered around Evangelism. The languages the men spoke had a dynamic effect in reaching others with the Good News about Jesus. It was clearly the Holy Spirit that Jesus had predicted. It came with POWER, as he said. And that first Pentecost unleashed the beginning of what would be the greatest mission ever undertaken -- to spread the good news of freedom and forgiveness to every corner of the earth.

And the men who took on this task were nothing more than fisherman. Uneducated. Untrained. Unprepared. They had only two things. They had gifts -- specific to the task they were assigned. And they had the Holy Spirit. The unseen, unsung third member of the trinity -- GOD HIMSELF -- living inside them.

With these two things, they were equal to any task. We have these two things as well. What task are you taking on lately?


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Some things never change!

Well, at last I’ve read through Deuteronomy!

It wasn’t easy. In the past week, I’ve written a women’s ministry newsletter, hosted a wedding shower for 35, and gotten two college-aged kids back to school. (Go Cougs!) And in the midst of all this, tried to enjoy a twice-yearly visit from my oldest son.

Exhaustion gives me a new rule with my devotion: Read until something snags you. Whatever it is – the magnificence of God, the faithfulness of a Biblical character, the stupidity of God’s people – once I grab hold of that snag, I look at it closely and let the Holy Spirit use it to shape my life.

That’s the way I’ve been reading this week. It works; try it! I have one more entry from the book of Deuteronomy.

Near the end, we read of some remarkable contrasts. Moses, (clearly the book’s author –consider his use of “I” and “we” in the early chapters) writes an entire chapter about the wonder of God. In one of my Bibles, I have the page folded, indicating that I wanted to memorize the entire passage. (Unfortunately, folded pages indicate intent, not action)

Listen to Moses’ words… “I will proclaim the name of the LORD, how glorious is our God. He is the Rock; his work is perfect. Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong. How just and upright he is.”

Amazing words, aren’t they? Especially considering these came from a man who has led a million people for more than forty years, AND YET, because of one “small” mistake, has been denied the honor and satisfaction of leading them into their promised land. (Numbers 20:12 “But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust me enough to demonstrate my holiness to the people of Israel, you will not lead them into the land I am giving them.”)

Those consequences always seemed harsh to me –like God was having a bad day, or hadn’t had enough sleep. But Moses called him absolutely fair. Interesting?

I think that Moses understood God in a way our culture – even our contemporary Christian culture – has lost. Moses understood God’s HOLINESS. God’s commands are not “suggestions;” his instructions are to be followed exactly as they are given. Moses had not obeyed, and he understood that disobedience came with a price.

This is one of the benefits of reading the Old Testament. God has NOT CHANGED. He is an awesome God, who demands obedience, expects perfection and who punishes fairly. We Christians have become so focused on the Grace of Salvation, that we think God has somehow changed… that he winks at sin, that he doesn’t expect us to keep our commitments, or follow him with our whole heart.

And while Grace enables us to obey, and covers all our sin, God does not change. He insists that we take him seriously. That we respect his instructions. That we obey with our whole heart. Moses’ story tells me there is no room – even under the umbrella of grace – to plan disobedience, expecting God to forgive us after we have enjoyed the pleasure of sin. While grace has purchased our eternal salvation, it does not always prevent us from experiencing the consequences of disobedience.

The Good News? God has not changed. The bad news? God has not changed. Take him seriously. Obey him wholeheartedly. If your heart doesn’t want to obey, ask for a change of heart. Now THAT is a prayer he loves to answer. Bette

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

A tree planted by the water.

I have to admit it; we aren't going to get through the Bible in a year. This week, I'm on vacation with my family, attending a Family Bible camp. We're being taught great things by two very gifted speakers. I'm happy to be here.

Today, the family took a hike through what looked to be an old growth forest. Turns out, it isn't. But it is a federal reserve which has been set aside since 1952 in the goal that it will eventually regain the appearance of "old growth." It looks old enough to me. We took pictures of ourselves posed in front of trees that dwarfed even the biggest members of our family. I kept thinking, "my hips are 37 inches around. And I take up this tiny bit of the front of this enormous tree... How big around is that trunk?"

Using old math formulas, we came up with diameters nearing twenty feet. Shocking!

And those trees remind me of a little scripture found in Psalm One, "And he will be like a tree planted by the water. His leaves will not wither..."

The trees on our hike were planted in the richest of volcanic soil, with a virtually limitless source of water. They had stood against the winds of endless winter storms. They had resisted drought, insects, forest fires, moss, lichen, and who knows how many other onslaughts. In the face of westerly winds off the Pacific Ocean, they didn't shrink, they grew strong and tall and straight. In fact, Oregon Spruce is prized by instrument makers for its fine, straight grain.

