Archive for the ‘Other’ Category

toilet_2I’m never going to try to fix my own toilet again!  That is not a New Year’s resolution; it is a “why-haven’t-I-learned-this-already” resolution.  I confess: I’ve had the chance to learn this lesson before.

In reality, this last December’s incident was not very dramatic.  The toilet upstairs was just constantly running. That’s an easy fix!  I’ve replaced the little red flapper in toilets many times.  But as I was slipping the corroded flapper-off and the new one on, I broke the arm on the float!

Not to worry! I’ve replaced those too, so off to Home Depot I go in order to fix the damage I’ve caused.  While inside, I succumb to looking at all the gadgets for toilets and make the fatal decision to upgrade the mechanism in the toilet to one without an arm to break.

Resolutely—and proudly confident, I return home and tackle the job, but the line in from the wall spicket does not fit into the new mechanism, so I take the whole tank off the toilet, bend the wall line until it does fit! Brilliant!  I put it all back together, turn the water on, and —  it leaks everywhere!!! Arghhh!

Suddenly it all came back . . . . this minor moment flooded me with flashbacks of my last toilet repair incident fifteen years ago.

That time it was just a cracked toilet tank lid—nothing else, but it was in the small guest bathroom by the front door, so very unimpressive to all of our guests who stopped there to rest.  I told Sherrylee that I’d take care of it. I’m always pretty proud of myself when there is something that I can fix around the house because. . . well, I was an English major, not an engineer—if that explains anything to you.  Nevertheless!  I could do this.

My first minor defeat was learning that you can’t buy just a replacement lid for a toilet tank.  But you can buy just the tank—so I did.

But in spite of my best intentions, the tank did not fit properly, so I took the plunge and bought an entire toilet—not an expensive one. These were extremely tight days for us financially, which is why I was doing all this anyway.

Well, the new toilet looked great—but it did not match the drainage hole in the floor. Oops!

The cracked lid had already cost me $150, so, instead of a plumber, I called a friend to come in and finish this little plumbing job for me–but our house was too old and the toilet was too new, so he got a lot of water on the carpeted floor and worked a long time before he said it was fixed.  Finally!

Except that the old carpet did not fit around the foot of the new stool.  The newly installed toilet sat on bare concrete and frayed carpet edges…not acceptable.

So now we had to go find a new piece of carpet not just to install around the new toilet, but, of course, to cover the whole bathroom. $$$

Laying the carpet and trimming around the toilet was not that difficult to do myself since I have a Ph.D . . . except when it was finished, Sherrylee informed me that the beige in the new carpet no longer matched the beige in the old wallpaper in that bathroom, so the re-carpeting now required that I re-paper that bathroom.

Which I did—and that was the end of that drama! By the final curtain, I had spent three days and more than $300 in order to repair a cracked toilet lid that I had thought would take me one hour and maybe $25.00 at the most!

So I told Sherrylee that I was never going to try to fix the toilet again!  And her reply was, “Good!”

I did have another sobering thought.  I wonder how many people I have tried to fix?

Without the right tools, with embarrassingly  false expectations and unrealistic assumptions, with too little time, and without the necessary knowledge but with the best intentions—I wonder how many people we try to fix?

Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.      Galatians 6:1-3 (NLT)

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Glasco ChristianIn the late 1870s,  my great-grandfather and my and other family members were part of starting a new church in a small Kansas town.  They just called themselves Christians, and so the church was also called a Christian church.  As one reads the history of this small insignificant church in this scarcely populated wheat town in the Solomon River valley, the description inadvertently betrays the post-civil war rift in the Restoration movement.  On some pages, the words introduce former preachers while just a few pages later, a new minister is called a pastor. Pages are periodically silent about the music, then suddenly there is an organist, only to go silent again for a few more years!

Our  family’s conclusion is that this little wheat field town’s church members hardly noticed the differences that other Restoration Christians in larger cities were debating and dividing over.  They were first a community of Christians, living and worshiping  together–with no further adjectives necessary.

