Candy and I spent most of the morning writing back and forth about questions regarding the definition of Christians and evangelicals and current events that troubled her. While we may not have the same political leanings that does not prevent us from having honest and prolonged discussion. She ended our time with kind words and greetings to my family. Candy is one of the most warm-hearted persons I know and it is always a privilege to be around her.
2 John 6—And this is love: that we walk according to His commands. This is the command as you have heard it from the beginning: you must walk in love.
The first Biblical reference to love God is recorded in Exodus 20:6. Moses teaches the Israelites to keep God’s commands and thereby demonstrate their love for Him. So, when John defines love in his letter to his readers, he is not sharing with them a new concept. But, as we all know, it is hard to walk in love with God. How do we strengthen willpower to be better God-lovers and, in the process, improve loving others and ourselves?
Professor Richard Wisemen set up a website where users could submit jokes and then rate the funniest one. The winning joke goes like this:
"A couple of hunters are out in the woods when one of them falls to the ground. He doesn't seem to be breathing, and his eyes are rolled back in his head. The other guy whips out his cell phone and calls emergency services. He gasps to the operator, “My friend is dead. What can I do?” The operator says, “Just take it easy. I can help. First, let's make sure he’s dead.” There is a silence, then a shot is heard. The guy’s voice comes back on the line. He says, “OK, now what?”
Pastor Brady Boyd walked over to an old radio he had set up as a prop for his message. After turning on the battery-powered machine he slowly moved the knob in search of stations within range. The point he was making is that often we seek God’s voice but all we hear is static. And so he asked a rhetorical question: What keeps us from hearing God?
Luke 22:36-38—Then He said to them, “But now, whoever has a money-bag should take it, and also a traveling bag. And whoever doesn’t have a sword should sell his robe and buy one. For I tell you, what is written must be fulfilled in Me. And He was counted among the outlaws. Yes, what is written about Me is coming to its fulfillment.”
“Lord,” they said, “look, here are two swords.”
“Enough of that!” He told them.
The cockpit of a C17 military transport aircraft is amazing. As the two young Air Force Captains went through their preflight checklist, I was astounded by all the instruments they and their crew chief had to monitor and operate before we could taxi down the runway in Stockholm. While I watched from my rear perch, I listened on headphones to the tower. The chatter from the air traffic controllers to incoming and outgoing aircraft was virtually nonstop. As our pilots were busily engaged the tower called their call sign and passed instructions. The male captain asked his female copilot if she heard what was said and she nodded no. Because I was undistracted and heard the message, I was able to convey what they missed. Each time they received instructions they repeated them back to the controller to ensure the transmission was accurately understood. This was a great fail safe for everyone involved and reinforced how important it was to listen.
Kathleen and I are trying to find the right company to help us refinance our home. Each of the four brokers we spoke with gave us compelling reasons to refinance with his or her particular company. We were uncertain as to who was really giving us the best option. Finally, we sat down with a broker in his office and listened as he explained why his option was the best for us. Before he went into his pitch he told us about his family and about a solar energy project he was working to help people bring their energy costs down. At some point in the meeting, I distinctly in my heart “heard” the Lord tell me that this was the man who would help us refinance. It was sort of a surreal moment. Yet, I instantly had peace about our choice and course of action.
If the weather is good, I love driving Bell Road! This five-mile curvy route affords a clear view of Mount Hood, the town of Newberg, forestland and beautiful farm country. But along Bell are two spots where I lose cell phone reception. If I’m engaged in conversation with someone, I have to keep driving until I can regain the signal before redialing.
I am convinced that I have found one of the causes of cancer—it’s a small mass of cells that when left on its own rapidly grows into a destructive monster. The cells are called assumptions.
My house has been on the Oregon market for ten months and counting. Recently, my wife and I decided to pull the listing. Now we are faced with several decisions. Do we rent? Do we try and sell with a different realtor? What other options are there for this morass of uncertainty?