So, who will be like this kind of tree? According to Psalm One, it is he who studies and obeys the Law of the Lord. This is the process we are comitted to -- whether we finish in one year or ten. We are committed to knowing and observing God's Word. When you open your eyes, his illustrations are all around us. I want to be a tree like those giants I saw today. I want to know the Word, and to grow strong and straight -- and to withstand adversity. It was a great hike; wish you were here!


Friday, August 3, 2007

Some things never change!

As I read through the book of Deuteronomy, I am struck by the way some things stay the same. Even though the words here were written by Moses, thousands of years ago, and delivered to the Jewish people as they prepared to enter the Promised Land, they are as fresh today as they were while the ink was still wet. Take a look at these things:

In chapter five, Moses recounts the commands given by God to his people. Today, people joke about them, calling them the "big ten." We know them as the ten commandments. And though they are nearly four thousand years old, they set a standard that has not changed. As I read through them, I am still pricked by their relevance. In the New LIving, one paragraph reads this way, "Do not misuse the name of the LORD your God. The LORD will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name." That one gets me. I have often slipped into the cultural explanation, "Oh my God!" It is a misuse of His powerful name. And I had to repent. To agree with God and turn back from my way!

In chapter six, we read the famous lines, "Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. And you must love the LORD your God wiht all your heart , all your soul and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are away on a journey, when you are lying down and when you are gettin up again." This phrase is repeated in the New Testament. It is the committment that we must hold toward the covenant. God initiated a relationship with the Jews. He did so with us, through Jesus. Are you committed to keeping the relationship?

In chapter seven we read, "The LORD did not choose you and lavish his love on you because you were larger or greater than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations! It was simply because the LORD loves you..." The same words are true today. God did not choose me because of my talent, or skills, or charm. He chose me because He wanted to. For no other reason have I become the daughter of the God of the universe. He wanted me. That's it. That's all. A very humbling, but truthful position. In that truth, I draw GREAT strength.

Here is another truth. 'Understand, therefore, that the LORD your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God, who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and constantly loves those who love him and obey his commands." We are the blessed recipients of a NEW covenant. No longer do we have to sacrifice animals every day for our unending sin. But the new covenant was sealed in Jesus' blood. It was enough. And that new covenant is so sturdy that we can DEPEND on it to the thousanth generation. God CONSTANTLY loves those who love him and obey him. CONSTANTLY. I like that word.

And One Last Truth. This quote comes as a warning to the Jews. God tells them that success is a dangerous place. In chapter eight, we read, "But that is the time to be careful! Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the LORD your God and disobey his commands, regulations and laws. For when you have become full and prosperous and have built fine homes to live in, and when your flocks and herds have become very large and your silver and gold have multiplied along wiht everything else, that is the time to be careful. Do not become proud at that time and forget the LORD your God who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt. Do not forget that he led you through the great and terrifying wilderness...

Success is no less a temptation today. When our stomach is full, when things are going well, when the books are being published, then we are tempted to depend on ourselves. Worse, we can even begin to believe that our own strength brought us to this place. And that is a VERY dangerous temptation. For our God, the God of Jesus and the New Testament, is the same God of Deuteronomy and the Old Testament. He will NOT share his glory with us.

Be careful, lest in comfort, we become proud.

It's a good word -- even today.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Changed Men

I think you all should know what I've been up to lately. I'm writing a Bible Study on the Book of Jeremiah. It's one of my favorite books, and I'm loving it. Should be out some time in 2008. The thing about daily writing on a project that is due -- well, it makes blogging a bit more of an obligation. And I'm behind, I confess.

In my reading, I just started the book of Deuteronomy. You'll remember that we always ask three questions of scripture. What does it say (what are the actual words?) What does it mean (to the original listeners) and What does it mean to me (this is the application point). We should never jump to apply scripture until we've FIRST gone through the examination of the text.

You'll note that Deuteronomy is written by Moses, and he actually speaks in the first person. "We turned from, we went west, we camped," etc etc. The book begins with a review of the path the Jews took from Egypt (and slavery) to the point the book begins (about to move into the promised land). It really is a book of review, and it contains some of the most inspiring and valuable text in the entire Old Testament. Don't be discouraged before you even begin!

Before I move on though, I want to make one more comment about the book of John. Chapter 19 ends with the most amazing paragraph;I don't think I've ever noticed before. This is the description of Jesus burial. Joseph of Arimathea (who had been a secret disciple) and Nicodemus (who had come to him at night) both participate. The NLT says it this way, Joseph "asked Pilate for permission to take Jesus' body down... Together they wrapped Jesus' body in a long linen cloth with the spices, as is the Jewish custom of burial... and since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there."

