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A Stroll At Leisure With God

The Bible in 90 Days--Day 30

Day 30:1 Chronicles 10:1 to 23:32

I honestly don’t know if I have ever slept more in one day than I slept yesterday—not just nap, mind you, but SLEEP. Late morning, early afternoon, early evening, and later on in the evening, and then I went to bed about 9:00 and just went lights out.

I suppose this is a combination of jetlag and this virus. I’m going to try to get in to see a primary care physician or a physician’s assistant today.

One more thing: my neck has been bothering me—one more ailment.

In spite of all of that, I am great! Ha.

When I wasn’t “sawing z’s” I spent time going through the hundreds of pictures that we took on the trip. I felt that I needed to do this while things are still relatively fresh in my mind.

On a couple of occasions on the trip, Nancy, Pam, and I talked about our presentation next Sunday, April 6
th. Pam made the very good comment, “Well, we certainly don’t want it to be too long.” I agree. Attention spans are attentions spans.

Therefore, we are going to plan out who speaks when and try to move things along.

However, on the other hand, I don’t want to be so bound by time constraints that we don’t share all that we need to share, and I think folks in the church will understand AND they will want to know.

Anyway, it is going to be a challenge to keep this under three hours! I’m not kidding. Every picture has a story behind it. Plus, we have videos as well.

It is going to be a challenge, but I am excited to put it together to share all this with the church.

I am also looking forward to what this is going to mean to our fellowship as we seek to reach people here. Believe me. I can’t help but know that it will.

Well, the chapters for today focus on the life and rule of King David. 1 Chronicles 22 takes me back to a significant time almost four years ago—our 50
th Anniversary celebration.

This event feels as if it happened lifetimes ago. Back then, I was in a similar situation health-wise to what is going on with me now—looking cancer right in the face (even though back then, I didn’t fully know what was a head of me; now, I sort of know).

The last day of our celebration, we rented out space at a nearby hotel—the Ramada Inn. They have a large auditorium, and we packed it out. If I remember correctly, we had over 400 people in attendance.

We had worship and testimonies and awards followed by two sermons. Pastor Benny preached and then I did.

Through the process of preparing for the weekend, the Lord laid the story of David’s final years on my heart. Here is a king who had accomplished as much or more than any king, not only in Israel, but also in human history. David’s conquests are well documented in both Kings and Chronicles.

There were really no limits on what he could do—no enemy or army could stand against him, and yet, when it came to building the temple, the Lord said, “No, you will not build it. Your son Solomon will.”

So, here is the thing that impressed me about David’s response to God’s “no.” He did not pout or sulk. He simply did all he could to prepare the way for Solomon to build the temple. He compiled materials and laborers. He had everything ready.

As I thought about all those “generations” of believers sitting in that big auditorium, somehow it dawned on me that they had done the same for us. Their service paved the way for the church to continue to exist and to thrive.

And this is the responsibility of those of us who are serving the Lord through the church right now—to do all we can to provide for the next generation of believers to carry on.

As I return to the “saddle” here (sometime this week, hopefully, if the Lord can help me get over whatever it is I am dealing with and with this cancer stuff), I have more of a sense of urgency than ever. We have no choice. We must remove every obstacle to growth and move forward as a church.

Why?

Do I really need to make a case for this? Honestly, I’m tired of having to convince people that we need to reach lost folks.

This trip has impressed me more than ever about what the phrase “a lost and dying world” actually means. In India, 300,000 people die every day. (That stat sounds a little inflated; I may not have remembered it correctly; but I think I am right). In a population of 1.25 billion, that number is not as incredible as it might seem.

How many of those people are headed off to an eternity in hell?

And I wonder about that same stat here in the States?
AND, here is another thing: adding some folks here and there is not going to cut it. Right? We can’t keep up with the huge need that way.

Our church is called to do it, however. And the demand is such that we need to thrive not just survive.

But so much of what is going on in our culture reduces us to minimalists, eking out an existence when the Lord calls us to do so much more.

Heavy on my heart to do is the message I received before I left that one of our SBC churches on the north side will probably close its doors this summer.

Lord, we face an enormous task that is way too big for us, but you have called us to reach a lost and dying WORLD. Give us the grace and impetus to embrace your mission in the world—a mission that starts in our own backyard.

I pray that, like King David, we do all we can so that this church not only survives but also thrives so that we are ready to reach the next generation. 50 more years for your honor and glory, Lord. Amen.
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The Bible in 90 Days--Day 29

Day 29: 1 Chronicles 1:1-9:44 and the Prayer of Jabez

Boy, yesterday afternoon, I just started to feel worse and worse. With no real experience with jetlag, I’ve just assumed that much of what has been going on with me was associated with it. Now, I am fairly convinced that I caught something.

I’m disappointed because I really wanted to go to church today and saw no reason (until now) as to why I shouldn’t.

But now, I am convinced that I am going to focus on rest for the next couple of days because I know that when I get going again, I have TONS to do.

A couple of things from yesterday …

First, after I finished writing my blog, I checked my email. I received a message from Rick (pastor at Ken Caryl; he was a part of the group that traveled with us to India). He stated that we need to be very careful not to post pictures of any of our “M’s” in India. This is very good advice. I originally posted a picture on my Facebook site, but after reading the email, I deleted the entire post and just put the text back up there.

If you happened to have received my original post, please do NOT forward it and please delete it immediately. Thanks a lot.

I certainly do not want to come anywhere near putting our folks in any kind of danger. Again, missionary activity is technically illegal in India. Our friends come in on business platforms.

Later on that day, Jeff wrote a follow-up message reinforcing what Rick had said and carrying his assertions even further. He urged us to be careful not to publish the names or pictures of our national partners and to avoid using the word “India” at all. Instead, we need to refer to it as “South Asia.”

Our National Partners face intense persecution as well. During the seminar, one of our M’s, Steve*, said that he knew of a pastor in his region that was killed.

Anyway, words to the (hopefully) wise. I am going to be extra careful, especially during our sharing time next Sunday. I think the main danger is on social media.

Second, I tried to call the brother who had called me the night before. I missed him, but he called me back to leave a message. He just thanked me for coming to India. What an awesome gesture! I really appreciate it. I hope to talk with him soon.

Third, my mom and sister asked me a good question yesterday as we continue to talk about the trip to India. “John, is it hard to come back?”

As I continue to think about the answer to that question, I would like to address it in two ways. On the one hand, it is great to be back home, of course. I missed my family and my church family and friends here, although, to be honest, we were on the run most of the time (literally) so I didn’t have much time to think about things here.

On the other hand, however, I know my perspective of life and church here will NEVER be the same.

I have mentioned some of this in previous posts. I don’t want to “beat a dead horse.” But I find myself already being very impatient with some of our ways here.

What do I mean by this? I am generalizing here. I think we have a very cognitive and passive view of learning. We are often content just to “sit and soak” and leave a teaching session or worship service with no real urgency to change anything we are doing.

This can become a trap, I think. We can spend years and years and years in a church building attending services and patting ourselves on the back but really, there is no difference between the world and us. The current divorce rate is a case in point—no appreciable difference between Christians and non-believers in the rate. It is now 60 percent!

In the work in South Asia, (at least with our friends that I met there), there is a different mentality. I will go into much more detail about this later, but suffice it to say that there are two emphases that are different from church in the states. One is an emphasis on action. New believers are taught, but then they are encouraged to go out and immediately put into action what they just learned. This is radical for us!

I believe that many of us believe that a new believer needs to sit in a classroom for five years before he or she can be a disciple.

Now, I am overstating the case a bit, and again, this is a generalization, but I think it is largely true.

With this mindset from the beginning, is it no wonder that we can’t seem to get anybody to do anything in the local church? We have trained people to sit and soak and SINK. I add the third “S” because I am a preacher!
The other thing that is unique about the work I heard about was ACCOUNTABILITY. At the start of a new training session, leaders ask, “Tell me about what you did since last time.” This provides a wonderful opportunity to help folks grow.

I think there is an aversion to this level of fellowship in the United States. For example, I wonder if you asked people to share the gospel with at least one person in the following week. The next week, you started off by the question, “How many of you actually shared?” I just think this kind of thing is uncomfortable and negatively perceived—to our detriment.

Therefore, what ends up happening is that I go weeks and months and decades without ever sharing and somehow, because no one knows, it is okay!?!

Anyway, I could go on and on. I will unpack all of this in later posts and sermons, for sure.

This was the pleasant surprise from this trip. I THOUGHT I was going to learn about the work in South Asia and I did. Make no mistake, but one of the other shocking things that occurred was that I left with a huge burden for the American church and my leadership of the church I serve. We will see how all of this plays out …

On to the passages for today—these initial chapters of 1 Chronicles are long lists of names and genealogies—rather tedious; although there were a couple of interesting passages I came across. I want to quote them here:

"There was a man named Jabez, who was the most respected member of his family. His mother had given him the name Jabez, because his birth had been very painful. But Jabez prayed to the God of Israel, “Bless me, God, and give me much land. Be with me and keep me from anything evil that might cause me pain.” And God gave him what he prayed for" (1 Chronicles 4:9, 10 GNB).

"They put their trust in God and prayed to him for help, and God answered their prayers and made them victorious over the Hagrites and their allies" (1 Chronicles 5:20 GNB).

These two references to prayer are significant. First, the “prayer of Jabez.” A popular book with that title came out a few years ago. There are some really good parts of the book. I want to say that upfront.

However, I have a problem with the contention that this prayer—tucked away in the genealogies of 1 Chronicles—is some kind of magical incantation or model for us.

Certainly, I can learn from the prayers of scripture, and all of them are instructive, but this prayer strikes me as very selfish and narrow. The word “me” is very prominent.

Again, let me hasten to say that asking for things for ME is not wrong, but if that is all my prayers are about (this is all we have from Jabez), then, “Houston, we have a problem.”

I don’t know … I think this is more about God’s response to our prayers, any kind of prayer, than it is about the content of what Jabez prayed.

We have to be careful to make the distinction between what the Bible REPORTS and what it TEACHES. Jabez distinguished himself, as did the armies of the Eastern Tribes in chapter five, because of their relationship with the Lord as demonstrated through prayer. THAT is the key, I believe.

Lord, thank you again for this trip and for our friends who serve you in South Asia. They are still heavily on my mind. I thank you for their devotion to you, in spite of persecution.

I lift up Al to you today as he preaches. I so appreciate the guys who have preached for me these past couple of Sundays in my absence. Jeremy, Brian, and I—you guys are awesome. Amen.
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The Bible in 90 Days--Day 28

Day 28: 2 Kings 15:27 to 25:30 and a Call from India

Over the years, I have heard stories about jetlag, and to be honest, thought, “What is the big deal?”

Now, I know.

I actually tried to get up and move around some yesterday, but I soon found myself sitting or laying down and falling asleep.

Also, I am having a lot of stomach problems, and even wonder if I have a bit of a virus—just such dramatic changes from the weather in Bangalore to that of here.

As a result, I took the opportunity to update my blogs on
www.pastorjohnsblog.com and on Caring Bridge.

Then, I downloaded all my pictures as well as those from Nancy and Pam. Before we parted ways at the airport on Thursday night, they handed me their little SIM cards from their cameras.

I am literally swimming in pictures and videos. I showed a lot of them to my mom and sister last night. It was great to relive some of the experiences on the trip. There were so many, so many memories crowding my brain. Hard to keep track.

I also started sending emails to people I had met—Nasim and Laxman, Nabin and Matilda, Veneet (who sent me an email requesting I send her the picture of her family I took on Sunday), and others.

Before we left on the trip to India, I had asked Nancy and Pam to pray that the Lord would allow each of us to make at least one friend on our trip. As the Lord always does, He more than answered our prayers. “Above and beyond all that we could ask or even imagine.” Isn’t that what Paul prays in Ephesians three?

This is one of the most valuable aspects of this trip, in my opinion, of course—relationships. Not just with the missionaries there—this is very valuable, but also with the Nationals we met.

Anyway, good stuff. And this morning, as I got up and looked at my phone, I realized that I had just missed a call from India. When I checked the message, it was from Aney! What a wonderful brother!

Last Saturday, Andy, Carl, Shafeek (the driver; father of Veneet), Pam, Nancy, and I were headed out of Kolkata to Shyam Nagar—a little village where Andy was going to do a training for pastors and leaders.

We were in a particularly crowded intersection. And all of sudden, we stopped. Two guys were standing there! One was Aney and the other guy was a pastor who came with him. His name was Chironton. They jumped in our SUV with us. As you can imagine, we were rather crowded.

But we enjoyed visiting with one another as we drove down the road. Turns out that Aney is what the M’s call one of our National Partners. He regularly assists Andy in his training sessions.

After listening to him teach that day, when we had a break, I said, “Aney, the Lord has obviously gifted you to teach. I understood a lot of what you were saying even though I don’t understand the language.”

Oh, man. He is passionate and animated when he teaches. At one point, with one of his very vivid gestures, I just had to laugh. Aney noticed it, and right in the middle of one of the sessions, we laughed together.

I wonder what the people in the group thought, “Who is this crazy American who is disrupting our meeting?”

Anyway, afterwards, Aney joined Pam, Nancy, Andy, Carl, and me in a room as we enjoyed a typical South Asian meal together—rice, chicken, and some vegetables.

And, we ate the meal South Asian style—with our fingers!

Andy tried to teach us “the right way” to do this. I’m not sure that the four Americans caught on that well. I’m glad Pam had brought some handi-wipes for us as we finished the meal. I had rice and chicken all over me as well as my hand.

Aney was there with us. He didn’t laugh at us, even though I would not have blamed him.

On the way back, Aney and I exchanged information. I told him that he had an open invitation to come to First Southern any time he was in the States.

Anyway, I hope I can catch up with him today. I need to keep the time differences in mind. I don’t want to wake him up in the middle of the night.

Well, anyway, on to the passages for today. A very sad section of the Old Testament, very sad indeed.

These chapters chronicle the fall of Samaria, capitol city of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and the fall of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians. All of this occurred because the people turned away from God to serve idols. And the writer of 2 Kings is very explicit about this.

The highlights of these chapters are the reigns of Hezekiah and Josiah—two of the greatest kings Judah ever knew outside of David.

One of my favorite stories is how Hezekiah responded to the threats of Sennecherib of Assyria. He took the letter from the enemy and laid it before the Lord. At that moment, the battle belonged to the Lord. It had all along, but that is when Hezekiah acknowledged it. And of course, the angel of the Lord killed 185,000 enemy soldiers and Sennecherib slinked back to Assyria with his tail between his legs like a spanked puppy.

Love it!

Lord, You are awesome in your power, and you enrich our lives through the relationships you bring us. I lift up Aney. Thank you for this dear brother. Bless him and encourage him in his ministry. Thank you for allowing me the privilege of knowing him. I’m humbled that he would call me long distance for any reason.

“The battle belongs to the Lord.” Amen.
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The Bible in 90 Days--Day 27

Day 27: 2 Kings 4:38 to 15:26 and Around the World!

First of all, I am soooo glad to be home, and everyone in our group said the same thing.

Second, it was quite an adventure getting back here. Quite.

Everything had gone so smoothly in our travels up our departure from Bangalore in the early hours of March 27
th. We got to the airport about midnight. Our first goal was to exchange our rupees back to American dollars and we sent Ron off to do this.

We were saying our goodbyes to Kevin (the M we visited with in Bangalore) and we started to head into the terminal, showing our flight info and passports to a khaki-clad guard at the door. I was sort at the end of the line. I did not hear this myself, but all of a sudden the message filtered back to me, “Our flight to Frankfurt has been canceled.” Huh, what? Canceled.

