Wednesday, May 28, 2014

With a Little Help From My Friends

"With many counselors they succeed." Until I read Dave Ramsey's books and avidly listened to his podcast I had never heard this proverb, but it's right there in the Bible (Proverbs15:22).  So when we were preparing ourselves to make the major move of leaving our host country here in Asia (our home for the last 8.5 years) and moving back to America, we knew we needed to ask some friends for help. (For more details see Daniel post)

Monday, May 26, 2014

Answering God

Einzelne KerzeNebuchadnezzar needed a miracle.  The dream was beyond disturbing; it was also beyond the ability of his army of sycophants to interpret.  He needed someone who could see into the darkness, into his nightmares and reveal the truth.   His wise men thought he was crazy; only a man possessed by the gods could help him.  He thought they were a bunch of cheats and declared either one of their number would tell him his dream or he'd kill them all. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Prayer Changes Things

Prayer changes things.  I'm not a huge fan of internet memes, but I've seen that phrase bandied about with varying pictures, and I like it.  We have abundant evidence in the Bible that it's true, from the prayers of Abraham all the way to the prayers of the apostles.  In Acts, we see Peter pray two times, and both times big changes happen.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Muscle and a Shovel: An Evangelism Review

There is a book that many Christians I know are talking about.   Muscle and a Shovel is one man's true story of conversion to Christ through the efforts of his coworker.  It's written almost as a diary in the past tense, kind of a cross between a biography and a novel.  Michael Shank, the author, was blessed enough to work with a man he calls Randall at a time when he needed to understand that studying the Bible is not the work of a few minutes reading or listening to a preacher, but a job that requires muscle and a shovel to dig out the truth.  Not only are a lot of evangelistic Scriptures presented in one place, but the story is engaging.   I've read of many people giving this book to their friends as a form of evangelism, and I can't say that's wrong.  In fact, the Facebook page for the book states that there have been 7000 baptisms related to the story.  But I wonder if the better tool would be to take a close look a the character of Randall and use what we can learn from him to tell others about the gospel in a more personal way.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Thinking in the We

We don't often think in the "we."  In our churches we acknowledge the good we do as a group.  But I rarely hear anyone consider that our sin might be a group project.  What might that look like, you ask? Consider this...

Friday, May 16, 2014

Praise Him, Praise Him

My prayer grounded to a halt.  I sound so silly, I thought. God, you are great; you are awesome; you are loving. I say the same things every day, and it isn't enough.  I can't wait to go to heaven, where I can praise God better.  Maybe I should just sing my praises because simple words seem so inadequate.  Does God get tired of hearing the same things over and over?  It isn't as if He needs to hear what he has done or what his character traits are day after day.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Where Does My Help Come From?

The whole idea of Whatsoever Wednesday was to focus our minds on better things.  During a recent vacation in SouthEast Asia, I saw so many scenes that reminded me of the words of the Psalms.  I hope you enjoy the pictures and poem inspired by God's amazing creation and his wonderful word. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Moved to Prayer

In the days of the exile there was a man.  He was a trusted official, the cupbearer, in the court of King Artaxerxes.  Not a prophet nor a priest, not a worker of miracles or the recipient of them, an important but rather ordinary man.  

Friday, May 9, 2014

Heartache and Confidence: Hezekiah's Prayers

I remember the first time I prayed desperately, on my face.  My son was two weeks old, and I got a call from the doctor.  "We need you to come in; it's about your baby's newborn screenings."  Not content to wait until the doctor had an opening, I made them tell me what was wrong.  He had failed the screening for Cystic Fibrosis.  I would have to take him to the nearest Children's Hospital for further testing, but they couldn't fit us in until the next week.  For that week, I was a wreck.  I thought my faith was strong, but I was unable to stop worrying as I prayed with bitter tears.  As a loving Father, God was with me and answered my prayers.  But I could have saved myself much grief if I had prayed more like Hezekiah's second prayer and less like his first.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Pillow Fights and Making the Bible Real

Whumph!  Whumph whumph whumph!  "Daddy's down!  Get him!"  WHUMPH WHUMPH WHUMPH!  Giggle giggle giggle!