Here is the miracle of that paragraph. These guys lived by fear. What if people know that I follow Jesus? What if someone catches me speaking with him? They had let fear dominate their entire relationship with Jesus. But somehow, through the course of Jesus' influence, his words, his presence, perhaps even his death, Jesus changed these guys. Note that Jesus isn't buried by the 'good ol boys.' Instead, his SECRET followers come out of hiding to do the deed. The disciples spend the next few days shivering in a locked room.

What is it about Jesus that changed these two? His power? His wisdom? His love? We won't ever really know what ONE thing influenced them. But something did. Something changed them from wimps to lions, ready to face even Pilate because of their love for their savior.

My question: Has he changed you? How?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The really big one

I've almost finished the book of John, (I'm at chapter 20) and I must confess. I'm not reading three chapters a day. The last seven chapters are my favorite, and I find that I really love to savour them -- turning the ideas over in my mind, imagining how they sounded to the very first people who ever heard such controversial words...

Beginning with Jesus' washing of his disciples feet, in chapter thirteen, the next pages are almost entirely written in red ink (in most Bibles) indicating that they are the direct words of Jesus. It seems no matter how many times I read these passages, I find myself stopped short by these kinds of statements:

You have already been pruned for greater fruitfulness by the message I have given you.
You didn't choose me. I chose you.
Those who obey my commandments are the ones who love me.
The truth is, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the father.
You can ask for ANYTHING in my name, and I will do it, because the work of the Son brings glory to the Father.

And then this one: The world's sin is unbelief in me. (John 16:9)

That's a tough one for most long-time believers. We think we can list sins, like making a grocery list -- from greatest to least. We classify people based on the seriousness of their sins; we even classify testimonies based on which believers came from the most sinful past. It's as if we are facing a sick patient, and we want to focus only on the symptoms.

Jesus goes right to the cause of the disease. Unbelief.

Jesus' words throw a monkey wrench into tradictional thinking. It forces us to realize that the ground at the cross is completely and perfectly level. The BIG sin, the real sin is unbelief in Jesus. That is the fatal wound that festers into the symptoms we know so well. But whether you were raised in the church, or on the street -- all of us came to that one place where we had to deal with WHO JESUS IS!

All of us went through a period where we didn't believe. Whether blissfully ignorant, or willfully defiant, we lived in a world without Jesus. Some moved from there to a world labled, "Maybe." Maybe he is worth considering. Maybe the pastor is right. Maybe there is something more to life than this.

Then we came to a point where we made a decision. Either you decide, "No Way. I'm not going to believe that stuff." (my brother Bill is here) or you make a completely different choice.

Jesus is who he claims to be.

But when you deal with the world, Jesus tells us not to be distracted by the symptoms of the disease. Remember the root cause. Unbelief. If you will work toward showing the world who Jesus is, God will take care of the symptoms...


Saturday, July 14, 2007

From Darkness to Light or, The Power of Opposition

John Chapter 9 tells perhaps my favorite healing story.

Here, Jesus heals a man born blind... He spits on the gound, makes mud and applies it to the man's eyes. Then, he tells the man to go wash in the pool of Siloam.

From the moment his sight is restored, people begin to ask questions.
Are you the same man who was born blind?
Who healed you?
Where is the one who healed you?

And then, he experiences opposition. The Pharisees say, "Jesus is not from God. He works on the Sabbath."
They pepper him with questions.
Who do you say that he is?
Were you really born blind?

This poor man, who has just been given his sight is pretty clueless. "I think he's a prophet," he says of Jesus. (Note, I "think")

They call in his parents and grill them.

Then they call the healed man again. The harassment begins again.

This time though, the healed man moves forward in his understanding of Jesus. "I know this. I was blind and now I see."

They abuse him, cursing.

"He healed my eyes and you don't know anything about him! God doesn't listen to sinners, but he is ready to hear thouse who worship him and do his will. Never since the world began has anyone been able to open the eyes of someone born blind. If this man were not from God, he couldn't do it."

They throw the healed man out of the temple.

Later, Jesus comes to the man and introduces himself as the Son of Man. The promised one. the Messiah -- all these are shown in his words, "I have come to judge the world. I have come to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind."

The healed man falls down and worships him.

Here is what I notice...

In the face of opposition, the healed man's understanding of what has happened to him does not weaken. Instead, as he is abused and grilled and cursed, his understanding of Jesus grows. And, even when he doesn't understand completely, he professes what he DOES understand. In the process of opposition, he moves closer to God.

And, in the process, this same profession moves the Pharisees further away from God. His DIRECT experience with Jesus confuses and threatens them. They must discredit him, or discredit Jesus.