I’m sure that many of you who are reading this and know me will be shocked when I tell you that at that point, I was bummed out (for sure), but I had this overwhelming sense of calm. Really, it was one of the greatest moments of my life where I felt the hug of God—kind of like I felt my first chemo treatment.

And, everyone in the group was calm as well.

Now, here is where my deep appreciation for the group from Ken Caryl ratcheted up several notches.

Once we received the news, Jeff took off. He walked quickly with purpose and direction to find the Lufthansa ticket counter. We all followed him. As we got closer to it, we realized that there were a whole lot of unhappy folks standing in front of it. Jeff made his way through the group and suddenly he was standing right in front of an agent at the window.

The rest of us were standing off to the side. That’s when Rick made this comment, “Well, folks, this is not really uncommon in international travel. Things happen and we just have to roll with the punches.”

Another thing was: Kevin was still there with us. When the word of the canceled flight came down, he got on his cell phone. He said he would stay with us to help us if we needed him.

Now, I think those three things: Jeff’s decisive action, Rick’s comment, and Kevin’s presence saved me from a nervous breakdown. I know that sounds kind of contradictory. Again, I was calm, but the longer all of us stood there, the gravity of our situation dawned on us. Of course, none of us feared for our lives. It wasn’t THAT. It was just the possible scenarios of what we faced—having to be shuttled somewhere to spend the night and having our trips plans delayed—BIG TIME. But, again, standing the group, we all came to conclude—whatever. By then, it was about 2:00 AM in Bangalore on a beautifully cool night.

We waited and waited as Jeff continued to stand at that window. Rick checked on him and came back to the group, “Well, we found out why they canceled the flight—a strike of baggage handlers in Frankfurt.” Okay.

Finally, Jeff came back to the group, “Well, they got us rerouted. We are going east instead of back through Europe. We are connecting in Hong Kong and then in Chicago before going to Denver, but our flight to Hong Kong leaves in an hour!” Yikes!

There is just so much to do on these international flights.

So, we showed the guards our new info as we entered the terminal to find the Dragon Air counter. Jeff led us to the spot and stepped up as the first guy. I tell you: it was as slow as lard. It took at least a half an hour to get our boarding passes on that flight. By THEN, time was really crunched.

A Dragon Air representative whisked us up some stairs and through a special line where we passed by a bunch of folks to get our passports stamped and on through security and we ran up to the gate as the final call came out.

That flight from Bangalore to Hong Kong—it was about five hours—was one of the toughest I have ever experienced. I was mashed in the center seat, and I could just not get comfortable. It was a nightmare. The only thing that made the trip halfway bearable was Jeanne had a seat next to me and we talked.

I HATE those middle seats in the middle row of large planes. That is why I avoid them at all costs, BUT beggars cannot be choosers. Bottom line: all of us were glad we could get on that plane—any plane—and leave that night.

When we landed in Hong Kong, a representative from Cathay Pacific with a sign that said, “Chicago” was there to meet us. We were not the only ones in this predicament. A south Asian young man was with us along with a family and a young man from Florida.

I always wanted to go to Hong Kong. I saw some of the town from the plane, but I was only there about forty minutes. Most of us did not receive our boarding passes from this leg of the flight and we had a lot of work to do to get them and get on a train and go to another terminal and down a long hallway to the gate as the final stragglers got on that plane. At the gate, we had another little issue with our tickets, but finally, we boarded on the dead run.

I started to worry at this point a bit just because of my previous experience with the flight from Bangalore. The trip from Hong Kong to Chicago was fourteen hours, and I just dreaded being mashed for FOURTEEN hours, but again, the Lord provided.

We ended up getting seats in what the airline called “Premier Economy.” This was like Business Class for international travel. I ended up with a seat near the security door and one other seat next to me and ten feet of legroom. It was awesome! I got the best seat of the bunch, but all of us were so thankful that we had more legroom and wider seats. It was a Godsend!

Let me back up a bit. As we were visiting with one another in our various sprints through airports, Jeff looked at me and said, “Well, John, on your first trip to India, you actually made a trip around the world.” What do you know?

We had some difficulties in Chicago getting our boarding passes as well. We had to get on another train to go to another terminal. The saving grace in this situation was that we had a couple of hours before the actual flight to Denver. Piece of cake.

On the flight here, I sat in the second to last row of the plane, again mashed between two guys in the center seat, but who cares?

For some of us, our luggage did not make it to Denver. Nancy, Pam, Jeanne, and Ron got their checked bags. Jeff, Rick, and I did not, but United assured us they would deliver them to us. In fact, it may be sitting on our front porch now.

Of course, I was exhausted last night. I was “wired,” but when my head hit the pillow, I was out. I woke up at 3:00 wide-awake and with a headache, so I just decided to get up and eat and move around a bit. Now, the fatigue is hitting me again, and I can barely keep my eyes open.

One other thing: my legs were swollen last night and some mosquito bites (I guess) I got in Bangalore really started to bother me.

But I have talked to enough folks about jetlag and long plane rides enough to know that all these issues (sans the bites) are common with long trips.

Again, I am glad to be home and so thankful that the Lord got us back here with all the hurdles and challenges the day we planned to return.

But, I will tell you—yesterday was a LONG day. Of course, we passed the International Date line so had to turn the clock back. But again, just glad to be home.

In the reading for today, I came across one of my favorite stories in the Bible. Facing attack from a large and powerful enemy—the Syrian army—Elisha’s servant was overwhelmed. The army had actually surrounded the city.

Elisha wanted to reassure his servant:

"’Don't be afraid,’ Elisha answered. ‘We have more on our side than they have on theirs.’ Then he prayed, ‘O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!’ The Lord answered his prayer, and Elisha's servant looked up and saw the hillside covered with horses and chariots of fire all round Elisha." (2 Kings 6:16, 17 GNB).

Lord, thank You for taking care of us and letting us experience Your perfectly timed care for each of us. Thanks for the trip. Thanks for getting us home safely. We travel as always at Godspeed. Do “Chariots of Fire” fly? Amen.
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The Bible in 90 Days--Day 26

Day 26:1 Kings 16:21 to 2 Kings 4:37

It was hard to tell because we arrived at night, but Bangalore seems to be very different from Kolkata. The major reason for this is the new "superhighway" from the airport into town. After driving around on the narrow and crowded streets of Kolkata for several days--this was WAY different.

Jeff's missionary friend Kevin who met us at the airport and picked us up, told us that this new road had just recently been finished. It is really nice. And one more thing--no horns honking until we got to town, but for a half an hour of driving, it was quiet. Awwwww.

When we arrived at the guest house, Lydia greeted us. She has a southern accent. I think she told me she is from Memphis originally but has lived here in India for several years. This guest house is connected with a hospital. And it is different than the one in Kolkata.

The BMS House is hotel style. This place is apartment style. Pam, Nancy, and Jeanne are staying in one apartment and the five guys are rooming in another. We have a kitchen and a dining area.

Last night, we ate dinner here. Lydia served it to us. Guess what our meal was? FRIED CHICKEN, MASHED POTATOES, and VEGETABLES. We all savored every bite. The fact is that we haven't eaten many vegetables on this trip so far--just not a safe thing to do. But they tasted so good last night.

Anyway, we are going to spend time with Kevin and his family today and see the town a bit. Kevin told us we are going to a Muslim part of town this afternoon to hang out and do some shipping. Should be interesting.

We heading to the airport tonight at 11:00 PM. OUr flight to Frankfurt leaves at 3:40 AM. This is why I tried to get a little ahead on my reading in the Word and on writing. I don't think I will be very coherent in the morning. Who knows?

Since this may be the last post of my trip--maybe not--I want to thank everyone who is reading this for your prayers. I look forward to getting home and sharing what The Lord has done.

The Lord has provided for us just as He did for Elijah and his successor Elisha. This is our heritage as believers--Jehovah Jireh, My Provider. I praise You, Almighty God! Amen.
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The Bible in 90 Days--Day 25

Day 25:1 Kings 7:38 to 16:20

Well, as I write this post, all of us are on the plane to Bangalore. OUr time in Kolkata has concluded.

Those of us who were still around (some of the folks who started with us in the seminar have either moved on to different parts of India or started back home) had a time for "debriefing."

Craig just asked us to share how this trip has impacted us and/or what we learned.

As I told Pam and Nancy at breakfast, my head is spinning in overload mode--too much information in too short of time.

Jeanne from the Ken Caryl group was the very first one to share. Pam and Nancy from our group followed. I am not going to detail here what they said. I will leave that to the sharing service on April 6th at the church.

Some others in the group talked.

Then, I raised my hand and Craig acknowledged me. I am going to cite here what I said just because, on Sunday, April 6th at FSBC, I will say a lot more. "Well, Craig, what has impressed me as I have been here is the whole concept of the lostness of the world." Now, at this point, something happened that I HATED. I started to tear up. It was weird how all the trip seemed to come to a head at that moment.

Driving around Kolkata for the past few days, one cannot but help be overwhelmed by the masses and hordes of people, everywhere, and the tell tale sign of lostness. For example, on the way out to the slum yesterday, we noticed some neighborhoods in New Town--the new part of Kolkata. We realized that each had its own neighborhood god.

Are you kidding? A god for each neighborhood?

Back to my statement. I went back to talk about a visit to a man in the first slum we visited earlier in the week. I don't think I have talked about this before in this blog. This family of four lived in a house no bigger than a closet. A little haggard man stood in the doorway. He asked us to come in and pray for him because he was an alcoholic. I told all this and said, "I will never forget the look on that man's face--the lostness, but the whole thing is a parable of our work. I was with the group and we were there together ministering." And I thanked the M's that were there for their great work. I was overcome with emotion. Weird.

Well, anyway, that was earlier in the morning. The rest of the time we talked about what is ahead for our churches. Craig was with us as we dialogued about all of this.

Suddenly, abruptly, it was time to go. I raced down the hall at the complex to make sure my bags were packed. We tossed all our bags into two SUV's and headed out to the airport.

On the way, we turned down a street and entered into a gated community. I was thinking, "What is going on?" This is where Craig and his Ruffia live! They took us up an elevator and we got to see their apartment. It is nice, for sure, but not ornate at all. They live right across the street from a fairly nice mall. After the tour of the apartment, we went over to Pizza Hut at the mall--seemed to be the thing to do. I think we are all missing American food, as junky as it is.

After lunch, we jumped in the SUV's and headed to the airport.

I can tell that all of us are dragging. We are going to meet Jeff's missionary friends at the airport. The plan is to get some dinner and then head to the guest house. I think all of us will sleep well tonight. I hope I do. I am exhausted.

I would just describe the years after Solomon's reign as a "mess." The kingdom divided. All the tribes except Judah formed the northern kingdom with their own kings--most of whom were evil. The southern kingdom was composed of just one tribe--the tribe of Judah--not a very pretty picture in the history of Israel.

Well, I'm going to try to take a nap before this plane lands.

Lord, thank you for bringing us this far. Give us a safe trip into Bangalore and to our hotel. Lord, I thank you for what you are teaching me here. Lessons I will never forget for the rest of my life. Amen.
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The Bible in 90 Days--Day 24

Day 24: 2 Samuel 22:19 to 1 Kings 7:37

I'm kind of on the run a little bit this morning. Today is the final morning for the conference. Craig calls it a "debrief." He will talk to us about the next steps after this trip. I'm sure we will have time to share what The Lord has taught us.

This sounds rather weird coming form me, I know. But I am not sure I am going to share anything today. My head is so full of new sights and sounds and thoughts, I am overwhelmed. I think it is going to take weeks to sort through everything that happened on this trip. Even then ...

I do know this. People told me that I would never be the same after this trip. They are right, but here is how I am going to say it, "As a result of what The Lord did in my life and taught me here (just part of his process in my life), I will never be the same." Do you get the nuance there?

All my life, Southern Baptists have touted the benefits of simply going on a trip somewhere, anywhere, as if the bus ride or plane ride had some magical quality in and of itself.

Now, don't get me wrong. This trip has been fantastic. I love all the sights and sounds and mostly, the people I have met. I will never forget them. EVER.

But, there is nothing magical about traveling. Any lost person can be impacted by a place or a trip. No big deal there.

Sorry. I know this seems to be beating a dead horse. I would rather give the glory where it is due--to my God.

We had another great experience yesterday morning as Andy took us out to a new part of Kolkata. So much new construction going on in this city. Unbelievable! But right in this part of town is another poor area. Woodrow and his wife Mitta are ministering in this community. They have started a school as an avenue for the gospel.

Pam and Nancy taught a lesson at the school, while Andy, Radu (a young teacher at the school who is a translator), and I made some visits. Again, heart-wrenching what we saw.

A couple of things happened to me as we concluded the morning: I just kind of hit a wall. I got really tired and told Andy. He cut things short a bit. He made sure we had a good lunch--at KFC! Then, he had his driver Saafeek take us back to the compound. I think Pam and Nancy were as spent as I was. We were glad to get back for some rest yesterday afternoon.

Andy showed up late afternoon to take us to do a couple more things. We did some shopping and then went to a Hindu temple in town. Oh, man!

The Hindu temple is right next to Mother Theresa's center for ministry. What a contrast!

Again, so much to say about all of that!

We ended up going to a new mall in town with the folks from Ken Caryl and eating at Chili's! We had a blast together. We laughed A LOT!

Please pray for us today as we head off to Bangalore. We are going to spend a day going this southern India city visiting with some of Jeff's missionary friends. It will be a whirlwind, but it will be good to see another part of India.

I honestly just think I am ready to come home. Really looking forward to seeing my mom and sis and starting to put the service together where we share this with the church. I can hardly wait! Today will help us clarify some things. We will be talking with Andy at breakfast this morning in just a little bit.

The chapters in our reading today are about the closing years of King David
s life. I love reading his song in 2 Samuel 22. Please look at vv. 32-33. They are especially important to me today, as we near the end of this trip.

Lord, I think you for everything you are doing in my life. Thank you for your skill in using circumstances and trips to accomplish your plan and purpose. Keep us safe as we travel today to Bangalore. Lord, I love you. Amen.
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The Bible in 90 Days--Day 23

Day 23: 2 Samuel 12:11-22:18

So far on this trip, each day's experiences have been ones that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Yesterday was no exception to this rule.

Andy came by the compound to pick all of us up at about 8:45.

Before I go further, I want to say a word about Andy. Nancy, Pam, and I appreciate him so much. He has gone out of his way to drive us around and to plan significant experiences for us to share. We all agree that he has gone way beyond the call of duty for us.

As we focus on the the original purpose for this trip, we all realize that meeting Andy was a big part of it.

He and I have already talked about his visit to First Southern. He is planning to visit his family in Nebraska twice this year. We hope that we can get him to "swing by" Colorado on his trip in December of 2014. This just happens to be Lottie Moon month, but for the first time EVER, I think it is gong to be cool to have an M visit with whom we have had this level of relationship. I know the folks at church will appreciate him as much as the three of us do.

It is so reassuring to travel around with someone that knows the city and the surrounding areas and knows the language. Plus, on a couple of occasions, he has given us good advice about what to eat and not to eat at restaurants.

Anyway, the four of us (our new friend Carl included) got into Andy's SUV and headed out to visit the church he attends. It started out as a house church, but not long ago, move to a hall (for lack of a better term) in town.

When we arrived, a bunch of kids and several adults greeted us. We visited with folks for a while before the service started. Kabim led worship and a young man played the guitar. We sang in English and Bangla. Andy asked for prayer requests and testimonies.

Then, when it came time for the sermon, all the children were dismissed to go with Pam and Nancy. I have to say that volunteering to do "children's church" was a heroic act on their part. The kids were WIRED! I mean wired. I honestly don't know how Pam and Nancy survived with n one to help them and the language barrier.

