A Stroll At Leisure With God

Daystar Plan, Day 62: Parting of Water

Marilyn vs. The Ants Update: oops, have I sort of backed myself in a corner here?

I want to thank everyone for your responses and email. We had a lot of suggestions as to how to handle these little critters. The “chemical” solution is out, because Marilyn is afraid that the dog or cats might eat it and die.

So, the solution lends itself to something that if Joe the dog happened to eat it, and he eats any and everything he can get his mouth on, including every single microscopic scrap of food in the trashcan in the kitchen.

I divert here for a moment … I’ve actually heard and seen this. One day, when my mom and sis were gone, I guess Joe thought we were all gone. I heard this banging sound. And I ran to the kitchen. Joe was kicking against the cabinet door where the trashcan is until it opens. So, that’s how it happens. Once that door is open, let the party begin. Then, he simply pulls the trash container over and the food fest is on.

We now have to make sure that the cabinet is tied shut with a bungee cord before we leave or it is inevitable.

I say all of that to say … we do have to be careful putting out poison to kill ants.

Anyway, thanks for your suggestions. We really appreciate this huge positive benefit of Facebook and the other social media. Of course, there are other aspects that are not good, but getting this type of feedback and help is awesome.

Today, as I was reading the Elijah/Elisha narratives in 2 Kings, I came across a couple of passages I had not noticed before.

Toward the end of Elijah’s ministry, this is what happened:

"Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up, and struck the waters, which parted to the right and left. Then the two of them crossed over on dry ground” (2 Kings 2:8 HCSB).

Shortly after this as Elijah left the earth on chariots of fire, a similar event occurred, this time with the prophet’s protégé, Elisha:

"Then he took the mantle Elijah had dropped and struck the waters. “Where is the Lord God of Elijah? ” he asked. He struck the waters himself, and they parted to the right and the left, and Elisha crossed over" (2 Kings 2:14 HCSB).

Another couple of significant instances where a body of water parted.

So, let’s add them up: the Red Sea, the Jordan, the Jordan again (in both of the instances I cited above), and Jesus’ baptism. Yes, that is right.

Both of these events in the prophets have helped me understand Jesus’ baptism and ours as believers a little more clearly.

All of this is coming to the fore since we are baptizing a young lady this morning. Her name is Sally. She and her husband Brian are neighbors of our youth pastor and his wife—Jeremy and Jessica. The Lord has used them to reach their neighbors. How about that novel concept?

Wish it were true of all of us.

This past week, Sally came to the church office so that I could talk with her about her conversion experience and what baptism means.

As I have taught this through the years, I’ve always wondered a bit. Jesus was baptized. Why? Well, certainly he did this as an example for us, for sure. But I think there was more to it than that.

I think it was the biblical way to START His public ministry. The people of Israel CAME to be, in a sense, when the Lord parted the Red Sea. They became an official nation, so to speak, when the Jordan River parted. And, Elijah who parted the Jordan passed the mantle (literally) to Elisha so that his ministry of miracles could begin.

Lord, I thank you for the graphic symbolism of baptism as an ordinance of beginnings. Of course, it doesn’t save anyone just as the parting of the waters literally didn’t save. You are the only One who can save. I pray for Sally’s testimony today. May others follow Jesus as a result.

Oh, and one more passage I LOVE in the reading for today. I just had to append it.

"When the servant of the man of God got up early and went out, he discovered an army with horses and chariots surrounding the city. So he asked Elisha, “Oh, my master, what are we to do? ” Elisha said, “Don’t be afraid, for those who are with us outnumber those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed, “ Lord, please open his eyes and let him see.” So the Lord opened the servant’s eyes. He looked and saw that the mountain was covered with horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha" (2 Kings 6:15-17 HCSB).

They who are with us are more than they who are with them. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 61: An Enemy Too Small

Marilyn is in a fierce battle. She is very determined. She works at defeating this enemy with fervor. And yet, so far, this enemy continues to triumph.

Who is this enemy, for crying out loud? What is going on, you might be wondering?

Are you ready?

Marilyn is battling some teeny, tiny ants that continue to find their way into our kitchen by the sink. Ha.

No matter what she tries to do—now she has resorted to extra calk where the wall and the countertop meet. They have to be coming in from somewhere, right?

But the more she tries, the more of them I see. In fact, don’t tell her. I saw more this morning. Marilyn won’t be happy.

I’ve offered many suggestions to try to help her out, one of which is, “Let’s call an exterminator.” Marilyn says, “No! Costs a lot of money. I am going to handle this.”

Okay. I’m pulling for her, but …

Ants are incredible creatures, if you stop and think about them. I don’t know how they know, but if we leave one little microscopic (to us) piece of food in the sink, boom! They are there, gathered around it and all over it, with a very organized line going to it and from it back to wherever New York City is.

Regularly, we try to stomp them out and wash the latest troop down the drain, but the next day, another one appears. Somehow, in spite of their huge enemy and HER craftiness, they continue on, mission after mission to The Sink.

It just occurs to me that I am not the first to admire this little creature (sorry Marilyn). “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise” (Proverbs 6:6, KJV).

I do think there is a principle here. In the reading for today—two examples.

That story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19 has always intrigued me. In fact, it was the text of the very first sermon I ever preached in the Summer of 1978 at Calvary Baptist Church in Englewood. Elijah is discouraged after a great victory. The Lord calls him out of the cave and parades several potential theophanies in front of him: the wind, an earthquake, and a fire. Finally, there was a “low whisper” (1 Kings 19:12, ESV).

Elijah had somehow missed God because he was looking for Him in BIG things and BIG numbers and HUGE demonstrations of power (like Mount Carmel, 1 Kings 18). But the Lord is in none of those things. He is in “the still small voice” (KJV, I like this translation the best).

Sometimes the most powerful things are the SMALLEST THINGS, ant-like.

In Acts 1, a small group of disciples are huddled in an upper room wondering, “What next? What do we do now?” They even have a business meeting to fill an empty spot in the disciple committee. You have to 12. I think they got the wrong guy. The Lord had someone else in mind, but be that as it may …

This little group of folks and one, stick-foot-in-the-mouth fisherman, available to God—the beginning of the church—the Lord used them! Peter preached and three thousand more ants were added. Still, not a big group when you consider the population of the world then and now.

I wonder how often I miss God because I am looking for Him in the wrong places.

Father, I am so convicted about my worldliness this morning. “Go to the ant, thou sluggard.” Worldliness is lazy. Give me the grace not to write you off so quickly. Help me expend some effort and squint my eyes a bit.

Fill me Spirit of God, that I might be diligent and discerning to see, actually see and hear You, the still SMALL voice. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 60: The Provision of the Lord

It is kind of incredible (well, not really) that I have talked to two people over the past few days that have spoken of the provision of the Lord.

One brother told me about a lady at church. She handed him an envelope. He opened it. It was a check for $1,000. As he shared this story, he got emotional and said, “This is only one example of the way that the Lord has taken care of things.”

Just yesterday, I was talking with a couple that used to go to our church. They now live in another state. The wife told me of their financial struggles. When they were at their lowest point, they received a check for $300.00 from a relative.

What is this? The provision of the Lord.

This is not something new, however. It has been going on since the very beginning.

Today, in the reading in 1 Kings, I came to the Elijah narratives. As the Lord first called the prophet during the reign of Ahab, there was a drought in the land. You know this story. The Lord provided for Elijah’s in two amazing ways. First, he hid in the brook Cherith and the ravens brought him food.

Second, he used a poor widow from Zarephath. She and her son were getting ready to eat their last meal when the Lord provided for her and for the prophet. Amazing.

In John 21, when the disciples recognized Jesus and pulled their boats and their huge catch of 153 fish ashore, Jesus was cooking some fish already. How did He catch them? I think he ordered them out of the water and onto the stove! Who knows?

The point is that He is in charge of this universe. All of it, including all the money in the world, is at His disposal. We can trust him to take care of us.

This reminds me that when I want something, I need to ask Him. If He wants me to have it, He will provide it. If not, guess what? I don’t need it.

This all sounds very simple as I write this morning. I know it isn’t. Especially these days.

We have something that gums up the works and gets all of us in trouble—CREDIT CARDS.

Lord, it is easy to say that I trust You to provide for my needs. It is another thing actually to live on this principle. Food for thought and prayer right now. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 59: Solomon and Juana

Reading for today: 1 Kings 8-12 and John 19-20

The narrative about King Solomon in 1 Kings is almost over-the-top. Of course, I believe it to be literally true, as I do all the rest of the Bible. That is not what I am intimating.

It is just that the wealth of Solomon cannot be calculated. Everything that he had, everything that he did—he “had the world by the tail,” as the expression goes.

There is not one thing that he could have possibly wanted that he could not have had, including 700 wives and 300 concubines.

This is one of those things that the Bible REPORTS. Certainly, this is an outrageous violation of God’s standard of one man/one woman marriage. And I believe that it set the stage for what 1 King contends:

"He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father" (1 Kings
11:3-4 ESV).

There are three references in these two verses to what happened to the king. The “Thousand” as I will call them turned away his heart. When he was old, they turned away his heart (with age, should have come more wisdom). And his heart was not wholly true to the Lord.

In short, Solomon did not finish well.

I honestly do believe that it is more and more difficult to continue to serve God whole-heartedly when you get older. This is why, when I meet seniors who are, I am even more impressed.

Yesterday, I got to spend some time with a woman of God. Her name is Juana. I took her to a restaurant she introduced me to. Some of the senior women in our church met at Wishbone, near the corner of 104
th Avenue and Federal Boulevard. The reason for this is that Juana is moving to Florida along with her family. I went to pick her up at her home and I took her to this restaurant. We both like it.

As we began our visit, we remarked that she has been a part of the fellowship of our church since 1994—twenty years. Has it really been that long? We reminisced about people. We talked about “stuff” I had not thought about for years.

I found out more about her personal life story including her conversion.

She shared some significant experiences she had had in our church over those years. She said, “This is a good church with a good pastor.” I thanked her for this.

I said, “Well, Juana, if both of those things are true, you have contributed to it. You are a faithful servant of God, and I appreciate it.”

That is exactly what she has been—not very vocal, but when she talked, we all listened. Just one of those people that has plugged along with Jesus. I wish I had a hundred more just like her.

Over these past twenty years, I’ve had a relationship with her family and her grandkids—she brought them to church.

It has been good. I am going to miss her.

But here is the deal: unlike Solomon, I would assert that Juana is finishing well, by the mercy and grace of God.

Lord, thank you for Juana and the years we have shared fellowship in the church. I pray for her and for her family as they move to Orlando, Florida. Give them a safe trip and help them to find a good church there. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 58: A Visit from a Friend

Dan, if you are reading this today, thanks again for coming by yesterday. You will never know how timely your visit was. I thank God for you and your friendship, brother.

Who am I addressing? Dan is a fellow pastor. He served a church on the north side before the Lord led him and his wife on to other things. Right now, the Lord has led them to work with another pastor in a very difficult area in our city. This doesn’t surprise me in the least. Dan never shied away from hard things. Never.

I have to say that one of the greatest blessings I have received in serving First Southern as pastor these past twenty years is not only the relationships in the church but also the people the Lord has allowed me to meet in the broader community of SBC churches in metro Denver.

As I was thanking the Lord for Dan and praying for Michelle and him, I was reminded of some people I met years ago.

When I first started as pastor, I got involved in Single’s ministry through the association. I was the Singles’ Minister for the Denver Association (we now call it the “Mile High” Association). As a result of my work, I had the responsibility of contacting and working with folks who ministered to Singles in SBC churches in the city.

I made a lot of friends that way, most of whom I don’t see or have lost track of, but one couple stands out in that regard. I still keep in contact on a rather sporadic basis with Bruce and Beth. Beth’s mom Carol (who has since gone on to be with Jesus—what an awesome woman she was) and her sister Pam and her family were/still are members of our fellowship. This is an awesome couple.

But when the Lord transitioned me out of working with Singles, I began to serve in other ways in the Association. I met some other guys.

In recent years, I have developed friendships with the pastors that serve on the north side. Dan is one of those guys.

