Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Basin Theology

Bruce Thielemann, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, told of a conversation with an active layman, who mentioned, “You preachers talk a lot about giving, but when you get right down to it, it all comes down to basin theology.”

Thielemann asked, “Basin theology? What’s that?”

The layman replied, “Remember what Pilate did when he had the chance to acquit Jesus? He called for a basin and washed his hands of the whole thing. but Jesus, the night before his death, called for a basin and proceeded to wash the feet of the disciples. It all comes down to basin theology: Which one will you use?”[i]

“Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.”[ii]
(Richard Foster)


Spend a few moments meditating, praying, even journaling about the concept of Basin Theology.

“When people are right with God, they are apt to be hard on themselves and easy on other people. but when they are not right with God, they are easy on themselves and hard on others.”
- John Newton

[i] Craig Brian Larson, , (Grand Rapids, Michigan: BakerBooks, 1993), 223.
[ii] Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978), 1.

Monday, February 27, 2006

A Matter of Choice

“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and  coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and  became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”
(Philippians 2:1-8)

Paul instructed the believers at Philippi to put on the very mindset and attitude that Christ Himself exhibited. Paul never instructs the people of God to do something unless: (1) they are not currently doing it, or (2) there’s a high probability that they may stop doing it. In other words, he doesn’t exhort someone to take on a particular mindset, unless there is an option and choice for them not to take on that particular mindset and attitude. Paul understands all too well that often our human deposition leans towards selfish ambitions, vain conceit, looking out for number one, and spending enormous amounts of energy preserving our personal interests. Paul made careful that we understood something very vital, putting on this type of mindset and attitude was something that Christ Himself also made a choice to do. Moreover, the very one who was in the very nature of God, who had all the right in the world to make claim on divinity, chose to lay it down for the sake of others.

The passage
from Philippians 2:1-8 is one that is often quoted, but rarely implemented. Paul never assumed that a follower of Christ would automatically walk with the same mindset and attitude of Christ, rather he instructed them that they would have to make a daily decision to put on that type of mindset. It is through these daily decisions that one is transformed into a Christlike servant.

Take it Deeper...
What are some areas of your life where you need Christ to help you put on the same attitude that He displayed?

“Late have I love you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you. . . .
You were with me, and I was not with you.”
(St. Augustine)

It occurred in Northern Virginia, probably on his last visit there. A young mother brought her baby to him to be blessed. He took the infant in his arms and looked at it and then at her and slowly said, “Teach him he must deny himself.”[ii]

[i] Augustine, Confessions, 145 (10.27.38).
[ii] Of Robert E. Lee, Douglas Southall Freeman, in Lee, quoted in Charles Swindoll, Living Above the Level of Mediocrity, p.54.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Secret Service

“In the Russian church certain people call poustinikki would devote themselves to a life of prayer. They would withdraw to the desert poustinia and live in solitude, but not in isolation. The Russian word for solitude means, “being with everybody.” By custom, “the latch was always off the door: as a sign of availability, according to Tilden Edwards. “The poustinik’s priority at any time was his neighbor’s need (which might stretch beyond prayer and counsel to physical labor, as at harvest time).”[i]

This could be called the ministry of availability, acts of secret service, or as Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote of this as the ministry of “active helpfulness”.[ii] Or, as Jesus taught,

“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:3-4)

True service begins when we no long care if we get the credit, or if anyone is taking notice, or even cares. When we begin to develop this type of disposition, we will suddenly find ourselves growing in awareness, sensitivity, availability and genuine love for those around us. Moreover, as we participate in the acts service, we begin to see more clearly how God has designed us, shaped us, gifted us, and called us with a specific purpose to be expressed in our own generation. Unfortunately, few are they that ever arise to the type of living.

Meditate on the following passage. Underline, circle and take note of the emphasis Jesus places upon attitude, motivation, and secrecy.

“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:1-8 NIV)

“We have committed the Golden Rule to memory;
let us now commit it to life.”

“To empty ourselves of our false divinity, to deny ourselves, to give up being the center of the world in imagination, to discern that all points in the world are equally centers and that the true center is outside the world, this is to consent to the rule of . . . free choice at the center of each soul. Such consent is love. The face of this love, which is turned toward thinking persons, is the love or our neighbor.”[iii] --Simone Weil

Your Going to Die

A man went to the doctor after weeks of symptoms. The doctor examined him carefully, then called the patient’s wife into his office. “Your husband is suffering from a rare form of anemia. Without treatment, he’ll be dead in a few weeks. The good news is, it can be treated with proper nutrition.”

“You will need to get up early every morning and fix your husband a hot breakfast—pancakes, bacon and eggs, the works. He’ll need a home-cooked lunch every day, and then an old-fashioned meat-and-potato dinner every evening. It would be especially helpful if you could bake frequently. Cakes, pies, homemade bread—these are the things that will allow your husband to live.

“One more thing. His immune system is weak, so it’s important that your home be kept spotless at all times. Do you have any questions?” The wife had none.
“Do you want to break the news, or shall I?” asked the doctor.

“I will,” the wife replied.

She walked into the exam room. The husband, sensing the seriousness of his illness, asked her, “It’s bad, isn’t it?”

She nodded, tears welling up in her eyes. “What’s going to happen to me?” he asked.
With a sob, the wife blurted out, “The doctor says you’re gonna die!”[iv]

[i] Tilden Edwards, Soul Friend, (New York: Paulist Press, 1980), 56. Quoted by John Ortberg, Life You’ve Always Wanted, 111.
[ii] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, (New York: Harper & Row, 1956), 91
[iii] Simone Weil, Waiting for God (New York: HarperPerennial Library, 1992), quoted in Ordinary Graces: Christian Teachings on the Interior Life, ed. Lorraine Kisly with an intro. By Philip Zalieski (New York: Bell Tower, 2000), 14.
[iv] Source Unknown.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Ministry of the Mundane

"For he who is least among you all-- he is the greatest."
(Luke 9:48 NIV)

“Learn the lesson that, if you are to do the work of a prophet,
what you need is not a scepter but a hoe.”

(Benard of Clairvaux)

“Jesus took a little child in his arms and said, in effect, ‘Here’s your ministry. Give yourselves to those who can bring you no status or clout. Just help people. You need this little child. You need to help this little child, not just for her sake, but more for your sake. For if you don’t, your whole life will be thrown away on an idiotic contest to see who is the greatest. But if you serve her – often and well and cheerfully and out of the limelight – then the day may come when you do it without thinking, ‘What a wonderful thing I’ve done.’ Then you will begin serving naturally, effortlessly, for the joy of it. Then you will begin to understand how life in the kingdom works,’” writes John Ortberg in his book The Life You’ve Always Wanted. He continues,

This might be called “the ministry of the mundane.” The opportunity is offered to us countless times a day. A colleague asks for help with a project at work. Someone’s car stalls by the side of the road. This ministry can happen at home, in the middle of the night when one of the children cries. I could fake being asleep and then, as my wife is leaving the room, say a few words very groggily, as if I would have tended to the child but I’m just a heavier sleeper so it’s too late now. This way I get both the credit for wanting to help and the luxury of staying in bed.

