Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"BOB DIED ABOUT A MONTH AGO."

Bob was not his name. But we’ll call him that for privacy reasons.

Jean and I first met Bob when he served us at one of our favorite restaurants. We noted he was a good waiter but that his speech and actions were effeminate and possibly indicated he lived a sinful and dangerous lifestyle.


In spite of our feelings about such a lifestyle we felt drawn to him and wanted to show him Christ-like love—not rejection.


Over several months a friendship developed. When we planned to go to his restaurant Jean would just call in. When Bob answered Jean would just say, “Hi, Bob, this is Jean.” He’d reply, “I’ll have your order on the table when you arrive.” He knew exactly what we’d order.


Jean and I began calling him “our project.” We wanted to lead him to Christ.


We made sure that every conversation would include a gentle witness for Christ and our assurance that we were praying for him. We’d invite him to check out Healing Place Church. Soon we could tell he was more than willing to talk about our faith, Healing Place Church and our work amongst the AIDS orphans of Africa.


Bob would weep with great empathy as we spoke about the thousands of children whose lives were ravaged by AIDS. Once he even gave us $20 to help a child.


Bob changed jobs and we lost track of him for many months. About six months ago we ran into him at another restaurant. He seemed overjoyed to see us—and to tell us that he had started attending the St. Amant campus of Healing Place Church. The pastor is a former Marine with a bold demeanor—not the type of personality Bob was normally comfortable being around.


We saw Bob two or three times over the next few weeks. Each time he was more and more excited about the church. He was different. It was obvious his life had been changed. As we look back now we realize that although he didn’t use “spiritual-ese” vocabulary he was telling he now served Jesus.


“Things are OK now,” he said. (These are the same words my oldest brother used to tell me just before died that his heart was right with God.) And the anxious intensity Bob used to show was gone. His demeanor was calm and settled.


Last night we went back to the restaurant. We hadn’t been there for a little over a month. When we asked if Bob was there the waitress said, “Bob died about a month ago.”


Our first reaction was great sadness. It was a bit like losing a relative.


As we drove home the sadness was softened by the awareness that God had allowed us to influence Bob to seek Jesus and that Bob was, right at that moment, with his Lord Jesus Christ.


If the Holy Spirit had not urged us to step over the threshold of our rejection of his lifestyle, if we had merely tolerated his service and not spoken to him about Jesus, would he have found his way to the cross?


Our “Bob project” was wonderfully successful.


And right now we have some more “projects” we are working on.


Will you let the Holy Spirit show you some “projects?”

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

TALK ABOUT HUMAN TRAFFICKING…

A mother loans her pre-teen daughter to a neighbor—an older man. For payment he will plow her garden so she can grow food for the family.

Or sometimes it’s just for a weekend to get money for a few meals.

Children’s Cup African director Ben Rodgers was ministering to a young African teenaged girl encouraging her to stop selling her body. Her response, “Why shouldn’t I be a prostitute? At least I’m getting paid for what has happened to me all my life.” Fathers of daughters, are you weeping?

Would you call this human trafficking? Mothers hand off their unnamed newborn babies to village men who will raise the children to make money for them as sex slaves. In one community by a city dump one loving lady started feeding and educating 62 of these unnamed and sexually exploited children to end the abuse. With Children’s Cup’s help she expanded her “family” to several hundred children who no longer have to sell their bodies for food or education.

Isn’t it human trafficking when a parent or relative sells a young girl into marriage with a man who will bring AIDS into her body? Even the purest Jesus-loving girl is bound by the culture to comply. African teenaged girls live in terror of the day they will be sold into marriage. This is common practice in much of Africa.

And world bodies like the UN tell us not to disturb or try to change local cultures.

This is not a problem you solve with a sermon or two.

Children’s Cup is actively using our AIDS orphan and vulnerable children CarePoints where we help thousands of children daily as ministry bases to reach the local communities with the Gospel. Winning a significant number of the neighbors to the Lord and establishing churches that become communities of believers out of which Christian spouses can be chosen offers a solution.

If we who call ourselves the Body of Christ look away and offer no help, we give our approval to this insidious evil.

Silence is sanction

Monday, September 28, 2009

BLEST BY THE BLOOD

The scene is in downtown Brussels, Belgium. The traffic is scary.

The other car shot our from a small alley into the side of my Volkswagen van. The police came and took statements from the other driver and me.

My French was never really great but I could read the report well enough to know that it asked if I had any blesse’, the French word for bloody injuries. Happily, nobody had been hurt.

That word blesse’ really intrigued me. It seemed so close to our English word bless. As I researched the derivations of bless, I got blessed. French and English come from Latin. Much of the time the Latin roots of a word are evident in each of the derivative languages. Just like blesse’ There is a relation between the French bloody injuries and the English blessing. Old English used the term bledsian to mean covered with blood. (Bludgeon comes from the same root.) Later English usage had the blessen mean sanctify.

I knew I had hold of something wonderful when I found this. To be sanctified or made holy or blessed meant to be covered by blood–bloodified, if you will. Blessen comes into our usage as bless.

To be blessed means to be covered by blood. Yes! Hallelujah! Calvary’s blood, the bleeding wounds of Jesus, is the source of all blessing in our lives.

When we say, “God bless you,” we are invoking the blood of Jesus on others’ lives. “Jesus cover them with your blood,” would mean the same thing. Now when I say, “God bless you,” it has a new connotation to me.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

TOO INCINDIARY TO PRINT OR TO READ?

