Friday, June 24, 2011

Take Jesus at His Word and Depart

Book Give Away: Leave a comment to possibly win a copy of my newest book: A Still and Quiet Soul: Embracing Contentment. You can read more of my friend's journey in chapter seven.
“My friend Bev.” That sounds like the title to a children’s story, but it’s not. Bev is a brave, great grandmother, who has battled cancer for eight years. I met her in California in 2006 where she attended a class I taught, “Praying in the Name of Jesus.” I later flew to her home state of Tennessee because she arranged for me to keynote at her home congregations’ annual women’s renewal.

            We have emailed back and forth, phoned each other, and we reunited again this May on the Pepperdine University Campus, and I finally got to meet her sweetheart, John, to whom she’s been married for over 50 years. Beverly again attended a presentation I made when Leafwood Publishers launched my newest Bible study book, “A Still and Quiet Soul: Embracing Contentment.” I didn’t want readers to just “hear” my voice and conclusions about contentment. Rather, I wanted readers to hear from others who had struggled with inner peace and arrived at a better place. So I included twelve personal essays written by three men and nine women (one of those men, “The Courier’s” own Mark Hayter), and Beverly’s essay is among those.

            During her fourth episode with cancer in the fall of 2009, Beverly began writing a blog about her journey with the dreadful disease. Her posts can be found at . Between reading each other’s blogs, personal emails, and talking by phone, we’ve kept our friendship updated. This May on our mutual visit to Malibu, California, she and I discussed compiling her newsy, history-laced, faith-filled blog into a memoir for her family or for wider distribution, if the Lord leads to that. When she returned to Tennessee, she experienced more pain, and her doctors diagnosed that the cancer is spreading. She can’t have any more surgery, so she faces more chemo or other treatments. Naturally, Bev wants to live, but part of the reason she undergoes the many experimental treatments is to further medical research and perhaps give another person the opportunity to live and regain their health.    

            I told you about Bev because rubbing shoulders with her faith has strengthened mine. Her cancer is not the only tough battle she has faced in life. She and John reared a mentally challenged son, Johny. Read more details of those blessings and challenges in her blog and in my book. Today, I told you about Beverly because of a story I read in the Bible this week, where one phrase captured my heart, reminded me of her, and led me to a better way of living out my faith.

Jesus returned to Cana, Galilee after the Feast of the Passover in Jerusalem, and a distraught, royal ruler from Capernaum, Galilee approached Jesus with a request for his son’s healing. He “begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death” (John 4: 47). For this occasion, Jesus chose a long-distance miracle rather than traveling to the boy’s bedside. After Jesus made a comment about miracle seekers and belief, the father again urged, “Sir, come down before my child dies” (vs. 49).

Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.” Here’s the verse that impacted my heart and caused me to further admire this father: “The man took Jesus at his word and departed.” He believed, walked away, and started down the road toward his home. Could I do that? Could I accept Jesus’ words as truth, especially in the dire situation of life or death? Before that daddy ever reached Capernaum, he met his servants on their way to find him and they had tremendous news. His son thrived! The dad asked when his son began to recover, and the servants said, “The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour.” The dad recognized it was the exact time Jesus said, “Your son will live” (vss. 50-54). Then his household believed, too.

The dad’s complete faith at ‘taking Jesus at his word” and turning away from Jesus and beginning his journey toward Capernaum helped me. How many times have I just needed to take Jesus at his word and depart from worry, hand wringing, and sleepless nights? Many of you are good at taking Jesus at his word and departing with faith instead of worry, but I still need much growth in that area.

I pray for Bev and any of you who struggle with similar troubles. May God bless you with assurance from Jesus, our always faithful brother. My friend Bev lives out her story of faith each day, and she summed up her outlook on trusting Jesus when she said to me, “I’m just living from scan to scan from grace to grace.”

May we all be as gracious to want the best for our neighbors and to surrender ourselves to the purposes of God.

Index Card Verse for Week 25: “You should not look down on your brother in the day of his misfortune….nor boast so much in the day of their calamity” (Obadiah 1:12-13).

