Faith & Reason ... a mystery

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ordinary & Wonder Filled to the top and over-flowing!!!


Luke 1:26-38

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her"

She was a beautiful, young, vibrant, bubbly, jewish girl. She had dark hair and dark eyes. She was around 14 years old and had it all planned out...she was going to have it all. The wonder in her eyes said enough....Her parents had arranged a marriage to a good man, a solid man, a man with a skill and was well known among the people. He was even a descendant of King David. He was a carpenter and could make anything out of wood. He also handsome and bring great envy among her peers.

He might someday have a seat in the Synagogue. He could build them a nice house and fill it with great carvings, and cabinets, and furniture, and happiness. They were going to have many children and she would be the rave among all the other woman... a wonderful husband, wonderful children, a wonderful house, and a wonderful life.

Mary was an ordinary girl that was given an extraordinary life through the Wonder-filled Counselor.

I don't know what wonders are in store for you this Christmas. Some will sting, some will make you jump for joy, some will take you down uncharted paths, others will stretch you in ways you never imagined. But each surprise comes from the hand of the Father who loves you. And I pray that you respond with the words of Mary . . . "I am the Lord's servant, may it be to me as you have said."

If you respond in that way, who knows, maybe God's wonders in your life will change the world. Yet, if not the world . . . they will certainly change you. I am chosing to make a point and follow Mary's example. You know I love ya, Don

Monday, November 28, 2011

Equation for Intentional & Effect Leadership (& Living)


“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe,” Hebrews 12:28

This verse has always inspired me to be a better citizen in God's kingdom. I see it as an equation for leadership and for productive living. Think of all the times you and I take advantage of the gifts being a Christ-follower brings to everyday life. Let me list a few...security in a great future, blessings of abundant life in joy and sorrow, relational gifts of love and mercy, eternal treasures that will never end, and knowing the creator of all the universe is in love with me. These are just a few of the benefits of God's Kingdom. I also like to notice in the verse that all these benefits and the benefits I didn't mention are "unshakable." In other words, they will never end nor can they be taken away.

Church leadership would do well to connect with this verse as well. Too many times church leadership pushes and pulls to gain position. In my experience, the best and most effective leadership I have had the joy and honor of serving beside has a humble and reverence for God. I think of Bob Russell of Southeast Christian Church. One of the largest church in the United States and Bob is one of the humblest men I know. I think of David Jeremiah and the same applies. Then there is the people in my life such at Lloyd Menning, Bob Kelly, Ronnie Jones and David Woods. Each of these men and their wives served with humility, with awe, with reverence, and a security in knowing their God and His Kingdom was unshakable. I wish there was space, I could go on and on about the effect Christ-followers such as these in my life.

Karen and I have tried to be ministers and Christ-followers after their example. The equation is given out in this verse of Hebrews. First: give thanks...saying thank you to God, His Son, and to others. Second: worship...declare on a public and personal level how much God is worth everything in our lives. Third: live in awe and reverence...allowing the Spirit to grant your heart, soul, mind, and strength an over-powering, over-whelming sense of God's greatness and might. As an intentional leader, I make it my goal to live this equation.

Giving Thanks + Declaring God's Worth + Living in Awe = Effective, Intentional Kingdom Leadership

For those of us that are not leaders, this is also a great equation for daily productive living. A result of the equation is a keen awareness of how unshakable God's Kingdom truly is. The awareness of God's power granted to the humble of heart brings a new and heightened level of God. Although, we may not be leaders in a large scale of the church, every Christ-Follower must always remember their leadership influence on those around them. The world is watching and waiting to point out how Christ does not work. So, we can all say we are leaders of some sort or another. Thus, the equation of Hebrews 12:28 is important to all of us. It is important so that Jesus will be praised and the non-believing world will see that He is Lord.

"Lord, Thank you for this equation that brings benefits to us all. Thank You for the wonderful examples in my life that have made this equation real to me. Please bring thanks, worship, and awe to my life so that I may return it to you and you alone. In Jesus' Name, Amen."

