Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Whole30 diet and other thoughts about discipline...

I am struck by these powerful words from Hebrews 12:11, "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."  The textual context is the discipline of a loving heavenly Father upon His children for their "good, that we may share in His holiness". 

Personally, I am highly motivated when I can attach physical disciplines to a spiritual purpose.  I have long felt that the care of my physical body was mandated by the scriptural idea that my body "is a temple of the Holy Spirit", I Corinthians 6:19.  I have always felt I should treat this permanent guest with better hospitality.  I have always been convicted about my effectiveness when counseling people about addictive behaviors while seeing myself reflected in a mirror exposing my own addiction to food grazing and self-medicating with late night snacks.  Yes, I know, men look on the outside whereas God looks at the heart BUT I do believe that this area reveals my penchant for trusting in my own finite resources--and thus exposing myself to danger--rather than embracing the infinite resources of God's care.

So about eighteen days I embarked on the Whole30 diet.  This is not a testimonial about its relative merits--that's for others to decide--but the net result of eating more carefully and taking care of myself in this intentional way with the primary goal being preserving myself t age 68 for family and ministry--has been astounding.

I feel less tired, more mentally alert, increasingly engaged with my work, and extremely thankful for the reaffirmation that discipline--though painful(no cheese? you gotta' be kidding!) for the moment--"produces of a harvest of righteousness (right living) and peace for those who have been trained by it."

I am not suggesting that you hit the Whole30 diet--you may be physically fit--but I am encouraging you to think about the area(s) in your life that are frequently undermined and sabotaged by your lack of discipline--and I'm guessing we all have them--and bring them under the wisdom of this promise of a meaningful harvest.  I am merely planting a seed, Hopefully you'll apply some water, knowing that God will provide the growth you are seeking.

Friday, January 1, 2016

A daily filter for godly living

James 4:13-17 presents some cryptic truths that I've had the privilege of sharing in several preaching opportunities in the last month. Studying these verses has resulted in a renewed passion for pursuing God's purposes for my life as I start each day. There are four questions I've determined to ask myself each morning that are promoted by this passage.

1.  Am I planning my day without asking God for His direction?  I can get caught up in the flurry of activity and opportunity around me and find myself scrambling to "fit" God into my busy schedule.

2.  Am I purposing to live my life with eternity in mind?  "Life is a vapor". As I get older I become increasingly aware of my mortality and the challenge to make redemptive use of my time.

3.  Am I pointing my compass towards the course God has set for me?  Do I want to know what His will is for my life today?  An old chorus repeats the refrain, "I have decided to follow Jesus".

4.  Am I prioritizing the importance of doing the right thing?  Do I see the peril of not acting on God's direction; it is as much sin as doing what I know is counter to God's Word.

Another new year beckons me to enter in to the confident affirmation of Paul's words in Philippians 2:13. "God is at work within you both to will and to do His good pleasure". I want to please Him. I want to do His will. I'm asking myself in this season what that looks like for me today. Here's a couple of  thoughts for digging deeper...

How much does what God wants really matter to me?
How buried am I in my own stuff unable to keep an open ear to a God's voice?
How anxious am I for healthy change and what am I willing to do to see it happen?
How much do I live with eternity in view?
How would my life be different if I chose to change course and to truly follow Jesus?

Make it a "happy new year" by asking the right questions and closing the right answers!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

"...full of grace and truth"

John 1 is an incredible chapter of the Bible--one of my favorite--and, much to my delight,
our pastor (my step son) has spent the last three weeks teaching from it. Last week he spent the morning zeroing in on verse 14 and pitching his tent in the words describing Jesus as "full of grace and truth". I've been literally camped there this week.

I'm married to both terms. I'm a "grace guy" because I'm painfully and gratefully aware of my desperate need of grace. My theological background was not steeped in grace but a painful life-altering experience slammed  me square into the face of grace or I would not have survived, much less have emerged with a strengthened sense of how vital its certainty was to my life, and ultimately, to my ministry. It is more natural now for me to be proactive about sharing the message of God's grace with my clients and friends than it was for me to acknowledge its primacy in the earlier days of my mistaken self-sufficiency and latent pride.  Failure and sin as believers have a tendency to strip those things away and potentially to drive us back to Jesus for forgiveness and the grace we desperately need.