A VETERAN MISSIONARY'S OBSERVATIONS AND QUESTIONS

Global missions strategies have been encountering more sophisticated blocks than ever before. Now, even once-strong missionary churches are saying that the day of sending full-time-on-the-field missionaries is over.
· Ask a missionary how hard it is to book meetings even in churches with multi-million dollar budgets.
· One noted Christian author declared he is through sending long-term missionaries. After a finely crafted and highly motivating message about the USA church mobilizing its resources for missions, he declared his strategy was to send the money to national pastors to evangelize their countries. He believes it will work because he will use some of the money to send ministry teams for a couple weeks to train and motivate national pastors.
· Missionaries on the ground who have dealt with the results of such “ten-day-wonders” often vow they will never again host a short term team.
· A fatal flaw in the strategy is to disregard the fact that foreign cultures define integrity differently and many never embrace Biblical goals for evangelism and missions, let alone accountability in funds handling.
· Both of the above mentioned authors are great men with generous hearts. They have generated massive funds that have had little lasting impact on the field.
· Ask the rock stars for a review of how their famine fundraising monies were handled and what they accomplished. Even the honest ones found it nearly impossible to get the aid all the way to the starving people. I was there. I saw. I know.
· Talk to donor governments about how much of their aid makes it past foreign bureaucrats’ pockets to the people in need.
· The usual disbursement of funds goes first for personnel salaries. Office complexes. Service vehicles. Meetings. Surveys. Planning sessions. Then more meetings and conferences full of hand-wringing over the fact they can’t find enough people at ground-level honest enough to implement projects.
· Executives sitting on massive aid funds recognize that money as the source of their power and prestige. Quickly they realize that every dollar disbursed from the fund diminishes their power.
· One UN official sneered at our faith-based strategies. I asked him which of his UN projects he considered the most successful. I don’t think he even realized that all of his examples used local churches and missionaries to make the project work.

Where is the next wave of missionaries?
· Meet the lovely Norwegian missionary orphanage director in Africa.
For more than 52 years she has poured her life into a community and founded an orphanage that raised hundreds of young lives to become business and government leaders—real society-influencers.
· Stand beside this hero with me and hear—no, make that feel—her sobs as she says, “There is no one coming to take my place. My health is gone and my mission is forcing me to go home.”
· Social movements seldom last more that three generations. The first gets it going and pursues it zealously. In the second generation some are fervent about the movement, yet many have no interest in the movement. Few of the third generation pay any heed to it. World missions is in that third generation.
· Where are the sermons challenging the people with the Great Commission (now sometimes called the “Great Omission”) to go everywhere and tell everybody?
· Where is the altar-call to missions?
· When did the congregation last sing, “I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord…” or “To the regions beyond”?
· Where are the language schools teaching Christian students the languages of places hostile to the Gospel?
· Where are the parents who make sure their children encounter missionaries to drink in the missionary’s spirit?
· When was the last time the church took up an offering for missions?
· Who was the last son or daughter of the church to be sent out as a missionary?
· Have you noticed the Christian book stores no longer have a missions section? Is that because nobody is writing them anymore? Do publishers no longer print them because they won’t sell? Are the missions classics all out of print?
· Have you seen the Jesus-haters’ long queues of young volunteers anxious to be given their bomb-vests so they can kill infidels that have not embraced their religion? No shortage of hope-to-be martyrs.
· Do you dare compare that to Christians’ anemic response to the call for new missionaries?
· What kind of god needs bombs and bullets to gain converts and protect his name?
· What missions executives do you know who are willing to live in remote, unheated Asian mountain cave to lead their followers?
· What does the church expect to see happen in world missions given the limp attention it pays to the untold millions?
· Does the church care?

Sobering truths:
· You will either send your sons and daughters as missionaries or as soldiers.
· You will either give to missions to send them with the Gospel or you will pay taxes to send them to kill and maim.
· We have the capacity to go everywhere and tell everybody yet the church doesn’t do it. But hell does.
· America’s largest export is pornography—movies and music.

BLESSED HOPE:
· Jesus said, “I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
· Jesus is still saving souls and changing lives and building His Church.
He is still calling for workers in the harvest.
· Will you join me in giving King Jesus our all? Right now?
· Will you go if He asks you?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

TAKING A LOOK AT OUR MOTIVES

I say “our” because I don’t think I’m the only one who has ever had this problem.

There is a devious accuser snooping around in the back of our thoughts seeking for ways to undermine our walk with God by accusing our motives.

We know that God wants us to really submit our hearts and minds in Him. We exert full effort to come before Him openly and without guile. As we move into that realm we start to sense His blessing. We’re tempted to think, “I’m doing it right. God is blessing me.”

Then, unbidden and unwelcome, comes the voice saying,” Well, you are making it work, aren’t you? You play-act like God’s obedient child and He is buying it. You and I both know what you’re really like—your weaknesses, your thoughts, your disobedience.

“Go ahead, play the game but remember, I know what you’re really like.”

“You are wrong, enemy of my soul. Yes, I often fail, but He knows I come to Him with a sincere heart and He blesses my life and work—in spite of my failures. He would never reject the thirst and reach of my heart towards Him and my desire to please Him. His love and forgiveness are far greater than your accusing words.”

“…How do we change our personal devotional life to reflect the life of reception, seeking God’s gifts as beggars rather than His applause as performers?” Martin Luther: Grace Upon the Cross

Martin Luther’s words make us see we can never believe our personal piety brings God’s blessing. We can only approach Him as beggars undeservedly receiving God’s favor.

My first motive when reaching toward God is to come honestly and humbly before Him. That first motive is what God judges us by. He then exposes and deals with me about the human imperfections that try to sabotage my motives.

How perfect is His plan and His understanding.

Some have said, “A righteous God is man’s greatest creation.”

Wrong.