By 1906, someone who was somebody decided it was time to differentiate the two groups–that is, the instrumental, mission society Christians from the acapella, non-missionary  society Christians.  I wonder how long it took the Christians in that tiny town in Kansas to know to which group they belonged?  They may have been confused and just thought that they were Christians.

For one hundred years, the two groups operated with few exceptions in completely different circles.  We each developed our own jargon, our own heroes, our own missionaries, our own colleges.  With the exception of a few touch points, we were not talking, certainly not fighting–because we hardly knew the other existed.

The instrumental churches of Christ–not everyone bothered to change their name–later split into two distinct fellowships:  the Independent Christian Church/Church of Christ (because not everyone changed their name!) and Disciples of Christ.  The movement which began as a unity movement . . . oh, well!

Some individuals of all three groups continued to keep the hope of unity alive with annual gatherings, some pretty scholarly publications, and an occasional token invitation to a lectureship, but with the exception of this high-level contact, the average members of these churches continued to exist in different worlds, practically oblivious to the others.

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the separation of Churches of Christ and Independent Christian Churches in 2006, several leading preachers and pastors in both groups declared that the 1906 breach was wrong and that the unity of the Restoration Movement should be restored.  At several high-profile gatherings, representatives of both groups repented for participating in division, asked for forgiveness, extended  fellowship to their counterpart, and ceremoniously traded Bibles as peace offerings.

Let me tell you why I am thinking about this.

My personal history is in the acapella Church of Christ. During the last few days, however, I have had the privilege of being on the campuses of two of the Independent Christian Churches larger colleges/universities.  I have been extraordinarily well hosted and extended complete and unreserved cooperation.  I would not have expected it to be any other way between Christians!

What  continues to sadden me, however, is how little either of us really knows about the history and the daily life of the other.  Just today, in casual conversations with colleagues,  I have learned of marvelous missions efforts,  of amazing heroes of faith, both alive and dead, even of Christian colleges/universities–all completely unknown to me.  I know a lot about our side of the aisle, but embarrassingly little about these brothers and sisters.

Maybe we have reconciled, but not actually restored fellowship.  Let me suggest a few actions that could possibly get us started in the process of really loving the whole brotherhood.

  • Local congregations should begin getting to know other congregations. It might only be a common potluck at first, but perhaps with the goal of getting to know each other.
  • Preachers could swap pulpits and use some of their time to introduce the history and heroes of their congregations.
  • Youth ministers from both groups could plan joint outings/camps/mission trips together.
  • The Christian Chronicle and The Christian Standard could each begin a section that deals with the news and ongoings of the other group.
  • Christian colleges/universities of both groups could include tracks in their lectureships/conferences that introduce both groups to each other.
  • Perhaps somebody needs to start a ministry of fellowship restoration, specifically focused on bringing not just the leaders, but the grassroots of these two groups together until we learn how to love each other again.

I know somebody is going to think that all this talk of getting to know each other and fellowshipping with people that we hardly know and may not entirely agree with is going to be a slippery slope to  . . . you know where!

I’m sure they (the others!)  aren’t perfect–but I’m not either, so I’m not going to be afraid of loving someone who loves God.  Fear makes us do terrible things–like ignore people who belong to the Body of Christ.

Maybe those people in that little church in Kansas knew something about love and fellowship and unity after all!

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If you want your children to be thankful—grateful—adults, you have a great opportunity to work on them during Thanksgiving.  This holiday can be so much more than Indians and pilgrims or eating and football!  We Christians have a great opportunity to re-capture the holiday from the secularists and materialists and instill in our children a grateful spirit rather than an entitled one!

Here is a list of some of the things you can do for Thanksgiving that will move your children (and perhaps yourselves) closer to the spirit of Psalm 100:4-5 (NLT):

Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good.
His unfailing love continues forever,
and his faithfulness continues to each generation.