Let me issue one note of caution: It is generally easier to hear about serving than to actually serve. I know of a woman who, when she was facing an important operation, asked her husband to look after the children over the weekend. He said no, he was going to attend a huge rally for men that would teach them how to live as Christian husbands and fathers. He refused to serve his wife on the grounds that he had to attend a conference where he would be taught and inspired to serve his wife!

Authentic community is characterized perhaps more than anything else by mutual servanthood and submission. When Jesus said the last shall be first, and the least shall be great, and the slave the greatest of all, he wasn’t giving orders. He was simply describing the truth about God’s kind of community and how different it looks from the way things generally work in our world.[i]

A businessman once asked,
“How can you tell if you have a servant attitude?”
The reply came,
“By the way you react when you are treated like one,”

Think about it...
Who are some people in your life that can typically bring you no status or clout? (i.e. gas station coffee attendant, waiters, waitress, store clerks, custodians, etc., etc.) How can you begin serving them?

What are some areas of your life where you can participate in the ministry of the mundane?

“The measure of a man is not the number of his servants,
but the number of people he serves.”
D. L. Moody

”There are many of us that are willing to do great things
For the Lord, but few of us are willing to do little things.”
D. L. Moody

[i] John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: ZondervanPublishing House, 1997), 109-111.
[ii] Lorne Sanny, Daily Walk, April 1982.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

First in Line

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said,
"If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, a
nd the servant of all.”
(Mark 9:35 NIV)

A large group of European pastors came to one of D. L. Moody’s Northfield Bible Conferences in Massachusetts in the late 1800s. Following the European custom of the time, each guest put his shoes outside his room to be cleaned by the hall servants overnight. But of course this was America and there were no hall servants.

Walking the dormitory halls that night, Moody saw the shoes and determined not to embarrass his brothers. He mentioned the need to some ministerial students who were there, but met with only silence or pious excuses. Moody returned to the dorm, gathered up the shoes, and, alone in his room, the world’s only famous evangelist began to clean and polish the shoes. Only the unexpected arrival of a friend in the midst of the work revealed the secret.

When the foreign visitors opened their doors the next morning, their shoes were shined. They never know by whom. Moody told no one, but his friend told a few people, and during the rest of the conference, different men volunteered to shine the shoes in secret. Perhaps the episode is a vital insight into why God used D. L. Moody as He did. He was a man with a servant’s heart and that was the basis of his true greatness.[i]

A good many are kept out of the service of Christ, deprived of the luxury of working for God, because they are trying to do some great thing. Let us be willing to do little things. And let us remember that nothing is small in which God is the source.[ii]

Can You Remember....?
When was the last time you went under-cover and served the needs of another without them knowing?

Think of those who live in your neighborhood, those in the workplace, those out in community, in your church. Take a few moments and jot down some thoughts: What are some practical ways to serve various people in each of these settings. Take some time and think of the obvious and practical, as well as ways to serve that may be more unique and outside-the-box.

“Today it is very fashionable to talk about the poor.
Unfortunately, it is not fashionable to talk with them.”
(Mother Teresa)

[i] Inrig, A Call to Excellence, (Victor Books, a division of SP Publ., Wheaton, Ill; 1985), 98.
[ii] D. L. Moody, quoted in The Berean Call, Bend, Oregon, March, 1997.
[iii] Mother Teresa, In My Own Words, 23.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Throw in the Towel

"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served,
but to serve,
and to give his life as a ransom for many."
(Mark 10:25)

“History does not record the dialogue,” writes Medefind, “but it isn’t hard to guess. Jesus’ disciples were bickering, again, jousting with words over which of them had made the biggest strides, merited the most respect, deserved the right to lead. The voices fired back and forth, hushed but tense.” I love how Medefind sets up the narrative of this text. He continues,

“You think you’re better than the rest of us? Peter and I were the first to join him…”

“If there are any top lieutenants around here, it’s John and me …”

“It isn’t that I’m better, just …”

“First to join doesn’t count for much. What a guy gave up to be here carries a lot more weight …”

“I left behind one of the most lucrative enterprises in Jerusalem …”

The twelve disciples had been together for three straight years, almost every waking hour spend side-by-side. Understandably, they had their squabbles from time to time. But this was inexcusable. Tonight was the Passover celebration, a time for celebration and hallowed remembrance. And now, just as the evening was getting started, an argument erupts over rank and relative importance.

“So now you’re looking down at fishermen? Didn’t you hear what Jesus said to me the other day about …”

The voices trailed off as the men noticed Jesus’ eyes upon them. Silence filled the room, and twelve sets of eyes turned toward their sandals.

Jesus smiled sadly. The lesson had been delivered many times already. Repeatedly, he had instructed his disciples to abandon self-promotion and prideful ambition. He would exhort them one last time: “This is how people out there approach success,” he reminded. “For them, it’s all about position, status, power and titles. That’s not how it’s supposed to be with you. Success is in the opposite direction – serving, waiting tables, meeting each others’ needs.”

As always, Jesus desired to make his words more concrete. He removed his robe and laid it nearby. There was one job that even most house servants considered themselves above – washing the dust and grime from the sandal-clad feet of travelers. The task was reserved for the last-placed servant, the lowest on the totem pole. Wrapping a towel around his waist the way a common slave would do, he took a basin from the sink in the corner. Then, directing his students to sit, Jesus knelt and began scrubbing dirt from their feet.

When he had finished, Jesus rose. As he often did, the teacher led with a question: Do you understand what I have done for you?” He paused, letting them ponder for a moment. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for this is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.”

He finished with a simple conclusion: If you pursue this sort of serving, you’ll know true blessing. [i]

Imagine yourself as one of the disciples in the Upper Room with Jesus on that Passover occasion. Understanding the role of a servant in that culture, what must it have been like when Jesus got up from the table and began washing their feet?

Imagine yourself pulling into your place of employment. It’s a brittle cold and windy winter day. There’s a heavy and constant snow fall. As you pull into the parking lot, you are met by your employer. They motion for you to pull up to the front door. They then ask you to get out, make your way inside for a fresh cup of hot chocolate. They in return, hop in your car and park it for you. At the end of the day, as you make your way to the exit, you find your car parked right outside, all de-iced, warmed up and ready to go. Your boss shakes your hand, gives you a gift certificate to Pappa Vino’s and says, “have a great night out with your spouse.” Why? No necessary reason, no flattery, they simply wanted to serve you. How would you feel?

