Sunday, December 27, 2009

Intimacy amidst adversity

The chips are down, enemies are pressing in, things are looking bad, and yet David is hopeful. How? Or why? The answer to both questions may be the same. And I believe that the more I can understand the answer, the better I'll respond to tough circumstances in my own life.

After listing all the many ways that he's in serious trouble, I'm struck with how confident David's concluding thoughts are: "I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!" (Psalm 27:13). Then he extends an invitation: "Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord" (Psalm 27:14). Usually that word "wait" in Hebrew is a mixture of the idea of waiting and hoping as if to mean "wait in hope." David's encouragement then? Hope, strength and courage. All in the midst of a whole lot of bad news.

So now I'm back to my questions of how and why. I want to know how or why I can wait in hope, with strength and courage, all in the midst of bad news. It's because this same psalm is about intimacy with God. In the midst of all David's problems, God says, "Seek my face!" And David's answer is, "Your face, Lord, do I seek" (27:8). And in the midst of so much danger, David says that the one thing he seeks is to dwell in God's house and to gaze on God' beauty (27:4). Time with God is precisely how and why David can so confidently say, "I believe!" David doesn't require new circumstances in order to hope -- he simply needs to see God amidst it all. In other words, the reason he can hope is a Who, not a what. I know that Who to be Jesus. Time spent with such a wonderful Lord and Saviour will always generate hope, strength and courage, even when we're surrounded by trouble.

That means we shouldn't just passively wait for hope, strength or courage to drop out of the sky. The God we wait for is the God we must also both seek and see as the beautiful God who inspires us to hopeful strength and courage -- whatever the circumstances! And I'm certain that the more clearly I see the God I seek, the more hope, strength and courage will grow in my heart.

© 2009 by Ken Peters

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Inherent Hope

Christmas is over and 2009 is drawing to a close. And as the milestone of another New Year's Eve approaches, even though I'm mindful of many things in my life that I can be grateful for, I'm conscious of a quiet disappointment that's lurking in the shadows of my heart. It's the disappointment of unanswered prayer regarding Fiona's health. Nagging thoughts in that area have sometimes left me pursuing the call of God on my life in feet-dragging, head-drooping, soul-draining ways.

That's why I'm going to end 2009 with a couple posts intended to encourage myself in the Lord. It won't be difficult to do, because as I've already said, I have a lot to be thankful for and simply need to remind myself of that. These posts will be drawn from a journal I've kept in 2009 as I've read through the Bible.

Earlier in December, I was reading Ephesians. And as I read of being blessed "with every spiritual blessing" (1:3), of experiencing "the riches of his [God's] grace" (1:8; 2:7), of "the great love with which he [God] loved us" (2:4) and of being "seated with him [Christ] in the heavenly places" (2:6), I was struck with how easily I've let circumstances and disappointments rob me of the joyful hope that all those truths are intended to provide. Imagine that! I've been wonderfully welcomed by an extravagantly loving God, and I'm capable of approaching him warily as though he disapproved of me. That's no way for someone who's been so lovingly adopted as a son (1:4-5) to live, and I don't want to enter 2010 living that way!

That's why Ephesians 4:4 strikes me as such a vital verse in my life. In the ESV, it ends with the phrase, "just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call". When I think of the salvation-call on my life in that way, it gets my attention. It reminds me of the absolute non-negotiability of hope for those who believe in the risen Christ. Hope actually "belongs" to my call as a Christian. Hope and God's choosing of me go together -- they're inseparable. That means that the call of God on my life comes with a full tank of hope that can never run out as I choose to walk in that calling.

Do I ever need to speak to my soul everyday to remind myself of that -- that being chosen and adopted by God ought to thrill me in ways that no disappointments can smother. And I need to keep my hope-tank full by regularly filling my mind with the encouraging Truth of God's Word. And because hope belongs to my call, I can confidently enter 2010 full of hope for a new year!

© 2009 by Ken Peters

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I am such a fool sometimes...

I don't know what it is about Christmas that makes me this way. Maybe it's the pressure and momentum of all that needs doing leading up to it. Or maybe it's my irritation with the commercialistic frenzy that surrounds it. Or maybe it stems from a strange insecurity that's uncomfortable with the special gestures of love that are extended my way at Christmastime. If so, there's pride in that, and it's something to repent of. It's probably a mixture of all those things that make me feel irritable and even downright angry as Christmas approaches.

