Thursday, February 28, 2008

Build UP: On the road

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.

I am leaving in the morning (Friday) for Manchester, Iowa. I will be leading a two-day visioning retreat for a church there. Together, we will be discerning God's plan for this church over the next 4-5 years.

Please pray that God will give me the wisdom, courage, and strength needed to accomplish this task. And, that the Lord will keep me safe during the long drive (5 hours one-way) with winter road conditions.

In advance, thank you!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Build UP: Serve

Matthew 23:11
The greatest among you will be your servant.

One of the most difficult principles to understand is Jesus' teachings about service.  Jesus not only taught it, He lived it out.  Jesus could have chosen to reign as a king.  Instead, Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, healed people, and, in the end, died for us.

This is a difficult teaching to emulate.  It's unnatural for us to look to the needs of others when our needs seem so glaring.  We put so much effort in meeting our needs and preparing for our futures.  It's very tough to set that all aside for someone else.

Today, let's take 30 minutes to concentrate on serving the needs of others.

Humble yourself. (Matthew 23:12)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Build UP: Be Careful!

Ephesians 5:15-17
Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.

I don't believe that the caution called for here is the kind that suggests we dig a big hole somewhere and crawl inside where it is safe. No, I believe this kind of careful is the kind that recognizes the fleeting nature of life and guards against wasting it.

Bill Allison, founder of Cadre Ministries, states it something like this: "Life is so short and I want to invest every minute of it for Jesus." I agree! And the more I try to live this out the more I'm losing patience with things that waste time.

I want to "make the most" of the time I have left. My time may be measured in decades or it may be measured in minutes. I truly don't know which, either way I'm choosing to invest whatever is given me in building up the body of Christ.

Here's a challenge: Pay attention to how you "spend" today. If you really want to track your "spending", take a piece of paper and divide it in two columns with the headings "unwise" and the other "wise". Then make notes as to how you use the time God gives you today.

You have one earthly life, spend it wisely.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Guest Builder: Rachel Smith - Meaning


Mark 3:1-6
Another time he went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, "Stand up in front of everyone."

Then Jesus asked them, "Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?" But they remained silent.

He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.

I emailed my blog entry to Lon last Friday. When I sent it I had a typo of one little letter that changed the whole meaning of the last sentence. We were able to catch it before it was submitted to avoid any confusion. But this seems to happen more and more with email and instant messages. I get to typing my thoughts and the next think I know I have typed a whole different word than what I intended. OOPS- the next THING I know… see, happens all the time. With one ‘k’ thin becomes ‘think’ or switch that ‘K’ to a ‘G’ and you have ‘thing’. It’s pretty easy to do. Usually the readers can decipher the intent by filling in the gaps. Our brains try to put things in context to understand them. But sometimes confusion abounds. (At this point if you are scratching your head in confusion, re-read the whole first paragraph slowly.)

My handwriting is so bad my grocery list has read “bird and mold” instead of “bread and milk”. Boy was I glad to get what I intended rather than what I asked for on that one! Some times we get too stuck on the exact wording of things and forget the intent. We often get upset with a short sounding email or a poorly worded statement rather than slowly thinking what the other person meant.

Today try to ask “what do you mean by that?”

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Build UP: Word Power

Acts 15:32
Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the brothers.

I spoke at a meeting of pastors from my home town this week. I shared with them information about Acorn Ministries. Everything went according to my plans until I came to the Q&A time. Then, without provocation, pastors that I've worked with began telling about their positive experiences with my ministry.

It was AWESOME! I felt so affirmed, blessed and encouraged! Once again it occurs to me how much power our words contain. In this case I felt the power of my friends words as they lifted up the work God is doing through this ministry.

But they didn't have to say these things. They could have kept their thoughts to themselves. It still would have been a good meeting. Man, but what a difference their good words made.

Today, let's look for opportunities to say positive words to the people we encounter.

Build someone up!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Build UP: Who me?

Who me?

