Psalm 28:1- 5

To You, LORD, I call; You are my Rock, do not turn a deaf ear to me. For if You remain silent, I will be like those who go down to the pit. Hear my cry for mercy as I call to You for help, as I lift up my hands toward Your Most Holy Place. Do not drag me away with the wicked, with those who do evil, who speak cordially with their neighbors but harbor malice in their hearts. Repay them for their deeds and for their evil work; repay them for what their hands have done and bring back on them what they deserve. Because they have no regard for the deeds of the LORD and what His hands have done, He will tear them down and never build them up again.  Psalm 28:1- 5 (NIV)

Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me.  Psalm 51:10 (ESV) 

These are the two Scriptures that have been on my heart today. There is so much polarization in the country right now, and I just don’t know what to do about it. My prayer is that I be a part of the solution rather than a part of the problem. 

In Psalm 28, David, the author, tells God that if He remains silent in the situation, then he will sink down into the pit with the evil doers. Basically saying, LORD, if You don’t help me out, I’m gonna go off on someone. And I think there are a lot of people in America who feel that way right now. But not all of them have a relationship with God, not all have Holy Spirit inside to help them make Godly decisions. So we who are Christian, who do have Holy Spirit inside of us, need to be especially attached to God in prayer during this time. And we, as His representatives on earth, have to do what He would do.

We, as the LORD’S representatives,  cannot remain silent. We cannot sit here and just watch any more. We need to lead the way to change. And the only thing that can bring the degree of change that is needed is love. “And they will know we are Christians by our LOVE.” 

I was discussing some of the perceived differences between the races last night. We started out somewsomewhat heated, but as we both persisted, explained what we meant, and listened respectfully to each other, we made some progress. We have a ways to go, but we took a step. What it mostly comes down to, I believe, is misunderstanding. And I don’t mean this in any sort of cavalier way, but I mean a deep misunderstanding of thoughts, feelings, emotions, and even words. We need to sit down and talk, define words, what we mean when we say, whatever. We need to find the common ground and walk into the future together or we will all be destroyed.

This will still take some time, so we need to be patient with each other. I wish we could change everyone in the blink of an eye, but we can’t, so we need to keep taking the baby steps now. But we can’t stop. We need to keep moving with those steps. And just as a child learning to walk, if we fall, we can’t just sit there and cry, we have to get back up and try again. “Let us run with endurance the race set before us.” Hebrews 12:1

This week’s Scripture memory verse is going to be Psalm 51:10, and let it become your prayer, not just for this week, but forevermore. “Create in ME a clean heart and renew a right spirit within ME.” Let the change begin with YOUR love!

READING PLAN 

Day 29  Exodus 2- 3 Psalm 26 Mark 5

Day 30 Exodus 4- 5 Psalm 27 Mark 6

Day 31 Exodus 6- 7 Psalm 28 Mark 7

Day 32 Exodus 8- 9 Psalm 29 Mark 8

Day 33 Exodus  10- 11 Psalm 30 Mark 9

Day 34 Exodus 12 Psalm 31 Mark 10

Day 35 Exodus 13- 14 Psalm 32 Mark 11

1 Timothy 1:1- 11 Part 3

The last section of this passage speaks of the law. It tells for whom the law is established. 

“Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for this who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslaved, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted,” (1 Timothy 1:8- 11).

I work at a job where contact with the public is continuous. Many are in violation of the law when they come to my place of employment. Many are contrite, apologetic, and requesting mercy and grace. I’m not law enforcement, so there’s no problem with me.  We get their business done, and they move on. But the next year they are back, contrite again, apologetic again, asking for mercy again. And so the next year and the year after that and the year after that….

Some really don’t seem to even notice that they have been in violation of the law and just move on with their lives in the oblivion they’ve created for themselves. And then, there are those who flaunt their defiance of the law. They seem almost proud that they have gone for lengths of time without being caught. Some who have been caught are outraged that they are being punished. 

These are the groups for which the law is established. For those who feel bad for what they’ve done, yet never change, for those who are so focused on themselves that they pay no attention to anything or anyone, and those who flaunt their lawlessness, brazenly defying anyone who tells them they are wrong. 