And so often that anger is toward the ones I love the most -- my family -- my children and Fiona. Which brings me to what I saw in Proverbs 29:11. "A fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back."

Ah yes, some people may want to console me by saying I can't be so bad as that. They'd say that I'm not the person that proverb was written for -- I don't "always" lose my temper. No, but lately I don't think it'd be an exaggeration to say that I often lose my temper -- especially with my kids. And from where I sit, often looks a great deal like always. And when I do lose my temper, it causes the very thing that Proverbs 29:22 says it will cause: "strife." As I snap at the kids, they tend to snap back, and strife is instantly created.

Another verse that's quite well known is Proverbs 15:1. It says, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" -- which in turn stirs up strife. And it's only a fool who would consciously choose to answer people in a way that only served to create a clash.

But I'm so glad that the Bible understands that we're human. Proverbs 29:11 says that "A fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back." It doesn't say that the wise man never has to deal with anger in his heart. It simply says that "a wise man holds it back." Old fashioned self-control.

There's one other proverb that puts it a little differently: "He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick tempered exalts folly" (Proverbs 14:29). In this Christmas season and throughout 2010, I want to be a man of "great understanding" who understands that a gentle answer will minimize strife and that I can bring out the best in others by how I respond to them. I want to grow wiser as I check my anger before I express it, choosing instead to show love in a gentle answer to those I love most. May you have a peaceful, strifeless Christmas!

© 2009 by Ken Peters

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Futility of Regret

I love reading books by A.W. Tozer. As a writer, he wasted no time in getting right to the heart of a matter. The man was a prophet who fearlessly declared Truth to a 20th century Church in need of hearing it. And his deep love for God, God's Word and the Church are obvious throughout his writings.

One of the most helpful chapters I ever read from one of Tozer's books was called The Futility of Regret from the book, That Incredible Christian. Until a few days ago, I hadn't read that chapter since high school, but I've always been able to recall the essence of it over all these years. Below is a sampling from the beginning of the chapter...

The human heart is heretical by nature. Popular religious beliefs should be checked carefully against the Word of God, for they are almost certain to be wrong.

Legalism, for instance is natural to the human heart. Grace in its true New Testament meaning is foreign to human reason, not because it is contrary to reason but because it lies beyond it. The doctrine of grace had to be revealed; it could not have been discovered.

The essence of legalism is self-atonement. The seeker tries to make himself acceptable to God by some act of restitution, or by self-punishment or the feeling of regret. The desire to be pleasing to God is commendable certainly, but the effort to please God by self-effort is not, for it assumes that sin once done may be undone, an assumption wholly false.

Long after we have learned from the Scriptures that we cannot by fasting, or the wearing of a hair shirt or the making of many prayers, atone for the sins of the soul, we still tend by a kind of pernicious natural heresy to feel that we can please God and purify our souls by the presence of perpetual regret.

This latter is the Protestant's unacknowledged penance. Though he claims to believe in the doctrine of justification by faith he still secretly feels that what he calls "godly sorrow" will make him dear to God. Though he may know better he is caught in the web of a wrong religious feeling and betrayed.

There is indeed a godly sorrow that worketh repentance, and it must be acknowledged that among us Christians this feeling is often not present in sufficient strength to work real repentance; but the persistence of this sorrow till it becomes chronic regret is neither right nor good...

And a page or two later, the following paragraph concludes the chapter wonderfully...

Regret for a sinful past will remain until we truly believe that for us in Christ that sinful past no longer exists. The man in Christ has only Christ's past and that is perfect and acceptable to God. In Christ he died, in Christ he rose, and in Christ he is seated within the circle of God's favored ones. He is no longer angry with himself because he is no longer self-regarding, but Christ-regarding; hence there is no place for regret.

© 2009 by Ken Peters

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Pithometer / pith’-ō-mē-tər / (n) : an instrument for assessing pithy remarks. Today’s remark: “Christianity is a relationship, not a religion.”