When we get together, we have a lot to talk about, a lot in common. He cares, genuinely. He asks what is going on and really wants to know.

Over the years, we haven’t gotten together as much as either one of us would like, but each time we do meet, for me, it is memorable. The Lord has used him to encourage me many times. Often, statements he makes stick in my mind.

Yesterday, we just spent some time commiserating, sharing “war stories.” We both have plenty.

Two things stand out from our conversation yesterday. First, we both agreed that churches the size of the one he used to serve on the north side and the size of First Southern are diminishing and dying all over the city.

Dan made the statement that larger churches are poised, ready to pounce on the folks that leave the smaller church and/or just swallow them up as satellites or whatever.

A few years ago as Dan and I were talking, he said, “John, here is my prediction: as time passes, churches, like the ones you and I serve will go away. All that will be left is mega-churches and house churches. Everything in between will be gone.” My deepest suspicion and fear is that he is right. And, I think we are seeing this borne out.

Second, we talked at length about the biggest source of pain for pastors. Somehow, this morning, I don’t think I want to go into exactly what this is.

If you ask the average person in the pew about this, I wonder if they would have any idea. I doubt it. Many don’t care.

I’m not speaking here about moral failures or stealing money from the church. I’m talking about something else … I’ll leave it there.

In the reading for today, I am more impressed than ever at the skill that the Holy Spirit has as He tells the story of Jesus’ trials prior to his crucifixion. He would be a great television or movie producer. The narrative in John 18 switches between Jesus’ responses to the various authorities (Jewish and Roman) who level their bogus charges against Him AND Peter out in the courtyard.

There are MILES of difference between how these two respond. MILES. Peter folds like a cheap suit. Jesus, the Son of God, doesn’t. Praise God!

Just the make-up of the narrative gives a valuable lesson that I learned years and years ago, something Dan and I talk about frequently.

If you put your eyes on people, you will always be discouraged and disappointed (Peter is every man and every woman); but if you keep your eyes riveted on Jesus, “who gave the good testimony before Pontius Pilate” (my paraphrase of 1 Timothy 6:13, a verse NOT a part of the reading today but one that came to mind), you won’t.

Easier said than done, Lord. Help. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 57: Away ... For a Long Time

One of the things I deeply appreciate about reading the Word is the way that the Holy Spirit puts pieces together. Today is a primo example of a message I sorely needed.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit with a brother who is a pastor. We were talking about his ministry and he said, “Toward the end of the Spring, I just felt that I needed to get away. My family has a home up in the mountains. I just wanted to go up there for a month to get away, but as it turned out, the demands of ministry would not allow me to do so. Here I am. I still need to do this, but I don’t see now when that will ever happen.”

I can relate to his statement in so many ways.

Over the years, I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to that have voiced this same concern: “I wish I could just get away for a while and hole up in a house in the mountains.”

This sounds a little contradictory, but this is my problem with church retreats and even vacations. Neither one really addresses this need. They just aren’t long enough.

Plus, there are the logistical issues that are very real. Most of us do not have a house in the mountains as my friend does, so if we leave for an extended period of time, we have to pay for it somehow. Not many (myself included) have the financial resources to swing it. Plus, most jobs don’t allow it anyway.

Religion has tried to address this need. For example, the Roman Catholic church through its history has had numerous “orders” in which people could chose to pull away for an extended time. I’m thinking of monks in monasteries and nuns in convents. Neither one of those is “it,” either.

So, what do we do?

David learned. He has the answer. Notice the statements he makes in the last recorded prayer of his life. I’ve pulled out a few statements:

"He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me…. For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall…. You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip" (2 Samuel
22:20, 30, 37 ESV).

Wow. Here is David’s experience. David didn’t have a house in the mountains. The Lord gave him a retreat in the midst of battles and the challenges of being a king.


In other words, in the busiest, most pressing and difficult period of life, the Lord can give us space and room and overcoming power. How about that? It is not a question first of all of logistics and money. It is part and parcel of the power of God.

I couple these references with what Jesus prays in His high priestly prayer of John 17. Whenever I read this prayer, I think of a great sermon that Vance Havner preached years ago, a message in which he highlighted the prepositions in Jesus’ prayer as He prayed for us as we serve in the world:

We (as believers) are all IN the world.

But we are not OF the world.

We are not called OUT of the world.

Instead, we are called to go INTO the world.

"And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one…. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one…. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world” (John
17:11, 14-15, 18 ESV).

Wouldn’t it be great if we could just serve God and not have to deal with the world? Ha. Yeah, right.

Lord, I really needed these readings today. Somehow, I think I could easily become a hermit. But just finding a shack somewhere and hiding out from everything and everyone and all problems (even if I could do this, if it were remotely possible) would not meet this need in my life and would not be your plan and purpose. So, I ask you to do it today. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 56: God and Jesus

I have to admit that over the past couple of months I had grown almost to have disdain for the Colorado Rockies pro baseball team.

Once again, after a good start in the month of April, the bottom has fallen out on their season to the point that they are now “competing” with the Texas Rangers for the worst record in baseball. This has happened for the past several years now. Nothing ever seems to change.

And, like many fans in this city, I have basically given up on them.

When the opportunity arose for me to go with some folks in the church to the annual “Faith Day” sponsored by the Rockies (I think they may even do two of them each year; not sure), I hesitated a bit but I decided to go and invite two boys in the church to go with me—Tom and Ethan.

So, when church concluded, I changed my clothes, put the boys in my truck, stopped at the bank for cash, and headed to McDonalds for a quick lunch. We ate in the car together and then headed downtown to the ballpark.

I took Tom to “Faith Day” last year. It was the very first time he had ever attended a professional game of any kind, let alone the Rockies. He was excited last year. He was as excited or more so yesterday. So was Ethan.

As we made our way to the ballpark, he kept asking about the gift shop. I had told his mom that I would buy him a Rockies’ cap at the game.

Let me pause here to say something: I’m not telling any of this to impress you. The fact is that I love this kind of thing. I have these same types of memories (different sports; different situations) with my pastor, Andy, and they were spiritually significant for me. I am passing it along, and the truth is: I love it. I really do. It is one of the best things about the ministry—“hanging out” with these two boys.

It didn’t take longer than 15 second for Ethan to pick out a hat. There were a lot of them, but his eye gravitated to one and he snagged it. With his own money, he also bought one of those foam fingers.

After visiting the gift shop, we made a complete circuit of the inside of Coors Field before arriving at our seats as the game started. When we arrived, several other folks were there. It was hot yesterday as we sat in the sun, but by the middle of the fourth inning in waning moments of the afternoon, the shade overtook us. It was very pleasant.

It didn’t take long for Ethan to get the “wander lust.” He wanted to walk around a bit more. Tom wanted to join us. We made another circuit. As we got back to our section again, I said, “Ok, boys. We are going to watch the rest of the game.”

When the game ended, things transitioned quickly as crews moved a stage near home plate. Jerry Schemmel, one of the Rockies’ broadcasters, began. The original plan was for Tony Dungy, the former coach to give his testimony, but Schemmel explained that he couldn’t do it because of his son’s health. Tony’s 13 year-old son has already had 33 surgeries. I have no idea why. Can’t fathom it.

Anyway, instead of Tony, two Rockies’ players—Charlie Blackmon and Brandon Barnes—along with hitting coach Blake Doyle—gave their testimonies. Off the charts.

Here is why: sometimes, when pro athletes give testimonies, they are rather generic and vanilla. If they mention God, it is in vague terms.

But not yesterday.

The players talked about Jesus Christ. And Blake Doyle shared from Mark 2. It was almost like a sermon.

Before the testimonies concluded, Jerry Schemmel asked Doyle, “Blake, it seems as if people in our culture are relatively comfortable with references to God, but if you use those two words, ‘Jesus Christ,’ it is a totally different story. Do you notice that?”

“Absolutely,” replied Doyle, “but there is no other way to go.” (This is a paraphrase of these comments).

The testimonies concluded. The Jeremy Camp concert began. I’m impressed with him as well, but we did not stay for long. The boys were getting restless, and I started to feel the bottom drop out of my energy. So we slipped out.

As the boys and I were taking the long trek to the car, Tom said, “Do the Broncos do a faith day and why not?”

“No, they don’t. It is not a priority with the owner and I’m not sure the NFL would allow it.”

I was very impressed with all of it. Today, I like the Rockies again. I don’t care what their record is.

But here is the point. I made it in my sermon yesterday as I preached from Revelation 5. Revelation 4 and 5 are linked. Chapter 4 is about the throne of God. Chapter 5 is about the Slain Lamb of God. John’s writings (John 1 is a primo example) are replete with the linkage between God and Jesus, Father and Son, God on the Throne and the Lamb.

I am amazed that I could take a couple of boys from the church to hear about Jesus Christ from one of the pro sports teams in this pagan town. Thank You God. Thank You Jesus. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 55: Number 18, Taunting, and Nothing

Last near, after throwing a touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders in the waning moments of the first half of a meaningless preseason game against the Houston Texans, Peyton Manning did something that I don’t think I have ever seen or heard of him doing.

Let me back up a minute: for three days this week, the Broncos and the Texans scrimmaged each other. By all reports, each day of practice between these two teams got more and more “chippy.” One man in particular, D. J. Swearinger, had been an instigator of many of the fights, according the John Lynch who was on the broadcast with Ron Zappolo.

Just one or two plays prior to the touchdown, Swearinger hit Wes Welker, giving him a concussion, and knocking him out of the game.

Peyton was not a happy camper and I think he had had enough. So, after the touchdown, he ran up to Swearinger, got in his grill, and said some things. He got flagged for taunting.

Now again, perhaps Manning has done this in his career before, but I can’t remember.

After this incident, as Manning returned to the sidelines, he was receiving congratulations for his actions.

Manning had stood up for his teammate. I was cringing a bit because I did not want him to get into fisticuffs and end up injuring himself or anything …

Manning is usually a cool customer and lets his play on the field do his talking but not in this instance. This whole thing got under his skin, apparently.

In a far more significant way, this is exactly what Satan wants to do with each of us—get “under our skin,” so to speak to that he can cause us to act or react in inappropriate ways.

This is why we must always be diligent.

Today, in the Old Testament reading, I did indeed come to that sad part of David’s life in which he sinned. It all started because of a casual walk on his porch and a look. His life and family were never the same—all the grief and pain could have been avoided, but they were consequences of an action he had hoped to keep secret, but now the whole world knows.

He allowed lust to come to fruition and when it is accomplished—death. (My paraphrase of James 1:15)

Jesus never let this happen—NEVER. I looked up this verse in the Amplified Bible:

"I will not talk with you much more, for the prince (evil genius, ruler) of the world is coming. And he has no claim on Me. [He has nothing in common with Me; there is nothing in Me that belongs to him, and he has no power over Me.]" (John
14:30 AMP). Nothing in Jesus that belongs to the devil, and therefore, no opportunity for an uncharacteristic “flag.”

Jesus, I thank you that the enemy has no power over you. I throw my “helmet” in with you today. Glad to be on your team. You will take care of any slight against my teammate or me. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 54: "Stuff" I Haven't Noticed Before OR See in a New Light

Reading for Today: 2 Samuel 6-10 and John 12

As you can tell, I don’t always include the chapters from God’s Word that I am reading each day in the Daystar Plan, but I like this plan. The number of chapters I end up reading each day is challenging, but I like reading from both testaments.

The “stuff” I noticed today was primarily in John 12, but before I mention those things, I want to make a comment about the Old Testament reading for today—these chapters in 2 Samuel. They narrate the early, “glory” years of David’s reign. He was humble. He made good decision. The Lord gave him military victory at every turn.

However, I found myself, as I turned the pages of these chapters, anticipating the “Bathsheba” story.

As we read the scriptures—these familiar stories we know well—we are really in God’s position, if you think about it because we know how the story plays out.

But if we lived in Israel during the early years of King David’s reign, we would have thought, “David is the greatest king ever and he is going to continue to be great.”

Had they said that, and I am sure many did, they didn’t know what was just around the corner.

That is always the potential with all of us. We better be careful when “things are going great.” This is why I am an advocate for a vigorous prayer life, especially when things are going well. “Happiness” (based on happenings) has a blinding effect, I think. “Good times” become a bit of a pedestal, and you know what pedestals are for.