  1. The Bible contains many good stories of people giving thanks for God’s goodness and blessings. One of the best is the story of the ten lepers in Luke 17:11-17. Tell or read your child this story and then ask why the one came back and why the others did not. What might have been their reasons for not returning to thank Jesus?
  2. Make calendars to record one thing each day for which you are thankful. See how many days you can keep this going. Be sure and not let it get silly. You can do this, for instance, by always asking “why are you thankful for . . . .worms?” You can also remind your child of how God is the source of that blessing.
  3. Teach your kids the principle of Philippians 4:6 (ERV): “Don’t worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks for what you have.” When you pray at meals or at bedtime with them, suggest that they first give thanks before they start asking.
  4. If you think your children might take their blessings for granted, you might suggest having an Africa day, or a “poverty” day where they must live without their tech toys and TV, and have a very small meal or two of very plain food (rice and water, or just one-half of a bread & butter sandwich and only water to drink.) You will need to talk about this with them to help them understand what is going on. A good time to do this is at a meal prayer when we casually slide over “Thank you for our food.”
  5. Have a day of “no complaints before giving thanks!”  No complaints are allowed about anything before a “thanks” for something is registered.
  6. The internet is full of Thanksgiving games, stories, poems, and songs. You might spend some time with your child finding appropriate crafts or expressions of thanksgiving.
  7. Another activity is to find images either in magazines or online and find all the things for which we could be thankful.  You might even insert some of your own family photos. Be sure and notice actions, emotions, and/or people in the pictures, not just “stuff!”
  8. You might enjoy letting your child help you with Thanksgiving Day dinner, first by helping pick out the menu, then shopping with you for the food you need, and then, when possible, with preparing the food.  This is great together time when you can talk about God’s goodness to your family, to the children, to your church, to the country—you have many different paths for conversations, but always let your children know how thankful YOU are to God.

As you know, the best way to help your children become thankful is to model it in front of them.  I’m reminded of the scene in the old movie Shenandoah(1965) when Jimmy Stewart leads his family in giving thanks at the table, but takes all the credit for putting the food on the table http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzzyZ1M-kVU . Watch this and laugh—but be careful that you don’t live your life as if this were your prayer!

And if you do, don’t do it in front of your kids!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Colossians 3:17 (The Message): Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.


(Repost from November 2012)

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extreme prayer If we were playing Family Feud, and the word to play was PRAYER,  I would guess that one of the top responses from the audience would be POWER.  Have you read the Christian end times books that have the heavenly hosts completely handcuffed in their last battle against Satan, bound in helplessness until they are released by the prayers of the faithful on Earth?

I read one of those books once and found myself wondering if we are not turning prayer into a power tool that we wield rather than kneeling humbly and letting our requests be made known to Almighty God.

 Asking, knocking, crying out, seeking, supplicating, longing, beseeching, calling out, these don’t sound like power words to me; rather, they sound like words of neediness.

But we don’t want to be needy; we want to make things happen, so we Christians want to turn acts of worship, of submission and surrender into acts that compel or instigate or change.

Greg Pruett has written a wonderful book Extreme Prayer: The Impossible Prayers God Promises to Answer, published by Tyndale House, and available through Amazon.com.

Greg is the president of Pioneer Bible Translators in Dallas, Texas, but before that he and his wife Rebecca, along with their three children, served as Bible translators in West Africa for over twelve years.  I met Greg a few years ago, but we had never really had much time to talk until the North American Christian Convention in Indianapolis earlier this month.

At the end of our time together, Greg gave me a copy of his new book, which I began to read on the plane home, and it captured me with the opening pages.

He begins with a dark time in his ministry, his faith, and his marriage. One of the characteristics of liturgical churches that I wish our churches would imitate is that their liturgy often begins with, but in every case includes, a confession of our own sinfulness and our need for the grace of God before one more song is sung or one more prayer is spoken.  And so it seemed to me a wonderful thing that a book on prayer begins with a confession of unworthiness even to be in the presence of God—which in turn makes His gracious gift of prayer even more precious.

