Luke 9:51-56--When the days were coming to a close for Him to be taken up, He determinedto journey to Jerusalem. He sent messengers ahead of Him, and on the way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make preparations for Him. But they did not welcome Him, because He determined to journey to Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” But He turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village.
Since 2014, what consistently is the third most terrorized country in the world? To find your answer you would want to look up the Global Terrorism Index (GTI). This is produced by the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP) based on data from the Global Terrorism Database (GTD). This data is collated by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) led by the University of Maryland. As late as 2017, because of persistent Boko Haram and Fulani militant attacks, Nigeria ranks as the third-most terrorized nation. Only Iraq and Afghanistan rank higher in carnage.
Jess and Jen moved into Rarebucks, a town of 79,000, so Jen could pursue schooling and Jess could work for United Parcel Service (UPS). They didn’t have a lot of money but they did have the faith that God had called them to live there and that He would provide. Sure enough, a favorite uncle gifted Jen with $50,000 and they were able to afford a 20% down payment on a home. Though they were seven hours from both sets of parents, they were happy to put down roots and start a family.
Ross, gave me a book entitled, Why Pray? by John DeVries. It is a 40-day devotional packed with thoughts on prayer. I thought Day 4 titled, “Prayer is filling the gas tank” was particularly profound. John tells the story of a man pushing his car that ran out of gas right past the gas station. When asked why he didn’t pull in and fill his car with gas the man replied that he was too busy as he had just 10 minutes left to get to the church. Can you imagine the absurdity of his reasoning?! John’ s point is that when Christians say they are too busy to pray this logic is as convoluted as a man pushing his car past a gas station.
Ezra 4:1-4--When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple for Yahweh, the God of Israel, they approached Zerubbabel and the leaders of the families and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we also worship your God and have been sacrificing to Him since the time King Esar-haddon of Assyria brought us here.” But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the other leaders of Israel’s families answered them, “You may have no part with us in building a house for our God, since we alone must build it for Yahweh, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia has commanded us.” Then the people who were already in the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build.
Do you remember growing up hearing the rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me!?” The intent of that couplet is to steel us against teasing and badgering but, the reality is, words can internally leave nasty marks. Cruel, mean-spirited, or foul comments may inflict enduring damage and color the way we view the antagonist.
There is an insightful television program called Undercover Boss. Each episode, the owner or CEO of a company is disguised and then works for several days with different employees with differing responsibilities. Often the boss is inept at the tasks the employee is to teach him which puts pressure on him to do better. As he works with each selected person he also finds out what life is like in their shoes. Some are struggling financially or dealing with challenges that make life difficult.
West Point graduates celebrate around the world an annual banquet called Founder’s Day. Within this fellowship tradition is another tradition in which the youngest and oldest graduates in attendance are asked to give a short speech. Recently at a Portland, Oregon gathering, retired Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Knight, class of 1952, delivered the “old grad” speech. He shared a story of “but for God’s grace,” he should not even be in attendance. His soft spoken delivery gave all of us pause to consider the simple importance of asking the right question.
Roman Catholic monk Girolamo Savonarola, (September 21, 1452 – May 23, 1498), was shocked by the immorality in Italy and by the corruption he observed within the church. As a teenager, he walked beside the River Po where he sang to God and wept over the condition of the people. At the age of 22, he wrote “Contempt of the World,” comparing the sins of his time to Sodom and Gomorrah. Years later, while praying, the Holy Spirit gave him a vision in which he was told to announce to the people that hard times were coming to the church.
National holidays can provide a natural period for introspection. As we approach yet another celebration of our nation's independence, I think this year of the word insecurity. In the 1770’s when our forefathers fought for the freedom we celebrate today, they lived in a time of great tumult. Consider this: they faced an opponent far superior in wealth and military might; they knew starvation, harsh weather and disease; they lacked basic supplies in armament, clothing and supplies; and they did not always know who was truly for or against them. But in the midst of uncertainty, doubt and despair the trumpet call for liberty persisted. Men and women strove mightily to worship, speak, live and work upon the foundation of freedom. For that self-determination, insecure lives bled nobly; though pained, pilgrims refused to give up; trepidation clung to truth and the right to dispel tyranny.
Greg is an avid kayaker. Along with his two sons, they decided to make a trip on the Tennessee River. Together they had a great day paddling until they hit a section where five-foot swells continually pounded them. His boys were in larger kayaks and had little difficulty cutting through the waves. Soon they were far away from Greg. But their dad hit a portion in the middle of the river where he could no longer cut through the waves and he began to take on water. With only a water bottle to bail he continued to sink. Calmly recognizing that his life was in serious danger, he prayed, “God, I need Your help, there is nothing I can do.”
Will was getting concerned. He had not received a response from the church where we were scheduled to bring a concert in Tracy, California. Finally, the night before we were to sing and share, he received a call from one of the pastors. An eight year-old girl from one of the families in the church was kidnapped and her body was discovered in a suitcase. Understandably, a broken-hearted church needed to cancel our appearance and meet the needs of a grieving family. Pastor Tim, our host in Sonoma, with only 20 hours notice, scheduled us to minister in his church. We had a fantastic evening of ministry and with the Sonoma church we spent quality time praying for our brothers and sisters in Tracy.
I’m sure you have noticed that the news seems to be getting worse by the week. Tonight I ate dinner with Ken and Brenda and their sons in Charlottesville, Virginia. They were telling me about all the people who have lost jobs in the Richmond area and how thankful they are Ken still has his job. Ken said it hasn’t been this bad in this area since the early 70’s.
Have you ever had a period in life where you felt like an idiot and wish you could crawl in a hole and hide? I think I’m just emerging from the hole.
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.
The Deschutes River in Oregon is 173.4 miles long. It runs through rugged forest and deserted desert sometimes cascading with terrific roar, sometimes ambling like some peaceful toddler. It is a great river to fish for steelhead and salmon. On the lower Deschutes people often come to whitewater raft. And for that experience, my son, Stephen and I, joined 17 folks from Southwest Hills Baptist Church.
It was early in the morning and Doris was cold. She asked Dan if he would warm up the house. So he got up and only barely awake emptied the ashes from the wood stove into the cardboard box and set it behind the stove. Then he built a new fire and went back to bed. It wasn’t long before he awoke to the screams of Doris yelling his name. Their home was rapidly filling with smoke. Dan ran into the family room just in time to see flames darting up the corner wall. Quickly he found the fire extinguisher but instead of attacking the flames he sprayed directly into the box below and the blaze was contained.