A Box of Change

a-box-of-changeOn a shelf inside our front door is a small wooden box where I keep my car keys, odd scraps of paper on which I’ve written notes, paperclips, and pocket change.

Not long ago I watched Daniel put change in a vending machine and I asked where he’d gotten the change. “I took it out of the key box,” he replied.

Surprised I said, “You mean my change? You’ve been stealing my change?

Daniel answered, “I didn’t know it was yours. I’ve always thought it was there for anyone who needed extra money.

The worst blindness is that which we have toward ourselves. Daniel couldn’t see his own sin until it was pointed out to him.

This is the reason many people reject the God of the Bible and refuse to read that Bible. The Bible reveals the perfection of God against the sinfulness of each of us. The child of God draws near to Him when sin is pointed out, he confesses his sin, and the joy in the salvation of Jesus is restored.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24).

3 + 4 = 9

3-4-9Each week I visit a local UPS Store to make a few photocopies. I have an account at the store which keeps a running total of my copies and then I pay once I’ve reached a total of 500 copies.

Today I made 30 copies and I watched as the 18 to 20 year old employee counted one-by-one in addition to the 40 already on the account. Once she reached the total of 70 I asked if she’d like to learn a trick to help her in the future. She agreed.

What is 3 plus 4?” I asked.

She hesitated before answering, “Nine.”

Another employee about the same age stepped up to the counter and said, “He tricked me with this the last time he was here.” With a big smile she announced, “It’s 8.”

This is state of education in America.

Many of us think we know the Bible much better than we do. I’ve been a pastor for 30 years and regularly encounter people who boast in their Christianity yet are Biblically ignorant. More frightfully are pastors who just as ignorant.

At Berean School of Ministry of Kenya, our goal is to raise up a generation of pastors who know the Word of God. It is through His Word that He reveals Himself to mankind. It is the Bible by which we learn His character, His acts, and His expectations.

Click here to learn more about Berean School and how you can help us train pastors to be faithful teachers of the Scriptures. We cannot continue this ministry without your support.

Study to show yourself approved unto God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

Treasures in the Storm

Treasures in the StormWhen Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans in 2005, the young college graduate grabbed the things most valuable to her. Her treasures in the storm were a television set, a DVD player, some money, and her clothes.

The television news crew found her sitting on a curb in front of what had once been her apartment, crying. She’d saved her electronics while an elderly neighbor drown and a family member died.

We often say with sincerity that we don’t put much importance on material things. The words slide over our lips with ease as we talk about our willingness to sacrifice for Jesus. Then disaster strikes and we throw our hands into the air demanding an accounting from God. It’s surrender, but on our own terms.

Jesus reminded His followers to not lay up treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19, 20). Treasures are the things we value. When we have but moments to act, the treasures of our hearts are often revealed. The young woman in New Orleans revealed her treasures.

The things of this world are passing away. Television sets, clothes, houses and friends are all in a continual state of decay and loss. They may take years to vanish, but other times are gone as quickly as a wave washes upon the shore.

If you follow the trail of your treasures, you’ll find your heart (Matthew 6:21).  Treasure things eternal. Make a living, thriving relationship with the Creator of the universe and the godliness He produces your eternal treasures. These can never be taken away.

Code Words

Code wordsI couldn’t help overhearing a conversation yesterday between two women in a public place.

I attended third grade back in the ancient days before text-messaging, when holding a private conversation in public required stealth. A group of us 8-year old boys in Mrs Tracy’s class became code talkers. We created a set of secret symbols which only we could decode. We could openly pass the notes we wrote, but only the guys with the code key could understand the conversation.

Our notes were full of serious secret information that third grade boys trade. Where shall we meet on the playground? What did your mom pack for your lunch? Do you think Susie is cute?

The other day at the park I listened as two women talked about religious things. The one was spewing religious words like a garden sprinkler set to high, but I could tell right away she didn’t know what they actually meant. It was like she was repeating a secret code without possessing the decoder key … and I’m doubtful she cared that her ignorance was showing. I turned to look at the two women, wondering if the other woman would call her friend’s bluff.