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Tired Dad and a Coca-Cola

My husband told me about a memory from his childhood, about a dad, a truck driver who looked very weary. Dave said he was about 12 and was with his dad at the Houston port to fill six barrels with molasses for their dairy farm. They were paying for their molasses inside an office where truck drivers came to finish their paperwork.

            The trucking office had a habit of giving each semi-truck driver a cold Coca Cola, the ones in the thick greenish glass bottles. The cool drink helped to somewhat offset the blistering summer heat and sometimes long waits to get loaded or unloaded. Drivers could drink it in the office or pay the bottle deposit and take the refreshing drink with them.

            One driver had a wife and child with him. In 1960, the 18 wheelers were not what they are today. In 2011, some of the over-the-road trucks have luxury walk-in sleepers. They have sleeping berths designed as a bedroom or it can be transformed into a sitting area. The trucks have power steering, air conditioning, and room to drive comfortably.

The cabs of yesteryear were small, little more than a few feet wide. Just steering a truck around town on a humid Houston day would be enough to cause most to look for a job elsewhere. The single cot-size sleep area could be accessed by climbing through an opening between the cab and sleeper, that opening a bit larger than a backdoor welcome mat.

            Back to the dad in the freight office, he asked if he could buy an additional cola and he paid two bottle deposits. Dave, even at 12-years-old noticed how tired the man seemed. He then watched as the thoughtful driver walked out to his truck and gave one cold drink to his wife and one to his child, taking none for himself.

            Too often we do forget the hard work that dads do: the earnings, the long hours, the sleepless nights when bills to grocer, doctor, repairmen and such don't match the income. Also, men often sacrifice their health so their wife and kids can live a more comfortable life. And for the most part they aren't whiners; they don't want any recognition and awards. They simply appreciate respect and love from the ones they are honor bound to shield.

            A Nomadic tribe says that a woman is the tent pole. If women are the tent pole, then the men are the fabric that protects and holds it all together. They provide security and courage and literally lay down their lives daily for their families. I have a very soft spot in my heart for men who faithfully provide for their families, whether they work at computers and desks or at the helm of draglines digging gravel pits.

            The words of this week’s memory verse come from Amos, a shepherd called from among the sheep to tend to people. Remember, most dads just want to be hugged and thanked for the many cold cups of water they’ve handed to us over the years.

            Happy Father’s Day!    

            Index Card Verse for Week 24: “Seek the LORD and live” (Amos 5:6).

Friday, June 10, 2011

Caught and Taught Faith

A bold title to an article stated, “God Has No Grandchildren.” Most of us know that faith isn’t as easily bequeathed to children as a set of silverware. While children may keep inherited silver, they may not embrace their parent’s faith.

In Darryl Tippens’ book Pilgrim Heart: The Way of Jesus in Everyday Life, he encourages believers to model and experience the Christian disciplines.

Two statements in his foreword shine a little light into my soul and cause me to give further thought to this faith-communities’ part in ensuring that there is another generation of devoted Christians. Darryl Tippens mentioned in his book and lecture a probing question Jesus asked, “When the Son of Man comes again, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8).

The second challenge came when during a lecture I heard Tippens give statistics from author Charles Williams. Because generations die off physically, faith is reestablished through new converts and Christians’ children. Here’s the staggering fact: In just 30 years of passive living, not reaching out to neighbors and not teaching children, the church could die in a locale.   

     Love for God is both taught and caught. Following are suggestions for parents who long for their children to inherit more than earthly estates:

  • Be a “taught and caught” parent. Model Jesus and talk about your devotion to God’s Son.
  • Act like God acts. Forgive like God forgives. Repent in your home before spouse and children when you do wrong.
  • Kick the world out of your home. Make a safe shelter where children learn godly virtues. Sleazy seems to be the world’s motto. Look at the top titles of music that teens are hearing. You don’t even have to hear the lyrics.
  • Read and tell Bible stories to your children and grandchildren. Memorize with them. Where do your kids get most of their Bible learning? Home should be their primary “Sunday school.”
  • Talk about your faith, your struggles. Do your children know your salvation story? Share how you came to know the Lord.