Drawing from many of his experiences in West Africa, Greg teaches us to pray. “This book is centered on . . . extreme prayer—the discipline of maximizing Jesus’ promises about prayer. Each of the following chapters unveils a different kind o prayer that Jesus backs with a blank-check promise (“whatever you ask”—mw). “

I might have been a little nervous about the book still to this point, but then Greg really reveals his message:  “But watch out! Don’t read this book to get your own wishes out of prayer.  God wants something so much bigger than that.

Greg makes prayer about God and not about me!  And that’s the way it should be, but often isn’t.

He teaches us what it means to pray “in the Name of Jesus.”  He teaches us to pray in “faith and faithfulness,“  not making the answer to our prayer the condition of our faith.  Even his shorter chapter on what he calls “shameless” prayer teaches us that persistence is not from entitlement but from the humble acknowledgment of our total dependency on God.

As the small book draws to its close, the writing becomes more specific, more concrete.  We need that kind of instruction, not just the inspirational.

Extreme Prayer taught me about prayer in a way that has grown my understanding of and my faith in Almighty God.  If you read this book—which I highly recommend–you may not hear exactly the same message because it is full of words of Truth, but you will hear the Word, and you will be changed because of it.

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Lyles familyIt’s early Saturday morning—cloudy and cool—which is very unusual for Texas in the summer, but the quiet kind of morning that is perfect for waking up slowly with a cup of coffee in my Munich Starbucks souvenir mug and my computer in my lap.

The house smells of brisket.  Sherrylee put 7-8 pounds of trimmed brisket into the oven last night before we went to bed, so that it would be ready by noon today for the Lyles family reunion.

I say the Lyles family reunion, but there will be very few people named Lyles at the reunion.  These gatherings started when my grandmother Mary Dooley Lyles was still living. She had been widowed since about 1938, when her husband Willis E. Lyles was killed in a wagon accident on the family farm near Justin, Texas.  He left her with nine living children, two other sons having died in infancy and another very young.

I don’t know when she moved to Denton, but that’s all I remember. As a boy growing up in Fort Worth, we would go there often.  Seems like Thanksgiving was the most common gathering time.  With so many aunts and uncles, Grandma Lyles’s little house was overfilled with relatives, so we cousins had to stay outside and play. Those were still the days when the grown-ups ate first and the children came later.  Things have changed, haven’t they!

Irby was the oldest—some fifteen years older than my mother—so we didn’t really know him as well, but he always seemed like a kind man. Then came Uncle Bud. He was a banker and had no children, but he used to make us believe his nose made a strange cracking sound if you moved it.  Woodrow was next in line, born in 1912. He was quiet, but we all knew he had been in WWII. Grandma had his picture in uniform sitting on the old black upright piano in her house.

Uncle Dock was a bachelor most of his life, living with Grandma until he married quite late in life, a marriage which did not go well, so he finished his life a bachelor as well.

Next came the first daughter Aunt Mary—we have lots of Marys in our family, so she was known as “Mary V.”  Perhaps because my mom is the youngest sister, we always seemed closer to our aunts’ families than our uncles. Or maybe it was just that the sisters were closer in age, so their children were our nearest cousins in age.

Aunt Ruth was the next sister. She married her high school sweetheart Frank, who became blind within the first year of their marriage, still they had four children and ran a dairy farm with 50+ cows, sometimes sheep, and probably a lot more that I have no idea about.  Uncle Frank taught me how to make coke floats one summer while I was staying with them—totally the city boy on the farm!!

Another son slipped into the family at the number 10 spot J.P. Lyles. According to my mom, his parents couldn’t agree on his name, so he was just given the initials– which is what they could agree upon.  We grew up quite close to his family; in fact, we still go to church with one of his daughters.

Mom (Daisy) was next, followed by Uncle Gene, the last of the Lyles clan.  Gene lived near us also, so we saw his family a lot, but Gene went his own way. He became a preacher and preached almost until the day he died.

Gene died last October; Aunt Ruth died April 14th of this year—the day before Mom’s 91st birthday.  She’s the last of her immediate family—including all the spouses of her siblings.