The evangelical church is fond of bashing "religion." And the myriad of pithy phrases used to do so will typically emphasize a relationship with God at the expense of religious practice. It fits into a nice little alliteration as we pit relationship against religion.

And on the surface of things, that sounds fine. Far too many people perceive religious practice as a legitimate way to reach God even though God makes it clear in the Bible that the only way to reach Him is through simply knowing and following Jesus. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). And the Apostle Paul also went to great lengths in many of his New Testament letters to debunk the idea that following some religious code would get a person closer to God. Paul wrote, "For by works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20).

That being said, I simply do not believe the Bible defines Christianity as an abandonment of religion for the sake of a relationship with God.

By "religion," I mean the outward expression of one's commitment and devotion to God -- such as good works and spiritual practices. And according to the Bible, such religion comes in two forms, one being good and one being bad. (This categorization is based on two of only five passages in the entire Bible that use the words "religion" or "religious," the other three passages using those words in a neutral sense.)

Colossians 2:23 speaks of "self-made religion," and offers strong warnings against those who rely on such a thing to help them to grow mature as a Christian. Notice this is not a warning against "religion," but against "self-made religion." It's a warning against a human-centered approach to God in which we as people think we can define the parameters of our interaction with God. And this is worth speaking against as many people lead others away from God by emphasizing personal spiritual practices and experiences more than God's work of grace on the cross.

But there's another kind of "religion" spoken of in the Bible, and it's not only spoken of as something positive, but as something essential. James 1:27 says, "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained by this world." It is because of this verse (and parallel passages like Matthew 25:31-46) that I wince every time I hear some pithy remark about religion being bad. If we want to make such remarks, then let's be mindful of the few verses in the Bible that offer explicit instruction on this topic. If we're going to dis "religion," then let's be clear that we're dissing "self-made religion," because Scripture is pretty clear that "religion" in the correct sense is important to God.

Of course, it is important that the cart not be placed before the horse. Yes, God most certainly expects us to value the religious acts of helping the poor and of practicing moral purity. But God also expects us to trust in Jesus for the resolve needed to practice such religious deeds and for the forgiveness needed from Him when we fail. Or, one could say that a relationship with Jesus is how we're saved from the consequences of sin in our lives, but religious acts are how we're truly meant to express the salvation we've experienced.

So there's no need to bad-mouth the "pure and undefiled" "religion" that God wants a relationship with us to help us to practice!

© 2009 by Ken Peters

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Following a Crooked Line

I think I've got a silly notion in my head that if an all-powerful God has a sovereign Plan, then His Plan should be accomplished the way a missile takes a straight and steady path toward its target. I mean, when the great God who created all things sets His will to do something, how can any created being -- human or otherwise -- hinder Him? It'd be like flies trying to push a missile aside.

And this idea in my head tends to leave me resentful of the turmoil in my life that leads to sharp turns and blind corners. I guess I figure that if I'm following God closely enough, I'll be a part of His Plan, and the path of my life will be reasonably straight. But so often, life feels more like a crooked line, as though someone's messing with God's plans for my life.

Then I read about the story of Jesus' birth -- the most important of God's plans -- and I see a
very crooked line -- with loads of turmoil!

  • A pregnancy before marriage (Luke 1:31-35).
  • A marriage about to be called off (Matthew 1:19).
  • A marriage plan restored, but amidst the public disapproval of a pregnancy before marriage (Matt. 1:24).
  • Then an unwelcome donkey ride in the last days of the pregnancy (Luke 2:1-6).
  • Then a dirty stable is all God reserves for the baby's birth (Luke 2:7)
  • And though wise men coming from afar speak to King Herod in their search for Jesus, they're then warned to avoid King Herod as they leave due to the danger he poses to Jesus (Matt. 2:12).
  • Then Mary, Joseph and Jesus flee for their lives to avoid King Herod's sinister plot (Matt. 2 13).
  • King Herod then kills all the male babies of Bethlehem (Matt. 2:16).
  • And finally, though all seemed well to return from Egypt, Joseph & Mary are afraid to dwell in Judea, so they must return to Nazareth to live among the people who knew Jesus was conceived before marriage.
Turmoil. Discomfort. Fear. Changes. Disruption. Crooked lines.