Thank You for sharing this with me and reading it. You are a joy and you know I love ya, Don

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving ... thoughts to ponder

All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. - 2 Corinthians 4:15

Thanksgiving prayers were first uttered by God's people in the Old Testament and God ordained a specific sacrificial offering for thanksgiving. David, the psalmist, wrote many Thanksgiving devotions and Paul the apostle taught that we are to always pray and give thanks to God in all circumstances. When we use the Bible for devotions and for prayers, we are following after the hearts of men and women who led exemplary ideals for worshiping God. This Thanksgiving, if you are looking for good lessons to share with family or for prayers to pray during the day, turn to the Bible and find inspiration that turns a heart towards gratitude and finds the peace that much of the holiday season is promoting.

It's interesting that during the very seasons that Christians celebrate gratitude and the birth of Christ, our lives get the busiest and we are often so overloaded with schedules and shopping lists (turkeys to cook and potatoes to smash) we experience extreme stress and time seems to slip out of our grasps. This is actually the perfect time to stop all activities and reflect upon worshipful Thanksgiving devotions.

God ordained many traditions and specific rituals to teach His people proper responses to His love and mercy. "And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings, which he shall offer unto the Lord. If he offer it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the sacrifice of thanksgiving unleavened cakes mingled with oil...." Jesus fulfilled the law of the Old Testament, and because of His ultimate sacrifice, we no longer must practice the laws that were in place to teach us of our shortcomings. But, Christ clearly promoted special times of giving thanks, and the teachings of Paul include turning our attitudes constantly towards gratitude.

Gratitude is a choice. When Nicholas died in January of this year, Karen and I made a choice to praise God even in the hardest time of our life. This Thanksgiving is a blessing because of the two new ones in our family, but it still just as hard because one is missing. Nicholas' absence is the new reality and the normal we will live on this side of heaven. The choice to praise and give thanks is the strength granted by God to live the journey. So, we give thanks and we turn to God's word for sustaining grace in everyday life.

Giving thanks for a great family and for a very special little boy that made last year's Thanksgiving one that I will never forget. You know I love ya and have a great Thanksgiving! Don

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving

I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. - Psalm 69:30

THANKSGIVING

I AM SO THANKFUL THAT JESUS CAME
TO THIS EARTH AND ENDURED SUCH PAIN.

FOR YOU AND ME, HE WAS BEATEN AND SHAMED.
OH, HOW I LOVE HIM FOR TAKING MY BLAME.

THANKSGIVING IS A TIME TO GIVE THANKS TO HIM.
PLEASE DON'T FORGET THAT HE PAID THE PRICE
FOR MY SALVATION AND YOURS; HIS SACRIFICE.

I THANK HIM FOR YOU, THAT HE HAS PLACED IN MY LIFE.
ISN'T HE THOUGHTFUL AND SO VERY NICE ...

TO GIVE US OUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY TO LOVE AND ADORE,
THE CHURCH AND THE SMILES AS WE WALK IN THE DOOR?

I AM SO GRATEFUL TO MY LORD, JESUS CHRIST,
THAT LOVES ME AND KNOWS MY EVERY THOUGHT.
I PRAY THAT HE CAN SMILE AS HE KNOWS WHERE I WALK.

MAY YOU THINK OF ME AS YOU GIVE THANKS,
BECAUSE I LOVE YOU ON THIS THANKSGIVING DAY.
JUST BOW YOUR HEAD AND, TO HIM, WE WILL PRAY.

GOD'S BLESSING ON YOU AND HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

© 2003 by Sarah Berthelson

I am giving thanks for you...you know I love ya, Don

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Gratitude is Thanksgiving all year long!


"You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God."
2 Corinthians 9:11


"Thanksgiving" is an American holiday that we will celebrate next week. Yes, other countries have a day of "Thanksgiving." Some countries celebrate much like the United States, but there are some countries that take thanksgiving and apply it to holidays or festivals such as the Chinese New Year or in many European Countries there are "Victory Day" celebrations that celebrate and give thanks for the victory over Nazism. Many British countries celebrate, "Boxing Day." Boxing day is celebrated the day after Christmas and is much like the American Thanksgiving. Therefore, most, if not all cultures have a nationally recognized holiday to give thanks.