No human mind could ever devise such an intricate and thorough plan as God's.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

THE ANCIENT COIN AND TAXES

Is it possible that this coin I am now holding was actually held by the treasurer of the Twelve named Judas? Did it jingle around in the Disciples’ purse?

Extremely unlikely but this bronze prutah coin was in circulation in Jesus’ time. And nobody could say it was impossible that it was once used to buy food for the Master.

Just thinking the question is a bit overwhelming.

And it made me think.

Judas was the purse-bearer, the money handler, for Jesus and the Twelve. It appears that he managed well enough to keep the group financially viable for more than three years. Once, however, he did have to go to the fish’s mouth get the money to pay the taxes.

Taxes were budget busters then, too. It’s clear that the Disciples did not have a tax-exemption that American 501 C 3 organizations have enjoyed for decades.

A couple observations: Judas sold his own soul and the life of the Redeemer who would have forgiven him for thirty coins.

And throughout all history men and governments have traded their own souls money.

Jesus-hating leaders appear to be ready to take away any tax exemption for charitable giving that enables the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Godly financial planners should be telling their clients of the still viable ways to plan their estates in ways that lock in tax benefits now and at the same time promote the Gospel—the only hope for our nation and its economy.

It’s a double win if they do. A double loss if they don’t.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

THE SUBTLE AND LETHAL TRAP

One of God’s life-giving promises is, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33

Jean and I marvel every day at the blessings God has allowed us to experience and take part in.

Once you have known a life of blessings as you have truly sought God first you can be confronted with a subtle and lethal trap.

We look back and realize that the blessings started when we took the actions that
God set as conditions to receive the promises. The enemy tempts us to think it was our doing that qualified us.

That’s the trap.

Our obedience is not creative it is only acceptive. God does the creating and just requires us to live as acceptors of His mercy and grace. It’s God’s doing, not ours.

To God be the glory

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I STILL LOVE BLOGSPOT

It is a powerful tool.

HELL'S DEVIL PLANNED IT...

Hell’s devil planned it and it is working.

There has been a widespread and increasingly emboldened assault on Jesus, the Bible, and believers.

Hollywood.
Educators.
News Media.
Wall Street.
Politicians.
Unregenerate religious leaders.
It is an all-fronts barrage coordinated in hell.

Society has degenerated to the point that the most effective marketing tool is blatant sex (including perversions that used to mean jail).

The ability to cleverly deceive is praised. Lie has become king. Hell has its own unholy anointing on liars. Society’s wisdom is that the first one to accuse wins. Courts award the cleverest liar. America no longer believes its government.

Marketers and legislators will do to you whatever they think they can get by with. They sneer at the word integrity.

The very word SIN used to shiver the soul, now it is used as an advertizing lure.

Result? A sin-immersed society in which anything goes. If it feels good, do it.

But then there’s that irritating voice of God that pricks even the most hardened heart reminding them of their sin.

To try to shut down or drown the Voice men intensify the noisy, strident, screeching anti-Jesus, blaring shrieks from hell. “Everybody’s doing it,” tries to overpower, “Thou shalt not.”

None of this has killed Truth whose name s Jesus. Hell may have a plan but so does Jesus.

He has given us free use of His Name—The Name to which every knee shall bow. The Name that is a strong tower the righteous can run into and be safe.

Every time we declare The Name we build The Tower higher and wider. Let’s invite everybody we can to enter The Tower.

We Christians need to build into our daily lives the profuse use of The Name Jesus. Be deliberate and intentional finding ways to introduce The Name in every conversation.

Roll the cameras and presses, plug in the microphones and flood the internet with our Savior’s awesome Name.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

NOTICE

I am finding Facebook and Twitter to be very effective ways to communicate.

I will keep my blogger account open as an archive but will post more frequently on these other two places.

What wonderful new communication means will we have a year from now?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

AMERICAN HERO

Lt. Col. Paul Kari was tortured in the "Hanoi Hilton" prison for eight years. He went back to Hanoi with Ben and me and we visited the prison. I watched this great man deal with agonizing memories and still forgive his torturers.

Here's a lesson I learned. If you will make your hurting places become forgiving places God will turn them into healing places.

I saw it work for Paul.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

GUIDE ME WITH HIS EYE?

This verse used to puzzle me:

Psalm 32:8I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.

How does His eye guide me? It does as long as I stay in His presence.

For example: Let's walk together through Maputo, Mozambique. I'm familiar with the city. The streets can be risky there. Let's make it harder; we'll blindfold you and I'll never touch you nor will I give you a verbal map of the turns we must make. We'll just talk.

If you stay close enough to me to hear my voice I can guide you with my open eyes.

If you sense a distance growing between us you will know you missed a turn. Run back to the sound of my voice.

It is simply profound to me that God does guide us by His eye as we stay in His presence.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

PRAYING FOR YOU

If you are awake and hurting right now, I am praying for you.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

ANOTHER REASON NOT TO WORRY

Isaiah 66:9 Shall I bring to the birth and not cause to bring forth? saith the Lord; shall I cause to bring forth and shut the womb? saith God.

That's King James for, "What I have conceived in you will be born and there will be more births to come."

Children's Cup International Relief was God's idea--in fact it was His order to us. My head may struggle with the issues of the economy, but in my heart is a deep assurance God has not "shut the womb."

Friday, May 15, 2009

I'M NOT THE ONLY ONE AWAKE AT THIS HOUR

It's still in the house again. Jean--my companion for more than 50 years--is sleeping.

I've heard the phrase "wee hours of the morning." Will you let me play with the words and call them the "We hours"? As in God and me.

This stillness has become a destination--a place of peace and direction.