Anyway, this causes me to come back to our prayer study in Sunday school—the model prayer, “Keep me through temptation and from evil.” The greatest sin of our lives is just around the corner. The moment we say, “Oh, I would never do THAT” or “I can’t believe he or she did THAT.” We are in grave danger. A word to the wise.

Okay, so now, John 12.

“Stuff” number one. "When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus" (John
12: 9-11 ESV).

So desperate and envious were the religious leaders of Jesus’ day that they were even planning to put Lazarus to death (again) to keep people from following Jesus. He had already died once, right? Unbelievable.

“Stuff” number two. "’Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven: ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again’” (John
12:28 ESV). This is the third time that a voice from heaven spoke in the presence of witnesses in Jesus’ public ministry. We don’t really talk much about this instance.

Bible quiz: can you name the other two? What is significant about these “voices from heaven”?

I’ve always wondered why God did this. Here was the incarnate Son of God standing there each time. Isn’t that enough? Why on earth did God speak from heaven also? Maybe the next item answers this, at least partially.

“Stuff” number three. "Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him" (John
12: 37 ESV). What follows this statement is a quote from Isaiah 6—a passage that all the gospel writers cite.

But really, what does the Lord have to do? Here is an adaptation of a statement I heard a few years ago: “for those who believe, no miracle (or sign) is necessary; for those who don’t believe, no miracle or sign is enough.”

“Stuff” number four. "Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God" (John
12:42-43 ESV).

They believed in Jesus but they did not confess for fear … I wonder how many of us fit in that category. Of course, we are ready to condemn these “silent” disciples. But many of us—me at the top of the list all too often fit in this category. Why? I think for the same reason these “authorities” who believed in Jesus in His day were silent. “They loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” Convicting. Deeply convicting.

Lord, I don’t know how to pull all this “stuff” together. Spirit of God, I trust you to do this in my life today.

I continue to pray for my mom as she deals with her UTI and Andy as he struggles with the slowness of his recovery from the stroke. I lift them both up to you. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 53: The Wilderness Years are Over

All great men in the Word including the Son of God Himself had a similar experience—they spent time in the wilderness.

All of us need to do so as well. I believe that it could happen multiple times in one’s life.

I believe that the “wilderness” was an actual place, of course, but it was also a metaphor for a prolonged period of testing in which God takes time to knock the edges off one’s life through trial and temptation.

The tragedy of Moses is that he sojourned in the wilderness for forty years with the people of Israel. He had the opportunity to distinguish himself through obedience to the Lord’s command, but when he struck the Rock twice, rather than speaking to it as the Lord had told him, that was it for Mo.

In the reading for today, at the death of Saul, the days of living in the caves and running like a fugitive were over. It took several years to transition David to the king over all Israel but it finally happened. David became the “shepherd” and “prince” of Israel (2 Samuel 5:2, ESV).

Of course, Jesus spent time in the wilderness—40 days and nights to be exact—where he was tempted by the devil and quoted, quoted, quoted to the enemy. He came out on the other side ready to start his public ministry but of course, He was not done with the devil.

Finally, I think of Saul (Paul) who was gloriously converted on the Road to Damascus. Shortly after God saved him, he withdrew to Arabia. Now there is a dispute among scholarship as to how long Paul was there. Some contend that it was fourteen years. I think they are right. Paul ended his God-imposed time in the wilderness and returned to start his ministry in Damascus.

Okay, so what about all of this? Well, I don’t think that one should press the details too far, but it seems clear to me that in every life, God allows a period of time (the number 40 has significance) in which we go through an extended period of testing (God does this) and temptation (God allow this) to refine us and teach us.

It is a definite period of time. God is the one who brings it to a conclusion. Even that is a test. David had numerous opportunities to slay Saul the king, but he refused to kill “God’s anointed.” Instead, he kept running and waiting on God, and through the death of Saul (too many Saul’s in scripture) he finally ascended to the throne.

I remember that several years ago, a lady in our church told me that she was living in a wilderness time. She asked me what she should and how she could get out of the wilderness.

As far as question number one is concerned: I think the answer is just staying faithful to God through everything. No matter how difficult it gets, continue to love and serve God.

For the second question … I told her something. I can’t quite remember now. But whatever it was, I don’t believe it now. It had something to do with human actions. Today, I disagree. I don’t think one gets out of the wilderness until our sovereign God decrees it.

What does this mean? Well, I believe that these past four plus years have been a wilderness period for me.

What to do? How about these words from the ultimate Shepherd:

"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep" (John
10: 11-15 ESV).

“Savior, like a shepherd lead us; much we need thy tender care.” Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 52: I HAVE Cancer

As I sit here this morning, I recognize that there is a lot of stuff going on at church right now—A LOT. All of it is important and deserves my prayerful and urgent attention.

Last night, since we did not have Wednesday evening services, I had made an appointment with a couple. They have been visiting our fellowship for the last few weeks. They invited me over for dinner. We had a really good visit. But still …

I don’t want to be overly dramatic at this point, but this morning, I feel like I did during this time four years ago, but the emphasis on the words is a little different. Back then, the words “I” and “cancer” were prominent.

As I drove away from the doctor’s office yesterday afternoon, this statement started to weigh with an emphasis on a different word, “I HAVE cancer.” It just sits there like an elephant in the middle of my head.

So, let me back up a bit. I went to the cancer center to get the results of my CT scan. My mom and sis went with me. After a rather long wait (my appointment was later in the morning than usual and the place was literally crawling with people) and a longer period than normal in the lab (Missy had problems accessing my port for some reason; none of us knew why; it has just been accessed the day before with the test), we finally went to the waiting room where Lisa (Dr. Jotte’s assistant) and Judy (the nurse who now administers my clinical trial) were standing and waiting for us. A little unusual.

“Well,” Lisa ventured, “the test once again showed that your cancer has not diminished but it is still contained and has not spread. I know you might be disappointed by this news but we are not. Beside some side effects, you still feel good, right?”

“Yes, Lisa, I do,” I answered, “But what does this mean?”

“You are tolerating the treatment and it is doing its job.”

“But I still have cancer. It is not in remission, right?”

“No,” she answered, “but we are continuing to monitor you.” I could tell at that point that she realized that I was a little taken back. We visited some more. She examined me. My mom and sis left because Marilyn had to take my mom to the doctor for a follow-up to her ER visit.

After another long wait, the doctor came in. “John, I kind of dreaded coming in here today because we are treating your disease but we know you might be disappointed.”

I said, “Dr. Jotte, I am. One of the last times I was in here, you said that this new pill I am taking over time would eventually cause my cancer to diminish.”

Dr. Jotte stated, “Well, if that were going to happen, it would have happened by now, so I don’t think it will.” He could tell that I was getting more and more confused.

“Well, doctor, what does this mean? I guess I have always focused on remission as a goal. Is that not a realistic expectation now?”

He raised his hands to indicate a measurement. “Well, John, most people get treated for a period of time and then we have to make an adjustment of some sort. What we are doing with this new treatment is that we are buying time. You are tolerating it. You are feeling well. We are going to keep giving it to you until something changes and then we will do something else. From the beginning, I told you that this type of low-grade cancer is easy to treat, but hard to get rid of. Some people go into remission after chemo and it lasts for years; others like you see a return of the cancer pretty quick, but most of the time, it comes back, so we just have to treat it again.”

“Buying time.” I need to explain that one. It doesn’t mean that I am going to die tomorrow from this particular form of cancer. I believe he just means that these pills are allowing me to receive treatment and contain the disease until I can’t tolerate them and/or something changes in the future.

So, here is what I am trying to wrap my mind around: I have cancer and for the foreseeable future, I am going to continue to HAVE it. Now, I am not limiting God at this point. But for now, I HAVE cancer. My current treatment is just containing it. And the doctor said that, as long as I still have it, they will keep monitoring it so that if it changes AT ALL, they will move me to another treatment.

As I was leaving, the doctor said, “John, I think this is just going to necessitate a shift in your thinking more than anything else. We will see you in a month.”

Okay. Very unsatisfying. Unfinished business. I like things all wrapped up in a bow. But that is not the deal.

And it doesn’t look as if that is going to happen any time soon again, barring a miracle, and certainly God is in that business, but right now, it fits in the category of Paul’s thorn in the flesh. The Lord told the apostle as he prayed multiple times about whatever it was (no one knows what the “thorn” was. So, today, I am going to say it was cancer; he could have had it; who knows?), “No, I am not going to take the cancer away (right now). I’m going to give you grace instead.”

How about this quote from 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble MANFULLY]” (Amplified Bible). Humm. Don’t know if I ever noticed that before. “Bear trouble manfully.” “Man up”—the name of our men’s ministry at church. I guess I get to see what that means.

Father, today, thank You. Thank You for this day. Thank you for the fact that I feel good today. Thank You for this report and this state of affairs. Thank You again that I HAVE cancer, but it doesn’t HAVE me. Jesus, You are the epitome of a man. By Your grace, live Your man-life through me today. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 51: A Long Day

I could tell that my mom and sister were getting very restless. I don’t blame them. They had just spent the night at the hospital—neither of them left the house the day before expecting to do this.

No one ever sleeps very well in a hospital. I noticed that they had brought a cot in for Marilyn, but she didn’t use it. She just sat in a recliner by the bed. She wanted to be available to help my mom who had to get up frequently during the night.

Let me back track a bit. I went to Sky Ridge Medical Center to get my CT scan. (I will get the results of my test later this morning in a visit with Dr. Jotte at the cancer center). Things were delayed a bit. I had hoped I could get out of there quickly and get down to St. Joe’s to be with my family when the doctor was coming to speak to us about all the test results at the appointed time of 11:30. But I missed it.

When I arrived, the doctor had already been in there, told them that all the tests were negative, and affirmed that my mom has a urinary tract infection (UTI).

I could tell that they were relieved that it was nothing more serious, although, as I indicated yesterday, a UTI is nothing to sneeze at. It is going to take my mom a long time to recover. A nurse came in to give her the medicine she needs and explained how she was to take it.

At that point, we were ready to leave, but we sat around for what seemed like an eternity before the hospital FINALLY discharged her.

On the way home, we stopped for lunch—all of us were famished—before we got home. By then, it was mid-afternoon. I was totally exhausted—not as weary as my mom and sis. But I jumped in my truck to head up to the church for a couple of appointments.

I could barely put one foot in front of the other as I got home later that evening—a familiar experience. It was the same kind of emotional exhaustion that I experienced in Salt Lake City with Andy’s heart surgery and health issues. (By the way, I need to send a text to Andy Jr. today to find out how his dad is doing. I have not heard from him for a couple of days).

Overall, though, we are grateful to God for this news about my mom.

I want to thank all of you who are praying. Please keep it up today. I am very concerned that my cancer is diminished. I fear that it isn’t because my neck seems to have swelled up a little more these past couple of weeks. I’ve had a couple of people tell me this. Of course, all of this—what I feel and what a couple of people have observed--is very subjective. I’m just anxious to find out what is going on from the doctor. We will see.

It is all in the Lord’s timing. The passages I have read this morning confirm this in no uncertain terms.

As David is living the life of a fugitive, running and hiding from Saul, on a couple of occasions, he has the opportunity to kill the king—once when he is going to the bathroom in a cave and when he is asleep in the midst of his army—but each time, he spares the king’s life. Why? David affirms that he will not touch “the Lord’s anointed.” This is the term he uses for the lunatic King of Israel. I use the term “lunatic” intentionally.

I’m getting a head of myself a bit here, but David’s early life of waiting on God forms such a contrast to the sin of adultery he committed in his latter years as king.

The whole concept of “waiting on God” is foreign to our enemy. He lives in the world of NOW—get it now. Why wait? You have an appetite. Fill it. You have a need. Meet it. NOW. No one will know. You can cover it up. Wrong, wrong, and wrong.

Timing is a crucial issue with the Savior. Notice these two references in John 7:

"Jesus replied, “Now is not the right time for me to go, but you can go anytime…. Then the leaders tried to arrest him; but no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come" (John
7: 6, 30 NLT). Everything in God’s redemptive plan that includes His kids happens RIGHT ON TIME.