Afterwards, I asked Pam how it went. Her eyes got as big as saucers, "Whoa. It was crazy. We were in an enclosed space, but the boys were very energetic. In fact, one of them trried to climb out the window." Yikes!

I had a much easier time in my part. Andy asked me to preach a ten-minute sermon on baptism. The main thing of the day was that a young girl (a teenager, actually) named Kobita was being baptized. I just took a few minutes to explain to the folks that baptism is basically three things: an act of obedience, an act of testimony, and an act of fellowship. We are in fact and indeed baptized into the body of Christ. At the conclusion of the message, I shared the practice of First Southern when someone comes up out of the water. We yell and cheer. I tolkd the people to do this for Kobita, to say "Hallelujah!" They laughed and yelled it out with me.

After my message, Andy asked Kobita to stand up and share here testimony. She was very shy. When she pulled herself up out of the chair, she spoke in very muffled tones. She said she used to hate Christians, but now shoe loves them. It was very moving.

When the service concluded, we all crammed into a couple of vans and Andy's SUV to head out to a river. A couple of women leaders in the church baptized Kobita and when she came up out of the water, everyone yelled, Hallelujah!" It was awesome.

We got back into our our vehicles and head back to the "hall" for lunch. Someone had backed a "birthday cake" with Kobita's name on it. It was an awesome celebration.

When we finally got back to the compound, I crashed for a couple of ours before Carl and I took a taxi to William Carey Baptist Church. We met Pastor Gus, and I had two more opportunities to preach that night. I just can't tell you how awesome it was. I won't go into detail about any of that here. I will share it with the church.

I am so impressed with Pastor Gus. For several years, prior to becoming pastor at William Carey, he ministered to girls in sex trafficking trade in Kolkata. I have a lot of respect for him.

I'll tell you also: each night when the day's activities are over, I just fall into bed and colloppse. But it is a good tired.

Both times at William Cary and at the mission, I preached from the life of David and his sin with Bathsheba. My point was: even though sin and its consequences are grave, God is always ready to forgive.

We can choose our sin, but not our consequences.

The chapters for today are all about the gut-wrenching consequences of David's sin. It is so sad and tragic, but that is the way sin is. I'm glad Jesus came to save us from sin, but more than that, to equip us to live a holy life.

Lord, I pray this morning for Kobita in her new walk with you. I lift up Andy's church. I pray for William Carey Baptist Church and Pastor Gus. And I lift up the mission church in the city of Howrah, in the Salkia community. Thank you Jesus, from the bottom of my heart, that you are graciously allowing me to be a part of what you are doing here. Amen.
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The Bible in 90 Days--Day 22

Day 22: 1 Samuel 28:20 to 1 Samuel 12:10 and March 23

Can you top this? Yes, I can.

Another off-the-charts day!

Andya
Arrived about 8:15 to pick the four of us up. Now, I say FOUR because we have gained another member of our group. His name is Carl. He is the chairman of the missions' team at his church in Mississippi. I say it that way because, as he told us, he is not on staff, but he is "as close to it as you can get." Carl has a rather pronounced southern accent. He is hilarious.

Anyway, we headed off on our new adventure north on Bose Road through town past the raiway station we went the first day of the seminar. We actually left Kolkata and headed out to a rural area.

On the way, we stopped to pick up two brothers--Ani and Chironton. They were going to be in the conference as well. Ani has been a long-time National Partner of the IMB. It was great to meet him. On the way, I asked him about Unreached Unenaged People Groups in the area where we were traveling and he gave me two names.

We finally arrived in a little village. I have to tell you. It was a welcome relief from the horns and traffic in Kolkata.

At one point, Andy said, "Well, this is as far as we can go in our truck. We will have to walk the rest of the way. We noticed that some people in the town had dug a hole in the road right in front of us. I think they were installing a new irrigation ditch or something. The walk was not too far--about 200 yards.

We came up to a little one-room church building. The pastor and his wife lied in a space attached to it.

The people who were there greeted us warmly. Andy, Nancy, Pam, Carol, and I , after taking off our shoes, went inside. There were four chairs up against a wall for the four of us to sit on. Everyone else sat on the floor.

We waited around for a while as the people started to gather. The training began at about 11:00. Andy started things off, but quickly passed the baton to Ani. He is an excellent teacher. As I told him at the end, "Hey, brother. You did an awesome job. I don't speak your language,but I understood a lot of what you said."

Let me stop here and set the table a bit. We are talking about a remote one-room church building. It is on a Saturday. The temperature is close to 100 degrees. There is no air conditioning. Just two ceiling fans. AND, at one point in the training time, the electricity went out and we sat there in relative darkness! No one flinched. Ani kept right on going.

At one point, we stopped for a little chai tea break to stretch our legs a bit. But after the break, the training went on. Andy taught.

We finally finished about 2:00. Did you catch that? 2:00. This training lasted about three hours!

Afterwards, the ladies served lunch. Most of the people sat in the church "auditorium," but Andy, Pam, Nancy, Ani, Carl, and I had our lunch in the pastor's room adjacent to the auditorium. There were no knives and folks. We ate South Asian style--with our fingers. It was an awesome meal.

Back to the training--none of the four of us "white folks" could believe how attentive everyone in the class was for all three hours! They participated. They spoke up. The interacted with the teachers--Andy and Ani.

As this training progressed, The Lord convicted me--deeply. Two things started to weigh on my mind and heart. Here they are.

First, so much of what I do as a pastor is geared around making things easy and convenient for Christians. There is something desperately wrong with this. Very wrong.

Let's turn the tables a minute. Let's say that you plan a discipleship course at First Southern on a Saturday in the middle of the summer. You say, "We are going to sit on the floor and not turn on the AC. Ya'll come!" I wonder how many would show up? Do you want to guess? Some of the people at that training traveled relatively long distances, some on foot.

And you could tell all of them wanted to be there. They were into it. No one was looking at his or her watch. Of course, no one had a watch. Maybe that isn't all that bad?!?

But I just have to say this: I'm tired of accommodating laziness and immaturity. These humble pastors and women sitting on the floor in that little building shamed me!

Here is the second thing: I think the American church is in big trouble. We are so prideful. We think we are good. I think these people have us beaten by miles.

I have more of a burden than ever to pray for revival.

Where is the hunger and thirst for the Word of God? Where is the joy? Where is devotion? Where is teachability? We can't get people to show up for a training under the beast of circumstances with all the modern conveniences and gadgets in the world!

Something is wrong. Desperately wrong.

How many people in the world worship just as all those folks did yesterday? Many more that worship in fine buildings like we do in the States.

I'll tell you: the next person I hear complain about the temperature in the auditorium during a servicee better get ready! It won't be pretty.

In the verses for today, we have to unfolding story of David. He had, as the expression goes, the world by the tail. And yet, in one unguarded moment, he was vulnerable to temptation and blew it. Here is something in this tragic story I had never noticed before. David essentially murdured Uriah, but there were also some officers in David's army that died as a result of his ruse as well.

Tragic. So tragic.

Lord, thank you for another great experience. Thank you for all those humble servants who sat in that hot room for three hours. I pray for the pastor's wife who has some type of skin problem. I pray for the other woman who asked us to pray for her family. I lift up Ani. What an awesome brother!

It looks as if I am going to get to preach twice today. I ask you to give me the words, Lord. Have mercy on me, Lord. Revive your church. Turn us around. Amen.
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The Bible in 90 Days--Day 21

Day 21: 1 Samuel 16:1-to 28:25 and March 22

I honestly do not know how each day here seems to top the last one, but yesterday was one of the greatest experiences of my life.

We had the final morning of class, ate lunch, and headed out with Andy to an area that is called a slum.

Now let me stop right here. There are many parts of the city that I would characterize that way--people living on the street or in very run down and old houses. So, I am not quite sure how the lines are drawn here.

We rode in Andy's SUV. Carl from Mississippi went with us. Andy's driver, Safeek (again a phonetic spelling) went with us. I think most M's here have drivers just because it is so harrowing to drive.

There is no way I could EVER drive here! I would have a heart attack in the first five minutes. I know I speak about it a lot, but it is crazy. Nancy, Pam, and I were discussing it yesterday. There really is no way to describe it. No one would believe it in the States. The way people drive here would never happen in America. There would be 58 road rage incidents in every place every hour.

Enough said.

We drove out to this area and parked the SUV literally on the town garbage dump. We walked down the street a bit and entered into this little community. Down an alley to a little home. Already, the children were gathering. This home could not have been much bigger than 12 by 12. The father and mother have recently gotten saved and they opened their home up for this house church.

As we waited, the kids literally poured in. Toward the end of the meeting, we counted 55 kids crammed in this little room.

Back to the meeting--at the beginning, they stood up to sing for us. Oh, man. Makes me want to cry.

Then, it came time for the Bible story. Nancy told the story of the feeding of the 5000. When she concluded, we had all the kids stand up and the three of us--none of us are particularly musical (Nancy and Pam more than me)--and we led them in Deep and Wide, with all the hand motions. They loved it!!!!!!

When our singing concluded, I was tasked with the job of asking the kids what they learned from the story and doing a little application. I shared my testimony briefly and that was it.

One of the greatest preaching opportunities EVER.

When we concluded our part, the kids sang some more songs for us, and then several of them came forward to stand before the group to speak to us in English. They gave their names and family names and favorite subject in school and favorite color. One little boy came up. He had a lame arm ... I will never forget him.

I have to add that three young adults were there. I don't think I have met three people more in fire for Jesus than these three. Nancy and Pam had the opportunity to spend time with Wahita the day before. They raved to me about her boldness. Yesterday, I saw it.

She ran that whole meeting yesterday. She is like Calla in that those kids jumped when she snapped her fingers. At a couple of points, she yelled at the kids for being a little unruly. I got scared at that point. Carl was sitting next to me. He is quite a character. In his southern drawl, he said, "The army ought to recruit her. She is a drill Sargent!"


The other two young adults were men--Nasim and Lachman. I will tell more about these two guys later. Both have not been saved that long, but both are zealous to spread the Word.

After the meeting, we went on a prayer walk. So much to share about that as well. One thing I will say is that we got in homes and got to pray for people. Lachman translated for me. Off the charts! I took pictures (with their permission of course) of the people we prayed for.

As we were getting ready to leave, I looked at Nasim and Lachman. I said, "Hey guys, when I show your picture to our church, the title of the slide will be, "Paul and Silas." They both laughed. Two awesome young men--I got their email addresses. I want to stay in touch with them. Nasim is getting married soon. That is another story!

What a day!

Lord, I am deeply humbled that you are allowing me these opportunities to serve you. My tears today are tears of gratitude. Who am I?

Thank you for the humility of David in his younger years to serve you and bide his time was he dealt with the lunatic Saul.

I love you, Jesus. Can't wait for the adventure today. Amen.
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The Bible in 90 Days--Day 20

Day 20: 1 Samuel 2:30 to 15:35 and Idols, Idols, Idols

Yesterday was another off-the-charts day here. I am in input and information overload. In addition to all that I am learning and experiencing, just being here ... Even at this time of the morning, one hears the birds--all kinds of birds, birds that you would think would live in a tropical area.

And of the course the streets are teaming with masses of people and horns and engines and sirens and people calling out from buses and road side shops. Honestly, when I get in at night (last night it was 7:30 PM), I was just exhausted from all the "input."

Craig was standing there waiting for us when we got in. It was great to debrief with him for a few minutes. He is an awesome guy and has done a wonderful job on this conference.

Anyway, the plan yesterday was to have some class time first. George, another one of the missionary/strategists here this shared the discipleship model that the South Asia Cluster is using. Oh, man! So much to learn here and so much to take back to the church in Northglenn.

He taught us until 1:00. Then, we broke for lunch here at the compound.

After lunch, we met again to talk about the whole topic of Unreached, Unengaged, People Groups. This is the main reason we came on this trip, but Craig blew us out of the water right at the beginning. He stated, "In South Asia, if we were after just one church embracing just one UUPG, it would take all the churches in the SBC and we sill would not embrace every group. We want to challenge all of you to think more in terms of working with a specific IMB team in a certain geographical region." Wow! This is a mind-blower! When he said that, Pam, Nancy, and I looked at each other. This is a mind-shift for us, big time.

Of course, Craig went on to say, "Now, of course, if a church does just want to do one group, we can accommodate that, but ...." His voice tailed off. Yes, it does seem a bit short-sighted. Anyway, much more to ponder there.

After this challenge, Andy assigned all of us to a "National Partner." This was an Indian man or woman (as the case may be) who was going to take us out in two's and three's actually to witness and share in the community. He assigned Nancy and Pam to go with a young woman. I will find out how that went later this morning.

He linked another man named Jim and I to a young pastor named Soapa (this is the phonetic spelling of his name). Oh, man. What an adventure!

I could and surely eventually will write volumes on our afternoon. But we went together in a taxi to the old part of Kolkata where they make idols! We walked around in this huge area. What an industry! There are nine million gods in Hinduism--maybe many more. Someone has to make them.... I could say much more.

From there we visited a crematorium. There is no more room in Kolkata for graves. The land is not available so most people are cremated. As we were looked at this eerie place, a man came up behind us. He introduced himself as a doctor and the head of this crematorium. We got to share with him When we were finished, he looked at me and said, "Are you on Facebook? Connect with me!" Ha. What a crazy world we live in! "Yes," I told him, "I will." Please pray for this doctor, "We will." His first name is Bhaskar.

From there, we took a boat ride on the Ganges River, rode in a three-wheeled taxi, and then caught the underground subway back to a restaurant near the compound. It was just another one of those days.

The verses in Samuel today reinforce What I learned from my visit to the idol part of Calcutta. If only Eli and Saul could have learned this lesson: there is only ONE GOD! It just makes sense to raise your family and to lead the nation to follow that one true God.

To be honest, the more idols I saw yesterday, the more angry and sad I became. How empyt! How pointless! What a waste of time to turn around and worship something human hands have made. I'm glad Americans don't do THAT! I'm glad I don't.

Well, ...

May it truly be so, Lord. Amen.
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The Bible in 90 Days--Day 18b and 19

Day 18b and 19

I had to catch up a bit this morning, and reading seemed very difficult. I think jet lag is catching up with me.

Well, the conference proper started yesterday. All of us met in a rather large room right down the hall from my little dorm room.

When I say "all of us," I mean a pretty good sized group. There are seven folks here from a church in Florida. They got in yesterday at 5:00 and then turned right around and started the conference. I felt for them. They were dragging a bit more than Nancy, Pam, and I. Just a bit.

There is also three guys from a church near Nashville, Tennessee. Their names are Andy, Andy, and Alan--the "3 A's" as they call themselves. Then, there are two more guys--Travis and Mike--from Jackson, Tennessee. Carl is also a participant. I think he is from Mississippi. He was in the group with me, Nancy, and Pam yesterday afternoon. More about that in a moment.

Craig took the lead most of the morning. He shared some reproducible Bible study methodologies with us. Here in South Asia, new believers do not let grass grow under their feet. They are immediately encouraged to start sharing what they learn. This is a revolutionary concept for me, and actually, quite convicting as well.

Craig explained that westerners are very cognitive in their learning. We think that if someone knows some facts, particularly about the Bible, then he or she has in fact LEARNED.

He challenged us with two other crucial aspects of discipleship--action and relationships. It was fantastic.

I think this is a real issue in the States. There are a lot of Christians who know a lot about the Bible, but they don't live it and don't have much of a relationship with the Author.

I learned a LOT more in the conference. Not enough time to share it this morning.

At the conclusion of the conference at about 3:00, Craig divided us into groups and sent us out with a missionary. Our task was to do a little cultural exploration and sharing, if The Lord permitted. Our group of Nancy, Pam, Carl, and I was assigned to Andy. Remember him? Andy took us out to eat the night before.