Right now I realize that I'm not the only one awake at this hour. And for some of you it is not a place of quiet and peace. Maaybe it's a difficult decision, a broken relationship, a great personal failure, or a doctor's words that are raging in your mind.

Would you trust God enough to make the quietness of your home an altar--a healing place?

"Father, as we bow in our quiet place altars we may be miles apart yet we are together at your altar, your healing place. Let your presence cleanse away the turmoil. Let your holy presence be the answer to the problems that seem unsolvable. Give clear signals about the next steps forward out of the messes and into your joy.

"In Jesus' name,

"Amen."

An old song is filling my heart:

Blessed quietness, holy quietness,
Blest assurance in my soul!
On the stormy sea, He speaks peace to me,
And the billows cease to roll.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

"FROM WHENCE?"

I've been doing that very human thing called worrying.

The economy crisis has forced us to cut some programs for our AIDS orphans in Africa. Children's Cup has known the joy of daily feeding thousands of AIDS orphans and vulnerable children.

Telling any child we must stop helping them causes a soul-deep pain--for them and us.

Just now God told me in Mark 8:4 the exact words I needed to hear.

"From whence can a man satisfy these men (children) with bread here in the wilderrness?" The disciples asked Jesus this question when He asked them to feed the 7,000 people in the wilderness.

Jesus' answer was to bless a child's few loaves and fishes and feed the thousands--with food left over.

I believe right now in the stillness of this night that God is telling me He will multiply what we have to feed our hurting little ones in Africa--with food left over to feed even more.

Watch and see.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

ABOUT OUR GRANDKIDS


Five-year-old Rhett patted his heart and said, "Jesus got all the dirt out of my heart."


Five-year-old Trinity asked me, "Pop, if I have ever in my life done anything to hurt you would you forgive me?" Total melt-down for me.

Eight-year-old Levi just told his mom with tears in his eyes, "Mom, I'm telling you and God right now that I will live for Jesus every day of my life--even if it means I must die." Levi is growing up in Africa knowing the dangers faced on the mission field.

Eleven-year-old Kayla said, "I know for sure God has called me to be a missionary to India" another hard place.

Eighteen-year-old Tori leaves in a few days for a short term missions assigment to Swaziland and Mozambique.

Each of our grandkids love Jesus and have unique talents to use for Him as they grow older.

Is it OK if Jean and I are excited about our grandkids? Maybe it's even OK to be proud of them. Hope so because we are.


Sunday, May 03, 2009

THE “GOSHEN BLESSING”

The globe seems awash in plagues—political, financial, disease.
Remember the plagues of Egypt?
The children of Israel living in Goshen?
God kept the plagues away from them.
I’m praying over my family, coworkers, friends and everyone that calls Jesus “Lord” that we all come under a “Goshen Blessing.”
Join the prayer.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

ASSOCIATION OF RELATED CHURCHES (ARC)

The All Access Conference by ARC just closed. Some of America's most successful pastors met for three days with new and recent church planters to share their "DNA."

Lives will be changed, churches will grow because of this meeting.

Several of America's fastest growing churches are part of ARC.

Thanks Greg Surratt, Billy Hornsby, and the ARC leadership team for your vision.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

ABOUT PASTOR DINO RIZZO'S NEW BOOK "SERVOLUTION"

Somebody told me years ago, “It takes 20 years to prepare a sermon and a lifetime to write a book.”

Words can be spoken from pulpits and put on paper and bound in books in a very short time but crafting those words comes one experience at a time. They are forged in the heat and pressure of reality

Dino Rizzo’s new book SERVOLUTION was a quick read for me—because I’ve lived alongside his life and watched it develop. The words are not new to me; they are just on paper now.

When Healing Place Church was about three years old we moved back to Baton Rouge and got involved. I can remember telling my wife Jean, “With that much honesty in the pulpit, this church has to become great.”

It did.

Healing Place Church and hundreds of other churches Dino’s life and ministry have influenced are Exhibit “A” that his God-given, Holy Spirit-anointed, high-voltage revolutionary ideas really work.

This book will change your life.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

STRANGE FIRE

Dare we even ask the question?

Is it possible churches and believers are offering up strange fire unto God?

Fire is metaphoric for the anointing, the presence of the Holy Sprit.

Strange fire is defined as unauthorized fire not sourced in God and offered to God in ways He did not prescribe or approve.

More and more we see troubled ministers try to create a facsimile of anointing of the Holy Spirit with talent and personality, borrowing techniques from the secular and pagan.

Some Bible scholars even make the case that Nadab and Abihu (Aaron’s sons) took the fire from pagan altars into the temple. In their case God sent the real fire and consumed them. He called their fire, “Strange Fire.”

Taking strange fire is telling God, “I don’t have to do it like you said. I can do it better my way.” It’s a bit like they think they can blackmail God into accepting their erroneous act for the sake of not embarrassing the people observing the event.

How many leaders have pleaded with God to not expose their sin because it would do so much damage to the church?

So often it seems men arbitrarily re-interpret God’s Word to endorse their actions, and then try to convince God that’s what God really meant in the first place.

A congregation will not always sense the lifting of God’s anointing right away. Leaders can become very skilled at audience control so that it can even appear anointed. But that fa├žade cannot be sustained. Soon the audience will know something is missing, something is wrong.

Absent the Holy Spirit’s moving upon the hearts of the people, frauds in the pulpit resort to human tactics to impact an audience. Some church leaders will continue to allow musicians to minister because they are so skilled—all the while knowing the musician has a spiritual problem.

I watched over a period of years one famous international radio speaker who had once stunned and moved audiences with anointed preaching of the Word. When he sensed that power leaving, he resorted to bathroom humor to shock the audience and then tried to use wordsmithing skills to put a holy face on the message.