Lord, I affirm that I am waiting on You today for a list of things … I’m thankful that the life of David proves that you are in charge of times and seasons and leaders and nations. I know you are never late, Lord. And, I struggle with this; you are never EARLY, either. Passionately, fervently, I wait. You WILL answer. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 50: Little Becomes Much

What would August be in our family without some major health issue?

Yesterday morning, my mom awoke with a severe eye problem, dizziness, and instability as she tried to walk. We had no idea what was going on.

Marilyn rushed her to the ophthalmologist she has been seeing because she figured it was some sort of eye problem. Nope. And the doctor was rude, “You shouldn’t have brought her here,” he retorted.

Okay, well, if not there, where?

Marilyn took her to her primary care physician. He too did not find anything wrong with her, but he was concerned about her eye, her dizziness, and her instability.

We were concerned that she might have had a stroke at that time …

So, he sent her down to St. Joseph’s hospital downtown for a CT scan. At this point, I felt it was important for me to tag along. In spite of the fact the ER was packed with people, we got in fairly quickly. I think the doctor’s order did the trick. But once we get her into a bed in the “Senior” section, we waited and waited and waited.

The initial tests showed two things: my mom has a urinary tract infection but also a potential heart issue. The doctor in the ER seemed to be concerned about the heart, but we met an attending MD who came in to talk with us—he was not as concerned.

No one has said anything about a stroke. Praise God!

The bottom line is that they wanted to keep her overnight for more tests and observation.. My mom was a little apprehensive. Marilyn decided to stay the night with her. Marilyn sent me home to feed the animals. I offered to come back, bring stuff or take a shift, whatever. Marilyn said, “Not necessary. You have your own stuff …”

She is talking about a CT scan later this morning at the Cancer Center at 10:00. I hope they get me done in a timely way so that I can get back downtown to St. Joe’s by 11:30. This is when the attending physician said he wanted to talk with us about all the results, including those of the CT my mom had taken. I want to be there to hear that conversation.

Add “stuff” at church to all of this—as I sit here this morning—I am overwhelmed. That is the only word I can use to describe it.

I just pray that my mom can find some relief. She was miserable as the time went on yesterday. Miserable. I know she will be ready to come home and so will Marilyn.

I got encouragement this morning from two very familiar stories in scripture. The Old Testament story of David and Goliath—it certainly shows how desperate the Israelites were to let this boy fight the battle against the giant Philistine. It didn’t take much convincing, but the battle did not take long—one fling of a stone—OVER! “Little becomes much as you place it in the Master’s hand.”

The New Testament story of the feeding of the five thousand is very similar, if you stop and think about it. God used a little boy, not with a slingshot, but with his lunch. And Jesus performed an equally amazing miracle. “Little becomes much when you as you place it in the Master’s hand.”

I had to go to Google to find the name of the song containing that phrase. It is “Ordinary People.” Awesome song.

I fit in that category, Lord. One ordinary man, seemingly more limited and “small” than ever. More aware of my deficiencies than ever. These health issues we are facing as a family seem overwhelming. We face an equally daunting challenge at church. These “battles” seem too big. Not for you. “Little becomes much as you place it in the Master’s hand.” Amen.

Daystar Plan Day 49: A Crucial and Tragic Misstep

I love the way the Bible coheres. As I have said often, especially as I have engaged in these reading plans (The Bible in 90 Days and now the Daystar Plan), I am better able to see broader themes and perspectives.

So, let me see if I can pull this together.

Let me start at the end of the Canon. Yesterday, as I started the series of messages from the book of Revelation, I began in chapter four. The crucial theme there is the throne of God at the center of heaven. It is important in two ways.

First, it sets the tone for the rest of the book—the unfolding judgment of God. Since God rules, He has the inherit right to judge.

Second, this vision of the throne at the center is a corrective of sorts. It shows the persecuted church what is true and has been true all along—there has always been only ONE King and that has been, is, and always will be The Lord God Almighty. This is true in heaven, of course, but in the eschaton, it will ultimately be true on earth as Jesus returns and sets up His throne on earth.

Why is all of this important?

Well, back in 1 Samuel, the prophet gives the reason why. The people of Israel “saw Nahash king of the Amorites coming against you, [and] you said to me, ‘No, we must have a king rule over us’—even though the Lord your God is your king” (I Samuel 12:12, ESV, brackets mine).

Who is Nahash?

How about that name as a Bible trivia question? “Who was the king that Israel envied so they rejected God their King in favor of a human king so that they could be like all the other nations around them (whom they defeated, by the way)?” It is absolutely crazy.

You know the story from there. The Lord, like He does when we rebel, let’s us have our way.

The Lord allowed the people to have a king. His name was Saul. And he didn’t reign very long until he blew it. In chapter 13, Saul got impatient as he waited for Samuel to show up and his army was dispersing, so he “jumped the gun” just as the prophet showed up.

In chapter 14, the king made a rash vow that almost cost him his son’s life. In chapter fifteen, Saul took some of the spoils of war for himself in express disobedience to the Lord’s command. That famous rebuke from Samuel, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen that I hear?” (1 Samuel 15:14, ESV). Busted!

In spite of the fact that the prophet had warned Saul and the people that even though they had violated God’s best plan by asking for a king, they still needed to obey. Even then, Saul didn’t do it. Neither did the people.

I believe things got off track when the people failed to acknowledge that God was their king and they needed no other.

Of course, no fallible human (and Saul certainly fit in THAT category) could take the place of God.

This action set the tone for the rest of the Bible. Do you realize this? The period of the kings lasted all the way to the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B. C. From then on, it got worse. Pagan kings—Babylon, Persian, Greece, and Rome—ruled over Israel.

What a tragic picture of how one seemingly small misstep can have huge consequences? It is as clear as the nose on one’s face.

I wish I could take heed in my own life.

Of course, Jesus’ obedience, the One who dwells in us through the grace and mercy of God is a corrective to this. Not one thing Jesus did was contrary to what He saw His Father doing because God and Jesus are equals (John 5:18).

Lord, it is so easy to see it in others. Spirit of God, keep me on the straight and narrow path. The only way this is possible is because of your grace and mercy and the One who is always totally obedient to and in line with The King. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 48: One of THOSE Days ...

Yesterday was “one of those days.” I found that I simply moved from couch to chair to seat to couch most of the day.

Through the process of chemo and the maintenance treatments, when I encountered a day like yesterday, it was very frustrating. I sat there, but all I could think about was what I had to do.

But as the years have passed, somehow, it seems a little easier to handle days like yesterday.

As I sit here this morning, it is dawning on me that I have had cancer for FOUR YEARS. Are you kidding me?

August will forever be “the cancer month” for two main reasons. My dad died on August 1, 1973. And this was the month that I was diagnosed and prepared to start chemotherapy.

We say this often in our family, “We don’t like August.” I wish we did … It is a great month for weather in our state. Yesterday was an absolutely beautiful day, sunny, warm, mostly clear sky.

But back to cancer—I remember how the start of chemo in early September 2010 hung over my head. It was very intimidating. I had no idea what to expect.

Looking back now, I remember that it was a hard go, but not as difficult as some have to deal with. I didn’t lose my hair. I didn’t have too much nausea, at least time progressed, nor did I have many of the other dramatic symptoms that people have to deal with.

Where am I now with the disease? Well, I still have it. It is NOT in remission. This fact kind of bothers me. I wish it were, but it is what it is.

Having said that (and my mom and sis asked me last night), I feel great. Except for having “those days” every once in while and continued sleep issues, I can’t imagine doing better.

On my last appointment at the Rocky Mountain Cancer Center, Dr. Jotte said, “The test showed that your cancer has not diminished, but it is contained. It hasn’t spread. You say you feel good. The worst thing in the world would not be that you just continue to live this way.” Humm. I guess not.

But still, I pray that it has diminished. I am going in this week for another CT scan. We will see.

In the reading for today in 1 Samuel, the Lord accommodates the people’s request for a king. He warns them through the prophet Samuel about what it is going to cost in terms of conscripted labor and taxes and confiscated property and so forth, but the people will not be deterred. They want a king so that they can be “like all the other nations” (1 Samuel 8:5, ESV).

This is so sad, but I can relate to it. Looking back over my life, how many times have I chased after “stuff” just because others have it? A lot. And it never ends up going well.

This rather convoluted request began the period of the kings in Israel. Saul was the first king of the United Kingdom. Others followed. I guess you would have to say that is a checkered history at best, but it doesn’t end well.

Sometimes, the worst thing that can happen is that the Lord gives us what we ask for.

I would rather just thank Him today, trust Him, and appropriate His grace for this day to be content.

Father, I am grateful for the fact that You brought me and helped me get this far.

"Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, ‘Till now the Lord has helped us’” (1 Samuel 7: 12 ESV). As the hymn says, “Here I raise mine Ebenezer; hither by thy help I’ve come” (“Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”). Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 47: The Biggest Waste in Christendom

For the past several minutes, I have been listening to a bird’s song right outside my window. He is still “singing” as I write these words. I wonder if there is another person on this planet who is listening, really listening to his song.

Why did God create birds and enable them to “sing”? On one hand, it seems like a waste. (This is NOT the waste I am talking this morning. Well, maybe not …)

But so much of what the Lord created and continues to create (He created this song today for me) goes unnoticed and unappreciated. That doesn’t stop God, however.

Thank you, Lord, for this little detail about today, August 16
th, this little aspect of beauty that You allowed my ears to hear…

Anyway, I want to share something this morning, but as I feel I have to do on occasion, I need to preface my comments. So here goes …

First, what I am going to say is nothing personal against anyone. I will never use this forum to blast another person.

Second, I don’t think it is appropriate to use this blog to advocate for something I believe in as far as church decisions are concerned. The congregation as a whole makes decisions. This is our polity. As we consider one related to the topic I am sharing, whatever the congregation decides, I will abide by it.

Third, I have nothing against church buildings. I think they are needed. AND, I deeply appreciate the people in our church who work on them and in them and around them. I strongly believe that those who serve this way are gifted and are vital to the work of God.

Fourth, having said this, I believe that if God blesses a congregation with a building (some churches don’t have one and every congregation wants one), then He expects us to be wise stewards of it.

Did everyone get that?

Having said all of that, I just need to share how I feel today because I am compelled to do so. Like all of my posts, I realize that some are rather “raw,” but from the beginning, I did not want these daily testimonies to be “sugar-coated” in any way.

So, here goes: I think the biggest waste in contemporary Christendom is the fact that most church buildings sit empty for most of the week. I think this is a travesty, and I have always felt this way.

Ever since I was a kid, as I drove by church buildings, I would look at the parking lot—Monday morning, Thursday afternoon, and/or Friday night.

One such congregation comes to mind. For several months years ago, I drove up to Longmont to visit a dear sister in the Lord, Irene, who was in the hospital up there. She dealt with various illnesses and health concerns before she went to be with the Lord (I still miss her).

On the way to the hospital in Longmont, invariably, I drove by a mega-church. I don’t know the name of it. I wouldn’t share it if I did. Huge. Gargantuan building. A 2:00 on a Tuesday afternoon—the parking lot is empty. Why?

Someone would argue, “Well, John, that is their business. They can do what they want with their building.” Right. Of course. But what a waste!

All that room. All those rooms sitting empty and unused for a vast majority of time during the week. Think about it!

We are good at believing that church buildings are places for worship (on a vertical level), but is the worship of God EVER separated from ministry (on a horizontal level)? Certainly, we use church buildings for the saints to minister to each other for a couple of hours a week. That is literally all it is used for. Right? Fine. Well and good. But is that the full extent of the biblical perception of ministry?

I am just asking questions.

All of this got sparked this morning as I listened to the bird’s song and as I read a couple of passages in the Daystar Plan today.

Have you ever noticed this reference about Samuel: "And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground" (1 Samuel
3: 19 ESV).

This is obviously some type of Hebrew idiom. I need to study it a bit. But here is my initial explanation of this phrase: not one word that came out of Samuel’s mouth was wasted! Wow.