Some may think there is a difference in the scale or measure of wrongness between these groups.  They think that those who are oblivious or ignorant of their wrongness are less seriously wrong than those who are openly defiant, and those who recognize their wrongness, admit it, and apologize, paying the penalty willingly,  even less so. But Jesus says that it doesn’t matter, wrong is wrong, whether done knowingly or unknowingly, admitted or not. And wrong deserves punishment. All sin is sin.

In Psalm 14, David says,  “There is none who does good, not even one,” (Psalm 14:3b). In the first verse of this Psalm he talks about the flaunter when he says, “The fool in his heart says “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good.” (Emphasis added) We are all in the same boat. We all fall into one of these groups, probably even all of them at one time or another. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23).

The 1 Timothy passage we are looking at has quite a list of wrong doings, from what we would consider little things to great big, honkin’ huge sins, from “simple” disobedience to homosexuality, immorality, murder, and “WHATEVER else is contrary to sound doctrine,” (Emphasis added). All that and more is sin. And any and all sin disqualifies us to be in the presence of God. Yes, the law of God is that harsh. And that’s what a lot of non- believers react to when they say that God is an angry God or a mean or cruel God.

But those who believe that God is mean, angry, or cruel, missed the last part of the sentence, verse 11, “in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.” The gospel, the good news, that God, though He will punish by eternal separation from Himself, with NO chance of reprieve after out physical body dies, (a fate worse than physical death), anyone who does not accept His free gift, will grant forgiveness, grace, and mercy to anyone and EVERYONE who does accept the free gift. 

That’s a really long sentence. There’s a lot going on in it. And it’s really hard to believe. REALLY? No matter what I’ve done, all I have to do is accept the gift and God forgives me? I didn’t believe it for decades, preferring instead to try to devise my own way to get to God. I believed there was a God, but I didn’t believe that the only way to God was through Jesus. I believed that as long as I was mostly a good person and tried not to hurt others, I could still get to Heaven. OH, how wrong I was. 

The funny thing is, what I believed, (and probably nearly all non- believers think as well), that what is perceived as the hard way, saying yes to Jesus, is SO MUCH easier than trying  (and failing) to do it on your own. The perceived difficulty is deception from the devil. He doesn’t want people to know the truth. His mission is to kill, steal, and destroy, and he stops at nothing to do that. 

So, if you want grace, mercy, and forgiveness, all you have to say is, “YES.” Tell Jesus that you believe in Him, that you’re tired of trying to do it all on your own, and you want Him to come into your life and be your LORD and Savior. It’s NOT giving up control, as many believe, but finally taking control and moving in the right direction. Repenting of sin is simply turning around and moving in the opposite direction from where you’ve been going.

If you take advantage of this incredible free gift, PLEASE contact me and I’ll help you with your next steps. The reward is worth the journey.

This week’s Scripture memory verse is the most famous, John 3:16 and the less famous verse that follows it.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” John 3:16- 17

READING PLAN

Day 22  Gen 39- 40  Psalm 20 Matt 25

Day 23  Gen 41 Psalm 21  Matt 26

Day 24 Gen 42- 43 Psalm 22:1- 18 Matt 27

Day 25 Gen 44- 45 Psalm 22:19- 31 Matt 28- Mark 1

Day 26 Gen 46- 47 Psalm 23 Mark 2

Day 27 Gen 48- 49 Psalm 24 Mark 3

Day 28 Gen 50- Exodus 1 Psalm 25 Mark 4

1 Timothy 1:1- 11 Part 2

As I mentioned in the last post, Paul had issued a warning, documented in Acts, to beware of certain people in Ephesus who were preaching a different doctrine, drifting into myth and speculation, and not stewarding the faith in the proper manner. Here, he is urging Timothy to stand up boldly for the true faith of Scripture, “proclaiming the true and original message of faith As taught by Christ and the apostles,” (pg 2094, ESV Fire Bible).

What is that “true and original message of faith”? Verse 5 of our passage says, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” I really like the first two lines of the study note in the ESV Fire Bible for this verse. It says, “The ultimate goal of all instruction from God’s Word is not Bible knowledge in itself – knowledge cannot save us – but an inward spiritual transformation that radically changes ones moral character. If genuine, this change will express itself in love and purity of heart (i.e., total devotion to God in thoughts, motives and behavior),” (pg 2094).