As I read 2 Corinthians 911, it becomes apparent that giving thanks is a Judeo/Christian concept that spread through all religions over time. God wants His people to give thanks. From the very beginning, God and Adam walked to together and Adam gave thanks to Yahweh. Giving thanks was also a lifestyle for every major God fearing character is the Old and New Testament. I have also lived it with examples of Christ-followers all my life.

My lesson for the day is that I need to have thanksgiving as a way of life. I am not talking about the food, the festivities, and the football...I am talking about....giving thanks. The point of Thanksgiving is to remember the things we have to be grateful for...it is an attitude of gratitude! It's our special time to look to God and say, "Thank You"... not just for the obvious, like food, but for the thousands of fortunate moments, the multitude of blessings that we receive each year. It is seeing life and the blessing life truly is and not taking it for granted.

This past year has been a major journey for most of us. As my readers, you know the ups and downs we have experienced. There were highs and there have been deep sorrow. Thank you for taking it with me and I look forward to many more years of joy and being together.

You know I love ya - Don

Monday, November 14, 2011

Happy Birthday, Nicholas!


Today is and would have been Nicholas' First Birthday. How do we wish happy birthday to my son that is with Jesus? This is the dilemma of the day. Alice suggests we have a party with balloons and cake. Now there's a good idea. Matthew suggested we sing. Another good idea. We will probably go by the cemetery and maybe we will take a balloon. So, what shall we do? We will play the day as it comes. One thing is for sure...we will miss him.

I think of 1 Peter 1:3-4:
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you..."

Every Christ follower has a hope that is granted in mercy. The hope is birthed in mercy...it is new life. This new life is in serving and giving of this life to the great and might servant of all man...Jesus. It is hard to understand, yet the more you give and serve the more the new life is realized. I am finding the discovery of eternal mercy in this life, even before the end of this life is achieved. It is the gift received in return to giving and serving...it is the living hope of a great and awesome future. It is the knowledge and awareness of the inheritance that is in heaven.

Back in March I wrote the following and it still applies today:

Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. -Matthew 6:20-21 (NIV)

My computer is crashing on a regular basis this days. Matt is working on a new one, but until then I save and store my data very regularly....wink, wink. I will not let this computer get the best of me. Well, not all the time.

While I was saving and storing data, I recalled this verse and have a very real comfort in knowing that I have stored a very precious treasure in heaven. His name is Nicholas. A entirely new dimension emerged for me. I always thought the treasure would be good works of service and compassion; relational actions that make an eternal difference. I am sure it is those things, but then I think there will be tangible treasures in addition to the memories and actions...a hug, a touch, a smile, and best of all that ability to share life again.

I have a treasure stored in heaven and not even my computer can loose this treasure. Until then, I wait for the Lord.
Nicholas Mark is an inheritance in heaven I look forward to. He is resurrected from the heart issues he felt in this life. He will never perish, spoil of fade...in reality, he is just like the great shooting star that crossed over Indianapolis the day he past into eternity...Shooting stars are always bright, but never last long enough.

Happy Birthday, Little Guy! We miss you and will always love you. Daddy

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Best, Better, Great, Greatest!


"At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me." Matthew 18:1-5

The disciples come to Jesus and ask, "Who is the greatest in the Kingdom?" They are asking the greatest creation of all, the actual Son of God, and the One all creation will worship in the new Kingdom. What arrogance and boldness on the part of the disciples. They are literally looking into the eyes of the greatest One in the Kingdom of heaven and asking, "Who is the greatest?"

Yet, Jesus doesn't zap them down like the fig tree. He doesn't curse them with boils or call down fire to burn them off of the surface of the earth. Jesus could have easily made it so that they had never been born. Jesus doesn't show any anger in the text at all.

Jesus simply call over a child, holds the child and says..."Do what he is." Jesus doesn't tell us to mimic what this child does, but that we are to be what the child is. A child is a follower, filled with joy, amazement, wonder, and innocence. A Christ-follower sees a child and does what the child is.

It is easy for us to look at the disciples and pass judgment on their arrogance. It is easy to point the finger at them. But, are we not just as arrogant, egotistical, and self-absorbed. Every time we decide to do it our way without considering God's direction, wisdom, and support, we are figuratively saying, "Who the greatest Jesus...you or me?" We should not accuse the biblical disciples, you and I are just as bad as they were, if not worse.

