Category Archives: Articles

Growth Through Removal (part 2)

I love our chiropractor for a myriad of reasons, one of which is their overarching philosophy and approach: God designed your body to heal itself. We simply remove whatever is in the way of inhibiting that flow of healing. Your body does the rest–the real work. There have been so many times in which they have helped me through some sort of injury, and I tell them “Thank you,” and they respond with, “Hey, we just got everything out of the way to free your body up to do the work of healing itself.”

Jesus, if we allow Him, simply frees us up so that we can experience His healing touch upon our very lives. When nothing is blocking our view, we realize He is always with us, always good, and and always out for us–for our very best.

I keep the Lord in mind always. Because He is at my right hand I will not be shaken.   ~Psalm 16:8

What is holding you back from keeping the Lord in mind always?

It is extremely likely that it is is something within your control or something the Holy Spirit will assist you in removing.

On Charlottesville

Romans 12:15

Celebrate with those who are celebrating, mourn with the mourners.
[New Testament for Everyone]

There’s been much on my heart this week. The Spirit has directed me to Paul’s first letter to Timothy, which I look forward to sharing with you soon. A close friend has been in the hospital. Our daughters went back to school, and that was joyful to the nth degree for them. A friend’s daughter took her own life last Saturday….

Yet what is on the forefront of about everyone’s mind are the events of Charlottesville. Personally, I have so many jumbled thoughts, that I feel it best to let someone else speak. My friend Jermayne Chapman wrote “An Open Letter to Pastors” this past Sunday that is beyond worth sharing.

So thank you, Jermayne, for sharing so freely, my brother.

Here is the post in its entirety:

An Open Letter to Pastors this Sunday Morning, August 13, 2017

Good Morning,

I hope you are well this Sunday. I’m sure you are caught up in last minute prep for Sunday morning.

In light of the events that happened in Charlottesville, VA, I wanted to challenge you this Sunday morning. I wanted to challenge to not remain silent this Sunday morning on what just happened in our country.

Somewhere in the service, preferably towards the beginning, you need to acknowledge what happened in Charlottesville. You will need to call out racism and denounce white supremacy. That’s not a political thing, it’s the right thing. You will need to weep with those who are hurting, both physically and emotionally. Not based on whether or not you fully understand why someone may be hurting. You need to do this even if everyone in your congregation looks like you. Because everyone in your congregation will need to hear how they should respond when they observe racism or when a co-worker, a friend or a neighbor suffers from the pain of a racist experience. You will need to pray for healing and peace.

This is a lot to ask, so I’ve taken the time to write out what you can say in case you have no time to prepare.

“Many of you may already be aware of the events that took place this weekend in Charlottesville. As we have learned from Jesus and the Parable of the Good Samaritan, white supremacy is wrong and has no place in our church or in our society. While there are those who are hurting from direct involvement, many more brothers and sisters have been traumatized by the occurrence of these events and the reminder they create of our shared history and the parts of that still persist today. The Apostle Paul encourages us in Romans 12 to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. It is in that spirit as well as that of the Good Samaritan that I would like for us to take the time to pray. Pray for all of those who are hurting. We need to pray for justice to prevail in the terrorist attack yesterday. We need to pray for the Body of Christ to continue to reject the sin of racism in all its forms and be the healing balm our society deeply needs right now. Let us pray….”

Feel free to use this or parts of this. Feel free to do something in the spirit of this. You can do many things, but one this you can not do…YOU CAN NOT BE SILENT ON THIS.

In coaching leaders, I like to give a ‘Good-Better-Best’ option. A ‘Good’ option would be to condemn what happened and pray for those who are hurting, both physically and emotionally. A ‘Better’ option would be to pray and speak from scripture about why this is wrong and how we as the Body of Christ should respond. And of course, the ‘Best’ option would be to completely redo the Sunday morning service to take the time to address this from scripture and allow people time to pray and process.

Since ‘Better’ and ‘Best’ both involve great planning and you need to preach in a few hours, I’ve offered a ‘Good’ solution. I challenge you to create a ‘Better’ and ‘Best’ option for your congregation at some point. If you need help, let me know. Thank you for how you serve and I’m praying for you today.

Embracing the Thorn — by Joel Vestal

paul-in-prison

2 Corinthians 12:8

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  

“Life is lived forward but understood looking backwards,” wrote Danish philosopher, theologian, and poet Søren Kierkegaard in the 19th century.

