Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The art of contemplation

I'm in a rather contemplative mood right now. I've been this way for a few days as I process through God's plan and purpose for my life. Why do I seem obsessed with the will of God and His plan for me? The short answer to that question is, simply because life has no real meaning or purpose outside of His will. As a pastor, I deal with people on a daily basis who think that the world is caving in around them. In some cases it is actually true (figuratively speaking of course), but the reason they are unable to cope with the pressures is because they are hard pressed to believe that God actually has a plan for their lives. They believe the circumstances over the promise of God.

It's hard not to focus on the negatives when there seem to be comparatively so few positives, but ultimately faith is the capacity to trust that there is a master plan. We are a City whose builder and maker is God. We are not the architects of our own destiny yet we insist on trying to design and orchestrate the course of our lives. The sad part of all that is the fact that we generally don't do such a good job of charting our own course. Contemplation helps me slow down long enough to "Let go, and let God take over." I need that in my life every so often, especially since I am so driven to produce. I need the serenity of contemplation, the quiet solitude of listening for His voice, in order to re-orient myself on the course He charted out in the first place.

It's the end of July. Seven months seem to have flown by, and the year is more than half way through. I need some clarity and perspective over the last few months of the year, so these last few days I've been contemplative. Care to join me?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Stretching the bow

Have you ever felt as if you're swimming upstream? Have you ever felt as if you're doing everything right and yet going backwards instead of forwards? Well I have good news for you if you've answered these questions in the affirmative. We had a guest speaker in church today, a good friend of mine who pastors a church in San Benito, TX. He preached a really great message and I am in no doubt that, judging by people's responses at the end of the service, it really hit home for many of us.

What struck a cord with me the most was his analogy of a bow being pulled back in preparation for release to strike the target. He likened this to what God often does in the lives of people that He is preparing for great works. In the midst of our greatest pain and struggle, when we feel like we are doing everything that we know God has called us to do and yet making no apparent progress, it is in those moments that He is simply "pulling us back" like the proverbial bow, preparing to release us toward the target that He has appointed for us. My friend further reminded us that the way to the throne is through the giant. David had been anointed king of Israel long before he ever had to face Goliath. This knowlege gave him the reassurance that he could not die in battle against the giant because the promise of God had not yet been fulfilled in his life. His battle against Goliath was a necessary step towards ascending the throne of Israel.

This should bring you great comfort, knowing that God has anointed you for great works and has planted a vision in your heart that is yet to be fulfilled. These "temporary and light afflictions" are merely your preparation for launching. In the process of preparation though, God molds character in you, removing the things that would be a hindrance to your purpose, and placing in you all the things necessary to your success. So take heart. Know that you are not walking this road alone and that the end of the journey holds nothing but great testimonies about God's faithfulness. As you endure being "pulled back" prepare to enjoy the ride as you are released from the bow towards your destiny.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Of Hands and Feet

As a christian leader how do you define success? I was recently asked this question by someone in our congregation, and it gave me pause to think. In our results-based culture, where success is generally measured by how big, how much, how often, amongst all the other "hows", it's easy to get busy "laboring and working for the Lord," trying to accomplish the vision we've been given. The inherent danger of that "busyness" is that we often forget to slow down and enjoy the "fruit" of our labor: savoring the relationships that have grown out of our effective ministry in the lives of people.

I call this the "Martha Syndrome". Martha was so in love with serving and helping others, that when Jesus came over for a visit she complained to Him that Mary, rather than sit at His feet as He talked to them, needed to be in the kitchen helping her prepare the meal. Surprisingly, rather than scold Mary and send her scurrying off to the kitchen to assist busy Martha, Jesus chided Martha saying, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her" (Luke 10: 41 - 42). I guess the lesson is that sometimes we need to still our busy hands from all the serving and laboring and just sit at His feet.

