A Stroll At Leisure With God

Why Should I Die Multiple Times?

My interest and fascination with Abraham Lincoln has increased after watching a movie on television last night about his assassination. It is based on a book.

The author, who hosts a popular cable television news program, took great pains to make sure that everything he wrote was historically accurate. He even unearthed some facts about Lincoln that were not common knowledge.

Anyway, one of the lines of the movie stood out to me. I have searched on Google to find it, just to verify the exact wording. I have not been able to find as of yet. But I will keep searching because I thought the line was profound.

As the days for his death drew near, many of the men who surrounded the president warned him of the dangers he faced. The way Lincoln conducted his presidency made him more vulnerable.

I learned that he was not too keen on a lot of security following him around wherever he went. I assume that the Secret Service was not even in existence in the 1860’s in our country. I’m also fairly confident that the assassination of a president proved to be the impetus for its subsequent creation.

I also learned that the White House was open. Anyone could enter, walk around, and even get a possible visit with the President. Fascinating.

This is context for the quote that I want to share. At one point, several days before his death, one of the president’s advisors cautioned him, expressing his worry over Lincoln’s susceptibility to being assassinated. Lincoln’s response was as follows (this is a paraphrase): “I am only going to die once. Why should I be afraid? Fear exposes me to death on every occasion. Why should I die multiple times?”

In other words, in spite of all the death threats and potential opportunities for assassination that Lincoln’s openness exposed him to, he refused to be afraid and change his lifestyle.

This comment reminds me about a famous statement from Queen Esther. We are getting ready to study Esther, Ezra, and Nehemiah in our Community Groups on Sunday morning beginning in the New Year. She stated, “If I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16, KJV).

I believe that the lack of a fear of death comes from a robust trust in the Lord. We needn’t fear the worst thing that could happen because we are confident of an eternal future ahead. That future includes the judgment of God, in which believers will be vindicated and non-believers will be condemned.

This fact comes out very clearly in Psalm 9: "For you have judged in my favor; from your throne you have judged with fairness. You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked; you have erased their names forever. The enemy is finished, in endless ruins; the cities you uprooted are now forgotten. But the LORD reigns forever, executing judgment from his throne” (Psalm 9:4-7, NLT). Amen.

This is an encouraging word for me this morning because as I have been thinking about 2014 and reflecting on the New Year, I once again realize that something (singular) or some things (plural) are going to happen this year that will not be pleasant. And sitting here on December 31
st, I have no idea what they might be. It is futile to speculate. It is futile to worry about what hasn’t happened yet. Jesus says, “Each day will worry about itself” (Matthew 6:34) or, to paraphrase Lincoln: “I’m going to die once someday. Why should I worry about it every where I go?”

Lord, I’m thankful for the godly example of men and women who have gone before. I can honestly say today that I do not fear death. But I fear FEAR. Deliver me from all vestiges of it. Amen.

Stuff You Don't Hear About and Don't Want To

A couple of weeks ago, on a cable news network, one of the reporters made a statement that hit a chord with me: “World-wide, Christians are persecuted more than any other group.”

Apart from Richard Wurmbrand’s newsletter
Voice of the Martyrs along with SBC emails about the persecuted church across the world (Jim does a great job of sending those out to the prayer team at First Southern), one does not hear about what is really going on in the world as it relates to persecution.

I think part of the reason is that we just don’t like or don’t want to hear about it.

We are comfortable here in the States. We hear about the ever-increasing Gay agenda and businesses that are attacked because they don’t support it in one way or another (i.e. the local bakers who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple), but I don’t think we get all that riled up about it.

This past weekend, I heard a very disturbing story. In a certain village in South Asia, one group falsely accused a group of Christians for taking jobs away from people in the community. As a result of this false accusation, some militant Hindus attacked and massacred SEVENTY Christians. SEVENTY!

I just can’t get over this! Again, this is the type of thing we rarely hear about, but it goes on all the time in various parts of the world.

As I have thought and prayed about this over the past few days, I am more and more convinced that unless and until this type of thing starts occurring with regularity here in the United States, we won’t EVER wake up.

We are just too comfortable. It is too easy, and therefore, we just don’t have the urgency. There is no impetus as we watch the church in our nation decline.

I was talking with someone the other day about the struggles that First Southern is experiencing and this individual made an insightful comment: “I wonder how much of what you are sharing is just the state of our culture and nation and how that pervasive evil is impacting the church.” Well said.

I agree, and I don’t think we have the historical perspective to see it right now, but I believe that future generations will look back on this time and concur.

I say all of this to assert: persecution has historically been fertile soil for the growth of the church. It gives impetus to evangelism and missions, but it does something else.

As I read the early chapters of the Psalter, it hits me: these prayers are born out of persecution! Of course! We don’t cry out to God as the human author of these Psalms does unless there are enemies and those enemies are pressing in.

Psalm 5 describes the proud and the wicked and murderers and deceivers. This is the context of prayer! But it is also a great place to learn about the character of God and how He acts on our behalf.

"But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Spread your protection over them, that all who love your name may be filled with joy. For you bless the godly, O LORD; you surround them with your shield of love" (Psalms
5:11-12 NLT).

These verses describe the BEST insurance policy EVER. WE ARE COVERED!

Lord, it is so easy for me to pray for revival. But now, I am realizing that one of the main ways You bring this about is persecution. Not sure I want THAT! I know it is coming and is already here. I pray for the families of those seventy Christians who were massacred. Give us the grace to stand and to share and to pray when it occurs and as it already does in the world. I pray for Saeed again today. Amen.

What Enemies Say; What God Says

I would like to give some details about yesterday and what our friend who works overseas had to say, but I am going to hold off for a bit. I’m learning that I need to be careful what I write because of security issues.

I do think that I shared yesterday that he and I spent a couple of hours trying to put a slide show together for the service, and yet, when we got to it, for some reason, it didn’t work. I don’t know the reason why … well, I do. I will get to it in a moment.

I don’t blame our guys who serve in the sound booth. In fact, in the middle of our friend’s message, Mike and Duane DID get it to work. And I was so thankful. So, no, I don’t blame anyone except … the enemy.

I’ll tell you: you can mark it down. Whenever we talk about and/or take actions regarding reaching lost people, he gets busy, and he knows what buttons to push, especially with me.

When it comes to my preaching and sermons, I think I am at a good place regarding technology. I know that there are a lot of things that can happen, and the guys who serve in that ministry (at the top of the list—John) do an awesome job. They really do and they take it seriously. But things just happen on occasion.

And if it is my sermon (and it doesn’t happen very often; in fact, I can’t remember the last time), I just adjust and chalk it up to God’s plan for that day.

Where it really “gets my goat,” however, is when it happens with someone else, especially that message yesterday since the slide presentation was so crucial to the message.

My friend Dan and his wife Michelle were there. After the service, Dan said, “I could tell that you were stressed.”

“Yeah,” I replied, “I was, but I’m glad the guys figured it out.”

Again, my main problem yesterday was the enemy and dealing with him. I need to be better prepared for warfare.

Psalm 3 has a lot to say about enemies. I think the Psalmist is talking about a physical adversary, but his comments can apply equally to our spiritual foe as well.

So many enemies are saying, “God will never rescue him!” (Psalm 3:2, NLT) But he turns around and asserts, “You are my glory, the one who lifts my head” (verse 3). The Lord helps us rest and sleep. He helps us not to be afraid even though we are surrounded by enemies, 10,000 or more.

The Psalm ends this way: "Arise, O LORD! Rescue me, my God! Slap all my enemies in the face! Shatter the teeth of the wicked! Victory comes from you, O LORD. May you bless your people. Interlude" (verses 7-8).

I like the “interludes” in this Psalm. I would imagine that one of the reasons for an interlude is that the one singing or praying this Psalm would stop talking long enough actually to think and digest the message.

Theoretically. Oh, me. Oh, my.

Lord, why would I not believe that You are totally in charge of every aspect of my life including and especially a worship service, whether I am the one preaching or not. Give me victory over tanking because of what happens in there. Satan, get behind me. Amen.

Every Season

It is kind of weird NOT writing Daystar Plan in the title of the blog. Weird. This is a transition time until I figure out what my next reading plan will be.

What I WANT is a three-month plan that gives me readings in every portion of the Word every day—in other words—verses in the Pentateuch, verses in the Writings, verses in the Prophets, verses in the Gospels and Acts, verses in the Letters, and verses in the Apocalypse. Wouldn’t that be unique? I haven’t been able to find any such plan. I may have to put it together myself! Ha. I don’t know if that is possible.

Anyway, I am just going to be reading the Psalms for a few days until I can figure it out.

Today, a phrase in Psalm 1 stood out to me: "Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do" (Psalms
1:1-3 NLT).

“Bearing fruit each season”—wow, I would like to BE a tree like THAT. Living here in Colorado as I have most of my life and seeing the “seasons” reminds me that most trees do NOT bear fruit every season. All their leaves fall off so that they can make it through the winter and get to Spring, where the cycle starts over.

I miss leaves on trees around here this time of year! Everything seems so barren, but the Lord figured that out. He knows what is best for the survival of flora and fauna when the temps get down near zero as they did last night.

But for believers, for Christians, God’s design and purpose, as we are rooting in the law of the Lord, is to be fruit-bearing every season, all seasons, no matter what is going on. And, I believe that this reference spans age as well. I still want to bear the evident fruit of the character of God even in my 80’s, if, by God’s grace, He lets me live another day.

I was so glad to spend some time with a brother yesterday. Andy, whom we met on our trip to South Asia last March, arrived at DIA and we spent some time last night getting ready for the service today and sharing fellowship. He is a wonderful example of this tree that the Psalmist talks about.

I’m excited for the church I serve to get a chance to meet him and hear about the work.

Last night, after putting the slide show together for today, we stopped at Betty’s. She graciously consented to sew some buttons in a shirt that Andy will wear today. Then, we went to Kinko’s to pick up some prayer cards that my sister helped design. We are going to pass those out today.

After grabbing a hamburger at Good Times, we headed to James and Anne’s. They graciously offered to let Andy stay there for the night. I appreciate this greatly.

But it was a rather late night, especially for one such as I, one who usually “turns into a pumpkin” rather early on Saturday nights. I don’t mind, though. I had a great time.

I will share what I can in this venue about what Andy talks about today. However, I want to be careful not to reveal too much just for Andy’s own safety and protection. As a matter of fact, this is an issue for us the whole day—just because people could get hurt if certain information falls in the wrong hands.

But again, I am looking forward to today.

Lord, thank you for this season and this time of year in which we spend time reflecting on the past year and look forward to the next. Many call this simply “the holidays.” Even in this time of year and in all seasons, Spirit of God, display your fruit through me and through Andy today as he shares as we root our lives in your Word. Please show me the next reading plan, Lord. I can hardly wait. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 180: The Last Day and the Last Chapters of the Testaments

DAY 180! What an awesome experience! Reading the Bible through in a way I have never done before.

In fact, this year was a first for me: I read the Bible through, cover to cover, TWICE in this calendar year. I’m not patting myself on the back. I did not start the year out with this goal in mind, but I’m grateful and so thankful to the Lord for this privilege and blessing.

Kind of sad to see it end, but I am already looking forward to the next reading plan. How about reading the Bible cover to cover THREE TIMES in 2015? Why not?

For everyone who is reading this blog today, I highly recommend a Bible reading plan and reading through the Bible cover to cover at least once per year. YouVersion—the best Bible app—has plenty of options. I have an idea for a plan. I’ll see if I can find it there or somewhere else. I’ll let you know what I am thinking at some point.

Anyway, it is interesting as one reads the final book of the Old Testament—Malachi—and specifically the final chapter of the Old Testament along with the final chapter of the New Testament.

Let’s start with Malachi 4. It warns of future judgment. It speaks of the “Sun of righteousness” who will rise with healing in “his” wings. It urges obedience to the Law of Moses. It concludes with these words: "Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the LORD arrives. His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse” (Malachi 4:5-6, NLT).

Now, of course, as we know from our reading of the gospels and the statements of Jesus, “Elijah” refers specifically to John the Baptist, a transitional figure in that he is the last of the prophets and a forerunner to the Messiah.

After four hundred years of silence as far as scripture is concerned (the time between the testaments), John came for one last word to prepare Israel for the Messiah. John was outside the “establishment.” He preached and baptized in the wilderness to identify with the people THERE. This is because Israel first turned away from God as a nation in the wilderness after the Exodus.

In the coming of John, the Lord goes back there to call His people to repent.

This is the last chapter of the Old Testament.

In the last chapter of the New, the contrast could not be more pronounced. There is a final description of heaven—a place that is as far from wilderness as possible.

And then, these words: "Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Revelation
22:12-13 NLT).

In the final days, the precursor to the Second Coming of Jesus is the unfolding judgment of God in the planet—all the events described from Revelation 6 to 19. John the Baptist preached to the lost sheep of Israel.