Colossians 4:2-4
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ...Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.

I know that the leaders in my church are under a great deal of pressure. And, I realize that they don't get much positive reinforcement. And yes, their job is tough. But what can I do? After all, I don't have any power in the church.

The truth is that we have incredible power at our disposal. The challenge is accessing it, but it's really not that tricky. God holds all the power the universe can muster. All we have to do is ask Him to send some of it to our church leaders. We do this through prayer.

Please consider adding your church leaders to your daily prayers.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Build UP: Finishing


2Timothy 4:7
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

On Tuesday (2/19) I will be involved in my third funeral in as many weeks. Facing this much death has had an impact on my thinking. This passage written by Paul came to mind. I really want to make that kind of statement at the end of my "race".

I think the biggest challenge with finishing well is that we really have no idea where the finish line is. If I could see the finish line and it's very close, then I could muster up my strength for a finishing "kick". On the other hand, if I realize that the finish line is a long way off, then I might pace myself for the long haul. Both strategies have a down side.

Seeing so much death and the unpredictable nature of its timing, I'm starting to think that it's not about pace. Rather, finishing well, no matter how long the race, seems to depend on a faithful effort. If every day I get up and faithfully follow Jesus, then when my final day comes I will have kept the faith, no matter when that day comes.

Keep the faith!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Guest Builder: Rachel Smith - Treasure


My husband and I have two young boys ages 8 & 10 and lately we have been into treasure. It began with pirate’s treasure but the movie National Treasure sparked an interest in other things that might have hidden value or meaning.


I admit I have a competitive streak and I love being a participant in scavenger hunts of any kind. (Our team took second place in the last one!)  Looking for that item of value or accomplishing the tasks on out list faster than the other teams sparks some enthusiasm deep inside me. My heart races, palms sweat and I start talking very loudly and quickly. I find myself willing to ask people for things I never once considered important or valuable before. The hunt takes on a life of its own as I hasten in my quest for a two dollar bill, an unused toothbrush, a Kentucky state quarter of some other equally important item. 


The treasurer hunter has a single minded focus spurred on by the promise of the coveted prize at the end of the journey. The journey itself is exciting, but the prize is what sets the pace. As I think about historical treasures, pirate’s gold and other things of value, it begs the question. “As we push through the race of life, what are you hunting for?”


Matthew 6:19-21 (New International Version)

Treasures in Heaven

 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Build UP: Encouragement

1Thessalonians 5:11

“…encourage one another and build each other up…”

Dread. That was the feeling in the pit of my stomach all morning long. I was scheduled for a mandatory meeting with a committee that would determine a significant aspect of my future. This group had the power to continue or discontinue my license as a pastor. I have faced this experience two previous times and I did not enjoy the experience.

The coolest thing happened! The four people I met with were delightful. They complimented me! They gave me positive feedback! They were, in a word, encouraging! What a difference their encouragement made!

Let’s seek to encourage someone today!


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Build UP: Love One Another

Love One Another

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."
Jesus called us to love one another. The way we love people should act as a distinctive of discipleship.  Our love is expected to resemble the love modeled by Jesus.  This is a tall order! Jesus-style love is selfless and sacrificial. 
Love One Another.
Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Build UP: Never


Deuteronomy 31:6
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

“Never” is a pretty comprehensive word. Seems to me that one could never construct a circumstance within which God would not be present. And if that is true, then no matter what happens God is with me.

Then why do I become so quickly discouraged? Why do I fear? Why do my thoughts turn sour at the drop of a hat? Why do I get so frustrated with my circumstances?

The answer is simple: I forget! I forget that God “will never leave [me] nor forsake [me]”. I forget that God is with me every step of the journey.

Remember that God will never leave us!


Monday, February 11, 2008

Build UP: Tested


James 1:2-4
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Has your faith been tested lately? Seems like testing comes with the territory for those who are trying to live by faith. Jesus was tested in the wilderness. Abraham was tested on the mountain top. God places us in circumstances that test us. That is how He prepares us for the future.