The other passage I read in John 2 is about Jesus cleansing the Temple. All four gospels record this incident. John, however, is the only gospel writer that tells us that Jesus did this TWICE—at the beginning of His earthly ministry (John) and the last week (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). In each situation, Jesus drove the moneychangers out of the court of the Gentiles.

First century Jews kept diligent watch over the Holy of Holies AND the court of the Jewish men next to it. But they didn’t give any attention to the outer court. I mean after all, it is just for women (considered second-class citizens) and Gentiles (considered dogs). It doesn’t matter what happens there, right?


It matters to Jesus. “’Zeal for your house will consume me’” (John 2:17, ESV). Certainly, that allusion to God’s house is NOT about the bricks, right? It is talking about what goes on there. Jesus fulfilled this Old Testament prophecy. He cares deeply with fervor to the point of anger. It is THAT important.

Lord, I thank You that in Your economy, nothing is wasted, not one bird’s song (now that the sun is up, my bird buddy is not singing. His song is done for the day), not one word (ideally), and hopefully not one house of worship.

Give us direction and wisdom, Lord. All of us want Your will, certainly not mine or anyone else’s.

Thank you for helping my mom through her procedure yesterday. She did well. Thank you for taking care of brother Saeed. No bad news yet for this dear brother. Thank You. Continue to protect him. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 46: Frisbee Golf

Before I get into this: please pray for my mom today. She is going in for a procedure on her esophagus--stretching it out. Apparently, this is a fairly common thing, but she is a little apprehensive. Marilyn and I are glad she can do this. We hope it alleviates her difficulties in swallowing. Thanks for your prayers.

I really don’t think the couple I spent time with yesterday has any idea what they did for me. I’m so grateful for them. So grateful.

I also appreciate the fact that a few people made contact with me yesterday.

To be honest, I appreciated all of it just because I felt myself sinking a bit as the day progressed.

But back to this couple in our fellowship—Paul and Cindy—we had discussed something for weeks. They had been inviting them to join me. Weeks ago, we had put yesterday on the calendar. To do what, you might ask? Frisbee golf.

I first had contact with this sport through another family that was in our church and their son-in-law—Tom. He had mentioned it to me. He was an avid participant. He had invited me to join him on occasion, but we never worked it out. And to be honest, I was a little skeptical. Frisbee golf? What is it?

Well, yesterday, I met Paul and Cindy at their home in a Brighton neighborhood with which I am very familiar. It was the neighborhood in which my very first home is located.

We met at their home and headed out from there north on Holly just past 136
th Avenue. As we passed the intersection, I noticed a park on the right. Cindy said, “There is the course.” Where? Huh?

We parked. We got out of the car. And, all of sudden, I noticed IT. Hole number one. A concrete slab with a little picture on it and a couple hundred feet in front of it something that looked kind of like a basket with chains on it sticking up on the end of a metal pole a couple of hundred feet in front.

Before we had left Paul and Cindy’s home, Paul had handed me a stack of Frisbees that had interesting monikers. There were “drivers” and “fairway” discs. None in the stack that he handed me, but apparently there are “putting discs” as well.

So, we just started. Throw the disc toward the basket. It lands out there. You go to it and throw it again. It lands closer to the basket. Finally, you are very close to the basket and toss the disc in and add up your score. Then, you go to the next “hole”—another cement slab with a picture on it—with “footage” and a general layout of the “hole.”

At first, I thought, “Well, this can’t be that hard. All it involves is throwing a Frisbee.”

Wrong. My first throws went nowhere. I tilted my arm to throw the disc high and it nearly came back to my feet. Cindy always threw hers relatively low. It went further. Paul did the same, but when his disc landed, it was upright and rolled across the ground even further. Humm.

As we were walking along in this park and visiting and laughing, I was making comparisons in my mind to “the other game—TOG.” In TOG, I have to call the course days in advance to make a tee time. When I get there, I have to pay money to play. I get on a course and somehow have to carry along 14 metal sticks and deal with three others and multiple other people “out there.” It takes at least four hours, and there is a lot of technical knowledge and skill involved. On and on and on—get the idea? Did I mention pay money? Money for shoes. Money for practice balls. Et cetera, et cetera.

But in Frisbee golf (and Cindy told me about all the courses that are out there—in various places in the city and in the state—I had no idea), you just show up any time. It costs nothing. You carry a couple of disks with you (you have to buy them, of course, but that is it). A water bottle. We finished the front nine in about an hour. I wasn’t keeping track. There was no ranger pushing us to keep up or pushing the slow group in front (TOG).

A couple young men were behind us, but they were not in a hurry. Neither were we.

We had planned to play “the back nine,” but it got windy and started to sprinkle rain. So, we met up with Cindy’s mom Helen and her husband Bill.

Bill and Helen met in our fellowship; the Lord has since led them to another church. I’m glad they are able to go to a church where Bill’s family can join him in worship. They are both happy there and serving the Lord. Great! But I miss them both.

Anyway, we went back to Paul and Cindy’s with Bill and Helen and had a great meal (emphasis on GREAT) together and laughed a lot.

How do you measure all of this? Only eternity will tell. I hope those four get an extra star in their crown that they can toss at the feet of Jesus.

Lord, thank you for fellowship and laughter and Frisbee golf. It was fun and such a great diversion to be introduced to a new sport. I had fun! Thank You for Paul and Cindy and Bill and Helen. Give each of them a great day.

In the meantime, I do lift up my mom and this procedure.

I continue to pray for Saeed Abedini, in danger in that Iran prison as ISIS terrorists have infiltrated the jail. Protect him, Lord.

I also continue to pray for Andy. His son shared the other day that he contracted pneumonia and hives and he really wants to go home. In a text that Andy Jr. sent me yesterday (I just caught up with it), Andy Jr. told me that Andy is struggling with the slow pace of his recovery. Lord, I lift him up. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 45: A Baptist Business Meeting

I’m a bit dazed this morning. After I got home and spent some time talking with my mom and sister, I was so “hyped” that I could not go to bed. So, I stayed up a little while longer, reading a golf magazine, trying to settle my mind a bit. Eventually, I just decided to take one of the sleeping pills that my cancer doc gave me.

I really TRY not to take them (I’m afraid of getting addicted to them, honestly) a lot, but recently, I find myself reverting to them more and more.

Why? Well, one of the major side effects of the pills I am taking for cancer is that I usually don’t sleep very well, especially when there is a lot of activity well into the night.

I have found that since I was diagnosed with cancer, I can’t really operate on full-speed as I used to. When I first started as pastor, I would visit with folks well into the night and then come home and when my head hit the pillow, I was gone.

Not that way now. Any type of activity or conversation or whatever—hypes me up.

When I take that pill, it knocks me for a loop. I feel “loopy,” this morning. More than usual! Ha.

Anyway, that is way more explanation that anyone wanted.

We had a good meeting, I thought. A lot of discussion. A lot of opinions shared, as always. Our business-meeting format invites that because we want people to feel that they have a say in what is going on. I like it. I really do, but it puts me in an awkward position.

As I was sharing with Jeremy afterwards, I feel that I have always had to walk a tight rope of being a leader on one hand. Leaders lead. They stand up in front of people and point their finger and say, “This is the way I think we need to go.” They are certainly not infallible. But that is what leaders do.

I learned a long time ago the hard way that before I stand up in front of the church with any proposal, I need to be settled in my own mind and heart about what I am saying AND have done my homework. Usually, this prayer process takes weeks or months or even years on my part.

Such was the case with one of the things I shared last night. It has been on my heart for years.

Anyway, that is one side of the process. The other side is the consensus, collegial, and collaborative aspect—talking to people and sharing ideas and getting feedback. This happens before the meeting as well and often involves talking to folks outside the church.

But, for us, the business meeting is part of that process, sharing with people what you feel led to do and seeking their response and input.

Thus, somewhere between those two poles is where I end up standing. And sometimes the line seems very thin.

This is going to sound bad. But I am not going to sugarcoat it. My only defense in this middle road, paper-thin leadership/collaborative line is not to care as much.

I do care, but at some point, I just have to leave them with God. I’m trying now …

I would be less than honest as well if I didn’t say that some things that are said are hurtful personally or things with which I disagree vehemently or things that are basically just outrageous. But that is part of it. I’ve made outrageous comments myself! So I can’t complain too much. It is what it is.

I was thankful that Jeremy was around after the meeting last night. We were able to visit a bit.

I also talked with my mom and sis. They could not attend the meeting, but they spent time praying—as they always do for business meetings and the effect they tend to have on me. They want to know what happened. They live and die with these meetings. I think it is harder on them than it is on me.

After I had finished venting, my mom ventured, “Was there anything encouraging said?”

“Oh, of course, I answered. A lot, as a matter of fact. We had a couple who has been visiting attend the business meeting (very unusual). The wife said, ‘We have visited a lot of churches. When we came here, Jim greeted us and showed us the way. Others came up to us and introduced themselves. It caused us to want to come back. You must be doing something right.’” I appreciate her sharing this, SO MUCH.

Yes. That is right. We are.

I’m going to take that comment and run with it. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 44: A Weighed-Down Heart

Again, one of the benefits of reading the scriptures from different versions/translations is that it often gives a different perspective of a passage, one that you have never seen before.

I’m finding as I read the ESV in the Daystar Plan, sometimes, the language is a little awkward. Why is this?

Well, let me answer my own question this way. When I was in Salt Lake City a couple of weeks ago, I visited the Lifeway store there because I needed to purchase a Bible. I had forgotten to bring a paper and book type book to use for my sermon.

In the course of looking for one, I noticed a brochure located in the Bible section of the store. It is extremely helpful in that it lays out all the major versions that are “out there” on a continuum. At the far left are the “word for word” translations. On the other end are the “dynamic equivalent” versions.

I’m not going to take time to explain the difference. We took part of an evening in the discipleship course I taught on Wednesday night to explain these two divergent philosophies of translation. I think it helps people sort through the maze of all the translations that are out there.

This brochure (correctly, I believe) puts the ESV version further left with the New American Standard Bible. It is a “word for word” translation. That is why, at times, it just doesn’t seem to read as smoothly as New Living Translation, for example.

By the way, you can find this brochure on the Lifeway website at When you go to the site, click on the Bible link and you can actually download this brochure. I think it does a good job of presenting the various version and options and types of Bibles “out there.” I ended up buying a compact, large print, New King James Version. Interesting …

Anyway, I chased a rabbit there, but back to the passage for today—Jesus’ words to the disciples about end times is significant. He gives several warnings. Notice this one: “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap” (Luke 21:34, ESV).

“Hearts weighed down”—what an expression! As one first reads the verse above, he or she might think of lost people who are caught off guard with the return of Jesus, but I don’t think Jesus’ warning is limited to unbelievers.

I know a lot of Christians who are “weighed down” at times with the “cares of this life.”

This verse provides a very practical reason to avoid worry. When I am focused, as Martha was, on so many things, it is a huge distraction from the main thing.

I need to live every day at the edge of my seat in anticipation of the Lord imminent return. Could it be today?

Oh, man, I am so ready. I guess I can identify with this language because today, I feel weighed down.

Perhaps, it is because I am anticipating a business meeting tonight at church in which we will be talking about some issues and recommending some things. I get kind of wearied when I feel like I have to spend time convincing people that our main job is reaching lost people and we need to be ready to do “whatever it takes” to fulfill the Great Commission.

When I am thinking right, I see everything we do through THAT lens in light of the imminent return of Jesus.

Please pray that our congregation can make wise decisions and stay viable as a church.

Lord, you invited all who are weary and yes, weighed down, to come to you. Your load is easy and your burden is light when we get yoked up in the same harness with You. Let me live that way and lead that way. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 43: Worship is Centering

Yesterday was one of those days in which, in the course of my study, something profoundly impacted me. Profoundly.

I want to get to it in a moment, but before I do, I want to make some comments about the suicide of Robin Williams, the comedian.

I am certainly not a fan of absolutely everything he did. He abused drugs and alcohol. Some of his stand-up routines were very profane.

But I have to be honest that most of the time I saw him, he made me laugh. He has to be one of the greatest comedic talents ever. I’m sure most people would agree.