Then, hearing what has happened to the poor man, Jesus comes to reveal himself to the man. And the man worships.

My application?

I think that opposition helps to grow strong believers. It helps us crystalize our understanding of the Kingdom and the King. In the process, VERY OFTEN, those who opose us do not grow from our testimony. We should not expect them to.

In the end, Jesus often reveals himself to us. And we grow closer to him as our spiritual eyes are opened. And worship is the natural result of the entire process.

I'm now reading "Heavenly Man," a story of the persecuted Chinese Home Church movement. The pattern found in John 9 permeates the history of the house church. Through opposition, they grew in understanding, strength and worship. Jesus reveals himself in the process. In the end, they WORSHIP the one they have come to know.

Perhaps, as James says, we should embrace persecution. It made all the difference in the world for the man born blind. Instead of a prophet, he came to own his Savior. It grew the Chinese church by leaps and bounds.

What about us? Bette

The Seven I AMs

I hope to write two blogs today. The first will be nothing much more than observation. In the second, I want to comment on perhaps my favorite scripture passage... Observation first.

I've read through John 13 so far; I'm finding myself going more slowly than usual. Part of that is the responsibility of writing for you all. I want to listen carefully, to think about what I read, and to try to see something there that will bless you. Part of that is the speed of summer. LIfe just tends to get away from me. You too?

Did you know that John is the only book where you can find the seven, "I AMs?"

I am the bread of life. No one who comes to me will ever be hungry again.
I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won't be stumbling in the darkness.
I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved.
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
I am the resurection and the life. Those who believe in me even though they die like everyone else will live again.
The last two are still to come in our reading...
I am the way the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father, except through me.
I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch that doesn't produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so that they will produce even more.

If you're someone who has yet to actually read the Scriptures -- as I've noticed so many critical blog writers are -- these are pretty powerful statements. There isn't much wiggle room here.

Many observers put Jesus in the same box as Martin Luther King, Bobby Kenedy, and Moses. He was a good man. He left a legacy. He influenced the world.

But to paraphrase CS Lewis, Jesus has not given us the "good man" option. Perhaps he was crazy. Perhaps he was a liar. But no one who was a good man would make the outrageous statements we find in the book of John.

Either he was who he said he was, or he was a lunatic, or a liar. It's up to each of us to gather the evidence and come up with a verdict. Good man won't cut it.

As for me, I'm thinking of taking these seven I AM statements and meditating on them for a while. They are so powerful. And taken together, I think they show us a portrait fo Jesus that leaves much food for thought...

Friday, July 6, 2007

A Line in the Sand

I'm into John 5, and I'm trying hard not to comment on the same ol' same ol'.

This is not to say that some of the scriptures where others camp are NOT important. But, I love to see new things. Things I haven't seen before in the Word. Here's today's example:

Maybe you're old enough to remember the first Gulf War. When we came to Kuwait's defense, Bush said, "Today, we draw a line in the sand." He meant that Sadam would not be permitted to cross into innocent countries (Kuwait) and claim her resources as his own.

It seems to me that Jesus draws a similar line in John Chapter Three. Let me show you the dots on the line.

The New Birth. Those who are born of the Spirit on one side. Those who are not on the other.
The Son. Those who believe in the son on one side. Those who do not on the other.
Trust. Those who trust in the Son, on one side. Those who do not, on the other.
Light. Those who love the light, who want to do right on one side. Those who flee from the light - who love the darkness, and who want to continue to sin on the other.

I've never noticed that John 3 portrays a theme, one carefully stitched between the verses. The theme is CHOOSE. Jesus himself creates an indelible line in the history of man. That line will forever seperate mankind -- not just by time (as in BC, or AD), but will seperate us by something much more critical.

John 3 tells us clearly where God wants us to land... He sent his son so that we could have eternal life.

Johny Cash's old song doesn't work for this line; this is a line we cannot walk.
We cannot wish the line away.
We cannot deny that the line exists.
We can't blame the human condition on other issues -- economics, education, race, privilege, culture.

Jesus is the line in the sand. On which side have you chosen to stand?

Saturday, June 30, 2007

A Study In Contrasts, John's Gospel

Alright, business first:

I'm feeling as though I'm out here writing in the wilderness. I find myself calling out, "Anybody home?"

So. Are you?

I'm learning that I need to hear from you, my dear readers. Write On! Hit the comment button on the bottom of the blog, and let me know what you're thinking. Am I boring you to death? Were you interested at first and then gave up? Did you plan to read through and find yourself more and more behind? Let's talk!