Paul, author of 13 books of the New Testament,  wrote about a thorn in his flesh from 2 Corinthians 12. When he wrote this,  It was 23 years after the Damascus road and he was on his third missionary journey. He has a few more battle wounds of life perhaps, and is older and embracing a mysterious paradox,  “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (vs10)   Paul’s thorn is a mystery, and he does not write what it was exactly, and this is important.  Some have  speculated  it was his eyesight or other physical ailment.  Perhaps it was other earthly passions that we all men battle:  wine, women, or wealth (or some deviation thereof).  Was it a thorn Paul brought upon himself?  Was it a thorn that “life” brought upon him? Maybe a combination of the two?  If we did know exactly what this “thorn” was, we would sure slip into discouragement if we had a “thorn” he did not have.  Indeed, this is a key reminder of the inspiration of Scripture by the Holy Spirit.  A timeless truth for all ages, struggles/situations that rises above the pages we read and can birth in our souls faith and hope (or rebirth), even in the lowest valleys of life.

With a divorce finalized and making a decision to enter into a rehabilitation center,  I was at the end of my rope.  No, I was not at the end. I had let go of the rope.  You know what happened?   God stepped in a weak, broken soul and my discovery of the grace and mercy of God was waiting.  That “dunamis” power was experienced far beyond any successes and accomplishments of the past.   I was introduced to the strength and might of God in a fresh way and embraced a new outlook and interpretation of not just my own ‘thorns’ but the world around me.

That “power” Jesus speaks to Paul in verse 9 is the Greek word “dunamis”.  It is one of four Greek words for ‘power’ in the New Testament.  Dunamis is where we derive our English word dynamite from.   However, God’s power is not a public spectacle like an explosion or bolt of lightning. [Remember God’s dialogue with Elijah? (1 Kings 19)  God’s presence was not in the earthquake, fire, or wind but in the whisper.]

Need a fresh discovery of this “Dunamis” power for your own “thorn”?

I suggest 3 easy reminders that I practice daily.   The H.O.W. of transformation!

H = Honesty of the ‘thorn’

O=  Open Mindedness  (to that Dunamis Power)

W = Willingness  (for surrender and change)

 

The Main Thing – by Larry Medcalfe

“The Main Thing”

“Make the main thing, the main thing!” I don’t remember which coach at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes camp first said it, but I have never forgotten it. Although it sounds like double talk, it’s actually a great reminder of how to determine priorities in life. What’s really most important? What are the essentials for making the best decisions, developing fine tuned disciplines, and growing the deepest relationships? Those essentials are what that same coach would describe as mastering the fundamentals; understanding and executing the basics. It’s when those rudimentary things are consistently embraced that great things are possible. What defines a truly devoted follower of Jesus…knowing and living out His basics. And how does Jesus describe those basics? “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you…learn from me …remain in me and my love…obey me…follow me.” Get the picture? Jesus’ main thing is Jesus himself.

“Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:17)

Arguably one of the best Biblical examples of “making the main thing, the main thing” was in Mary of Bethany’s encounter with Jesus as recorded in Luke 10:38-42. I love this account for many reasons but mostly for the clear message Jesus communicated regarding what was most important to him. Mary’s sister, Martha, had good intentions  but they fell short of what Jesus needed from her. Mary understood what was necessary and she did the “one thing” that Jesus required by sitting at the feet of Jesus “listening to what he said”. More than anything else Jesus wants to build an intimate relationship with us and that is only possible when we make his main thing, the main thing. Are there any good intentions in your life that are falling short of what Jesus needs from you? Is Jesus’ “one thing” a daily reality for you?

“God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in him.” (John Piper)

PART II

At the close of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, Elizabeth’s father questioned her decision to stay with Will Turner. The Governor reminded her that Will was just a blacksmith. She emphatically corrected her father by saying, “No, he’s a pirate!” His identity had been lost to a life as a buccaneer. Are you willing to lose your identity to Jesus? Mary did in Matthew 26:6-13. Her time doing “the one thing” that Jesus required prepared her to do “a beautiful thing” to Jesus, anointing his head with expensive perfume. Her undaunted devotion was an imitation of Jesus’ impact on the world; costly, controversial, humble, and memorable. When you spend time with Jesus you can’t help but start thinking like him and acting like him. Are you ready to be identified with Jesus by doing “a beautiful thing” to him and for him?