Ministry can sometimes appear difficult and even thankless. Until you look a little deeper. If the "hows" are all that you look for, you might have a tendency to miss the real fruit of your ministry. I've often said that the journey is sometimes the objective, and not the destination. While this doesn't hold true for every circumstance, there are many instances in which it does. Taking a moment out of the 100-mile-an-hour dash to the destination, to stop and savor the fruit, might give you a whole new perspective on your effectiveness. As I have wrestled with my own definition of succes in ministry, I have continued to have my perspective reshaped by some of the incredible people I've met along the way. Consider the following letter I received from a couple that had attended our church for a season, found a personal relationship with the Lord, and then relocated out of state. While I have removed their names to protect their privacy, nothing else in the letter is changed.

It brings me great sorrow to think that I will no longer be able to participate actively in the growth of "The Well". I came to The Well initially, expecting that it wouldn't be long before I became disinterested. Little did I know that The Well would be my salvation. Not only have I discovered my inate love for God, but I have also been able to contribute for the better of humanity and our community. It is because of your devotion to show what God's love can do, that we can all live in harmony with ourselves. The promise of our life beyond is the prize that we can all look forward to. You have shown me that, and for that I am eternally grateful. It pains me that I will no longer be on the receiving end of pastor Joseph's meaningful sermons. They are truly inspiring and moving. I pray that you will continue doing what you do, knowing, I am sure that you will help to save countless souls.
...You both have been an inspiration and blessings in our lives. You brought a close family even closer, and in the faith. I can never thank you enough. You will always be in our thoughts and prayers.

Wow! This is why we do it. Like the quote for the day says, "Transformation gets people's attention. There's no better method of evangelism than a changed life... it takes a process of discipleship to fully transform lives from darkness into light." Anyone want to sit at the Master's feet with me today?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

A good time was had by all

Sadly this is the last instalment of our South Padre Island Chronicles. Today I am posting a pot pourri of photographs for reflection. I am truly grateful for my wife and kids. If I had been given the chance to have hand picked my family, I couldn't have done any better. As I reflect on the week of our vacation, and nostalgically revisit all the pictures we took, I am reminded that there is nothing better than family.

All the money in the world could not have made this vacation any more enjoyable. Playing racquet ball with my son each day, building sandcastles with my daughters, walking on the beach with my wife, chowing down on "cabrito" in Mexico, fishing in the gulf, and all the other incredibly fun things we did, could not have been any more enjoyable. These things were fun because of the people I shared them with. I am one of the wealthiest men in the world! I make that declaration boldly as I recall a conversation I had just this evening with a dear friend. He reminded me that I am blessed and fortunate because I have a wife and kids who love me, as well as friends, a lead team, and a church that values and prays for me. How could anyone be wealthier than that?

I hope you enjoy these last few photos of our South Padre Island vacation. I know I have thoroughly enjoyed sharing them with you. Drop me a line sometime about your vacation.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Gone Fishing

Believe it or not, last weeks trip to Texas was the first time I've ever gone fishing. On a previous trip to Mercedes, TX, I had gone on an overnight "fishing trip" on a relatively small boat. While the company was wonderful, we spent much of the night bobbing up and down in the water, trying to fall asleep under the stars. As I recall, there was no fishing done whatsoever, and if the truth be told, I was particularly excited to get back to dry land the next day.

Not so this trip. My son and I went out with a couple of avid "professional" fishermen on a really nice boat, and they had more fishing rods between them than I would care to count. After they'd explained the rudimentary details of fishing, we started our first practicum by throwing a net out to catch our own bait, and then we headed out into the gulf a few miles to catch some prized red fish. It was an incredible experience, and by the time I had wrestled my fish into the boat, I'd begun to have dreams of winning some sport fishing competition (not so fast my friend, I'm just kidding). The amazing thing is that only my son and I caught anything before we had to head back to shore (0ur boat developed a little engine trouble). We both caught 27 inch red fish and the experience of reeling them in and wrestling them into the boat was heady.

I must admit that it was one of the highlights of our trip (at least for me) and I really am seriously considering taking up fishing as a hobby (with all that spare time I have). That evening we had fish for dinner, and I admit, I had fish for breakfast the next morning too. There was so much meat that my family could only eat one of the fish (all five of us) over two meals. We gave one of the fish to our friend Efrain, who had been so gracious to take time off from his busy work schedule and hang out with us while we were on vacation. I am attaching a photo of my son and I proudly displaying our catch (and for good measure I am tossing in a photo of Efrain trying to fish with his mouth while tubing). The photo of us holding our prize catch is a little grainy as it was taken on a camera phone. In case you're wondering which one I am, I'm the good looking one on the left, or is it the right?