The events in Revelation unfold before the eyes of the world—the Lord’s final plea to a lost and dying WORLD to repent.

Malachi speaks often of curses. God curses false sacrifices, but in the New Jerusalem, there will be no curses, EVER AGAIN (Revelation 22:3).

Jesus came the first time for salvation. He comes the second time to bring a reward for His people and to repay all those who refused to believe in Him.

The canon concludes with an invitation to come to Him (before the events of Revelation actually unfold in history) along with a warning about adding or taking away the words of the book.

All I can do is fall on my face this morning and praise God for His story, His Word, and His Son. Thank you Jesus! Has there ever been a book where, when one finishes it, he or she wants immediately to go back and read it again (and again)? NO! Amen and amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 179: A Good Perspective, the Day After Christmas

I trust that all of you had a good day yesterday. I did. We enjoyed a quiet day that witnessed a rather dramatic change of weather. In the morning, as I took the dog out, it seemed rather balmy, but late in the afternoon, it got a lot colder. By evening, we had sleet that turned into snow.

Usually, I am not all that thrilled about snow, but somehow, I didn’t mind all that much yesterday. It was very conducive to an afternoon in which I sat on this couch, dozing on and off.

Again, as I have said frequently, I like Christmas because of the “Jesus part,” but I am always glad to see the holidays end so that we can take steps toward getting back to the normal swing of things (whatever “normal” is).

I’m praying that we have a good group of folks there Sunday (not for numbers sake). I want as many people as possible in our fellowship to get to know Andy. I think it is critical that the whole church, not just Pam, Nancy, a few others, and me are on board with our commitment to embrace a UUPG (Unreached, Unengaged People Group) in India.

Right now, where we are with that whole process is the relationship-building stage, and Andy is a big part of that. We are working with him as well as K & K (a wonderful couple in the south part of South Asia). I am looking forward to a return trip in 2015, if all this cancer stuff allows. More about that later.

The contrast could not be greater as I wonder about church attendance here on one hand and do my reading in the Daystar plan on the other. The plan for today includes the final two chapters of Zechariah and the next-to-last chapter of Revelation. It is remarkable how similar in content these two sections of God’s Word are. No surprise there.

Both are talking about heaven. Several things about it from these two books.

First, in the New Jerusalem, there is no need for the sun. Why? Because the very presence of the Lord will illuminate the city. "On that day the sources of light will no longer shine, yet there will be continuous day! Only the LORD knows how this could happen. There will be no normal day and night, for at evening time it will still be light” (Zechariah 14:6-7, NLT). I’m not going to cite the exact reference, but Revelation 21 says the same thing.

Second, the New Jerusalem will be a safe place where people from all the nations can enter without fear of any enemy. "Its gates will never be closed at the end of day because there is no night there” (Revelation 21:25, NLT).

Third, it will be a place of perpetual worship. Honestly, now, it seems that corporate worship for a lot of us is something we squeeze into a busy schedule and when we are particularly busy, it is the first thing we toss out the window.

These past few days, my heart has been burdened as I have thought of all the folks I haven’t seen very frequently the last few weeks. There are a lot of reasons why people aren’t in church for several weeks—work, health stuff, et cetera. So, I am not blaming these people. I’m just going to contact them and find out.

However, it has come to my attention recently that some aren’t there because of the fact that we switched our Sunday morning schedule a few weeks ago. Some feel that a service that starts at 9:00 is too early.

I was discussing this with a family the other day in their home. One person said, “John, I don’t like the early worship time. That is why I am just going to Community Groups at 10:15.”

Before I could respond to that, someone else in the family said, “That’s typical in a church, isn’t it? Whenever there is a change, some like it and some don’t. What’s new?” Well said. Again, I’m not blaming anyone. I’m the most routinized person in the church. Change is hard. I understand.

But here is my point: heaven will be a place where worship is something we do 24/7, and 24/7 won’t exist any longer. It won’t be a matter of having to wrap things up so that we can get home to watch the Broncos. All of that will be gone. Good.

In the American church, we as pastors are continuing to make things as convenient as possible. That is not a worry in heaven. Praise God!

One more thing: for those folks who don’t make a priority of worship, are they really saved? If I don’t worship now, what makes me think I will be at home in a city where that is all we do for eternity? Food for thought.

Lord, I’m so thankful for this reminder about heaven the day after Christmas. I’m glad that this world is not my eternal home. I look forward to heaven AND help me to take a lot of people there along with me. You are the One who saves. I know that. Use me, Lord. I am available. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 178: The Lone Man on the Back Row

First of all, I want to wish everyone who is reading this blog today a Merry Christmas. I’m so thankful for all of you, and I never cease to be surprised when I find out that anyone reads what I write.

Again, thanks, but you need to know that I am writing for the same Person that I preach to every week—God.

I don’t know where I heard this … I need to remember because it was significant. Someone told me, when I was complaining about low numbers or apathy in the church, “John, preach your sermons to God and leave them up to Him.”

This person’s exhortation (whoever it was) reminded me of Soren Kierkegaard’s reminder that we as preachers (this applies to worship leaders as well) are not “performing” for the audience out there. Instead, we are all active participants in a worship experience for “an audience of One”—the Lord.

I believe this same principle applies to writing as well. I feel that it is a daily sermon delivered to an audience of One. If anyone (small o) happens to read it, that is a bonus.

One more thing along these lines … somehow as I was driving somewhere yesterday, I believe that the Holy Spirit prompted this thought, “Pray for deliverance from slavery to ‘numbers.’”

Honestly, I felt attacked the whole day around this barb from Satan: “Why are you having another Christmas Eve service? No one is going to be there.”

Again, if I really believed what I wrote about “audience of One” or “preaching my sermons to God,” then it wouldn’t matter, right? So, I still need the Lord to work on me a bit, but I’ve never thought of my mindset as something that I need the Lord to “deliver” me from. But so be it.

The truth is that I felt that last night went very well. Calla chose songs wisely. Her two kids read the Christmas story from Luke chapter two. I didn’t really “preach,” per se. I led folks in a responsive reading. We lit candles. That was it.

But here is the deal. It was difficult to see everyone since we turned out most of the lights in our auditorium, but I did notice someone sitting on the back row.

As people were filing out, this man came up to me. He introduced himself. He said he was from Texas and that he was a truck driver. I thanked him for coming and invited him to come back. He shuffled out the door. Gone.

I don’t know if I will ever see him again. Somehow I doubt it. In my mind, I built this scenario about this man: I’m sure he is on the road a lot, and usually can’t come to church because of this, but somehow, he heard about our service and came in to sit on the back row.

How valuable is THAT?

I am convicted this morning about how narrow and shortsighted my perspectives are. God did bring people. He brought THAT man. Lord, thank You.

There is not one detail of anything that happens that falls outside the plan and purpose of God.

In the Daystar reading for today, there are two major references that New Testament writers pick up on in the crucifixion story.

"And I said to them, ‘If you like, give me my wages, whatever I am worth; but only if you want to.’ So they counted out for my wages thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter ”—this magnificent sum at which they valued me! So I took the thirty coins and threw them to the potter in the Temple of the LORD’” (Zechariah 11:12-13, NLT). That is one.

Here is the other: "Then I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the family of David and on the people of Jerusalem. They will look on me whom they have pierced and mourn for him as for an only son. They will grieve bitterly for him as for a firstborn son who has died" (Zechariah 12:10, NLT).

Think about that—the betrayal of the Son of God and the soldier thrusting a spear in His side—even those two things are part and parcel of God’s plan, fulfilled in the cross of Jesus.

Oh, and one other thing thrown in on this Christmas morning from Revelation 20—Satan is ultimately doomed—thrown into the lake of fire. Therefore, I don’t have to listen to him as I did most of the day yesterday.

I’m thankful also for the family that prayed with me yesterday. The Lord used them as a catalyst in all of this.

Lord, your birth and your death and your resurrection and your ultimate victory and everything included in and around ALL THAT, including the service last night and that lone man—I offer back to You in praise and worship today. Deliver me, Lord. Give everyone who is getting in our time together this morning a reminder that it is always ALL ABOUT YOU. Amen.


Daystar Plan, Day 177: "Ova!"

Yesterday, I said to Betty, “I love the proper focus of this time of year—Jesus Christ—but I am always glad when the holidays are over. We might as well shut down between Thanksgiving and the middle of August.”

Now, let me hasten to say WE AREN’T GOING TO DO THIS, EVER!

And, this time of year, there are significant ministry opportunities, and the Lord continues to give them to us. I want to be clear.

However, what I am referring to is a mindset even many Christians have and they get caught up in all the hoopla this time of year and God gets pushed to the backseat. This includes church attendance and giving. Way down on both counts FOR US. I know that many were out sick last Sunday, but still …

Betty said that she was talking with Ilamarques, the brother who serves as pastor of the Brazilian church that meets in the building. He is a wonderful brother. He said that he and his family do not have a Christmas tree and don’t get involved in a lot of Christmas activities here in the States, precisely for THAT reason. To him, it is just over the top. Interesting perspective.

Anyway, enough said on that count. Maybe First Southern is the exception. Maybe other congregations are packed out with folks who make the Lord and church priority this time of year. Who knows? I certainly hope so, but looking at us, it seems sometimes as if Babylon, the Dragon, the Beast, and the False Prophet are winning (to use Revelation terminology).

Two major things in the Daystar Reading today that work against those appearances. And I love these comparisons!

First, Zechariah’s prophecy contains the reference the gospels pick up about the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem: "Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey— riding on a donkey’s colt. I will remove the battle chariots from Israel and the warhorses from Jerusalem. I will destroy all the weapons used in battle, and your king will bring peace to the nations. His realm will stretch from sea to sea and from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth" (Zechariah
9:9-10 NLT).

What an amazing picture of the way the Lord chooses to things differently than what is typical. Conquering generals and heroes enter cities on chariots and horses, but not Jesus THAT TIME.

However, in Revelation 19, in his Second Coming, it will be quite different. The latter half of the chapter talks about “a white horse … Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war” (Revelation 19:11, NLT). What a contrast between the first time he enters Jerusalem before his crucifixion and the second time he comes into the city.

Second, in Revelation 19, Babylon has already fallen but there is still work to do as the angel calls to the vultures in the sky to come for a meal. He is summoning them to be ready when the battle is over. They will eat the flesh of kings and generals and horses and all humanity.

What is this? Well, there is some dispute, of course (just as there is with all parts of Revelation), but I think this is the battle of Armageddon. All the enemies of God mobilized against the Rider on the White Horse with the sword coming out of his mouth.

This is almost a comedy routine, but there is nothing funny about it. The humble rider on a donkey turned conquering Hero on a white horse is way outnumbered. Are you kidding? All the enemies gathered together—this huge and vast army of evil against the Word.

And poof! “Their entire army was killed by the sharp sword that came from the mouth of the one riding the white horse. And vultures all gorged themselves on dead bodies.

As the local radio announcer for the Nuggets likes to say on those very rare situations when our NBA team wins in the last second, “Ova!”

Appearances are deceiving. I’m not going to put much stock in who comes or who doesn’t this time of year. We are having our Christmas Eve service tonight. I’m going across the street to invite the EMT’s from the Northglenn Ambulance Company.

One year, several of them just showed up on Christmas Eve. It was awesome. Who knows what will happen? I’m going to leave that up to the Rider on the White Horse.

Lord, it is easy for people to be deceived by your humble first “comings,” as a babe in the manger and on the back of a donkey. Nothing subtle about the way You will clean clock when You return. “Christ by highest heavens adored, Christ the everlasting Lord.” Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 176: Two Witnesses

As I indicated yesterday, the book of Zechariah in the Old Testament is a crucial read if one wants to understand more fully the book of Revelation. And these two books give a chronicle of two cities going in opposite directions.

Let me see if I can explain all of this and by the way, I love it!

In Zechariah 4, God gives the prophet a vision with a lampstand with a bowl of oil on top of it connected to seven smaller stands with wicks. Next to the big lampstand with the bowl on top are two olive trees on each side.

The prophet asks the Lord, “What is going on here?” God’s first answer involves Zerubbabel whom the Lord commissioned to rebuild the temple after the exile, and first and foremost, it is a picture of where he strength will come from for this daunting project. "Then he said to me, “This is what the LORD says to Zerubbabel: It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies” (Zechariah 4:6, NLT). One of my favorite verses in the whole Bible!

Of course, oil is traditionally a symbol of the Holy Spirit, and the prophet was commissioned to share this vision as encouragement to Zerubbabel to trust God.

But that is not the only significance of this vision. The prophet explains the meaning of the seven lampstands. They “represent the eyes of the Lord that search all around the world” (Zechariah 4:10, NLT). What is the Lord searching for? Off the top of my head, I would say he is know what is going on, is concerned for everyone on the face of the earth, and is about to execute judgment.

