Recently, I was meeting with some friends and we were discussing how easy it is to read authors of books that offer us short chapters, interesting characters, plots that twist and turn and a little trouble through out. I know that personally I can but a book like that on my “read shelf” in a couple of days! But ask me how I’m doing with a “learning” book, say, “How to split wood for dummies,” or “What each book in the Bible is about” well that may take me a week or more. How about you? Why is that?

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To help us move into reading those “learning books” let’s look at the Bible.

Did you know that the Bible has short chapters?

Did you know that the Bible has interesting characters like Herod, Paul, Daniel, Moses, and many others as well as nations at war, conquests, troubles in the church, intrigue and even a bit of a discussion about sex? (Take a look at the Song of Solomon).

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Did you know that there are plots of sabotage, rebellion, adultery, even religion?

 

Did you know there is a little trouble all through out from Genesis 3 to Revelation 21 where the good guys win but it is a long hard battle that seems like two feet forward and five backward?

 

So what’s so hard about reading the Bible? Or another “learning book?”

Attitude. Want. Time commitment. Decision.

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Right now I’m reading what my son, when he was little would call, “a big book.” Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. It has 817 pages. I’m plowing through enjoying the story and seeing many parallels to today’s culture. That is what makes it a classic, it speaks to where we are today. The Bible is a classic as well. Reading it, all 1,189 chapters and meditating on it changes perspective, informs on truth and error, enlivens with the promises of God and opens a life-long appreciation for reading a (the) good book.

 

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The battle had ensued from time in the Garden

when Adam did sin and fall

from God’s presence

and

Abel

his first born son was murdered on the field.

Then sadness in Heaven

but terror on earth

did reign for time

till right it was for the Son of God

to come in sight to set it all a-right.

And when will this triumph arise from first a turn for worse,

For the enemy did win with sin, death and a curse.

Yet with promises made from God to humankind

By prophets, poets, hearts in tune

And by God’s loving heart did come, when time was due,

the Savior of all creation.

Jesus was his name

and with his birth grace did appear.

In word and presence, power and love

That once was forgotten and only dreamt.

With love he did approach

The final hours of the curse!

To place upon his head the Victor’s Crown

And sabotage the Devil’s realm.

Oh, one last try did Satan strive

To block the Son of Man

Prophecy foretold.

Hidden in an obscure cave

His body broken and abused.

Yet as told by hearts that were in tune

To God’s grace the morning did arise.

To change the providence of all creation

For life, not death,

Love not sin did triumph.

So people listen

May you hear with heart and ear

This truth of hope and love to know

That Christ did win in obedience and love

by giving us       His all.

And if you sense within your soul

The truth of this tale be told,

I ask that only you raise your head

To praise the One who died and rose.

Sing praises, tell of his wondrous work

Experienced by you – now and soon

That others may know what you have seen

Of hope and joy – birthed

from your grave.

I desire to love you Lord like you love me.

What might that be like?

Who gave himself up from the Throne to trod on earth with me?

Who kept himself pure for the cross’ agonizing death?

Whose words echo truth throughout?

What might that be like?

Who from Creation’s time when man did fall

Planned to come and restore it all?

Who tapped on Abram’s heart one day

And began the call of salvation’s stay?

What might that be like?

When no one knew how to live

Moses was given 10 rules to have?

When David sinned He sent Nathan

To tell a story for repentance aid?

What might that be like?

When God’s people stray and they do today

He sent the word through prophets warning?

And when God’s love was rejected in due time

The Son of Man humbly arrived?

What might that be like?

And today when I sin

Do I once again

Experience David’s joy of forgiveness?

And when I am confused and know not the way

Do I receive the rules of life?

Or when I sit at Jerusalem’s gate

And watch the Savior ride my way

Do I then see into His heart the love He has for me?

What might that be like?

Luke 11:29-32

When the crowds were increasing, Jesus began to say, “This generation is an evil generation; it asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be to this generation. The queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here! The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here!”