The end result was empty altars.

One friend attended a meeting where an evangelist noted for leading audiences into hilarious laughter began his message with a story about how he had come to the pulpit with his fly unzipped. Of course the audience laughed and the meeting was off in high gear.

I just saw a “gospel” music video on a Christian music network in which a pretty young lady dressed in body-hugging sweater and tight slacks had the spotlight while singing a song of worship to God. Legs apart, knees bent she suggestively thrust her pelvis to the beat of the song. How many viewers received sexual imagery from what was supposed to be Christ-exalting worship?

A young man hosted a Christian network program that featured a teenaged girl doing an interpretive dance to a worship song. At the end of the dance his first words expressed his amazement at how beautiful the girls was—sensuality had stolen the worship away from God..

Strange fire!

Old fashioned? Maybe so, but so are the Ten Commandments and so are Scriptural admonishments to live a holy life.

The altar has become old fashioned.

Why has the altar disappeared in so many churches? One reason is that it is the office of the Holy Spirit to draw the sinner to Christ. Human suasion is never enough.

When a minister, absent the Holy Spirit’s anointing on his ministry, tries to give an altar call and nobody responds, that minister quickly decides not to do that again—it’s too embarrassing.

So he stops giving altar calls and gives ambiguous suggestions. I was in the service when the pastor of one large, influential church closed the service this way:

“Bow your heads and close your eyes.
“Now, if you’d like to feel a little closer to Jesus, lift your head and catch my eyes with yours.
“That will be my signal to pray for you.
“I don’t want to embarrass you.”

What a slap on God’s face to even suggest that repentance before an Almighty God is an embarrassment to be avoided.

This is not a light thing that God will ignore—let alone bless—when ministers whose lives and motives defy God lead a congregation in music or worship or ministering God’s Holy Word.

Right now I’m remembering an old altar chorus, “Oh, Lord, send the fire just now…” a dangerous prayer for anyone playing with strange fire.

Are we willing to pray, “God, please give us the spiritual discernment to recognize strange fire in our own lives?"

Do we have the courage to ask God to expose strange fire no matter where, no matter who?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

CHILD JESUS, WHEN DID YOU KNOW?

Did you know the meaning of what you just saw, Child Jesus? You've seen the Passover celebration many times, and it was always the same.

What did you think when you first saw the spotless little lamb they brought forward? Did the tender child part of you want to wrap the lamb in your arms to protect it?

On the other hand, you are the child who astounded the priests with you knowledge of what the prophets had said. Surely you knew, or did you?

Something in your eyes as you watched the lamb seemed to say that you did know that the loving lamb was but a living metaphor to help us understand your part in the grand plan of salvation. There was a bond between you.

All the ritual you observed would consummate in your own life--were you aware of that?

Did you shiver a little just then when you saw the priest pierce the lamb's body to shed its blood into a cup--blood that would be poured out upon the altar for the remission of sins?

Did your words about that cup echo back from the future Upper Room Supper? You watched so knowingly as the priest performed the ritual of the cup.

Was that glaze of tears in your eyes just a lens that let you see the people of all generations--including me--whose sins your blood would cover?

Those two pomegranate poles lying on the ground like a cross--what are they for? Oh, I see. They took the longer one and pierced it through the length of the lamb's body. The short one was used to spread-eagle the front legs.

Christ Child, did something in you just shudder as you saw the lamb lifted up on the cross to be hung over the searing fire?

When you accepted your portion of the sacrificed lamb to eat, you held it for an extra moment. Your tender ex­pression firmed a little--like you were reconfirming a decision. You would, indeed, follow through and complete the awesome contract to repurchase our souls from hell.

From start to finish, the Passover pageant unfolded the great drama of redemption. The plan was born be­fore time began. Justice and symme­try born in the mind of God had now taken form within the logic of man. Concepts beyond limited human rea­sonings were given recognizable shape in life.

Before Bethlehem you knew the plan, and at some time after you knew it again. You knew that the only way we could know the Father was to know you as one of us.

The Passover was finished for an­other year now, and it looked like that knowing sense of purpose stayed with you. Did you know that it wasn't re­ally over until you became that lamb on the cross?

When did you know it would be you who would declare to all genera­tions, "IT IS FINISHED!"

Friday, April 10, 2009

THE MAN WITH THE WHIP

Today, Good Friday, we commemorate this.

I did it.

I'm the one.

I'm the man with the whip that lashed the back of the Son of God.

Even now, after all this time, when I close my eyes I see the blood, the torn, bleeding flesh of God Incarnate's back.

And I weep.

As a Roman soldier it was not the first lashing I'd ever given, but this one was different.

Come back to the moment and relive it with me.

Pilate just ordered the scourging of the Nazarene. I'm uneasy about this and I fear that my commanding officer will order me to do it.

The officer is nodding toward me. I salute him my obedience.

I must do it.

Normally being the lichter doesn't bother me. I know I am executing the just penalties of law breaking.

But this one is different.

I know this Man's reputation. They say He has done only good things-that He has done miracles. They even say He's the Son of God.

Can it be true?

Am I about to punish God's own Son?

My mind reels. It feels like my soul is fleeing my body and leaving a dank, foul cavern inside me.

But if I disobey the order, I will be the one to receive the lashes…

The whip in my sweaty hand is heavier than it's ever been as I walk toward the Man. He is looking at me and it's taking my breath away.

It's never been like this. Normally they are trembling and their eyes glare with fear and hate toward me.

I want to look away but that would show weakness.

"Stop looking at me!" my mind silently screams at Him.

No fear in His eyes. It's rather like He is feeling sorry for me.

"I can't do this!" "You must!" my mind battles.