So why shouldn't I face the same? I suspect that one of the reasons for this is that God doesn't simply want to accomplish plans
through me, but He wants to accomplish plans in me as well. Crooked lines work much better at that than straight lines. Crooked lines teach me to listen, to trust, to obey and to persevere. And our sovereign God is still able to accomplish His great Plans through our lives as we follow Him around every corner we face in life!

© 2009 by Ken Peters

Sunday, November 22, 2009

For the Love of Nations

In 2008, a man named Matt Harding set out to visit 42 countries simply to film himself dancing on the spot, often with the local people, in each country. I don't know why Matt did this, except perhaps for the sheer fun of it. He sure seems to be having fun on the video he created! And because it's so fun to watch, it's been viewed over 25 million times on You Tube.

I'm one of the viewers who only recently discovered this video. And I have to admit, I smiled widely throughout the entire four and a half minutes of it -- and have continued to smile during subsequent viewings. It's such a celebration of life and of the world and of the peoples of the world. I don't even mind admitting that I also got a bit choked up as I viewed it on one occasion. It was when Matt was in one of the African communities with joyful children dancing all around him. I've traveled to a few African countries, and lived in Sudan for a year, and know a little about the challenges and the pain that the people of such impoverished places have been through. And to see the smiles and hear the laughter of those children as they danced with Matt is wonderful!

So I have dubbed this posting "For the Love of Nations" rather than using the title Matt gave to his video. Because that's what this video fills me with -- a love for the many beautiful peoples of this planet. God's heart is full of love for every tribe and people group of the earth, and He wants us to have that same love for the nations. You'll see many of those nations whom God's heart yearns for in the video below (as well as a multitude of people in the second video that follows). Enjoy!

Revelation 7:9 says, "After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands." That verse describes the thrilling culmination of God's plans to include people of every culture in His family. God says in Psalm 67:3-4, "Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy!" This speaks of a joy that far exceeds what we see in Matt's video.

The truly amazing video that follows offers an exciting sampling of the joyful scenes described in Revelation and Psalms when that heavenly throng of every nation is cheering and praising Jesus in heaven! Take a peek!

© 2009 by Ken Peters

Friday, November 20, 2009

Shopping for that special someone

There's only 5 weeks till Christmas and I've yet to spend the consumer average of $831 on Christmas presents! Talk about pressure. And with no snow on the ground, how does anyone expect me to even think of such things? I'm told that traffic at the malls in Winnipeg increases dramatically once it snows, as if all we are is a bunch of Pavlov's dogs that don't have the sense to simply look at a calendar and make plans. Or is it that we simply must have snow for Christmas shopping in the same way we expect there to be unshelled peanuts sold at a wrestling match or something is seriously wrong?

So in an effort to promote some good old fashioned consumerism this Christmas season, I've found ten inspiring ads that may give you some fresh ideas for the loved ones on your list (they can be clicked on to read the small print).

And I'm thinking, that guy should be the president of the most powerful nation on earth.

Why does it look like that Santa was found in a back lane somewhere? Well, if I know someone with a scratchy throat, I now know what to get.

what I'm hoping for in my stocking. Sammy sure seems like he was hoping for some.

This is for those who can't afford to buy someone a Mac notebook.

Enough with that clean, digital iPod sound in which you can't even hear the scratchy friction of a piece of wire scraping across a sheet of vinyl! What's wrong with kids these days? At prices like that, go retro!

Wow. Like, what are they really trying to encourage here? I may be reading too much into this, but is there a hint of malice in that ad?

Now why does the look in that kid's eyes not go too well with the gun that's in his hands?

That lady does indeed look happy. Way too happy.

Aside from gift #10 below, this is the best gift any man could get his wife. I mean, talk about functionality! It's sure to be needed and she'll be sure to use it! I'm thinking I'm ready to pop over to Walmart any moment now.

And this is an obvious choice for that special someone in your life. The small print says, "This year, there is no gift like Borg's magnificent bath scale... the 'Flight'." Yeah, you can bet I'll be flying. Right out the door if I give this to my wife. Did women in the '50s actually want these kinds of gifts at Christmas? Was it actually okay to give a gift that said, "Hey, maybe you need to shed a few pounds!"?