Those are the sounds of our nightly pillow fight.  It's way better than the sounds of nightly TV shows, believe me!  After the "work out" winds down, a fly on the wall at our house is likely to hear me reading from  The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe or The Wizard of Oz while Daddy reads something more like Goodnight Moon to the small one.  Then we start the Faith5TM.

Monday, May 5, 2014

How Prayer is Like Pinterest

Anna Blunden - 'For Only One Short Hour' - Google Art ProjectThis year if I've learned one spiritual thing, it would be how to pray.  I thought I knew how.  I'm not a baby Christian.  I've prayed through seasons of change before, through medical troubles, through fear and grief and hope against hope.  Yet this year I've learned all over again how to wait and pray. 

Friday, May 2, 2014


When we are blessed, we feel special; but when we give a blessing, we become spatial.  Blessing turns a dining room or bedroom into a sacred space. It turns a table or bed into a transport station for the God of the universe to enter our world again and again...Blessing brings joy, warmth, and love. It firms, confirms and reaffirms.*
I snorted in disbelief when I read the words.  I have a strong aversion to cheesiness and sentimentality, and these words in a book I was given (coming soon to a Whatsoever Wednesday near you!) were dripping with both.  Besides, isn't giving a blessing a little weird?

Nevertheless, I couldn't get "The Lord Bless you and Keep you" out of my head.  Puzzled, I turned to Numbers 6 and read the words anew. 

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, 'Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them: 'The LORD bless you, and keep you; The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.' "So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them."
Cue the sheepishness.  Far from being weird, blessings were a part of Hebrew culture from the beginning, not only here under the Mosaic covenant, but for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob too.  Not only that, but Jesus blessed his apostles, and they passed it on.  The epistles are bursting with blessings! God blessed his children, and He expected them to bless each other as well.

Chocolate chip cookie closeupThe churches I attend are not in the habit of invoking blessings.  Oh, we pray for them all the time, but we don't often speak them over our congregations, our children, or our friends.  Maybe that's why I was so uncomfortable with the idea.  When I read the Bible with blessings in mind, I found that they are sprinkled throughout scripture like chocolate chips in a cookie!  (See, I've embraced cheesiness!)  I thought I would share some of these sweet morsels with you today.

The LORD will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in From this time forth and forever. (Psalm 121:7-8)

Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!  (2 Thessalonians 3:16)

Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever.  Amen.  (Hebrews 13:20,21)

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen. (II Corinthians 13:14)

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7)

Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints" (1 Thessalonians 3:11-13)
May the Lord our God be with us as he was with our ancestors; may he never leave us nor forsake us. May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in obedience to him and keep the commands, decrees and laws he gave our ancestors. And may these words of mine, which I have prayed before the Lord, be near to the Lord our God day and night, that he may uphold the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel according to each day's need, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God and that there is no other. And may your hearts be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time (1 Kings 8:56-61).
This is only a small sampling of the blessings, or benedictions as they are sometimes called, found in the Bible.  Far from being cheesy or sentimental, they are a powerful call to God to give peace, grace, and protection to the blessed.

For the last few nights, I've been saying a blessing over my children at night before they go to sleep.  My son closes his eyes and basks in it.  My toddler smiles like the cat that ate the canary.  My oldest daughter rolls her eyes.  I can't blame her; I did the same.  But when I acted like I would skip her blessing, she quickly changed her tune.  My plan is to memorize some of these great blessings of the Bible so that I can call God's power down on my children in a Biblical way every night.

How about you?  Have you ever been blessed or blessed others?  I'd love to hear about it!

*Dr. Rich Melheim in Holding your Family Together, Regal books, 2013