Today will be a family reunion of cousins, cousins and their families—and Mom. Mom has organized this reunion for many years now, but today will be the first time when she is alone at the table where “the older generation” has always sat. Lots of us will have our pictures made with her–the little kids reluctantly because old people are a little scary!

And then we will all go home, wondering if there will be a family reunion next summer! 

And at the very moment that each of us has that thought, I hope and pray that our first thoughts will be:  well, if not, there will be a wonderful day when we are all together again—the whole family—singing hymns of praise, just like we used to at Grandma Lyles’s house on Thanksgiving Day.

One of the great honors of my life was to serve on the faculty at Oklahoma Christian with Dr. Stafford North—who is still teaching there, by the way.  One of the things he taught me by example was to continue leading the succeeding generations of your family toward God so that the Big Family Reunion is complete.  He told us that as they parted after visits or trips together, one of the things he has always said is “Be there!”

That’s all. “Be there” was his way of reminding his children, grandchildren, and now great grandchildren, I’m sure, to live such lives that they will always be together and no one will be missing “when the roll is called up yonder.”

I believe all of the Lyleses were people of faith. They were a family sometimes of few words, but the legacy that has been passed down is one of faith. That’s the legacy I want to leave for our grandchildren as well.

Perhaps there ought to be posters or banners on the walls at every family reunion that simply say, “Be there!”


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loyaltyIn our daily staff devotional at the Let’s Start Talking office a few days ago, the Psalm was read from a more modern version and, as is often the case, the new words for the ancient expressions caught me off guard.

Specifically, this particular Psalm praised the loyalty of God.  I don’t think this was the chapter but Psalm 100:5 would be representative of the word usage that tripped me up:  “The Lord is good. His love is forever, and his loyalty goes on and on” (NCV).

More familiar versions of this verse use faithfulness or steadfast love.  Is loyalty the same as faithfulness?  That’s what has been puzzling me!

From what I have read, the root idea, at least the initial idea behind loyalty would have to do with the Latin word lex, meaning law.   If you were loyal, you kept the law.  That basic idea grew into a slightly bigger idea relating to the power behind the law.  If you kept the law of the king or your feudal lord or whoever your master was, then you were loyal.

This understanding of loyalty expanded to include the master of your house—probably the husband, also the Father—and so the concept of loyalty to the family and/or clan emerged.

One of the primary uses of the word loyalty in modern times, I would argue, is in association with nationalism and patriotism.  Another synonym might be allegiance.

The dissonance for me was to use the word loyalty in place of faithfulness when talking about God’s relationship to His people.  Yes, the words point in the same direction; in fact, the word faithful is often used in dictionaries to help define the idea of loyalty. Nevertheless, . . . .something feels wrong!

Perhaps my discomfort grows from using the word about God! 

Loyalty is something that is earned, while God is faithful because He is God, not because we have earned His faithfulness.

Loyalties are generally either deserved or demanded.  Who could demand God’s faithfulness?  Who could deserve God’s faithfulness?

Loyalties may shift with circumstances; you may be loyal to the country of your birth, but change your citizenship and swear loyalty to another country for reasons of your own choosing. God is not whimsical or capricious; God is faithful.

Loyalty can have degrees. I am loyal to my country, but only to the point that it does not conflict with greater loyalties, such as God and family.  God, on the other hand, is absolutely faithful. His faithfulness will never be superseded by a greater Good or a greater Love.

Semantical arguments always seem a bit petty; however, words not only express our thoughts, but our choice of words can also change our thinking!  I would not feud over the word loyalty, but I do think it is a smaller word and that it makes God smaller—and that I don’t like.

I like the words the Spirit wrote in Lamentations 3:22-24 (NIV)

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”    


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A-ChristianLet’s talk a little more about denominationalism.  I know of no Christians who would take issue with Jesus’ prayer for unity: “that they may be one, as I and the Father are one” (John 17:11,22). Nor would they argue with Paul’s unities in Ephesians 4, beginning with “one body” (v.4). So why does denominationalism seem normal and unity abnormal?