(I have an idea to contrast the Muslim idea of changing the world with the Jewish taking of the Promised Land. I've heard so many talk about the Jews as being "just as bloody for God as the Muslims." Not true. Numbers clears that up. If you'd like to talk about that, I would. Let me know?)

Gotta confess. I don't know where the week went. I finished Numbers and last night, I started the Gospel of John. You can see the pattern, Old Testament book, New Testament book, OT, NT, all in order. Not too hard. The best part is that you don't have to carry around a little sheet telling you where you should be on this particular day. Works for me.

I've lost too many things in the last week (cell phone, keys, bike locks) to be worrying about a little piece of paper!

So. What do I get out of the first chapter of John?


In Numbers, the priests had a start date and an end date. No work before age 20 or after age 50. In John, our next priest is ageless (He already existed, in John 1:1-5).

In Numbers the priests were honored. In John, the priest isn't even recognized, let alone accepted. (John1:10)

In Numbers, we get the law. In John, Jesus brings us "God's unfailing love and faithfulness." (John1:17)

In Numbers, there was no end to the sacrifice. Day after Day. Week after Week. Once a day. Twice a day. More on feast days. The lamb, the bull. The blood, spilling, pouring, gushing. But never enough.

In John, "Look, There is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world."

Jesus was ONE sacrifice, for all time. The HUMAN lamb. The sacrifice so perfect that no other sacrifice would ever be necessary.

A study in contrasts. Do you see how the New Testament is so much brighter when seen in the context of the Old Testament? It is as if the Old Testament is God in Sepia Tone. And the New Testament is God in the Land of Oz. Everything is in bright color. Clear. Visible. Unmistakable.

Tomorrow I turn 52. We're headed out on the boat for a day or two! My body wishes I were younger. But my soul longs to get old and be with the one whose perfect sacrifice gives me a future worth living. As Paul, to be here is good. To be with Him -- ah, that will be peace at last!


Sunday, June 24, 2007


I’ve had a busy week, but I’ve read through Numbers 27. How’re you doing? And by the way, am I the only poor slob out there who struggles with envy? Judging from your responses, I’m guessing so. You must be a pretty Holy audience. Wish I were so accomplished!

Today, rather than camp on a whole concept, I’d like to make some observations and derive some simple applications. Try these on for size:

In Numbers 24 the King of Balak asks the prophet Balaam to come curse Israel. This story is where all those “talking donkey” jokes come from. To be honest, I don’t quite understand why the Angel of the LORD stands in the donkey’s pathway. But I love this quote from Balaam. “I told you that I could say only what the LORD says.” And here is my application: Oh that I could be that wise!

As a speaker, it’s so tempting to add my own two cents worth at every opportunity. I like to wax eloquent, to sound clever and wise, to share my opinion whenever I take the microphone. But how much of what I say has any real value? I wish that I could learn to say ONLY what the Lord says, and nothing more. THAT would be discipline!

In Numbers 26, Moses takes another census of the Israelites. Isn’t it interesting that God absolutely KEPT his promise regarding those who would perish in the desert? The word says, “Not one person that was counted in this census had been among those counted in the previous census taken by Moses and Aaron…” When I was young, my dad used to say, “the most important thing a father can do is to keep his word.” My observation from this text is that God keeps his word absolutely – both his word to bless and his word to punish. In Numbers, God keeps his promise to punish the Israelites who won’t believe him. Does that tell us He will keep his promise toward those who don’t believe and trust in his Son Jesus? I think so.

I think it’s a picture of the punishment awaiting those who refuse to believe.

In Numbers 27, where the daughters of Zelophehad come to Moses asking for an inheritance in the Promised Land, God responds, “The daughters are right… You must give them an inheritance of land along with their father’s relatives.” Remember the context of this passage. Certainly this was not the season of women’s rights. They didn’t vote. They didn’t choose their own spouses. They didn’t have property rights. And yet GOD goes out of his way to establish the rights of women to inherit and possess land. It is the first of many indications that God values women. In the midst of a sometimes misogynistic church, that encourages me.

My last observation comes from Numbers 25, where some Israelite men get sexually involved with Moabites. In the end, these men begin worshipping the gods of Moab. Here is my observation: All through scripture, God admonishes his people to stay pure. In the New Testament, he tells believers NOT to marry believers. In the OT, God tells his people not to intermarry with the natives of the Promised Land. This story illustrates how easy it is for believers to be sidetracked. “Oh mom, I’d never believe like he does. We’re just friends.” But the Word is full of examples where believers become entangled in idolatry, when they abandon the principle of marrying within the faith.

It’s another one to share with your kids. Begin before dating is even in the picture. Talk about these examples. Help your kids see that no believer ever INTENDS to fall for an unbeliever. It happens when we aren’t careful to guard our heart, when we don’t commit to obedience and avoid every possible temptation. It isn’t easy.