Embrace your trials knowing that God is using them to prepare you.

Enjoy the test!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Guest Builder: Rachel Smith

Luke 22:42
"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."

I am not the best with directions. I can follow a map just fine, but given the choice to turn right or left, I usually choose incorrectly and end up lost. Even knowing I will choose wrong and purposely choosing the opposite will usually get me lost. I seem to lack an accurate internal compass.

For Christmas my husband got me a GPS navigational devise to use in our van. It will give me directions from just about anywhere to just about anywhere and will even recalculate if I take a wrong turn. It also conveniently advises me on where to eat or shop. But what it can’t do for me is decide.

I can’t help but chuckle over the New York based news story of a young man getting stuck on train tracks because his Garamond said “turn right here.” He listened to the navigational devise and turned, not even noticing the train that was coming. You see even the best advice is just that, advice. I am responsible for where I turn or do not turn. The young man was fine, his car totaled, but he did decide to get out of the car and navigate away from the tracks on his own.

For all of the talking to friends, consulting with family and listening to our spouses well reasoned opinions, the final decision in most things is ultimately ours. That’s how God designed us. He wants us to have free will. He wants us to choose Him, but He does let us choose. And just like being at that turn in the road the action part of choosing is our responsibility alone.

Yes, alone. You are the one and only person that you can never get away from. Every time you look in the mirror, you are there. You may loose family, friends, children and spouses, but you can never truly escape from yourself. Every decision you make must be one you can live with. The most pivotal choice, that of your salvation, must be one you can die with.

If you have chosen Jesus as your savior, you have been given the Holy Spirit to help guide you. But yet you still must keep on choosing. Everyday we choose to obey or not to obey. To listen to His Spirit or listen to the other navigational devises we have come to rely on. (Including ourselves!)

Jesus at Gethsemane had a choice. He found his friends asleep and He went on His own and He prayed. He made a choice we all can live and die with.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Build UP: Leaning


Proverbs 3:5
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding...

Which way do you lean? Do you really trust the Lord, or do you trust your own mind? My answers vary with every passing minute.

Most often I lean into my own understanding. After all, God blessed me with a half-way functional brain. However, when I lean into my own understandings, I am no longer trusting in the Lord. Instead, I substitute my dependence on Jesus with trust in my own mind. It happens so subtly and before long I've replaced Jesus on the throne of my life with my very human, extremely fallible, regularly self-centered, and constantly ill-informed understandings.

On the other hand, there are times when I fully lean into the Lord. Those are awesome moments when I set aside my egocentric understandings and trust God. In every instance the way the Lord leads is contrary to what makes sense to me. Often following Jesus seems like borderline foolishness! But amazing things happen when I let go and embrace His will! And in time, I see the genius of the Lord’s direction.

Trust in the Lord!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Build UP: In Secret

In Secret

Matthew 6:3-4
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.

Now as you read that passage you're probably identifying with the "giver". I happen to relate more these days to the "needy". As a missionary, I depend upon gifts from "givers" to keep our ministry and my family going. In the five years that God has had me on this path I have received all kinds of gifts.

Many of the gifts that we've received have come in "secret". We've found food on our doorsteps. We've found Bibles and resource materials on our front porch. Once we found dresses for my daughters hanging on the back door. And every now and then we receive envelops with cash in them.

We have been receiving envelops of cash each week for the last four weeks. Despite my interest in figuring out who is sending us these donations, I know that it is God that is providing these gifts. And, this generous person is following Christ's command to give "in secret".

I'd like to use this forum to publicly thank God for all the generous people that keep this ministry moving forward. Particularly, I want to thank Him for the people that have supported us "in secret".

Thank you!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Build UP: Denial


Matthew 16:24
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."

Jesus teaches us to live in denial. No, not a river in Africa. And no, He doesn't call us to live in ignorance of our "issues". Rather, Jesus calls us to live a life that is Other-focused. That message has a strange ring in our world.