Anyway, the sense of accomplishment in knowing that I'd actually caught and cleaned my own dinner, made the fish taste better than any I have ever had. I guess it's sort of like 'fishing' for men. Jesus called His disciples to walk with Him, promising to make them "fishers of men." The comparison is drawn from the fact that there is no greater feeling of euphoria than sharing the truths of the scriptures with someone, and then sharing in the privilege of leading them into a personal relationship with Jesus. The satisfaction I derive from "fishing" for men is incomparable to anything else I have ever experienced. It's a joy and a privilege to go "fishing". Maybe you should try it sometime!

Thursday, July 19, 2007


One of my most favorite things to do when I visit south Texas, is to visit Mexico. It's a little less than 30 minutes drive from Harlingen through the International Bridge in Brownsville, to a town called Matamoros. A large group of us crossed the border in three cars, on an express mission to get some world famous goat meat. I absolutely love goat meat! In Mexico it is referred to as "Cabrito" and is served roasted and tender, with tortillas and all the "fixins." It was my family's first trip to Mexico, and my wife even found time to visit twice, going to another town called Nuevo Progresso. I am posting some of the photos of our foray into Mexico. In case you're wondering what the spiritual principle for today is, I figured you'd be too preoccuppied with the tantalizing photos of cabrito to worry about that. But just in case you need a little something extra, remember that you'll never really know how good something tastes until you try it, so don't knock goat meat until you've tried it. I'm not sure what that translates into in a spiritual context but I'm pretty sure you'll come up with something. Cabrito anyone?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Walking on Water (okay, in water)

The day we arrived on South Padre Island, we met up with Chad Roy, a friend of a friend, who owns a brand-spanking-new boat. He took us out on the gulf about a mile or so from shore, where we got to see the wild dolphins feeding up close. As they pranced and danced around the boat, sometimes they would come within ten feet of us (it felt as if you could lean out of the boat and touch them). It was an amazing sight and feeling.

Initially the older of my two daughters, who happens to be less adventurous, had her face buried in the crook of her arm, not wanting to see where we were going as we "floated" across the water. As you will see in one of the photographs, that lasted about, oh, all of two seconds before she was in the water prancing and dancing like the dolphins. This was because of her initial perception of the waters of the gulf. Being a mile out from shore, we somehow got the impression that we were out in really deep waters, especially because we were only a few yards away from where the dolphins were feeding (and we had been informed that they only feed in deep water and it was around 20 feet where they were feeding).

When my friend and my son decided to go tubing, we discovered that we were only in about two and a half feet of water. Because the water is rather dark and murky, it was impossible to tell that it was that shallow since we couldn't see the ocean floor. This is how it is in our relationship with God sometimes. He asks us to step out of the boat and trust him to walk on water, but we think "there's no way on earth I can do that, the water's too deep!" Perception isn't always reality though. Our notion that the water where we were was deep, however scary to my daughter, was false. Once she realized that it was actually really shallow, she was willing to step out of the boat and walk on, I mean in water!

It was shallow enough at some points that we got stuck on a sandbar and literally had to pile out of the boat, and dig the bow free so that we could push it into deeper water. Today I am posting pictures of our water escapades. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Green might be the new black

Last week we went on our first family vacation (all expenses paid by someone other than me) since moving to Orlando to start The Well. It was a really relaxing time for me, and I actually rediscovered the joys of hanging out on the beach, wading out into the water and being buffeted by the waves, and just plain doing nothing! I'm back home now. Back to the real world. While I truly enjoyed my time away, I couldn't wait to get back to what I love doing so much: Investing in people's lives and serving our community through The Well.