As incomprehensible as the above scenario may be, it is pale in comparison to the actions of Jesus in the Upper Room.

Reflect on the following thoughts from Richard Foster,

“As the cross is the sign of submission, so the towel is the sign of service…Whenever there is trouble over who is the greatest there is trouble over who is the least. That is the crux of the matter for us, isn’t it? Most of us know we will never be the greatest; just don’t let us be the least.”[ii]
(Richard Foster)

No one is useless in this world that
lightens the burden of it for any one else.”

[i] Ibid., Medefind & Lokkesmoe, The Revolutionary Communicator, 137-138.
[ii]Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978), 110.

Monday, February 20, 2006

A New Audience

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
(Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV)

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
(The Message)

“For most of us,” writes Medefind and Lokkesmoe “communication success boils down to the reaction of the audience – be it a lover, a friend, a small group, or a full auditorium. A laugh means we are funny. A standing ovation means we are accepted. A nod means we are connecting.” They continue,

Receiving the desired response, we are taught, is the standard of success.

But such a standard is stunted at best.
As Tomas Merton observed, “The logic of worldly success rests on a fallacy: the strange error that our perfection depends on the thoughts and opinions and applause of other men! A weird life it is, indeed, to be living always in somebody else’s imagination, as if that were the only place in which one could at last become real!”[i]

Ironically, this audience-obsessed definition of success does not make our communication more audience-centered. It is all about us, the communicator. What do they think of me? How am I doing? Will I be admired, praised, thanked, remembered… and ultimately get what I want?

When this sort of success becomes the North Star, other people are reduced to means. They become objects to be moved and molded in ways that help us achieve our self-interested ambitions: admiration, clout, connections, financial gain, false forms of intimacy, or professional advancement.

With our eyes fixed solely upon these ends, our communication becomes little more than manipulation. Without even being aware of it, we begin to seek words and techniques that yield automatic, push-button responses. The desired results, we hope, will follow like a candy bar dropping from a vending machine after the correct change has been inserted, or like a rabbit popping from a hat with just the right wave of a wand.

Jesus’ approach
could not have been more different.[ii]

How did Jesus measure success?

What are some practical ways we can fix our eyes on Jesus?

“It is high time that the ideal of success
should be replaced by the ideal of service.”

“The highest of distinctions is the service of others.”

King George VI

[i] Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain, pt.3, ch.2 (1948).
[ii] Ibid., Medefind & Lokkesmoe, The Revolutionary Communicator, 136.

Friday, February 17, 2006


“Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.”
(2 Timothy 2:7)

Reflect on the following quotes and sayings… You may want to reread through them several times throughout the day.
“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness
and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
(Frederick Buechner)

“What we are is God’s gift to us.
What we become is our gift to God.”

Louis Nizer

“Most Christians don’t need a call –
they need a kick in the pants!”

(Jim Elliot)

“When a man turns to God desiring to serve Him,
God directs his attention to the world
and its need.”


“The church is a workshop, not a dormitory;
and every Christian man and woman is bound to help in the common cause.”


“There are many of us that are willing to do great things for the Lord,
but few of us are willing to do little things.”
(D. L. Moody)

“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us.
What we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”


“It is not the possession of extraordinary gifts
that makes extraordinary usefulness,
but the dedication of what we have to the service of God.”

"Every Man Gives His Life to What He Believes.
Every Woman Gives Her Life to What She Believes.
Sometimes, People Believe in Little or Nothing,
and Yet They Give Their Lives to that Little or Nothing.
One life is all we have to live,
and we live it as we believe in living it and then it is gone.
But to surrender what you are, and live without belief,
is more terrible than dieing.
Even more terrible than dieing young."

Joan of Arc

[i] Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC, rev. and expanded (San Fancisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1993), 119.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Intelligent Design

“For when David had served God's purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep.”
(Acts 13:36)

“From one man he made every nation of men,
that they should inhabit the whole earth;
and he determined the times set for them
and the exact places where they should live.”

(Acts 17:26)

These two verses offer us a powerful thought. When David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep, not one second before. The commentary on David’s life gives great insight into human existence. Reread the two passages. Underline, circle or list the various components outlined in them. What details are there?

“For when David had served God's purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed.”(Acts 13:36)

“From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.”
(Acts 17:26)

The author describes things like: God’s specific purpose, to be lived out in a specific generation (time), in a specific region or location.


Take a few moments and reflect on God’s purposes for your life?

Where are you at in your journey of discovering what these purposes are for you life?

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Palm 139:14016)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

For Richer or Poorer

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother,
his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--
yes, even his own life--
he cannot be my disciple.”
(Luke 14:26)
Salomon and Mery Hernandez live extraordinary lives. Their journey was one of love, passion and sacrifice.[i] Jedd Medefind writes about this couple from first hand experience after spending time with them in Guatemala.

Even perched on a small stack of books, Salomon and Mery Hernandez would not reach most Americans’ shoulders. Gray now streaks once ebony hair, and wrinkles etch their faces. Their eyes, however, still cast sparks, dark and intense, and ready smiles offer unconditional welcome.

Salomon and Mery are Ladinos. Of the two distinct groups in Guatemalan society, the Ladinos are the majority – lighter skinned, Spanish-speaking, and generally more Western and well-to-do. On the other side of a vast social chasm are the indigenous Guatemalans, the Mayans. These sharp featured, dark skinned people are set apart not only by their culture and native language, but also by the poverty that dogs their existence.

Decades ago, when Salomon was working as a pastor, the gaping divide between Ladinos and Mayans began to gnaw at the young couple. Here they were, seeking to lead people to be disciples of Jesus, yet while the master they claimed to follow consistently slashed against such social barriers, their own church eagerly embraced them.

Together, the young couple decided hat Salomon would try to learn Quiche, a Mayan dialect others referred to with derision as “the language of the poor.” In fits and starts, his vocabulary grew. News began to spread among local Mayans of “the pastor who speaks Quiche.” First one Mayan, then others, appeared at the church. Some understood little Spanish, grasping only bits of Salomon’s messages. Still, the fact that he knew Quiche drew them. This man must care about us,” they whispered to each other, “he has learned our language.”

The Ladinos in the church were not nearly so impressed. Salomon and Mery could not help but notice the concerned glances cast at the newcomers. As time went on, the glances became glares of irritation and muttered complaints. Finally, a group broached the subject with Salomon directly. They explained, “We’re not sure it is best to have Mayans in our church. They have many diseases. It is not safe for our children. And their smell…”

Salomon gently pointed out whom they were supposed to be following. “Jesus continually served people Jews hated, the Samaritans,” he reminded. “And lepers, and tax collectors, even prostitutes.”