We hear lots about purity nowadays. We hear the good, the bad, and the ugly. You need to keep yourself pure for your future spouse. It’s something that the world doesn’t seem to care about anymore. And it’s something that’s difficult to do, because of the pressures put on us by the world, unless we stay plugged in to the Word and lean in to the support of Holy Spirit. But if we do stay in the Word, stay in tune with Holy Spirit, if we are transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2), the automatic result will be purity of heart from which moral purity follows naturally. But if we drift, get distracted, listen to the voice of the world, we can be drawn away quickly.

We need to know who we are listening to and not let those outside influences distract us from the voice of our One and Only. And that’s not always an easy thing to do. Sometimes the voice will be a voice calling from the wilderness, a generic voice of the world saying that this is okay or that is okay. “It’s okay to live together, you’re probably going to get married eventually anyway.” “There are dozens of pens in the supply closet, this one won’t be missed.” It’s like the cartoon of the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other. Don’t give in to the devil’s voice.

Other times the voice is a friend, even a close friend. “Oh come on, we’re adults. What’s wrong with an R- rated movie? The sex scenes (or the violence, or the foul language, or the depictions of the occult,…) aren’t that bad.” “Come on, the party’s going to be great. You don’t have to drink (or get high) if you don’t want to.”

And sometimes the voice is a professing strong Christian, or even a close family member. “But don’t forget what Paul said, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet,”” (1 Timothy 2:12). (Okay, opening a huge can of worms here. Much more on this in a future post.) And sometimes those loved ones, family members, or purported strong Christians fall into the realm of verses 6 and 7, which state, “Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.” (ESV). They read the Scriptures, but they don’t listen to Holy Spirit for proper interpretation, they only listen to their own thoughts, or those of the world, and they end up being off, taking things out of context. And when it comes to being off, a little or a lot makes no difference. Off is off when it comes to the Word of God.

Our only influence should be Holy Spirit. He lives inside us. He knows us better than anyone else in the world. He is the Spirit of God, given to us as a gift, to be a helper to us when the voices of the world start calling out to us. He is the Voice of Truth spoken of in the Casting Crowns song. So, the Voice of Truth, Holy Spirit speaking inside of us, keeps us focused on our King of kings and LORD of lords, Jesus. And staying focused on Him, being in His Word, keeps our minds renewed, resulting in a pure heart which, naturally, leads us to keeping ourselves pure. Pure of heart, pure of mind, pure of body. This should be our aim.

This week’s Scripture memory verse is Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Last week I forgot to include some questions for thought. This week, I’m remembering in time. So, what voice do you listen to most often? Do you listen to the Voice of Truth? Or do you tune it out and listen to friends or family or voices of the world?

READING PLAN
Day 15: Gen 28-29 Psalm 15 Matt 18
Day 16: Gen 30 Psalm 16 Matt 19
Day 17: Gen 31 Psalm 17 Matt 20
Day 18: Gen 32- 33 Psalm 18:1- 24 Matt 21
Day 19: Gen 34- 35 Psalm 18:25- 50 Matt 22
Day 20: Gen 36 Psalm 19:1- 6 Matt 23
Day 21: Gen 37- 38 Psalm 19:7- 14 Matt 24

1 Timothy 1:1- 11 Part 1

There are so many lessons (or messages) we can learn (or receive) from the Scriptures. Often there are many within the same passage. And it’s really amazing, as you grow in relationship with the LORD,  and reread Scriptures you’ve read many times before, to see how new lessons emerge as you mature in your faith.

In this passage from Paul’s first letter to Timothy, who was leading the church at Ephesus at the time, the first message I am receiving is that we have to be so very, very careful to pay attention to what Scripture says, and ONLY what Scripture says. It is so easy to fall into error if we are not paying attention, studying and knowing the Scriptures, and growing in relationship with God.

At the time Paul wrote, there was a problem brewing within the Ephesian church. Paul warned against it when he was there on his third missionary journey. Luke even wrote about it in Acts. First Paul instructs the elders to, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood,” (Acts 20:28). Though this message is directed to the overseers of the Ephesian church, overseers being primarily the leaders of the church, pastors and ministers, remember that we, as believers, are ALL ministers of the Faith so it’s important for us ALL to pay careful attention to ourselves. In Acts 20:30, Paul warns, “from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.” In other words, other believers (from among your own selves), who are not keeping keeping careful watch, will twist the Word and draw people away into error.

