Thursday, September 30, 2010


I'm an allum of Wheaton College,
so I get their periodic magazine of news and events.

One arrived a few days ago, with a feature article "How then should we worship?" - the thinking of Dr. Daniel Block, long-time (35 years) professor - author of a book to be released very soon - Biblical Theology of Worship (Baker). He has spent the last ten years immersed in the subject. And he is not an old fogey that does't like loud music or contemporary idiom.

Here is some of his thought:

Three ways that current worship practices depart from biblical models:
1. The worship has become too casual - "good times with a Friend," not encountering the God of unfathomable knowledge and might.
2. Worship has become equated with music - in the scriptures more often, worship was associated with prayers, laments, silence....and songs.
3. Worship has become too associated with evangelism - we worship trying to attract the unbeliever, and that is leading us to an anemic and illiterate church.

His definition of biblical worship:
"True worship involves reverential human acts of submission and homage before the divine Sovereign in response to His gracious revelation of Himself and in accordance with His will." (See Deuteronomy 10:12)

"Salvation is unconditional but the Psalms teach that worship is not open to everybody."

May all the worship wars cease.

It is not about length of time, up tempo or down, or cluster of instruments and voices. Nor is it about contemporary or ancient. It is about God - and our hearts -and the prostration ("falling down before someone greater than we are" - is the actual meaning of "worship") of our lives before accordance with His word.

So may we all fall down....and may it be not the playful actions of children, but the awe of those fully mature enough to tremble in the presence of God.

Deeply moved by these thoughts.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010


PREVAILING succeed, to win against the enemy, to convince.

Reading today in II Chronicles 13...a period of internal strife in Israel.
A land divided...Israel and Judah.
Two kings: Jeroboam and Abijah evil and one good
....the former with 800,000 seasoned soldiers, and the latter with half that number.
The former having forsaken the Lord and gone into idolatry,
....the latter with active ministry to the Lord and heart to follow Him.

And the day of open conflict came.

On that day, Jeroboam (the wicked one), with his far superior army, used his cunning and attacked both frontally and from the rear.

It would be a done deal very soon. A crushing defeat for the God-followers.

Or would it?

The key will prove to be not human odds and expertise, but whose side is God on? Who does God choose to fight for?

That is always the key determiner of outcome.

Abijah, the righteous one, sensing the desperation of the moment, leads the people in cying out to the Lord, blowing the trumpets that call for His intervention, shouting in faith and moving headlong into the battle.

They did what they could against all odds.

And then these words rise above the dust clouds and confusion of battle:
"the men of Judah PREVAILED, because they relied on the Lord."

Against incredible odds, they were NOT overcome.

And sprinkled into the text are these expressions:
"the Lord struck"
"God defeated (them)" and
"God gave them (the enemy) into their hand."

So, whatever the odds seem like today,
whatever the malice that is coming against us,
whatever the shocking manoevers of the enemy....
Let's not loose faith.
but let's call out, and do the next thing God gives us to do.

And as we do, let us watch for His Presence with us.

Abijah and us....different generation, different contexts....
same God.



Friday, September 24, 2010


We finally got our piano into our it tuned....and now every day, Jackie opens a hymnal and plays...and as today, I sometimes pick up my trombone and softly follow her lead.

It is like honey to the soul...remembrances, old memories, fresh worship in old patterns. With it too are coming rather amazing realizations that in current times often our focuses on worship are so laden with "He loves and and I love Him..and doesn't this feel good" that we have neglected the fuller orb of truth.

Consider for instance the following:
Right now (no kidding) she is playing an old hymn - "Like a River Glorious." Let me simply put the words of it before you and then a portion of Isaiah out of which this hymn was inspired. As you read, let your mind supply a photo op of a vast river - like the Flathead, or the Missippi or the Arkansas...which flows along powerfully, and peacefully and seemingly endlessly.

And listen beyond the words to His voice.

The hymn:
Like a river glorious is God's perfect peace,
Over all victorious in its bright increase;
Perfect, yet it floweth fuller ev'ry day,
Perfect, yet it groweth deeper all the way.

Hidden in the hollow of His blessed hand,
Never foe can follow, never traitor stand;
Not a surge of worry, not a shade of care,
Not a blast of hurry, touch the spirit there.

Every joy or trial falleth from above,
Traced upon our dial by the sun of love;
We may trust Him fully all for us to do
They who trust Him wholly, find Him wholly true.

Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest -
Finding as He promised perfect peace and rest.