Our culture screams the opposite as it bombards us daily with the message that we should pamper and care for ourselves. After all, "we deserve it!" Frankly, it's an attractive message! We all work hard. It seems somehow fair that we should bask in the glow of our accomplishments.

But Jesus teaches me to give my life away. (Matthew 16:25) Deny myself. Put Christ first! Don’t worry about tomorrow. Follow Jesus! Don’t store up treasures on earth. Deny myself. Take all the gifts that God has given me and endorse them over to Jesus. Deny myself.

Live in denial!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Guest Builder: Rachel Smith

When I was in high school I went to France as a foreign exchange student for a short time. I lived with a family in a town called Dole and attended the local high school. I had learned the language and the culture enough to be able to eat out, shop, visit Paris and not fail out of school completely. I adjusted ok. But I remember missing other Americans. Every time I saw an American classmate or even a tourist, I was drawn to them. We would talk excitedly and hurriedly about the goings on of things in America. I remember loving those conversations and holding on to every word, not wanting to miss any details.

The comfort of someone else understanding me with out a strain of translation is somewhat difficult to put into words. There was a peace that this other human connected with me on some level that words can’t fulfill. I could speak with French friends, I could understand and embrace their culture, but it wasn’t mine. On some affective level I truly didn’t belong. When I saw another American a kindred spirit arouse in me and made my heart jump and race just a bit, someone who would understand the nuances of our communication.

That feeling rushed back to me today. I was dropping my son at school and heading to work, like any other day, when I drove past a woman who attends my church. My heart raced a little, my face brightened as I waved and smiled. I don’t really know this woman enough to call her friend, but we have the same culture. We are both Christians. We are both Foreigners in this land. We are to understand the culture here to be able to function, but not be a part of it. We connect in our hearts because we belong to the same Father, the same family. And there are days, here in this land, which I desire with all of my heart to go home.

I hope and pray today that you don’t belong. That you don’t fit in. That you live as strangers in this land.
1 Peter 1:17Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.
1 Peter 2:11Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.
John 17:16They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Build UP: At Once

At Once

Mark 1:17-18

"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." At once they left their nets and followed him.

I believe Jesus calls to us constantly. The reason we don't hear Him is that we're running around with our fingers in our ears yelling, "I can't hear you!"

In order to hear Jesus today, we must learn to quiet ourselves. This is very countercultural. Our culture says that the busier you are the better. After all, if you're incredibly busy then you must be important! As people of faith, Who is supposed to be the important One, me or Jesus?

To hear Jesus we have to slow down enough to hear His voice over the busyness. When we finally get to the point that we can hear Jesus calling us, then we have an opportunity to respond to His call. The fishermen demonstrated the appropriate timing of our reponse, "at once". When Christ calls, follow Him at once.

Follow Him!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Build UP: The Right Time

The Right Time

Mark 6:50b
Immediately [Jesus] spoke to them and said, "Take courage! It is I. don't be afraid."

You probably noticed that it has been a long time since you've seen a Build UP in your in box. There are LOTS of reasons for this delay, but the one that I need to focus on tonight is what I'm calling "waiting for the right time".

I remember being around people that were going through difficult times. I kept waiting for the perfect moment to offer some assistance, but that time never materialized. I wonder what their would be like if I had acted immediately.

I remember wanting to apologize to friends. I kept waiting for just the right moment, but that time never happened. I wonder what their life would be like if I had apologized immediately.

I remember thinking about getting a Build UP written. I kept waiting for a time when I wasn't so busy, but that time never happened. I wonder who might have been encouraged if I had started posting these immediately.

Jesus often acted "immediately". A need arose and He responded. It appears that the "right time" for Jesus was often right now. Tonight isn't really any different than any of the previous 30 nights. The difference is that I'm choosing that now is the right time.

Thank you to Carol, Terry, and Rachel for helping me remember that these Build UPs meet a need!

Now is the right time!