It just strikes me as being very ironic and tragic that someone who had dedicated his life to entertainment—whether it was his comedy or his acting (some serious roles)—could not “entertain” himself.

I’m making a general comment here. I don’t want to get into specific names, but it is sad to me that many of the greatest comics were tragic figures in their own personal lives.

Robin Williams battled depression, as a lot of people do. But instead of continuing to fight it, he apparently just gave up. And, as a result, Robin Williams, a husband and father of three, made the very selfish decision to end his own life. I phrase it that way because, all his work aside, it would seem to me that just the fact that he had a family would have been enough to keep him going. But I guess it wasn’t.

This stands as a huge contrast to the life to which the Lord calls us.

Prior to leaving for my trip to Salt Lake City, I asked Al to preach the last sermon from the book of 1 Corinthians. That series, entitled “Christian Idols,” addressed all the manifestations of false worship in that infamous church and in the church today (we have not progressed very far; in fact, in many ways, we have regressed).

Having finished that series, I felt compelled to spend several weeks or more on the opposite side of the spectrum—the worship of God. And as I prayed about this, the Lord laid the book of Revelation on my heart.

In “The Bible in 90 Days,” this book took on more significance for me than EVER as the final book of the canon—a masterful way that the Holy Spirit chose to conclude the Word of God.

Funny—I used to shy away from this book because of everything in it that I did not understand and because of all the “teaching” I have heard from this book that frankly seemed out in left field. But now, I seem to come back to it over and over.

Anyway, as I was preparing my first sermon on worship from Revelation chapter four this Sunday, I came across some comments from Eugene Peterson. Several years ago, he penned a pastoral perspective of the book entitled,
Reversed Thunder. I strongly encourage all of you who are reading this blog today to find that book somewhere, anywhere, and buy it TODAY.

I have to be careful with Peterson’s stuff. I have to read it toward the end of my study because usually (as was the case yesterday), it has a profound impact on me that becomes determinative for my study.

This is what happened yesterday. And I need to be careful at this point for two reasons. First, I am still unpacking his comments for my own personal walk with the Lord. Second, I feel compelled to share much of what he said in conjunction with the sermon on Sunday. Thus, I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

But I can’t get away from the sense that I must share something with you today. In chapter four of Revelation, it is all about the throne of God. And Peterson states, “A throne centers authority. Worship is centering” (Peterson,
Reversed Thunder, 59). Profound! He makes more comments about this. Read them for yourself. I’m going to talk about them in my sermon Sunday.

But, here is the challenge: what does it mean practically that the worship of God is the CENTER for me personally today and for the church?

The book of Judges tells us what it is NOT. In my reading in the Daystar Plan today, the narrative chronicles the natural trajectory of idolatry that is based on forgetting God (for the most part), crying out to Him only when I am in crisis, seeing God intervene, and then reverting to a life where I don’t give God the time of day. Doesn’t this describe a lot of “church people” these days?

But then, on the other side of that coin is the story of Zaccheus. Jesus came to his house. Zaccheus got saved—He put the Lord in the center—and his previous life and sin came into focus. It all moved to the circumference. And Jesus said, “Salvation has come to this house today. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:9-10, my paraphrase).

The Lord SEEKS true worshipers. Isn’t that what Jesus told the woman at the well?

Well, anyway, I could go on and on … but again, I want to spend some time meditating on what it means that the throne, the worship of God, is or should be at the center.

I challenge you to do the same.

Lord, I “profess” to say that worshiping You is absolutely the number one priority of life, but today, I am not sure that is the case, sadly, tragically. Show me. Guide me. I also lift up Robin Williams’ family and all his fans. Use this tragedy to point people to YOU. Amen.


Daystar Plan, Day 42: What the Bible Reports VS What the Bible Teaches

Every time I read the story of Gideon, I cringe a bit. Not because of anything in the scriptural text, but because of the way this story has been mangled.

“Putting out a fleece” seems to be an all-too-common practice even for believers.

I think this is bogus.

“But it is in the Bible,” someone might argue. So is suicide, but that doesn’t mean that it is any kind of normative activity for us today.

Let me get back to the story in Judges 6 and 7. God called Gideon to be a deliverer of His people from the oppressive terrorist (did I just use that word?) activities of the Midianites. This enemy hid in caves and often swooped down on unsuspecting Israelites to raid their properties and steal their wares and food. They were a big menace.

But the Lord called Gideon to be his human instrument to deliver the people, and he balked. He argued that he was the least of his tribe and that his tribe was the least—all kinds of excuses.

Gideon felt that he had to test the Lord to make sure that indeed, the Lord was calling him to the task. There are really three “signs” in these two chapters.

In chapter six, Gideon asked the Lord for a sign, and the angel of the Lord caused fire to spring up from a rock to consume food Gideon had prepared.

Then, later on in that same chapter, after the Lord had told him to lead an army to defeat the Midianites, he asked for a sign with the fleece—actually two signs. You know the story. That was in effect the second sign.

God accommodated Gideon further in chapter seven. He told him to go down to the camp of the enemy and listen in to a conversation. FINALLY, Gideon felt assurance that the Lord was with him and would help him win the battle with only 300 men.

Anyway, as I read that story again this morning, I believe that the main point is not the fleece (what the Bible reports), but it is the mercy and grace and patience of the Lord (what the Bible teaches).

Gideon had, as we say in the modern vernacular, a “poor self image.” And God was merciful to accommodate his requests so that he could move forward.

This is what the Lord did in this one individual case, but again, I don’t think there is anything with the fleece that we should emulate. In fact, I think just opposite.

Satan tempted Jesus to jump off the pinnacle of the temple so that the angels would rescue Him, and he quoted the scripture from Deuteronomy about putting the Lord “to the test.” This is patently NOT something we ought to do.

Anyway, all of this is very intriguing.

I say this because I feel very strongly that the Lord accommodated me yesterday. I was extremely tired, and my attitude was not very good. I had a couple of reasons for this. I don’t want to go into them, but as I was driving to church, I just said, “Lord, I need a special portion of grace today. I am not in a good place. Help me.”

I felt we had a very good service. The music was great. A man showed up I had never met before. When I extended my hand to greet him, he said, “I’m not going to give you my full name or any information about myself. And, I’m also not going to tell you anything about the church I usually attend because you would not approve.”

Okay …

You never know who is going to be sitting out there … but during the invitation, he came forward and just stood at the front. He didn’t want to talk with me even though I went up to him, put my arm around his shoulder, and prayed for him. He didn’t budge, didn’t say a word. Who knows what is going on?

But, the Lord doesn’t need much room—just a crack in the door—or three hundred men or a very insecure person or a Baptist preacher with a bad attitude.

Lord, I thank You for your ability to use us IN SPITE OF OURSELVES. It is all about You, more than any of us ever realize. I pray for that man. I have no idea what is going on with him, but You do. And you know what is going on with me. Amen

Daystar Plan, Day 41: A Different Kind of Altar

When all the major fighting in the Promised Land ended, just prior to the death of General Joshua, there was a potential “issue” that emerged.

In Joshua 22, the majority of the tribes who settled in Canaan heard about an altar that the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh had built on the other side of the Jordan where their allotments of land were.

Thus, they mustered the troops and headed over to speak to these two and a half tribes, fearing an emergency of idolatry.

At that point in the history of Israel, the people had learned their lesson. They wanted nothing to do with any trace of false worship.

When the ten and a half tribes confronted their brothers about this “altar,” here was their response: "Therefore we said, ‘Let us now build an altar, not for burnt offering, nor for sacrifice, but to be a witness between us and you, and between our generations after us, that we do perform the service of the Lord in his presence with our burnt offerings and sacrifices and peace offerings, so your children will not say to our children in time to come, “You have no portion in the Lord”’" (Joshua 22:26-27, ESV).

In short, it was not an altar for worship; it was an altar of “witness.”

The only parallel to this that comes to mind are the altars that Abraham built in his early pilgrimages. But the altar of witness is not common. What is it, really?

In our English parlance, we would probably call it a memorial, but even that doesn’t quite get at it. In this case, no one died, but the “two and a halfers” did not want their children to forget their ties with their brothers on the other side of the river.

When the “ten and a halfers” found this out, they went back home—war averted.

Later in the book of Joshua, just before the General died, he set up something kind of similar—a stone of witness, indicating that the people promised not to turn away from the Lord to follow other idols.

What is the significant of these two memorials? Well, sadly, not a whole lot. The reading today contains the first two chapters of Judges. And they chronicle the fact that it did not take long for the people to forget their memorials and turn away from the Lord. They left some of the enemy nations in the land and then began to embrace some of their gods. Not good.

The lesson? No rock or memorial or stone can affect human nature.

One of the stories in the Luke passages further reinforces this—the story of Lazarus and the rich man. Those very poignant words (I am paraphrasing here) as the rich man speaks from his place of torment in hell. “I wish someone from here could go back and warn my brothers not to come to this terrible place.”

Jesus replies, “Sorry, Charley, they won’t listen even if someone arises from the dead” (Luke 16:27-31, my paraphrase and the rich man had no name in scripture, but that is what I call him—ha! Not funny, though).

Both these biblical stories point out the need for a Savior.

Lord, no physical “thing” or miraculous sign—even a Resurrection, as your Son’s rising from the dead confirms—can turn humans around. Only You can do this. Only You. I place my faith today in the Rock of Ages, upon “this Rock” I will build my church. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 40: Not One Word

Reading for Today: Joshua 16-21 and Luke 15

Again, right in the midst of some rather tedious stuff—the last few chapters list the land allotments for each tribe—the book concludes on a high note. I have read these words a lot, I am sure, but today they hit me like a ton of bricks:

"Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass" (Joshua
21:43-45 ESV).

When the Israelites left Egypt and by the time they had wandered around in the wilderness for 40 years, they had grown into a large congregation, in spite of the deaths of those who had refused to believe in God at Kadesh Barnea.

Thus, when they entered Canaan, the challenge of conquering enemy inhabitants and taking possession of the land for every last tribe and individual (like Caleb and Joshua) was a huge undertaking. But this book records the fact that everyone got something and for the most part, they were pleased. This is a huge deal.

In addition, the Lord gave His people rest from war on every quarter. And when all the dust had settled, not one of their enemies had triumphed. Israel defeated them all—another huge accomplishment.

But the final verse sums up everything nicely: “not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass”!

This reminds me of two things. First, I need to find this little booklet—
The Jesus Person Pocket Promise Book by David Wilkerson. It just lists promise after promise after promise in categories. It is a wonderful tool. I feel led to ask people tomorrow at church to share what promise they are claiming.

Second, the words in 2 Peter come to mind: “by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, …” (2 Peter 1:4, ESV). So much to think about there—as I study and appropriate the promises of God, I become more like Him.

Of course this makes sense.

These readings and books and references to the promises of God lead me to quote one promise this morning: “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19, ESV).

Yesterday, a brother ministered to me, and without knowing it, met a need in my life. The Lord used him to be a part of Philippians 4:19 and in so doing, confirmed what I already know about God but challenged me to be open to do the same for others.

Not one word of His promises—whatever they might be—will EVER fail.

Lord, your promises are as good as You are. You have confirmed this over and over and did it yesterday. Thank You. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 39: The Other Guy

In the book that bears his name, Joshua emerges as a great military leader, conquering most of the enemy nations who inhabit the Promised Land. But one prominent player in the drama takes a back seat until chapter fourteen.

Only two guys, when Moses sent the twelve emissaries to spy out the land, came back with a good and faithful report—Joshua and Caleb. They are the only two survivors from the original group who had come out of Egypt.

In chapter fourteen, Caleb, now 85 but strong and virile as ever, comes to Commander Joshua: "So now give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said” (Joshua 14:12, ESV).

Several things I like about this request. Even as an older man, Caleb still has his foot on the gas peddle, so to speak. He still seems an enemy that was/is intimidating as no big deal in comparison to the power of God.

He is certainly not presumptuous, “It may be that the Lord will be with me.” He does not assume anything, but he is not hesitant. But he believes he can drive them out.

The Lord granted Caleb’s request and honored him because he had and still did “wholly follow” the Lord. This phrase is often repeated in reference to Caleb in this chapter.

Again, I like it.