And the words of Isaiah: (48:17-18)
"Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit.
who leads you in the way you should go.
Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments!
Then your peace would have been like a river,
and your righteousness like the waves of the sea."

May you and I live in the river of His peace today.



Tuesday, September 21, 2010


"He changed his behavior
..made marks on the doors and let his spittle run down his beard."
Classed as a "madman," it was perhaps the lowest, most desperate point of his life.

He had hunted often, and now he was the hunted.

In the wild, he found a cave, and people came to join him - the kind of people who, too were looking for a cave: "everyone in distress, eveyone who was in debt, everyone who was bitter in soul" - a fine group of uplift experts indeed.

No Kum bah yahs around those fires.

It had to be an incredibly bleak time. Chaos. Hopelessness.

And yet, we sing songs shaped by the words that he wrote in his journal in those days.

Songs like "My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast!"
"I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
For your steadfast love is great - it reaches to the heavens
- your faithfulness to the clouds."

The journal pages?
Psalm 57.

The author?
King David, on the run from Saul. (I Samuel 21-22)


Spittle might not be on your face now, but perhaps you would like to spit at what is going on.

They might not call you "mad" but perhaps "strange, out of sorts."

Go for sanity.

Keep the songs going inside...the ones about God's stability, and compassion and control of every event in the lives of those whose faces are set towards him. The songs about His bigness and creative genius. The songs about how it all will end.

And if the crowd in the cave with you is a bit like David's...push them in the upward, God-ward direction. They are in your life for a purpose.

Look up. And mark it down for the next generation.

It's all about God, and stability, and an unswerving trust in His providential oversight of our lives. It's been the sanity focus for thousands of years, and it won't change its effective remedy for the crazies while we are all alive. is His gift to us in every situation of our lives.


Friday, September 17, 2010


Prepping for a marriage conference, I came across some notes with a brief listing of words that describe the typical three stages of marriage.

The words in the lists hightlight some contrasts.

Want a quick relationship check-up? Circle the words that describe your relationship right now and see what you learn

Phase One. Phase Two. Phase Three.
On Cloud Nine. Upset a lot. Steady and at peace.
I idolize you. We fight/compete. I need you/serve you.
We're right. You're wrong. How do you see this?.
Can't get enough. I quit. Let's work it out.
Fascinated. Irritated. Refreshed.
Charmed. Upset. Thankful.
Newness. Legalism, and self. Grace and patience.
Self energy. Mutual conflict. Mature teamwork.
Unreal. Uncomfortable. Real and comforting.
Over-focused. Under-focused. Growing and pacing.
Idyllic. Fighters, refs. Teamed with purpose.
We've arrived. We're stuck. Together, with God, we can.

Did you circle the words that apply to you at this time? (The blog pushed all the words together. They started out in three neat columns...but each comparative word idea listing is in each new row. Periods separate within the rows. Can you unscramble? Have fun. :)

How are you doing?

Enchantment - fueled by sexuality and youthful energies, lasts about 1-2 years.

Disenchantment - fueled by realities and the wrong responses, can go on and on into real tragedy, even total disintegration.

Maturity - fueled by wisdom, commitment and God's help, can last a lifetime - even be the stuff of heaven itself.

Join me in pressing on to maturity.



Tuesday, September 14, 2010

On the Road

Two books I am reading and finding very good:

1. Beyond Megachurch Thumma and Travis - Josey Bass.
This is a work based on good research and fair thinking. It doesn't grind on one side or the other of the mega-church assessment but finds a very informative middle ground, out of which I am developing a new appreciation for what the Lord is doing in the mega church movement. A good read.

2. Augustine of Hippo a biography - Peter Brown, U Cal Press. Probably still in print though first edition was 1967. Found mine in a used book store. A masterful treatment of an epic church leader of the fourth century, whose gifts and ministry are still impacting lots of stuff around us. I got into it wanting to see his journey up see what he did at what age...:) So far (143 pages - of 400+) a great read. (After his retirement in his late 30's!! - go firgure - the best things began to happen - and he went on for about 40 years!) Reading about stuff like this has a wonderful way of sizing up our faith, our commitments, our sense of "it's all about me" and our trust in God. Be sure to read biographies.

3. In a season of less pressure and calendar, it is helping me to jot down significant contacts, ideas etc. as they happen so that at the end of a day I can see that it was really rather significant. God really is at work...something is happening in my life.
I jot down grandkids time too...what a joy to finally be more focused in this area. (Carson - age 4 - came into my den this morning as I was reading the word...and said, "Grampy, I have to go to preschool soon, but could we play for the next five minutes?" We did and it sent us both off into our days with a love boost.
Make sure you get a lift from play today.