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:5)

PART III

Indiana is the kingdom of basketball, and for me, the king who reigns is homegrown, hall of famer Larry Bird. I still love watching video of his playing days and reading of how he developed average athleticism into one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Larry was all about “making the main thing, the main thing”. His work ethic is legendary. He was always the first to arrive at the arena and the last to leave. His passion to play well was off the charts, he was extremely fit, and he never ceased honing the fundamentals of the game. He said he wanted to be prepared for anything. Are you prepared for anything? I believe Mary was. To me, Mary is a spiritual hall of famer. She kept her spirit fit by sitting at the feet of Jesus (Luke 10:38-42), her passion for Jesus was demonstrated by her walking in the steps of Jesus (Matthew 26:6-13), and as she honed the fundamentals of her faith, Jesus opened her eyes to see him in a new light when he raised her brother from the dead (John 11:28-44). Jesus commended Mary for her spiritual work ethic.

What might he say about yours?

Are you pursuing the “one thing” he requires?                                                                                                                         Are you giving the “beautiful thing” he receives?                                                                                                                     Are you receptive to the “new things” he wants to reveal to you?

“Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken from her.” (Luke 10:42)

PART IV: CONCLUSION

Wow, how this week has flown? Where’d the time go? How am I going to get everything done? I know what the “main thing” is, but how do I make it the “main thing” with so much on my plate? Sound familiar? Charles Hummel calls this the “tyranny of the urgent” in his small but powerful booklet of the same name. An acquaintance once told him that, “Your greatest danger is letting the urgent things crowd out the important”. In other words, how do you determine your priorities? If you’re like me, the things that you really want to do will get done one way or the other. Jesus wants to be our top priority just as his Father was his top priority while he ministered on earth. In spite of fatigue, the demands of his disciples, the distractions from his opposition, and the needs of the multitudes Jesus knew how important “the main thing” was to his ministry. To borrow a tag from Nike, you might say he “just did it!” The love for his Father and his desire to obey him was far more important than the urgent matters that he would face every day (Mark 1:35). Don’t let the urgent in your life crowd out the most important relationship you’ll ever have. “Just do it!”

“If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching…” (John 14:23)

Next to the Bible, Oswald Chamber’s My Utmost for His Highest is the most significant book I read regularly. I’d like for OC to conclude our thoughts with his own insights on “MAKING THE MAIN THING, THE MAIN THING”.

“Think about your circumstances. Are you so closely identified with the Lord’s life that you are simply a child of God, continually talking to him and realizing that everything comes from the Father’s hands? Is the grace of his ministering life being worked out through you in your home, your business, and in your circle of friends (which includes our precious 3 footers)? The life of your Lord is to become your vital, simple life, and the way he worked and lived among people while here on earth must be the way he works and lives in you.”

~Oswald Chambers

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21

Back to Basics – by Larry Medcalfe

kindergarten_kids

After forty plus years of ministry I have finally discovered my signature age group, preschoolers. Three days a week I have the privilege to be exhilarated and exhausted working at a Christian Daycare with 3, 4, and 5 year olds. Recently while reading to some of my kiddos I was reminded of a refreshingly fun book I read a number of years ago entitled Everything I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum. I wholeheartedly agree with Fulghum’s simple assessment; “Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at Sunday School.”

As I watched the sights and listened to the sounds in my classroom I found myself longing for a world that emphasized the basics of life like they were emphasized in our classroom. Consider what our world would be like if everyone shared everything, played fair, didn’t hit people, cleaned up their own messes, didn’t take things that weren’t theirs, said sorry when they hurt someone, used inside voices and loved all of the time. Throw in The Golden Rule, flushing the toilet, Stop-Look-Listen, washing your hands before eating, cookies and milk and a nap in the afternoon, holding hands, giving hugs and smiles and then perhaps we could sing along with Sam Cooke of the 60s, “What a wonderful world this would be”.

Then I got to thinking why our world often isn’t a wonderful place to be; it’s people. We’re the problem. We’re selfish, we cheat, we hit emotionally as well as physically, we get even, we complicate the simple, we leave our messes for someone else to clean up, we steal, we don’t know how to say I’m sorry or I forgive you, we’re loud and obnoxious, we’re too busy, and we’re self-serving. Now we’re not all guilty of all these attitudes all of the time, but we all could plead guilty to many of them. We can blow it off by saying “no one’s perfect,” but that still doesn’t solve our world’s woes. How far we have wandered from the simple lessons learned when we were so impressionable, so teachable, so trusting, so obedient.