It was not long before the group was back, this time larger. “We have decided we must build a second church building,” and elder announced, “One for the Mayans, one for us.”

Again, Salomon resisted. “If we are going to follow Jesus, we need to grow together. We must learn to love and serve each other as a community,” he urged.

Not many were convinced. The ultimatum came a short time later. “Salomon, we will let you make a choice,” they offered, eyes cold. “You can either be our pastor, or you can serve the Mayans. Not both. The decision is up to you.”

Painful as it was, the path was clear. Salomon and Mery had chosen their course long before. Success was found in serving, and if they were to fail in that regard, little else mattered. Salomon would be their pastor no more.

Since that time, Salomon and Mery have spent much of their lives working with the Mayan people. Some Ladinos still think they are fools to stoop so low. But many Mayans claim they have had no better friends than Salomon and Mery Hernandez. And the giving has not been entirely one-sided. Mayan friends delight to invite Salomon and Mery into their homes and to their festivals, or to bring them corn from their fields or freshly-harvested melanga root and more than once during Guatemala’s bloody civil war, the couple was rescued from death at the hands of Mayan guerillas by friends they had served.

The Hernandezes will likely never receive a Nobel Prize or international recognition. Even most Guatemalans have never heard of them. But those who have spent time with them know Salomon and Mery have tasted real success. Their daily existence glows with deep and substantive relationships, lasting impact upon others’ lives, and a legacy of true service to the people around them.

Admittedly, our cravings and ambitions often pull us in the opposite direction. In addition, the buzzing world of commerce and celebrity rewards anything but this definition of success.

But still, our souls are stirred when we encounter it. Our hearts swell, if only for a moment, with desire to pursue such a path. Imagination, hope, and longing quicken. Emotions that have slept since childhood awake – we want to quest and serve and live for a vision larger than our own petty wants. Deep down, we know Jesus was right, and that the star to which he pointed is indeed the North Star.

How does a story like Salomon and Mery Hernandez affect you emotionally?

How does a person, like the Hernandezes, come the place of realizing the higher cause that God has called them to?

“The greatest tragedy of life is not death,
but life without reason.”

(Myles Munroe)

“Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished,
But by if God’s will is being accomplished through you.”

Dan Davidson

“There is no exercise better for the heart
than reaching down and lifting people up.”

[i] One can read more in depth about this couple in the book Four Souls: a search for epic life. There is a free online version at http://www.foursoulsthebook.com/sectionone.htm.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Wind Catchers

“Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and
what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.”
(Ecclesiastes 2:11)
Leo Tolstoy’s story, the Death of Ivan Ilyitch, tells of a man who is coming to his end.

For some time, Ivan has tried to convince himself he will recover, and that the burning pain within his belly will soon fade like any other minor illness. Only as it becomes inescapably clear that death is near does Ivan face the question he has been ignoring all his life: Has he lived well, sought worthwhile goals? Or, was it possible that he had spent himself on selfish and meaningless pursuits?

Other members of the Russian judiciary had no doubts about him. Ivan climbed the political ranks rapidly. He owned a well decorated home in a popular neighborhood. His wife was fashionable, his child healthy, and Ivan himself generally quite well liked. His fellow judges may have pondered what impact Ivan’s departure would have on their own career advancement, but there was no doubt in their minds: Ivan was a success.

But Ivan was not so sure. His body now throbbed with a pain the doctors could do no more than mask for a few hours at a time. He lay upon his couch, reviewing his life’s journey. And with an ache even worse than the physical pain, Ivan begins to see, “It is as if all the time I were going down the mountain, while thinking that I was climbing it. So it was. According to public opinion, I was climbing the mountain; and all the time my life was gliding away from under my feet.”

For a time, Ivan succeeds in battering back this horrible realization. He reminds himself of his many accomplishments, of his admirers and the status of his position. It is not long, though, before the thought roars back into his mind, “Wrong! All that for which thou hast lived, and thou livest, is falsehood, deception, hiding thee from life and death.”

It is only here, at his end, that Ivan has realized the awful truth: He as charted his life by false measures of success.

“And as soon as he expressed this thought,” Tolstoy explained, “his exasperation returned, and, together with this exasperation, the physical, tormenting agony; and, with the agony, the consciousness of inevitable death close at hand…”

Well over a century after it was written this tale still haunts those who read it. The impact is not merely a result of well-written prose. It is because readers know that the story describes countless men and women in every age – people realize, only as their end draws near, that the light by which they had set their lives was not, after all, the North Star.

Perhaps we have imagined that feelings of uncertainty and dissatisfaction in the midst of what appears to be towering success were strictly a present-day phenomenon. History allows no such illusions.
“The true worth of a man
is measured
by the objects he pursues.”
(Marcus Aurelius)
It was nearly three millennia ago that one of ancient Israel’s greatest kings, drawing to his end, recorded final reflections in the book of Ecclesiastes. The monarch life had overflowed with stunning accomplishment, vast knowledge, and tow-curling pleasures. After reviewing all he achieved, however, his conclusion sounds disturbingly similar to that of Ivan Ilyitch: “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind…”

Centuries later, the Roman emperor Septimus evaluated his own life with much the same words. “I have been everything,” he recalled, “and it is nothing.”

It seems all three of these lives could be summed up quite well in the expression of Britain’s Sir Mick Jagger: “I can’t get no satisfaction.”

Ernest Hemingway is heralded as one of the greatest writers in the history of the English language. He received the Pulitzer Prize in fiction and the Nobel Prize in literature, drawing writing material from his own grand exploits as a war correspondent, adventure traveler, and bona fide Don Juan. Hemingway lived his life in a way that would be the envy of any person who had bought in to the values of our modern society. Hemingway was known for his tough-guy image and globe-trotting pilgrimages to exotic places. He was a big-game hunter, a bull-fighter, a man who could drink others under the table. He was married four times and lived his life seemingly without moral restraint or conscience.

Said, “I live in a vacuum that is as lonely as a radio tube when the batteries are dead, and there is no current to plug into.”

Then, one sunny Sunday morning in Idaho, he pulverized his head with a shotgun blast.

Marilyn Monroe became an actress known the world over – a symbol of sexuality and beauty for her generation and beyond. In the midst of her career, she opted for an early exit, downing a month’s worth of sleeping pills.

Kurt Cobain was considered by many to be the voice of his generation. His album Nevermind sold ten million copies in the United States alone and was heralded in 2002 by Rolling Stone as the second greatest record of all time. At 27, he overdosed on tranquilizers in an apparent suicide attempt. A few months later, in a cottage overlooking Lake Washington, he aimed a shotgun at himself and pulled the trigger.