We walked out the front door of the complex. We were with another group--five of the sleepy folks from the church in Florida. He said, "Okay, we are going to take a couple of taxi's and head to the train station. It is called Shell-da." (Again, this is the phonetic spelling).

Okay, I could write a book at this point. Riding in that taxi was one of the most harrowing experiences of my life. I sat up in the front seat on the left side (Indians follow the British pattern of driving on the right side of the front seat and the left side of the street). At one point, I had to pull my elbow in from the window where I had rested it for fear of losing it! Do I need to say more?

We survived and make it to the train station--hordes and masses of people.

From there, we walked down a street with more hordes and more masses to William Carey Baptist Church. Pastor Gus was waiting for us. He took some time to show us William Carey's pulpit, the auditorium with its own huge pulpit and the plaque on the wall commemorating the baptism of Adoniram Judson. It was awesome.

Having finished the tour, Pastor Gus started talking about the present-day ministries of the church. They minister to the red light district of Kolkata each Wednesday, but yesterday, they could not have the service because one of the prostitutes killed herself.

There is also a slum nearby where hundreds of folks live in make-shift dwellings right on the street. So many issues with this area, as you would imagine.

We actually got to see it later in the evening as we went out to eat. It is heartbreaking.

We had a good dinner at a Chinese restaurant, and after another harrowing taxi ride, we got back to the complex about 8:00. I was beat. So was Nancy and Pam and Carl.

I have just spoken in summary form about all of this. THERE IS SO MUCH MORE TO TELL.

Please continue to pray for us. After the conference part today, we are actually going out to share.

Lord, give me an opportunity to share Jesus with someone today. Give me boldness. Wake all of us up, here. We are all still battling jet lag. Thank you for Craig and Andy and Josh and Russ and Shannon and Samson and all the missionaries here in South Asia. I also pray for Pastor Gus. I have a feeling that he and I are going to be great friends. I love you, Jesus. Amen
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The Bible in 90 Days--Day 17 and 18a

Day 17 and 18a

The reason I titled the blog this way is that I did not get a chance to read yesterday. It was a wall to wall day that started at 5:00 AM after we got into Mumbai at midnight.

We arrived in the international terminal. We went through customs there. Then, we had to get on a bus and take a fifteen minute ride to the domestic terminal. We arrived there and went through security. Part of the security process (at least for some of us) involved tages on our bags. (Hold that thought).

Well, the time came for us to board, and we figured it out only because someone turned on the sign that contained our flight info to Kolkata. We had to pass through a doorway where someone inspected our passport and boarding pass and the tags on our bags. Jeff and Ron did not have tags! So, they had to go all the way back to get their bags inspected again.

Meanwhile, for the rest of us, we exited to find buses waiting for us. At first we assumed that these buses would take us to the nearby plane. Wrong.

The buses took us all the way back the International terminal where we boarded the plane!

As we were riding along in the second bus ride, I said to Rick, "Huh? What is the deal? Why are we going back to the terminal?"

His answer, a classic, was, "Welcome to India, John!"

We finally arrived in Kolkata late morning after a two and a half hour flight. Craig Harris, the IMB missionary coordinating our trip, was there to meet us. He was a sight for sore eyes. We gathered our bags, went to exchange our dollars for rupies, and headed out. Craig's wife Roofii (I am spelling it phonetically: Roof-ia--emphasis on the last part) along with their driver Prideep were waiting. Roofia is an extremely nice woman who greeted us warmly.

Jeff, Nancy, Pam, and I along with Roofia got into an SUV Prideep was driving; the rest of the group got into an SUV that Craig drove. And we headed out.

Can I just stop and tell all of you that THAT trip along the roads in this town BLEW my mind!!!!

Honestly, words cannot describe it. Pam and I were snapping pictures right, left and center.

Masses of people. Cows on the side of the road. Multiplied hundreds of little shops with people sitting around. A man urinating on the side of the road. Many vacant buildings. Slums. Cars honking. (They love to honk here but for a different reason. Roofia explained it. It is the Indian way of telling you, "I'm here. Beware.")

Did I say masses of people?

These brief words come nowhere near describing the scene.

Right now, my mind is literally exploding with all I've seen and heard so far.

These chapters describe the division of the land, the death of Joshua, and the emergence of the period of the Judges. The names and faces are different, but the theme is the same: there is only One God. Worship Him and things will go well. Worship idols and your life will be a mess.

Now, think about this. I am reading these passages in the early morning in Kolkata, India as I listen to Muslims somewhere in this huge mass of humanity doing their early morning prayer chants.

Is God awesome, or what? The Lord our God is One. The One and Only. Amen.
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The Bible in 90 Days--Day 16

Day 16: Joshua 1:1 to Joshua 14:15 and the Shortest Day AND Two Injuries

Before I tell the story, the injuries (thank The Lord) are not as severe as they could be.

Well, we landed in Frankfurt and had to walk a long way through a huge airport to get to the gate for the flight to Mumbai. None of us complained, however.

It was good for all of us to move around after the initial nine-hour flight. I don't think I had ever been on a plane that long. The flight we are on today is seven hours.

Time is moving along here. As I sit here now, it is 9:50 PM in Mumbai. This is the clock we are all going by.

There was a few hours difference between Denver and Frankfurt (of course). My brain is fuzzy. Four or five hours difference so that to our body clocks, it was the middle of the night when we landed in Frankfurt, but in Germany, it was 9:00 AM. Weird.

When we finally found the gate, some of us headed out to find a McDonalds. By then, they were serving lunch, but I was still so hungry that I had to eat something (even though I had eaten two meals on the flight. At one point, Pam looked at Nancy and me and said, "All we have done so far is EAT." Right).

We then got on this flight, and shortly after we started, we had another meal...

But my point is: time has moved very quickly today. We are almost done with March 17th. I'm calling it "The Shortest Day."

But back to the flight from Denver to Frankfurt: as we were all disembarking from the plane, I tried to grab my carry-on in the overhead bin. It was stuck a bit. I yanked. All of a sudden, it came out and I lost control of it. It landed on Nancy's head!

Some of the people standing around gasped when they saw it! Nancy says she is okay. Please pray for her. I bet none of you suspected that one of the greatest dangers on this trip is ME!

A couple of hours ago, a similar thing happened! We had been experiencing some turbulence as we were flying over the Black Sea. It was pretty severe, but it eventually settled down.

I stood up when things were calm and tried to open the overhead bin to retrieve something from my backpack. All of a sudden, dozens of magazines came cascading down and landed on the head of a woman sitting in front of us! She exclaimed, "Hey!" I don't blame her. I would have cried out as well!

Apparently, our bin is the magazine rack for the plane and because of the turbulence, the magazines shifted so that when I opened the bin, they fell out on this lady.

I apologized to her. She was very nice about it, "It is okay," she replied. "I am Indian."

I'm glad she is okay, but are you kidding?

Please pray that I don't kill or maim someone on this trip.

I can joke about it but in the book of Joshua, it was no joking matter. In the conquest of Canaan, chronicled in the early chapters of Joshua, "the Ban" is a crucial concept.

God tells Joshua and Josh tells the people that when they conquer an enemy nation, destroy absolutely everything, including "innocent" women and children. This tends to offend our 21st Century sensibilities.

Over the years, many have asked me questions about this.

Bottom line: I have no neat and clean answers that tie this thing up in a bow, except to say this: God did not and does not tolerate any possible rival. He knew His people and He knows us. Give us an inch or a gold bar (Achan) and we will take a mile.

No compromise. That is the rule of the hour!

Lord, thanks for getting us this far on our journey. Keep us safe, and keep everyone on this plane safe from me. Amen.
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The Bible in 90 Days--Day 15

Day 15: Deuteronomy 23:12 to Deuteronomy 34:12

This is kind of weird, but I am sitting on an airplane, three hours into the flight to Frankfurt. It is after 9:30 PM, and I am WIDE, I mean wide awake. Getting ready for this trip meant that I had to "gear up." I guess I'm still running in high gear.

Nancy, Pam, and I have already had some good fellowship with the five folks from Ken Caryl Church. I can tell we are going to get to know each other very well through this process.

Pastor Rick and I first meant when I was teaching preaching at the extension of Golden Gate seminary in Denver. At that time, he was on staff at Riverside Baptist Church. This is generally regarded as one if not the largest SBC church in the Mile High Association. I say "regarded." I don't know for sure.

At one point this evening, I got up to walk around the cabin a bit. This is advice I have received for a long flight such as this. I can see the value of it. My legs are already started to cramp up a bit.

Anyway, I ambled a few rows ahead to visit with Rick a bit. We will get more of an opportunity for fellowship, I am sure.

About an hour into the flight, Jeff came over to the side of the plane where Nancy, Pam, and I are seated. He handed each of us an envelope. We anxiously opened it. It contained a word of encouragement about the trip and instructions to be aware of folks, even on this airplane, to talk to about Jesus. The envelope also contained a tract entitled, "Have you made the wonderful discovery of the Spirit-filled life?" I haven't seen this tract for years. It is a publication of Campus Crusade for Christ. I guess now the publishing company is called "Bright Media Foundation and Cru."

I like this tract. I will seek opportunities to give it out on this trip.

The envelope also contained another bit of information--the name and address of the place where we will be staying in Kolkata. It is called BMS Guesthouse. The address is: 44 A/C Bose Road, Kolkata, 700017. The telephone number is 33-2226-937. Three first names are on the bottom of the card. One of them is Craig's--he is the coordinator of our trip and time in India. Interesting.

Why am I including this information? I must admit that I have a selfish personal motive, a covert one. I am communicating with my family to let them know where I will be. I didn't know the exact location and phone number until we got on the flight.

Anyway, all of this sparked my memory a bit. Calla had handed me an envelope last Sunday with strict instructions: don't open this until the three of you get on the plane. Suddenly, right then and there, I remembered it.

Oh, man. It is awesome! Notes from the boys and girls and youth--notes of encouragement. Some with very specific information. I have to cite some of them here. I hope they don't mind.

Caleb urges us to "enjoy the new food yum"! How did he know I will do that??
Ethan counsels me: "You need to meet new people. At night go to sleep." Ha! Isn't that awesome? Good advice, if you stop and think about it. Thanks, Ethan.

Dayton tells us not to get too tired. He drew a picture of a Bible in the middle of the page. At the bottom, he urges us, "Bring me back food!"

Sydney quotes John 3:16. And by the way, as she did that, the phrase, "For God so loved the world" will never mean the same to me ever again! Even if we just took this trip, landed in Kolkata, and turned around and came back home--it would never mean the same.

It is amazing how The Lord speaks through children.

Anyway, she goes on to talk about Jesus' sacrifice for our sins. Very good theology, but the way. She concludes by saying, "And wene {sic} you tell the pepol [sic} they will beliv [sic}." I quote her verbatim because I had problems with spelling when I was her age as well. I had a great teacher who encouraged me to continue to write and not sweat the small stuff. I'm glad Syd wrote that.

One final one from Sheyda: "I dub thy [sic] to have a great time. You will do a great job." Please pray that we will.

It is kind of weird writing this at (now) 10:00 PM. I feel that I am fading a bit now.

The reading tonight can be summarized very succinctly as: if you obey God, you will be blessed; if not, you won't. Moses chose a number of ways and expressions to drive this message home in the final sermon of his life.

The Bible commends Moses in many ways. Certainly, his story is one of the greatest, not just in the Bible, but in literature. But the end is not so good. It is kind of sad, really. The book of Deuteronomy ends with Moses standing on Mount Pisgah, looking over land he himself would never enter. Then he dies. And no one knows where his grave is.

No one, that is, but God.

Lord, thank you for getting us this far and for all the prayers of the boys and girls on our behalf. Keep them up kiddos. Love you all. Amen.
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The Bible in 90 Days--Day 14

PLEASE NOTE: this may be my last post on this site until late March since I am leaving for India tonight. If I am able to post, I will, but I doubt it. See my Pastor John Talbert Facebook page. Hopefully, I will be able to post there! Hopefully. Regardless, keep reading!

Day 14: Deuteronomy 8:1 to 23:11 and a Fantastic Send-Off!

There is a measure of relief just because of the fact that the day of departure for the trip to India has finally arrived! I’m ready to go!

A major reason for that is an experience I had yesterday.

Let me back up a bit. Last Sunday, as I entered the auditorium at church, I noticed a young couple sitting on the second row. They were, as the expression goes, “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.” They greeted me enthusiastically.

As I usually do with guests, I tried to strike up a conversation, albeit brief, before the service started.

Their names are Paul and Lacey.

“Where are you guys from?”

“Well, Pastor, we recently moved here from Brighton and realized we needed a church. We were driving by this one the other day and decided this was the one we needed to visit.”

Okay. This doesn’t happen all that often—not anywhere near as often as it used to when I first started. There are a lot of theories out there as to why … I won’t get into them here and now.

I would like to give this explanation for why they came: God.

We have been praying that the Lord would bring young families and WHEN He does, that we would be able to minister to them. Here was an opportunity.

Paul and Lacey don’t look like many people in our church. They have piercings and tattoos. But I noticed that it didn’t seem to matter to people in our fellowship. Many went up to them and greeted them. I was so glad about this. So glad. Thank You, Lord.

It was very obvious that the Lord was working on them through the service. When I extended the invitation, God brought another AWESOME family forward. I have been working and praying with them for a couple of months—Dean, Mary, and Julia. This was “shot in the arm” enough, but I looked up again, and there was Paul and Lacey.

“Pastor, we want to join this church.” I was excited about this, but I have learned (the hard way; why is it that we always have to learn “the hard way”? In fact, I’ve NEVER heard anyone say, “I learned the easy way,” have you?) to take some time to visit with people who come forward the first time they visit the church. I just don’t know them; and they don’t know us! Now, of course, one would never want “to look a gift horse in the mouth” (where am I coming up with all these expressions today?), certainly not me.

As we left, I shared Paul and Lacey’s excitement, but I told them that I wanted to visit with them sometime in the week.

We made several attempts last week to get together. As it turned out, yesterday was the day. I drove up to Thornton and met them in their apartment off of 80
th and Broadway.

My main purpose for going was to find out where Paul and Lacey were in their relationship with Jesus. It did not take me long to discover through words and demeanor that both of these young adults did indeed get saved, and it hasn’t been that long since their conversion.

I talked about some basic discipleship issues with them and then, I did something I have never done before as I encouraged them to start reading God’s Word every day. This is one of the legacies of “The Bible in 90 Days.” Here it is: I told them to start reading in Genesis and keep on going from there!

I encouraged them to start with manageable chunks of scripture each day because it is crucial to develop the habit of reading God’s Word (hearing from Him) and praying (talking with Him) each day. This is how relationships grow and develop—mutual communication.

They were so encouraging about the sermon and the church as a whole … it just made my day!

We prayed, and I walked out of there encouraged, deeply encouraged.

God is indeed at work in the church I serve here, just as I know He is at work in India. I’m heading over there tonight to see it!

Well, on to the chapters for today. Two references stand out that have huge significance in salvation history.

As Moses shares more laws and regulations with the people as they prepare to enter the Promised Land, he talks about one cardinal principle when it comes to eating meat.

"Only do not eat meat with blood still in it, for the life is in the blood, and you must not eat the life with the meat” (Deuteronomy 12:23, GNT).

The life is in the blood!

And, how about these verses?

"“If someone has been put to death for a crime and the body is hung on a post, it is not to remain there overnight. It must be buried the same day, because a dead body hanging on a post brings God's curse on the land. Bury the body, so that you will not defile the land that the Lord your God is giving you" (Deuteronomy 21:22, 23 GNT).