Well, there you have it. Ten great gift ideas. Happy consuming!

© 2009 by Ken Peters

Monday, November 16, 2009

Passion to Run

I'm a big NFL fan. I love the passion and excitement of the game. Since I grew up near Detroit, one would think I'd be a Lions fan. But long ago, when I was about 10-12 years old, I chose to be a Vikings fan. Those were the days of a defensive line called the Purple People Eaters and of offensive stars like Fran Tarkenton, Sammy White and Chuck Foreman. The Vikings were exciting to watch, and to this day, I still like to watch them when I can.

In fact, this season feels as exciting to me as those early days when I first discovered the Vikings. Brett Favre is probably the best quarterback the Vikings have had since the days of Fran Tarkenton, and with the Williams-Wall and Jared Allen on defense and stars like Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin and Adrian Peterson lighting up the offense, I'm eager to see if the Vikings can finally win a championship among a league of many other great teams.

But one player in particular has really gotten my attention these last couple years. Adrian Peterson is more than just an amazing running back. As I've seen him play and heard him interviewed, he has struck me as a man who mixes passion and humility remarkably well. And when I read a recent article about him at, I found myself challenged by what motivated him to work so hard as a record-setting running back. I even wondered how much my own motivation in running the spiritual race set before me should resemble what motivates Adrian Peterson.

Check out this excerpt of the article I read: "...'I'm big in faith,' said Peterson, who grew up in Cedar Branch Baptist Church in Palestine, Texas, and attends Bible study at teammates' homes on Wednesdays and Thursdays. His faith is the strength in his life and the power in his game.

"...Peterson knows that strength and tenderness [are] required.

"'I was 7, but I remember it like yesterday,' Peterson said of the death of his eight-year-old brother, Brian, who was riding his bike when he was killed by a drunk driver. 'There was an incline in front of our apartment where we would ride our bikes up and down. I was playing football with the guys near it when Brian was hit. I ran to him and held his head in my arms. His head was swollen. I spoke to him but he couldn't speak. I ran to get help. There was nothing we could do. My mom cried for a full year, day and night. I would just hold her and tell her everything was going to be all right. Brian was faster than me, a better athlete than me. That motivated me to work hard for him.

"'I run for both of us.'"

When I first read that last line, I paused. "Wow," I thought. This man runs with such passion for someone who meant so much to him. As a man who seems to know Jesus, his experience of seeing a beloved brother die gives Adrian Peterson the motivation to use the gifts God has given him to achieve something on his brother's behalf.

That made me wonder if the death of Someone even more beloved than any brother -- the death of Jesus Christ -- provides me with that same kind of passion and motivation: the passion and motivation to "work hard for him." Jesus died for a wonderful reason -- so that we could be forgiven for our sin and know abundant life with Him for eternity! And then He sent His followers out as workers instructed to tell others about Him.

So when I consider why Jesus died and what that was meant to achieve, does that motivate me to work passionately for Him? It should! Even more so than Adrian Peterson is motivated by his own brother's death (as special as that motivation may be). And I'm so grateful that Jesus not only died, but that God also raised Him from the dead! Because that means that as Someone who is faster and stronger than me, Jesus is with me to help me to work hard for Him and to run fast for Him. He not only inspires me to passionately run the race He sets before me, but He also gives me the strength to run.

And I do believe He also does that for Adrian Peterson! Go Vikings!

© 2009 by Ken Peters

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Fond memories of a man I never met, on this Day of Remembrance

My son Nicholas is fondly named after a man I never met. I've long wished I had known him. Ever since I found a book of his poems on my Dad's bookshelf when I was a teen, I'd wished that my great-uncle Nick had survived the war and that I could have had many long talks with him.

He was my father's father's youngest brother. My father's uncle. My great-uncle. A pastor who had known him before my Uncle Nick went off to war said that Nick Peters had one of the most cheerful spirits he had ever had the privilege of meeting. He said that "he was an inspiration too, for he had inherited an idealism and a mystical quality of mind from his Mennonite ancestors that kept him pressing upward, always searching for the meaning of things, always trying to understand."