"I'll just go easy on Him," I think as I bring the cat-o'-nine-tails down the first time.

"Soldier!" my commanding officer shouts. "Harder! He must be taught the power and justice of Rome."

The Man is looking at me again. His eyes seem to give me permission to continue-like this was something that has to happen.

Fellow soldiers are counting out the number and cadence of the strokes. It's all just a blur of lashes and blood and torn flesh-and His eyes.

He never cries out during the whole beating.

The scourging is over and one last time I look at Him.

The eyes again. He isn't saying anything. But, I'm sure His eyes are saying, "I forgive you."
All I can think of now is to get away. That foul cavern inside me wants to erupt and spew out the bile of this wretched deed.

"Run. Find a place to gain control of yourself."

I throw down the whip and run.

They are taking Him away now. I hear the crowd chanting, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!"

I see where we are going-out to the garbage dump at Golgatha.

And again it's all a blur of hammer "thunks" and nails and blood and screams-not His but from those two criminals beside Him.

I can't turn away. He's telling one of the men beside Him, "Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise."

I begin to know Jesus must really be the Son of God-our Savior.

How can I bear the weight of what I have just done?

He's saying something again. He's calling upon His Father.

"Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."

It stuns the crowd.

He's lowering His head and opening His eyes.

And our eyes lock again.

This time I know they are saying, "I forgive you, son."

I know I'll never forget what I have done, but neither will I ever forget the warm balm of His forgiveness.

It's over now. He has surrendered His spirit into the Father's hands.

A sun-darkening storm has come suddenly with torrential rain and violent lightening.

Over by the Temple is a great commotion. Somebody shouts, "The veil is rent! The Holy Place has opened up!"

I'm trying to ask my commanding officer for permission to leave. He doesn't even acknowledge my presence. And then I discover he is experiencing the same awesome moment of forgiveness I did.

"Truly this man was the Son of God." he says

I've just reread these words. When I got to the place where the soldier threw down the whip, a crushing thought came.

Too many times I have picked it up--I've been the man with the whip.

Every time I have sinned my sweaty hands have reached for the whip and punished God.

Authors often assume the identity of their subject to sense more fully the emotions of an event. They call it writing in the “first person.”

I wasn't prepared for the stunning awareness that I was, indeed, that first person.

Too heavy for me, this weight of guilt.

Too heavy, that is, until once again I hear Him say, "Father, Forgive."

Thank you, Awesome God!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

DON’T STOP THE MUSIC!

When I was a baby, a toddler, a young lad, I was swaddled by the sounds, order and words of the music of my family’s faith. As a teen playing in the church orchestra I felt the power of tones and cadence and the guiding theology of the words. We called that special voltage of Christ exalting music the “anointing.” Like the anointing oil in some biblical stories.

It was warm and sweet and gentle and the music penetrated deep into our spirits and our memories.

Later I tried to drown out the faith words and orderly sounds by filling my mind with the rebellious, soul destroying torrent of secular music. Fewer and fewer wholesome songs made it to the world's playlists.

People are less and less able to tolerate silence—it lets them hear the voice of their own soul. Many override it with the jack-hammering anti-Jesus sounds and message of despair, sex and greed.

God is a God of order. Not chaos. Not confusion. There must be a comparison made to the orderly use of rhythm, sounds, tempo, emphasis that have made anthems of the faith be cherished for centuries, and the often frenetic order-breaking music sweeping the church today.

God is not the author of confusion—lack of order. The farther away from order we take our music, the closer we come to disorder and confusion—antithetical to very God we worship. Where would it take us if we explored God’s rejection of “strange fire” in this context?

The Holy Spirit is a life-enhancing gentleman. The unholy spirit is a demanding destroyer.
This is for sure; the music embeds the words deep into our lives and our memories. Those words become an underlying pattern for our thoughts and thus our actions.

Even in my most rebellious days I could always remember the words and power of Gospel music. When I encountered a crisis or a jubilant moment my mind would return to the words.

In the depths of my rebellion I hated the power those old songs had on me. Like the song, “Yes, I know, I surely know Jesus’ blood can make the vilest sinner clean.” I would curse the tears that came when I heard it.

The words were, indeed, a pulsing and action-auditing script for my life.

When we choose the music we will listen to, we are choosing the script that will be written into our hearts.

And that’s the word—script.

We call God’s Word the Scriptures. Perhaps you own heart has just now leaped to the awareness that God wills that the Scriptures become the script of our lives.

A few decades ago some pop-psychologist tried to make the case that nursery rhymes had life-long scripting power in our lives. One tried to make the case that the Little Red Riding Hood became the guiding plot—script—for the lives of the readers. He called it the LRRH script. He made the same case for other childhood fairytales.

Adding music and pulsing rhythm to the words intensifies their power. Tyrants and movement leaders know this well. China's Mao Tse Tung funded artists to teach the population songs of war and triumph. I have stood in primary schools in China and watched the glowing eyes of children as they sang about the glorious revolution.

I felt the power of a young choir in Hanoi as they sang about “Uncle” Ho Chi Minh.

I have known the soul-chilling presence of evil as African witchdoctors danced and intoned their hellish word-scripts.

I lived near the Waterloo battlefield where Napoleon’s army marched to the fifes and drums. The steady demand of the drum beat forced tired feet to keep marching. The lilting arpeggios of the fifes lifted the marchers' spirits above the fear of going into battle.

Our own military marching bands and martial music serve our warriors well.

Sadly, the devil knows how to use that power—often better and much more aggressively than we Christians. His unrelenting throb in the beat and the hell-anointed lyrics compel and control young people to join the driven throng hurtling to destruction—following the hell-written script.

But, the songs of faith are no less powerful.