Even in these rather obscure verses—passages we always “speed-read” over—there is a message. There is an arrow. They are pointing to the culmination and epitome of redemption—what Jesus did for us on the cross and what that means for us.

THAT is a message worth taking to the ends of the earth!

Lord, thank you for Paul and Lacey. Bless them in their new walk with You and use our church to encourage them and many more like them.

I will share the itinerary and prayer requests on my personal Facebook page, but Lord keep us safe as we travel and get us there—all eight of us—in one piece.

Kind of weird not being at church this morning. Rick and Jeff from the Ken Caryl group are preaching today. I’m so glad I can chill out a bit more before leaving tonight. Thank You, Lord.

Take care of First Southern—the flock—as I go. Help Jeremy as he preaches today. Love you, Jesus. Amen.
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The Bible in 90 Days--Day 13

Day 13: Numbers 32:20 to Deuteronomy 7:26: No Rivals AND Details, Details, Details.

Someone asked me yesterday how I was doing.

I replied, “Not well. Not well at all.”

Their expression revealed that they thought my response had something to do with cancer or some other major issue.

I went on, “Right now, I am buried in details, and I never do well with them.” Oh.

Even as I sit here, a thousand things I have to do are racing through my mind. It is almost paralyzing, but this is not unusual for me. This is exactly the way I get before I take a trip to Colorado Springs!

However, I often assure myself that I am not leaving the planet. If I need something in Colorado Springs, I can go to a store and buy it.

India may be a totally different story. It may not. Who knows?

Somehow, in other realms, I seem to be a lot more easy-going, like the realm of preaching, for example. But how I got there was not easy.

A couple of Sundays ago, as I was worshiping in a service on a Sunday morning, the thought hit my brain, “Oh, man, you forgot your notes!” And this panic hit me and I felt overwhelmed. Now, first of all, I always put them in my Bible each week, but I rarely, if ever, even look at them, but at that particular moment, I just felt my temperature rising. What am I going to do?

Suddenly, it seemed as if the Lord God Himself was standing in front of me looking me in the eye. Now, of course, He is really INDEED doing that all the time, whether I have awareness of it or not. But that Sunday, I was aware of Him and the message was loud and clear: don’t trust your little security blanket; trust ME.

Okay, so this was on the level of Linus sucking his thumb and holding his “blanky.” And I was Linus.

This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but the more I think about it, the more I realize how momentous it has become. The message is clear: trust God, even in doing something that I have done fifty times (this is just the Sunday morning preaching; no telling how many times and in how many settings I have taught) per year for twenty-five years.

Sometimes our little rituals and routines can become an idol. This is weird to say, but is it possible that a preacher could be an idolater even as he preaches a sermon?

Right then and there on that Sunday, that very possibility hit me in the face like a two by four. Yep. It could.

I didn’t need those stinking notes! All of a sudden a peace came over me, and I went up to preach. Hey, if the Lord didn’t want me to say something, I don’t need notes to tell me to say it!

Okay, so now, here is a transferrable concept: if this is a lesson I needed to learn with something that is extremely familiar, doesn’t it make sense that it holds true with something EXTREMELY UNFAMILIAR, something that I have never done before?

There are some people on this planet that would rather take a trip to India any day before they had to stand up before a congregation and preach a sermon, let alone do it for twenty-five years.

One of the other assurances that came to mind that day was history! I realized that I didn’t “need” notes because I hardly ever refer to them!

History is a very valuable teacher.

Moses used him/her (I am personifying teaching here and just so I don’t get into big trouble, the teacher could be a male or female—ha!) as he stood on the Plains of Moab speaking to the Israelites as they prepared to go into the Promised Land.

Moses felt compelled to share history because all the folks who personally experienced what the Lord had done as He brought them out of Egypt were dead! This was an important reminder for them, as they were getting ready to take a crucial step.

As I was reading the chapters for today, a phrase kept coming up. See if you notice it in the three verses I am going to quote from the Good News Bible:

"Because the Lord your God is like a flaming fire; he tolerates no rivals" (Deuteronomy 4:24 GNT).

"Do not bow down to any idol or worship it, for I am the Lord your God and I tolerate no rivals. I bring punishment on those who hate me and on their descendants down to the third and fourth generation" (Deuteronomy 5:9 GNT).

"If you do worship other gods, the Lord's anger will come against you like fire and will destroy you completely, because the Lord your God, who is present with you, tolerates no rivals" (Deuteronomy 6:15 GNT).

God tolerates no rivals!

This is the lesson of the history of Israel in a nutshell. And not a bad one for preachers—getting ready to preach a sermon or go on a trip to India! We need to remember.

Lord, why would I ever even entertain the thought that You can’t take care of everything thing, details, details, details, I might need here or there? “He will take care of you, through every day, o’er all the way. God will take care of you. He will take care of you” Amen.
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The Bible in 90 Days--Day 12

Day 12: Numbers 21:8 to 32:19 and the Talking Donkey

I have always been rather intrigued as I read the story of Balaam and Balak.

Technically, the period of the prophets in Israel had not yet begun. Samuel is the transitional character in this regard. He was a priest but also the “first” of the prophets.

However, Balaam emerges in the Pentateuch as the lone exception to that rule, if you think about it—no other prophets in these books.

The first five books of the Bible are all about the Law of God. That means this narrative stands out more than ever.

Balaam must have gained quite a reputation if the king of an enemy nation—Balak—wants to solicit his services.

This is akin to the Broncos actually stealing another player from a rival team without the benefit of free agency.

Just an aside here—I could not be happier that we got both the Patriot’s and Cowboy’s best defensive players. We snatched up Talib and Ware, and I couldn’t be happier.

But I digress … Balak want to “snatch” Balaam to make him play for the enemy team.

At first, he declined in obedience to the Lord, but on the second appeal from Balak, Balaam relented and started heading off on his donkey.

You know the story. Balaam tried to make progress, but an angel of the Lord stood in his way. Balaam’s donkey saw the angel but Balaam did not. After Balaam beat his donkey severely, the Bible says in Numbers 22:28,
"Then the Lord gave the donkey the power of speech, and it said to Balaam, ‘What have I done to you? Why have you beaten me these three times?’” (GNT).

I don’t know … I have always considered this strange story rather humorous.

As far as I know, this is the only time in history with one other exception that an animal has spoken. Can you name the other? A little Bible trivia this morning!

Here are the lessons of this story that stand out to me:

First, if God can give a donkey the power of speech, He can do ANYTHING. Come on! He created all the animals on the face of the earth. He can make them do his bidding.

Two, if God can give a donkey the power of speech, he can give anyone the ability to speak. I still remember very vividly how much I hated public speaking of any kind. In Mrs. Hobbleman’s drama class in fifth grade, she got so frustrated with me because I was a terrible actor. I didn’t pass muster to be in the play, so she made me the narrator, and spent a lot of time “coaching me up” just to do that.

I remember very vividly the disgusted look on her face after one of my many narrations.

The story of Moses is another case in point. Remember, this was an excuse that he gave the Lord as God was calling him to lead his people out of Egypt. God accommodated his request. He gave him Aaron.

But as we continue to read Moses’ story in the Pentateuch, Moses emerges as a leader who does a lot of talking. Aaron moves into the background.

The Lord can give anyone the power of speech.

Third, and here is the main lesson of all of this, I believe. God stops us when we are going in a direction He does not want us to go. I firmly believe this now, more than ever. I think we give the devil too much credit in this regard. Certainly, he opposes God’s work, but he is not stronger than God.

The Lord used the talking donkey to get Balaam’s attention and get him on the right track. And even though Balaam ended up going with Balak, he stuck it to the enemy king three times with prophetic announcements of blessings to Israel and curses to the enemy.

It is another example of how the Lord can turn the table on our enemies.

Lord, I thank you that you care enough to stop us when we are headed in the wrong direction. The converse of that is: when you are leading us, nothing in heaven or earth can stop us! Nothing. No one. You are awesome! Amen.
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The Bible in 90 Days--Day 11

Day 11: Numbers 8:15 to 21:9 and the Grasshopper Mentality

Hey, I went a little further than what the guide said. I wanted to see how the story ended.

Well, I called the doctor yesterday just to see where he was in relation to the clinical trial.

I’ll tell you: it is hard to keep my eye on the ball (getting ready for this trip) with all my health stuff “hanging” out there. Plus, things feel heavy these days. I’ll come back to this.

Finally, about 9:30, Rachel called, “Well, John, we have been trying to see if you qualify for the trial and it looks as if you do not, but I will keep working on it and get back to you.”

Her words hit me in the face. “Rachel, can you tell me why not?”

“There are certain requirements and stipulations relating to the size of the area where there is activity (I guess this is the new buzzword—“activity”—it sounds a little more innocuous than “cancer.” But to be fair, the doctor does not know for certain that the swelling is cancer, but he seems fairly confident. I think he has experience!) is not large enough, and there are some other things as well.”

I could tell she didn’t want to go into all of it. I probably would not have understood anyway. She seemed ready to get off the phone, telling me she would be back in touch in a couple of hours.

Indeed, a couple of hours later, I did receive a call from the cancer center, but it was not Rachel. It was Maureen. I think Maureen is a little tired of me because she was has the job of coordinating appointments for Dr. Jotte (or so I thought). She was the one I kept calling to bug for the three weeks I waited to see the doctor.

She was rather curt, “So, John, Rachel said that you had some questions?”

“Oh, thanks for calling Maureen (I was trying to be a little more friendly than I have been in recent days. Trying). So, I don’t qualify for the clinical trial?”

“No, John, you don’t.”

“What does this mean, Maureen?”

“Well, there is another treatment out there.” She used some names and terms at this point I don’t remember. I think the treatment started with a “b” and then she linked it with “rituxin.” This is the drug they gave me by the gallon in the maintenance treatments I took for two years. They also gave it to me in chemo. It is a drug that helps the body fight off disease. It is not a chemo drug per se. It is a protein.

Maureen went on, “John, I know you might have a lot of questions at this point. The doctor is glad to answer them.” Let’s get you scheduled to see him when you return from your trip.”

So, there you go. Again, this news deflated me a bit AT FIRST. It appears as if I am looking at another round of chemotherapy plus more maintenance treatments as well. This is a guess. I will find out soon enough.

My mom and sis could see my discouragement with this news. But, as we talked, I started to feel better. To be honest, I was a little hesitant with the clinical trial. In the information the doctor gave me, two things caught my eye.

First, there are potential side effects that may not be known yet. Of course, this is true with every drug and every treatment. Each person responds in different and unique ways, but with a clinical trial, there are a few more “unknowns.” That is why it is a trial.

Second, even though the treatments and tests associated with the clinical trial are free, there are other costs that are not AND health insurance typically does not cover those costs. When I say “costs,” I am not talking about $2.43.” Costs in Cancer (with a capital C) have a lot more digits--$33,000” per chemo treatment. That is a COST—all caps.

I don’t need to be worrying about money any more than I am right now.

Thus, we all concluded once again, that Father knows best—not the 60’s TV kind, but the real DAD.

But I do have to say and ask prayer for the fact that all of this is weighing on me. It feels as if I am dragging a bowling ball along behind me, and I have a lot to do—A LOT. And it is detail work like going to the grocery store to buy hand sanitizer. I am not good with details under the best of circumstances.

My goal is to get a lot of this detail kind of stuff done so that I can just sit back for a couple of days before I leave. That’s the goal …

Well, on to the passages for today. I like this section of Numbers more than others because there are some very famous and tragic stories in these chapters. The people of Israel came to the brink of the Promised Land and blew it based on pure, unmitigated, fearful, unbelieving speculation. They looked at the giants in the land (so-called) and because they regarded them that way, the speculated. “That is how we must have looked to them” (Numbers 13:33, GNT).

This is a Grasshopper Mentality. It comes from calling yourself a “grasshopper.” Something to avoid!

Come on! How did they know? How did they know that the inhabitants of the land didn’t regard them with as much or more fear?

Unbelief causes many distortions. It caused Moses to strike the rock twice instead of speaking to it as the Lord commanded.

What Moses did was clearly sin, costly sin, with dire consequences (with leadership comes responsibility), and don’t hear me wrong here, but I understand his actions to some degree. He was just fed up with all the griping. All the way through these chapters, every time you turn around, the people were whining and griping and complaining.

I can relate to all of it, every last bit.

Lord, thank you for this next step in the journey. I’m tired of feeling weighed down. I am not a grasshopper. I refuse to think like one! Get my eyes back on the ball! Amen.

P. S. Help me, Lord, to remember to pick up hand sanitizer.
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The Bible in 90 Days--Day 10

Day 10: Leviticus 26:27-Number 8:14 and Results of the Visit to the Doc, Part 2

When I was a kid, I was always a little frustrated at the end of a particular episode of Hawaii 5-0 (the original version) when the show ended with a message, “End of Part 1; stay tuned to Part 2 next week.” Or something like that. They always did that when Steve McGarrett faced his nemesis, Wo Fat.

Anyway, I think you call that a “cliff hanger.”

Well, I am sure all of you have been waiting with baited breath for Part 2 of the discussion from yesterday. Ha. Yeah right.

Hey, I certainly don’t mean to make light of it. I deeply appreciate everyone who takes the time to read this, the time to pray, and the time to ask how I am doing. I never take that for granted. And it means the world to me. Thanks again.

Back to my visit with the doctor on Monday—as we were discussing my treatment options, I said, “Dr. Jotte, as I told you in January, I am getting ready to go on a church mission trip to India in a few days. Given the current status of my health, do you think I should go?”

“How long are you going to be gone?” he asked.

“Ten days,” I answered.

He paused a moment. “Yes, I think it is okay for you to go.”

That pause caused a concern, quite honestly.

As we continued to discuss the clinical trial and the urgency to get into it before it concludes (and by the way, I did not hear from the doctor yesterday; I guess I have to call again and rattle the chain today), I felt the need to ask again, “Doctor, given the urgency of this, will my departure cause a delay that might affect my health. I bought trip insurance. I can cancel up to two days before departure and get my money back—no problem. Is this an issue?”

“Oh, no, John, there are some things we need to do to get ready to give you this pill if there is room for you, but no, that should not be a problem.”

I even asked a third time.

His final reply was, “John, it is okay. I would be the first to tell you if it were not. Don’t worry about it.”

So, three times is a charm, right?

But, as I left and continued to wrestle with things, I just wondered, “With everything that is going on with my health, Lord, should I go?”

This puts me back in the dilemma I faced almost four years ago—the demands, the expectations, the dog work of the ministry—all of that pushes on you at all times. As I have chronicled quite often in this blog over the past few years, I continue to struggle with being a people pleaser, but as I sat and prayed and wrestled Monday afternoon, my concern was, “Lord, all that noise aside, do YOU still want me to go?”

This is the bottom line, isn’t it? I was talking with a couple of pastor friends about this yesterday—three to be exact. They all affirmed, “John, do what the Lord tells you to do? Don’t worry about everyone else?” I have to keep coming back to that.

Lord, show me clearly.

I asked that question for the rest of the day and on into the night, as I lay there wide-awake. All the memories of chemo and how lousy I felt and not being able to do all I wanted to do at the church et cetera crowded my brain. If it is possible to feel weighed down while lying in bed, that is what I felt. Weighed down.

Finally, an image came into my mind.

Now, let me hasten to say that this was no VISION or religious DREAM or anything close to that.

I saw myself lying in a hospital bed with an IV being wheeled up to a movable staircase attached to the door of an airplane. The medics lifted me from the bed and carried me up the stairs, putting me in a seat, hospital gown, IV, et al.

Kind of comical and ridiculous, I realize.

But honestly, as I lay there, I started to laugh about all the “stuff” that has hit the fan over the past few days—life stuff, health stuff, church stuff, financial stuff, family stuff, and just about any other kind of stuff one could imagine.