When Jesus was with the generation of his day, walking, preaching, teaching, doing miracles and guiding his followers people were looking for signs that he was really the Son of God. I think so many today are doing the same, they are looking for signs that Jesus is the way they are looking for, searching for and maybe have disregarded. My heart goes out for all in their search.

The only sign Jesus says here that is offered is the story of the Jonah which is found in the Hebrew scriptures in the book of Jonah. The sign Jesus refers to is Jonah being in the belly of the fish for some days. Jesus says this is the same sign the Jesus will offer to all humankind, his resurrection.

There are miracles in the Church worldwide.

There are people’s lives changed in every nation as they find the love and forgiveness offered at the cross.

There are transformations of life, business, marriages, sexuality, direction, addictions through the power of the Holy Spirit (part of the Trinity of God the Father, God the Son and the God the Holy Spirit, 3 in 1).

But what signs were they looking for at the time of Jesus? Just as many as today’s generations.

The sign that every generation asks for is something that they cannot find nor have satisfaction. For what sign but the life and words of Jesus, His cross, death and resurrection can there be for proof of who Jesus is?  That is it, nothing more and this sign found in the life of Jesus is the sign that all of creation stands upon at judgment, at the resurrection.

 

Father of mercy, I pray for all those who seek another sign that in their seeking the Church will stand forth proclaiming the truth of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ. And that this sign of His life, death and resurrection will draw forth faith for salvation that there will be rejoicing and no tears. Shape me Lord as your masterpiece that I may use the gifts you have given me to help others find your truth.

The Experiences of the Delight of God

Today in my devotions I reread Psalm 19 and I hope you find refreshment for your soul in reading these notes. I would be pleased to read your comments.

Ps 18 is an awesome song of praise for David who was a man caught between so many enemies who desired his capture and death. He says he was entangled, trapped and in distress with few options and God showed up. (4-6)

He says God is alive (46) and the only way that is proven (30) is that God rescued him (16-29). We know this happened because David was king of Israel after Saul’s attempt on his life. But in the midst of that struggle in David’s mind there had to be trust in what he knew God had promised him at his anointing (1 Sam).

He shouts out to God of being so much in his life – strength, David’s strength – when I think if strength to get through something I think of “my encourager,” “my confidant,” “my coach,” “my One who speaks to me in the night.” Turning my defeated mind and heart, my fearful nerves and expertise into hope. But a hope that is not hopeless, based upon sheer hope, but solid facts that help me to press on.

He finds the LORD his rock, fortress, savior and as a rock God is the protector like a high fortress where the enemy cannot scale, where the arrows fall short and the eyes cannot see in the caves of cool refreshment. (1-3)

He finds the LORD as the shield of safety and if he hides behind the shield it is a place of security. (2)

David is depending on God for his life, this isn’t platitudes and wishes and religious mumblings. This is a man who depends upon a friend for what he has said.

This is like the man who hears the diagnosis from the doctor and asks, “what’s the plan Doc?”

This is like the Christian who hears the promises of God in their soul and accepts it as true and acts upon it with diligence and trust risking their livelihood and their future. And as a result sees God act in ways that could only be God’s working.

And so he is able to say, “In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale a wall.” (29) because he has seen the LORD show up! Because his life reflected the trust that God can show up to!

Why did God show up? As I look at this psalm David says:

He was faithful (25)

He was a man of integrity, humility and word (25)

He was pure, in those days, he followed the commandments of God. (21,26)

He was innocent before God (20)

But one of the statements that really gives me pause was verse 19, “He lead me to a place of safety, he rescued me because he delights in me.” God delights in me? I really can do nothing that would cause God to delight in me. I’m not sure I delight in myself! But the blessing of God’s love, which apparently David saw, was this understanding. I pray we can see it. And I know that there are so many verses in the Old and New Testaments that show this love. And perhaps this is why David starts out, “I love you LORD.” (1)

This is true for me as well! (50) When I read the last version it is a promise that I’m sure Jesus read who was a descendant of David and is true for you and I. For the descendants of David are not just biological but spiritual as well as God told Abraham in Gen 12 and elsewhere, “your descendants will be as numerous as the stars.”

