Monday, December 7, 2009


I just met a walking meditation on discipleship.

A leader from a nearby church stopped by to leave some flyers for a benefit concert.  He wore one of those masks that keep you from breathing in the germs and meanies from other people.  I went to shake his hands and he told he could not do that.  His kidney was replaced five months ago and he was just getting his immune system back.  He did not want to compromise his system.

He informed me that his immune system was shut down by the doctors so his body would not reject his new kidney.  Otherwise, his body would see the new part not as an unwatned intruder, not as a life-giving organ.  It would seek to kick it out.

I immediately verbalized, “That is just like what happens when we go through the transformation of being a Christ-follower.    What Jesus gives us is new life.  Our old man wants to reject it and kick it out unless something is actively done to keep it in place until it is part of us.”

God promises to give his people a heart of flesh for a heart of stone.  That heart of flesh is not natural to us, though it is the source of our life.  Something must be done to keep us from rejecting what God placed in us.  Our need finds its fulfillment in trusting the Lord, soaking in His word, and continuing to choose for Him when our options lead away from Him.  Little by little, that new heart comes to be the natural part of us and all that is not aligned with Christ’s heart in us is the stuff we reject.

I thank God for a new heart.  I also thank Him for the supplying me with all I need to keep His heart beating in me.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


I like to play with words.  Sometimes words break out into others words.  The breakout gives depth or texture to the original word’s meaning.

Community sounds like “common unity.”  That may seem redundant, but it helps me see that what we hold in common connects us in a distinct way, opening the door for deeper relationship.

Our word for gospel comes from the Old English word split, “god spell,” which meant good news.  I track with the Old English thought that God spelled out his love in Jesus, the center of the good news.

Beware splits out to “be aware,” that is be wary or know what is going on.  It’s a warning not to be complacent.  Don’t think that the atmosphere has not or will not change.  Be on your guard.

I started thinking about the word “beware” because of a reading in Oswald Chambers.  In several successive devotions, the late preacher warns the believer to “beware.” 

Chambers exhorts us to beware that we not take God’s love too lightly; recognize the terrible price paid for our salvation through Christ’s death. He also warns us not to let circumstances distract us from a Christ-like mind, but to apply ourselves to prayer when we are discouraged.

The counsel that caught my attention was to beware wanting to be profound or deep instead of seeing God at work in the “shallow” moments of our lives.  Chambers chides the soul that wants to be considered only deep.  The soul that desires to be profound may think it is out of devotion to God, but Chambers diagnosis this as pride.  Here is his clincher, “Beware of posing as a profound person – God came as a baby.”

Now there is a simple thought that is truly profound.  In order to relate directly with us, God came to us in the simplicity and innocence of a baby, not the glory of a king or the wisdom of a sage.  He certainly possessed glory and wisdom, but Christ did not broadcast them to the world.  He wrapped them in the skin of an infant then unveiled them little by little as he grew “in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:52)

Where does this hit home?  When I want to somehow sound original and learned when I preach.  What I really need is to keep it simple.  I want to appear knowledgeable when I testify of Jesus.  I don’t want to look too uncomplicated.  I want a profound thought and the right words that will cause someone to believe.    

What the Lord shows me – and all of us – is that complexity can be overrated.  He uses simple things to communicate profound truth.  He even started simply – an infant on a hay bed.  Beware trying to be profound and thus prideful; keep it simple, saints, and imitate Christ’s humility.

Monday, November 23, 2009


It’s not often that the words “cancer” and “encouragement” show up in the same place.  Today, I got to see two people with cancer connect with others in a meaningful way…it was a God moment.

I was visiting a with friend at Willamette Cancer Center at Riverbend.  He was in the middle of a chemo session.  He was keeping a good face, but the chemicals were taking their toll.  As we visited, another man walked by and stopped.  Normally, this man would have walked out a back door.  Today, he walked to the front and “just happened” to go by us.

“I know you,” he said to me.  I introduced myself and called him by name.  He said he was doing fine and I told him I was fair.  That’s when he said he was closer to fair than fine.  It was becoming obvious he was not either.  My friend fished into a bag and pulled out a wristband.  On one part it says, “cancer sucks.”  On the other side, it says, “choose joy.”  The man was grateful; this gift from a fellow traveler picked up his spirits. 

This man is friends with a group of pastors I meet with monthly.  I invited him to join us.  He said he would rather not but would see me some other time.  No more than five minutes later, he was back and asked if he could still join us.  Most definitely, I said.  He joined us for coffee and a good discussion about how to handle a sticky church issue.  Everyone at the table benefited.  All this because this man chose to leave his cancer treatment by a different door.

In all this rambling, you may not see what I saw.  I could see God connecting his kids for encouragement and support.  He was helping us share joy, life and wisdom.  He was opening opportunities to love each other in the midst of very difficult circumstances where there are no easy answers.  The good news is we took those opportunities and made the most of them today.  What fun!  What a blessing.  Wow, how good God is to open the doors to help us walk together.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


The best seat on the plane is any seat with a window – and no wing to or engine to block the view of the ground.  That all works as long as the route is not blanketed with clouds.