The "truth" part has always been buried within me. Even as a rebellious teen seeking to undermine the claims of the gospel I was gripped by the futility of it in the light of the truth I already knew.  Pastoring for over forty-five years,  I saw myself as a guardian of the truth, fearing the scripturally clear consequences of being a false prophet (read ll Peter and Jude). I'm certain I did not proclaim the truth perfectly but it was always clear to me that proclaiming it was what I was called to do. I learned soon enough that such preaching and teaching, though valued by many,  was critiqued by others as contrary to the message of grace.

How do "grace" and "truth" mix?  Are they like oil and water?  One has only to look at John 1:14 to see the visual of the marriage of both in Christ Himself--"the only begotten of the Far0ther, full of grace and truth". The gospel of John provides living illustrations of Jesus's encounters with others where His "grace and truth" we're on display,  from His encounter with Nicodemus to His conversation with the woman at the well. Jesus, who IS the truth, shares the truth with the fragrances of grace that rightly adorn it.

As I reflect on this season, with more discretionary time than I usually have, I've been conducting my own personal inventory about my commitment to the absolute potentially life-changing truths of the Word coupled with my own ongoing experiences of God's grace. I want to speak the truth with love, and not miss an opportunity to direct others to the grace we need found in Christ alone.

Friday, December 11, 2015

A determined look ahead

I have abandoned my blog over the last ten months but now I'm determined to revisit it at least weekly in the new year. I hope you'll join me in the. New year.

Some of you regularly read my blog, "The Pastor's Heartbeat". I'm consolidating my blogging under this blog site and invite you to join me as I share my ramblings and rumblings about life and it's challenges for me. My hope is that the commonality of our human experiences will draw us together. I welcome your comments should you decide to join me in this journey.

I read the 86th Psalm for my devotions this morning. These words, simple as they are, grabbed my heart. "Make glad the heart of your servant, For to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. For you, Lord, are good and ready to forgive, And abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon you."  It's my cry to God this morning for a couple of obvious reasons.

1.  I want to experience a "glad heart". This often evades me because my focus on earthly things has the potential for dragging me down and into myself. Not a happy retreat.

2.  I want to embrace my place as a "servant"and  to resist my tendency to usurp God's place of  leadership in my life.

3.  I want to be entrenched in my intentional acknowledgement of who God is--good, forgiving and full of loving kindness. That is an invitation to cling to Him through the daily circumstances and challenges I encounter.

It's kind of the same old thing for me--understanding my emotional extravagances, "undoing" my selfish ambitions and "urging" my mind to stay focused on the faithfulness of God.

It's all a part of inventorying the old and inviting in the new as I come to the end of the year. Why not join me in this process of determining to look ahead with anticipation of drawing closer to a God who  is "ready to forgive and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon Him".

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

How to spot a true disciple of Jesus...

Jesus is sharing what is commonly called the "Upper Room Discourse" in this portion of John 13-17 and He introduces what I believe to be a neglected truth with his disciples in John 13:34,35.

 "A new command I give you, Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

There are three critical things for me in these verses that impact my concern about how others are impacted by my Christian testimony as a follower of Christ.

1.  This is NOT a new command, that they love one another.

2.  There is, however a new characteristic of this love--"as I have loved you."  It would be instructive to see just how Jesus has loved them--from calling Matthew, loathed by the people as a tax collector, to Peter, an uncultured fisherman with a sense of impulsive bravado.  Jesus has loved them unconditionally and He will love them sacrificially.

3.  The culmination of this happening is that ALL men will know that these men are His disciples, true followers of Christ.

I am grieved by these words for they are not a picture of how we operate within the body of Christ.  How is it painfully possible that someone could disparagingly observe, "The church is the only army that shoots its wounded." Whether it is denomination vs. denomination, faction vs. faction, board vs. pastor, the church vs. the world, one member vs. another,etc.--it is clear that the picture painted of the church today is not one reflective of Christ's design of body life wherein when one part of the body suffers we all suffer, and when one part rejoices, we all rejoice together (see I Corinthians 12:26).  There is the often-ignored idea that as believers we "belong to one another".