The final aspect of the vision has to do with the two olive trees. “They represent the two anointed ones who stand in the court of the Lord of all the earth” (Zechariah 4:14, NLT). That is all the Lord says.

But the book of Revelation picks up on this imagery. "These two prophets are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of all the earth. If anyone tries to harm them, fire flashes from their mouths and consumes their enemies. This is how anyone who tries to harm them must die. They have power to shut the sky so that no rain will fall for as long as they prophesy. And they have the power to turn the rivers and oceans into blood, and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they wish” (Revelation 11:4-6, NLT).

In short, I believe these two olive trees are a picture of the church—the fulfillment of the law and the prophets, protected by the Lord, have a special place “in his court,” and able to execute the judgment of God over all the earth.

Why is all of this important? In the Daystar Reading for today, Revelation gives a detailed account of the fall of Babylon and the ultimate judgment of this world system that stands in opposition to God.

While Babylon is being destroyed, God is building a city for His kids. The work that Zerubbabel started points to this ultimate city. The post-exilic temple never matched the splendor and glory of that of Solomon. It was a perennial disappointment, but have no fear, the eternal Temple in the New Jerusalem will have no rival in the history of the world in glory because God and His people will dwell there forever.

Back to the two olive trees—what an ominous mission for the church. We are called to share Jesus in such a way so as to spread the truth, for sure, but we are also instruments of the judgment of God. He will use us as he did Moses and Elijah.


Who is up for this? Whoa. Kind of scary and I would tell the Lord, just as Moses did, find someone else.

Ah, nope.

“Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,” says the Lord of Hosts. Okay, Lord. Got it. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 175: Two Officers Executed

There it was, on the front page of the Denver Post yesterday—the headline indicating the execution-style murder of these two officers, a revenge killing for Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

What is going on? Where are we headed as a country? The word that comes to mind is “anarchy.” If this starts to happen on a larger scale, who would ever want to become a police officer?

I don’t know … the news of this hit me like a ton of bricks.

I certainly believe in the right of American citizens to voice their opinions and to protest. I believe that Martin Luther King Jr. had it right as he emphasized peaceful protests during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s. But this type of violence goes way beyond the pale.

Yesterday, at church, after the service, a brother who was visiting asked me a question (I am paraphrasing), “Pastor, do you think that Christians are being put down in our culture in favor of Muslims? Don’t you think we ought to take to the streets in protest over this just as other people protest certain things?”

Before I give you the answer to this question, I do want to say that this question reflects the way that a lot of us feel. I would call it “quiet desperation.” We are seeing things happen, and sometimes, it feels as if this country is spinning out of control.

I could elaborate on all the ways this is happening, but I won’t at this point.

I know I struggle with how to respond to all of it.

I got email from someone recently (I did not pay attention to the source, just the content of the message) that was attempting to recruit pastors to run for political office in an attempt to right the moral ship of this nation that seems to be heading off course.

At first, when I read it, I was intrigued. There is a tradition of pastors running for office—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist pastor in Birmingham, Alabama, is a case in point. I would never dispute how the Lord leads another brother. AND, I’m careful never to say “never” in my own life.

But as I continued to ponder that email, I felt as if the Spirit of God spoke to me saying, “What are you doing? Why would you take a demotion?”

I honestly feel that way. I have the best job in the world—a place to which God has called me, and I am in the best position in the world to affect social change and social justice. It is called the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So, this is the response I gave that brother. “I understand your frustration, but if I had a choice between organizing folks to protest and organizing them to go out and share Jesus, I would chose the latter because I think that obeying the Great Commission has a better chance of making an impact than protesting.”

I believe that, but I don’t think it is going on. Looking at things from a purely human perspective, it looks as if the church is losing the battle. We were way down in attendance yesterday—a lot of folks are out sick. Some are out of town for the holidays. Some have just dropped out. I need to call some people I haven’t seen for a while.

The truth is, however, that in spite of appearance, we ARE winning and have already won. In the Daystar Plan, the Old Testament reading is in Zechariah. What an awesome book! This book obviously had a huge impact on John in the New Testament and thus it is reflected in the Gospel and the Apocalypse. I will say more about this later.

Here is the verse that captured my attention from Revelation today: "The ten horns of the beast are ten kings who have not yet risen to power. They will be appointed to their kingdoms for one brief moment to reign with the beast. They will all agree to give him their power and authority. Together they will go to war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will defeat them because he is Lord of all lords and King of all kings. And his called and chosen and faithful ones will be with him” (Revelation 17:12-14, NLT).

Chapter 17 describes in detail the Fall of Babylon. As I have indicated in previous posts, I believe it symbolizes the world in its opposition to God as demonstrated in all the great kingdoms of history including Rome. Babylon like the beast and along with it oppose the Lamb and His followers, but the Lamb will win simply because of His identity as King of kings and Lord of lords.

And we will be in on it too. Praise God!

Lord, it does SEEM as if we are losing and the church is making little to no impact. We say we believe in the Gospel, but I don’t share it, as I should. Give me boldness as a witness and as a pastor to lead the church I serve to stand up and be counted. I pray for the families of those two police officers. I pray for the man who murdered them. I pray for the police officers across this country. I pray for the issues we face as a nation that cause us to want to get out on the streets to protest. If you lead us to do that, Lord, help us be obedient. We still do have the freedom to speak out, last time I looked. In the meantime, let the followers of the Lamb trust in the victory Jesus has already won for us. Amen.


Daystar Plan, Day 174: Unshakeable

Yesterday, I had a very good conversation with a brother that I met last summer on the golf course. He attends a couple of churches, one of which is a house church.

In a recent gathering, the topic of discussion was: why do you go to church? My friend Charlie (not his real name) was telling the story: “One guy was adamant and proud. He said it three times. ‘I go to church to be fed.’ Eventually, I responded to him in front of the group, “That is all well and good but that is not a scriptural reason.’” We had a good long talk about this, but somehow the discussion struck a cord with me.

If I had a dime for every time I heard someone say, “Well, I left that church. I just wasn’t getting fed there,” I would now be a millionaire.

“Getting fed” puts the onus on one person—the pastor. It makes one’s church relationship dependent on what someone else does or doesn’t do.

Now, I want to be careful here. When one is visiting and looking for a church, one needs to evaluate the preaching that is coming from the pulpit. Some pastors actually don’t preach from the Bible at all. That is a problem! Other church leaders lack integrity for one reason or another. Those are crucial points of evaluation.

What I am talking about are folks who make a commitment to a church—they actually join it—and then base whether things are going well on whether or not they are being “fed.” Preaching is very important. Again, don’t get me wrong. But is it someone else’s responsibility to feed you? Isn’t that the mark of a baby?

A mature believer (just like a mature human) is able to find himself or herself. Right? Proper preaching puts the food of the Word out there. It is then the responsibility of the listener to take it in OR NOT.

This whole concept of going to church to be fed fits into the broader context of a main problem in the American church—an entertainment and consumer mentality. As we sit in the pew, if we don’t like what is going on, we leave and go to another store, I mean, church.

Someday, however, it will be too late for these and other fallacious responses.

The little book of Haggai is intriguing to me. I preached from this book during a series of Revival messages in Pueblo one summer when I was in college. The whole book is basically a challenge to the rather beleaguered exiles to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.

After urging Zerubbabel the governor, Jeshua the High Priest, and all the people to get to work, God says, “For this is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: In just a little while I will again shake the heavens and the earth, the oceans and the dry land. I will shake all the nations, and the treasures of all the nations will be brought to this Temple. I will fill this place with glory, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. The future glory of this Temple will be greater than its past glory, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. And in this place I will bring peace. I, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!” (Haggai 2:6-9, NLT).

This must have seemed to be a strange commandment from God through the mouth of the prophet. Everything was in disarray, especially the Temple. It was in shambles, but a day was coming when the Lord would shake the earth and literally pour the wealth of the nations into His Temple.

When will that day occur? Revelation 16, the New Testament reading in Daystar today tells us. Notice these verses: "Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air. And a mighty shout came from the throne in the Temple, saying, “It is finished!” Then the thunder crashed and rolled, and lightning flashed. And a great earthquake struck—the worst since people were placed on the earth. The great city of Babylon split into three sections, and the cities of many nations fell into heaps of rubble. So God remembered all of Babylon’s sins, and he made her drink the cup that was filled with the wine of his fierce wrath” (Revelation 16:17-19, NLT).

This is reminiscent of an incident in the gospel accounts of the crucifixion. Remember what happened after Jesus said, “It is finished”? Exactly. An earthquake.

Ultimately, God is going to shake this earth and everything that is not tied to the Rock of Ages, including all false motivations and hypocritical actions, will be shaken.

Only those who continue to put their faith in the Lamb of God will make it literally when all hell breaks loose. Make us into people who are unshakeable. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 173: Present Tense Worship

One of the things I really enjoy about reading through the Minor Prophets of the Old Testament is that one comes across words and phrases that are not as familiar as other parts of the Bible.

I have said this before, but one of the tragedies of the contemporary American pulpit is that many of us have our own Canon of scripture, and it does not include certain parts of the Bible. Let’s be honest. If you want to be popular and you want to tickle ears (to use Paul’s phrase in 2 Timothy 4), then you have to stay away from the prophetic literature of the Old Testament.

When was the last time you heard a sermon from Zephaniah?

As I sit here this morning, I don’t think I have ever preached a sermon from this book in over twenty-five years of ministry.

In fact, I feel convicted to go through my sermon files and check on every book of the Bible. This year, I am going to make sure I preach at least one sermon from every book. What I might do is a series of messages from the Minor Prophets in which I take one prominent passage and preach it from this grouping of books. How about that?

Anyway, two passages stand out in Zephaniah, one of them has a direct connection with the book of Revelation.

First, notice these words from Zephaniah chapter one: "For they go up to their roofs and bow down to the sun, moon, and stars. They claim to follow the LORD, but then they worship Molech, too. And I will destroy those who used to worship me but now no longer do. They no longer ask for the LORD’s guidance or seek my blessings” (Zephaniah 1:5-6, NLT).

God says, “I will destroy those who used to worship me but now no longer do.”

If I had a dime for every time I have met folks and in the process of asking about their spiritual condition and when we get to the subject of church, they say, “Well, I used to go,” as if that counted for something, that somehow, he or she deserves brownie points because he or she USED to go.

This is another one of those Minor Prophet indictments of idolatry. What matters is NOW. And if NOW, I am not actively involved in worshiping the Lord, Houston, we have a problem.

Right now, some families come to mind that used to be very faithful in their worship of God, but now, they aren’t. One has to wonder about where they are with the Lord. I will leave the final judgment up to the Lord, but still …

The second reference that captured my attention is in chapter three of Zephaniah: "For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs” (Zephaniah 3:17, NLT). Did I read that right? God “will rejoice over me with joyful songs.”

I checked a couple of other translations of this verse. The NASB and HCSB Bible translate the final phrase as, “He will rejoice or delight over you with shouts of joy.”

This verse is incredible, and it speaks of a future day beyond judgment in which God will enjoy a special relationship with the remnant, true believers in Jesus, who stayed with the stuff. No matter what happens to me in this life, I want always to speak of my relationship with the Lord in the PRESENT TENSE—no “I used to’s.”

Revelation 15 gives a vivid picture of the people gathered before the throne of God, on the glass sea. “On it stood all the people who had been victorious over the beast and his statue and the number representing his name” (Revelation 15:2, NLT). These folks broke out in song—the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb.

After God brought the people through the Red Sea on dry land (by the way, a friend told me that the new movie on the Exodus does not show this—humm), Moses led the people in a song.

AND, remember what happened after Jesus served the Supper in the upper room before heading out to the Garden and on to Calvary? Right, they sang a hymn.

This vivid picture in Revelation pulls all these songs together as all the nations stand before the Lord worshiping Him forever.

Can you imagine? Lord, I choose to continue to sing and worship now. I want to be very “practiced up” for eternity. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 172: Two Questions and One BIG Answer

Again, I love how all parts of the Bible cohere. Of course this is true because there is One Author—the Holy Spirit.

The Old Testament reading in the Daystar Plan for today is the little, three-chapter prophecy of Habakkuk. This is one of my favorite books in the Canon because it is a very honest portrayal of the prophet’s questions for God. And it gives God’s answers.

Think about this a moment: when was the last time you heard a preacher preach his own deep questions for God?

I have never done it. I don’t know many (if any) who have. Why?

Well, it is risky for one thing. Preachers who reveal too much of themselves risk causing someone to stumble. Let me say right up front that this should NOT be the case, but unfortunately, it is. I can just hear someone saying, “Wait a minute preacher. You shouldn’t be having those kinds of questions. We pay you to stand up there and give answers to all of life problems.” Something like that.

Of course, this is ludicrous. No one person has ALL the answers. There is only One Person who does, but do you get my point?

Preaching questions is EXACTLY what the ministry of Habakkuk recorded in scripture is all about—two questions. Two rather scandalous but extremely honest, heart-felt inquiries for the Lord.