Admiring glances from people around you … a reputation for eloquence … articles written and books published … promotions and raises … invitations to the right homes, the right parties. No doubt, lives fixed in pursuit of such successes gratifies for a time. But if serving as the North Star – the ultimate end and goal – they will not lead true.

The suicide note Cobain left behind may have rambled, but it did not fail to depict the place to which his success had led. No doubt, it spoke for many other renowned-yet-failed communicators as well. “I haven’t felt the excitement of listening to as well as creating music along with reading and writing for too many years …” he wrote. “I’ve tried everything within my power to appreciate it, and I do. God, believe me I do, but it’s not enough…”

Most of us will never reach the heights achieved by fabled figures like Hemmingway, Monroe, or Cobain. Their endings merely provide us clues, hinting that even the smaller successes we seek may not, after all, bring the satisfaction we often imagine.

In time, most everyone comes face to face with this reality. A man in a California firm watched as a fifteen-year company veteran was given a termination notice and asked to clear out his deck. Bewildered, the fellow placed his personal effects in a box and said goodbye to colleagues he considered friends. By afternoon, his desk was filled by a newly hired manager, who picked up where its prior resident had left off. If what defines my life is measured in sales records, pay increases, or promotions, realized the man who had observed the seamless replacement, I’m lost.


Why are so many super-stars lives seemingly falling apart and hits the rocks of despair like those looked at above?

Interestingly enough, our culture is still enamored by these personalities. Magazines rave about which one is the hottest, sexiest, richest, and the most popular with the people. Talk Shows, Tabloids and Entertainment Programs love to reveal the deep, dark and dirty of their personal lives – scams, scandals, affairs, divorces, pregnancies, just to name a few. The ironic thing is, many of us are not only drawn to get the scoop, deep down inside we still long to be like them either in real life or the pseudo lives they lead on the big screen.

Regardless of fame and fortune, would one logically equate these types of internal realities, like the one’s depicted above as true success? Probably not, yet why has our culture (and perhaps we ourselves) become enchanted into living as if it really were true success?

Monday, February 13, 2006

Fixed upon the North Star

“Let your eyes look straight ahead,
fix your gaze directly before you.”

(Proverbs 4:25)

“They may have lived wildly and drank hard, but sailors who forged the high seas in days of old held one seemingly small detail with utmost sobriety,” write Medefind and Lokkesmoe in their book The Revolutionary Communicator. “That one little detail, appearing not much larger than a freckle in the sky, could impact the outcome of a journey even more than the speed of a ship, the spread of its sails, or the skill of the deckhands.” They continue,

Sailors made sure to know which star was the North Star.

Other heavenly bodies spun continuously across the night sky, never fixed. The North Star was different, shining always as the center point, the standard by which seamen could chart their course, log their location, and measure their progress.

Mistakenly set your instruments by any other point of light, and you very well could end up anywhere … anywhere, that is, except where you want to go.

What star is your life fixed upon?

Della Reese, star of the CBS hit Touched By An Angel, stands before the congregation at a church in West Hollywood – her church; she has traded in her angel wings for a pastor’s pulpit. It is a crowded service at the Understanding Principles of Better Living Church, and Della is preaching prosperity.

“There ain’t nothin’ up there,” she says. “So whatever it is you want, need or desire, or just like to have, you better try to get it now, ‘cause this is the only time there is. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow may be for us and it may not.”

Getting what you want while you can – that is one definition of success.

Here’s another: the frail woman, her sari held together by a safety pin, seemed out of place in a room of presidents and kings. Among these guests, she was anomaly – renowned for her work, yet possessing little to show for it. Where others had sedans and servants, she could carry all of her possessions in her worn and weathered hands.

One of the leaders, astonished by the woman’s devotion to meeting the needs of the desperately poor, asked her if she didn’t become discouraged when she saw so few successes in her work.

Mother Teresa answered, “No, I do not become discouraged. You see, God has not called me to a ministry of success. He has called me to a ministry of mercy.”

“Get it now” versus “ministry of mercy.” Each is a guiding star. Each will lead to very different ends.[i]


What are some bright stars in our culture at large?

What are some key venues whereby these messages are transmitted?

Our culture seems to equate success to lots of money and popularity. Reflect on the following statement made by Mother Teresa.

“God has not called me to be successful;
He has called me to be faithful.”

Mother Teresa

“When generous acts bloom from unselfish thought
the Lord is with us though we know it not.”


[i] Jedd Medefind & Erik Lokkesmoe, The Revolutionary Communicator, (Relevant Media Group, 2004), 129-130.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Speared with Christ

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live,
but Christ lives in me.
The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God,
who loved me and gave himself for me.”
(Galatians 2:20 NIV)

“Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.” (Galatians 2:20 The Message[i])

The summer before his senior year in college, Jim Elliot wrote this prayer in his journal,

“’He makes His ministers a flame of fire.’ Am I ignitable? God deliver me from the dread asbestos of ‘other things.’ Saturate me with the oil of the Spirit that I may be a flame. But flame is transient, often short-lived. Canst thou bear this, my soul-short life? In me there dwells the Spirit of the Great Short-Lived, whose zeal for God’s house consumed Him. ‘Make me Thy Fuel, Flame of God.’”[ii]

What was Jim saying, when he said “a flame is often short-lived?”

His journal illustrates an internal conflict, “Can I bear the thought of merely being a short-lived flame.” Why do we so fear the thought of a short-life, be it physically or time in the spot-light?

“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

(Galatians 6:14 NIV)

[i] E. H. Peterson, 2003. The Message : The Bible in contemporary language . NavPress: Colorado Springs, Colo.
[ii] Elisabeth Elliot, Through Gates of Splendor, (New York: Harper and Row), 1957.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

It’s in the Seed

“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains only a single seed.”
(John 12:24)

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”[i]
(Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

Betty Elliot was visiting at the home of one of her friends, Wendell Collins, a director of Teen Teams for Youth for Christ. Trying to comfort her, Wendell asked how she was coping with the death of her husband.

Wendell,” said Betty, “Jim didn’t die in the jungle.”

“I know, Betty,” he said. “I know his life is hid with Christ in God, and you’ll see him in heaven. But he really did die in the jungle.”

“No, he didn’t.”

Wendell thought, The grief has really gotten to her. She’s beginning to retreat from reality. “Betty,” he said, “you have to face it: Jim is really dead. He really did die in that jungle.”

