Be a Surf Rider

I am a child of the 60s; I guess. But I wasn’t a hippie,  a flower child or a surfer. But OC caught my imagination with this; “The surf that distresses the ordinary swimmer produces in the surf-rider the super-joy of going clean through it.” 
That which strikes terror in the hearts of the masses is a joy ride for others. I spent the early morning hours preparing for the “Fearless” Sunday night series which will begin on Sunday, April 18, after Extraordinary is completed. 

The same concept rolls through the writings of both OC and Max Lucado, who authored “Fearless.” The situations which confound and terrorize the unbeliever are just new places to meet with Jesus for the Christian.

“Nay, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.”
Romans 8:37

“Apply that to our own circumstances, these very things – tribulation, distress, persecution, produce in us the super-joy; they are not things to fight. We are more than conquerors through Him in all these things, not in spite of them, but in the midst of them. The saint never knows the joy of the Lord in spite of tribulation, but because of it.”
What tsunami-like wave is barrelling down on you? What tragedy seems just around the corner? What is trying to strike fear in your heart? Paddle out to the calm before the storm. Mount up your surfboards. It’s going to be a hell of a ride. How’s that for phrasing? But he promises He’s on the board with us and together, we’ll make it to the beach. And best of all, we’ll be better for the ride.
Happy surfing and 

Be blessed.

Now towel dry and go get ready for church.


Amid a Crowd of Paltry Things

This painting is called “Amid a Crowd of Paltry Things” by Mark Lawrence. Mark’s obviously an artist. He has done a series of paintings inspired by OC and his devotional My Utmost for His Highest. It’s great to do creative things which inspire. I, on the other hand have spent the last three hours making fine adjustments to the Amana Christian Fellowship home page and a couple of more hours are needed. I do this in the hours of early morning with only the glow of the laptop screen lighting the room. Not very glamorous…it’s drudgery. 
That places me squarely “Amid a Crowd of Paltry Things.”   “It takes Almighty grace to take the next step when there is no vision and no spectator – the next step in devotion, the next step in your study, in your reading, in your kitchen; the next step in your duty, when there is no vision from God, no enthusiasm and no spectator. It takes far more of the grace of God, far more conscious drawing upon God to take that step, than it does to preach the Gospel.”
I have had the privilege of preaching the gospel on occasion and OC is so right.  But the drudgery of fine tuning placement on a web page is far less onerous than some of the drudgery others face on a daily basis. I am also currently working on replacing steps at our home. The vision of what the final work will look likes keeps me going through the drudgery of tearing our rotten wood and resetting sand covered bricks which support the steps.
I guess that’s the key: don’t lose the vision. ” We flag when there is no vision, no uplift, but just the common round, the trivial task. [T]he only way to keep the life uncrushed is to live looking to God. Ask God to keep the eyes of your spirit open to the Risen Christ, and it will be impossible for drudgery to damp you.”

My wife is a painter and I know that there are hours of drudgery before the work is completed. I am sure Mark Lawrence has spent hours needing to focus on the prize to get to a completed work. 

Whatever our tasks today: painting, web design or step construction, let’s keep taking the next step with eyes to the Lord and as always we will
Be blessed.

Joy of following the Call

Rose and I are not going to Guetemala. When we heard Mike Clark’s presentation at church a couple of weeks ago we put together our passport applications and almost started packing. A little thought and prayer thereafter revealed ours was an emotional response. It’s not our calling. But it may well be yours. The chance for a trip to the mountains at the end of June and the beginning of July when it will be a 100 degrees here and perfect weather there, sounds tempting. A week with 19 other folks from Amana will be a great bonding experience. Seeing how God is changing young lives (the young ones already there and the ones who will  go on the trip from Amana) will be awesome. But more than all that, if it’s what God is calling you to, you can expect unspeakable joy.. The joy I get from my called-to mission, I wouldn’t give up for anything. If you haven’t found your mission… your joy, maybe it’s at Casa on the Rock.
It’s time to pray and decide because passports are needed and time is a wastin’,
A word of warning. If God is calling you to this or anything else and you respond, Satan will not be happy. When I’m on my mission of calling, my family knows to be very careful and very prayerful. Satan is a real jerk. But the higher his level of distress, the more you need to do it.
You will receive joy and you will be blessed.

The Kingdom of God – Our Vocation or Avocation

Don’t mistake these two words so nearly alike. Vocation is the employment, business or profession one follows for a living; avocation is some pursuit or occupation which diverts the person from such employment, business or profession. Thus an avocation is essentially a hobby. Is the Kingdom of God our vocation or our hobby? If I am honest I must admit that it is more an avocation. 
I know the word says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:13 and a few verses later “”Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” Matthew 6:26
“It is easier to serve God without a vision, easier to work for God without a call, because then you are not bothered by what God requires; common sense is your guide, veneered over with Christian sentiment. You will be more prosperous and successful, more leisure-hearted, if you never realize the call of God. But if once you receive a commission from Jesus Christ, the memory of what God wants will always come like a goad; you will no longer be able to work for Him on the common-sense basis.”
I am late getting this out today because when I sat at my computer this morning my eye caught an email which advised that a business matter I counted on being completed, isn’t. I spent time making plans and sending off a series of emails. I put aside Kingdom work. It’s a small example but a very common one. I guess I don’t yet completely put the Kingdom first. I know if I did I would be blessed, but it is hard to do.