Now, I am not linking valid health concerns with the devil. Please don’t hear me say that. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the enemy does not want me to go on this trip.

I made this statement to the Lord as I lay there, “If I have to crawl on my knees to DIA to get on that plane, I am going to do it.” Again, another ridiculous and certainly melodramatic statement, for sure.

But my little image and that statement is the last thing I remember before I went to sleep at 3:00 AM. Crazy as it sounds (maybe I need to see another doctor—one that deals with psychiatric issues! Ha.), this is what I came to in the middle of the night, and I got a measure of peace.

So, I am still in the GO MODE and maybe more determined than ever.

Now, there are two things that are still on the table that will keep me from going.

First, some catastrophic thing (health issue or related to that) that happens will prevent me from going and I am not going to give Satan credit. It will be evident that the Lord does not want me to go. Right now, I feel He does.

Second, and this is certainly a little more subjective, something related to this clinical trial that might come up. I still have a lot of questions and want to make sure I won’t be delaying anything that will have an effect on my health. I doubt this will be an issue, but it is out there.

So, there you have it. I am calling the doc today to see if there is any more news on the clinical trial front and to answer my questions. I have a bunch. I would like to get them answered before I leave the country, because if I don’t, I’m going to have to make a rather “blind” decision, and I don’t want to do that.

Enough said about all of that. On to the reading for today. The end of Leviticus and the beginning of Numbers again impresses me as containing a lot of detailed and rather tedious information.

Numbers seems aptly named because one encounters lists of numbers at the start of this book. I’ve been pondering this morning. Why these numbers? Who cares?

Well, the more I think about it, the more I realize one crucial fact. These lists of numbers lend a historical flavor to these accounts. I mean—these were real people in a real nation. It is hard to fathom 600,000 people on the move in the wilderness. This is no small deal.

But numbers—why do churches value numbers? Well, I know that many of the reasons are NOT godly, for sure, but in the ideal world, they indicate souls for whom Christ died and they give concrete measurements for factual evaluation. Now, in that last statement, I am referring to financial numbers, mainly. They help us assess where we are as a church and what we are able to do.

However, with numbers, we always have to be careful not to use them as a box for God. This “box” could be “bigger or more is better.” There are plenty of examples in the Bible that debunk that.

The converse is another “box.” “Less or few numbers is bad.” Again, ditto my comment above.

Lord, thank you for your evaluations and your standards and your directives. This is all that matters.

How about this as a summary of the Pentateuch? God’s standards are all that matter.

“All the way my Savior leads me. What have I to ask beside?” Amen.
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The Bible in 90 Days--Day 9

Day 9: Leviticus 14:33 to 26:26 and Results of the Visit to the Doc, Part 1

First of all, I want to thank everyone who has been praying. Several contacted me yesterday via text or email to ask how the visit went. I deeply appreciate everyone’s concern. Thank you so much.

I was certainly not prepared for what happened.

The bottom line is that there is a real good possibility that my cancer has returned.

Now, the doctor didn’t put it that way in so many words. In fact, I’m almost certain he would not say it that way because as many of you have read in this blog over the years, he has consistently warned me that it was going to come back. But more than that, the whole “remission” thing means that the cancer could indeed be there, but the tests simply don’t show it.

But let me back up a bit.

It took a long time for me to get to the point where I could visit with the doctor. The cancer center was crawling with people, and I was clearly last on the list to be seen. I waited almost an hour even to get my port accessed. The nurses were not drawing blood. They were just trying to flush it out, and the nurse that attended me had problems doing so.

Finally, she got it to work, and another nurses ushered me into a waiting room. I waited a while there as well.

Lisa came in smiling. Her smile quickly diminished as I told her about what has been going on with me. She looked at my neck and got out a tape measure. On January 27
th, they discovered a rather small lump on my neck. It was barely noticeable, but since then, (six weeks or so), it has grown rather significantly, and she went on to say, “John, it looks as if you have two lumps now.” Great.

She left rather abruptly to find the doctor, and this time, I didn’t have to wait a long time before he came in.

One thing I want to stop and say at this point is that, at no time yesterday, did I sense that anyone was put out with me for bugging them for three weeks in order to get this appointment. I was expecting “attitude,” especially from the doctor, but I did not get it. In fact, I got the opposite.

Dr. Jotte came in, “John, what is going on with you? Let me take a look.” His hands went immediately to the left side of my neck.

Now, here is where I got blown out of the water.

I expected to go in and have him “poo poo” my symptoms and tell me not to worry and to go on about my day. I really expected this. I can’t believe I didn’t prepare myself for something else.

Back to yesterday, after he examined me, I asked, “So Doc, what do you think? Does this mean that my cancer has returned or what?” He would not go there, but what he said was, “Well, I believe that we definitely have some activity in the lymph nodes.”

What does that mean to all of you?

Then, I think the next thing was the clincher. I am going to paraphrase what he said at this point because he got into a lot of technical jargon.

“John, the treatment of your kind of cancer continues to change and develop, even from the last time you were in here a few weeks ago. Back then, I told you about a new treatment of your cancer, but something else has come out. It is actually a pill. You take it by mouth, and the studies so far have shown that it is very effective and has the capability to be very localized. So, things are moving away from chemo for your type of cancer. However, it is still in the clinical trial state, but the trials have advanced. One is going on right now. In fact, before I came in to see you, I called someone to ask if there is a slot for you. I think this trial is almost done. Over three hundred people have gone through it. I would like to get you in before the clinical trial is over. Let me go out and see if I can get through to someone. I will be back in a moment. I will bring you some information about it.”

In the course of his comments, I asked, “So, Dr. Jotte, do you think that I need to do this?”

He said, “Yes, John, I do. We always have available the newer treatment I told you about before, but I think we need to jump on this one, because I would hate to have us regret anything if something emerges two or three years from now, and we didn’t do this newest approach. But I’m going to check on it. I’ll be back.”

Now, as you can imagine, my head was spinning around and around and around. And around.

This thing moved from almost an offhand dismissal on January 27
th to talking about treatment on March 10th.

The cancer I have is “a low grade” variety. This means that I have less of a chance to die from it than other cancers. However, it does not mean that it cannot progress in fast ways or that it is not a serious matter. I was reminded of all this yesterday.

Well, back to yesterday. It wasn’t long before the doctor returned, “Well, John, I was hoping to get through, but I couldn’t. These studies fill up fast. We will keep working on this, but in the meantime, I want to give you this information. Look it over and I will have Rachel call you this afternoon.”

He handed me a rather thick, stapled batch of paper. The title on the cover page is, “A Phase 2, Open-Label Study Evaluating the Efficacy, Safety, Tolerability, and Pharmacodynamics of GS-9973 in Subjects with Relapsed or Refractory Hematologic Malignancies (GS-US-339-0102).”

Did you get all that?

I guess what the doctor thinks is going on with me is referred to as a “relapse” or “refraction.” Now, of course, those are technical terms, but I think I have an idea.

Dr. Jotte explained that this clinical trial is “phase two.” Phase one trials divide participants into two groups—one gets a placebo and the other gets the actual medicine. In Phase 2 trials, each participant gets the medicine. That is why they call it an “open-label” study.

With information firmly in hand, I left the center to see my mom and sis. To be honest, I left very encouraged and hopeful that the possibility exists that I don’t have to do chemotherapy.

When I got home, I sat down to read this document the doctor gave me. I do have a lot of questions. Clinical trials have their unique challenges. There are a lot of unknowns. Plus, even though much of the treatment is free to the patient, there are a lot of costs that I could accrue as well, costs that the insurance company won’t pay. Gulp!

I got home, and I tried to keep myself busy with some work stuff, but it was hard to keep my mind on anything. I was waiting for the doctor to call to tell me that I had been accepted into the clinical trial.

I waited and waited. I didn’t get the call. I don’t think that necessarily means anything, but I am anxious to hear from the doctor today.

NOW, BEFORE I GO ON, I did talk with the doctor extensively about the trip to India. I asked him a lot of questions about it.

But I hope all of you can understand that the trip RIGHT NOW is not my main concern. I will share what we talked about—hopefully tomorrow. I am very aware that the departure for the trip is only days away, but again …

I urge you not to draw any conclusions either way about what I am going to do from what I have written. Still so many questions and decisions.

But back to yesterday. When I did not hear from the doctor, I began to sink a bit. The weight of this started to pull on me.

Even this morning, I feel punched in the gut. I feel as if the air has been let out of my balloon.

Last night, for some strange reason, I forgot to mute my cell phone. Someone sent me a text at 10:52 PM. My phone beeped, and I woke me up, and I tell you, I was wide-awake most of the rest of the night.

It hasn’t been that long since I had chemo. Chemo lasted eight months. Then, I went through two more years of “maintenance treatments” not even four years later, here I am again, but maybe I can just pop some pills. Ha. No joking matter.

Just hard to get one’s mind around it. Well, I can’t.

This is one of those times where I was looking forward to reading the Word—yes, even Leviticus—because I desperately need some specific rhema—a word from God.

Instead, I got logos. (I’ll explain these distinctions later). As I read all those commands and regulations, I got a sense of peace in the realization that the Lord does indeed care for every aspect of our lives. All those rather boring (formerly boring) rules do not come from the mouth of a tyrant—some kind of killjoy god. NO!!!!!

He was and still is a loving father who wants the best for us in every way—the best in worship, the best in our family, the best in our sex lives (there is a lot about morality in these chapters and some very clear statements about what is appropriate and what is not. Hear that politically correct 21
st Century America??), the best in cleanliness—the best.

The God of the Best.

The best in health too. He is in charge of that as well. I am firmly convinced of that, today more than ever. I want to assure you of this. THE DOC is in.

How about this as one of the last verses in our reading for today:

"I, the Lord your God, brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves. I broke the power that held you down and I let you walk with your head held high” (Leviticus 26:13 GNT).

My head is held high today, Lord. Amen.
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The Bible in 90 Days--Day 8

Day 8: Leviticus 1:1-14:32 and a Visit to the Doctor … FINALLY

Not too many days ago, I was visiting with a sister about the trip to India. When we concluded, we prayed together. In her prayer, she prayed that I would be excited about this trip. As she was voicing this prayer to the Lord, in my spirit, I said, “Yeah, that would be nice.” I am excited but not AS excited as I normally would be.

Why? Just all the physical “stuff” that has been going on with me now for weeks.

As I have indicated many times in this blog, I am not worried about cancer. The Lord has and will take care of me. Why would I believe otherwise? It is just the unknown and the symptoms I am experiencing.

What are they? Well, the lump on my neck has increased in size rather significantly. My neck bothers me—it is painful—frequently.

Here is a big one: I am fatigued A LOT. I feel as if I am dragging myself around many days. On those days that I feel somewhat better, I have more energy and desire to do things.

Finally, I feel that I have been sick on and off since early January. I will go for a certain amount of time, then think, “Man, I am getting sick.” And I feel worse for a few days and then gradually start to feel better, but after a few more days, think I am getting sick again. I have experienced this “cycle” several times.

Weird, weird, weird. Again, just the unknown and dragging around. It feels more difficult to get excited—really about anything.

So, I hope I get some answers today, and please pray for me: I am also fighting a bad attitude toward the doctor. I know he is swamped with people who are much more ill than I am. I also know that he is probably not worried about how I am doing. But I am … I don’t know.

Anyway, enough said. Thanks for the prayers.

Okay, in our reading, we have arrived at the book of Leviticus. Is there any other book in the Bible that believers tend to like less than this book? Come on. We need to be honest.

But as I was reading this morning, it finally dawned on me that the endless list of tedious regulations may be exactly the point.

I was talking about this with my mom and sister yesterday. In this modern day and time, it is often hard to convince people of their need for Jesus. Why? Well, most people think that they aren’t too bad, not as bad as the prostitute on East Colfax (this is a famous or infamous street here in Denver, as the case may be) or a murderer or their neighbor who is abusive to his wife. Not THAT bad.

But that isn’t the point, right? Sin is all about missing God’s standards. And all the first five books of the Bible fall into the category of LAW. They present God’s benchmarks for living a life that is pleasing to him.

They deal with all kinds of offerings for sin (unintentional sin; no sacrifice existed for intentional sins), grain, fellowship, et cetera.

We read about regulations for the priesthood—only a select and very small group of folks could serve in this crucial capacity.

And there are chapters about the various kinds of skin diseases the people might suffer and what to do about them. Plus, there are regulations about mundane stuff like mildew.

Laws on top of laws and more laws.

As I read these chapters, the weight tends to get heavier. Whether I like to read these “boring” chapters or not, all these laws God gave are in place. They stand. They apply. And I am bound to obey them.

And I know: I don’t.

But these lists of laws also remind me that God does indeed care about skin issues and mildew and lumps on the neck—any and all of it.

This combination of factors is missing in my preaching and in the contemporary pulpit. George Whitfield, John Wesley, and Jonathon Edwards—spiritual giants whom the Lord used in a sweeping revival in England (it was known as the Evangelical Revival) and in America (Great Awakening) in the eighteenth century—used a singular method in their preaching to the masses.

LAW and GOSPEL.

If you think about it, this approach gives respect to the Canon. The foundation of everything in the Bible—and we know this because it is the FIRST section—is God’s law. It comes first in the Canon. It should have more prominence in my preaching.

In reading Leviticus, it becomes clear that there is no way I or anyone can do ALL of this. No way.

But the realization of this leads to openness to the Gospel, or it should, right?

Instead of trying to convince 21
st Century Americans of their sinfulness, how about preaching with fervor the Law of God?

Lord, thank You for setting bar high, so high that neither I nor anyone else who has ever lived can fulfill it—only One Person. I’m so glad I know Him and more importantly, He knows me and loves me and has fulfilled all these sacrifices as my FOREVER HIGH PRIEST.

“He paid a debt He did not owe; I owed a debt I could not pay; I needed someone to wash my sins away. And, now, I sing a brand new song, “Amazing Grace.” Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay” (“He Paid a Debt He Did Not Owe”
www.touchjesussongs.net, accessed March 10, 2014). Love that song! Amen.
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The Bible in 90 Days--Day 7

Day 7: Exodus 29:1-40:38 and Obedience/Disobedience

These final chapters of Exodus are another one of “those” parts of the biblical story in which my eyes tend to glaze over a bit in certain parts.

God gives Moses and the people extremely intricate and meticulous instructions for the construction of the tabernacle and the composition of the clothing of the High Priest.

Then, there is a pretty significant narrative section, chapters 32 through 34.

The final six chapters of the book explain exactly what the craftsmen did in constructing the tabernacle and fabricating the clothes of the priests. It was quite an exercise in sewing.

You know, really, construction work and sewing share some things in common, namely, both of these skills require an attention to detail and dimension.

God gave the necessary instruction; it was up to Moses and the people to obey those instructions to the letter.

There is a refrain that occurs fairly frequently, especially in the final chapter of Exodus as Moses inspects the work of the craftsmen. It is his job to make sure that everything, every last detail conforms to God’s instructions. Here is that oft-repeated statement, "Moses did everything just as the Lord had commanded" (Exodus 40:16 GNT).

In following the construction and sewing instructions, Moses and the people seemed to do well, but in other ways, they failed miserably.

If anyone could possibly live under the illusion that he/she could please God through good works, he/she should read Exodus 32-34.

The Lord gave Moses the Ten Commandments on Sinai, but before he could return to the camp, the people, led by their illustrious fill-in Aaron, turned away from God, created an idol made out of jewelry, and had an orgy.

They broke the commandments of God before they had even seen them. This is why Moses threw the tablets to the ground.