We can’t change the fact that we are all imperfect people living in an imperfect world but we can decide to draw upon the only perfect source to bring back the wonderful into our world. Perfect comes from the one who is called Wonderful; Jesus. And Jesus’ plan to impact the world through His kingdom can only be accessed and experienced by returning to our childish roots; back to basics. Jesus was very adamant in his expectations when he declared: “Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in. Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them” (Mark 10:13-16, The Message).

Jesus is the only one who can bless a life, a family, a nation, and a world with what they are so sorely missing. All he asks is that we step into his kingdom kindergarten and bring our impressionable spirit, our teachable mind, our trusting heart, and our obedient will back to his basics.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”                            (1 Peter 2:9, NIV).

Make Peace – by Happy Robin Shaw

shawpallikan

Matthew 5:9

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.  

Peace-MAKERS. My pastor, Bruce Bradburn, emphasized this almost prophetically two weeks ago. He took great pains to emphasize that the scripture doesn’t applaud peace-KEEPING, peace-LOVING, or being peace-ABLE, it specifically blesses peace-MAKERS. This was seriously NOT good news for me, a person who prides herself on being conflict averse – letting things go, going with the flow, and not making waves. When I do run into conflict, I back up – FAST. So how, exactly, was he suggesting that I MAKE peace? Isn’t that Jesus’ job???

Well, no.

This “incident” came to mind.

A few years ago I was minding my own business in the hallway of my children’s elementary school when someone shouts out (in a crowded hallway mind you), “Your hair looks different every day!” Sensing the taboo about to be trodded upon by the white father who had dared to call attention to this fact, another mother turned around and said, “You don’t ask a black woman about her hair!” Yikes. What started as a joke landed him right in the cross hairs of two black women – a dangerous place to be.

We could have walked away and left it there. Or it could have become a major situation calling for meetings, task forces, and sensitivity training but instead I said, “It’s okay. I can recommend some books and movies. Let’s get together and talk about it!” Our families had dinner. It turned out that this father had many questions, comments, and thoughts (and no filter) so we had a great conversation. One conversation turned into many – always with open minds and open hearts. And so the battering ram of racial reconciliation was born! Our families became the close friends and our children are betrothed (or so we hope, as racism will most certainly be erased when everyone is black/white/hispanic).

Each of us can do what our two families did because each of us has what Paul referred to as a “ministry of reconciliation” in 2 Corinthians 5:18-19.

“Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us a ministry of reconciliation, that is that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.”

Therefore, according to this scripture we should be constantly reconciling – people to God and people to each other. It sounds so simple but, of course it isn’t. When tempers are running high and real hurt has been caused by things said or done, it can be the most difficult thing in the world to reconcile. Consider our recent election. Everyone felt the rage and venom coming from the other side and everyone was shocked at the outcome. Yet, now it is time to move forward, accepting the verdict, and looking hopefully toward the future knowing that God never leaves or forsakes us, that love conquers all, and that we have this “ministry of reconciliation” – we were called to this.

I know what you’re thinking. But, how? How do we get past some of the things we have seen and heard recently? God never leaves us without a plan. The “how” is right there in the scripture……”not imputing their trespasses to them”. Not judging, or blaming, or holding past wrongs against the offenders. Choosing the path of grace and mercy, choosing to see the good, and choosing to search for the answers.

A friend from church shared an article describing what life is really like for much of middle America and a heartfelt explanation that there is a group of people out there who are really (and validly) hurting, demoralized, and angry. I’m not saying that spewing hate is right, but I am saying that there is real pain behind the venom. You don’t have to agree with someone to acknowledge that they have feelings too, even if you don’t understand them. This simple affirmation (without forcing the acknowledgment of who’s pain is worse) goes a long way toward reconciliation and forgiveness.

Oh, and Pastor Bruce mentioned that reconciliation would be messy, and sometimes painful. Peace-MAKING is active – not just being peace-ABLE but actively bringing people/family members/political parties/races together. Invite someone to coffee, explain your point of view and listen to theirs remembering that it is as difficult to hear truth as it is to speak truth. These won’t be easy conversations but God, through the power of His Spirit, will strengthen us, help us understand each other, and help us find the path to reconciliation.

After all, we believers are the recipients of the greatest act of reconciliation that the world has ever known. Wouldn’t it bring great glory to God to see us all out there exercising restraint and making peace instead of fueling the flames of war? If we do, we shall be called “children of God” (and hey, who doesn’t want to be friends with the children of God?)

