Vacation Thoughts

November 30, 2009 at 5:59 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts | Leave a comment

            I was on vacation with my family last week.  We spent the first part of the week in a mountain cabin owned by some friends of ours (a better description would be a nice mountain home, but they call it a cabin).  It was a great time of rest and sabbath — no phone or Internet.  We slept in, read all morning, got out for a walk or cross country ski trip in the afternoon, played games in the evening.  Here is one journal entry from that time and another related devotional thought:

            Psalm 76:4  This morning while I was walking my daughter’s puppy, he suddenly stopped still and smelled the air staring off into the trees.  I noticed some mule deer there.  I picked the little guy up so he could see better, and he watched for a long time.  When we returned to the cabin, I watched the hill where we’d been walking and, from that vantage point, saw a four-point buck and seven does.  We pulled out the binoculars, and my family watched for a long time too.  It was indeed majestic.  However, the majesty of this world is only a glimpse of the real majesty of God.  “You are resplendent with light, more majestic than mountains rich with game.” 

            In his blog this morning, John Piper quoted Spurgeon, in Lectures to My Students, about the need for those in ministry to take such sabbaths:

   A day’s breathing of fresh air upon the hills, or a few hours, ramble in the beech woods’ umbrageous calm, would sweep the cobwebs out of the brain of scores of our toiling ministers who are now but half alive.  A mouthful of sea air, or a stiff walk in the wind’s face, would not give grace to the soul, but it would yield oxygen to the body, which is next best.  

            Amen!  I sure appreciated my time away in the mountains.  I hope the cobwebs are out of the brain!

Pine Painted to Look Like Marble

November 27, 2009 at 8:55 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, False teaching | 1 Comment

          When we visited the Mormon temple in Salt Lake City, our guide pointed out the pillars in the tabernacle.  They are white pine painted to look like marble; the pews also are white pine, but painted to look like oak.  She seemed strangely proud of that.  What a commentary on the religion.  Everything on the outside is made to look pure and holy, but the inside story is something different.  We were told, by those who studied the demographics, that Utah has one of the highest suicide rates in the country and one of the highest pornography rates in the country.  The outward purity is all show, but they are sinners just like the rest of us.  All their rules don’t change the heart.  In fact, those who claim to be righteous but are not are worse than those who don’t know any better. This is the intent of Jesus’ words to the Pharisees, which I ponderd this morning, in John 9:41“Jesus said, ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.’”

          Of course, I can’t point this out without confessing my own sinful nature.  Otherwise I would be completely hypocritical.  I all too often see my utter failure to measure up to God’s standards.  However, the beauty of true grace is that we can confess we are sinful and accept God’s complete forgiveness knowing we don’t have to be good enough, knowing, in fact, we can never be good enough but God offers forgiveness anyway.  When questioned about grace, our guide said, “Grace becomes effective when we’ve done our best.”  She was certain she’d done her best.  That is not grace; that is pine painted to look like marble!

Utah

November 20, 2009 at 11:01 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

            I just returned from a one-day “vision” trip to Utah. I went with some other pastors from Converge Rocky Mountain to meet two new church planters we have appointed and to see the areas where they will be planting. It was an absolutely fascinating trip, and I could write pages about it. Here is the brief summary of my biggest impressions.

            We first attended part of a seminar for pastors and church planters in Utah at K-2 Church in Salt Lake City. WOW! God is really working in northern Utah. The testimonies of the men there indicated how God has been softening hearts of people in recent years. One church, less than five years old, has over 1,000 in attendance each week; one pastor reported 450 baptisms in the past two years; long-term pastors told how much more open the area is to the gospel now than ever; one man said God is thawing the spiritual coldness of the state. Utah is an unreached people group – less than 2% of the population attends a Bible–believing church. But that is changing, and we have an opportunity to get in on the amazing things God is doing.

            Second, we traveled to a Mormon temple on a hill overlooking some communities south of Salt Lake where Charles Hill has located and plans to begin his work. We saw an area with about 100,000 people now and over 20,000 homes scheduled to be built in the next few years. There is not one Protestant church in the area – not one! That would be like our communities of Thornton and Westminster together (200,000) without a church.