It’s so VERY important for us to be in the Word, to know the Word, so that when someone twists the Word, we know it, and we can speak against the error. (Notice I said to speak against the error, not against the speaker). This makes me think about the U.S. Treasury department and the agents that are trained to spot counterfeit money. Throughout their entire, very extensive training, they never, yes, I said NEVER, look at counterfeit bills. They only look at the real deal. They get so intimately familiar with the real bills that they can see differences in an instant.

So, dig into the Word, grow your relationship with God, and get so intimately familiar with Scripture that you see any differences in an instant. Like the Bereans, test everything said, even from the pulpit, searching the Scriptures to be sure it’s right. Even “from among your own selves” can come error. In other words, don’t just assume that everything preached from a pulpit, or spoken to you by someone in authority, is correct. Search it out for yourself. Ask Holy Spirit to guide you. And remember to look at the whole context and meaning of the original writers. Single verses, or parts of verses, can be twisted to mean whatever we want. Look to see what the author meant, and again, listen for the voice of Holy Spirit in all your study.

This week’s Scripture memory verse is Acts 17:11:
“Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the Word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”

READING PLAN
Day 8: Gen 16- 17 Psalm 8 Matt 10
Day 9: Gen 18- 19 Psalm 9 Matt 11
Day 10: Gen 20- 21 Psalm 10 Matt 12
Day 11: Gen 22- 23 Psalm 11 Matt 13
Day 12: Gen 24 Psalm 12 Matt 14
Day 13: Gen 25- 26 Psalm 13 Matt 15
Day 14: Gen 27 Psalm 14 Matt 16- 17

I Have Decided to Follow Jesus

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, it’s been quite a while since I wrote. And as you discovered last week, the main reason is, I’ve been struggling. It’s been a really rough year. And it’s been an all over struggle, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, with a little bit of financial struggle thrown in for fun. But I’m on my way back. There’s still a long way to go, but there are improvements in all areas and I’m on a definite upswing.

One of the things I’ve struggled with, not just over the last year, but throughout the life of this blog, is writing on a regular basis. One of the reasons, I believe, is not having a clear cut purpose for this blog. Well, that is changed. I said it last week, and I’ll say it again here, “I have decided to follow Jesus.” And I mean that literally, figuratively, and humorously as well, since every time I think or write that line actually sing it out. What I mean is, while I’ve tried using the blog simply to complete assignments for classes, or to showcase some of my writing, both of which will continue on occasion,  I have not had a clear purpose. It’s all been sort of thrown together whenever I’ve gotten around to doing something. Sure, there was purpose to the writings for my classes, but nothing ongoing, continuing – habit forming. And that’s what I believe I need right now, something habit forming.

So, there is now a theme to this blog. I’ve been trying to figure out how to combine some of the things I’ve been trying to do. Part of my physical struggle has been due to stress from trying to do too much. But I believed, and still believe, that each of the “too many” things I’ve been trying to do are things that I really am supposed to be doing. I’m now figuring out how to combine some of the things to be able to do the God assigned tasks yet still reduce my stress level. Pray for me that I am successful.

So, the new theme for the blog is going to be the youth Bible study that I had been doing. The biggest difference, as far as I’m concerned, is that it’s available to everyone. I’ll be posting every week, sometime on Sunday. And, yes, I have several posts banked already in case life gets in the way again. The other writing things may still happen, the school assignments, the occasional short story, but the primary commitment is at least one Bible study per week.

There will be a Scripture memory verse and a few questions for discussion or reflection. And, the biggie! A read the Bible in a year plan. Who’s with me? When was the last time you read every day? It’s really not all that bad. Yes, it requires discipline, but if we are going to be disciples of Jesus, we need to be disciplined. Keith Moore of Faith Life Church in Branson, Missouri says we need to discipline ourselves like Olympic athletes. Yes, that’s a LOT of discipline, but it really is worth it. The sense of accomplishment alone is worth the effort, but the better benefit is getting the Word inside you. You need to keep filling yourself with the Word until it starts spilling out of your mouth.