Come with me to a room full of young people who spurn hell’s script and fill their minds and hearts with God’s scriptures and Christ-exalting music. Join us as they board the plane to fly to the hard places of the world to invest their lives in leading others to Christ. They will face life-threatening and theology-challenging situations. The embedded script will guide them through the dark days.

A caution to the church: bring back the songs—the scripts—about the blood, about repentance, about the call to foreign fields, about the soon return of Jesus Christ. Praise is wonderful and right. We all grow nearer to Him in Praise and Worship, but to leave out these themes denies believers that underlying script for victory.

When should we start the script with our children? Jean sang to our children from the day they were born. Plant—embed—the script early and deep. It will serve your family well.

Don’t stop the music.

Monday, March 30, 2009

THE HEART OF A CHILD

Five-year-old granddaughter Trinity came to me recently and said, "Pop, if I have ever done anything to hurt you would you forgive me?"

How could I describe what that did to me?

SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY

The devil knows if you have the spiritual authority to invade his territory.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

EMBARRASSED TO WITNESS?

Should our embarrassment to witness cost the untold one his soul?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Thursday, March 19, 2009

“I FELT HIS HEARTBEAT”

By Dave Ohlerking and his seven-year-old daughter Susan as they thought about how it might have been:


I really wanted to, but I’ve always been bashful. Besides, a great man like that wouldn’t want a seven year old girl like me to go up there and bother him.

I just knew the things he was saying were important—even I could understand. I could feel warm love feelings as he talked.

Some of the other kids were walking toward him. I decided to go, too, but my feet just wouldn’t move.

“The next time he looks at me,” I thought, “I’ll step out and go to him.” But when he turned and looked at me all I could do was just stand there and look back. His eyes seemed so full and knowing.

The feelings inside my heart were getting stronger and stronger.

“Okay,” I decided. “I’ll start counting and when I get to ten I’ll step out and go--I just won’t even think about it. I’m deciding right now to do it then!”

“One, two, three,” my excitement was growing. I knew I’d make it.

“Four, five, six, seven.” I was even beginning to breathe harder. My heart was really pounding. What a wonderful thing it would be to touch the great teacher.”

“Eight.”

“Nine.”

“Ten.”

Just when I reached ten he looked at me again! I Leaned forward to step out, but, again, my feet just wouldn’t move.

“Ten,” I tried again. Still no use—I couldn’t move.

He was still looking at me. I was even feeling a little dizzy.

“Why can’t I do it?” my heart cried out in my mind.

All at once it happened. Daddy must have known my feelings for he leaned over and gently pushed my shoulder as he whispered, “It’s okay, go to him!” he said.
And that’s all I needed! Everything that has been building up inside me just broke loose—and he was still looking at me.

I ran! You can imagine my joy when I saw him holding his hand out toward me. He hadn’t stopped looking into my eyes. His eyes were saying, “Come!”

His strong hand reached out and took mine and pulled me to him. How tiny my hand felt in his strong gentle hand.

His other arm reached around me and lifted me up onto his lap. I wasn’t afraid anymore! It seemed so natural to be in his arms.

He didn’t say anything to me—he didn’t have to. His eyes just kept looking into mine. His gaze filled me with warm peace and love and trust. I knew I’d never stop loving him.

With his right hand he gently pulled my head down onto his shoulder. I didn’t care that it would mess up my curls. I’d never felt safer.

His robe was coarse on my cheek. I knew the feel of that kind of cloth—it was part of my world, too.

I could smell the freshness of the fields on the cloth and the faint smell of olive oil on his beard. It all seemed right and familiar.

When he started to speak to the crowd I could feel the resonance of his voice in his chest. Such power and such love!

“Don’t stop these little ones from coming to me. The kingdom of heaven is made up of hearts of faith—just like the hearts of these children here beside me.”

He squeezed me a little when he said it.

“Unless you are willing to become like these children in your hearts, you won’t see Heaven.”

Everything was quiet for a while as the crowd thought on the words they had heard. I lifted my head and one more time our eyes locked together. I knew I’d never forget the feel of his heartbeat. It was quick and strong.

As I slid off his knee I looked over at Mommy and Daddy. Their faces were beaming. Their tears told me they knew what had happened. Oh, how much I loved them—and Jesus! What a wonderful day it was.

Running toward them I thought about what had just happened. “Being close to Jesus is the most important thing that has ever happened to me. Oh, thank you, Jesus, for letting me come!”

When I got to Daddy I just hugged him as tight as I could. Finally when I could speak I said, “Daddy I love him so much! I felt his heartbeat. I’ll never forget it. I’m going to do the things he says—always!”

“Me, too,” my Daddy answered.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

GLIMPSES OF THE GLORY OF GOD

I was in a hospital bed near death from a gunshot to my head. The doctors told my parents, "If he lives he'll be blubbering idiot." Then I heard Mom say softly in my ear, "Jesus is going to heal you."

I heard the most beatuful girl in the world say, "Yes, I'll marry you."

Then came the news our first child was coming. What a moment! Doctors had told us we'd never have children. Wrong.

I heard each of my children as they were learning to talk say, "Daddy, wuv you."

Recently I looked into the eyes of our grandaughter in her stroller as she reached to me and tried to call me "Pop."

Who can experience these things and doubt there is God?

I heard God ask me to be a missionary. It was quieter than a voice but louder than just a thought. I was four years old but I knew something important had just happened--something eternal.

That same voice has always been there in the hard and dangerous times on the mission field guiding me and giving me peace.

I've stood beside heads of state as a fellow minister layed hands on the leaders and asked God to touch the leaders and their country.

Imagine how it felt to see 25,000 people running across the stadium infield in respose to my friend's altar call.