It’s just essential.

So, did you see something I’ve missed? Bette

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Deadly Trap

Sometimes when you read the Old Testament, the thing you learn is something you already knew. Of course, that's because people haven't changed much since then -- and temptation -- well that's about as unchanging as death and taxes. So, today, I want to talk about something that is covered in several chapters of Numbers, beginning in Chapter 16:1, when Korah conspired with other levites against Moses.

What was their complaint? That Moses seemed to think he was of more value than the rest of the Levites. The root of their complaint was jealousy. The Korites and other members of the Levite tribe resented Moses and Aaron's positions of authority over them. They didn't like carrying the poles and tools and curtains of the Tabernacle. They wanted to minister to the Lord, to offer sacrifices, to work inside the secret place.

So how did Moses answer the charge?

"Now listen you levites! Does it seem a small thing to you that the God of Irael has chosen you from among all the people of Israel to be near him as you serve in the Lord's Tabernacle and to stand before the people to minister to them?"

What was he saying? "Isn't your job good enough? Why do you despise the position God has given you?"

The Levites in charge of the Tabernacle weren't satisfied. Instead of doing their own job well, they began to look longingly over at Moses and Aaron. They wished for the power, for the prestige, for their nearness to what God was doing. Think about it! When God spoke, he spoke with Moses. Under those conditions, it would be easy to begin to believe that you play second string.

Moses and Aaron always knew what was happening next. The Levites were nothing more (in their own eyes) than the moving team. They jumped when Moses told them to. In the next couple of chapters, Korah's rebellion is squashed, and the people of Israel begin to grumble against Moses... And eventually, God has to put the entire episode to rest -- which he does in chapter 17. God tells Moses to have each of the tribes inscribe a tribal leader's name on a staff, and then God says, "Put these staffs in the Tabernacle in front of the Ark of the Covenant, where I meet with you. Buds will sprout on the staff belonging to the man I choose. then I will finally put an end to the murmuring and complaining against you."

Whose staff budded? The one with Mose's name inscribed on it.

Okay, so God didn't want the Levites to envy Moses and complain against his leadership. He wanted them to be satisfied with their appointed position.

So, how does that apply to me?

That's easy. I'm not impervious to envy. for instance, in the world of writing and publishing, it's easy to look at other, more successful authors -- people who sell lots of books, or who have huge platforms and wonder, "why can't you spread a little of that my way Lord?" When I go to conventions, and the limos show up at the airport for the OTHER authors, it's easy to feel a little left out, to wonder if my little contribution to publishing is worth anything.

It's easy to forget that God chooses his servants, and, he chooses the good works his servants are to accomplish.

I'm not too different from Korah and his buddies. And I think God is asking me, "Do you dispise the work I've given YOU to do? Can you keep your head down, stop worrying about my other servants? Can you do what I gave you to do? Can you do it well, no matter who notices? With no accolades?

I don't want to let envy lead me to rebellion. How about you?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

My Rear View Mirror

Some of you know that I love to ride my bicycle.

In the spring, usually before summer weather starts, I work hard to increase my weekly mileage. It isn't easy riding in "iffy" weather. Yesterday, I rode a fast twenty miles trying to beat the rain. And I noticed the most unusual thing. Looking in my rearview mirrow (attached to my sunglasses) it seemed that all the great weather was behind me. In my mirror, the sky was blue with fluffy white clouds. Ahead, all I could see was a dark low-lying sky. It was cold and windy, and I kept wondering why I was riding AWAY from the good stuff!

The same thing happened to the Israelites in the book of Numbers. (In chapter 11) While they were in transit, they made the mistake of looking in their rear view mirrors -- and all they saw were the good things they left behind in Egypt. They missed the vegatables, the meat, the fish, the melons. And at the same time, they began to scorn the manna -- the white stuff that God sent onto the ground every night -- which was his provision for them in the wilderness.

"And day after day we have nothing to eat but this manna!"

God's anger blazed against the people there -- he sent fire among them and destroyed the outskirts of the camp. And some of us would think he over reacted. Seems a little over the top, eh?

But remember these are the same people who cried out for deliverance from their slavery. The same people who lived through the plagues. Who left Egypt wearing the jewelry belonging to their masters. They walked over the dry ground at the bottom of the Red Sea. They saw Pharaoh's army drown.

These were the same people who had this promise, "I have come to rescue them from the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt into their own good and spacious land. It is a land flowing with milk and honey..." (Exodus 3:8)

You see this account is written about peole who were BETWEEN. They were between the slavery and the promised land. They'd been rescued, yes. But the good stuff was still to come. Does that sound familiar? So, in the hard place -- the desert -- they got to romanticizing the comfort of their old homes. "Oh yeah, slavery wasn't so bad, was it? I didn't mind, considering all the melons we got to eat!"