It’s an easy thing to fake a knowledge of the Bible and a walk with Jesus. Using religious code words hides ignorance for a while, but a discerning ear, coupled with time, usually reveals reality.

A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart (Proverbs 18:2).

My Day in Paradise

morning-in-paradiseThis morning I woke up and took a jog on the beach. The warm sea breeze, clear blue water, and powdery white sand made me dream about living here for eternity. It was my day in paradise!

Not long after I started out, I noticed a shining object in the water ahead. I picked it up and found it to be a golden lamp, the kind you would expect to see in Disney movie about a singing princess a long time ago in a Middle East desert.

I rubbed the sand from the lamp and a genie appeared. I know what you’re thinking right now, but I swear it’s the truth! The genie offered me one wish. I thought about all the possible wishes I could make. Had the genie not pressed me for an answer, it may have taken a thousand and one nights to narrow down my thoughts to just one.

“I wish for a copy of tomorrow’s newspaper!” I said. As the genie vanished in a puff of smoke the newspaper materialized.

Relaxing under the shady fronds of a palm tree, I opened the paper to the financial page and began making a list of all the stocks I would purchase back at the hotel. By my count, I’d be a millionaire by tomorrow!

I laid the newspaper down, tilted back my head and inhaled deeply. I shuddered to think that the choices I made today would change the rest of my life.

One last look at the ocean and I jumped up to go call my stock broker. I reached to pick up the newspaper and saw on the back page the obituaries. My name was at the top of the page with the headline: Man dies of heart attack in his sleep.

Jesus asked, What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? (Mark 8:36).

Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2).

Revealing Our Values

Tourist hand holding cell phone while taking a photograph of landscape in travel taking a pictureA picture is worth a thousand words.

Here in the US, a constant wifi or 4G signal automatically makes a backup copy of every photograph I take. Knowing my phone wouldn’t work the same in Kenya, I planned ahead for limited storage on my phone and bought a flash drive to transfer the photos onto every few days.

You can imagine my surprise when I found that the photographs of the last ten days in Kenya were missing. I’d like to blame the flash drive, but the hundreds of missing pictures must be the result of “operator error.”

Someone said, “You must be very angry,” but anger wouldn’t return the pictures.

We expend a great deal of emotional strength being angry over things we (1) can’t control and (2) we can’t change. Missing pictures. A spilled drink in the car. A hole in a favorite shirt. The annoying neighbor. Cat barf on the white carpet.

Anger boils for things we value, so what we get upset about reveals where our values lie. What does it say when we are more angry over material possessions, like missing photos, than a righteous anger about the evil lurking in our own attitudes or the sin in the world around us?

An angry man stirs up strife, and a furious man abounds in transgressions. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Proverbs 29:22; Matthew 6:21).

** Click here to watch a video of our 2016 ministry trip to Kenya.

A Thousand Miles

a-thousand-milesSurrounded by US troops, Confederate General Stonewall Jackson’s army found it necessary to cross a certain river. Jackson pulled his team of engineers together and told them to immediately build a bridge so his army could cross the river. He stressed the urgency of crossing the river as soon as possible.

The wagon master gathered all the logs, rocks, fence rails, and scrap lumber he could get his hands on. He scoured the forest, countryside and neighboring villages and towns for supplies and by the end of the day they had built a bridge.

Shortly before daylight, the wagon master reported to General Jackson that all of the supplies, wagons, and artillery had been moved across the river as commanded.

Not sure if he’d heard correctly, Jackson asked for the news to be repeated. He was amazed at how quickly the word had been carried out to completion. He called in the engineers and asked them how the work had been done in less than a day. The engineers didn’t know what Jackson was talking about; they were still working on the plans for the bridge.

Each of us have good intentions about things, even spiritual things. We know we should pray, read the Bible, go to church, and help others in need. We know and want to do these things, but we can’t seem to get started. We’re still trying to figure out how and where to begin, when the best way to begin … is just to begin.