Anyway, just as I promised last week, I will devote this week to posting photos and stories about the trip so that you can live vicariously through me (This might be just the vacation you've needed yourself). We were meant to have stayed at the condo of a really generous friend of mine. However, when we arrived in Harlingen (the airport you fly into to get to South Padre Island) he informed me that his condo only had one bedroom, a pull-out sofa bed in the sitting room, and no maid service. Since there are five of us in my family, and we were commited to personally not straightening one sheet this week, this would have posed a bit of a problem. He'd already thought of all that ahead of our arrival and had decided to book us into the Radisson for the entire week, on his own dime. Wow! we had a two bed/ two bath condo on the 10th floor overlooking the pool and the beach. What an incredible view to wake up to every morning (I could really get used to that kind of lifestyle).

We cooked much of the time, ate out some of the time and generally blew our disciplined eating lifestyle for the entire week. Fortunately for us we were reliably informed that once you cross the bridge from Port Isabel onto South Padre Island, calories don't count. Phew! What a relief to know since I probably set a new Guiness world record for number of calories consumed in a day. They were right about the calories not counting. My son and I played raquet ball every day and the scales actually indicated that I was losing and not gaining weight (no I didn't adjust the scales, why would you even think that?). Now that's the way to live. To be able to eat whatever you want and not gain a pound. Don't quote me on that though if it doesn't work for you.

Today I will post a few pictures of the view from our room. Is that green I detect on your face? Don't worry, envy is easily taken care of through the deliverance ministry, just call my assistant and set up an appointment!

By the way, today is my precious wife's birthday. It's one of those really special ones with a zero after the first digit, and it isn't thirty. If you know her, drop her a line and wish her a fantastic day.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Reach out and touch someone

Airports are interesting places to people watch. You'd be amazed at how much you can learn about people by just observing them at the airport. We have a really awkward connection going back to Orlando, which includes a really looooong layover at Houston's International Airport. I have been people watching!

We are relational creatures. Everywhere I look, people are on cell phones "reaching out and touching" someone else. Others are fighting a losing battle trying to keep their kids occupied while they wait for their flights (the kids would much rather climb on precarious barriers set up for crowd control in the endless lines). I notice couples talking, kissing, holding hands and doing whatever it is that couples can do (in public). I see grossly overweight people stuffing their faces with fast food and guzzling down massive cups of soda that cost almost $8.00 each. Then there are the "techies" typing away at their keyboards as they attempt to stay in touch with the rest of the world.

It's amazing how relational we are. The only apparently miserable people I've seen are sitting alone (and evidently have no one to call). We need people in our lives that make us feel wanted and loved. We need to feel that our lives matter to others. As I write this, we are seated in this massive, security-conscious building, all waiting to get on a metal tube that will zip us through the sky at over 600 miles an hour, just so that we can get to the people we love and connect with. If we are so relational, such that we cannot do without connecting with each other, I wonder what God must feel like when we neglect spending time with Him, especially since we are made to be relational just like Him. Have you connected with Him today? If not, why don't you take a moment right now and make that happen. You don't even need a phone or a laptop and so there are no expensive roaming charges or server fees. Come on and join in the fun. Even though you might not be at an airport, you can reach out and touch too!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Can you handle the journey?

I am an avid fan of the Tour de France. The month of July every year finds me glued to "Versus", a channel I watch at no other time of the year. The Tour de France is arguably the most gruelling, most exacting sporting event in the world. I am somewhat of an amateur bike rider myself, riding an average of 80 - 100 miles a week. I know, I know, what possesses an over 250 pound man to become a road biker, I hear you ask? I guess it's the thrill of the downhill. when everyone else is rolling at 30mph and I am zipping by them at the colossal speed of 40mph. My weight serves me well on the downhill, it just doesn't do as much for me when I'm laboring uphill and my heart rate is spiking at 178bpm.

These professional bike riders on the other hand, average around 140 pounds and most of that weight is in their massive legs. They have tree-trunk-thighs and massive calves that pump like pistons as they maintain an average road speed - on the flats not the downhills - of over 35mph. The Tour de France lasts all of 23 days and covers a distance of over 2000 miles through some of the most unforgiving terrain anywhere on earth. They ride through mountains that have been known to humiliate some of the finest athletes on earth. In some cases, some of the riders have simply stopped, gotten off their bikes, and quit the race. The mental strength required to finish this race is limited to so few, that significantly less than 60% of the riders who begin the race each year actually finish it.