The first one is a question all of us ask (are you kidding me?): “How long, O Lord, must I call for help? But you do not listen!” (Habakkuk 1:2, NLT) Here is a man in distress, calling out to God, and seemingly God is not answering.

But what SEEMS to be the case often isn’t. God is working. Basically what he tells the prophet is: “I am raising up the Babylonian, a cruel and violent people. They will march across the world and conquer other lands” (Habakkuk 1:6, NLT). Now the Bible does not record the emotion of the prophet necessarily, although we can read between the lines.

But THAT answer would not be one that I would like to hear—very unsatisfying. God told him that I am raising up a nation that will destroy your country. Have a nice day.

Habakkuk is not satisfied. He ruminates some more and the apparent injustice of God’s answer to his first question comes to a boil. “Wait a minute, God, you are not going to wipe us out, and use this evil nation to do it, are you? They are evil!” (My paraphrase) “But you are pure and cannot stand the sight of evil. Will you wink at their treachery? Should you be silent while the wicked swallow up people more righteous than they?” (Habakkuk 1:14, NLT) Good questions. Food for thought. Habakkuk asks questions we would ask. He preaches those questions.

Well, God answers and basically says, “Just wait. Justice will come someday.”

Off the top of my head, I don’t remember much about Habakkuk’s personal story, but I feel safe in saying that during the course of his life, he never saw God’s full answer.

The Babylonians did defeat Judah and carry them into exile. The nation of Israel has never fully recovered from this. One could almost say that Babylon was the greatest enemy and the biggest defeat God’s people ever experienced, outside the Holocaust.

So what gives? Well, the story isn’t over yet.

Turn to the New Testament. How about these words in the New Testament reading in the Daystar Plan for today? "Then another angel followed him through the sky, shouting, ‘Babylon is fallen—that great city is fallen—because she made all the nations of the world drink the wine of her passionate immorality’” (Revelation 14:8, NLT). How about them apples? Praise God!

Throughout the book of Revelation, “Babylon” is a moniker for the world system that stands in opposition to God, like a perennial enemy constantly at battle against God’s people at every turn.

Here is how powerful God is: He can use our greatest enemy or challenge as a tool in His hands and then turn around and defeat it—maybe not in our lifetime—but mark it down. God is just. His justice WILL triumph.

I praise God for this. Yesterday, I spent a lot of time along with folks on our Budget Team finalizing the budget proposal for this Sunday. We are cutting here and there and scraping and trimming and trying to make do with less and less at the same time as another Bronco player just signed a new multi-million-dollar contract.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Chris Harris Jr. I think the Broncos made a good move. But still …

This football player will make more in one year than the church I serve has brought in in the twenty-five years I have served as pastor. This seems unfair to me. What is going on, God?

Someday. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 171: Homebound Visits

First of all, I want to thank you for praying for the service at the nursing home yesterday. I met Jim in the lobby of Northglenn Heights. We walked together down a hallway to an elevator. Soon after punching the number 2 key, both of us noticed a makeshift paper sign taped on the wall of the elevator, “Non-denomination Service Cancelled Because of Illness.”

Huh, what?

Turns out that this is a fairly common practice in nursing homes I have visited over the years. Some even close down the whole facility, locking out all visitors. It would have been nice to have known about this prior to coming, but I guess these places do what they can.

Jim and I headed back to the church to start making visits. After taking four food baskets down the street to Leroy Elementary, we returned to the church to receive our assignments for visiting shut-ins in our fellowship. Betty and Pam did a good job putting “Christmas stockings” together for these folks. These stockings contain sweets and cards and various other small items.

We had four families to visit. We found each one home and very willing to share fellowship. It was great to visit these families.

At one point, after we left a home, I said to Jim, “What hits me as a result of these visits is how isolated most people, especially seniors dealing with illness, really are.”

I went on to talk with Jim about my own family.

The truth is that it is particularly difficult for my mom and sister to live so far away from the church that they are only able to be involved in the fellowship of the church once a week, and sometimes, not even that.

The folks Jim and I visited live near the church. THAT is not the issue for them. Health is. Muriel isn’t feeling well. Her husband Harry, her caregiver, isn’t fairing much better, and he is frustrated because he can’t even drive any longer. This is a man who was a truck driver, telling me he drove two to three million miles in his career. Wow.

Pat had a fall recently, breaking her wrist and injuring her back. She was in a lot of pain. Gary, her husband, told us that he was doing a little better and hoped he could return to church soon.

Delores has cancer, and recently she has been having a lot back pain and feels very fatigued most of the time. Her son Dave was there. He faces a lot of physical challenges himself. They both depend transportation services just to get around to the doctor or even to the store.

Myrtle has Parkinson’s disease and her knees really bother her. She misses being able to come to church. I told her, “Myrtle, I look over to my right every Sunday and miss seeing you there.”

Later on in the afternoon, I made another visit to a senior couple. Waine and Elaine are dealing with multiple physical “issues” as well. We had a good visit before I had to leave to get back to the church for an appointment.

I thought it best this morning to give you an idea of what each of these dear families is facing. Dear Reader, you may not know these folks, but please pray for each of them.

My heart and prayers go out to them, even more so after yesterday. I thought of them as I read an interesting statement in Revelation 13—the New Testament reading in the Daystar Plan for today: "Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand. Anyone who is destined for prison will be taken to prison. Anyone destined to die by the sword will die by the sword. This means that God’s holy people must endure persecution patiently and remain faithful” (Revelation 13:9-10, NLT).

These are dramatic example of the persecution believers will face from the triumvirate of evil consisting of the Dragon, the Beast of the Sea, and the Beast of the Earth, the latter two being the Anti-Christ and the False Prophet (if memory serves from my prior study of this book). They are formidable enemies indeed, but no match for the Lamb and the followers of the Lamb.

I include these dear believers and members of our fellowship as folks who are “destined” to be away from the fellowship—this is a very hard pill to swallow. Many people these days are very nonchalant about their church attendance and commitment. Not the people I visited yesterday. They are home because they are “stuck” there.

The Lord calls them, along with the rest of us “to remain faithful.”

Lord, I am thankful for each of the families Jim and I were able to visit yesterday. I lift them up. I enjoyed seeing them. I pray that you would encourage each of them today. Amen.


Daystar Plan, Day 170: The Immensity of Forgiveness

Before I discuss the verses for today, I want to ask you to pray for Jim and me. We are conducting a service at a local nursing home this morning. Jim ministers twice a month at Northglenn Heights. He shifted the actual day he serves from Friday to Wednesday so that I could be involved. I appreciate this greatly.

I’m looking forward to it today. This ministry brings back a lot of memories.

I led a worship service at a nursing home in Waco for two and a half years. Plus, every Thursday night, I went to visit shut-ins in the church and folks in the nursing home. I invited a female to go with me. Nancy was her name. Like me, she was a member at Beverly Hills and had a heart for ministering to seniors.

And no, believe this or not, I was not interested in her from a dating standpoint, but even if I were, she already had a boyfriend.

But I digress …

This was just another aspect of the ministry the Lord allowed me to have through my church in Waco. The other was with boys and girls on my bus route. I visited in the community of Robinson just about every Saturday. I loved knocking on doors and sharing Jesus and inviting boys and girls to church.

Whoa, I haven’t thought about all of that in years. It makes me realize that I really had more of a connection to the church than I did to Baylor while I was in college. I don’t have any regrets, and I loved my college years and still love Baylor.

Anyway, I share all of that because today’s ministry touches a cord with me and makes me realize how much I miss just serving for serving’s sake.

There is a lot of stuff I do as a pastor because it is part of the job. Don’t get me wrong. I love it. I really do, now more than ever, but I think everyone who gets paid at a church ought also to do things or serve in some areas just because they want to serve God and maybe do things that no one knows about … again, just for the Lord.

I think this tends to get lost in shuffle over the long haul of serving as paid staff in the church. I’ve actually been convicted about this over the past couple of weeks: what do I do now just for God?

All of this should grow out of continual and deep gratitude for everything the Lord has done for me.

The prophecy of Micah is rich. There is so much packed in this little book—the prophecy about Bethlehem as the birthplace for Jesus, a concise statement of what the Lord really wants from His people (see 6:8), and last but not least, one of the greatest statements about forgiveness in the Word of God.

"Once again you will have compassion on us. You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean!" (Micah 7:19, NLT) Love it! When God forgives, he forgets. My sins are buried in the depths of the sea, never to be recovered.

Oh, Jesus, I don’t deserve this. Help me never to take for granted the immensity of forgiveness that I have received from YOU.

This Old Testament affirmation corresponds to one I read in Revelation 12:11: "And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die” (NLT). What is our greatest weapon against the dragon who was hurled down to the earth to wreck havoc through his accusations of the brethren day and night? Three things, but the first and the main one is “the blood of the Lamb.”

He tries to un-bury our sins and throw them in our face all the time. The bane of human existence is that we tend to confuse ourselves with God. We remember.

Lest you get too impressed with what I shared about my college years, DON’T. If I chronicled my sins and failures during those same years, I would triple the length of this post. I have regrets about my college years and believe me, Satan brings up stuff and throws it in my face.

I remember; God doesn’t!

But even though he stands on the edge of the seashore (the final picture of him at the end of Revelation 12, an ominous one at that), he has NO LEG to stand on. My long list of sins from before college, during college, and after college ARE GONE, GONE, GONE!!!

Take THAT, Dragon! Covered. Buried. Gone.

Get behind me, Satan! I can continue to minister; I will preach today, not because I am some spiritual giant but because I am forgiven! Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 169: A Letter from Saeed--A Modern-day Prison Epistle

Yesterday, I received an email from Naghmeh, Saeed’s wife. Thankfully, Naghmeh’s dad was able to get to visit Saeed in prison and as a result, he sent out a letter to all of us who are praying for him.

I thought about just copying and pasting the whole letter in this blog or on Facebook, but somehow, I have a hesitancy about doing this. Instead, I will just reproduce the first paragraph here. I’m sure that if you search Google, you will be able to find the whole letter if the family wants to make it available to the public.

“Rajai Shahr Prison 2014
Merry Christmas!
These days are very cold here. My small space beside the window is without glass making most nights unbearable to sleep. The treatment by fellow prisoners is also quite cold and at times hostile. Some of my fellow prisoners don’t like me because I am a convert and a pastor. They look at me with shame as someone who has betrayed his former religion. The guards can’t even stand the paper cross that I have made and hung next to me as a sign of my faith and in anticipation of celebrating my Savior’s birth. They have threatened me and forced me to remove it. This is the first Christmas that I am completely without my family; all of my family is presently outside of the country. These conditions have made this upcoming Christmas season very hard, cold and shattering for me. It appears that I am alone with no one left beside me.”

I have to be honest at this point. After reading this paragraph, I had to stop, dead in my tracks. “O Lord, why am I sitting in this warm and comfortable house, while there is a dear brother shivering in a prison cell? Why I am with my family and he has no one? Why do I live in relative freedom to share my faith as I will when Saeed cannot even have a paper cross?”

We are good at complaining to the Lord when things get tough and asking, “Why me?” But after reading this paragraph and the rest of the triumphant letter, I felt the urgency to pray, “Why Saeed? Why not me?” Hasn’t this brother and his family suffered enough?

This first paragraph is blatantly honest. We can be that way before God and others. God knows anyway, right?

Find the rest of the letter and read it. It is one of the most inspiring writings I have ever read in my life.

Somehow, receiving this letter yesterday helps me better understand the readings for today in the Daystar Plan. The Old Testament reading is from the book of Micah. The first few verses tell us that the prophet preached both to Samaria (the capitol city of the Northern Kingdom) and Jerusalem (the capitol of the South). His sermons strike a familiar refrain: repent from idolatry and lose your country. Of course, this happened to both nations.

But Micah carries the message further. After all this destruction, when the nations Israel and Judah are in fact gone, God will still be merciful as he works with another group of people. This is a crucial work in Old Testament theology: "Those who are weak will survive as a remnant; those who were exiles will become a strong nation. Then I, the LORD, will rule from Jerusalem as their king forever” (Micah
4:7 NLT).

This is not a new concept in the Old Testament. We first read about it in the ministry of Elijah. God had seven thousand who did not bow the knee to Baal. After the exile, God still has a remnant.

Revelation 11 has a different name for them—the two olive trees or the Two Witnesses. This is a picture of the church. Revelation depicts these two as having Elijah (representing the prophets) and Moses (the Law) powers, but they are martyred, but this situation doesn’t persist for long. "All the people who belong to this world will gloat over them and give presents to each other to celebrate the death of the two prophets who had tormented them. But after three and a half days, God breathed life into them, and they stood up! Terror struck all who were staring at them" (Revelation
11:10-11 NLT).