SJB

retreat-5-15

For today’s Ripple, I asked my good friend, Samuel J. Blandina, to write an account of an experience he had a few weeks back. [That’s him on the far right at one of our men’s retreats]

SJB here.  I was at the gym where I do some work out of two weeks ago, just working out on my own. As a corrective exercise specialist I often see BAD stuff in the gym, as in, awful form, poor exercise choice, etc. My greatest challenge is not to judge in arrogance, which breeds contempt, one of satan’s very effective tools. If I see the bad, and don’t speak His name–Jesus, I drop my shield and get reamed by evil as I judge the other into oblivion. In this particular instance of witnessing what I did not approve of, I said not a word, but my body talk was blatantly condeming near a trainer working with a client. And I was called out for it. Ouch!  The trainer said to me, “Go shake your head somewhere else.” I was crushed, ashamed, and felt like I’d been slapped in the face. It took about 60 seconds before I could hear Jesus, “Go now and humble yourself.” So I go up to this young man and tell him I was wrong and ask him to please forgive me. I almost left in shame right then, but stayed to finish what I intended to do for my workout. I was in turmoil.

All day long I could hear that rebuking sentence, “Go shake your head somewhere else,” and it just despaired my heart. It hurt deeply. I prayed for clarity and peace, as I was torn and restless. I heard scripture: “If you bring your gift to the altar, and have ought against your brother or sister, leave your gift there, go reconcile yourself to them, then come back and offer your gift.” OK.  So I went to bed. It took a bit to fall to sleep … I woke at 3am, and my heart was calm….Jesus.

I saw this person as I was working with a client later in the week. I thought I would call, or send a card to apologize, but knew face to face was the necessary, and hardest, thing to do. So be it. Face to face I confessed my unprofessional and immature behavior, and asked for forgiveness. He was most gracious and kind. A huge weight was lifted off me. And I realized that was the richest gift I could ever receive. And it came from the power under, the unseen, intangible, yep, His name again, Jesus. He has changed me.

Without saying a word we can cause as much harm (with our body language) as we can with words.

Keep that armor on.

We are at war….

Holy Affirmations

tozer-56-small

One of my favorite authors, A.W. Tozer, set for himself what he called “holy affirmations.” These were agreements he made for himself that significantly enhanced his Christian walk.

He shared his own personal agreements, not to tell everyone to do the exact same, but to get you started on thinking of and crafting your own as needed specifically for you. Here are his:

  • Determine before God never to own anything. He did not mean here to literally have zero possessions. He lived by the principle that anything you are not willing to give up actually owns you. So to own nothing meant to be detached from all things, even if they are in your possession. “Take everything and say that God has it. Do not imagine for a minute that if you give God 10 percent, you are okay and can keep the remaining 90 percent. God must have 100 percent…If there is anything that you own that God cannot have, you cannot have God. God has a right to command whatever He wants the moment He wants it.”
  • Never defend myself. This is a tough one, particularly for Americans, Tozer said. To let God defend you. But I am telling you from my own personal experience, that it is the better way to go. There’s been a few times in which I was thought to have said or did something I simply did not say or do. Instead of defending myself, which usually ends up making you look guiltier than before anyway, I took it to God, gave it to Him, and trusted Him to defend me. And you know what? He did. This one time I’m thinking of, for instance, someone contacted me the day after accusing me of saying something pretty awful, and apologized, for he remembered that it was in fact not me who said it. Thank you, Lord! That went way better than trying to argue my case.
  • Never defame a fellow Christian. How important is this one?? To set a fence up against the toxic territory of gossip and slander of any kind against our brothers and sisters. “By this, I mean never believe evil about him or speak an evil report about him. Remember your past and your own tendency to give in to temptation. I think sometimes the Spirit of God shuts Himself up tight and cannot come upon us because we have defamed a brother or sister Christian. Such an evil report becomes a weapon in the devil’s hand.”
  • Never receive or accept any glory.  Oh how we love glory and getting credit. I love how Dallas Willard would advocate praying for the success of others, even those you don’t particularly like. And the spiritual discipline of secrecy–doing good that no one could possibly know about, and then not telling anyone! Just between you and Papa Yahweh. Kind of the opposite of Michael Scott for those of you who have ever watched “The Office.” There was an episode where he was talking about how he’d like to someday donate anonymously the money to build a hospital, and how we would plan to stand by the “Funded Anonymously” sign and tell passersby, “Hey, you know who did that? Me. I funded that.”