 

 

I’m not much on recording what I’ve been doing, even though it wouldn’t be all that difficult seeing the computer on which I type right now has a file called  of impossibly futile attempts at recording, “Diary.” Hmmm, perhaps I ought to write something?

So I will write to you my friend and tell you what I’m thankfully mindful of in a trying time of unthankfulness that seems relayed around the globe. I’m thankful for other bloggers who share positive insight into the world we share. I don’t say that to often to you but thank you for your frankness, your humor, your travels, your book reports, your struggles and victories and even though we do not live near by one another, your friendship.

I’m grateful for my wonderful family, my wife of 35 years of whom we had such a “SO” time this evening. (Okay, that is private.) I’m thankful for my daughter and her husband who have started up their marriage and love one another; for a dad, that is a relief. I’m thankful for my son who starts med school in the fall, for his interest in justice, healthy living and in fresh expressions of faith in others.

I’m thankful I got to preach recently to 60 people who are over 80 in a retirement home and the generosity of their comments makes public speaking, sharing the faith, and preaching the same sermon 4 times in one day very much worth it.

I’m thankful and deeply grateful for my colleagues in ministry at my church and those who’s minds and hearts of different denominations and locations around the world strike a cord of oneness around Christ’s work, the Spirit, our calling and hope.

Okay, I’ve written my gratitude. Do I copy and paste for my diary now?

Thanks for reading.

Hope

 

Last night was the first of the Presidential Debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and left on the outskirts because their numbers nationwide are two small were Jill Stine and Gary Johnson.

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In just a little over a month you and I will vote for the hope of the country. We will cast our one vote because we are citizens of the USA. Not every country can do this, is allowed to it, has the courage to change its top leader every 4 years without a revolution of clashes and anger and extreme bias. But we do.

But last night each candidate proposed that their way was best for the nation and the free world.

Hope

Hope – what is it?

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Famed cosmologist and author Stephen Hawking has asserted his belief that there is no heaven, and stated that he dismisses the idea of an afterlife as well. Hawking has challenged religious beliefs in the past, and affirmed his philosophy in a recent interview with the U.K. Guardian. In the interview, he said he was not afraid of death since he had faced the possibility of an early death for the last 49 years. A doctor diagnosed him with an incurable neuron disease at age 21, and he is now almost completely paralyzed.

Hawking classifies himself as a Deist, a person who believes in the existence of an impersonal god based on the evidence of reason and nature. He believes the universe and human beings exist due to coincidences and “spontaneous creation.” The famed author has said that science can explain the universe. He told a reporter, “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail.” He explained, “There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people in the dark.”

–Stephen Hawking: Afterlife is a fairytale, There’s no Heaven

 

Hope comes through faith in a personal God, not an impersonal one.

 

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 (CEV) My friends, we want you to understand how it will be for those followers who have already died. Then you won’t grieve over them and be like people who don’t have any hope. (14) We believe that Jesus died and was raised to life. We also believe that when God brings Jesus back again, he will bring with him all who had faith in Jesus before they died.

Hope.

We know hope.

It isn’t in looking down at someone and thinking the worse of them – it is seeing a person how God sees them.

Hope.

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There is a story about a woman caught in adultery and is about to be stoned and the crowd brings her out to stone her.

She is wrong.

She is guilty.

She is by the law of the land and her actions she earned death by stoning.

But the eyes of Jesus saw something in her and challenged all those who were right. And they were right – they were right in their judgment of her, they were right in their proposed actions, they were right by the law of the land but HOPE asks a simple question: How do you want to be treated when you do something wrong?

 

Hope.

Is what we do together.

See hope is something we can either take for ourselves and never give away.

Or

Hope can be something we take for ourselves and then share it.

Hope.

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When you pray with someone one – that’s hope.

When you walk with someone through some tough times – that’s hope.

When you just listen – that’s hope.

When you know that Jesus forgave you and so you forgive someone else – that’s hope.

 

Hope.

 

It is what our nation needs today.

 

We need to know that black lives matter.

We need to know that white lives matter.

We need to know that yellow lives matter.

We need to know that brown lives matter.

We need to know that straight and gay lives matter.