Born two months premature in Russia in 1915, great care had to be taken to help him simply survive his first year of life. One of his brothers said that the war years of 1918-1921 made a deep impression upon his young mind and ended up giving him a rather serious view of life from an early age. In 1925, when he was 10 years old, he and his family (including my grandfather) fled Russia, traveling by boxcar and steamship, and moved to Grande Pointe, Manitoba, Canada. Once he had grown up, he traveled to many parts of Canada, working in gold mines in B.C., coal mines in Alberta and selling Electrolux in Sudbury, Ontario.

Eventually he volunteered for the Royal Canadian Air Force. He trained in Toronto in 1943 and was commissioned as Pilot Officer in May 1944. He left for England in July 1944. Eventually promoted to Flying Officer, and serving as a navigator aboard a reconnaissance plane, his plane was mistakenly shot down by a Lancaster sometime on the night of March 7, 1945, a mere 2 months before Germany surrendered on May 8.

On February 22, 1945, Nicholas wrote what would be his last letter home. The highlighted portion on the left says, "Have been here for about seven months now and expect to be back in four month's time but then you can't always tell."

A few months earlier, just before embarking upon his first flying mission, he had written to his brother Isaac: "There comes a time in the life of every airman who caters to the blue, when he is facing the results of his training. My time has come... I felt someone of the immediate family ought to know. I chose you. If I am reported 'Missing' you will understand that most of the 'missing' turn up again... It amuses me to think back on the way [we once] viewed the world. Many things have passed since then. Much has taken place; more than we, in our present state, could comprehend. We have toiled, struggled, and played, and Life as a whole has been good."

Uncle Nick was a poet, and what he wrote inspired me as a reflective teenager who was searching for meaning myself. I was 15, sitting on our basement floor book in hand on the day that I discovered the poetry of Nicholas Peters. It was also the day I discovered that the man who wrote such wonderful verse had been killed in service to this country long before I'd have had a chance to meet him. The following poem was written by Nicholas Peters on September 22, 1939, just three weeks after the onset of the war in which my Uncle Nick would die.

The Wars we Make

I gaze into the world with sorrowing eyes
And see the wide-abounding fruits of hate.
We fight, we say, for peace, and find
The wars we make
To be a spring of hate and source of future war.
Is there no peace for man?
No hope that this accursed flow
Of blood may cease?
Is this our destiny: to kill and maim
For peace?
Or is the 'peace' we strive to gain
A thin, unholy masquerade
Which, when our pride, our greed, our gain is touched too far,
Is shed, and stands uncovered, what we are?

Show me your light, O God
That I may fight for peace with peace
And not with war;
To prove my love with love,
And hate no more!

© 2009 by Ken Peters

Sunday, November 1, 2009

How to keep praying amidst life's troubles (church bulletin cover)

I've found that prayer can become a struggle if certain heartfelt prayers go unanswered for too long. In fact, I can feel tempted to quit praying for such things when they don't resolve. That's when I need to re-read Psalm 34.

The guy who wrote it was no stranger to troubles or to fear. He expressed that he needed deliverance from his fears and to be saved from his troubles (vv. 4, 6) and wrote that "many are the afflictions of the righteous" (v.19). So how then was he able to say, "I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth" (v.1)? How does he do that amidst so many troubles and fears? I'd like to know because I'd like to be that way myself! Well, there seem to be two things that the psalmist mentioned repeatedly for emphasis -- the fear of the Lord (vv.6, 9 11) and the act of seeking or calling out to the Lord (vv.4, 5, 10, 15, 17).

The way I see it, fearing God means seeing God as bigger than my troubles. I certainly don't want to make the troubles I face into idols that I cower before, fearing those troubles more than I revere God. When we truly practice the fear of God, we see Him as greater than anything else we may face, and nothing else should cause us to quake. So when I'm upset about a crisis that arises, I need to do as the psalmist did, and look to Him. Only then can I know the peace this psalm describes: "They looked to Him and were radiant" (v.4).