I know this intimidates many of you, especially the students. How are you going to get all this reading done in the middle of the school year when all of your teachers are acting like their’s is the only class you have, and they all schedule tests on the same day? Start now! Over the summer, get in the habit. It may seem like a lot of reading, but it’s really not all that much. Put down your phone and pick up the actual Book, and read for 20 minutes a day. I say again, it really is worth the time investment.

I’m using the reading plan at the back of my ESV Bible that I use for travel. There are readings from the Old Testament, Psalms, and the New Testament. You can use whatever plan you want, just be in the Word. Also, if you are following the plan, but the LORD arrests your attention on a particular passage, by all means, stay there. Don’t move on because the plan says you should if God is telling you to tarry for a while. The main thing to remember is that this is all about relationship. If a passage strikes you straight in the heart, dwell there with Jesus until you get things worked out. Read to learn, read to grow, read to become more like Jesus. Just remember, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work,” (2 Timothy 3:16- 17).

So I hope you’ll join me on this journey, not just through the Bible, but through the studies, and my adventure to grow in obedience to form a regular habit of writing and study. I’m excited to see what the LORD has in store, and to learn and grow with you.

The first memory verse is the verse above, 2 Timothy 3:16- 17. It seems as good a place as any to start.

READING PLAN
Day 1 : Gen 1- 2 Matt 1- 2 Psalm 1
Day 2 : Gen 3- 4 Matt 3- 4 Psalm 2
Day 3 : Gen 5- 6 Matt 5 Psalm 3
Day 4 : Gen 7- 8 Matt 6 Psalm 4
Day 5 : Gen 9- 10 Matt 7 Psalm 5
Day 6 : Gen 11- 12 Matt 8 Psalm 6
Day 7 : Gen 13- 15 Matt 9 Psalm 7

Drifting

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I recently attended a conference, well, actually, not a conference, but a council, the annual council for the Illinois District of Assemblies of God churches. I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts that they have been posted specifically to fulfill requirements for certain classes. I’m not sure I’ve ever mentioned that the reason for those classes is that I’m pursuing credentials to become a pastor within the Assemblies of God.

Those words still rather scare me. It was never, and I mean capital N, NEVER, my plan to be a pastor. My plan was either to pitch for the Cubs (until recently, they couldn’t have done any worse with me than they were doing without me. But this is our year! Go Cubs!!), or join the Army. When the military fell by the wayside, hearing issues preventing me from fulfilling that plan, I decided to get a degree, a Bachelor of Science in Political Science with emphasis in international relations and a minor in Military Science. (Yes, that Army dream died hard. But I got to take the ROTC classes at Northern Illinois University, wore the uniform proudly, and “served” three years in my small capacity.)

And then I drifted. What do you do when all your dreams, from early childhood, crash to the ground and you realize you have NO idea where to go or what to do. I had nothing. Sure, I’ve got a piece of paper that says I finished college. I’m the only one of my generation to do that in my family. And what do I have to show for it? I’ve got a piece of paper.

So I drifted, and I drank, and I drugged, and then drifted some more. I drifted from job to job. I drifted from home to apartment to home again. (Yes, Mom and Dad called my yo-yo.) Just like a boat drifts without an anchor, so I drifted.

And then, I found the anchor, Jesus. My life began to settle down. I got a job. (Been there over 10 years now.) I bought a home. (Six and a half years for that!) And settled into my new life. But those of you who’ve been boating know, if the current is strong, or if it’s windy and you’ve been drifting quickly, sometimes it takes a while for the anchor to grab the bottom. It may b down, but sometimes that anchor just drags across the bottom. Your momentum may slow, but you are still drifting. And that is how I fely, anchor out, tied to Jesus, but the current of the world still dragging me along.

And over the course of this last year, still drifting slowly in the current, dragging the anchor of Jesus through the muck and mire of the bottom of the lake I’ve been on, I didn’t even notice that I was also starting to let the rope pull through my hands. I was losing my grip. As John Bevere, one of the keynote speakers at the council made reference to, I’d been so involved in my own thing, drifting, loosening my grip on the anchor, that when I looked up, I no longer recognized my surroundings. I drifted farther than I ever realized. And it seemed to happen on the blink of an eye. In reality, it’s built up over time. But I allowed myself to become so distracted, it seemed as if just a moment went by.