We need to know that sinners and saints lives matter.

We need to share the hope we have because Jesus died for us, for you and me.

 

This debate and the ones coming remind me of Psalm 33.

  17            A horse is a false hope for victory;

Nor does it deliver anyone by its great strength.

  18            Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him,

On those who bhope for His lovingkindness,

  19            To deliver their soul from death

And to keep them alive in famine.

  20            Our soul waits for the Lord;

He is our help and our shield.

  21            For our heart rejoices in Him,

Because we trust in His holy name.

  22            Let Your lovingkindness, O Lord, be upon us,

According as we have hoped in You.

 

If you want to ride a donkey into the next 4 years or if you want to ride an elephant for the next 4 years that is your choice. But that is a horse I don’t want to ride.

I don’t want to put my faith and hope in man or a woman.

I want to put my hope in the lovingkindness of God living through me and you to change our little world into a better place for everyone.

 

Hope.

 

I want to end this with a couple of quotes from some of our past presidents about hope:

 

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. ” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

 

“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.” – George Washington

 

Let us hope in the One who will never let us down.

Who calls us to courage.

Who calls you to use your mind and spirit to create a better place.

Who calls you by name and not a number on a ballot.

 

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Have you ever decided that you knew after months of thinking, praying, talking, raising money that what you planned wasn’t what God wanted? Its humbling isn’t it. It is an adventure backwards. It is like the Apostle Paul wanting to go to Asia and planning and praying and getting ready to go and God revealing his will in a dream – Nope, go to Macedonia! Well here is my team’s story in a letter I sent to my church about our mission to Haiti.

Jolitrou courtyard

It was in October of 2015 that our guest speaker for I Love Westwood spoke about Grace Children’s Hospital and over 30 people expressed an interest in the mission and the work in Haiti. People asked many questions, discovered the role of International Child Care and heard about our mission trip in 2016. After many months three people decided they would go on the mission from Westwood.

The church overwhelming supported Lloyd and Beth and Pastor Lee in giving towards their costs as well as supplying money for the projects at Jolitrou outside Cap Haitian. The plan for the team was to raise money for one project the clinic desperately needed and do a VBS for 60 children, sponsor a 6-hour calligraphy course, learn more about the clinic’s work, do some physical therapy work and meet the staff. The goal to complete the projects and be able to bring the story home to further a partnership with Jolitrou.

The team consisted of 3 from Westwood, 2 from Anderson Hills, 2 from Dayton and 1 from Michigan. All United Methodists with 4 having been there before and 4 being new to Haiti. The team started meeting in May of 2016 monthly together with phone calls to MI, we divided into our jobs and focus, prayed together and began to raise money for travel, in country costs and the projects.

We were able to raise thousands of dollars with the help of many people and the Wesmates, people with the raffle and concert, runners who were pledged, money from Costa Rica and our mission endowment along with second mile giving. We were fully expecting to go up until Monday night, August 15, 2016.

Jolitrou volunteers

What happened?

First we received an email from a doctor friend who has traveled to Haiti over 20 times warning us of the upheaval in the land over political issues on August 13. This is not uncommon to Haiti as the four who have gone before realized but still the threat was real. After checking with ICC we decided not to stay in Port-au-Prince (PAP) and skip staying at Walls Mission Hostel and visiting Grace in PAP and then driving 8 hours to Cap Haitian. Instead we decided to fly to Cap from PAP on Sunday, 9/4 to avoid any violence. That seemed like a great idea and yet there was an unease about the decision from each of us. Not one person was absolutely confident that our goal was to go but instead it seemed that God was leading us to give especially once we realized the value of the monetary gift to Jolitrou over our being there.

  • Roof replacement: $4400
  • Tile work ~ 1400
  • A new motorcycle ambulance
  • A new outhouse ~$2400
  • A nurse’s salary: $4,500 for a year!
  • completely staff and support the clinic: $11-13,000 for a year!

What would it be like if we gave Jolitrou the money we raised with ICC’s supervision and Robenson (ICC’s interpreter and employee) on the ground to work with the clinic in doing the greatest need to the least? Should we not go? What do we tell everyone who was at the concert just the day before? What do we do with the funds we raised?