The lesson here is that God wanted his people to be patient for the goodstuff. To remember their deliverance. To be thankful for his provision even in the BETWEEN places.

He wants that of me too. To be patient while waiting for the good things he promises me. To remember his mighty deliverance in my life. To be thankful always for his provision in the middle, in the BETWEEN places.

Okay. I can do that. I can choose gratitude and patience. And when even gratitude seems impossible, I can ask for him to make me willing to be willing... Sometimes that's where I have to start. How about you? Where have you learned to be grateful in the BETWEEN places? Bette

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A new book; A new look

I've finished Luke's Gospel account, and though perhaps I should blog on the resurrection, I'm going to pass -- except for a few comments. Here goes... In Luke 24 Jesus is seen alive (after his crucifiction) by no less than fourteen different people. Now considering the importance of the resurrecion -- Jesus' overcoming the grave proved his claim to be God -- it impresses me that this many people saw him alive after his death. Other gospel accounts mention even more first hand witnesses. So, my question comes down to this; If I wanted to completely debunk Jesus, I'd only have to come up with his dead body. Why didn't anyone do that? It should have been easy. There should have been hundreds of volunteers, eager to track him down. Why not? Perhaps because there was no body to be found?

I started the book of Numbers last night, finishing in chapter 3. (I typically read the Bible before bed). Most folks feel like the book of Numbers (the fourth book of the Old Testament) is right up there with the top three boring books of the Bible. I probably wouldn't disagree. But last night, I discovered something new. Naturally, God's accounting (numbering) of the people serves several purposes.

1. It stresses the importance of Geneology. These family records were kept with remarkable accuracy up to the time of Jesus' birth. Luke's gospel gave us a detailed record of Jesus' family history from Joseph (his adoptive father) all the way to Adam. They confirm Jesus' roots in the tribe of Judah -- a prediction from the Old Testament. In Numbers, we see the beginning of this kind of accurate record keeping. God is preparing a way to confirm his Old Testament prophecies.

2. The instructions in Numbers gave order to the movement of what some authorities say may have been more than 3 million people. By placing the people in clans and giving them the same camping positions -- day after day -- around the Tabernacle, the ordeal of breaking camp and moving out was changed from total chaos to organized mobilization -- not unlike a modern army. Numbers gives us a picture of the practical nature of God's instructions.

3. Numbers provides an introduction of a critically important Biblical principle. REDEMPTION. In Numbers 3:40, the Lord tells Moses to count the firstborn sons in Israel, older than one month. (Firstborns, remember, belong to the LORD) Then, he makes this statement. "The Levites will be reserved for me as substitutes for the firstborn sons of Israel; I am the LORD... (45) The Levites will be mine; I am the LORD. To redeem the 273 firstborn sons of Israel who are in excess of the number of Levites, collect fifve pieces of silver for each person... So, Moses collected redemption money for the firstborn sons of Israel."

Even in this boring Old Testament book, we begin to get a picture of redemption -- that is God's willingness to trade item A for item B in order to BUY BACK. Because all the firstborn of everything belong to God, he offers a way for the people to buy back their firstborns -- that is by trading them for the Levites, and by paying for each firstborn OVER the number of Levites. The Levites (who spend their lives in priestly service) then belong to God (who is satisfied by the redemption) and the firstborn of other tribes are able to continue their lives -- with wives and children and obligations.

It is one of many early pictures of substitution -- in this case Levites for Firstborns. And it is an important principle preparing God's peopel to understand the death of an animal as a substitute payment for sin.This sin payment (also an Old Testament picture) prepares us to understand Jesus' Death in payment for our own sin.

So, even in the first three chapters of Numbers, we see God reaching out to his people, trying to help them understand who he is, what he demands of them, and most important of all, to understand his remarkable provision for their eternal life.

Whodathunkit? All of that in Numbers? What did you see?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Is that all there is?

I've read through Luke's Gospel through chapter 23; and I find the timing of my reading and my life converging once again. You see this week, my life hit a bump. I had a disappointment, a conflict -- a problem that has caused much sadness, and loss of sleep. I don't take these things lightly.

And here I am reading about Jesus trial, the very event that would bring an end to his life. When I might be tempted to slide into hopelessness over a broken relationship, I read about people who faced a despair deeper than any I have ever known. Jesus' friends faced the end of something too, the loss of hope. The end of Jesus' life signaled the end of promise. Had they been tricked? Had they been fools? Were they second guessing their own wisdom in following this strange, but powerful man/god?