I’m getting myself back on track, I’ve tightened my grip on the anchor rope again, and I’m beginning to pull in some of that rope that slipped through my hands. And even more important than that, through the speakers at this council, and more so than that, by my focus getting locked back on Jesus, laser sharp and ready to go, the anchor is set. Actually, it’s always been set. The anchor is ALWAYS the anchor. It never changes. What we do with, or to it, is what causes us to drift. But the anchor of Jesus will never be moved.

So I’m back to my study schedule, and I’ll finish up my classes, and I’ll become a pastor. That still sounds so strange to my ears. But if I look at my classes as training, homework and Bible Study as PT (physical training), if I shift my thinking, I’m actually, finally fulfilling my dream of being in the Army.

I have decided to follow Jesus, and I’m a soldier in His Army. No turning back. NO TURNING BACK!

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I wrote this about two weeks ago, not publishing it right away, but just letting it stew for a little while. I love how God uses that stewing process to bring other things to light. As I was reading yesterday, for one of my classes, I encountered this from the author:

“The writer of Hebrews said, “We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it” (2:1). Drifting takes no conscious effort or strategy. The currents and winds of social trends and fads, in the church as well as in the world, are always in motion.” (Hurst, Randy; The Local Church in Evangelism, 3rd ed.; pg 155)

Isn’t it just amazing how God can pull things together from seemingly unrelated places, yet they suddenly appear as a beautiful piece of art, and you think, “Well, of course this all goes together.” So, this, along with the posts in the coming weeks, and continuing on, will be my project for this class. (Thanks Papa!)

Another Year?

I can’t believe it’s been a whole year. AGAIN.  One of these years I’m going to get it together and actually post on a regular basis. Well… I guess I actually AM posting on a regular basis. Once a year is regular, isn’t it?

This year has been a difficult one as I’ve been battling what I now know is adrenal fatigue and leaky gut. I’m on the mend now, but it was really rough going for a while. After completing the Chicago Marathon in 2013, I spent about most of this last year sitting on the couch, unable to even walk around the block. Now that I know what it is, I’m working on the cure. Even though I can only do it about once or twice a week, I’m back up to about half a mile per walk. Slow but sure.

And now that I’m getting better, I have a new writing plan in place. I hope to have something a bit more regular within the next couple of months. I’m banking some stuff now, so if I have a set back, I will have some work to put out to be more regular.

So, here;s hoping to communicate with you all again before 2017!!

What If…?

What’d y’all think of my story? If you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out my previous post Catch the Chariot. So – not bad for a second effort, right? I enjoyed writing it, so I hope you enjoyed reading it. Be looking for more in the months ahead.

As I looked at the story, though, I thought about how typical it is of missional journeys, having to run to catch up with a lost world moving too fast into oblivion. Philip was able to get there, catch up, make the connection, but he had to expend a LOT of energy to do so. Yes, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. Yes, he probably had supernatural help getting there, just as he did when it was time to leave the Ethiopian. (Read it for yourself at Acts 8:39-40. I didn’t write about that part of the story). But what if…?

What if Philip had a horse of his own? What if Peter, Paul, Silas, Barnabus, Timothy, and all the other missionaries  of the 1st century had vehicles, or modes of transportation appropriate to their terrain, to help them travel along the way? To help them Speed the Light? Imagine how many more people could have been reached if days, weeks or even months had not been needed to travel from place to place. Imagine how far and wide the Word could have spread with appropriate transportation.

And that is the whole point behind the Speed the Light program. It’s a program that teaches and encourages students, 6th through 12th grade, to be missions minded. The money raised by students and donated to Speed the Light pays for vehicles for missionaries in the U.S. and around the world.

Above I used the words, “appropriate transportation.” That’s because not everyone needs a car. When I was in Tanzania we visited many fishing villages along the shores of Lake Tanganyika. We never would have gotten there if Joy in the Harvest, the mission we worked with, had not had a boat. These villages could only be reached by boat. There were no roads. And so, there are some places that can only be reached by plane, and others by dirt bike, or even bicycle. There are places where the “road” is not more than a path through terrain that we who live in the concrete jungle would never understand.