The years and battles did not diminish him one bit. He still had a “fire in his belly” based on an unwavering trust in God.

As I stood next to Andy’s hospital bed in Salt Lake City, I could not help but think the same thing. For most of his life, he had been a runner. Now, he faces rehab from a stroke. What is this? Simply another race for him to run—one of the toughest, to be sure.

The doctors, knowing Andy’s background, made a vivid comparison. They told him, “This rehab will be tougher than preparing for an iron man competition.”

By the way, just an update on Andy: I got word yesterday from Andy Jr. that he actually did take some steps in rehab. The doctors are looking at two more weeks at the hospital and six at home to complete the process. Hopefully, by then, Andy will be able to walk on his own.

I praise God for his progress so far. He is 82 and cut out of the same cloth as Caleb.

I hope I’m still going strong in my 80’s. As I have always said, when my pastoring days are over, I want to be the best helper some pastor will have ever had, and I will focus on praying as well. I will work with preschoolers and kids until I can’t bend down any longer. Give them to me, baby. Bring it on.

Lord, thank you for the challenge of a well-known senior who continued to conquer. Thank you for Andy’s progress. Strengthen him in his rehab. “I can do all things through Christ who infuses inner strength in me.” Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 38: Sin in the Camp

The way some people have applied this particular story in the Old Testament has always bothered me. Let me see if I can explain.

Right after the battle of Jericho, the people of Israel faced another daunting enemy—Ai. After spying out the land, the men returned and said to Joshua, “We don’t need the whole army. We only need a couple thousand fighting men and we can take care of this next enemy” (this is my paraphrase of Joshua 7:3). Hold on to this. I will come back to it in a moment.

You know the story … Joshua followed their bogus advice and the army was thoroughly defeated.

Afterwards, Joshua cried out to the Lord, wondering what was going on, and this is what happened:

"Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted for destruction. I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you. Get up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow; for thus says the Lord, God of Israel, “There are devoted things in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you”’” (Joshua
7:12-13 ESV).

Then, the Lord told him that Israel and specifically Achan has sinned. Joshua discovered this and confronted him. Achan “fessed up” and told Joshua that he had taken some things for himself from one of the tents of the enemy.

Well, because of this disobedience, the people took Achan and his entire family outside the camp and stoned them to death.

Then, they mustered the troops (the second time, it was the WHOLE army) and soundly defeated Ai.

Okay, so back to the application of this that bothers me: I have heard pastors say that their church is not growing because there is “sin in the camp.” They refer to this story as the foundation of this viewpoint.

Thus, what they are arguing is that one person’s hidden sin can stop a whole congregation and thus, rooting it out will once again mean that God will allow the church to grow.

Is that the way it is?

Now, before I go further, I do not want any of my comments to be construed that God “tolerates” sin or the church should either. 1 Corinthians 5 makes this clear. We need to confront sin and deal with it. I want to make this clear.

But—again, to repeat my question--can one person’s sin or even a group of folks—can that stop and/or affect a church?

If so, then it would stop every single church on the face of the earth!

Or, let’s take the other side of the coin: does this mean that for a church to grow, absolutely every person in that church is “perfect” or “sinless”? Ha! Of course not.

No, I just believe that God is sovereign, and He works in our lives as He chooses. It is all up to him.

So, let’s go back to the story in Joshua. What is going on there? Well, I think it was a matter of pride on the part of the nation. This caused their initial defeat.

And, Achan sinned against the Lord—no two ways about it. He violated the ban that God had established when the people of Israel defeated each nation in the Promised Land. He disobeyed the express the command of God, and like all other sin, it had consequences. And God demanded that they address it.

But I am thankful today that not even my sin can stop God. This is why Jesus came and this is what the cross is all about.

If this blog seems a little disjointed, please forgive me. Right in the midst of writing today, a pastor friend called. We had a very encouraging conversation. I got a little distraction.

Be that as it may, I thank the Lord for forgiveness and grace and mercy. You are awesome, Lord. I love you today. Thanks for your work in spite of me, but that having been said, help me as an individual and me as a pastor to be diligent in dealing with sin. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 37: Oops ... Thank You, Lord

Okay, I really focused and made sure that I put a reminder in my calendar and everything. I actually was very proud of myself.

A couple of weeks before my trip to Utah, I received a notice from Denver County that I was a potential juror. You know the drill: the night before, you are required to call to find out if your number is up and you are required to show up at the courthouse.

So, I put a reminder on my calendar to call in last night. When I did, I realized that I had goofed, BIG TIME.

Yesterday was my day to have served. I should have called in on Monday night!! How I made THIS mistake, I will never know.

But as I sat at the kitchen table—the gravity of my error gradually dawning on me—Marilyn said something like, “Well, I will try to visit you in jail.” Great. Thanks.

I raced to find my computer because the notice I received also mentioned a website. I was scrambling to see what the numbers were for the day before to see if indeed I had blown it. What do they do when you make a mistake like I made? Show up at the door with an arrest warrant (thanks Marilyn—ha) or what?

Anyway, after a frantic search, I found the appropriate page on the website and discovered that my number did NOT come up. Whew. I’m still feeling a huge sense of relief. Thank You, Lord.

I can sort of joke about this right now, but I am so thankful for the ways that the Lord takes care of me. This is only one small example among thousands.

As I sit here this morning, I am convicted that I need to pause long enough to think of these things and thank Him for them. There are many ways that the Lord took care of me on my trip. SELAH (this is a Hebrew word that appears in the Psalms—it means, if memory serves, to “pause and think calmly”).

I need to do that right now. I’ll be back in a few …

I honestly don’t take the time to do that each day. And not just for the good things. I haven’t seen him for a while, but a man named Brent attended our church for a few months. He has since moved out of the area, but he used to live right across the street from the church. He had some sort of ailment that made it very difficult for him even to put one foot in front of the other.

But he said, “John, here is what I have learned. I have learned the discipline of just thanking the Lord for absolutely everything—good or bad. I just stop and thank him, right then and there. It is transformative.”

Maybe that is what Mary was doing. Well, I’m sure it was. Luke 10 is in the reading for today. Remember this wonderful story?

"But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:40-42, ESV).

Martha was concerned with serving food “portions.” Mary was concerned with receiving worship “portions” from the One in front of whom she was seated.

Not sure I said that quite right … but you get the idea. SELAH. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 36: Moses and David and John the Baptist and Jesus

Before I get into the topic for today, I need to share a few things.

As my mom and sis picked me up at the airport late yesterday morning, Marilyn said, “You need a vacation. What are you going to do?”

As I sit here this morning, I realize that she is right.

Let me explain: I thoroughly enjoyed myself in Salt Lake City. I had a very nice place to stay. I have a lot of laughs with the family. And, even though I was there when Andy went through all that he did, it did not affect my vacation all that much. So, I want you to know that I stand by everything I have written the past few days.

HOWEVER, I didn’t realize until I got home yesterday the EMOTIONAL toll this past week has had on me. I am literally wiped out.

When we got back to the house, I didn’t even get my suitcase out of the car. I sat down on this couch and I was OUT—for several hours—most of the afternoon.

I got up for a while at dinner time and tried to navigate a bit, but I was worthless for the rest of the day. And I don’t feel much different right now.

I spent a lot of time talking to my mom and sis about the week. They asked a lot of questions about Andy and the family—just because all of us (not just me) are very close to them. When I got done telling them about everything, I could see that just hearing about Andy and what happened to him affected them as it had me.

Why? Well, a vast majority of our memories of Andy involve his days as a runner AND just being one of the most energetic guys you could ever meet—full of vim and vigor. It is just hard for all of us to think of how frustrated he is right now that he is not able to be more mobile. Now, again, he started rehab yesterday and there is every possibility that he will regain the use of his left leg and be able to walk out of that hospital. If anyone can do it, Andy can, with the grace and help of the Lord. No problem.

It is just the emotional toll of seeing someone you care about hurting and not able to do what they like to do.

Plus, there is another aspect to all of this. I have a profound sense of “miss” from the trip. Andy is a mentor for me. I love to talk with him about ministry stuff and personal stuff. And, one of the things I was really looking forward to on this trip was the opportunity to spend some time talking with him about some things. I had a list.

But that didn’t happen. And I miss it. I regret it.

And of course, I just want to say right here that the fact that I missed it is no one’s fault, especially Andy’s, of course. But again, I am just being honest. And it is selfish. I readily acknowledge that.

This doesn’t mean that it can’t happen and very soon, but I am going to give Andy room and space to get better and get back on his feet, and we will see.

But, as I saw Andy in the hospital and said good-bye to him Sunday afternoon, I said, “Andy, I have enjoyed my time here. But I have missed getting to share fellowship with you. Get better and I hope we can do that soon.” He said, “Yeah, I hear you there. Me too.”

Well, anyway, continue to pray for him. Thanks.

As I finished the book of Deuteronomy in the Daystar Plan today, I can not but help thinking that Moses has to rank up there as one of the towering, if not THE, towering figures of the Old Testament. His final days are kind of sad in that the Lord told him to climb to the top of Mount Pisgah and look at the land he could not enter. And Moses died alone with God with on the top of that mountain.

Kind of sad … but maybe not.

As I was preparing for the sermon for this Sunday, I came across a statement comparing Moses with John the Baptist and it cast all of this in a totally different light. Sure, Moses sinned when he struck the Rock twice and disobeyed God with rather dramatic consequences.

But here is point: Moses had a role in the plan and purpose of God. His job was to lead the people of Israel right up to the edge of the Promised Land—so close to it that one could see it from a mountain nearby. And Moses did that.

It was John’s job to point the way to Jesus and then he was martyred.

I also thought of David. God laid the building of the Temple on his heart, but he was not the one to do it.

In all these instances, these great men of God served right up to edge of the full purpose that the Lord had for them and then, in one way or another with Joshua, Solomon, and the Messiah—they stepped out of the way. Their lives ended.

In Luke 9, there is the story of the Transfiguration. Moses and Elijah (as well as David and John the Baptist and all of us as humans) pale in comparison to the Glorified Son of God.

Lord, thank you for the trip. Thank you for my time in Salt Lake City. But I continue to pray for Andy. Help him today in Day #2 of his rehab. I lift up his family and their concern for him. I pray for help, Lord. Again, I am wiped out.

But you, Lord Jesus tower over us all. You are alive forevermore and You reign. I just pray that in my short and limited life, I can fulfill Your purpose for me—to serve right up to the edge and the end of everything You created me for. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 35: A Study in Contrast

Yesterday turned out to be a very busy day, all told.

Sunday school at Alta Canyon started at 9:45. I got there right before it started because I had misestimated how far away the church was—clear on the other side of town. Of course, traffic was not a problem—all the Mormons were already in “church.” It just took a while to get there.

Ken was filling in for the regular teacher in the adult class and did a very good job of teaching from the Nehemiah 9. He handed out verses for everyone to read.

Andy Jr. was on the worship team. He played his guitar—did a great job. Marquis was playing the drums. Fano (not sure of the correct spelling of his name; this is a phonetic spelling; he was in the golf tournament; he is Samoan, I believe—a wonderful brother in Jesus) was also playing a guitar and his wife Janette (I think that was her name) was lead vocalist. This team had not been together very long (of course, Andy Jr. does not live here but joined them for the service yesterday and last Sunday). For just having come together in the last couple of weeks, they did a good job.

Apparently, there were a lot of regulars (including the Pastor and his family) who were out. I would imagine that there were about 20 to 30 folks in the service. I preached my sermon, and afterwards a young lady came up to me and looked me straight in the eye. It was a little shocking because very rarely does that ever happen. She said, “Pastor John, I really appreciated that message, and you can count on it. I will read the Bible in 90 days.” I had mentioned this in the message, and apparently it struck a cord with her.

Her mother and sister were standing there. They thanked me as well.

The few people who were there were very quiet and reserved. As Andy Jr. and I left, we both remarked about this and how difficult it must be to serve the Lord in “Mormon Country.”

Andy Jr. and I had made the plan that, after the service, we were going to get some lunch and then head up to Park City. Someone had told us that this was the weekend of the art festival in that city. We remembered because when I was here last year, we went up to Park City and found ourselves in the middle of it.