            We also traveled to Centerville, north of Salt Lake, where Loren Pankratz is looking to plant. We stood on a plot of ground he has purchased for a family home. He showed us all the homes being built within just a few blocks of his. The population is 20,000 and expected to grow by 20,000 more in just a few years. Again, there is not one Protestant church in that town and in the adjoining community.

           Between these two stops we visited the Temple Square in the middle of Salt Lake City. To hear Loren gently question the young missionary lady that approached us was an education in itself. Certainly God has raised up this young man for just such a ministry. 

            May God continue to work in Utah, raising up laborers for the harvest and drawing people to himself.

Phillip’s Blessing

November 15, 2009 at 6:32 pm | Posted in Uncategorized, Wisdom | Leave a comment

My nephew Phillip asked me to present a blessing at his graduation service on Friday.  What follows is the summary of that talk:

            Phillip, I’ve known you almost all your life, so when I first pondered giving a blessing for this service, I thought back to one of the first times I was with you.  Your parents went to a conference and left you and Teresa to stay at our house in Alamosa.   You cried for the first twenty-four hours, and I had no idea how to handle that.  Things between us have improved dramatically since then.  Actually, I didn’t have to think long, since I have been preaching through the book of Acts, I thought immediately of a man in that book who’s name is almost the same as yours – Philip (that is Philip with one “l” instead of two).  So my blessing and prayer for you is that you will be like One-L Philip in five specific ways.

            First, the Bible Philip was a man of fullness (that word has two ls).  The first time we meet Philip is in Acts 6:3.  There was need for more leaders in the young church, so the apostles said, “Select from among you seven men of good reputation full of the spirit and of wisdom.”  Philip was full of the Holy Spirit.  The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit is given to those who genuinely trust in Jesus Christ (John 7:37-39; Titus 3:4-7; 2 Thess 2:13).  So Philip was one who had a genuine trust in Jesus, and it was evident in his life.  We’ve seen in you evidence of a genuine trust in Christ, and I pray that the Spirit would be even more evident in your life in the days ahead.

            Philip was not just full of the Spirit; he was also full of wisdom.  You’ve often demonstrated a wisdom way beyond your years.  I know in your own family devotions, you often have wisdom searches.  You’ve spent a lot of time in Proverbs and know that book better than I do.  You know “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” (Prov 1:10)  I define fearing God as coming to him on his terms rather than on our own.  Many people try to come to God on their terms, but they miss who he really is.  When you come to God on his terms, then he gives you his direction and he becomes your resource for everything.  My prayer is that you would have a wisdom that not only knows right from wrong, but knows God intimately and finds all your direction and resources in him.

            Second, One-L Philip was a servant.  The position he was chosen for involved serving tables.  The church was growing; food was being distributed to those in need, and they needed help serving the tables of the Greek widows.  Table service is not easy work; it takes a servant heart.  I have seen in you a heart to serve.  I’ve seen it with your siblings; I’ve seen it in the way you help out when you’ve stayed at our house; I’ve seen it most recently in how you help your grandparents.  May your heart to serve grow bigger in the coming years.

            Third, the Philip in Acts was bold (one l in that word).  Particularly, he was bold in obedience.  The next time we see Philip is in Acts 8 and he is demonstrating this bold obedience.  In verse 5 “Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ.”  Considering the history between the Jews and Samaritans, this Jew going to them was a very bold move.  In verse 7 Philip confronts unclean spirits, heals diseases and then addresses a sorcerer.  That is great boldness.  His proclaiming Christ resulted in a huge revival, and right in the middle of leading that revival, God told him to leave.  “Get up and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (v.26)  Then Luke adds for emphasis, “This is a desert road.”  It wouldn’t make any sense to me – leave a city where many are coming to know Christ and go out into the desert where no one is.  But Philip boldly obeyed what God told him to do.  When he was on that desert road, he saw the chariot of “a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure.”  The Spirit said, “Go up and join this chariot.”  A person doesn’t suddenly approach a royal caravan, but Philip boldly did just that.  Then he was bold enough to talk to the official in the chariot.  All these bold steps were taken because God told him to do those things.  We see that bold obedience in you.  If you were to tell someone all that you did for your ALERT program in Texas, they might think you were crazy, but you did it in obedience to God.  May that boldness to obey God only increase as you grow.

