Archive for the 'Relationship with Christ' Category

Good task, wrong time

King David, finally settled in as king of Israel after years of being hunted by his predecessor, sits in his new cedar palace, at peace with his neighbors, and says, “Hey, how can I enjoy this cool new house, when the ark of God is still sheltered in a tent? That doesn’t seem right. I’ll build God a house to dwell in, too, now that I’ve got some time on my hands.”(My paraphrase.)

But God spoke to David through Nathan the prophet: “Nope. Don’t do it. I have other plans for you, David. I don’t need a house to dwell in… at least not now, and not built by you. Remember, I took you from the pasture where you shepherded stinky sheep, and made you ruler over my chosen people. I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. And I will provide a place for Israel…”

Through this dialogue, God sets the record straight. He makes it clear to David that He is the one who will do the building (of Israel), at least for the present time. And then He lets David catch a glimpse of the future. He tells David that it’s his son (later revealed as Solomon) who will build a temple for God.

I came away from reading this passage recognizing two things:

  1. God doesn’t “need” me to do anything, like building a house for Him to dwell in, because he can raise up rocks (but more likely, other people) to accomplish His purposes if I won’t do what He wants me to. But He hands me a precious gift by inviting me to participate in His plans. I don’t want to miss what He has for me to accomplish, in His time.
  2. Not everything that comes to mind for me to do is the right project at the right time. God had already planned for the building of the temple; He just didn’t want David to do it. He had other things for David to concentrate on, to dedicate his energy to. And at the time of this interaction in 2 Samuel 7, David is enjoying some rest—a time of peace and comfort, it would appear. I may have many ideas about how CCCA can serve members and the Christian camping movement, but I need to be careful about the ones to which I dedicate my time and energy.

God promised David that his name would be among the names of the greatest men on earth. And it happened.  And after hearing from God, here’s how David responded:

“Who am I … that you have brought me this far? How great you are, Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you… Sovereign LORD, you are God! Your covenant is trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant.”

I don’t want to miss good things by focusing on good tasks at the wrong time.

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Our Top Goal

After a second recommendation from a CCCA board member, this week I purchased the daily devotional book Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. Based on Bible study and time spent praying and listening to God, she writes each daily thought from the perspective of Jesus speaking to us. Yesterday’s devotion came so close to what I’ve been reading, thinking and writing about, I thought perhaps this was what Margaret Feinberg calls a “sacred echo,” one of those messages God really wants me, and maybe you, to imbed firmly in our minds.

For Oct. 5, she writes, “Do not judge a day as devoid of Joy because it contains difficulties. Instead, concentrate on staying in communication with Me. Many of the problems that clamor for your attention will resolve themselves. Other matters you must deal with, but I will help you with them. If you make problem-solving secondary to the goal of living close to Me, you can find Joy even in your most difficult days.”

Seriously, what’s more important right now—to make that nagging problem go away or to get and stay close to Jesus?

Earlier today, we concluded our weekly staff prayer time in which we share personal prayer requests and those of members whom we’ve called during the week to ask how we can pray for them. This week there were so many requests involving accidents, cancer, death, injury and illness, it was a sobering time for us to realize the uncertainty of life.  We also prayed about the challenges provided by a lagging economy, with a number of camps threatened with closure.

And yet, I’m confident that if we heed the words of Jesus to remain in Him, if we make our top goal to live close to Him, we can still experience joy in the journey—a deep, filling joy that won’t be stolen by circumstances.

A Need to Paint

This week I attended an event at the Compassion International headquarters in Colorado Springs to discuss the upcoming Lausanne Congress on World Evangelism. It was fascinating to hear how God has moved among Christians around the globe to pull off this event, to be held in Cape Town, South Africa.

I encourage you to read up on the Congress as a way of seeing how we in camping ministry fit into the worldwide effort to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Then, after the event, which runs Oct. 16–25, keep your eyes open for the outcomes as reports follow the Congress. (You may also follow the Congress on the Cape Town 2010 Web site where video from the Congress as well as a video podcast will be available.)

Following the handful of international trips I’ve made, I always feel small coming home. Like my vision isn’t big enough, my understanding not broad enough, my influence not deep enough. One story told last night exemplifies the way our U.S.-centric view can be a handicap.