I felt a bit dizzy as an official of a hostile government held my hands and told me Childrens Cup was welcome to come to his country anytime and anywhere.

These and thousands of other glimpses into the wonders and glory of God envelope my mind and my heart.

These glimpses overwhelm me now.

What will it be like when I stand in His presence and experience the whole vista of God's glory?

Saturday, February 28, 2009

A CALL FOR QUORUM

It takes a quorum of members present for a board to take action. Nobody can do it alone.

I see another place for the concept of quorum to apply--world evangelism.

The wonderful increase in strategic alliances among churches and ministries is putting together a quorum ready to take global action and experience sweeping revival.

I see quorum of people, resources, experience, communication tools, favor, and opportunities developing in the Body of Christ. Like never before we are poised and ready to take action on Jesus' command to go everywhere and tell everybody.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

TWO QUESTIONS

These two questions have challenged my soul today:

What could the devil offer you that you would trade for your soul?
Soul-shackling shekels of shame?
Soul-rotting immorality?
Soul-binding intoxicants?


Is there anything God could ask you for you would not give Him?
Your mind?
Your heart?
Your soul?
Your dollars?
Your life?

Monday, February 16, 2009

JOYCE MEYER AND USA CHURCHES ARE HELPING CHILDREN OF ZIMBABWE

Rev. Dixon Changara, Children's Cup's Zimbabwe director reports that even in the midst of the worst social and economic collapse of a country in memory, as many as 18,000 hurting children are receiving food everyday provided by Joyce Meyer Ministry.

Children's Cup team members are honored to play even a small part in making it happen.

Celebration Church of Jacksonville, Florida, and Household of Faith in Gonzales, Louisiana have planted churches totaling about 1,000 members in partnership with Children's Cup, as well as setting up and operating Children's Cup Care Points providing food and other care for hundreds more AIDS orphans and vulnerable children.

We salute the courageous and committed church leaders and Children's Cup teams that risk everything to relieve suffering and bring Hope--and Hope's name is Jesus--in one of the world's most dangerous places.

World Missions Director for Joyce Meyer Ministries, David Meyer often closes his letters with, "Together we are better."

It is especially true in Zimbabwe.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

GOLDEN 50

Last night Jean and I celebrated our 50th anniversary with family.

I told Jean that 50 kinda suggests the meaning of "half" as in 50%, so we should think in terms of being half way into our marriage. Not in years but in quality and accomplishments.

In 1983 for our anniversary I called her "My drinkin' buddy," referring to the metaphor that we drink from the same cup of life. We asked God to overflow our cup and let the overflow bless those around us.

God has flooded our lives with blessings and opportunities.

Thanks for 50 years, Drinkin' Buddy.
I love you MTYLTT.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

LEE DOMINGUE

Business leader and personal friend to the Ohlerking family and Children's Cup, Lee Domingue is running for the Senate.

I believe this man has been uniquely prepared by God for government leadership at both the State and National level.

Get to know him.

"THE SPLENDOR OF TRUTH"

I'm doing the "second shift," middle-of-the-night, jet lag thing.

I just watched a few minutes of Mother Angelica on the EWTN channel. I don't agree with everythig she says, but she does declare many truths I cherish.

The channel uses a wonderful phrase in its promo: "THE SPLENDOR OF TRUTH"

Wow! I love it--wish I had thought of it before. "Splendor " is a great word to describe experiencing Truth--whose name is Jesus.

When I was a rebellious teen-ager I went the theater in small town Jewel, Iowa, to see "Splendor in The Grass," one of the most explicit movies Hollywood had produced up to that time. I prayed the whole time I was there that the roof wouldn't fall in on me.

Even in my sinful state I felt that the subject of the movie prostituted the word "splendor."

One appropriate use of that word is to describe a clear conscience and a clean heart. There is great power in purity. With purity in marriage comes that splendor Hollywood can only fake.

Monday, January 26, 2009

MISSIONARY CANDIDATES

Last night Jean and I had the heavy privelege of discussing missions with a group of students from Healing Place School of Ministry--many of whom are headed into a missions career.

It was an informal discussion format and they asked thoughtful questions.

We came away thankful for our years of experience but jealous of their youth. It's great to watch their lives develop.

Such meetings are some of our favorite times.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

JET LAG

Maybe I'm old enought to get by with milking the excuse of recovering from "jet lag" for as much as three weeks. Think I'll try it.

Friday, January 16, 2009

WE ARE BACK IN THE USA

Three months of awesome days watching Children's Cup and our grandchildren in Swaziland, Africa grow ended too soon, yet we are happy to back in the USA and our grandkids here--and to experience Healing Place Church Baton Rouge again this weekend.

We are blessed!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

BACK TO USA TOMORROW

So soon it is over...
This three months in awesome Africa have really sped by. So many wonderful victories and complex challenges.
Never boring...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

SIN

Remember this one?
Sin will take you farther than you want to go.
It will keep you longer than you want to stay.
And it will cost you more than you can pay.

Friday, January 09, 2009

TWO MORE KNIFEPOINT ROBBERIES

I just learned that two more young ladies from the Healing Place Church Swaziland and Children's Cup teams were robbed at knifepoint the same day as the one I told about earlier.

All were unhurt.
All were very frightened.

I'm remembering an old phrase of the church, "Pleading the Blood of Jesus" over our people.

We are doing just that.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

ROBBED AT KNIFEPOINT

A few days ago the lovely teenaged daughter of some missionary friends here in Swaziland was robbed at knifepoint.

Although she was not hurt physically, the emotional impact is understandibly traumatic.

Please join us in praying for safety for the missionary families.

It really is true that missionaries live on the edge.