Why do they do it? Why are they willing to punish their bodies and stretch themselves beyond human limits just to stand on a podium on the Champs Elysees? I think it's because, what differentiates us from animals is the fact that we have an innate sense of purpose that drives us to conquer and achieve the seemingly impossible. Sir Edmund Hilary, when asked why he would attempt to climb Everest (before it had ever been done) replied, "Because it is there!" The riders of the Tour have been asked to sign a commitment letter demonstrating their commitment to compete at the highest levels without the use of performance enhancing drugs. All the participants in this years tour have signed that letter. What appeals to me most though, is the fact that the organizers of the race are aware that ink on paper is no demonstration of true commitment and so they came out with the following statement:

Commitment isn't something you can just sign your name to. It's something you train for your whole life. It's something in your genes. You either have it, or you don't. You won't find proof of it in the ink on some dotted line, but you will find it in the mountains of France...let's ride.

This reminds me of Craig Groeschel's statement at the ARC conference earlier this year. In making a comparison between the pastor whose church doesn't grow and the pastor of a mega congregation, he suggested that one of the primary differences between them was the amount of pain they were willing to endure. Anything that is worthwhile, valuable, and positively impacts people's lives, is bound to require sacrifice, and will more than likely exact a painful price before final success is achieved. This can be said of the Christian experience.

Many Christians have been sold a bill of goods, in being made to believe that Christianity takes all your problems away and makes life easy. The real truth is that Christianity is like a pearl of inestimable value, a jewel of great price. We must be willing to sacrifice everything in order to live the full experience. Like the riders of the Tour de France, what we say about what we believe, carries significantly less weight than what we do. The mountains of life will determine our commitment levels.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Today it will be overcast, partly cloudy and...

I'm in South Texas. South Padre Island to be precise. This is actually the first vacation my family has been on since we moved to Orlando to plant The Well back in November of 2005. It's incredibly beautiful here and I will make sure that I post a number of photos and stories about the trip all next week. Today however, I wanted to write about something a little more somber that happened.

We stopped off at the Walmart Superstore just outside of the Island (grocery store prices on the Island require a mortgage) to do some grocery shopping for the week, and while we were waiting for an attendant at the Deli, I noticed a young woman also waiting to be attended to. She was attractive and looked like she might be a tourist too. These weren't the things that struck me most though. What caught my attention was the fact that she was crying. When she caught my eye, she wiped her tears and attempted to look as if everything was okay, but her red cheeks, puffy eyes and down-turned lips made it a losing effort.

In this sea of festive humanity, the majority of whom appeared to be enjoying some kind of vacation, it seemed rather incongruous to find someone looking so dejected and unhappy. I walked up to her and asked her if everything was okay. At first she said she was fine, but again the uncooperative tears betrayed her as they freely poured down her red cheeks. I gently insisted that she tell me what was going on, and she finally said, "I'm just really sad." When I prodded for more information she told me that her husband had decided to file for a divorce, and their two little daughters (two and a half and five years old) were with him this week. She further intimated that she didn't want the divorce but was at a loss for how to stop it.

Then I did something "stupid"! I asked her if I could pray for her. Imagine her response. Instead of deciding that I was some sort of kooky weirdo, she actually began to sob even harder, and thanked me for being willing to pray with her when I didn't even know her. I called my wife over and quickly explained what was going on, and right there in church...I mean in Walmart, we prayed with this precious lady and asked God to do a miracle in her marriage and in her husbands heart. We prayed for her two daughters, and we prayed for God's peace to overwhelm and comfort her. She was utterly amazed that two complete strangers would be that interested in her. My wife gave her a big hug and we gave her our contact information so that she could call and share the good news with us when it all works out well.

Too many of us think that our Christian witness is worn only on Sundays, in a "church" setting, and only with people that we know. I don't know what the final story will be of her impending divorce. I do however know this; she found out yesterday (if she had ever wondered in the past), that beyond a shadow of doubt, God loves her deeply. She discovered that His love for her runs deep enough that He was willing to send two perfect strangers all the way to South Padre Island, to encourage and comfort her in the midst of what might possibly be her darkest storm yet. What's the weather like in your neighborhood? Is there someone that needs a little sunshine in their lives that you might be a God-sent answer for? By the way, what's that glow radiating out of you, could it be the calm for someone elses storm?