How about that? I don’t totally understand how all of this is going to play itself out, but I do know that even death or martyrdom is not the end for the remnant, for the church, for those who persevere to the end because they are saved.

You can’t keep godly men and women down.

Oh, Lord, I lift up my dear brother Saeed. I pray for comfort and safety in that jail in Iran. But if not that, special grace to persevere until You release him. I pray his release could happen soon—today. For the rest of us, keep us faithful and available for You to use us as witnesses. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 168: A Different Kind of Compassion

Yesterday, the adults did their Christmas program for us. We were a little down in attendance. Some people were sick. It was cold and even started to snow.

But they did an excellent job. Calla invited one of her music students—Lydia—to play the piano for us. The gospel was communicated in a clear and straightforward way and all the singers did well, especially Athena.

It was difficult to contain my emotions as I heard her. She just got saved last Summer! Now, she and her family are very active and involved in serving Jesus in our church. It was awesome.

I had to stay around to be in the Hispanic church service yesterday. I wanted to stay for the whole service, but I could tell my energy was running out, so after sharing a word with them, I headed home. I did not do much for the rest of the day.

But back to the adult choir—it was such a huge encouragement seeing these folks serve God in the way they did yesterday.

What a contrast to the story I read in the Daystar Plan today—a familiar one, for sure. I read the book of Jonah.

It is hard to be very critical of the prophet because I can relate to him in so many ways.

When God called him to go to Ninevah, THE FIRST TIME, this is what he did: "But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the LORD. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the LORD by sailing to Tarshish" (Jonah
1:3 NLT).

Jonah thought that if he could just get on a ship and sail far away, he could get away from God.

Here is one of the primary theological affirmations of the book of Jonah: God is everywhere! There is no place anyone can go to get away from Him.

In fact (have you discovered this?), when I try to run away from God, He pursues me even more fervently. His presence presses in on me even more. It is a pointless endeavor.

The goal of course is to do exactly what God says immediately, THE FIRST TIME He calls.

But of course Jonah did not do that and faced a whole lot of trouble in the process.

Eventually, when he ended up in Ninevah and did what the Lord wanted, he STILL wasn’t happy.

As I read chapter four today, something dawned on me that I have never realized before. You know the story. Jonah pouted because the people repented. God gave him “a leafy plant” to shelter him from the scorching sun, but then God turned away and sent a worm to kill the plant.

This was a lesson in compassion for Jonah. I’m not sure I have ever realized this before. The New Living Translation brings this out very well. Here are the last two verses of the little book of Jonah: "Then the LORD said, ‘You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?’” (Jonah 4:10-11, NLT).

Let me see if I can unpack this. Jonah enjoyed the compassion of the Lord toward him through the plant that grew up and then died suddenly. Jonah had nothing to do with any of that.

But he resented the compassion of the Lord for another creation that he had nothing to do with: humans, living in spiritual darkness, and A LOT of them.

The truth is that Jonah hated the Ninevites and didn’t want them to get right with God.

The prophet had compassion but only for what benefitted him, not for anyone else.

I wonder today about our enemies. I wonder about people getting saved and coming to our church—people we would rather not see there.

For example, one group of people (I’m sure there are others for me) that I deeply resent is the folks standing on the side of the road with cardboard signs. I write them off. I make disparaging comments about them. There seem to be a lot more people asking for money this time of year. But is my attitude right?

I say I want everyone in the world to get saved, but do I?

Humm, food for thought and prayer.

Lord, thank You for yesterday. Thank You for everyone who served you so faithfully and so well. Thank You for the compassion and mercy we have received. I enjoy it. Help me to give it. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 167: More Locusts!

As I sit here this morning, what occurs to me is the awesome power of God over His creation.

The animal world and all the forces of God’s universe are held, held in check, but the moment God lifts His hand—chaos would ensue and we would be done.

This is a weird thing to think about, but it just occurred to me.

Over ten years ago, I had just finished a long and difficult day at church. It was night. I was the last person left in the building. My habit has always been to check everything out, making sure that all the lights are off and all the windows are closed. I was going room to room.

I looked in one room in our basement. Whoa! A corner of the room was literally covered with bees! That’s right—BEES. They formed sort of a moving, brown carpet! It freaked me out! I just shut the door and locked up the church building and got in my car and sped off.

On the way home, I stopped to fill up my tank with gas, and got in my car, driving off without paying.

A few days later, I received a call from a Northglenn police officer. He was very cordial and diplomatic, asking me if I had stopped to fill up at a certain station at a certain time. It hit me, “Oh, officer, I can’t believe what I have done. I will be right over to pay!” The only thing that saved me was that I had been a regular customer at that gas station. They knew where to find me.

But that sight of all those bees freaked me out! To this day, I don’t know how we got all those bees out of that room.

But that incident was just a small example of nature gone wry.

Think about the magnitude and impact. In Amos, God gave the prophet a vision of a swarm of locusts that would consume every green plant in sight (just as they had actually done during the ministry of Joel the prophet), but Amos cried out, “O Sovereign Lord, please forgive us or we will not survive, for Israel is so small” (Amos 7:2, NLT). God relented and did not send the plague.

Turn the page over to Revelation 9, the fifth trumpet judgment. Guess what it is? You got it. A locust plague but not just any kind. Not the grasshopper size bugs in Joel and threatened in Amos. A swarm of those kinds of bugs is bad enough.

But in Revelation, THESE locusts would strike fear in every man, woman, and child on the face of the earth. This is the stuff of science fiction, and most of us would write if off as such if it were not clearly spelled out in the Word.

"Then locusts came from the smoke and descended on the earth, and they were given power to sting like scorpions. They were told not to harm the grass or plants or trees, but only the people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were told not to kill them but to torture them for five months with pain like the pain of a scorpion sting…. The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. They had what looked like gold crowns on their heads, and their faces looked like human faces" (Revelation
9:3-5, 7 NLT).

Five months of torture—are you kidding me? Numbers are used symbolically in Revelation. I believe this phrase “five months” refers to a definite, short period of time, but somehow, I don’t think that any of us would like to experience it.

Interesting contrast between Amos and Revelation—the prophet asks the Lord NOT to bring the small bug-type locust plague and God “repents.”

Now, let me stop right here. This is not the same kind of repentance that we as humans need to do—no sin involved with God, but essentially, God changes His mind.

In the Revelation story, at the conclusion of the descriptions of both the fifth and six trumpet plagues, here is what the Bible says: "But the people who did not die in these plagues still refused to repent of their evil deeds and turn to God. They continued to worship demons and idols made of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood—idols that can neither see nor hear nor walk!" (Revelation 9:20, NLT)

What is it going to take?

Lord, in this Christmas season, it is difficult for me to escape the inevitability of your impending judgment. Every judgment in your Word is a drop in the bucket to what is going to unfold as we near the time of your Second Coming. In the meantime, keep us useable and faithful.

I pray for Calla and the adults who will be presenting our Christmas musical today. Glorify yourself through what they do. Draw people to Jesus before it is too late and the big locusts fly. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 166: The Best Survivalist Plan

It is very difficult NOT to think about the spiritual state of the country as one reads the Minor Prophets, Amos in particular.

As I sit here this morning, I am praying that the Lord will pull some things together for me.

One thing that comes to mind is a frequent email I have been receiving recently. I can’t remember any specifics and wouldn’t mention them if I did. The gist of the emails is doom and gloom and the question, “What would you do if you lost your home and everything you own?”

Over the years, we have come face to face with this question on various occasions. Remember Y2K? Some convinced us that when the clock turned over to a new century, everything would blow up. Nothing did.

Others are always claiming that some natural disaster is going to get us.

Please understand. I know THAT could happen, but so far it hasn’t.

There are always our enemies around the world and the threat of nuclear warfare. What would happen if someone hit us with a nuclear bomb, killing hundreds of thousands of people?

What if?

Okay, so there are plenty of things that could occur that would literally destroy this country and wipe us out. But all those possibilities seem so remote. It is very difficult to get all that worried.

On the other side of the coin …

Amos, the prophet, was from the southern kingdom of Judah and preached a message to the northern kingdom of Israel in perhaps its most prosperous time. Jeroboam II was king. Israel (the ten tribes of the north) was at the height of its prominence in the world.

People were well off. They didn’t need God. Notice these words: "What sorrow awaits you who lounge in luxury in Jerusalem, and you who feel secure in Samaria! You are famous and popular in Israel, and people go to you for help. But go over to Calneh and see what happened there. Then go to the great city of Hamath and down to the Philistine city of Gath. You are no better than they were, and look at how they were destroyed. You push away every thought of coming disaster, but your actions only bring the day of judgment closer. How terrible for you who sprawl on ivory beds and lounge on your couches, eating the meat of tender lambs from the flock and of choice calves fattened in the stall…. You drink wine by the bowlful and perfume yourselves with fragrant lotions. You care nothing about the ruin of your nation" (Amos
6:1-4, 6 NLT).

As a general rule, the people were fat and happy. They just didn’t want to hear Amos’ message.

Now, let’s turn to the New Testament reading in the Daystar Plan—Revelation chapter eight. This chapter begins to chronicle the trumpet judgments. Dear Reader, please take time to read this chapter and think about it.

Someday, these cataclysmic events WILL occur, each affecting a THIRD of the planet.

Here is another thought: what is that third of the planet included the United States?

I can’t even get my mind around this. That is a lot of territory and a lot of people. And this is no survivalist, fringe scare. Maybe the survivalists aren’t all that far off. Something has got to give. It will.

Mark it down. Prior to the return of Jesus, these judgments of God WILL unfold and all of us will be affected.

And, if there is anyone who disagrees and somehow feels that the church will be raptured out, fine, but are you willing to risk it?

Someone might respond, “Well, I am not going to think about it. The Lord will take care of it.” That is what the people of Amos’ day were saying!

Indeed, the Lord is going to take care of it, but what kind of people ought we to be in light of the imminent judgment of God, a judgment that is already unfolding before our eyes.

Believe me, it is not just leaning back in an easy chair to watch another football game and eat potato chips.

No, I think we need to be prepared, and the best survival plan I can think of is to stand true to the Lord and speak out against injustice pointing people to the Savior before it is too late. If we don’t do it, who will?

Lord, the wealth and prosperity of this nation is at one time a blessing and a curse. You have given us so much here. Thank You. But at the same time, help us not to trust wealth, not to trust ourselves, not to live in some dream world. Wake us up, before it is too late. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 165: A Senior Adult Luncheon

Yesterday, I had an experience that took me down memory lane.

A few days ago, I called Jeff at Ken Caryl Church. Jeff, along with his pastor Rick and three folks (Ron, Jeannie, and Dan), traveled with Pam, Nancy, and me to India last March. Jeff is an Associate Pastor at Ken Caryl and has responsibility for organizing mission trips.

Since the trip last March, Jeff and I have gotten together on occasion just to talk about next steps in our partnership in India.

As we were planning our lunch yesterday, Jeff said, “Hey John, that Thursday is our Senior Adult Lunch. Why don’t you just come to that and then we can talk afterwards?”

Okay—never being a person to miss a meal.

It is amazing how many people I knew at that gathering yesterday. Gene and his wife Betty go to church at Ken Caryl. I did not know this. Prior to his retirement, Gene had been a long-tenured pastor in the Mile High Association. I have a lot of respect for him. We had a good long visit.

Owen was there. He and his family were at Calvary Englewood when we served at that church. Please pray for Owen. He has the same type of cancer I do and is right now receiving maintenance treatments.

I also saw Russ who was there with his mom and dad. Russ and his family were also regulars at Calvary Baptist Church of Englewood “back in the day.” In addition, John was in attendance with his mom Nancy who ran the “program” at the luncheon yesterday. I met John when I was leading the associational singles’ ministry shortly after I started as pastor at First Southern.

At lunch, Jeff and his family sat on one side of the table while Richard and his wife Ula Mae (spelling?) sat on the other. I have known this couple over thirty years. I first met them when I worked with Roger and Missy the summer of 1983 helping plant a church in Morrison. Ken Caryl was the sponsoring church.

So many connections here—that same summer, Ken Caryl dedicated their new worship center and for that dedication, they invited a pastor from a church WAY up north of town. His name was Benny King. The church was First Southern Baptist Church of Northglenn. I was in that service. Weird.

Anyway, the luncheon was a potluck. We filed through a line to fill our plates, sat down to eat, and then Nancy called things to order. She recognized birthdays and anniversaries. Richard and Ula Mae went up front. They are celebrating their 64 Wedding Anniversary! We had a few jokes about me being single. Then, we sang some Christmas carols with Nancy giving the historical background to each. That was it—done, in a little over an hour.

I mentioned a walk “down memory lane” a few paragraphs ago. Why? Well, up until about five years ago, I attended a senior adult luncheon at the church I serve once a month. It was remarkable how similar yesterday was to the luncheons we served. Is there a manual somewhere? Ha.