The concept of denominationalism grew up in the early years of the Reformation, especially in England, when the Church of England broke away from the Roman Catholic Church. When then the Separatists, the Anabaptists, and others including Calvinist reformed churches and the Presbyterian congregational churches solidified into something other than the Church of England, none of them wanted to claim to be the exclusive Body of Christ, so everyone except the Roman Catholics abandoned the theology of One Body=One Church and moved to One Body=many denominations.

Lest we forget, however, these early denominations were rarely, if ever, in fellowship with each other either. The New World became the haven for persecuted denominations, which often then persecuted other denominations after the formerly persecuted gained the ascendency.

And so we in the US are exactly as Dietrich Bonhoeffer described us in his 1939 essay Protestantism Without Reformation after visiting the US. He said, “It has been granted to the Americans less than any other nation of the earth to realize on earth the visible unity of the church of God.”

Bonhoeffer goes on to say that “The unity of the church of Jesus Christ is to American Christianity less something essential, originally given by God, than something required, something which ought to be.”

A denomination, if seen as just a convenient association of Christian congregations, or just a brand, seems pretty innocuous to most of us.  What truly frighten us today are those radical Christians who claim to be the one true church!

These polar opposite positions prove to me that we have been living in and rationalizing disunity so long that we are now to the point of celebrating the division among us instead of abhorring it.

Many will agree with me and will call with me for true unity–but, let’s be honest: describing what that unity really looks like is a daunting task for us—another indication of how far removed we must be from it!   I certainly don’t have all the answers, but here are a few possibilities:

  • Jesus’ disciples would love one another—not just in words, but in deed and truth. Don’t be tempted to ask at this point “who is a true disciple?” It sounds too much like the “who is my neighbor” question from Luke 10.  Instead, make a list of those things you would do for or with other disciples of Jesus if you love them.
  • Jesus’ disciples would be found in ever-growing gatherings. They would eagerly welcome others of like faith, and they would be telling others of God’s great love, so the Lord would be adding to their numbers daily those being saved. Theirs would be a spirit of inclusion, not exclusion.
  • Jesus’ disciples would “love the brotherhood” (1 Peter 2:17). I’m quite confident that this verse does not mean love just your family, or your small group, or just your congregation, or just those who read from the same version of the Bible or sing the same songs that you do.  In fact, the same word for brotherhood is used in I Peter 5 to talk about the brothers and sisters in Christ “throughout the world” (v.5).

With these last points, perhaps we have laid the groundwork for talking about less pride in autonomy and greater value for fellowship.

My conclusion then is that denominationalism is a convenient rationalization, but that it is not the unity with which churches of Christ should be satisfied. 

Allow me just a few more insightful words from Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

Where the unity of the church is forgotten as a goal . . ., the work of the Holy Ghost, who will fulfill the promise of the unity of the church, is no longer taken seriously, and a separatist Pharisaic claim takes the place of the divine unity of the church.

Next we will get into the questions raised about autonomous churches.  

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dreamsI woke up this morning trying to figure out my inadequacy dream.  It wasn’t an unusual one for me: I had an important class assignment due that I had forgotten about, but I had just enough time to get it in—if I could just get to the right information.  Of course, the frustrating part of the dream is that the book in the library that I need is not there, or I lose my way to the library, or I forget what the assignment is and need to go back to check it, but I can’t find the paper I wrote it down on….. oh, I wake up so tired after these kinds of dreams.

Then when I do wake up enough to know that I’m just dreaming, I start trying to figure out where it came from. It’s been 37 years since I had to turn in a school assignment, so there goes the literal interpretation.

Is it because it is the first day back at work after the holidays and I’m feeling the pressure of everything that has stacked up?

Is it the beginning of a new year with resolutions that I know are going to be hard to keep?

Is it the people close to me that I’m concerned about but can’t do that much to really help them?

Is it because I watched two great football playoff games and two good teams lost on the last play of the game?

Is it a divine message to remind me who is adequate and who is not?