Friday, July 6, 2007

Spacious skies, purple mountains, amber waves of grain and other beautiful sights

It is truly amazing to observe what Katherine Lee Bates did from the top of Pikes Peak in Colorado, as she penned the now famous words to America the Beautiful. I have had the privilege of seeing this view on numerous occasions while living in Colorado Springs, and it truly is breathtaking.

It struck me recently, as we celebrated our Independence day, that, to observe the natural beauty she did, and interpret it the way she did, necessarily required complete freedom. Freedom from the kinds of burdens that would have served as a distraction from all the natural beauty around her. By my reckoning freedom is at best a nebulous term, since many people define it differently. For the man incarcerated, who spends the majority of his life behind bars, but yet has found peace and contentment in a personal relationship with Christ, freedom holds a completely different meaning than it would to, say, the man who spends his life using drugs while backpacking and hitchhiking from one town to another, living off the goodwill of people and sometines doing the occasional odd job to pay his way, while enjoying his freedom to live as he pleases.

I call to mind the incredible and awesome natural beauty in places like my birth country, Nigeria. The endless stretch of incredible, virgin-white beaches, the warm and turbulent atlantic waters with their waves breaking on the empty beaches, stretching for miles along the coast of Lagos (undoubtedly an undiscovered surfers paradise), the majestic, tall palm trees swaying in the wind, as if in rythm to a song only they are privy to. All of these amount to... nothing! In a nation where survival and three square meals a day aren't a guarantee, these natural wonders are completely wasted on the average person who passes by, oblivious to the veritable tourist gold mine upon which we sit. Had these natural wonders been found in a country that is truly free, where the focus is on enhancing lifestyle and not just survival, they may well have become among the most traveled tourist spots on earth.

America has worked hard for her freedom. The old cliche rings true, that freedom is not free. I read an internet article (don't quote me on its veracity) recently that stated that a large majority of the signers of the Declaration of Independence met with hardship, poverty and death. Some spent much of their lives as fugitives from an oppressive British government that was bent on staving off the American fight for freedom and independence. Whether these assertions about their struggles are true or not, the point is well made that freedom always comes at a high price. If you doubt that fact, you need look no further than the war in Iraq and the casualties that have been claimed by the fight for a democratic world. Whatever your political position on the efficacy of the war, you cannot argue the fact that a high price has been paid to preserve the freedom of the Iraqi people as well as the rest of the Middle East, that have sufferred at the hands of tyrants like Saddam Hussein.

America is great because she is free! As Americans, we are free to choose what, where and when we will eat. We are free to choose where we work and what we are willing to accept as fair compensation for our labor. We are free to choose what we will wear, what we listen to, what we watch, we are even free to choose Coke or Pepsi. The greatest freedom we have though, is the freedom to choose, who, what and when to worship. Herein lies the paradox. Our freedom, if we choose to worship the wrong thing, will lead us back down a path of bondage. This in turn will cause us to miss the beauty that is all around us (a drug addict that "worships at the altar of meth" will more than likely not concern himself with appreciating the view from Pikes Peak the way Katherine Lee Bates did), a beauty that is so quintessentially American. I for one am proud to be an American, and I am gratified to know that my freedom is greater exemplified by the freedom to worship Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

I urge all Americans (as well as non-Americans) to take advantage of this freedom which we sometimes take for granted, and seek for a personal relationship with the One who paid the greatest price of all for the most valuable freedom that could ever be purchased. Freedom from eternal estrangement from our maker. The price? The "blood of God" shed upon a cross for you and for me. A more horrific yet beautiful sight as Christ freely choosing to hang from a cross, has never been seen before or since, not even from the top of Pikes Peak!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Does God Drive a Truck?

I've really been enjoying my "new" truck! In fact, a number of people on my Lead Team have taken to calling it "God's Truck." Now I don't know if God is a truck kind of Guy, and I can't say for sure that He would drive a truck if He was here on earth today, but I sure know that He pays for them. At least He did this one.