When I first started at First Southern, our senior luncheons had fifty or more people in them. They were raucous affairs, with the men sitting together at one long table and the women at another in our old fellowship hall with the gaudy 1970’s style orange carpet and dark paneled walls. I’ll never forget it.

Those are good memories. Those seniors were ardent supporters of the church and their new young pastor.

Over the years, the numbers started to dwindle and gradually, the senior adult luncheon went away. But not at Ken Caryl. They are still going strong, and I’m glad to see it.

Well, in the Daystar Reading today, the New Testament passage is Revelation 7. Notice this picture of those who are standing around the throne of God: “They is why they stand in front of God’s throne and serve him day and night in this Temple. And he who sits on the throne will give them shelter. They will never again be hungry or thirsty; they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun. For the Lamb on the throne will be their Shepherd. He will lead them to springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:15-17, NLT).

What? This is scandalous! A gather of believers (some of whom may even be Baptists) without a potluck or food! Horror of horrors. I think I will faint (oops, better not joke about THAT).

But someday, in that great and eternal luncheon around the throne, food will never be an issue again and we will have plenty to do in worshiping and serving the One on the Throne.

Lord, thank you for Ken Caryl Church and my relationship with this wonderful congregation over the years. Thanks for Jeff and our partnership in India. Thanks for the seniors at Ken Caryl and First Southern. Thanks for potlucks and thanks for the fact that someday, there will be no need for them. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 164: Cam and the Locusts

To be honest, I have never been much of a fan of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton … until today.

As most of you know, I am sure, he was recently involved in a traffic accident. The end result was not pretty. Cam broke a couple of “transverse process” bones in his back.

Yesterday, I asked a friend to explain what “transverse process” means. He actually showed me a picture of the bones in the spine. It is a pretty significant injury that has the potential to get a lot worse if it is not taken care of properly. I’m sure Cam will receive the best treatment available so there is no danger of paralysis.

Anyway, to be honest, since I heard of the accident, I wonder if something else was involved. I’m not accusing him of anything, but I did wonder.

Just to be fair here—nothing has come out. He was on the way to practice in the morning, so it was just one of those things.

Well, this morning, I came across a statement that Cam made after his accident. Wow. For those of you who are interested, you can search on Google and find the whole quote, but I just wanted to excerpt a part of it here:

“I know one thing, YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELF “IF” you are holding a grudge against someone, “IF” you don’t tell the people that’s close and dear to you that “YOU LOVE THEM” every chance you get, “IF” your mad because something didn’t go your way today! L1FE IS TO SHORT FOR YOU NOT TO APPRECIATE IT TO THE FULLNESS; THROUGH THE GOOD AND THE BAD! I thank you to the people who have been keeping me in there (sic) prayers and well wishes for a speedy recovery!” (USA Today, accessed December 11, 2014)

Wow, what a great testimony! I am impressed and wanted to share this with you. I’m praying for his full recovery and hope he is able to get back on the field soon.

On to the scripture for today—in the Daystar Plan, the Old Testament reading is from the book of Joel. The setting for this prophecy is a locust plague.

"After the cutting locusts finished eating the crops, the swarming locusts took what was left! After them came the hopping locusts, and then the stripping locusts, too!" (Joel 1:4 NLT).

In my seminary Old Testament course, my professor read a description of what a locust plague is really like. Let’s just say that it is not something anyone would like to experience first-hand. Usually, the sky is so black with the critters that it gets dark for a while.

On land, locusts swarm over everything like a black wave. When they are done, it looks as if a nuclear bomb has exploded. The devastation is over-the-top.

This was the setting for Joel’s prophecy and this little three-chapter book in the Old Testament calls the people back to God in light of the Day of the Lord in the future.

As you know, I am sure, Peter quotes from the book of Joel in his sermon at Pentecost. This shows us that out of the devastation of judgment, God has a new day for his people.

The book of Revelation picks up on this imagery in its explanation of the judgment in the eschaton when huge locust-looking creatures will descend on the planet. It won’t be pretty and it will make the locust plague of Joel look like a walk in the park.

I think it is time for Christians to wake up and be urgent about sharing the Gospel—yes, even during the Christmas season—because, as we remember the first coming of Jesus as a baby in the manger—we cannot lose sight of the Second Coming.

We minister between the celebration of the First Coming for Salvation and the Second Coming for Judgment. No manger scene or musicals for the second.

Can you imagine a church sign that says, “Our church invites you to a Judgment Musical in which we will portray the total destruction of this evil planet before Jesus returns to judge every human being? Have a pleasant day!”

I wonder how many churches would pack out performances of THAT play?

Lord, no wonder, no one wants to hear the message of the prophets. Give us a sense of urgency this Christmas season. Jesus has come. Jesus is coming again. Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.


Daystar Plan, Day 163: Fickle vs. Faithful

I had a really good day at the office. My time included a one hour and forty minute conversation on Skype. At the end, the guy I was talking to said, “What time is it in Denver?”

I replied, “Oh, about 2:45 in the afternoon.” Just as a finished the last word of my response, it dawned on me. Oh man!

I was visiting with Andy, an IMB missionary in South Asia. We met him on our trip last March and the three of us—Pam, Nancy, and I—developed a close relationship with him, so much so that we invited him to visit us in Northglenn.

This is what we were talking about and arranging. Andy is coming the last Sunday of December. He will be in the States during the holidays. He is coming back to visit with his folks who live in Kansas City. We are going to “nab” him for a couple of days. We appreciate him allowing us to do so.

Anyway, back to the time factor. It was 2:45 in Denver. That means it was 3:15 AM in South Asia. Yikes! I can’t believe I hadn’t even thought about that! As we ended our conversation, I said, “Andy, I am sorry. Please get some rest and we will talk again soon.”

If Pam and Nancy are reading this, are you both really surprised that Andy was having a conversation with me at 3:00 in the morning? Ha. When we were with him last March, all of us marveled at this frenetic lifestyle and boundless energy. He seemed to burn the candles on both ends.

Be that as it may, however, I still feel bad about talking his arm off in the middle of the night.

Andy’s visit will be a first for the church in all the years I have served there—actually to have one of our “M’s” with whom we have served in the field come to share at our church. I’m really looking forward to his visit. I think it will be another impetus for us in our quest to fulfill the Great Commission.

Anyway, on to the reading for today, as I finish up the book of Hosea in the Daystar Plan for the Old Testament reading.

I mentioned this yesterday, but this prophecy is replete with vivid metaphors that God uses through the mouth of the prophet from a broken heart as He calls the people back into relationship with Him. There is one metaphor that does double duty. Let me cite two passages.

"Therefore, they will disappear like the morning mist, like dew in the morning sun, like chaff blown by the wind, like smoke from a chimney" (Hosea
13:3 NLT).
"Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God, for your sins have brought you down. Bring your confessions, and return to the LORD. Say to him, “Forgive all our sins and graciously receive us, so that we may offer you our praises. Assyria cannot save us, nor can our warhorses. Never again will we say to the idols we have made, ‘You are our gods.’ No, in you alone do the orphans find mercy…. I will be to Israel like refreshing dew from heaven. Israel will blossom like the lily; it will send roots deep into the soil like the cedars in Lebanon" (Hosea
14:1-3, 5 NLT).

Did you notice it? First, the Lord accuses the people of being like the dew in their relationship with Him—here this morning and then gone.

We are not really known for having too much dew here in Colorado, but it sure is prevalent in Florida, especially during early mornings when one is on the golf course. It is thick and heavy and really slows a putt down. But when the sun rises a little more and the temperature with it, poof! The dew is gone. That is one metaphor.

But the other occurs in the next chapter. God says, “I will be like a refreshing dew from heaven.” Here God uses the exact same metaphor to describe how much we can count on Him every day, just like the dew, to be there for us to refresh and renew us. I’m reminded of one of my favorite passages in the whole Bible in Lamentations, “Your mercies are new each morning. Great is Thy Faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:23, my paraphrase).

The truth is: we are indeed fickle, here this moment, gone the next; but God is faithful. I am learning that I can count on Him all the time.

Lord, I’m glad my relationship with depends on your faithfulness, not my fickleness. It depends on the Only One who is worthy to take the scroll and unfold the plan and purpose of God. I’m grateful that the plan included a trip to India and the privilege of meeting Andy. Bless him, Lord. He has so much to do before he makes the trip to the States. Help him get it all done and give him a safe trip here—a good time with his family and a fruitful visit with the family at FSBCN. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 162: A Lack Here But Not There

Just a quick update about me: yesterday I really started to feel better. I’m so grateful for your prayers and encouragement and so thankful to God.

This whole thing has been a learning process, and I hope that indeed did learn. I feel as if I have been on a different planet the past few days, but if that is what it takes to lessen the impact of chemo, I’m all in.

I think the keys are rest and just continuing to force food down and of course—the hydration and walking. So, we will see. I’m just glad to see some light at the end of this tunnel.

I was able to get some work done yesterday afternoon and look forward to heading up to the church today. I’m not going to push it today or tomorrow, but I do feel a bit more energized.

On to the reading in the Daystar Plan for today—the Old Testament readings continue in the book of Hosea. This is such a graphic book. The Lord uses the prophet’s story as he asks him to marry Gomer, the prostitute and then take her back when she leaves him, but He uses other graphic images and metaphors to describe the idolatry of the people.

For example, "How prosperous Israel is— a luxuriant vine loaded with fruit. But the richer the people get, the more pagan altars they build. The more bountiful their harvests, the more beautiful their sacred pillars. The hearts of the people are fickle; they are guilty and must be punished. The LORD will break down their altars and smash their sacred pillars" (Hosea
10:1-2 NLT).

Like all the prophetic literature of the Old Testament, God uses these men to call the people back to worshiping Him.

As I think about it this morning, one could summarize much of the Old Testament in this way. God created man to worship (the Pentateuch), but we chose to rebel and worship idols. Over and over God calls us back to Himself (the Prophets; the Writings fit in here somewhere; they bridge the gap between the Pentateuch and the Prophets).

After we had rejected and/or killed them all, God sent His Son (the Gospels) to save us (the Letters) in order to restore worship (the Apocalypse).

Reading the Minor Prophets of the Old Testament (the last books of that section of scripture) along with the Apocalypse (the last book of the New Testament) brings this out even more clearly.

When we fail to worship God or worship idols, it is a mess. But in the throne room of God, everything lines up perfectly.

The book of Revelation is pre-eminently a book about worship. This is key. It is not a secret decoder ring for the future. God gave John this series of visions to encourage him and the struggling church to continue to worship in spite of severe persecution. This is God’s way of turning the tables at the end of the Canon and the end of human history.

I love it! Once again, I continue to be amazed at the symmetry of God’s Word. Of course—He wrote it!

The vision of the throne in chapter four is an example of this. Notice what happens: "The twenty-four elders fall down and worship the one sitting on the throne (the one who lives forever and ever). And they lay their crowns before the throne and say, ‘You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased’” (Revelation
4:10-11 NLT).

This special rank and file of angels cast their crowns before the throne. God deserves all praise and honor and glory. He alone is worthy of our worship.

Lord, I have to worship You today. I have so many reasons to do so, but even if I didn’t, You still deserve worship. From the bottom of my heart—I love You. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 161: The LONGEST Day

Upfront, I do want to thank all of you for praying for me yesterday. It was better than my previous two Sundays-after-treatment had been. Thanks again.

We all understand that days are measured in seconds, minutes, and hours. Looking at time THAT WAY, every day is exactly the same. Each day has the same seconds and minutes.

However, having said that, we all recognize that some days SEEM much longer than others for various reasons. Each of us could make a list.

At the top of mine would be recovering from chemotherapy.

So, let me back up for a moment. We had a really good service yesterday morning. Calla did her usual bang-up job with the boys and girls. She is gifted at putting together presentations that fit our church and its context. We are not a mega-church with hundreds of kids (like her previous place of service).

I hesitate to try to bring up exact numbers because I always forget people (as I did yesterday when I tried to thank everyone by name), but we just have a few boys and girls, and Calla fit all of them in very well. “FSBCN Live”—a spoof of the “Tonight Show” told the Christmas story AND shared the gospel extremely well.

I concluded things with a short sermon. We had some family of the kids there, some of whom I had never met before. It was good.

Mother, Marilyn, and I left right after the service. After lunch, I took a shower just because I was cold, and it wasn’t because of the weather. Yesterday was a very pleasant high-50’s weather day, perfect for a home Bronco win.

From mid-day to the time I went to bed, I stayed on this couch, and didn’t feel like doing much else.

WHAT IS THE SAME AS THE PREVIOUS TWO TIMES: it is kind of hard to describe. I’ve said this before. Recovering from chemo feels as if one has the flu. I just ached all over. Usually, Sunday afternoons are very restful and peaceful in front of the TV and then later on doing some work, but not yesterday. It was miserable. I just could not get comfortable. Weird.

The other thing that is the same is that I have absolutely no appetite for anything. Nothing looks good, and I don’t feel like eating.