When he confronted Aaron, the first High Priest had a classic excuse, “Oh, Moses, sorry. The people gave me their jewelry. I threw all of it into the fire and all of a sudden, a golden calf came out!” He failed to mention the “minor” detail that he had in fact orchestrated this disaster.

And, the second the people turned away from worshipping the One True God, they fell into sin and immorality.

But God was/is merciful and He continue to reveal Himself to Moses and to the people through the glory on Moses’ face and the pillar of cloud by day and the fire by night.

Some things don’t EVER change. Praise God!

Well, today is the commissioning service for the trip to India. As I have said often in communication to the church, in one week, Nancy, Pam, and I (again, Lord willing) will be departing on the first overseas mission trip in the 54-year history of First Southern Baptist Church of Northglenn. Kind of significant, wouldn’t you say?

This is going to be my last Sunday at the church for the rest of the month. I haven’t been away from the pulpit for three Sundays in a row EVER, not once in 25 years. Wow—is that right? I think it is. The only exception to this rule may have been when I was going through chemo—but even then …

Well, anyway, next Sunday, even though our planned departure is 6:30 PM, I’m not going to go to church and get caught up in everything. Instead, starting Wednesday of next week, I’m just going to pull aside for some intense R&R and time to pray. I sense the urgency of being rested up and prayed up for this trip.

Of course, we will be in India on Sunday, March 23
rd. We return on March 27th, but I don’t plan to jump back into things until early in the week after March 30th.

So, that is the plan. I’m thankful for Jeremy, Brian, and Al who are preaching for me when I am gone. Jim and Patti will handle the pastoral duties for me.

Thank You, Lord, for the opportunities You place before us—the meticulous instructions for those of us who have been saved by grace. We have a distinct advantage over the Israelites in the wilderness, whose obedience was spotty at best—we have your Holy Spirit resident in us through the New Covenant of the blood of Jesus, a better sacrifice and a better priesthood than that of the Law.

I’m so glad. Amen.
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The Bible in 90 Days--Day 6

Day 6: Exodus 16:1-28:43 and Tedious Laws and Regulations

Okay, so now, as we continue to read, we come to one of “those” parts of the Old Testament.

After the giving of the Ten Commandments at Sinai, the Lord also gave the people a list of commandments that are to govern them in their personal relationships plus regulations for the establishment of the Tabernacle.

These chapters tend to be places where people get hung up, and it is one of the reasons why traditional wisdom tells new believers and rather immature Christians to stay away from the Pentateuch, at least at first.

In the past, I have been one of those folks. And I get more convicted as each day passes. How dare we do this?

Certainly, some of these laws seem rather archaic and out dated. They apply to nomadic people living in the wilderness. There are no houses. No cars. No cell phones. Very few if any of the amenities of modern life. These commands are just throwaway, right?

Not so fast.

If you read them carefully (not sure I have in the past, even though I have read the Bible through many times), you begin to see that they all go back to the fundamental division of the Ten Commandments. All of them relate in some way to loving God. This is the first division—the horizontal relationship, as we like to call it—whereas others spell out in practical terms how to love our neighbor as ourselves.

If I see my neighbor’s donkey being violated in some way, I have a responsibility, right?

As I read that particular part of the law, I thought of an incident. Do your remember the story of Jheryl Wright? Someone shot him to death as he was entering a Kalamazoo, Michigan convenience store in September of 2012. And he lay dead in the doorway as people stepped over his body coming in and out of the store. See his mother’s outrage at “SEE IT: Customers walk over dead Michigan man killed in store doorway,”
www.nydailynews.com, accessed March 8, 2014.

It is shocking. Still shocking.

But that rather obscure Old Testament command and what happened in that convenience store are related!

I was also interested to read about the various parts and dimensions of the Tabernacle. The Lord’s instructions are very explicit. This is no haphazard place. It is crucial. Aaron and the priests go into the tent to represent the people to God. The priest also wears an ephod that has 12 different types of jewels in it, representing the twelve tribes of Israel.

Now, this is crucial stuff. If I have not read this, I will not understand what Jesus is doing for me RIGHT NOW at the right hand of the throne of God. And, I will not understand what is happening in the final two chapters of Revelation. That material is still rather fresh on my mind since I preached from those two chapters at the end of February.

Back in Moses’ day, the priest and only the priest wore this ephod with the 12 jewels in it as he and he alone went in to commune with God on behalf of the people.

In the New Jerusalem, the eternal, heavenly tabernacle, these jewels (or something very close to them; there are some minor differences) will characterize the walls of the city itself. Thus, absolutely every single person in THAT future place will enjoy intimacy with God having been sprinkled with the blood, not of goats or lambs or animals. Sprinkled with the blood of Jesus.

“What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!”

Lord, these commands and their contemporary application still matter. Thank you that because of Jesus, I can go directly into the presence of God and go out to live a life of love, the haunting question being, would I have knelt down to attend to that man laying in the doorway? Isn’t there another story in scripture about THAT? Amen.
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The Bible in 90 Days--Day 5

Day 5: Exodus 1:1-15:18 and Dead Bodies on the Shore

Again, I love these stories. Of course, they are familiar. Most of us know the particulars. But I always get a little uncomfortable when someone says, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know these stories. I don’t have to read them again.” Or worse, “I’m bored with these stories!” Really? That may be true with a secular novel …

Here is what I have learned over the years: each time we come to the Word, our situation and circumstance is different. The Holy Spirit uses our different settings to speak to us in fresh ways. In short, I can always glean something new when I read God’s Word if I am in a position to allow the Holy Spirit to speak to me.

Plus, here is something else I realize five days into “The Bible in 90 Days.” I do believe we too easily get buried in the details or parts of the Bible we don’t understand.

In the reading for today, there are more genealogies. Many of these names are unfamiliar. I feel my eyes glazing over a bit, as I automatically seem to be reading faster. I used to feel sort of guilty about this. Now, I don’t.

When the Holy Spirit wants to speak to me through those sections of His Word (they are in there for a purpose; not one letter is wasted as God speaks; I may not get it, but there is a lot I don’t get), He will do it.

Until then, I am not going to sweat it.

This brings me back to my sermon last Sunday. Don’t worry. I won’t preach the whole thing, but Adler and Van Doren in their famous work,
How to Read a Book, make a strong case for a “superficial” (this tends to be a negative term in most circles; in this instance, however, it is NOT) first reading of any new and difficult book. They contend that it is important just to keep plowing ahead. If one comes to a difficult spot, just keep going. Eventually, as you read, you will come to something you do understand.

I like this. This principle has plenty of relevance when it comes to the Bible.

We get hung up on what we don’t understand, but the Lord does not hold us responsible for that. He will reveal the answer in His own time and way. No worries.

Our problem is NOT what we don’t understand!

Our problem is what we DO understand and are not doing anything about!

These Moses Stories in the first chapters of Exodus have huge ramifications in the broader story of the Bible. Moses had so many excuses why He could do what the Lord told him to do, and yet, in spite of himself, the Lord used him anyway!

These plagues—awesome and terrible—are critical for understanding the unfolding judgment of God in the book of Revelation. There are so many parallels there.

But above and beyond all of that, the Exodus Event in the Old Testament towers above all else as THE salvation story. It parallels the cross and the resurrection in the New.

Water tends to be such a metaphor for overwhelming barriers, but God parted the seas to bring His people through, and as the pursuing Egyptians tried the same thing, all of a sudden, the tables turned.

Here is a curious feature of this salvation story: the cloud and the pillar guided the people in their wilderness trek, but after the Israelites got to the other side of the Red Sea, both the cloud and the pillar moved BEHIND the people!

Have you noticed that before?

Do you realize what this meant? They could see absolutely nothing. They knew the Egyptians were pursuing them. They were afraid, but they had no idea what was going on until the next day.

All of a sudden, they started noticing dead bodies washing up on the shore—dead Egyptian soldiers. Humm. Guess what? The Lord took care of their pursuers. He covered for them, so to speak, pun intended.

I bet if the curtain could be pulled back and we could actually see all that the Lord has saved us from, all the stuff we can’t see and didn’t even realize … it would curl our hair!

Lord, I confess the perpetual tendency to judge You on the basis of what I see, instead of thanking You for all the things You just take care of, all those enemies pursuing, that I never see! Amen.

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The Bible in 90 Days--Day 4

Day 4: Genesis 41:1-50:26 and “The Guys”

As we sat around the table at United Chinese Restaurant in Broomfield, it was hard for not to let my mind go back four years …

Four years!

Let me back up for a second. Yesterday, I had the privilege of spending some time with pastor buddies.

Prior to my cancer diagnosis, we got together rather regularly, and in fact, we even did some ministry together. We had a couple of prayer meetings. North Metro hosted them. It was awesome.

Plus, when I found out that I had cancer and I was getting ready for chemotherapy, all of them gathered around me, anointed my head with oil, and prayed for me.

Somehow, as they were praying, I had this overwhelming sense of peach engulf me. It was as if the Lord put me in one of those shrink-wrap Baggies and pushed all the air out. I felt Him surrounding me with one big bear hug—one of the greatest assurances of my life. I’ll never forget it.

But since the summer of 2010, I think we have only had one fellowship time. James invited us to North Metro. His church hosted us, but not many of “they guys” could come.

Yesterday, I invited several of the stand-bys and two men that have not been a part of the group before. Brian is a church planter in Thornton. I mentioned him in this blog a couple of days ago. He is starting a church not far from my former neighborhood. He was there.

We also invited the new pastor at First Baptist Church of Broomfield (that is not the name of the church now; they have changed their name), but apparently, he was not able to make it.

So, Mike, Dan, Steve, Brian, and I met. What I value so much about these brothers is their transparency. No one has an ego agenda. We talked. We shared (the good, the bad, the ugly). We laughed. We commiserated.

At one point, we all went around the table. James has served his church for eight years, Steve—fifteen plus, Dan—sixteen; and Mike—15 years. Wow. This is very unusual. This kind of tells you the quality of character. These men are all deeply committed and love their communities. It isn’t just a job or a rung of the ladder, a stepping-stone to a “higher position.”

And it hasn’t been easy for any of us. Each of us has battle scars. We wouldn’t trade being a pastor for any amount of money in the world. Don’t hear me wrong. But being a pastor isn’t for sissies.

This is one of the many reasons why I enjoy hanging out with these brothers. We can share “stuff” and not worry about someone scolding us.

One of the men (I am not going to name his name) shared that he invested a lot in a guy in his church. The guy got saved and got a high-paying new job. Shortly after all this occurred, the guy said, “Pastor, I am leaving—going to Flatirons.” Flatirons is a mega-church in Lafayette.

I could really relate to this story. Oh, man.

Anyway, I thank You, Lord, for these brothers and their congregations. Bless them. Bless them as they blessed me. I want to stop and pray for them specifically right now.

On to the passage for today—these final ten chapters in Genesis—some of the best stories in the whole Bible. I think that Romans 8:28 sums these chapters up, quite nicely: “We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose” (GNT).

When you think about all that happened to Joseph … His brothers betrayed him and sold him down the river—literally. He was falsely accused. He rotted in jail for years. He was forced to live in a foreign land. It was never his home—NEVER.

But the Lord used all of that, and to his credit, Joseph was not bitter and recognized the hand of the Lord in it all—pretty amazing.

One more thing: last night, I was visited with Bryan. He is a day ahead of the rest of us. He read the chapters yesterday that I read this morning.

He stated, “John, I read a statement about Jesus in Genesis 49:10, “Judah will hold the royal scepter, and his descendants will always rule. Nations will bring him tribute and bow in obedience before him” (GNT).

Okay, this raises an issue. Bryan and I talked about this. Yes, Jesus descended from Judah. Yes, this verse talks about the fact that Judah’s descendants will always rule and so forth.

But, here is what I firmly believe: we cannot say that any Old Testament passage is about Jesus UNLESS it is quoted in the New Testament.

Now, I realize some will argue about this. They will ask, “What about types of Jesus?” I think this whole topic tends to border on allegorizing the Old Testament, becoming very speculative, and negating the original context and application of Old Testament passages.

However, I turn around a say that the whole Bible is about Jesus from cover to cover, but I think it is broader that trying to “find Him” under every rock.

More on this later, but please see my personal Facebook page for a little challenge that I am tossing out today.

Lord, thank You again so much for true and sincere and transparent fellowship. It is sad to say that it happens too infrequently in the body of Christ. Thank you also for betrayal, deception, jail, et cetera. These are all “bad” things, but in your power and grace and mercy, they work in concert and are marshaled into your great plan for us. “They”—all the bad stuff and all the quirky decisions people make in regard to their church—intend it for bad, but you intend it for good. Amen.
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The Bible in 90 Days--Day 3

Day 3: Genesis 29:1-40:23 and the Typhoid Pills

Yesterday, I had an appointment with a doctor at this clinic where I receive health care. The purpose of this visit was what they call a “travel consultation.”

Actually, this doctor used to be my primary care physician, but I stopped going to him (so did my mom and sis) when he failed to respond appropriately (in our opinion) to some physical challenges my mom was dealing with. This is a long story, and I won’t go into detail here.

But we all still see him when we go into the clinic; it is just that he is not our doctor and won’t be.

Does all this make sense? It is rather convoluted. The truth is that none of us have a primary care physician right now. At some point, we will choose another doctor at this clinic. There are about ten there now; doctors are always coming and going.

Anyway, I did not see any problem with going to him for this travel consultation. I was hoping to speak with him about some of my other current health concerns as well, but that did not happen. Clearly, he did not want to go “there.”

But we talked about all the vaccinations and immunizations I have been receiving from Tri County Health Care. He asked me about each one of them, including the Typhoid Pills.

“Now, those need to be refrigerated. Did you keep them in the fridge as you took them?”

“Well,” I responded. “Yes, I did at first, but when I started taking them, I kept them in my backpack so that I would remember.”

He was quick to jump in. “I’m sorry to tell you then, that they did you no good. You have to keep them in the refrigerator the WHOLE time, all the time, or they are worthless.”

Oh, man. These four pills cost $75.00! I had to buy another set. Cha-ching.

Take your medicine the right way or you have to pay to do it again. I’m certainly not going to mess around with typhoid. But still, all this made me mad. But lesson, learned, the hard way. This is the way I always learn my lessons, and it costs me money—invariably.

This is why I can relate to Jacob’s story so well. Man, what a hard life! But the Lord has a way of bringing things back around to teach us a lesson.

He was a deceiver from day one and ended up working for the King of Deceivers, Laban, for all those years, because Laban kept deceiving him, even as Jacob deceived his boss as he took care of his sheep and as he left to go back home with his two wives and children and livestock.

Are you keeping up with all of this?

I love to read about that wrestling match Jacob had where “the man” touched his hip, putting it out of joint, but Jacob continued to struggle until he won “the match.”

I’ve always wondered about this story … I don’t really get it. It doesn’t seem like Jacob won anything. The truth is, it seems to me, God won.

The Lord used all of these experiences and his reunion with Esau and the trip back to Bethel to break Jacob, and in fact, through it all, changed his name to Israel.

Again, the Lord uses and works through very flawed people to accomplish His purposes. I love these stories of the Patriarchs.

Genesis is such an amazing book. When we aren’t learning specifics of these giants of Israel’s history and of our faith, we are reading genealogies. I think this tends to be one area where folks get hung up and/or bored.

I refuse to let that happen to me. I just keep on reading and remember that for Jews, these lists were a crucial link to the continuity of God’s story on one hand and an explanation of how enemy nations came to be on the other. These names come up again and again in Hebrew history. Genesis sets the stage for all of that, good and bad.

It is very appropriately named “The Book of Beginnings” and makes a wonderful start to the Canon. Of course.

Any and everyone reading the Bible—for the first time or for the fiftieth time—must start THERE.