When things look bleak, it's tempting to ask, "Is that all there is?"

In chapter 23, verse 3, Pilate asks Jsus, "Are you the king of the Jews?" And Jesus answers, "It is as you say." Then TWICE Pilate makes it clear that he finds NOTHING in Jesus worthy of death. (verse 15). And he offers to flog Jesus and release him.

Instead the people ask for Jesus' death.

Even in his last hours, Jesus evokes a miriad of responses in the people he contacts. The crowd wants to kill him. One criminal wants to make fun of him. The other asks for mercy. The captain of the Roman soldiers (managing the execution) finds himself convinced that Jesus was innocent. Even after Jesus death, Joseph, a member of the Jewish high council, risks claiming the body -- to wrap it, and lay it in a tomb.

Imagine for the moment, going to bed on the night of Jesus death. Wouldn't you be asking yourself? Is that all there is? What do we do now? Remember that his friends hadn't read the whole book. They didn't see ressurection Sunday coming (though they'd certainly been warned).

The same is true for me. Today, this relationship looks hopeless. I don't see how it can ever be restored. I'm frustrated, misunderstood, accused. Parts of me don't even want to try to fix it. I'd like to bury it and move on.

But the message of Jesus' death is this: What you SEE is NOT what you get. Tomorrow is a new day. It has new potential. A new story. A new resurrecton. God can see what you cannot. He has a plan. A new answer, that you cannot possibly see from here. So in the words of Nicole Nordeman, "Hold on, He's right behind you. Hold on, Love will find you."

It's easy to remember the Ressurection Sundays -- the marriages saved, the children healed, the churches restored -- but don't forget those answers while you face the darkest days. Don't allow yourself to be lost to the despair.

Whatever dark Friday you may be facing. Hold on, Love will find a way! Bette

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Upside Down Kingdom

Not everyone responds to these blogs online. Recently, one of my friends questioned me by email. "How can you just skip over the passage that said, 'if you have two coats, give one away?' How can we Christians live so comfortably in a world that so desperately needs our help? How can I justify all that I own?"

Tough questions, yes?

I can answer in a couple of ways. First, in the passage I mentioned last time, the context indicates that Jesus is speaking to a man who has NOT YET come to faith. And, in his present condition, this man's abundant wealth was somehow keeping him from coming to belive in God, and the person of Jesus. The passage doesn't tell us how. Was it his love for stuff? Was it his concern for maintaining the stuff? Was it his passion to accumulate MORE stuff? All of those things can hang us up, can't they?

And the other passage, (the one my friend mentions, the give away your coat section) has an entirely different context -- one that brings us to today's blogging item. The UPSIDE DOWN KINGDOM.

In Luke 22:25 Jesus says, "In this world, the kings and great men order their people around, and yet they are called 'friends of the people.' But among you, those who are the greatest should take the lowest rank and the leader should be like a servant. Normally the master sits at the table and is served by his servants. But not here! For I am your servant!"

Jesus is saying here, (and it is emphasized in many other passages) that this new Kingdom, the one he is ushering into place will be very different than the kingdoms of the world. In the world, leaders expect deferential treatment, limos at the airport, free perks, goody bags with diamonds and cash. But in the kingdom of God, leaders must be servants. They must lay down their own lives to serve those they lead.

This is only one of the many many ways that the Kingdom is UNLIKE the world. We'll probably cover dozens more in the months to come.

Still, this is tough information. For me, I think of this in my writing life. I bring it to my publishing life. I tried always to bring it to my drama team at church. I remember it every time I speak at a retreat. The leader is the servant.

In practical ways, it means that I come to listen more than speak. It means that I try help retreat coordinators both ahead of time, and at the retreat location. It means that I serve the women I speak to, by listening and caring and praying with them about their concerns and struggles. It may mean that I maintain a relationship with a particular woman even months after I leave their retreat. I tried to meet the needs of my drama team, by praying with and for them as we worked together. In the publishing world, it means that I tried to serve my editors and marketing staff by knowing them as individuals, praying for them, sending encouraging notes and always saying thanks when it was appropriate. No matter how it happens, these words from Jesus mean that after I work and work and work as a leader, I must continue to lay down my life and serve some more.

It's not the world's way. It's not the way the Queen of England behaved on her last trip to the US. It isn't the way presidential candidates want their speaking tours to go. It isn't the way of Hollywood. It isn't the way of publishing.

But when you enter the kingdom of God, things are turned upside down.

What things do you do as a servant leader? And in the years you've served in the kingdom, what ways have you seen the kingdom is upside down compared to the world? Are there ways we still need to apply this servant leader principle in the Kingdom of God? Have we failed you in some way? Let's talk! Bette