The day dragged on and on—just one of those very protracted days that never seems to end. This is way it has been in the past.

WHAT IS DIFFERENT FROM THE PAST: the past two times, when I didn’t feel like eating anything, I didn’t. After my fainting spell last time, the doctor said, “John, you basically haven’t eaten anything for the past couple of days. You need to get nourishment. Don’t worry about sugar or calories. Just eat.”

So yesterday, Marilyn kept on encouraging me. I ate crackers. I drank Gatorade. I just kept forcing food down. Anne had made me a meal and had given it to me at church. Her food looked good. So, late afternoon, I sat down to eat. It hit the spot, and immediately, I felt better.

I praise God for this and thank Anne, Betty, Marilyn, and my mom for the food.

Even this morning when I got up, I didn’t feel like eating anything but I cooked myself some eggs and had a banana. I feel better now. Again, praise God.

In the Daystar reading for today, I have arrived in the book of Hosea—this familiar love story of the Old Testament. I came across a reference that reminded me of a New Testament love story. See if you can pick it up as well.

"When she runs after her lovers, she won’t be able to catch them. She will search for them but not find them. Then she will think, ‘I might as well return to my husband, for I was better off with him than I am now’" (Hosea
2:7 NLT).

Does that sound familiar?

It reminds me of what the prodigal son says as he sits in the pigpen: “I might as well go back to my Father. Even his servants eat better than I am right now” (my paraphrase of Luke 15:17).

The mercy and grace of God often let us go in our sin. Romans 1 uses the term “God gave them over” three times. He lets us experience all the consequences of our rebellion until we come to the end of ourselves and choose to go home.

This is a picture of how the Lord draws lost folks to Himself AND how he brings His own kids back after a time of rebellion when we delude ourselves into thinking we can make it without God.

He is there for us during those LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG days as we cry out to Him.

He allows circumstances in our lives so that we see our need for Him.

Cancer and cancer treatment certainly have done that for me. This is why I count all this as one of the greatest gifts the Lord has ever given me.

Thank you, Lord, AGAIN, for cancer and the long days. Thank you for loving us enough that You allow us to go through tough stuff and pigpens and humiliation (as Gomer did) to bring us to Yourself. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 160: Abbreviated and Elongated

Ha. I will explain that title.

First, I have really tried to lay low the past few days. I think it has helped me. We will see.

For the past two treatments, this is the day I have started to get sick.

Thus, my plan today is to ABBREVIATE my schedule. I’m going to go to church a little later with my mom and sister and then leave right after the service.

I cannot begin to express how hard this is. Marilyn had to convince me to do it yesterday, “You need to cut back!” She is right, but it is so hard to do.

Why? Force of habit, I guess. I like to get to church very early on Sunday mornings in order to get my bearings a bit. I spend some time with John, our sound and video guy, making sure that everything is ready to go in that arena.

And then, we have a men’s prayer meeting. This has become a very valuable part of my Sunday morning routine. We share fellowship together and then we spend time praying. Usually, Bernard is there. Jim always comes when his music responsibilities allow. Mitch comes. And the newest stalwart of our group is Larry.

What I appreciate about all these guys is that they are in there for a couple of reasons. They believe in the power of God through prayer. That is one thing, but right up there at the top of the list—they are in there to support and encourage me. How valuable is THAT?

This time of support and encouragement has become an important part of the Sunday morning routine. Betty leads a similar group of women who gather for prayer at the same time. Again, this is valuable, not only for all of us who are involved, but also for the church as a whole.

A year or so ago, we made the decision to move our congregational prayer time (the older term for it was “Prayer Meeting”) to Sunday mornings before the services just to make it a little more accessible for more people. I honestly think the shift in schedule has done that for us, but here is what I know: the people who are committed to prayer would pray at 3:00 AM. It is not an issue of “convenience.” It is a matter of conviction. But this Sunday morning plan seems to be working for us in the time being.

Anyway, I digress a bit.

My point is that the routines of ministry are hard for me to deviate from, but I am going to do it today. Please pray for Calla and the boys and girls as they present, “FSBCN Live” this morning. I’m glad to be there. I’m going to say a few words after the play, but that is it.

Then, I am leaving. That is the plan. It should be okay.

Now to the second part of the title—ELONGATED. The final chapters of the book of Daniel are very mysterious as they describe events that will unfold through the fall of Persian Empire, through the Greek period, and into the Roman era. These chapters are critical Old Testament background for the eschatology of the New Testament as well.

But there is another prominent feature of these chapters—the prayer life of Daniel. I have mentioned this in a recent post because God alludes to him as a prayer warrior in Ezekiel. But I am deeply convicted as I read about the burden that Daniel had for his nation, the city of Jerusalem, and the unfolding plan of God.

As Americans, we pat ourselves on the back when we pray for a few minutes. Daniel lived a life as an intercessor. And the Lord honored it.

He prayed and even in his experience, sometimes, it took a while for God to answer. This passage gives some insight into why: "Then he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer. But for twenty-one days the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia blocked my way. Then Michael, one of the archangels, came to help me, and I left him there with the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia’" (Daniel 10:12-13, NLT).

Now, I don’t pretend to come close to understanding what this is all about, but I will say this. Sometimes, we tend to believe that delay when it comes to our prayers means that God is indifferent or slow. Nothing could be further from the truth. Just the opposite, as a matter of fact. It may mean that we are exactly on the right path but that the enemy is opposing.

Lord, I’m thankful for a break in routine this morning. I give you today, and ask you to take care of things. Thank You for the precious gift of prayer and the men in our fellowship and everyone else reading this blog who believe in what You do through prayer. At the same time, teach us to pray and to WAIT, even when things get elongated. Amen.


Daystar Plan, Day 159: Hydration and Heaven Rules

Yesterday, I had to do one of the hardest things ever. Well, that may be a little bit of an exaggeration… I guess.

I went back to the Cancer Center AGAIN.

Let me see if I can explain: at the end of treatment number 2 last months, my mom and sis and I were talking with one of the nurses in the treatment room. She had asked how things were going in this round of treatments. Her name is Diane. She has been in there since I started back in the Fall of 2010.

I replied, “Well, Diane, the first treatment was a little rough. Any thoughts on what I can do?”

“Well,” she answered, “some patients come back in for what we call ‘hydration.’ All this involves is just putting water in you through the port. This helps clear the chemo drug out of your system more quickly and seems to be more effective than drinking a lot of water, even though you should do that.”

“Drinking a lot of water” ought to be my middle name. John DALOW Talbert. I like it. I wouldn’t have to change my middle initial. Cool. Anyway …

We remembered what she had said and set this up. Yesterday was the day.

But it was hard to go back there. Hard. I had to have my port accessed AGAIN because I did not do the “take home” version. I got in, and it took about an hour—one of the longest hours I have ever spent.

I have always wondered why most people who are dealing with cancer for a long period of time don’t want to talk about it (this is a generalized comment from my experience; certainly, this isn’t everyone). NOW I KNOW. This disease just eats up so much time and energy that even talking about it seems to take more time and energy (of course it does) that one just gets to the point where he or she doesn’t even want to TALK about it. I’m almost there.

Anyway, I hope it helps. I don’t feel all that great right now. I just hope I can make it to church tomorrow. I’m not preaching. We are having a children’s Christmas play. I just want to be there for it. We will see.

On to the Daystar Reading for today—the narrative early chapters of Daniel are some of my favorite passages in the whole Bible. One of the stories I read today is Daniel’s prediction through Nebuchadnezzar’s dream about a tree that the king would lose sanity and live among wild animals for a period of time. This would occur until one thing happens. Daniel explains the end of the dream with the only thing remaining was the stump of the tree: "But the stump and roots of the tree were left in the ground. This means that you will receive your kingdom back again when you have learned that heaven rules" (Daniel
4:26 NLT).

I would say that “heaven rules” is the theme of the early chapters of Daniel as this Jewish believer and his three buddies demonstrate over and over through to three different rulers (two Babylonians and one Persian) that there is no other god except the Lord.

This is the message of chapter one of Revelation as well. John is in exile on the island of Patmos. He is alienated from his family and his ministry to those seven churches in Asia Minor. It would seem as if Rome has the upper hand and by the end of the first century, widespread, government sponsored persecution was the norm through emperor Domitian.

But the glorified Christ appears to His servant. I just can’t get over this description: "And standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man. He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across his chest. His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And his eyes were like flames of fire. His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and his voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. He held seven stars in his right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from his mouth. And his face was like the sun in all its brilliance” (Revelation 1:13-16, NLT).

Again, the theme? HEAVEN RULES.

King of Kings and Lord of Lords. You rule. You are in charge. There is no god but You, Lord. You alone are God. I have a great desire to retain sanity. Sometimes, the issue is in doubt. Ha. But I, John Dalow Talbert, affirm that You are Lord. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 158: Hiccups--Are You Kidding Me?

When I finished my treatment yesterday, I thought, “Humm. I don’t feel all that bad.” This is not that unusual from the past few times. Things have typically “hit” Sunday through Monday, so I am not out of the woods yet.

However, I did have an unusual side-effect hit me late yesterday afternoon—the hiccups.

Immediately, Marilyn got on her computer and read off dozens of “homemade” cures for them. In the past for me, one of mine was to drive a glass of water from the opposite side of the glass (not an easy thing to do) while counting backwards from 100 or something like that …

There are a thousand of these “cures.” She read a lot of them but when she got to the bottom of the list, there was a disclaimer of sorts: “these cures will not work if the hiccups come about as a result of chemotherapy.”


So on I went for a couple of hours, until I finally decided to try one of the cures—just holding my breath and guess what? It worked! Ha. Praise God. He worked. That is the better way of saying it because I just could not see myself hiccupping my way through the night.

It did happen, but when I hiccupped, I just held my breath and they were gone for a bit. Needless to say, I did not get that much sleep. Oh well, it could be worse.

I say that because my heart went out to a young man in the chemo room yesterday. I failed to mention him in my post. He was a rather tell and big man but he was in a wheelchair—one of those chairs that is self-propelled. It was a big chair with a big motor, again because he was a young, big guy. I heard one of the nurses as she was talking to him mention his MS.

Okay, so here is a guy with MS AND cancer. Can’t imagine! It was very convicting to see that. We did not make eye contact. I wish I could have spoken with him, but I can’t get him off my mind today.

I can tell you that someday, all of us who believe will go to a place with no hiccups, no MS, and no cancer. The graphic picture of Ezekiel 47 (Revelation picks up on this in the final chapter of the canon) is of this ever-deepening stream flowing from the throne of God: "Fruit trees of all kinds will grow along both sides of the river. The leaves of these trees will never turn brown and fall, and there will always be fruit on their branches. There will be a new crop every month, for the river flowing from the Temple waters them. The fruit will be for food and the leaves for healing” (Ezekiel
47:12 NLT). These words press the limits of language to say that heaven will be a place of abundant food and abundant healing. I can hardly wait—no lack of any kind as we live there in our resurrection bodies forever.

But what about until then? I love the doxology in one of the chapters in the New Testament Daystar Reading for today. I think it is one of the best in scripture:
"Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen" (Jude
1:24-25 NLT).

Think about it. What a fitting conclusion to the longest section of the New Testament—the letters. What a great segue into the Apocalypse—giving us a huge assurance even before the events of the future unfold—what ever they contain—hiccups or MS or cancer or both or whatever.

I would have to include after watching the news the past couple of nights that our nation is on the verge of an explosion of some sort. Let’s include a confluence of world events coming to a head as well.

Numerous things or combinations of things are hitting RIGHT NOW. Will we be up to snuff? This doxology, this famous benediction reminds that He will make sure of it! Praise God!

He will get us to that full and flowing river surrounded by the everlasting and never running out provision of God forever. Bring it on, Lord. I’m not asking to die, but I am ready to leave this world. “Ready to go. Ready to stay. Ready to do Thy will.” Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 157: Round 3b and Absolute Holiness

Thanks for your prayers yesterday. I really appreciate all of you. Things went okay. They are speeding things up a bit. The technical word for it is “fast-tracking.” The administered the Rituxan (the huge bag of protein they give me) at a much faster rate.

What that means is there are more drips per minute from the bag to the tube and the tube goes through a little gadget on a stand and roller by my chair. This gadget beeps when the contents of the bag are empty or if there is some sort of problem.

The nurses in the chemo room were hopping yesterday. There were a lot of folks in there. Just about every chair was taken. My mom was able to take one of the chairs, however. This allowed her to be a little more comfortable as she sat in there for three hours with Marilyn and me.

Yesterday was a little bit unusual for me because I slept most of the time. The chairs recline pretty far back, almost flat, so after taking the Benadryl, I conked out. At one point, Marilyn touched my toe. She woke me up out of a dead sleep. She had brought me half of a chicken sandwich. I was able to eat a little bit of it, but I could already sense that my appetite was gone.