So if you see a student fundraising, and they say it’s for Speed the Light, think about Philip trying to Catch the Chariot, think of the villages of Tanzania that were visited by the boat from Joy in the Harvest, think of all the missional possibilities and help out.

Catch the Chariot

Ok, here it is, finally, my second story submitted to the Faith Writers weekly contest. This one scored a “Highly Commended.” It’s been strange, working at my writing. I don’t think I’ve ever made so many changes to anything I’ve written. I am beginning to look at it as a craft. I look forward to crafting more for you all in the future. Enjoy!

The room was full, the buzz, incredible, the excitement, palpable. Peter and John moved from one to another, quickly praying, laying on hands, then rejoicing as another believer poured forth his love for the Son with expressions understood only by God. It was as it had been for them on the day of Pentecost when Holy Spirit first came, praise, worship, pure love spilling from their mouths in a Heavenly language.

Philip watched from the wall. He arrived at this place from Jerusalem in fear, fear for his life, for being a follower of the Way, fear of the people here because of the stories he’d heard. These were the dreaded Samaritans, those who had allowed themselves to be corrupted, those whose worship was no longer True. But arriving here, running for his life from the persecution, he found them to be kind, loving, and real, different from those who followed the Sanhedrin, the ones who killed Jesus, Stephen, and so many others. Solace was found with the ones he had been taught to fear, and fear came from those who were meant to give solace.

He watched with joy as more Samaritans were filled with Holy Spirit, pouring out adoration to God in their new language of love. Suddenly a voice said, “Leave this place and go to a land that I will show you.” He shook his head, digging a finger in his ear, thinking there must have been a fly buzzing. Again the voice said, “Leave this place. Go to a land that I will show you.” There must be a mistake. Those were words spoken to Abraham, father of a great nation. But the voice came again, softer, gentler, yet compelling, “Just start walking, My friend. I will show you the way to go.”

Philip picked up his pack, walked to Peter in the middle of the room, saying, “Hey, Pete, I gotta go. I’m not sure what it is, but I’ve got something I have to do.”

Peter, still in the throes of excitement for the Samaritans receiving Holy Spirit, gave a wave of dismissal, “Yeah, sure. See ya later.”

Philip walked out the door into brilliant sunlight, the voice saying, “Go south to the road, the desert road, that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” And so he did. He walked the dry, dusty path that served as a road, twisting and turning through the desert, sun beating down, the breeze gently wafting all traces of moisture from his skin. In the distance, dust arose from the wheels of a chariot, also headed south. The voice buzzed in Philip’s ear, “Go over and join this chariot.”

“You want me to WHAT? How am I supposed to catch up with a chariot that far ahead of me? Do you have any idea how fast a horse runs?”

“Just do it. Trust.”

So he ran. In spite of the heat, in spite of the condition of the rutted path, in spite of everything, he ran. A trail shot off to his right. His ear buzzed, “This is the way. Run in it.” Veering off the path, the trail dipped into a long-dried river bed, and rose again, depositing Philip just yards behind the chariot.

Philip could see the occupant, seated, reading from a scroll. As he approached, he heard the words, “Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.”

“Hey,” called Philip, “I said HEY. Slow up a bit, would ya? Do you have any idea what you’re reading?”

The large, dark skinned man in the chariot signaled to his driver to stop. Philip, panting, hands on knees, catching his breath, twisted his head up, looking at the man, obviously Ethiopian. The man scanned Philip for a moment, taking in the dust covered tunic, the dirt streaked face, and the feet, the beautiful feet of this man who seemed to appear out of nowhere, running and actually catching his horse drawn chariot. “How can I understand if no one explains it?” was his reply, “Come, join me on the journey. We will talk.”

And so it was that Philip led the Ethiopian to Jesus and the salvation He provides. What came after that is a tale for another day, but suffice it to say, the continent of Africa would never be the same again. The director of accounting for the great Queen Candace of Ethiopia saw to that.

Got the results

I got the results of the first writing contest I ever entered. I finished 3rd out of 19 entries in the beginner level. Not bad. Already working on my next entry. Looking to improve. I’m trying something different on this one. I’ll let you see it when it’s ready.

By the way, I set a goal for this month to get at least one view everyday. I have none yet today, that’s why I’m putting this out there without much substance. Just sayin’.