“No,” she said.” “Jim didn’t die in the jungle. He died when he was a kid in high school. He died when he knelt beside his bed and prayed. He died when he wrote in his journal, ‘Gold must be spent. Blood is of no value unless it flows across the altar. Am I expendable? God take me. Spend me any place you need me.’ That’s when my husband died.”[ii]
“When the will of God crosses the will of man, somebody has to die.”[iii]
(Elisabeth Elliot)

Many of us pray prayers like, “God, use me,” “I’ll live for you,” and so on. As sincere and well-intended as these prayers are often offered, what might be some ramifications of adding the five small words “any place you need me?”
“God, use me… any place you need me.”
“I’ll live for you.. in every area of my life.”
"God, spend me any place you need me.”


“For the sinful self is not my real self, it is not the self You have wanted for me, only the self that I have wanted for myself. And I no longer want this false self. But now, Father, I come to You in your own Son’s self . . . and it is He Who presents me to You.”[iv] (Thomas Merton)

Meditate on the following statements.
Death is the opening of a more subtle life.
In the flower, it sets free the perfume;
in the chrysalis, the butterfly;
in man the soul.

Some die without having really lived,
while others continue to live,
in spite of the fact that they have died.

“The end of birth is death; the end of death is birth.”

Why fear death?
It is the most beautiful adventure in life.”

“He who would teach men to die would teach them to live.”

“Only the hands that give away the flowers of their plucking retain the fragrance thereof.”Chinese Proverb

[i] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995), 89.
[ii] Ibid., Winkie Pratney, 191-192.
[iii] Addison Leitch, quoted in Passion and Purity, Elizabeth Elliot, (Revell, 1984), 72.
[iv] Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude (Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1958), 75.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Savage Redemption

What happened to the Waodani? By the next October, 1958 Rachel Saint, Nate’s sister, Betty Elliot, and Betty’s three-year-old daughter, Valerie, were living in the Waodani village. One by one the Waodani put their faith in Jesus Christ. The five men who had murdered the missionaries became not only Christians but also spiritual leaders of the Waodoni people.

What brought about such change in these once violent people? Only the power of love – God’s love. However, the Waodani did not even have a word for love in their language. Speak to them about love and they would not have understood at all. But show them men who could have, and perhaps should have defended themselves and did not, men who were willing to die to bring something to the Waodani, men who counted something more important than even life itself, and they could understand that.[i]

There was another extraordinary occurrence that happened as these five men were being speared to death. Rachel Saint and Elisabeth Elliot learned of this occurrence some time later as they were talking with Dawa[ii], a Waodani women about the events that had taken place on Palm Beach the day their husbands were killed. When the men were dead and their bodies lying on the beach, the Waodani heard singing. Dawa was in the woods and others on the beach when they looked up over the tops of the trees and saw a large group of people singing. They described it by saying it looked like “a hundred flashing lights.”[iii]

At the time,
they had had no idea they were seeing angels, and they were understandably frightened by the vision. Had their actions brought on this strange vision, they wondered? Only years later, when they had heard and understood the gospel, did the Waodani realize what they had seen.

Dawa later told Rachel that it was that vision on the beach that had first persuaded her to believe in God, and Dawa had become the first Christian in the tribe.

Pete, Ed, Roger, Nate, and Jim had given their lives trying to reach the Waodani. At the time, it may have seemed that they had failed. In fact, many American’s response to this incident was most interesting. Upon hearing of the five men’s death, many said, “What a waist.” Others said, “It’s not right that we let people go to such savage areas of the world. For their own good, missionary activity in such areas should be prohibited.”[iv] But time would depict something on the contrary. Nine years later, in June 1965, two of Nate Saint’s children, Kathy and Steve, were baptized at Palm Beach by two of the men who had killed their father.[v] Thirty-six years after the killings, the Waodani Indians celebrated having the entire New Testament in their own language. The Waodani president said at the ceremony: “We no longer want to live as the old ones who killed each other and outsiders. We want to live by what God says. Ever since I was a small boy in this community, I have heard that we were going to get this book; now we have it!”[vi]

Imagine yourself as a thirteen-year-old child being baptized by the very men who brutally murdered your father.

Think of the different dynamics alive. What images of love, redemption, forgiveness and transformation can you find in this story?

“23-Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24-I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25-The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26-Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” (John 12:23-26 NIV)

Meditate on the follow passage. What are the different ways the story of the five missionaries and what transpired afterwards help us understand the power of the words by Jesus?

“The world cannot always understand one's profession of faith,
but it can understand service.”


[i] Winkie Pratney, Fire on the Horizon, (Ventura, California: Renew Books, 1999), 191.
[ii] Susan Martins Miller, Jim Elliot: Missionary to Ecuador, (Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour Publishing, Inc.), 194-1996.
[iii] Olive Fleming Liefeld, Unfolding Destinies (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990), 235. and Elisabeth Elliot, Through Gates of Splendor, (New York: Harper and Row), 1957.
[iv] Ibid., Winkie Pratney, 191.
[v] Russell Hitt, Jungle Pilot, (Grand Rapids: Discovery, 1997).
[vi] “Dedication of Auca New Testament,” Catalyst, Vol. 6, No. 2-3 (1995), 8-9.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Can You Read Me?

New Year’s Day 1956 was the day for the five missionaries to prepare for their upcoming attempt to contact the fierce Waodani Indians of Ecuador. Nate Saint, the pilot, was going to fly them to the place they had dubbed Palm Beach. This is where they had previously exchanged gifts with the Waodani from the air. As Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, Ed McCully, and Roger Youdarian collected what they would need for their mission, Betty Elliot, Jim’s wife, wondered, Will this be the last time I’ll help him pack?

After breakfast and prayer on the day of their departure, January 3, the five men sang one of their favorite hymns:

We rest on thee, our Shield and our Defender,
Thine is the battle, thine will be the praise.
When passing through the gates of pearly splendor
Victors, we rest with thee through endless days.

Once on the beach, they built a tree house and prepared to contact the Waodoni. On Friday, January 6, a visit from a Waodani man and two women encouraged the missionaries. They spent several hours together and even gave the man a ride in the plane.

Saturday no Waodani appeared, but Sunday morning when Nate flew over the site, he spotted some Waodani men walking toward their beach. At 12:30P.M. Nate made his prearranged radio call to his wife, Marj, back at the mission station: “Looks like they’ll be here for the early afternoon service. Pray for us. This is the day! Will contact you at 4:30.”

When 4:30 came, the missionary wives switched on their radios. Silence. Five minutes went by and then ten. Sunday came, and still no word. The wives slept little that night.