On one missions trip, an American went to a missions office and asked what he and his crew could do to serve the local missionaries. The man took him to a wall and said, “This is the wall for Americans on short-term missions. They seem to have a need to paint, so we bring them here and let them paint, and they seem to enjoy the activity. Then, when they’re gone, we repaint the wall the color we wanted it in the first place.”

Oh, my. Is it really all about us?

I need to do regular mind-expansion exercises to keep me sharp and stay aware of what God is doing all around His world. (The CCI Worldwide Summit in Panama last spring was just such an exercise for me.) We may not change all of our strategies or processes in our ministries as a result, but by studying the work of God and His people in other parts of the globe, we can come ever closer to knowing Him.

Do you have an eye-opening, mind-expanding story of international ministry you’d like to share? Please leave a comment here.

Those Cursed Waves

Lately, I’ve been brought back to Psalm 107 a number of times for the same conversation with God and others. What stands out is the image of the storm and the huge waves that cause people to lose their courage and stagger around like drunken men.

Have you ever been there? At your wits’ end, overwhelmed by fear, doubt or just a very large burden?

Imagine being Peter—the disciple who exemplified so well the “speak first, think later” attitude—who asked if he could get out of the boat and walk on the water to Jesus. (What was he thinking? “That looks so cool! I wanna try!”?) Then after Jesus gives him permission, he takes that leap of faith.

Can you imagine yourself in that situation flinging your body overboard and trusting that the water will not engulf you but will support your weight, contrary to the accepted laws of nature?

Now add a storm—darkness, wind…and waves.

If you’re a thrill seeker like Peter, maybe you just take off running like a little kid in the park. “Yeeehaaaw!” But what happens next is so like all of us. He catches a glimpse of the waves, those cursed waves. And they start to engulf him.

In our world today, the waves that surround us might come in the form of financial trouble, marital problems, challenges with our children, friends or colleagues who have hurt us, or our own foolish mistakes with consequences we must now face. These are the things that wake us up in the night and cause us to worry. Sometimes it may feel like we are going under, and we might not come back up.

Like the people in Psalm 107, Peter cries out to the Lord, and He saves him. I talked and prayed with one friend this week and had a great e-mail exchange with another about the storms they are facing, and I am challenged by this concept.

In the midst of the storm, can I be bold enough to ignore the waves and look to, reach for and cry out to the Lord for His protection? Can I be absolutely convinced that He will save me from the waves? It’s easy to say yes when the water isn’t slapping my face and soaking my clothes.

But when it’s my time to face the storm—and I will have a turn, I know—will I yield my concern for the waves in order to tuck in next to Jesus and receive the comfort and protection He offers?

Psalm 107:29–30 says, “He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven.”

I’ll leave you with these few thoughts:

1. In this world you will have trouble—the waves are coming.

2. Refuse to let the waves steal your joy—or overwhelm your attention.

3. Don’t wait until the calm to worship—to cry out to God, even in the midst of the storm.

Character Spill

Shortly after legendary college basketball coach John Wooden died, I posted one of his comments on my Twitter account: “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation; your character is what you really are; reputation merely what others think you are.”

Then today I saw a quote from actress Sandra Bullock:  “Whoever established the high road and how high it was going to be should be fired.”

The combination of these two ideas strikes me as a true test of who we are and how we represent ourselves as Christians when things don’t go as planned, when others treat us poorly or annoy us, when nobody is looking.

Then add the quotes above to the following, also a post on my Twitter account:  “When someone ‘bumps’ you, what sloshes out? A glass can only spill what it contains.”

For me, these quotes all serve as reminders to be aware that we will be bumped, pushed, bruised and sometimes bloodied by living in this world with other people. How often are we aware of our response to these kinds of incidents?

If I want to reflect God’s grace and glory in my life, I need to pray that I will respond to the discomfort others cause me in a way that represents Christ, not myself or my selfish interests.  Are you being bumped, pushed and jostled these days? What do you see sloshing out, and how does it reflect your true character?

I Am (Not) an Island

Since when did Starbucks stores become a Bible study hotspot? Not long ago, I walked into one shortly after 7 a.m. to meet with a friend. I was early, so I ordered coffee and sat down. As I got comfortable at my table, I looked around the shop. Right in front of me sat a group of five men, tucked in to their table, deep in conversation, each one with a Bible open in front of him. (Well, four had a Bible; the youngest guy had a laptop.)