Maybe it’s just the popcorn I ate before going to bed . . .  I don’t really know where it came from—and maybe it isn’t that important.

A word from God did, however, surface as I lay in bed and thought about inadequacy: “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.”  Philippians 4:13

Then at our LST staff devotional today, Leslee chooses to read to us Ephesians 3:20,21: Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.

Dreams are ephemeral; God’s Word is real! No matter how inadequate I feel—or am—if my life is lost in His, I’m real too—and more than I can imagine.

Happy New Year!

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damageDear Gkids,

Some really sad things happened this week that I’m sure you heard about. Tornadoes went through Texas and Oklahoma and tore up trees and blew down people’s homes. Cars and trucks were picked up and thrown on top of each other.

The part of the story that I want to write to you about is about the children, especially the school children in Oklahoma, who were hurt—some died—by the tornado. I want to write to you about the children because I thought these sad and bad things might make you afraid, and they might make you have some questions about God.

First, I want you to know that it is OK to ask questions about God. All the grown-ups who really love God ask these same questions—yes, even your Moms and Dads. God is so much bigger than us that we have a hard time even thinking about how big and powerful and good He is.

 Most of our questions come when we make the mistake of thinking that God is just like us. Even though He made us to be a little bit like him, it’s like a tiny little kitty cat thinking that it is the same thing as the biggest lion in Africa! They are in the same family and a little alike—but a whole lot different.

BUT here’s just one of the great things about God: even though He is so much bigger and so much different, He loves every single person and knows each one of us—including you!  AND He wants us to know Him and love Him too.  That’s why it is OK to ask questions when things happen in His world that we don’t understand.

Some people quit believing that God is real because they don’t understand everything about Him or the reasons He does things. That’s a big mistake that I hope you will never make.

If I were you, my first question to God would be: why did you make tornadoes that tear things up and that hurt and kill people?

You may think that Grandad is almost as old as God, but the truth is that I am still asking God questions too. But I’ve listened to God and tried to learn about Him my whole life, so what I’m telling you is the answer that I believe is true.  Here’s what I think God would say to you:

Boys and girls—My sweet children—when I made the whole world back at the beginning, I didn’t make anything that was bad, nothing at all that would make people afraid or hurt them so badly they would die.  The wind blew just enough, no floods, and no earthquakes that shook houses down. Everything worked just perfectly.

Then the people I made tried to take over being God! They thought they could be as Good and as Wise and as Powerful as I AM, but they couldn’t. 

By trying to be like God, they broke the World!  Now the ground shook too much, the rains caused floods, and the wind blew too hard.  Now people got hurt and sick and died because every time somebody tried to be God, they would break it even more!

They even started lying and stealing and killing each other, it got so bad!  You would think it couldn’t get any worse, but then my people did the very worst thing!  They began to worship trees and rocks and animals and to call them “God”. They would sing songs to the sun and dance at night to worship the moon.  They were so messed up that they kept breaking the World—and breaking themselves—and so they kept dying. They forgot about Me!

There were always good people who tried to live without breaking the world, like Noah and Abraham and Samuel and David, but even they could not fix the whole world.

I knew what had to be done to fix things! Only My Son Jesus could do it because he is just exactly like me! He would have to take the broken world and start making it new all over again!

He started with the very worst broken thing: I had made people to live with me forever, but because they were broken, they died. Even children who had done nothing to break the world died because the whole world was broken around them and the wind blew too hard and the rain caused floods and the ground shook too much! It broke my heart!

Jesus started fixing things by creating New Life! To do this, he had to let himself die, then while he was dead, he fought Death and when Death was defeated, He was ALIVE again! Of course!

So, you remember the story, He came out of the grave and told his friends to start telling people that if they would let Him, he would keep them too from staying dead when their broken bodies died. He would help them be alive forever in a new heaven and new earth where nothing is broken!

So, I’ve started My new creation now—but I have not completely fixed everything that is broken—yet!  I want to give everyone enough time to trust Me and to believe that We want to save them from being broken. If I fixed everything right now, well, some people just need more time to be convinced of my Goodness—and I don’t want anyone to stay broken forever!