Following on from yesterdays idea, that we tend to focus on the problem and often miss the solution even though it's staring us right in the face (just as Clarence was with George Bailey), I thought I would take advantage of the recent "miraculous" provision of a truck for me, and encourage someone out there in cyber world who might be needing "refocused vision." In a recent post I had talked about the fact that in the process of downsizing, I decided to get a truck that was fully paid for so that I could keep my overheads as low as possible. This was not my original solution. Originally I wanted to borrow the money to pay for the truck. I had talked to a friend who was in a financial position to make the loan, and he readily agreed to do it. We even explored other options about getting a different truck that he suggested might work out better for us.

Somewhere between the day I spoke to him and the day I was going to receive the money, he had a change of heart. The details are unimportant except to say that our relationship has not been affected in the least by the circumstance. I was, however, crestfallen, and like George Bailey, I questioned God's idea of encouragement and support. The least He could have done would have been to make sure that I got the money for the truck, it's not as if $10,000.00 was a ton of money to my friend. Besides, who more than God knew how badly we needed a truck that could haul our trailer with all our church equipment on Sundays? While I focused on the magnitude of the problem (incidentally only $2,000.00 more than George needed back in 1946), I lost sight of the fact that God was attempting to get my attention by other means. Unknown to me, he had prepared the hearts of three people who would not loan me the money, but give me the money. That had been God's plan all along. I just wasn't listening well enough. He had already decided that I would own a truck free and clear. Meanwhile, I was banging my head against a brick wall trying to put my plans into motion.

I continue to discover in the school of "practical theology," that the true test of faith is being willing to "be still" and know that He is God. Actually, He is God all by Himself, without any assistance or help from us. I know, I know, that's easier said than done. The truth is though, that our faith is nothing if it's not worth being tested. I don't know what your circumstance or need is. It may be substantially more than $10,000.00 or substantially less. Whatever the case may be, God's hand is not short and He can deliver you from this trouble, if you will choose to focus on the solution in prayer and not on the problem. These pictures of my "fully-paid-for-truck" are living proof of this fact! I pray that you will be encouraged during this season of testing and trial that you are navigating, and I am convinced that you will have a great story to tell at the end. Please write and let me know how it works out for you.

Monday, July 2, 2007

It's a Wonderful Life

Frank Capra's 1946 classic of the same name has become one of the most enduring and endearing movies of all time, even though it lost $525,000.00 at the box office on its Christmas Day release. Many families I know, including mine, have made it a tradition to watch this inspiring movie every Christmas Eve, and regardless of how many times you've watched it, you're still moved to surreptitiously wipe a tear from the corner of your eye. What makes this movie so captivating? Why does the story seem so timeless? May I presume to answer by saying I think it's captivating, timeless and so much more primarily because the big idea is that "no one is born to be a failure." This truth resonates with the human heart. In the midst of our greatest trials, tragedies and struggles, we are somewhat comforted in knowing that, unlike the timeless impact of the movie, our trials are temporary.

There's a little bit of George Bailey in all of us. Our temporary trials often cause us to fixate on the problem and not the solution, which is often times staring us right in the face, and often takes the form of the most unlikely of solutions, just like Clarence the non-descript angel. The truth is though, that we are all created with a sense of purpose and destiny, and our lives remain unfulfilled unless we are walking in that purpose. If we view life only through the prism of our own circumstances, we have a tendency to forget how much of an impact our lives have on the lives of those around us. Life does not exist in a vacuum and George Bailey had the "impossible" privilege of experiencing this concept first hand. He had the chance to see what Bedford Falls... (I mean Pottersville) would have been if he had never been born.

Your impact is more far reaching than you can even begin to imagine. Your "momentary and light afflictions" are only for a season and make you a "far better person than you could ever have been otherwise." There's a great set of verses that speak to this very idea.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is the Father who is full of mercy and all comfort. He comforts us every time we have trouble, so when others have trouble, we can comfort them with the same comfort God gives us."

Whatever troubles you might be facing today, remember that you were not born to be a failure, and this trial is only temporary. Your mountain top experience is just beyond this valley of troubles. Oh, and don't forget, you have a "Clarence" assigned to you too, so you don't have to worry about anything!