I can’t believe how I have been so off base all these years. With new believers, I have invariably started them in the book of John, but even this book is predicated and built on Genesis! The first verse tells me that! It begins, “In the beginning …” I don’t grasp the significance of those words if I haven’t read Genesis.

Lord, thank You that You are very diligent through the good and the bad, the ups and the downs, and the ins and outs, to knock off all the rough edges. It is often painful and hard and costly, but I am determined to take my medicine, the right way! Amen.
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The Bible in 90 Days--Day 2

Day 2: Genesis 17:1-28:22 and Achy Hands

Last night, I woke up about 2:00 AM, and I could not go back to sleep. My ever- increasing amount of stuff to do before I leave the country grows by the day.

All kinds of stuff flooded my mind as I tossed and turned, almost fully awake.

I tried to fight it when I awakened. I tried NOT to think about everything or anything, but it quickly came crashing in on me.

As I lay there, I thought of all the nights I have stayed awake struggling with stuff, mostly stuff at church, but it is not confined just to that. One other weird thing that occurs in sleeplessness for me is that my hands start to ache. What is that?

One evening, several years ago, as I lay in bed fully awake, I realized that the temperature was dropping steadily in my house. This was my townhouse in Thornton. It had forced-air heated and the heating unit was in the basement.

I rousted myself out of bed, went to the closet, found my parka, found my sheepskin-lined gloves, dug a stocking hat out of the corner—my teeth were chattering—and I headed down the basement. Well, I am about as mechanically oriented as a doorknob, but I quickly realized that the heater was out. No heat.

When I made that chilling discovery (pun intended), I just traipsed back up the stairs and crawled back in bed with my coat, hat, and gloves on. I don’t know why I didn’t think to turn on some floor heaters and at least try to warm things up in the bedroom, at least. But none of that ever occurred to me.

I was wrestling with a staff problem at church at the time. That was just about all I could think about, between trying to keep from biting my tongue with my chattering teeth. That was just about the longest night I have ever put in, but not the only one.

Last night was one, not quite as long, but it was one.

I just wonder how that factors in with the folks who don’t think pastors work all that hard. I wonder if those hours “count.”

Oh, well, just more stuff to turn over to the Lord. I am just stopping right now to give this list to Jesus. It includes finding time to take my truck in for service. And … stuff keeps coming to mind …

On the reading for today: there are more characters in this story that come to light. Abraham and Sarah went through a lot before they finally had their long-awaited son. There was a celebration for a while, but then, in one of the most poignant chapters in the whole Bible, God asked old Abe to sacrifice his one and only son on the altar.

I first came to grips with this story in preaching class at Southwestern Seminary. There is a critical theological point and it has to do with the name for God—“Jehovah Jireh.” My modern translations get it wrong. They translate it, “The Lord will provide” and focus on the ram in the bush that Abraham uses for the sacrifice when the angel of God stops the dad from killing his son.

That is patently NOT the point of this incident. I contend that “Jehovah Jireh” is best translated as, “The Lord will SEE.” This story confirms the fact that the Lord will see if we are obedient. THAT is all that matters.

Well, I’ve tried not to get too detailed as I am reading, but this story stood out.

Interestingly enough, two more prominent characters in the story dealt with tests of their own. Isaac waited on God to bring him his wife Rebekah and Jacob through deceit lived out God’s plan and purpose.

The second part of that statement above is a theological mind-blower.

Jacob was not a nice guy. He did his brother wrong on two very prominent occasions. No wonder He had to flee! But He couldn’t get away from God even out in the wilderness on a lonely night …

I love the fact that the Bible doesn’t mask over the humanness of the characters. This is not a “barrier” for our God. It is just another opportunity for Him to work.

Lord, I thank for another long night. Thank you for the way you marshal all kinds of things and issues and challenges in our lives to move us forward in Your plan and purpose. And I affirm, as the chorus says, “Jehovah-Jireh, my Provider (hey, I’m not going to get hung up on theological distinctions. The Bible does teach that God is our provider, just not in Genesis 22, but the message is just as valid). The Lord is sufficient for me, for me, for me. The Lord is sufficient for me” (parenthesis added). Amen.
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The Bible in 90 Days--Day 1

Genesis 1:1-16:16 and “My Hero is ME”

Well, after almost four years of writing this daily blog, I struggling a little bit with the adjustments I made to start “The Bible in 90 Days.” When I challenge the church on something like this, people need to understand that the first person I get after is me! I am the most ritual-oriented, stuck in the mud person in the church!

Yesterday, in the message, I made a comment, “For those of you who wonder if you have the time to do this—to read these chapters each day, remember that we always have the time to do what we really want to do. We always find a way to get it done.”

Do you hear that, John? Hello.

So, here are my adjustments. I’m almost embarrassed to share them. They are HUGE for me, but probably not for anyone else:


    These three adjustments gave me ample to read.

    But, it is hard, like all change. It feels like a new workout.

    My natural tendency is to stop and ponder a passage or verse that strikes my fancy. Not today. I just kept going and moving and reading—the type of reading I would employ as I am reading a novel. Keep moving. Keep going.

    JUST READ IT!!!

    I want to come back to some things that stood out to me this morning, but first, I want to give you a little context.

    Last night, for some unknown reason, we decided to watch the Oscars. I don’t think I have ever done this in my whole life. And I am not trying to sound pseudo-spiritual. I have just had no interest watching a bunch of pompous buffoons give awards to each other.

    And, sure enough, that feeling was confirmed! Ellen Degeneres was the MC. That should tell you something right there. All the fancy long dresses and hairdos—I think it certainly would cost a lot of money to attend these award ceremonies. I honestly don’t think it is a problem for any of them. The truth is: they love it!

    I could say a whole lot more, but I would not be sharing any new information.

    We watched that show all the way to the end (again, why?) to find out who the best actor award would be going to. It was Matthew McConaughey. I was getting ready to be impressed when, in his acceptance speech, he mentioned the Lord. But as his comments continued, he reversed field a bit. He said something like, “Everyone has to have a hero. My hero has always been “me” ten years from now. When ten years goes by, my hero changes to me ten years from then.” Something like that.

    My hero is me. Well, there you go.

    In contrast to THAT, we have the biblical record of man.

    In these first sixteen chapters, three men emerge: Adam, Noah, and Abraham. Each of these characters in God’s story are very flawed.

    Of course, Adam failed to take the lead in his marriage and sinned. This has had huge consequences for the human race.

    Noah obeyed the Lord for most of His life, but not all the time. He is a transitional character in the story. He enters the scene as a part of God’s judgment on the planet and looks toward God’s new world.

    Abraham trusted God, again, most of the time, but he certainly had his “moments” as well. He lied about his wife, and he had sex with his concubine, Hagar. And we all know how THAT turned out.

    I think it is foolish and short sighted to make a hero out of any flawed human, especially oneself—the height of egotism. “A better me” is an illusion.

    Clearly, the main character who is indeed “hero worthy” because He is imminently consistent and just and righteous is God. This story is about God, and beginning in chapter eleven, I think we are getting some clear indications about how to relate to Him properly—FAITH.

    Lord, thank you, that from the beginning, You have chosen to work with sinful humans. We are no different today, even with a tuxedo on. Sin is sin. But thank You for Your grace. Thank you for Your love. I choose to trust You, just like Abraham did.

    I lift up everyone else who is embarking today on this 90-day journey. I know the enemy is not pleased. I like it when the enemy is not pleased!

    “I bring an offering of worship to my King.” Amen.
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    Hypothetically Speaking ...

    Thanks for praying for my family and me. We can feel your prayers and really appreciate it.

    I actually feel better today, but my mom and sis won’t be going to church. Neither one of them are up to it. They both told me that yesterday. I encouraged them to rest.

    I can’t remember when the last time was that all of us were sick at the same time … I think I said this yesterday in some forum, maybe here, maybe not. Sorry for repeating myself it is was here.

    Anyway, I am glad to feel better for this huge Sunday—the introduction to “The Bible in 90 Days.” It seems rather strange to say it, but I am suspending my usual daily reading for three months so that I can read the Bible in a different way—the fly-over way.

    I am excited to see what the Lord is going to do with this, not only in my life, but also in the lives of others who will be participating.

    I imagine that some will not. Fine.

    Last Sunday, at the close of the service, I felt led to say, “Church, as we prepare for ‘The Bible in 90 Days,’ I need to say two things. First, if you do not want to participate, that is fine. Just read the whole Bible. No problem. Second, if you do not want to participate, please don’t be negative around those of us who do. Thanks!”

    I think this statement bears repeating today, but I hope that folks will honestly consider getting in on the challenge.

    I won’t preach my sermon here (don’t worry), but I am more and more convinced that we ought to tell new believers to just read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation in the order the Canon was composed. We are so afraid that someone might read something he or she doesn’t understand.

    Are you kidding me? Who among us doesn’t do that on a regular basis? This passage in Hebrews I am reading now fits in that category. I “act” like I know what I am doing, but I still have questions.

    There are many parts of the Bible I don’t understand, but I still get benefit from reading them. It is God’s Word. It is spiritual food.

    I flip the switch to turn lights on in my house, but I don’t have a clue about electricity.

    The Bible doesn’t need me to defend it and “pretty it up” to soften its message, just because there are some parts of Leviticus that seem a little tedious. So what?

    As you can tell, I haven’t even started reading yet, and the Spirit of God is working me over.

    Anyway, as I have already said, it is going to be interesting.

    On to the passage for today—the following verse puts what the writer to Hebrews is saying in an even clearer light:

    "Dear friends, even though we are talking this way, we really don’t believe it applies to you. We are confident that you are meant for better things, things that come with salvation" (Hebrews 6:9 NLT).

    I believe that, up to this point in the passage, while not advocating that one can lose his/her salvation (I still believe this), he could also be saying, “Let’s take a hypothetical here. Let’s say that someone is genuinely saved and somehow (again hypothetically here, not that this could ever happen), turns away from God as an apostate. If that happens, there is no way that he or she could ever be ‘resaved.’ Jesus died for us only one time. He can’t die for us again.”

    But then he turns around and says, “But we really don’t believe it applies to you.”

    In a sense, then, what the writer is doing is affirming his readers. He is saying, “I know you are saved. I know that you won’t turn away from God but you will keep going on, demonstrating that you are indeed true believers.”

    I hope the same thing can be said about me and about those I serve today.

    Lord, there are so many things that come our way that cause us to be discouraged. We are tempted to bail. But I thank you, from the bottom of my heart, that You do not bail on us.

    I pray for the church as we start reading the Bible from cover to cover. I’m excited about what You are going to do as we start this in the morning. I pray that You would help us take our stand against the enemy. I’m also praying for revival. There’s no telling what You will do. Do it.

    Our motto for this three-month period reflects what Scott says in the Scott’s Lawn Product commercials. I wish I could speak with his Scottish brogue, speaking of the Bible, of course:

    JUST READ IT!!!!

    Amen, Jesus. Amen.

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    The Parable of the Soils Revisited

    Thank you all for your prayers. I FINALLY got through yesterday and have an appointment with the oncologist in a week.

    To be honest, the message that I left was not all the kind and sweet. I was angry. This whole thing has really shaken my confidence. I know that someone reading this might say, “Well and good. Your confidence should not be in your doctor anyway. It should be in the Lord.”

    Absolutely, but I go back to July of 2010 to say that my family and I felt led to him as the human agency to treat this cancer. THIS is the confidence I am referring to. I realize the enemy has a part of that.

    Anyway, when I see him, I’m not going to apologize. I’m going to continue to be straightforward. I just haven’t been in sync for weeks and weeks. Weird. I hope to get to the bottom of some of that.

    Well, enough said on that. Thanks again for your prayers.

    Back to this controversial passage in Hebrews—let me back up a minute. All the accumulated language in the early verses of this chapter—enlightened, experienced, and tasted (these terms are found in verses 4 and 5 in the NLT)—certainly do seem to describe genuine conversion. I believe there is an answer for this as well. I will talk about it tomorrow morning.

    Still, I can’t believe—based on what the Bible as a whole teaches about salvation and on what the book of Hebrews teaches—that this passage describes someone who once is saved but loses his/her salvation.

    But I think the time frame is critical. At any one point in time as you observe people in church, you would readily conclude, “Wow, Sally (a hypothetical person) is one of the most committed believers I have ever met.” Point-in-time observation may certainly indicate that.

    This is sad to say, but I have learned to become cynical of point-in-time evaluations. Why? Some of the “finest” Christians I have ever met (or so I once thought) are not now in church and don’t give God the time of day.

    But isn’t that the point of the book of Hebrews? This book is an exhortation to persecuted believers to “keep on keepin’ on.” Remember my song from yesterday? Don’t worry. I won’t sing in any public forum.

    Here is the theological foundation of perseverance: IF someone is genuinely saved, then he or she WILL persevere.

    Back to Sally: it may be that she drops out of church and doesn’t give God the time of day. However, it is important not to make point-in-time evaluations of THAT situation, either. I’ve seen folks who are vibrant, who fall away, and then all of a sudden, show up again.

    This is rare, very rare, but it has happened on a couple of occasions. I just believe that if you are one of God’s kids, and you turn away from Him for a period of time, He will discipline you until you get on the right track. I shudder when I write that. His discipline is often very severe.

    On the other side of that coin, I know a much larger group of people who turn away and drop out of church, NEVER to return.

    Certainly, there is a distinction between one’s personal relationship with the Lord AND church attendance, but I believe the two go together. If I am right with the Lord, I will go to church and no one needs to beg me.

    This is why, as I think about some families in our congregation in this boat, I pray for them regularly, but I don’t spend a lot of time begging them to come back to church. This is a waste of time. Don’t hear me say that I don’t love them or care for them, but once someone drops out, only the Lord can bring them back.

    All right. So, I said yesterday that the immediate context of Hebrews six reinforces what I believe about this passage. I cite these verses:

    "When the ground soaks up the falling rain and bears a good crop for the farmer, it has God’s blessing. But if a field bears thorns and thistles, it is useless. The farmer will soon condemn that field and burn it" (Hebrews 6:7, 8 NLT).

    This is language, I believe, that hearkens back to Jesus’ famous parable of the soils.

    To the “point-in-time” observer, the soil that bears thorns and thistles doesn’t do so at first. At least this is my very limited experience as a gardener. You plant the new foliage. Everything looks good, but after several months, you notice that the weeds have grown so high that they are literally choking out the young plants. Soon, all you have is a weed patch.

    I am an expert weed-grower!

    In Jesus’ parable and in Hebrews, I believe these metaphors describe someone who looked promising at first but over the course of time, he or she bore no fruit and thus, in retrospect, was never actually saved in the first place!

    In Jesus’ parable, I believe the roadside soil, the rocky soil, and the thorny soil (Hebrews 6:7-8) describe people who are lost. Only one description, the fruitful soil describes saved folks. This seems to make sense.

    One more thing that needs to be said: judgments about someone’s ultimate spiritual destiny need to be left up to the Lord. However, I do believe that it is appropriate for us as believers to judge other believers—“fruit inspectors,” to coin a term a brother in our congregation uses.

    Sometimes this involves rebuke and exhortation. Folks can either get mad and leave or get right.

    Lord, this whole discussion turns the spotlight on me. I want to make sure I persevere.

    I pray for families in our congregation … I love them dearly. I know my love pales in comparison to how much You love them and want them back in the fold.

    I continue to pray for health concerns as well. A sister in the Lord—Diane—has heart surgery scheduled for Monday. I lift up Dave in his recovery. I continue to pray for Scharline. The list goes on …

    Thank you, Lord, for that call from the doctor yesterday. I put my faith in You, Dr. Jesus.

    “Take my life, use me Lord. Take my life, use me Lord. Make my life useful to Thee” Amen.
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