And if we fear the Lord in this way, it means we're dependent on God, which is exactly what's expressed when, like the psalmist, we seek or call out to God. And calling out to a mighty God who is worthy of such reverence can only result in one thing...
  • "I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me" (v.4)
  • "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard Him and saved him" (v.6)
  • "They who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing" (v.10)
  • "The righteous cry, and the Lord hears and delivers them" (v.17)
This is because this God whom we fear "is good" (v.8) and "is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit" (v.18). What a comfort. And what an encouragement to pray even when troubles persist.

© 2009 by Ken Peters

Friday, October 30, 2009

Looking back on a year of weekly mission quotes

“Most Christian ministries would like to send their recruits to Bible college for five years. I would like to send our recruits to hell for five minutes. That would do more than anything else to prepare them for a lifetime of compassionate ministry.”
William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army in 1865

“The cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise God-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, martyred German pastor

When James Calvert went out as a missionary to the cannibals of the Fiji Islands, the ship captain tried to turn him back, saying, "You will lose your life and the lives of those with you if you go among such savages." To that, Calvert replied, "We died before we came here."

“I have but one passion -- it is He, it is He alone. The world is the field, and the field is the world; and henceforth that country shall be my home where I can be most used in winning souls for Christ.”
Count Nikolus Ludwig Von Zinzendorf, German nobleman and leader of the Moravian Church

“That the Lamb who was slain would receive the reward of His suffering.”
The mission statement of the Moravian Church

“People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa... Away with the word in such a view, and with such a thought! It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger, now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall be revealed in and for us. I never made a sacrifice.”
David Livingstone, pioneer missionary explorer to Africa, 1840-1873 (an appeal to the students of
Cambridge University, December 4, 1857)

"I wasn't God's first choice for what I've done in China... I don't know who it was... It must have been a man... a well-educated man. I don't know what happened. Perhaps he died. Perhaps he wasn't willing... and God looked down... and saw Gladys Aylward... and God said, 'Well, she's willing.'"
Gladys Aylward, missionary to China from 1932 to 1949. One of the most remembered single woman missionaries even though a mission board had turned her down due to "poor academic showing."

"There are grave difficulties on every hand, and more are looming ahead -- therefore, we must go forward."
William Carey, missionary to India, 1761-1834

"It is always helpful to us to fix our attention on the God-ward aspect of Christian work; to realize that the work of God does not mean so much man's work for God, as God's own work through man.”
James Hudson Taylor, missionary to China, 1853-1905, and founder of the China Inland Mission, which is now called Overseas Missionary Fellowship or OMF

“No one will be able to rise to the magnificence of the missionary cause who does not feel the magnificence of Christ. There will be no big world vision without a big God. There will be no passion to draw others into worship where there is no passion for worship.”
John Piper, author of Let the Nations be Glad!

“The plea of inability is the worst excuse. It slanders God so, charging Him with infinite tyranny in commanding men to do that which they have no power to do. All pleas and excuses for not submitting to God are acts of rebellion. It is not because they cannot do what God commands, but because they are unwilling.”
Charles Finney (1792-1875), an evangelistic preacher and revivalist during what came to be known as the Second Great Awakening in the United States

“Too many people want the fruit of Paul’s ministry without paying the price that Paul paid. He died. He died to everything. He died daily. He was crucified with Christ. I challenge you to pray this prayer: ‘Lord, be ruthless with me in revealing my selfish ambition and my lack of willingness to die to myself.’ I guarantee that He will answer your prayer – and quickly.”
Floyd McClung, author and missions spokesman

"The spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions. The nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we become!"
Henry Martyn, a missionary to the Muslims of Persia and India, 1805-1812; he translated the New Testament into Urdu before dying at 31 years of age.

"To focus our attention outward, to grow as world Christians, is really not an option at all. Looking to the needs, concerns, and opportunities of our world in the same way that our Lord would is a basic part of identifying ourselves with Him."
Paul Borthwick, author of A Mind for Missions and speaker at Missionfest Manitoba 2009

“The history of missions is the history of answered prayer... It is the key to the whole mission problem. All human means are secondary.”
Samuel Zwemer, became known as the "Apostle to Islam" in his pioneer work among the Muslims of Arabia and Egypt, 1890-1929

“We seem to have a strange idea of Christian service. We will buy books, travel miles to hear a speaker on blessings, pay large sums to hear a group singing the latest Christian songs – but we forget that we are soldiers.”
George Verwer, speaker at Missionfest Manitoba 2009, and the
founder and international director of Operation Mobilisation (OM), a mission agency in which over 5,400 OMers are working in over 110 countries to bring the Gospel to literally millions of people.