Part of my trip to Fresno was through and over the clouds that covered Portland, Salem, and Eugene.  We were even flying inside the clouds for a time – I thought driving in the fog was bad!

Somewhere around Klamath Falls, the blanket of clouds ended and the 35,000 feet of space between our plane and the ground was fully visible.

From 35,000 feet, I could follow the roads and freeways as they cut and wound through mountain passes, roamed into hidden valleys, and ended up in the middle of nowhere.

From 35,000 feet, the courses of rivers and streams were clearly visible as they rushed and meandered through the wilderness and the cities.

From 35,000 feet, I saw the effect of the wind as it kicked up dirt and sand in the lonely places and dispersed it over the nearby hills.

From 35,000 feet, I could see where I would rather travel if I were on the ground…and where I would choose not to be.

There are days I wish I could jet to 35,000 feet to look at the full lay of the land so I can go where I need to go with as little trouble as possible.  I’m speaking metaphorically.  It would be nice to see the lay of my life in its detail.

When I’m on the ground, I am unaware of where each road leads.  When I choose to ford a river, I am not always sure there is not a bridge farther downstream…or a waterfall.

On the ground, I may find myself in the middle of a storm where I cannot see land or sky.  From the air, I would have seen it coming and chosen a different path.

And there are plenty of times I do not recognize that I am moving along quite well.  Things are find and the road is smooth.  I don’t think about a bird’s eye view then.

When my direction is comfortable, unsure, or wreckless, there is someone who always has a 35,000 feet view.  Through His Spirit he is able to navigate me through the needful storms and away from the unwanted turns if I will choose to hear Him.

The Teacher gave us this word of wisdom, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

My steps have a sure guide who does see from 35,000 feet and lived at ground level.  If I listen and trust, my route will always follow the best route.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


2 CHRONICLES 6:18-19

 But will God indeed dwell with man on earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built! Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O Lord my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you.

Sometimes I think I must pray pretty small prayers. I pray for the welfare and growth of my church. I pray for my family and friends. I bless the Lord and confess his goodness and my need for him. But I do not often pray for the impossible.

Solomon prayed that the Lord would come and be among his people in the temple he constructed. Yet he recognized that even the vastness of heaven did not contain God. If that were so, how then could this house hold him? Solomon had perspective. He knew his building was inadequate even though it was a remarkable human achievement in construction and design. The building was not so much to house God but to remind people of God’s holy presence with them. The sight of the temple was to wake them up to God’s righteousness and mercy, his holiness and justice.

Still, he prayed that the Lord would come in answer to his prayer to dwell with Israel, to judge her and forgive her when she recognized her wrongs. He asked the Lord to fill that building

What are my impossible prayers? I would ask God to save Eugene / Springfield and Fresno, California.   I would ask God to renew his church and make them all holy. I would ask that God finish poverty and homelessness in our midst. Why do these seem impossible? Because I know everyone will not buy into God as the source of the answer. Still, I know it is God’s desire that all people know him and live to honor him. Paul prayed that we would know the limits of God’s limitless love – another impossible prayer (Ephesians 3). In perspective, it means asking God to do something incredible and standing ready to receive his answer. The Lord filled Solomon’s temple with this presence. How much more can he fill us with the fullness of himself when we stand ready to receive his answer?


So a friend of mine, Rick, left his job last year to pursue a run for a state office. Things they are a changing.

My wife, Cheryl, came back from Fresno about the time Rick made his announcement.  She brought two pieces of memorobilia with her. One was the Fresno Bee, which heralded the retirement of GL Johnson, 49 years the pastor of Fresno’s first mega-church. She also brought the memorial bulletin for Marvin Hein, the pastor that married us, who was a friend, and who recently passed into glory at the age of 82.

While Cheryl was gone, another pastor friend, Larry, was here helping my leadership team and I envision a new future for our church. Larry retired from local church ministry about three years ago. Now he is helping churches get to health or decide on a different route. But even he is talking about slowing down.

Back to Rick for a moment – he’s not old. He just happened to be going through a change at the same time these other men are. Add to this that his own dad passed away not long ago. Things they are a changing.

When I look at all these things together, I sense nothing but change all around me. Part of it is the changing of the guard – the older generation is handing off their vision and duties to those who will pick them up. Those who pick them up will shape them by the vision they received.

The change is also within the generations. Church and faith are taking on new tones, new nuances. There is a definite change in the feel of the gathering of believers. I see that when I meet with my elders – I have a different way of thinking about church and even that way is changing. For the elders, they have a picture of what church is and new ways of thinking are hard to get their mind around. But things are still changing.

I guess I am working at defining this change and that is really not possible. Things are changing around us and in me. Maybe it is just the normal path of things – we get older, perspectives change and we get swept up in the change for a time. Eventually, things settle down or the change goes on without us because we step aside to let someone else handle it.

I do know the world is changing as these men who have influenced me and others step aside or pass on. Now the next generation needs to pick up the baton and move forward with it. It is our leg to run…our time is now.

I don’t know…but things they are a changing.