            Fourth, Philip was knowledgeable (two ls) in the Bible.  He proclaimed Christ to the Samaritans, who had part of the Old Testament and were looking for a Messiah – a Christ.  He had to know the Bible to do that.  But more telling is his conversation with the Ethiopian on the desert road.  That man was reading the scroll of Isaiah, and we’re told that Philip began with that very passage of scripture and preached Jesus to him.  He knew his Bible well.  I remember the first year I was in Thornton and working with the AWANA program in our church.  You and James were visiting one week, and the six or eight boys in AWANA complained about how much we were making them learn.  I told them they didn’t know the Bible at all, and then presented a challenge.  I told them our two visitors knew the Bible better than all of them combined.  I went through the AWANA books asking questions, and you soundly defeated them in that challenge.  You’ve always known the Bible well for your age, and I pray you would continue to grow in your knowledge of God’s Word.

            Finally, One-L Philip was an evangelist (one l).  The next, and last, time we see him is many years later in Acts 21:8; he is living in Caesarea and is called an evangelist. He is the only person in the Bible given that title.  He would share with anyone without prejudice: Samaritans, Ethiopians, Romans (Caesarea was a Roman city).  Phillip, may you have a love for all people and a willingness to share the good news of Jesus with them.

            Phillip, you are a man with God’s Spirit in you; may you be a man full of wisdom and knowledge; a man with a servant heart and a passion to share Christ with all; a man who boldly obeys God in everything.

            Uncle Glenn

The Heavens Declare

November 9, 2009 at 5:28 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts | Leave a comment

            Friday I drove to Cheyenne to spend some time with my parents and then Saturday on to Casper for the Foundation for Christian Discipleship board meeting.  FCD oversees a number of student ministries on campuses in Wyoming, Nebraska and South Dakota called Campus Ventures.  I enjoy these twice-a-year meetings in spite of the long days getting there and back for church on Sunday.  I enjoy the fellowship of men and women committed to biblical discipleship.  One of our discussions on Saturday lead me to believe that our campus leaders and students don’t really know God in his glory, greatness and grace as they should, and that has been the root of some personnel problems we’ve faced in recent years.  The longer I live and preach, the more I believe Calvin had it right almost 500 years ago when he said all of our problems stem from the fact we don’t really know God.

            While driving home I pulled over at a rest stop I’ve visited several times (at least once each trip to Casper or to Ayres Bridge where my family has camped the last few summers).  While walking around the driveway to stretch my legs, I saw a sign pointing to a scenic overlook.  I was surprised I’d never seen it before, so I walked the path to some benches a few hundred yards away.  Just as I came to the end of the path, the sky turned bright orange and pink with some grey cloud wisps above the Laramie mountain range and Laramie Peak.  It was possibly the most gorgeous sunset I’ve witnessed in my life.  It took my breath away, and I said out loud, “Wow! You are an awesome God!”  I stood there speechless for a few minutes, just admiring God’s beauty, then prayed that I would be able to teach the next generation just how awesome God really is.

            “The heavens declare the glory of God!”  May I too declare that glory!

Masks that Cover Up Greed

November 5, 2009 at 9:57 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, False teaching | Leave a comment

1 Thessalonians 2:1-12.  Paul spells out the difference in attitude and motive between today’s true and false teachers.  The major separating point is doctrine, but, as this passage indicates, there are other matters as well.  True teachers tell the gospel message of Jesus in spite of strong opposition; they work hard to communicate that message; their appeal is not from trickery or impure motives; they try to please God and not men; they don’t flatter, but they speak the truth in love; and in that love share not just a message but also their own lives; they speak sincerely and don’t put on masks.  False teachers, on the other hand, use trickery (I think that means anything other than communicating the truth) and false motives to get others to follow them; they speak to please their hearers, even using flattery to do so; they put on masks to cover up greed.

            Read carefully through this section of First Thessalonians and you can discern what is happening.  With the news in recent years of ministries that rake in millions of dollars yet have no accountability to the use of that money, I believe it’s clear to whom this word applies.

            God, may I speak the truth of the gospel in love, regardless of opposition; may I never use false methods and motivations to draw others; may I speak to please you alone and to your glory alone.

Gloria in excelsis Deo

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