The five missionaries did indeed make contact that afternoon. The group of Waodani men that Nate Saint had spotted walking toward the beach finally arrived. As the five men turned their attention to the Waodani emerging from the jungle, the spoke a few Waodani phrases, “Puinani! . . . Welcome!” The Waodani men, spears in hand walked towards the five men. Adrenaline soared within each of the missionaries. This was the moment for which they had been praying and preparing. In their minds were prayers of thanksgiving and praise. But these thoughts soon changed. The Waodani men, filled with rage, one by one, began to raise their spears in the air with great shouts. The first one, presumably the leader of the group, lunged one of his spears into the chest of one of the missionaries. Immediately, other Waodani began to do the same. The missionaries, several with loaded guns in hand, stood still with expressions of great love for those with raised voices, up-raised arms, and spears in hand. Before long, all five men lay lifeless, face down in the water, spears rendered through.

All the while, the missionary wives sat silently, prayerfully, expectantly awaiting a call back. The call never came.

What kind of devotion did these men possess and demonstrate?

The missionaries had loaded guns in their hands. Why do you suppose they did not defend themselves and shoot the soon-to-be killers?

As Nate Saint was packing the little yellow plane with final supplies for their upcoming journeys, his son Steve asked, “Dad, if the Waodoni try to kill you will you fight back and protect yourself?” Nate looked tenderly back at his son and responded, “We can't shoot the Waodani. They're not ready for heaven - we are."
“If only we could see the value of one soul like God does.”
George Verwer

Monday, February 06, 2006

Cannot Lose

“Then he said to them all:
‘If anyone would come after me,
he must deny himself and take up his cross
daily and follow me.’”
(Luke 9:23 NIV)

In 1955 five missionary couples in the jungles of Ecuador were planning for a chance to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the remote and fierce Waodani tribe. They had been conducting “gift flights” over Waodani territory, attempting to create awareness of their presence by dropping packages of clothing, food, and gadgets to the natives from a small plane.

On December 23, 1955, Nate Saint and Jim Elliot flew over Waodani territory and dropped a gift package of clothing, a flashlight, and other trinkets. This time the missionaries received a package back from the Waodani, who tied it to a long cord the missionaries dropped from the plane. It was full of fish, peanuts, bananas, a parrot, and other meats. The gift from the Waodani greatly encouraged the missionaries, and four of the five couples met that same day to plan the trip that would bring them face-to-face with members of the Waodani tribe.

The group began assigning the specific duties each member would be responsible for on the mission. Providing shelter in the jungle, packing food and supplies, maintaining a communication link with the home base, transporting those who were to go to and from the remote location, as well as other vital tasks, were all necessary for the success of the mission.

It was decided that the men would set up a camp on the beach near the location of the Waodani’s main settlement. They chose January 3, 1955, for the mission as they knew they would need to arrive and depart before the onset of the rainy season, which would make takeoffs and landings impossible.

As soon as the plans were finalized, the missionaries turned their attention to making Christmas in their camp in Arajuno as much like home as possible. A meal was prepared, and a Christmas tree was made from bamboo and decorated with tinsel to celebrate Jesus’ birth.

Missionary Pete Fleming was still undecided as to whether he would accompany the other men on this trip. He waited on God in prayer continuously. For the wives it was a time of reflection and preparation for the dangers that were sure to confront their husbands on this mission. They knew it was possible they all could become widows as a result of this expedition. They also knew that the God they served held first place in the lives of each of their husbands. This fact seemed to hit home now more than ever.

On December 23, 1955, just eleven days before they would land in attempts to make contact with the Waodani. This particular day was a day of much reflection for the five men who would venture into a new land, a violent culture and a people who were reputed as the most vicious of their time. Many could not understand what was driving these men. Why were they risking their lives for the chance of making contact with the Waodani.

Nate Saint summed up their sentiments:

“If God would grant us the vision, the word sacrifice would disappear from our lips and thoughts; we would hate the things that seem now so dear to us; our lives would suddenly be too short, we would despise time-robbing distractions and charge the enemy with all our energies in the name of Christ. May God help us to judge ourselves by the eternities that separate the Aucas (former name for the Waodani) from a comprehension of Christmas and Him, who, though He was rich, yet for our sakes became poor so that we might, through His poverty, be made rich.”

What are some time-robbing distractions of our age?

What are some time-robbing distractions that you are most prone to?

During his college years Jim Elliot wrote in his journal,

“He is no fool
who gives what he cannot keep
to gain what he cannot lose.”

What are some things we typically hold-on to that we cannot keep?

“I never knew a child of God bankrupted by his benevolence.
What we keep we may lose, but what we give Christ we are sure to keep.”

Theodore L. Cuyler

Friday, February 03, 2006

Seeing More of Heaven on Knees

“Be still, Cease striving and know that I am God.”
(Psalm 46:10)

When was the last time you were simply still, motionless and speechless before God? A moment in time, when the busyness didn’t press in with numerous needs of the hour, invading your prayer time with ongoing ramblings? A moment when you simply were in the presence of God, aware of His Being?

“When we have met the Lord in the silent intimacy of our prayer,
then we will also meet him… in the market, and in the town square.
But when we have not met him in the center of our hearts,
we cannot expect to meet him in the busyness of our daily lives.”

“I want to know how God created this world.
I am not interested in this or that phenomenon,
in the spectrum of this or that element.
I want to know His thoughts; the rest are details.”
-Albert Einstein-

Said the great and devout scientist, Sir Isaac Newton:
“I can take my telescope and look millions and millions of miles into space,
but I can lay it aside and go into my room, shut the door,
get down on my knees in earnest prayer, and see more of heaven and get closer to God than
I can assisted by all the telescopes and material agencies on earth.”
—Free Methodist[ii]

Take a few minutes and simply be. Don’t speak. Don’t pray. Don’t even tell God you love Him, or worship Him. Simply be. Be silent. Be still. And experience the Deep of God’s Spirit calling out to the deep of your spirit. Be conscious of His presence, His Spirit deep inside. In short, communion with God.

“As for that which is far off and exceedingly deep, Who can find it out?”

[i] Henri Nouwen, !Gracias!: A Latin American Journal, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1983, 21.
[ii] Tan, P. L. 1996, c1979.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Divine Mirror

“Lift up your eyes on high, And see who has created these things,
Who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name,
By the greatness of His might And the strength of His power; Not one is missing.”

(Isaiah 40:26)

“Each human self is unique, and also the human species as a whole,”writes Cornelius Plantinga Jr.[i] He continues,

But the same goes for the rest of creation. Hence the distinct “kinds” of plants and animals in Genesis 1, with each species, and each individual within its species, possessing its own integrity. As Alan Lewis notes, human beings have sometimes presumed that the sequence of creation, fall, and redemption is only a human drama. In this way of thinking, nonhuman creation is merely a stage. Animals are only props. The show is about us.[ii]

But the Bible reveals the arrogance of this way of thinking. According to its revelation, “the earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it” (Psalm 24:1). In Genesis 9 God makes the “rainbow covenant” with Noah, but also with “every living creature.” The biblical drama that starts with creation and ends in shalom includes, at each stage, wolves and lambs and all else that God has made, revealing that God’s providence extends beyond humankind to the whole range of created kinds. In fact, we might think of the created world as a stage not for humans, but for God, who puts on his show in forest, sky, and sea every day.