I am continuously amazed at how effectively Satan derails relationships among Christians through bad reports and conflict. Teams of people who functioned well in ministry become divided. Churches split. Friendships end often without either party working hard to find the source of the problem. How quickly we believe bad information about fellow believers without bothering to investigate the facts or appreciate the potential for misunderstanding. I realize why bad news sells newspapers—trouble is as attractive as a bug-zapper. But how sad it is that Christians so easily judge and condemn each other at the expense of God’s kingdom when we should be champions of forbearance.
By June of 1997 our church was $11,000 in debt to a property owner who raised our maintenance costs. Because of the $3000 monthly property bill I went six months without a salary as the pastor. God sustained my family through the generosity of a senior citizen who attended Horizon Community Church. An opportunity arose for us to merge with another wonderful church that served in a nearby community and, like ourselves, was about five years old. We prayed. We held several meetings. I championed the plan and was supported by many people who eagerly shared Scripture and a sense that the Holy Spirit was directing us. It seemed that God had given us a great opportunity. So we dissolved and were absorbed into a larger, healthier body of believers.
Joel 2:28,32a--After this I will pour out My Spirit on all humanity; then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men will have dreams, and your young men will see visions . . . Then everyone who calls on the name of Yahweh will be saved . . .
The husky man stopped gathering firewood to check on his son. He scanned the surroundings with no lad in sight. “Nicholas!” Again and again he yelled his son’s name and was met by silence. I could see by his face and body language his rising fear. Nicholas was happily peddling his tricycle around the track the last time I saw him. He waved at me as I went running by him. But now he was nowhere to be seen. Fowler Middle School’s track is adjacent to Fanno Creek and woods. A young boy could easily get lost or hurt. So I stopped running to join the father’s search. I found Nicholas dragging his wheels on the far side of the creek seemingly oblivious to his father’s cries. Days later, I can still hear “Nicholas!” ringing in my ears. I remember the look of gratitude in a father’s eyes. And I’m compelled to think about listening.
Why is it that the one year you get a flu shot you get the flu? Why does your dog shake off muddy water next to you when you’ve just changed into good clothes? Why does your husband get sick on the day you’re supposed to go on a family vacation? Why is it that the day you’re ready to complete your project the power goes out? Why do microphones work fine in rehearsal but then screech during the play? Why do people get mad at other drivers right after leaving church? Why do camera batteries go dead just when your son takes his first steps? Why does some stranger’s toddler pitch a fit at the climax of your daughter’s recital?
Jenny and Joe are back. Don’t talk to them about ministry or what happened after six months in Kuala Lumpur. They’re hurting right now and it will take some time for them to settle. They left with a banquet and profound expectations they returned bankrupt their confidence dashed.
You walk outside to pick up your mail when a brilliant flash momentarily blinds you. Before you hovers a Being of glorious light—it is the Lord. You reach out your hand and welcome Him and ask Him to come inside. How exciting you think, a chance to show your Savior your home. So you walk Him around. “Look Lord at the beautiful wallpaper we used in our family room. Oh, you must come up and see the hot tub—our favorite hangout. In here is where the kids sleep. Watch out for all the toys—I really wish they’d pick up after themselves. By the way, check out the new wheels I got in the garage. Isn’t this a sweet SUV!” Time out.
If being right is most important, listening may be a lost cause. There is a cost for preferring stubbornness to sensitivity, opinion to grace. For isn’t it true that there still remain churches:
A man walked into his garden distressed. As he bent to water his plants he noticed the pathetic condition of the snail-eaten leaves. Beside the plant grew weeds making it hard to discern friend from predator. What an overwhelming battle he thought. What chance has beauty to blossom against the constant threat of bug and weed? Yet as he looked more closely, he observed strong vibrant shoots emerging from weary stems. Then the Lord spoke to him.
Silence is golden. It is a paradoxical potion to a stressed spirit. I say paradoxical because often in our busyness we cry out for God and we cannot hear Him. He may seem absent from the roar of everyday life. Indeed, I wonder if we crowd Him out by out incessant action. No wonder He impressed upon the sons of Korah “He says, 'Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth'” (Psalm 46:10--NIV).