After much prayer and discussion, it was decided to give and therefore take our presence out of the cost factor and save as many lives as we possibly could. No one is supporting Jolitrou, why not us?

Nurse

So today we announce (8/16) that the Haiti Mission Team 2016 is not going to Haiti in September but working with ICC to decide on the projects that the funds can provide. We hope to give a complete financial picture as well as a complete mission list to all through the Chimes and FB in the near future.

We will be talking to people who gave believing in our mission to see if they would rather not give to Jolitrou but receive their money back or give in another direction. Your money and gift to us can and will save literally thousands in this year and the years ahead.

Thank you.

That was the letter. Like I said, it felt like God rejected us and in a way God did. Because our obedience to our original dream opened up a whole new perspective to what our mission really was for Uolitrou. It wasn’t for our going, but for our support and faithfulness to a God goal that really was a surprise to all of us.

Just a sidenote: no one has asked for their money back.  If you would like to support Jolitrou contact International Child Care in Kalamazoo, MI. Tell them Lee sent you.

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What do you see in this picture? Of course there is Michael Phelps, the greatest Olympic swimmer of all time and then there is “that guy.” What are they looking at? Michael is looking to the goal, the end of the pool, the turning point, the finish line. That guy is looking at Michael.

Both are swimming, but one is leading and the other is following. Both have their own race to win which is to me the biggest observation. Those lanes mean they both must finish, must swim their best, must win the race. But we all know in the Olympics only one gets the gold medal.

So what is our takeaway here?

Every church in our community is running a race, must run the race and run it to win. Win what? We all have or are supposed to have the same goal – doing, being all Jesus wants us to be and do. That is our gold medal. Each church must keep their eyes on the goal because when we step out of the pool of life as we know it, there is a new pool that is crystal clear with no chemicals to keep it looking pure.

Every church as the choice to compare themselves to other churches and fret and frown and feel around for a stroke to move ahead further or what every church, including us must do is be all we are. When Phelps is training and swimming in competition he is doing it for himself, to better himself. That guy is as well, but he forget to keep his eyes on the goal.

Not only churches have to consider this but you do as well. You have to decide if your eyes are on the goal that Christ has laid before you to be a believer and do things believers do or are you going to watch someone else swimming in the pool of life that may or may not have the same goals as you?

  • Do your words match your actions?
  • Does your effort lead to the upward call of Jesus in your life?
  • Does your work reflect your faith?
  • Do you read other’s lives and books and watch movies critically from a Christian worldview or do you find yourself accepting more of the political worldview or economic worldview or politically correct worldview?

Of course there are many questions we can ask ourselves about any goal we might have and there is value in having role models to observe, learn from and grow as a result of knowing of them. I have role models and I’m sure you do as well. But still the ultimate realization is that I have to finish my race too. My role models can’t and won’t run it, swim it, field it, say it for me.

One of the people not seen in this picture is Michael’s support – his mom, girlfriend and child, coach, team mates even the person who puts those suction cups on his body. Yet the picture speaks to us here as well – something “that guy” forgot – he isn’t on Michael’s support team. It is time for him to look to the goal, to do his best and not compare himself to someone else. Even if it is Michael Phelps.

In the wake of the continued murders and the lack of sanctity of life my heart and soul cry out to you oh Lord. Draw this people from their pursuits of pleasure and mindless focus on self to know that freedom means responsibility for one another. Those of us in some leadership position may we be slow to point fingers but quick with mercy and justice for all in this nation beginning in our homes, our schools, our communities and neighbors. Truly may your Spirit descend upon all that we may seek godly leadership and not leadership that seeks what we desire over what is good in your eyes. Forgive me Father of the nations for my part in being so self-centered and protective of my wants and lifestyle that I miss what my brother and sister may need as well whether black, white, red, yellow or blue. Point me to my vocation as a citizen of democracy, decency, and faith. Faith in the truth of your word and faith that together humankind, taking on your character, can do what is right, holy, just, loving and pure.

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