The result, as John Calvin notes, is that “wherever we cast our gaze” we can spot signs of God’s glory, disclosed in “the whole workmanship of the universe.” God gives off a “general” or universal revelation through creation and providence, and unless we dull our perception of it by sloth or self-interest, the vast system of the universe becomes for us “a sort of mirror in which we can contemplate God, who is otherwise invisible.”[iii]

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells
Each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves – goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came.

Gerard Manley Hopkins[iv]

“The universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which all creatures,
great and small, are as letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God.”

(The Belgic Confessions, Article 2)

What are some “mirrors” in which God has revealed Himself to you (perhaps in nature or in other elements of the universe)?

How has God uniquely created you to worship, praise and live before Him?

“Knowing the plumbing of the universe,
intricate and awe-inspiring though that plumbing might be,
is a far cry from discovering its purpose.”


Meditate on the following poem. Allow it to become a prayer that guides you today.

Lord, purge our eyes to seeWithin the seed a tree,
Within the glowing egg a bird,
Within the shroud a butterfly,
Till taught by such, we seeBeyond all creatures Thee
And hearken for Thy tender word
And hear it, “Fear not; it is I.”
Christina Rossetti

[i] Cornelius Plantinga Jr., Engaging God’s World: A Christian Vision of Faith, Learning, and Living, Grand Rapids, 26-27.
[ii] Alan Lewis, Theatre of the Gospel, Edinburgh: Handsel Press, 1984, cited in Migliore, Faith Seeking Understanding, 80.
[iii] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2 vols., ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960, 1:52 (1.5.1).
[iv] Gerard Manley Hopkins, “As Kingfishers Catch Fire,” in Poems and Prose of Gerard Manley Hopksins, selected and with an intro. And notes by W. H. Gardner, New York: Penguin Books 1953, reprint 1985.
[v] Christina Rossetti, “Lord, purge our eyes to see,” in The Complete Poems of Christina Rossetti, vol. 2, ed. R. W. Crump, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1986, 210.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Divine Rejoicing

“May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
May the LORD rejoice in His works.”
(Psalm 104:31)

Full many a gem of purest ray serene,The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear:Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,And waste its sweetness on the desert air. "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard"by Thomas Gray in 1751.

This great poem was written by Thomas Gray, as he had been moved by the thought that on the bottom of the ocean there were beautiful gems that no human eye would ever see, and that in distant deserts millions of flowers would bloom, blush with vivid colors, give off a sweet fragrance and never be touched or seen or smelled by anybody —but God! The psalmist is moved by the same thing it in Psalm 148:7,

"Praise the Lord you sea monsters and all deeps!"

He doesn't even know what is in all the deeps of the sea! So the praise of the deeps is not merely what they can testify to man. It seems to me that creation praises God by simply being what it was created to be in all its incredible variety. And since most of the creation is beyond the awareness of mankind (in the reaches of space, and in the heights of mountains and at the bottom of the sea) it wasn't created merely to serve purposes that have to do with us. It was created for the enjoyment of God.

When I was a boy, my aunt bought me a subscription to Ranger Rick. In it there would always be insights into the world of nature and beyond. One writer, who loves to read his son’s Ranger Rick Magazine, describes an issue that spotlighted the European water spider that lives at the bottom of a lake, but breathes air. It does a somersault on the surface of the water and catches a bubble of air, and holds it over the breathing holes in the middle of its body while it swims to the bottom of the lake and spins a silk web among the seaweed. Then it goes up and brings down bubble after bubble until a little balloon of air is formed where it can live and eat and mate.[i]

Could it be that God joyfully smiles and says, "…and I have been enjoying that little piece of art for 10,000 years before anybody on earth knew it existed. And if you only knew how many millions of other wonders there are beyond your sight that I behold with gladness everyday!" Psalm 104:25-26 says,

“This great and wide sea, In which are innumerable teeming things,
Living things both small and great. There the ships sail about;
There is that Leviathan Which You have made to play (sport) there.”
(Psalm 104:25-26)

Why did God create great sea monsters? Just to play, to frolic, in the ocean where no man can see but only God. The teeming ocean declares the glory of God, and praises him a hundred miles from any human eye. That's the second statement about why God rejoices in his works.
Look at verse 24:

“How many are your works, O LORD!
In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.”

(Psalm 104:24 NIV)

"In wisdom you have made them all!" In other words the Lord delights in the expressions of His wisdom. This universe is simply a masterpiece of wisdom and order. Or, if you just take a part of it like the human body —what an amazing work of knowledge and wisdom. Who can fathom the human brain and the mystery of mind and body!

The world is full of the wisdom of God. Take diatoms for example. In December Ranger Rick had color photographs of microscopic diatoms. There are 10,000 known species of diatoms! In a teaspoon of lake water there may be a million of these tiny invisible plants. And what are they doing while entertaining God with their microscopic beauty? They are making tons and tons of oxygen so that the animals in the water can breathe![ii]

“Everyone takes the limits of his own vision for the limits of the world.”

Meditate on the following passage:

"24 O LORD, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all. The earth is full of Your possessions- 25 This great and wide sea, In which are innumerable teeming things, Living things both small and great. 26 There the ships sail about; There is that Leviathan Which You have made to play there.
27 These all wait for You, That You may give them their food in due season.
28 What You give them they gather in; You open Your hand, they are filled with good. 29 You hide Your face, they are troubled; You take away their breath,
they die and return to their dust. 30 You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; And You renew the face of the earth. 31 May the glory of the LORD endure forever; May the LORD rejoice in His works. 32 He looks on the earth, and it trembles;
He touches the hills, and they smoke. 33 I will sing to the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. 34 May my meditation be sweet to Him; I will be glad in the LORD. 35 May sinners be consumed from the earth, And the wicked be no more. Bless the LORD, O my soul! Praise the LORD!

(Psalm 104:24-35)

What images of wonder and awe does this passage provoke?

As you ponder God’s creation what would you add to this psalm if you were writing it? (You may want to see what else the Psalmist wrote in verses 1-23).

[i] John Piper, “The Pleasure of God in His Creation,” http://www.desiringgod.org/library/sermons/87/020887.html.
[ii] John Piper, “The Pleasure of God in His Creation,” http://www.desiringgod.org/library/sermons/87/020887.html