This is one of the major challenges I face. I haven’t faired well to this point through the first and second treatments. During these chemo treatments, I lose my appetite almost completely, but I think that contributes to the problems I have been having—just not enough nutrition and that is part of the reason I have gotten so sick.

This time, I am going to force myself to eat—something—as well as stay hydrated.

Anyway, this is way too much detail. Sorry, but this is my world these days. I’m paying meticulous attention to all of this.

One more thing: instead of taking the tube out of my port, they left it in. Their only caution was not to get it wet. So, I took a bath last night. It didn’t seem to bother me. This makes a lot of sense. Why take it out and have to re-insert a tube just the next day. All that poking does bother me a bit.

Today should only be one to two hours, and I am coming home. I have not felt all that great since yesterday. My main problem continues to be a headache. I hope I can lick it today. We will see.

Well, in the Daystar Reading today, I read chapters 41-45 in Ezekiel. This is rather tedious reading, as “a man” shows Ezekiel the dimensions of a new Temple. It is quite unlike any other. One of the interesting features of this description—he is mentioned only a couple of times in passing—is the presence of a Prince.

It is interesting to compare and contrast this description of the Temple with those found in the book of Revelation. I don’t want to get into all of that here, but remember, Ezekiel was asked to preach this “dimensional” sermon, for lack of a better term, to the exiles in Babylon. The Lord had a very specific purpose: "And this is the basic law of the Temple: absolute holiness! The entire top of the mountain where the Temple is built is holy. Yes, this is the basic law of the Temple" (Ezekiel
43:12 NLT).

I think this was a very graphic way for the Lord to say a couple of significant things. First, when you come back to the land, the Temple will be rebuilt, but it will only be a foreshadowing of the One in eternity. And truth of the matter is: that is exactly right. The post-exilic rebuilt Temple never came close to matching its predecessor.

Second, this description a future temple emphasizes the holiness of God. He is unlike any other god. As such, he deserves absolute worship, and for those who worship Him, they must be totally dedicated to him—forever.

Thus, when the exiles returned and forever after that (this is the way it had always been but now history had born this out), God will not tolerate idols. As a nation, Israel learned her lesson.

I hope I have. But I wonder what it will take for our nation? I can’t get the good ole US of A off my mind and heart as I read this book.

Lord, thank you again for cancer—this drastic classroom you have me with similar features to Babylon. It sometimes seems so far and remote from what I remember my life used to be—weird, weird, and weird. I spend my days much differently. I actually focus much more on what I eat and how much I rest and sleep and pills and et cetera. I acknowledge your absolute holiness. Thank for all the boundaries and dimensions of a life that pleases you. Help me “color in the lines.” Amen.

P. S. I was always a bit squeamish when someone wanted to show me his or her surgical incision or how he or she was hooked up to some sort of machine in the hospital, but now, I am doing the same thing. I have appended a “selfie” (my first, by the way) of the take-home tubes coming out of my port on Facebook. I won’t blame you if you are not all that thrilled to look at it. The nurse taped the longer tube to the other covering so that it would not dangle and bug me.


Daystar Plan, Day 156: Round 3a and Them Dry Bones

I’m glad this day is finally here. I slept very well last night. I’m drinking tons of water this morning. I am hopefully a little bit better prepared this time??

Who knows? I guess I will find it.

Here is the plan this time: I literally have NOTHING on the schedule except a doc’s appointment on Friday over the next few days. I am not doing a bunch of stuff on Friday and Saturday and Sunday morning as in Round 1a and 1b.

I am not getting on plane and flying to Waco and back for the weekend (even though I do not regret that trip one bit and had a blast) as in Round 2a and 2b. Nope.

Zilch. Natta. Zero. I’m going to rest these next four days and hopefully, I will be ready to go to church Sunday morning. We are having our Children’s Christmas Program. I will say a few words at the conclusion of it and help serve the Lord’s Supper, but that is it.

The past two times, I really started to get sick on Sunday and especially Monday. The infamous fainting incident occurred on Sunday night. Please pray that I don’t have to repeat THAT. If I do, I have to wake my sister up and have her drive me to the ER.

Again, I’m praying that I don’t have to do that.

Yesterday, I was able to spend some time with a brother and fellow pastor. After visiting about a few things, the topic of conversation came back to me. He asked how many times I had taken chemotherapy. I said, “This is the second time.”

He answered, “There is a lady in the church I serve that has had it NINE times.” What? It hit me like a ton of bricks. What? NINE.

He went on, “Do you know how old she is? … 30 years old! She has been dealing with cancer since the age of fifteen.”

I can’t handle it when I hear about kids having to deal with this disease. It is one thing for an old geezer like me, but a child? That is too much. He was just sharing. He wasn’t trying to one up my experience AT ALL, but it was a sobering reminder that a lot of people have gone through a lot more than I have with this stinking disease.

But then, he leaned forward in his chair a bit. We were sitting in my office at the church. He basically said, “I want to pray for you. I believe that the Lord heals people.” He laid his hand on my shoulder and prayed. Wow. It was awesome.

I have to be honest with you. Over the past couple of years, I have softened my prayers for healing. I know that many of you who are reading this have not. I’m deeply grateful that you haven’t, but I have.

I have very subtle ways of giving up and not believing God can do things. “Giving up” may be a little too strong of term. I think we just shift our praying when things don’t initially happen as we want them to. I’ve shifted from, “Lord, heal me from this stupid disease!” to “Lord, I pray that you would help me go through this in a way that honors you!” The second prayer is not necessarily wrong, but neither is the first.

Anyway, this brother praying that I would be healed jolted me a bit. I’m praying for healing and not just for myself but for others I know with cancer like a brother in the church named Don. Heal, Don, Lord.

All of this comes to mind as I read a very famous question in the Daystar Reading Plan today in Ezekiel 37—the dry bones story. It starts off this way: "Then he asked me, ‘Son of man, can these bones become living people again?’ ‘O Sovereign LORD,’ I replied, ‘you alone know the answer to that’” (Ezekiel
37:3 NLT).

Okay, now, how about that question? I love it! God knows the answer and the story that follows confirms that, “Yes, He can indeed make a whole valley of dry and dusty skeletons into a vast army.” Praise God! This is an example of resurrection—right?

If God can do THAT, taking care of cancer is a piece of cake.

Thank you, Dr. Jesus, for this brother yesterday. I really appreciate him and for everyone who is praying for healing. I lift up Don this morning. I lift up the other people I am going to see in the cancer room. You are and always have been in the resurrection business. Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 155: Tell It Like It Is

I’m running a little slow this morning. Yesterday was not a good day physically for me. I think I may have a bit of a cold or virus. I say, “I think” because, once I get going during the day, I feel fine. But late in the day, I take a nosedive.

Yesterday was the exception to this pattern. I just did not have much energy to get up and do anything THE WHOLE DAY, but I did get a lot accomplished in my studies. I was grateful for that.

Beyond this, I also think that some of what I am experiencing is just pure dread. I am not looking forward to going in for treatment tomorrow and Thursday and dealing with all the stuff that I now know that I will face during the next few days.

This brings me back to a verse the Lord gave me when I was first diagnosed over four years ago—Matthew 6:34. “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will worry about itself.”

So, the discipline for today is to focus on the opportunities and the work the Lord has given me TODAY because in spite of this nagging cold or whatever it is, I feel very good. Thank you for that, Lord.

As I continue to read Ezekiel in the Daystar Plan, I am impressed that this is indeed one of the “heaviest” books in the whole Bible. Chapter after chapter deals with the judgment of God on enemy nations like Egypt but also on the people of Israel. And the guy called to share those messages is Ezekiel.

Honestly, I wonder how any preacher would fare in our day and time if every single sermon, EVERY sermon, told them that God was going to judge them and destroy the nation and bring retribution on all enemies.

This reminds me of a comment that a man made to me several years ago after I had spent extensive time preaching from the Old Testament. I called him to find out why we hadn’t seen him for several weeks. He was very blunt. He stated, “You have gone to the dark side or something.”

I was taken aback with that comment. All I could say was, “So, you do not approve of the preaching.”

“No,” he replied. I didn’t have anything else to say and neither did he. That was it. He was gone and I never saw him again.

The truth is that all of us don’t want to hear it. We want, as Paul advised Timothy in chapter four of his second letter, to have “our ears tickled.” This is why you just don’t hear sermons from the prophetic literature of the Old Testament as much as we need to hear them. It just isn’t pleasant or popular.

But last time I looked those books are still in the Bible, right?

And, here is an ironic twist on Ezekiel’s ministry. In chapter 33, God tells the prophet that the people who are coming to listen to him have no intention of doing anything he tells them. It is as if the prophet is some sort of freak show. This is a cruel twist in the story of his ministry.

It was not easy being Ezekiel.

It is not easy telling people the truth, whether they want to hear it or not, “dark side” or not. It is not easy to hear it, either.

But in spite of all of this, the Lord says, "Now, son of man, I am making you a watchman for the people of Israel. Therefore, listen to what I say and warn them for me. If I announce that some wicked people are sure to die and you fail to tell them to change their ways, then they will die in their sins, and I will hold you responsible for their deaths. But if you warn them to repent and they don’t repent, they will die in their sins, but you will have saved yourself" (Ezekiel
33:7-9 NLT).

This is the role that all of us have as believers. When we get saved, we have an eternal perspective. There is more to life than what is going on now. Our seventy years of life here on earth are just a drop in the bucket compared to eternity. Where are we going to spend it?

Lord, I’m thankful again for cancer and all this health stuff. I would be less than honest if I did not say that it is getting very old. It SEEMS as if it is a barrier to the ministry, but You know better. Let me continue to stand up as a watchman and tell the truth. Give us all the courage to “tell it like it is.” Amen.

Daystar Plan, Day 154: Jesus Stands at the Door and Knocks

The Word always impacts me, whether I read it in my morning devotion time or study it for a sermon. But every once in a while, a passage has an impact on me in an even greater way.

This happened over the past couple of weeks as I prepared to preach from Revelation 3:14-22, Jesus’ message to the church at Laodicea.

In my seminary elective class, the Book of Revelation, Tommy Lea was my professor. He was an awesome guy and did a great job teaching this very controversial book. As we studied chapters two and three, he gave us the various viewpoints regarding these messages to these church. One viewpoint is that these exhortations represented what Jesus would say to the church in various eras of church history.

Those who held this viewpoint believed that the message to the angel of the church at Laodicea is what Jesus would say to the contemporary church.

Now, let me say right off the bat that I do not espouse this view. I believe that these are messages, not to eras, but to real congregations that John served or knew about in Asia Minor.

However, as I said yesterday, I believe that the sermon to Laodicea has the most application to the contemporary American church because we pride ourselves on our money and think we are doing well when the 3 B’s (Bodies, Budgets, and Buildings) add up.

Just because a church has a big building and a congregation full of rich people does not mean that it is spiritually rich. It could be the poorest church around and makes Jesus sick.

Oops. I could re-preach my sermon here. I don’t want to do that.

The verse that impacted me in a new and fresh way is Revelation 3:20, “Behold I stand at the door and knock and if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and sup with him and he with me” (this is my recollection of the KJV translation). The traditional viewpoint of this verse (I have used it this way) is that it describes Jesus’ desire to come into an individual’s heart in the initial conversion experience.

However, this is NOT what Jesus is saying. AT ALL. Again, this is a message to the church and basically, what He is saying is that this church has shut Him out and as the Gentleman Savior (Jesus does not force Himself on anyone or any church), He knocks, requesting access to His own congregation. This is Jesus’ answer to the pride of this church.

Is it possible for a church to shut Jesus OUT? Are you kidding? YES.

Now, all of that is background to the New Testament reading for today in the Daystar Plan from 1 John—a letter that has the same human author as the Apocalypse. I like the New Living Translation of a couple of key verses in this chapter.

"So you must remain faithful to what you have been taught from the beginning. If you do, you will remain in fellowship with the Son and with the Father. And in this fellowship we enjoy the eternal life he promised us…. But you have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what he teaches is true—it is not a lie. So just as he has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ" (1 John
2:24-25, 27 NLT).

The KJV translation of a prominent word in this passage is ABIDE. The Greek word means to “settle down and make oneself at home.” I like the NLT—“remain in fellowship.” This emphasizes both the vertical and horizontal dimensions of our congregational life as believers.

As the church lets Jesus in—remains in fellowship with the One who stands at the door and knocks—then and only then, can we remain in fellowship with one another. Of course!

I am praying for wisdom and discernment that if there is any arena at First Southern in which we are shutting Jesus out of His own church, that we will identify that area, confess it, and repent.

O Gentleman Savior, thank you for dwelling in me in the person of the Holy Spirit. Thank you for the nature of the Christian life. It is a relationship with You. May we as a church—may the American church with its love of BIG and MORE and MONEY—may the church I serve—NEVER forget this. Amen.