As opposed to “the few, the brave, and the proud” in the service at church, there were masses of folks at the festival. We had to park outside of town and take a shuttle into the city. It dropped us off at a place where they ushered us to a table to pay $10.00 just for the privilege of walking up and down the street.

Two things at this point: last year, we both refused to pay. People were not happy. But what are they going to do. It is a public place and street, but this year, we bit the bullet and just paid. I don’t know why we both resent it so much …

As you walk up and down the main street of the city, there is tent after tent after tent of “artsy stuff”—paintings, sculptures, pots, dishes—anything that an artist would make, you could find. But here is the deal: most of it is outrageously expensive—thousands of dollars.

As we were walking along, Andy Jr. said, “I wonder how anyone determines the price of this stuff?’’ Good question. Who knows, but I was glad that my money stayed in my pocket. Of course, even if I wanted to buy, I couldn’t. But it was an interesting study in culture, I guess. I wasn’t as impressed as many who were there.

But the contrast is stark: a few people in a Christian church (as my mom says, “If you ever find a church preaching the truth, there won’t be anyone there.”) versus some foo-fooey Emperor’s Clothes art festival in the mountains (the Emperor IS naked) and then back.

I say “back” because, after we extricated ourselves out of Park City, we went to the hospital to Andy and got to spend a lot of time with him. He seems to be doing better and better. He has more mobility in his left arm now. He seemed in better spirits. He starts physical therapy in earnest tomorrow. He hopes that his left leg will respond, because right now, he is unable to walk.

Please keep up your prayers for him and the family, most of whom will have left by the end of the day. His daughters Karen and Sharon live here and help out a lot. But still … it might be a little lonely for them for a few days, but it will be ideal for Andy to get started on his therapy.

In the meantime, I have to get ready to go. I want to make sure my “abode” here is relatively clean as I leave. I have loved it here. But I am ready to get home. Gotta go.

Lord, I thank you that I am a part of the family of God. I pray for those dear believers at Alta Canyon and continue to pray for Andy. I pray that his recovery in rehab will be swift. Give Stan and Andy Jr. safe trips home today. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 34: Preaching at Alta Canyon Baptist Church

Another good day for Andy yesterday.

I decided yesterday morning that I was just going over to the hospital by myself. I found Andy’s room and knocked on the door. He was sitting on the side of his bed eating breakfast. No one else was in the room.

We had a good long visit. It was great to talk with him. I got to hear Andy’s version of Dan’s Jayhawk hat.

After Ron and I finished our round in the Andy Hornbaker Golf Tournament, we circled back to “heckle” others. This was Ron’s word. It was a good one because that is what we did.

Dan, the Director of Missions for this area, played with Steve, Stan, and Andy Jr. On the ninth tee, I said, “Hey Dan, are you a KU grad. Why do you have a Jayhawk’s hat?” Dan walked over to the side of the golf cart, “Do you want to hear the story?” Of course.

A few years ago, Andy Sr. pulled up in front of the State Convention office. While he was inside, Dan sneaked out and put a sign on his car: “Jayhawks park in back.” When Andy saw the sign, he came back in the building to ask who put it on his car. Dan believes it was at that time that he found out who did it, but he didn’t say anything for months.

Several months later, Andy got up to speak at a DOM meeting. Dan was there. Andy went on and on about a serious “problem” among churches and said that he was shocked about how poorly Christians treat one another.

As Dan was telling this story, he added, “John, all of us, including and especially me, were pulled into this and wondered what was going on. He snagged all of us.”

After a long tirade, Andy pulled out that sign that Dan had put on his car and exclaimed, “Mean and nasty things like this!” Then, he invited Dan up to the front and said, “Dan, in response to what you did, I’m going to give you a Jayhawk hat, not in spite or revenge but in the love of Jesus.”

As Andy told me the story, he said, “As an act of compassion.” Ha.

This is a typical Andy Hornbaker story, and shows the way he operates. I wanted to ask Dan, “Was your little sign worth it? He is going to get you back. You can count on it and it will be twenty-times worse than any feeble effort to get him in the first place!” Dan laughed. So did I. Andy smiled.

While we were visiting a couple of doctors came in to tell him that they were moving him to the rehab section of the hospital. When they found out that Andy had been a runner, they said, “Andy, this rehab will be tougher than any Ironman competition.” They urged him to walk as much as possible.

Andy replied, “Telling me to walk is like saying sic’em to a dog!” (an Andy statement).

Later on, yesterday, all the family—sons, daughters, and grandkids—gathered in Andy’s new room in the rehab section. It is much larger than his hospital room and actually accommodated all of us very well. We all had a good time and laughed a lot.

When it was time to go, I told Andy that I would see him tomorrow. I said, “Andy, when you invited me to preach, immediately, the Lord laid a message on my heart, so I am going to preach it.”

He replied, “Oh, I wish I could be there, but I will be here in this bed. I will be praying for you.”

Thanks. He gave me a good firm handshake.

He is worried that there won’t be many folks in attendance this morning. Many are on vacation. I told him (and I mean it), “I don’t care. I preach to anyone who is there and am glad to do it.” The Lord is helping me with the whole “attendance is a sign of success or the lack thereof a sign of failure.” I’m so DONE with that.

All I can do is to make sure I am ready to preach my sermon to God. HE is always there. NEVER takes a Sunday off for any reason.

Lord, thank you for helping Andy improve so dramatically. He still has a long way to go with a few weeks of rehab. Give him the strength for this. Help me, Lord, to preach the message you have laid on my heart in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Give two of Andy’s kids and their families safe travel today as they return home.

I lift up the services at First Southern today. I pray for Calla as she leads worship; Al as he preaches for me; and Jim as he picks up Mitch and takes him home.

Right in the middle of all of that here or there or in Saeed’s jail cell in Iran—You are in attendance. All is well. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 33: Tired but Covered

As I sit here this morning, it is hard to stay awake. I think a lot of people in the family feel that way.

It is the kind of thing that happens after emotional stress. There is always a letdown. This is difficult for people who have never been in ministry and/or experienced a serious illness with someone they care about to understand.

A few years ago (I’m a little fuzzy on details; I think I am just fuzzy OVERALL), I was talking with a guy. He asked me how my week had gone. I said that I was exhausted. He asked, “Why?”

I’ve learned the hard way since this conversation never to explain too much to someone I know in advance doesn’t really care.

But here is what I said, “Well, I was up at the hospital a lot this week with someone who is sick in our church. I was with the family.”

With a rather daft look on his face, he said, “So you have been sitting around all week and you are still tired?”

Okay. This conversation is over.

Anyway, I think all of us are finally allowing ourselves to be tired, because Andy seems to be doing better. They moved him out of ICU yesterday. Ron, Stan, and Steve went to see him. He was actually sitting up and eating!

I’m planning to go see him later this morning with the family. Karen told me that he said that he wanted to see me. I’m glad to go.

I would have tried to hang out with him a lot more, but I did not want to take time away from the family doing it.

But I want to be clear about this: the family has not made me feel this way. In fact, it is exactly the opposite. They have made me feel a part of the family.

As we were finishing dinner last night, I thanked some of them for this, “Hey, I like hanging out with you guys.” I genuinely do.

But back to yesterday: Andy was on all of our minds as we played the “Andy Hornbaker Golf Tournament.”

I was in the first group with Ron. His son Michael and a brother named Jim joined us. Jim was in the group I was in last year. He is retired from full-time ministry but he is serving a church in the area as an interim.

As we started, I said to Ron, “I’d be glad to switch carts so that you can ride along with your son.” He said, “No, John. That is okay. I want to teach my son how to have a conversation with adults.” Wow! I applaud this. I appreciate Ron trying to teach his kids about the lost art of conversation.

I honestly get so tired of being with people who can’t go three seconds even in one-one-one conversation without having to pick up their phone to talk or text or just look at it. I want to grab and throw it as far as I can.

Well, I think it is rude. I just want to get up and walk away.

Enough about that …

This verse at the end of Lukan temptation narrative always stands out for me:

"And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time" (Luke 4: 13 ESV).

The devil only has three bullets in his gun. He fired them all at Adam—he fell. He fired them all at Jesus—He triumphed. The only ONE who has ever walked the face of the earth. And, this verse tells us that it was not the only time Satan attacked Him.

Jesus won them all and sat down at God’s right hand as my High Priest—perfectly qualified to offer the sinless sacrifice of Himself on my behalf.

I count on you, Jesus, once again today. I’m a 14-carat failure just like my ancestor. I’m glad you AREN’T. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 32: Another Ark

As I begin this morning, I would like to give you an update on Andy.

Yesterday morning, I received word that the doctors determined that he had a minor stroke. His left side is impaired a bit. However, they feel that, with some rehab, he will be able to get back most of the mobility in his arm and leg.

The family really worked at limiting the number of visitors yesterday and the length of time people spent with him. I wanted to stay away and allow the family to be with him.

But Andy Jr. told me that his dad wanted to see me.

He and I both went in early in the evening. Andy Jr. woke him up. I could tell that Andy was very uncomfortable. When you think of everything involved in this surgery—the doctors have to take a vein from the leg for the bypass (many have told me that this is the most painful part of bypass surgery) plus they have to break the ribcage down the center to get at the heart—it is very understandable that one would be in pain.

Andy Jr. asked the nurse to give him some pain meds and turn him over as Andy had requested.

I don’t know … it was just hard to see him in such misery. Not as difficult as it is for him, for sure.

Thank you for continuing to pray. I had another friend text me last night to let me know that he was praying.

I told Andy this—a lot of people were praying for him. It seemed to encourage him a bit.

Well, today is the Andy Hornbaker Golf Tournament. Dan, the Director of Missions for the Association here called the other day. He asked the family if it would be best, in light of Andy’s surgery, if we just canceled it this year. Ron told him, “Absolutely not. Let’s do it. That is what Andy would want.” I think this is a good decision.

However, it will be weird and a little empty not having him there. Last night, even in all the pain and discomfort he was in, said, “So the golf tournament is tomorrow?”

Last year, it was a lot of fun. It is only a nine-hole tournament, but each hole has some sort of prize. Plus, there are prizes at the end. It is certainly nothing high- dollar or fancy, but it is just a time for fellowship. Most of the participants are pastors or church planters in the area. It is great to meet the guys who are serving so faithfully in this tough place.

Salt Lake is not like other parts of Utah. I’m sure there is a good percentage of the population that is Mormon, but not as great a percentage as the smaller towns. Still, it feels a bit oppressive here. I know that is a very subjective comment.

Anyway, I haven’t made too many comments about my readings in scripture over the past few days … but a reference literally jumped off the page to me this morning. I know I have read it before, but I didn’t realize its significance:

"At that time the Lord said to me, ‘Cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and come up to me on the mountain and make an ark of wood. And I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets that you broke, and you shall put them in the ark.’ So I made an ark of acacia wood, and cut two tablets of stone like the first, and went up the mountain with the two tablets in my hand. And he wrote on the tablets, in the same writing as before, the Ten Commandments that the Lord had spoken to you on the mountain out of the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly. And the Lord gave them to me. Then I turned and came down from the mountain and put the tablets in the ark that I had made. And there they are, as the Lord commanded me” (Deuteronomy 10: 1-5 ESV).

As you know, the book of Deuteronomy contains the sermons of Moses as he preached to the people before they entered the Promised Land and he did not. He recounts the history of their wanderings in the wilderness—the good, the bad, and mostly the ugly of those experiences.

After his first time on Sinai with the Lord, Moses broke the tablets containing the Ten Words.

He went back up there to meet with the Lord again and notice what God told him: put the tablets in a wooden ark.

Let’s cycle back to the account of Noah and the flood in Genesis. God commanded Noah to build a wooden ark so that He could basically start over. The ark protected Noah, his family, and all those critters until the floodwaters receded.

Now, in the story of the people in the wilderness, God gives the people another “start over” and uses another ark.

What this tells me today is that, in spite of disobedience—rampant, blatant sin—our God is still merciful, giving us multiple second chances through another wooden “ark”—the cross.

Jesus, I love you today. Thank you for forgiveness and second and 4595807
th opportunities. Comfort Andy RIGHT NOW. Amen.