I looked behind me, and over by the window was another group of five men—again, each with a Bible and each intently focused on the conversation. My heart was warmed, and I hadn’t even tasted the coffee yet. These two groups of guys made me crave the fellowship, encouragement and accountability of men who love Jesus.

At times I’ve been an island, content to go through life without many close friends outside my own family. Then, in my mid-30s, I decided I’d had enough of “going it alone.” My family and I had just moved to Virginia, and I was determined to connect with a group of men who would encourage me in my faith—and whom I could encourage. I had been part of men’s Bible studies before and had met in accountability groups, but I never felt that close bond I was seeking, the ability to just be real and share my life with guys who would accept me when I was strong and when I struggled.

Fairly quickly, I met two Christian guys, Mike and Bill, who didn’t know each other, and I asked them if they’d meet with me weekly for breakfast, conversation and prayer. They agreed, and we became Friday morning regulars at IHOP, talking through books on parenting, leadership, love languages and faith. We never left the restaurant without praying for each other’s specific needs of the week. What a difference those guys made in my life.

Being new in a community (as I am now, having just moved back to Colorado Springs) presents challenges to building relationships. But last week I attended a gathering of ministry leaders and met many new people. Near the end of the day-long meeting, I mentioned that I was looking for connection, both personally and professionally. The result is that one of the attendees has connected five of us who will get together monthly to become a source of encouragement and support for one another. Our first lunch is in two weeks, and I’m looking forward to it.

If you’re an island, you’re at risk. And even though it took me a while to learn and accept that fact, I know I need other guys in my life to walk with me and hold me up. I encourage you to “just do it” if you’re not in a small group now. Even one or two others can provide the encouragement I believe God intended when He acknowledged in Ecclesiastes 4:9–12 that “two are better than one.”

As I sat there in Starbucks, conversations about Jesus echoed across the shop, clear as a bell in the noisy store. If I could hear it, at least six other people outside their group could hear it. These guys weren’t about keeping their faith a secret. They were there to grow, give, receive and build a community—a “tribe” if you will—that will walk with them and keep them from being isolated. What are you doing to avoid being an island?

When Decaf Doesn’t Cut It

A few days ago I stopped at a bagel shop on the way to work and bought a bagel and a cup of coffee. It’s one of those get-the-coffee-yourself places, which I like because you can grab a refill in a to-go cup on your way out the door, and you don’t have to wait for a server.

The only problem was that two of the usual four coffees were empty, leaving the flavored coffee and the decaf as the only options. Both the light roast and dark roast were gone. I’m not a fan of flavored coffees, and I wanted at least half a cup of “leaded” to help clear the morning fog. (Normally, I drink only decaf.)

I noticed another customer to my left watching me as I tried to tip the coffee urn forward to see if I could drain a half cup from one of the caffeinated pots. No such luck.

“Kind of sad when a bakery and coffee shop runs out of coffee at 7 in the morning, isn’t it?” he asked dryly.

“Yeah,” I answered. “Something you wouldn’t really expect.”

“I wonder how that even happens,” he replied, almost in disgust.

“Well, you could go for decaf or the flavored stuff.”

The man, probably in his mid-50s with short-cropped gray hair and a black T-shirt, scrunched his face and said, “No, I don’t do flavored coffee, and what’s the point of decaf? I need some caffeine to help me through my first few hours.”

“Really? Why’s that?”

About that time, a worker brought us cups of “real” coffee from the back, where it was being brewed. We each accepted our cups, and the other customer answered my question: “Well, I get to go listen to a few whiny kids and their parents. Then I’ll finish each hour off with the statement, ‘That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard!’”

He didn’t say it with a smile; in fact, his dark expression and flat tone hadn’t changed the whole time we stood there waiting.

“What do you do?” I asked.

“Therapist,” he said as he walked toward the door.

Suddenly, I felt sorry for everyone in this man’s morning. The kids who needed counseling. Their parents. And especially the therapist.

I thank God for giving me meaningful work that I enjoy. May I never feel the way this therapist did about his day—his “calling” or at least the profession that he chose.


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