This is not about whether or not we should cry out against heresy that diminishes the authority of the Word of God or the deity of Christ; rather, it is about how we treat other believers with whom we may disagree, or from whom we feel estranged.  

The world is confused.  What they see as they view the church is something unfortunately different than what we are commanded by Jesus to do.  His example is one for us to remember, especially when we contemplate His unconditional and sacrificial love for us.

I want ALL who know me to know that I am a true disciple of Christ.  Here's the way I can do it, by God's grace--"simply" love my brother disciple as Jesus loves me.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Living in a Post-Christian World

The recent Supreme Court decision to seek to normalize same sex marriage is a wake-up call for me.  That, coupled with an excellent message from my pastor yesterday (see for a copy of the 7-5-15 message entitled, "What Does the Bible Say about Living in a Post-Christian Culture?"), has reminded me of several important scriptural truths from l Peter 2:13-25 in guiding how I engage the culture today.  Remember the context--Peter is writing to the fledgling first century church living under the tyranny of the Roman government,

1.  It is God's will that "by doing right" we may "silence the ignorance of foolish men".  Here the emphasis is on "right" behavior, verse 15.

2.  If for the "sake of conscience towards God" I endure suffering in doing this, this "finds favor" with God, verse 19.

3.  I have been "called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for me leaving me an example for me to follow in His steps", verse 21.

Here is the critical point of this passage for me as a disciple seeking to "follow in His steps"; how did Christ, then, model the behavior that I should embrace that is "right"?  Verses 22,23 instruct me.

1.  There must be no "deceit in my mouth"--not a lack of credibility in what I say--that being the measure of my intent and the verifiable connection between what I say and what I do.

2.  I must nor "revile" those who revile me--not threatening naysayers--or seeking to vilify those who criticize or seek to humiliate me.

3.  I must continually "entrust myself to Him who judges righteously", knowing that He is "the Shepherd and Guardian of my soul".  There is an undeniable safety and security in this.

God's Word is clear about the design and sanctity of marriage.  It is so sacred in His sight that He uses it to characterize the mystery of the relationship that exists between Christ and His church.  Though the Supreme Court has acted it has not served to redefine marriage or to normalize same sex marriages.  They remain outside of God's design and purpose for marriage. (See THE MEANING OF MARRIAGE, Tim Keller)

For this changeless truth of God's Word, seeking to model the behavior of Jesus (by grace alone), I will continue in this sadly post-Christian culture, to "speak the truth in love".  I hope you will join me.

Monday, February 23, 2015

I've been away...but I am back--I think.  It's my desire to faithfully blog again after a  time away adjusting to a whole new life, featuring semi-retirement, grandchildren, some exploring and traveling,  and the establishment of my new ministry here on the Central Coast.

Here's what I am learning after eighteen months here...

1.  It's okay to relax.  Too much of my life I have been hounded by the tyranny of the urgent.  Even now I have to fight off the urge to be productive so people will take notice of me.  The luxury of discretionary time is one I'm learning to steward--I'll keep you posted on how well I'm doing.

2.  It's fun to read books not related to my work.  I am reading lots of fiction                      recommended by friends and other meaningful books about the human condition.  It helps me keep my aging mind sharp, and reminds me of the skills needed to be a good writer--a latent goal of my mine.

3.  Family matters.  Eight grandchildren nearby and four over 2000 miles away challenge me to remember the importance of being a good grandpa, an assignment I relish, but a skill I am still refining through practice.

4.  A good wife is a valuable treasure.  I love growing old with Beverly.  She continues to brighten every day with her beauty--both outward and inward.

5.  The desire for ministry is still burning in my soul.  Counseling, teaching, mentoring, working with the homeless, missionary work in Haiti--all these and more keep me fulfilled, and motivated to invest my gifts in serving those around me.

Your season of life may be different but I would like to think that these five things are significant for you as you determine what matters most.  Getting older has the added benefit of providing a filter for processing things that would steal from our daily quest for significance.  I am glad for my sixty-seven years,  Here's to staying in the school of learning!