That’s the answer to your question. The world is mostly still broken. That’s why you have tornadoes and fires and earthquakes and why people—even children—die. And that’s why it is still hard to understand. It makes me sad!

But don’t worry about the children! Did you know they have angels that stay close to Me and watch over them. The angels can’t keep them from dying in the broken world, but they can bring them to me and I give them New Life just as Jesus got, so they will never die again.  They are with me now where there is no brokenness—none at all!

Don’t be afraid. Jesus is coming again soon, and all the broken world will disappear. Trust me!

I think that’s what God would say to you. He really loves you, and He is so glad that you love Him.

And Mimi and I love you too!

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daily breadBoth personally and in ministry, Sherrylee and I have seen some particularly hard financial times. I once lost the last $20 that we had in the grocery store—just pulling something out of my pocket and not noticing that the only money we had to pay for groceries had also fallen out of my pocket.  I remember the tears when I told Sherry—there was no credit card—no cookie jar to rob—nothing! Three children!

And God!   That night at a small gathering in our home, some very intuitive friend left $20 on the mantelpiece—just to help out!  And so we ate that week.

But that wasn’t the last time we just barely made it—not by a long shot!

The special ministry God gave us has had the same kinds of experiences.  There was the summer that I was in Russia in May with plans for Sherrylee and the kids to join me for the last six weeks of the summer after school was out.  One evening I had to call her from Russia and say:  if you and the kids come, the ministry will run out of money before the end of the summer!  You can’t come—and I’ll come home early to reduce expenses!  She still reminds me of how disappointed she was that summer—but the ministry made it through that financial desert over twenty years ago…and still exists today to do His Will.

But we have not continued with cash reserves, not with a big savings account, not with endowments or million dollar gifts—neither we nor the ministry

This summer has been a particularly difficult summer financially.  The discouragement and disappointment associated with harsh financial realities are very real!  But in this and every crisis I’ve ever been through, it seems that God has given us a special word to hold on to—often a verse, sometimes a song, this time a prayer.

Almost every day since late June as I’ve walked each morning, instead of “working” the problem, I’ve tried to focus on giving my worries to God.  And that’s nothing that all of you haven’t done too—but I find rehearsing my fears and asking for fixes—fast fixes, if possible—can begin to sound self-centered, maybe even self-serving—especially over a long period of time.  And pretty soon I find myself starting to pray for what I think is obviously needed—my answers—often money—and my mind wanders off into what I’m going to do about it when I get to the office.

And so early in this particular drought, I decided to go to the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples when they asked for his help with prayer.  Every walk since that day has begun with “Our Father, who art in heaven . . . .

Every word of that prayer has been growing in my heart, but the words that have taught me and comforted me the most this summer have been: “Give us this day our daily bread.”

I have longed for financial security.  I have carried the financial responsibility for a family and for a ministry for all of my adult life, and we have never been “secure.”  A big car repair bill, an unexpected illness, an accounting error, overestimating donations, underestimating travel expenses—whether personal or of the ministry, it’s been the same very tenuous financial string holding things together—or so I have felt in the past.

But what was I thinking?  Maybe I was trying to become the rich man who stored up so much wealth in his barns that he knew how all of his needs would be met for many years?  Maybe I was trying to be the man who wanted to finish his financial transactions and secure his business deal before he left to follow Jesus?

Jesus did not teach us to pray, “Give us today enough for at least a couple of years,” or “Give us today enough to weather any unexpected expenses.”

For forty years, the people of God gathered daily manna and daily meat. If they gathered more than a day’s worth, it would rot (Exodus 16).  I’m convinced that is how God often works!

I am not trusting God if I pray “Give us this day our daily bread” and then worry that I will never be able to retire or go on cruises or live comfortably until I’m 93.

I’m only trusting in God if I pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” and then thank Him that I have had bread to eat at the end of that day.

He has promised no more—and no less!

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