So, the next time you see a little child in all their innocence and joy...see yourself in their eyes and don't just mimic the child...be the child. Trust Jesus beyond the words of life and give him everything you hold and the "stuff" that is holding you. You Know I love ya, Don

Monday, November 7, 2011

All this waiting and now all this work!!!


"After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus." - Matthew 17:1-3

After a time ... Jesus took them up a mountain ... and there appeared... Isn't this just like God. First, he makes us wait. We have to wait on a job or we have to wait on word about getting a job. We have to wait for the perfect date for a wedding or we wait for the big birthday celebration. Then, there is the times we have to wait for answers to our problems or for the consequences of our actions. The hardest one of all is when we have to wait for someone else. We know they are going to make a huge mistake, yet we have to wait for them to come through the fire.

After we wait, then Jesus takes us "up" the mountain. He does lead us down the mountain with ease, but we have to walk up the mountain. We are already tired from the wait. We probably have to carry our "stuff." Then, there are the rocks and branches that are in the way. The sun is bright and often hot as you climb to the top. Yet, we follow Jesus up the mountain.

Finally, we see something around the clearing at the top of the mountain. It is a glorious appearing of Jesus along with all the other things we cherish. He is standing with the Moses' and the Elijah's of our experience. We then are in awe of his great power and might. We celebrate, we forget about the wait, and we don't ever think of the work it took to get up the mountain. In the glorious appearing all things are made clear and all the worry, doubt, and struggle disappear. He is good to those who love Him. He is also faithful to bring us the transfiguration in our daily lives.

So, if you are in the wait or following Jesus up the mountain, just remember He is good and it won't be much longer. Keep your eyes open and look for the appearing because it will be glorious in every way.

You know I love ya, Don

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Trusting is assurance in the storms...

This story was sent to me by my Aunt Sue. I pray it touches you as it has touched me.

A pastor had been on a long flight between church conferences. The first warning of the approaching problems came when the sign on the airplane flashed on: Fasten Your Seat Belts.

Then, after a while, a calm voice said, "We shall not be serving the beverages at this time as we are expecting a little turbulence. Please be sure your seat belt is fastened."
 
As the pastor looked around the aircraft, it became obvious that many of the passengers were becoming apprehensive. Later, the voice on the intercom said, "We are so sorry that we are unable to serve the meal at this time. The turbulence is still ahead of us."

And then the storm broke . . .The ominous cracks of thunder could be heard even above the roar of the engines. Lightning lit up the darkening skies, and within moments that great plane was like a cork tossed around on a celestial ocean. One moment the airplane was lifted on terrific currents of air; the next, it dropped as if were about to crash.
 


The pastor confessed that he shared the discomfort and fear of those around him. He said,

"As I looked around the plane, I could see that nearly all the passengers were upset and alarmed. Some were praying. The future seemed ominous and many were wondering if they would make it through the storm.
 
Then, I suddenly saw a little girl. Apparently the storm meant nothing to her. She had tucked her feet beneath her as she sat on her seat; she was reading a book and everything within her small world was calm and orderly.
 
Sometimes she closed her eyes, then she would read again; then she would straighten her legs, but worry and fear were not in her world"

When the plane was being buffeted by the terrible storm when it lurched this way and that, as it rose and fell with frightening severity, when all the adults were scared half to death, that marvelous child was completely composed and unafraid. The minister could hardly believe his eyes.


It was not surprising that when the plane finally reached its destination and all the passengers were hurrying to disembark, our pastor lingered to speak to the girl whom he had watched for such a long time. Having commented about the storm and the behavior of the plane, he asked why she had not been afraid.
 
The child replied, "Cause my Daddy's the pilot, and he's taking me home."

There are many kinds of storms that buffet us. Physical, mental, financial, domestic, and many other storms can easily and quickly darken our skies and throw our plane into uncontrollable movement. We have all known such times, and let us be honest and confess, it is much easier to be at rest when our feet are on the ground than when we are being tossed about a darkened sky.
 
Let us remember: Our Father is the Pilot... He is in control and taking us home. I choose to trust in Jesus. You know I love ya - Don