Monday, August 23, 2010

Making The Right Decision

Kevin Slowey, a pitcher for the Minnesota Twins, was pulled from a recent game against the Oakland Athletics after throwing a no-hitter through the first seven innings. The home-crowd of over 40,000 fans voiced their disapproval, raining down a chorus of boos as the pitching change was made. The question that begs asking is: Why in the world would a manager replace someone who was obviously pitching so well? Does he not like the guy? Does he have something against no-hitters? This makes no sense! Or does it?

There were other factors at work that prompted Ron Gardenhire, the Twins manager, to make the difficult and unpopular choice. Slowey had recently had arm problems that caused him to miss his last start. In such situations, the pitch count is limited when the pitcher returns to action to prevent further and more serious damage to the throwing arm. If care is not taken, a career-ending injury can take place. Slowey had reached his pitch limit in the game. Gardenhire was quoted saying: "We're not going to come close to risking this guy. It's the way it is. It's sad. I'd be booing too because I want to see a no-hitter, but I also know I'm responsible for this guy's arm."

Making the right decision is often difficult. Reading this story made me think of another difficult choice (Philippians 1:21-26). The apostle Paul wanted to leave the struggles of this world and be with God. But his continued presence would be better for others. What a difficult choice! What did Paul choose? When faced with the decision between doing what was best for himself and what was best for others, Paul chose to benefit others.

Ron Gardenhire made the right decision even though others didn’t like it. Paul made the right decision even when he wasn’t sure if he liked it. God, please give me the wisdom and strength to make the right decIsions, even when they are difficult and unpopular.

God loves you!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Rock-Solid Faith

“Listen to me, all who hope for deliverance -- all who seek the Lord! Consider the rock from which you were cut, the quarry from which you were mined. Yes, think about Abraham, your ancestor, and Sarah, who gave birth to your nation. Abraham was only one man when I called him. But when I blessed him, he became a great nation” (Isaiah 51:1-2).

Not everyone among the nation of Israel who heard the prophecies of Isaiah was stubborn and rebellious. While most did refuse to hear, there was still a faithful remnant who listened to God and desired to do His will. But even this small group was becoming disheartened as they considered Isaiah’s messages of judgment and destruction. Perhaps they had reached the point where they thought all hope was lost. Maybe they had begun to believe that even the faithful were doomed. Could it be that things were so bad that even God would be helpless to straighten the mess out?

God’s answer to those whose faith was weakening was to point them to the past. He is a specialist when it comes to taking seemingly hopeless situations and doing something incredible. The writer of Hebrews describes God powerful work in Abraham and Sarah’s lives this way: “It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise. And so a whole nation came from this one man who was as good as dead -- a nation with so many people that, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, there is no way to count them” (Hebrews 11:11-12).

When we are faced with a situation that seems hopeless, I believe God would remind us of the same thing. “Consider the rock from which you were cut, the quarry from which you were mined.” May we all experience the blessing of being “ stones that God is building into his spiritual temple (1 Peter 2:5).

God loves you!


“But I am trusting in you, O Lord, saying, ‘You are my God!’ My future is in your hands. Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly” (Psalm 31:14-15).

The writer of this Psalm 31 was experiencing a very difficult time in life. While the specific problem isn’t stated, the text gives us some insight into what was going on. There was the potential of being disgraced (v. 1). Enemies were seeking the writer’s ruin (v. 4). Stress was taking an emotional and physical toll (vv. 9-10). A sense of estrangement and isolation was taking root (vv. 11-13).

Life was a mess for the psalmist. And things appeared to be going from bad to worse. Have you ever been there? Sure you have! You’ve experienced the savage winds of the storms of life, haven’t you? You have felt the sting of betrayal. One after another, the hits keep coming. A unexpected death in the family, a scary diagnosis, too much month at the end of the money. What do you do when life seems to be caving in? Where do you turn?

The psalmist turned his problems over to the God of the future. When life is going badly, the tendency is to believe that things will never get better. The struggles of the present blind us to the possibilities of the future. The root issue here is control. Am I willing to surrender my past, my present, and especially my future to the One who can truly control such things?

Ira Stamphill had it right in 1950 when he wrote the first verse of his well-known hymn: “I don’t know about tomorrow, I just live from day to day; I don’t borrow from its sunshine, for its skies may turn to grey. I don’t worry o’er the future, for I know what Jesus said; and today I’ll walk beside Him, for He knows what is ahead. Many things about tomorrow, I don’t seem to understand; but I know who hold tomorrow, and I know who hold my hand.”

God loves you!

Yellowstone Bible Camp

One of our favorite place to go is YBC in Montana. In fact we like it so much we've been there 15 times! It is a wonderful spiritual retreat away from technology and the world. We highly recommend it! This year was quite different in that only those who live in our house ;) were able to go. It was strange traveling with only one vehicle, needing only one hotel room and sleeping in a small cabin. We truly missed all our family that could not go with us this year and they missed going. But next year, Lord willing, we will all be there! On the way to camp we cut thru Yellowstone park and actually saw a grizzly bear right off the edge of the road! However I could not get my phone out fast enough to take a picture. We visited Chico Hot Springs for the second year in a row- a new family favorite, and on the way home went back thru Yellowstone. This time I had my camera ready and although we didn't see a bear we did see a bison walking right down the middle of the road! We stopped at Mammoth Hot Springs, to pacify me, and did the short walk. The pic of the twins on the bench is very near the start of the trail and the first bench they saw....

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I Dare Not Boast

“For by God’s grace, I am a special messenger from Christ Jesus to you Gentiles. I bring you the Good News so that I might present you as an acceptable offering to God, made holy by the Holy Spirit. So I have reason to be enthusiastic about all Christ Jesus has done through me in my service to God. Yet I dare not boast of anything except what Christ has done through me, bringing the Gentiles to God by my message and by the way I worked among them” (Romans 15:15b-18; NLT).

Boasting is a common human malady and religion is not immune to the disease. Preachers can be especially susceptible to the virus. Resumes are filled with impressive lists of “look what I have done” (degrees held, meetings conducted, number of conversions or responses, lectureships attended, books written, etc.). Sadly, churches have encouraged such a mindset. After all, when we set out to hire a minister, we want someone who can “produce the goods.” So there is a subtle (and, sometimes, not so subtle) pressure to “look better” than the next guy. The same spirit is also seen in the competition between congregations. Groups seek to attract attendees by touting their size, their programs, their soundness, or their worship experience. Too often, the message seems to be: “Look at us! Look at what we have to offer!”

In the face of such boasting, it is refreshing to consider the attitude of the apostle Paul. He could certainly compare resumes with the best in his profession. Yet, when he considered his service for God, all he could humbly utter was: “...I dare not boast of anything except what Christ has done through me...” For Paul, it was not about what he had done or what he could offer. The focus was to be on Christ, not on Paul.

“Usually the greatest boasters are the smallest workers. The deep rivers pay a larger tribute to the sea than shallow brooks, and yet empty themselves with less noise” (W. Secker).

God loves you!