Join me in living where you are...dipping into the past to get better perspective, and engaging the present...and especially not spending valuable time and energy on regretting the past or wishing about the future.

Our present days are a gift from God...He is intimately acquainted with all of our ways. He loves the details.

On the road...with you


Friday, September 10, 2010


In my father's study at church, there hung a framed saying from scripture: "To obey is better than sacrifice and to listen than the fat of rams." Artful calligraphy, gold frame, central place in the room.

I can remember looking at it and wondering what its full meaning might be...and why so important to my father.

And today, I reached that place again in my devotional reading of scripture.

It is I Samuel 15.

A quick summary:
1. The Lord had given his directions to King Saul to deal entirely and finally with the wickedness that was represented by Amalek. Because of their evil before the Lord, they were entirely "devoted to destruction."

So a battle was joined, Saul leading 210,000 soldiers. And they won the battle - and then dealt with the spoils. In doing that, they disobeyed the specific instructions God had given.

They made a decision to utterly destroy the despised and worthless things, but to keep the best of their conquest, including the king, for their own purposes.

Why this disobedience? In this chapter, some things stand out.
1. Self concept:
Saul "was little in his own eyes" - our sense of littleness, can make us squirm in disobedience, especially when God calls for valiant faith.
2. Focus:
not thinking clearly about who he was - the king, the leader - can make us think, what we do will not affect that many
3. Specifics:
Saul did not keep the specifics of God's voice to him in clear focus -the dazzle of success can make us rethink the "fairness" of God's will
4. Logic:
Saul traded off "what makes sense" obedience, for true and entire obedience
5. Popularity:
Saul "feared the people and obeyed their voice"

When the prophet Samuel heard what Saul had done and not done - both forms of disobedience: "he was angry and cried to the Lord all night."

It was to be the end of a lot of things for Saul:
his visits with Samuel the prophet,
the favor of the Lord
instead: "the Lord regretted that he had made Saul king...and rejected him from being king."

Is there an obedience that the Lord is calling for in our lives?
Are we fudging on the edges?
Are we covering up? Are we bowing to the pressures around us?
Is the favor of the Lord on us? Is the prophetic alive and positive around us?

To obey - is better than sacrifice.
To listen (to God) - than to try to make up for not doing so, with religious observance.

May we listen well, and do entirely what God is calling for us to do.

Oh God, strengthen us and have mercy upon us in the doing of Your will.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Got up today and was much encouraged by reflecting on the weekend just past and signs of the blessing of the Lord and His presence. I jotted stuff down for record.
A very good weekend. I realize over and over how easy it is to not remember and yield to the other voices.

(Hope your weekend was good you need to spend a bit of time journaling as well?)

Then I went back to continuing my read through the Old Testament...and read in early Judges today...about Gideon - you might grab your bible and read Judges 6.

Things that struck me:

1. He was living in a challenging time...not much support around him, in fact all negative stuff, so much so that the whole nation could be characterized as doing "evil in the sight of the Lord."..and being "laid waste" because of the Lord's withdrawal of protection. Over and over the news in the morning paper was bad.

2. Gideon is feeling the effects of the culture...doing the normal stuff (wheat processing in abnormal places...the as to hide), doing the day stuff at night - an abnormal time (so as to escape notice.) He is living with fear...and his behavioral patterns are being affected. (And there is no melatonin.)

Then I love what God does with people like this...or should I say, like you and me? :)

1. He calls him by the name He sees describing his potential and future - "mighty man of valor." :12 Does your story include an incident of a wounding name called over you...or internal names you call yourself? ("Weakest, least" - :15)

2. He sends an angel (in disguise) to show Gideon that the Lord is present and at work - and that He is very creative in the ways He can intervene. And I love this: it takes Gideon a long time to finally recognize that it is an "angel of the Lord." :22 (I think that too is still our challenge.)

3. God gives him a preliminary assignment - to grow him in boldness and conviction - cut down the Asherah, tear down the Baal altar. The word comes to Gideon at night - and he obeys at night. (Sometimes the night offers a quiet cover. It is not always a hard time and can become even a place of prayer, thought and more. Rather than stewing when awake at night, how about trying: "Speak Lord, for your servant is listening."?