The really good news is this: when God gives us a task such as “go and make disciples” he also equips us for the work. Pray as you grab hold of God’s promises and his hand because we have plenty of work assignments during the next 30 years — to assure that faith will be found in this community. This week, recycle your faith into a younger generation as you tell them about the holiness, justice, and loving kindness of God.

Index Card verse for week 23: “Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation” (Joel 1:3).

Friday, June 03, 2011

Lions Gone Mild--June 3

This week we’ll look at an ancient story and a twenty-first century story about ferocious lions gone mild. In both of these stories, jungle cats will forego their kill-to-eat instincts and instead leave an older man and, centuries later,  a twelve-year-old Ethiopian girl unharmed.

Around 605 BC, the biblical story of Daniel begins when Jerusalem was invaded and its finest youths were carried away to serve a foreign government. The king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, wanted apt young men from Israel’s royal family of Judah to serve in his court. One young man, Daniel (his Hebrew name meaning “judgment of God”), was destined forever to have a place in biblical and world history. He was given the Chaldean name of Belteshazzar (signifying “keeper of the treasures of the master”).  In Isaiah 39:7, a prophecy foretold that the young captives would be made eunuchs. Captives in training to reach high ranks in foreign governments were often rendered impotent so they could not produce offspring to challenge the throne.

Daniel served under several heads of state growing older and older in Babylon. When Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, he appointed Daniel and two others over the 120 governors of provinces. By now, Daniel is an older gentleman, probably approaching 90-years-old. Some governors didn’t like Daniel and wanted to discover unseemly behavior to tarnish his years of service. When they found nothing, they schemed to use his virtuous prayers against him. The governors asked King Darius to sign an edict stating that for 30 days no one could petition anyone except the king.

Their proposed punishment for offenders would be a free overnight stay at the Den of Lions. Once the edict was published, Daniel’s enemies obviously reported that Daniel still knelt at his window facing Jerusalem, and prayed three times a day. Much to the dismay of King Darius, he had to order his valued administrator to a pit of ravenous lions. Darius couldn’t sleep that night, but perhaps Daniel relaxed and dozed off when he saw that an angel of the Lord had shut the lions’ mouths. The ill that the governors had plotted for Daniel backfired, and they and their families were thrown into the pit and devoured by lions.

In Ethiopia in 2005, a group of seven men abducted a 12-year-old girl to force her to be one of their wives. The United Nations reports that in rural Ethiopia still experiences 70% of marriages taking place through abduction. A group of men will overpower a young girl to illegally force her into marriage. Afterwards they beat her into submission, and then they battle among themselves to see who will win the young virgin.

After beating this terrified 12-year-old girl, the seven men began their games to see who would get to wed her. The girl, the youngest of four siblings of brothers and sisters, was extremely traumatized by the events. They held her captive and beat her for seven days. On the seventh day, a group of three Ethiopian lions emerged from the wilds and chased off the seven men. For a half day, the huge cats stood around the young girl, never attempting to harm her. On that same day when the police and her frantic family finally located her, Sgt. Wondimu Wedajo said about the massive lions, "They stood guard until we found her and then they just left her like a gift and went back into the forest."

“If the lions had not come to her rescue, then it could have been much worse," explained Sgt. Wedajo. Four of the men were caught and a search was ongoing for the other three.

Every time I read Daniel’s story and this more recent account of the young girl’s rescue and protection, I’m reminded that we serve a God of miracles. God -- who turns things around, reverses nature, raises the dead, calls whales into service, or makes the sun shine longer than usual. Daniel surrounded for many years by foreign gods continued to serve the God of his youth, the God of his old age,  “who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not” (Romans 4:17).

When God halted the appetite of lions in Babylon, he got the attention of King Darius, who sent out a message to his entire kingdom that the God of Daniel should be revered. Memorize that message (below). Write it on your number 23 index card and think about our Father at work shutting the mouths of lions centuries ago and 2005 in Ethiopia.

Index card verse for week 22: “He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions” (Daniel 6:27).