The saying is that The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. It just so happens to be true. So begin your spiritual journey today with just one step. God doesn’t expect you to run a spiritual marathon before you’re able; but He does expect you to be walking rather than sitting around planning to walk.

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

Pounding and Peace

pounding-and-peaceThe darkness of my first night settles, but the pounding continues. I’ve heard constant pounding for so very long, more years than I can remember.

The pounding of the hammer has changed my body. My hands are thick with calluses, my skin darkened by the sun, and my arms more muscled than in my youth. The change would not have been so dramatic if I’d had more help. Though the work ended just over a week ago, I still hear that bang! bang! bang! that shakes and rattles even my bones.

Through the pounding of the hammer God spoke to me of a coming miraculous sign. I was uncertain, but when the animals approached I knew it was Him who spoke. Animals of every sort, more than I could count, more than I could describe came to me. And still the pounding. The pounding of hooves and feet, marching, clopping, banging.

Today the pounding continued, but not the banging of hammer against nail or hoof against floorboards. Today was the pounding of raindrops against this great vessel my sons and I have spent our lives building. Once my family entered, the hand of God closed the door behind us and the rains began pounding against the ark so hard and fast that the boat was lifted from the ground. It would have been amazing to see the work of my hands finally float, except for what came next.

After an hour or two, the pounding of rain was drown out by the pounding of fists. For decades I’d been warning everyone that He was going to judge the world for its sin. Awful, terrible things, many I’ve only heard about, but things so bad I can’t even mention. Still the warnings went unheard.

Knowing what was coming didn’t prepare me for hearing my friends and family, neighbors and strangers, screaming to be let into this ark of safety. First the voices were mostly friendly, then the banging and shouting turned angry, then panicked. Slowly, as the pounding rains raged harder and harder against the boat, the pounding of the fists and the damning voices vanished into silence. If only they’d listened. If only they had believed.

So here in my bed, with the dim light of a candle, the pounding of the winds and rains continue. God said this will last only 40 days and 40 nights. That means 39 to go. I have no idea what I’m going to find when this is over. I can’t begin to imagine, but I hope . . . no . . . I pray to the Just God of the universe, that one day the pounding will stop and I’ll find peace.

Then God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the animals that were with him in the ark (Genesis 8:1).

Jesus Only

not-for-jesus-sake-onlyA great many of the Jews knew that Jesus was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead (John 12:9)

So much of the church service today is fabricated to appeal to a man’s fleshly nature; from the music to the lighting, from the decor to the motivational message. We leave after an hour or so of what we’ve called worship, impressed by the beautiful music, the wonderful sermon, the sweet fellowship, or the powerful prayers.

Yet in our time together we have failed to be impressed with the beautiful, wonderful, sweet, and powerful Saviour. We have come “not for Jesus’ sake only” but to see and satisfy self.

The Dew of Unity

the-dew-of-unityBehold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing – life evermore (Psalm 133:1, 3).

Since the very first man and woman, there has been disunity. God created Adam and Eve as one, but through sin that unity became a game of accusation and blame. Disharmony has been the common song of mankind ever since with notes of rebellion, hatred, murder, violence and chords of corruption, conflict and chaos.

When King David wrote Psalm 133, he sang of unity being like the morning dew. Dew is the tiny droplets of water that form on cool surfaces at night from the water in the air. It brings life to dryness. It is fragile and can’t be forced without easily disturbed it. Dew falls from above; no one can cause it to form.

Mount Hermon rises in the north of Israel and Mount Zion stands 200 miles south. Both peaks experienced the same dew from heaven each day, bringing needed refreshing to otherwise dry and lifeless conditions.

Unity – whether in a nation, a family, a marriage, or a church – is an act of God. We can create a false appearance of unity through fear or force, but true unity of heart is an act of God. He brings it into our relationships. Our responsibility is to cherish it and strive to maintain it with humility, gentleness, patience and love (Ephesians 4:1-6, 13). And where He produces unity, there is life forevermore.