4. He sends His Spirit to clothe Gideon with new authority, good ideas and resultant effectiveness.

5. He is ok with Gideon's journey about "is this really God?" - even after all of this. And lots of us are so into this need that "putting out a fleece" can often be understood in conversation with no other explanations.

Isn't this revelation of God wonderful and timely still? Wow! He is great, gracious, and will accomplish his not-so-fragile (:) purposes through us...good news when it sometimes feels a bit like a Gideon day.

And now, the words of a song that come to mind...perhaps a word from the Lord for you right now:
"I will change your name.
You shall no longer be called: "wounded, outcast, lonely, or afraid."
I will change your name.
Your new name shall be "confidence, joyfulness, overcoming one
Faithfulness, friend of God, one who seeks My face."

Lord, today I accept your names for me, your tasks for me, and the presence of Your Spirit to make me able for it all. Amen.


Monday, September 6, 2010


It is the season of my life...labor has changed shape.

I used to work rather endlessly, 60 hours per week was average...and there were some 70's. Somehow with a little smarts, and a great amount of grace, the family endured my craziness. So, on this labor day, I say "whew, we made it," we all love the Lord and one another. Thanks be to God.

Labor used to pretty much define me - a growing church, for 25 straight years, an endless appointment schedule, a very multifaceted portfolio, national responsibilities....on and on and on. Never ending To-Do lists only decreased slightly on the very best days, to become bigger yet on the next.

And now it is a season of change...and the change is often very challenging. I coach five pastors, assess churches, speak rather frequently, speak into the lives of church leaders, write articles and a book (and still have a TO DO list...however much smaller). And I sometimes nap - at least I know I can!, and take long evenings without much pressure and sleep 8-9 hours per night. Coffee and newspaper in the morning, and long stretches of time in the word and prayer...and so much joined life with my friend and partner, Jackie. And wonderful availability to the family...and frequent meals together and lots of phone time.

And it is still a very challenging change - from endless pressure to a more self-starting creative pace. From more people who "need you now" than I can respond to, to am I needed at all? From endless much more infrequent ones. From purpose, chasing you down from early morning to late evening (and sometimes through the night.)

And now these thoughts - on this Labor Day:

1. If I had to do it again...I would go at a slower pace, and not put the family at such risk. I would try to play more and share life together more endlessly...than put them into a schedule. I would more constantly evaluate my actual state, by seeking their counsel and open feedback. I would consciously drive towards the less polished, so the moments of life corporate and personal could be more filled with reality and love...not push and performance.

2. I would thank God for giving me his work to do...not endlessly create more and then be driven by it. "Six days shall you labor" I now see as a gift, not a law. From a God who appears on the stage of human history as at work..Genesis 2:2...and then is full of celebration, even play, at the work of his hands.

3. I would seek to savor much more, the progress in people and work to delimit the endless thirst for "more and better." More times to relish the present, hug and dance...and water the good crops growing already in people. More cards, notes, surprizes and parties.

4. I would try to choose a simpler life...with less pressure to accumulate stuff, move fast, and get er done. Overwhelmed by the Jesus model, who did all this best. Pouring more into less...discipleship.

Well, may each of us be good at what we do...working as for the Lord...causing those around us to look forward to the product of our hands and minds. And may we walk through all the seasons of our lives thankful for the strength and opportunity to labor.



Thursday, September 2, 2010


I have begun reading a book I have had on my shelves for years: THE SPREADING FLAME -by FF Bruce, lifetime New Testament scholar and author of a huge bevy of wonderful faith-building, articulate books. As I read I am putting little * in the margins as so I can easily revisit this and that great insights.

Here is one example - on the uniqueness of Jesus death:

"Jesus was not the first or the last to die because his death seemed expedient to certain highly placed interests. Of all the parallels which history offers to his death, perhaps that of Socrates comes nearest. And yet there is a gulf between the two, the contrast which the grisly narrative of the crucifixion forms to the peaceful scene where the old philosopher (Socrates) talks with his friends until the hour comes to drink the hemlock, and then dies quietly and painlessly.

And....For Jesus Himself...the role he was to fulfil was that of the suffering Servant, obedient to God even unto death and by His death bearing the sin of many and achieving deliverance and victory for them." p.56

So - a man who is well-acquainted with the sweep of history says, his death is utterly unique.

And the same man, a man of faith who understands the true activity and meaning of his death says, his death (and resurrection) stands alone in space and time.

How wondrous our Lord.

How staggering what He has done for us by way of His death.

What a mind-boggling gift, this gift of His forgiveness and our salvation.

Live in the joy of grace sufficient, all day.