You put it first and You be blessed. I’ll be along eventually. I hope. I’m a real slow learner.


Sheep are smelly and dirty – You gotta love ’em

During last year’s Christmas program, our kids sang about smelly, dirty sheep. That’s what they are smelly and dirty. Idealized pictures of sheep with snow white wool are works of fiction. Sheep are dirty and smelly. My grand kids sang that and so it must be true. 
So when Jesus tells Peter to “Feed My Sheep” He is asking alot. Shepherds were on the lowest rung of society at the time and place those words were spoken. Shepherding was a dirty, smelly thankless job. 
But Jesus loves His Sheep in that dirty, smelly condition. His arrival was first proclaimed to shepherds alone at night with their dirty, smelly charges. He  surrounded himself with dirty, smelly human sheep. OC describes them as “extraordinarily funny sheep, some bedraggled, dirty sheep, some awkward, butting sheep, some sheep that have gone astray!”
The kids were right; dirty, smelly sheep. 
But when the Holy Spirit comes He unites us with a God who loves those dirty, smelly sheep enough to die for them. He loves them with a love that is “impossible to weary.” And that love is inherited by us, when we become His. 
Do you feel that “impossible to weary” love for the dirty, smelly sheep in your life? If you do, take no credit, it is a gift of God through the Holy Spirit. If you don’t . . . you gotta wonder why.

Take a wiff, start feeding and
Be blessed.

Chambers is wrong?

I disagree with Oswald Chambers. I do this in full recognition that I am flirting with heresy; but I feel I  am right deep down in my soul. Oswald says that after the Lord asked Peter for the third time “Do you love me?”, that Peter was pained because he knew that he loved the Lord. On this we disagree. I believe strongly I am right because I am so like Peter. Peter is performance driven. He believed, as I did, that we are loved for what we do. Further, that if we were truly known, we would not be loved because deep down we are unloveable. Peter had run a pretty good scam. He played the role of the strong and dependable and he played it well.  But his world was shattered on the night of his betrayal when he was shown to be the weak and frightened little boy he was. Jesus knew him and, therefore, Peter knew, he could not be loved.

Yet on the third asking of the question, “Do you love me?” Peter realized in a life changing emotional moment that even knowing him completely Jesus, loved him. It changed Peter forever.

I recall the moment, not long ago, when this realization struck me: that the God who knows all things, including every sin I have ever committed or will ever commit loves me. In the words of Natalie Grant in Held,

This is what it means to be held

How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life

And you survive

This is what it is to be loved and to know

That the promise was when everything fell

We’d be held

You see for performers like Peter and I the “sacred” is the “secret” of our own sinfulness. When that is revealed, yet your God still loves you and, in fact, holds you like a child, then you know, probably for the first time, what it is to be loved. That’s what I believe Peter experienced when the realization struck him, “He knows me and yet He loves me.”
That’s why I love convicted felons and ministrying to them. They have no sacred secret. Their unloveableness is a matter of public record. So when they are shown Agape love and they realize that in spite of their notorious sinfulness, the creator of the world loves them, they crack like egg shells.
Maybe OC isn’t wrong. Maybe I’m just not there yet.  As part of our new birthright we are given the capacity for agape love, but first we are loved.
So apologies to OC, I know Peter and I know that moment. I am not overcome by the hurt which may come from loving God but by the fact that He loves me. and I
am blessed.

Agape Love Hurts, But It’s Worth It

All love is a gift from God; whether it is phileo, or brotherly love, eros, sexual love, or agape love. Agape love is a special gift from God. It is love as God loves without condition. It is the most mysterious and rarest of love. After Peter had betrayed his Lord, he learned that it is truly something special.

Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love (agape) me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love (phileo)you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love (agape) me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love (phileo) you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love (phileo) me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love (phileo) me?”
He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love (phileo)you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”

The details of this exchange are  greatly debated; but one thing seems clear. By his betrayal Peter had shown he did not have that unconditional, self-sacrificing agape love for His Master that he had previously believed he had. It would come with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. He would agape Jesus in a life dedicated completely to Him to the point of being crucified up side down. He would receive that gift of Agape and it would come with  a great price. 
“Peter loved Jesus in the way in which any natural man loves a good man. That is temperamental love; it may go deep into the individuality, but it does not touch the centre of the person. True love never professes anything. Jesus said – “Whosoever shall confess Me before men,” i.e., confess his love not merely by his words, but by everything he does.
One of the many precious aspects of this exchange is how Jesus “lowers the bar” for Peter. When Peter can not honestly proclaim “agape” love for Christ, Jesus gives Him a chance to proclaim what he does then possess. Jesus always meets us and loves us where we are. He gifts us with whatever it takes to move us higher and deeper. Our response may increase his satisfaction in us; but never His love for us. That love is always maxed out.
Pray for Agape and be prepared for the wonder and the pain that comes with loving like Jesus loves.
Be blessed.