"There are three stages in the work of God: Impossible, Difficult, Done."
James Hudson Taylor, missionary to
China, 1853-1905, and founder of the China Inland Mission, which is now called Overseas Missionary Fellowship or OMF

“One can give without loving, but one cannot love without giving.”
Amy Carmichael, missionary to India for 55 years, from 1895 until her death in 1951, and founder of Dohnavur Fellowship, a ministry that primarily reached out to children who were child widows, temple prostitutes or orphans.

"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."
Jim Elliot, honour student and all-star athlete, and on January 8, 1956, five Waorani tribesman of Ecuador killed Jim Elliot and his four missionary companions as they were trying to bring the Gospel to the Waoranis. Not long after, many in the tribe chose to follow Jesus, including some who were involved in the killing, and the tribe gave up their violent ways.

"God is God. Because He is God, He is worthy of my trust and obedience. I will find rest nowhere but in His holy will, a will that is unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what He is up to."
Elisabeth Elliot, widow of Jim Elliot who was martyred as a missionary in 1956 (see last week's quote of Jim Elliot)

"Christians spend more money on dog food than missions."
Leonard Ravenhill (1907-1994), author and evangelist

“There are too many over-fed, under-motivated Christians hiding behind the excuse that God has not spoken to them. They are waiting to hear voices or see dreams – all the while living to make money, to provide for their future, to dress well and have fun.”
Floyd McClung, author and missions spokesman

“There are no closed doors to the gospel - provided that, once you get inside, you don't care if you ever come out.”
Brother Andrew, author of God's Smuggler and
founder of Open Doors, an agency devoted to serving persecuted Christians throughout the world

“As long as I see anything to be done for God, life is worth having; but O how vain and unworthy it is to live for any lower end!”
David Brainerd, missionary to the American Indians in New England from 1743 to 1746. He died of tuberculosis at the age of 29 in 1747

“If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”
C. T. Studd, an illustrious and wealthy college student and athlete who gave up a life of certain affluence and prestige to become a missionary to China, India, and Africa, 1885-1931

“It is possible for the most obscure person in a church, with a heart right toward God, to exercise as much power for the evangelization of the world, as it is for those who stand in the most prominent positions.”
John R. Mott, one of the most influential figures of the Student Volunteer Movement, which was a revival of missions involvement that saw at least 20,500 students volunteer sent out to foreign mission fields throughout a fifty year time period (beginning in 1886), which during that time, represented about half of the total Protestant overseas missions force. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946 for his efforts to mobilize students to better the world, and is known as "one of the most influential world religious leaders of the twentieth century." (as per historian, Ruth A. Tucker)

“Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”
William Carey, missionary to India, 1761-1834

"'Not called!' did you say? ‘Not heard the call,' I think you should say. Put your ear down to the Bible, and hear Him bid you go and pull sinners out of the fire of sin. Put your ear down to the burdened, agonized heart of humanity, and listen to its pitiful wail for help. Go stand by the gates of hell, and hear the damned entreat you to go to their father's house and bid their brothers and sisters and servants and masters not to come there. Then look Christ in the face – whose mercy you have professed to obey – and tell Him whether you will join heart and soul and body and circumstances in the march to publish His mercy to the world.”
William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army in 1865

"We should not ask, 'What is wrong with the world?' for that diagnosis has already been given. Rather, we should ask, 'What has happened to the salt and light?'"
John R.W. Stott, author and theologian

"God only uses dead people."
Bishop George Gichana, church planter and pastor in western Kenya

"We talk of the second coming. Half the world has never heard of the first!"
Oswald J. Smith, a pastor, evangelist and missionary statesman who founded the People's Church in Toronto in 1928, a church that is currently supporting 153 nationals and over 300 missionaries around the world.

"To me, it has always been difficult to understand those evangelical Christians who insist upon living in the crisis as if no crisis existed. They say they serve the Lord, but they divide their days so as to leave plenty of time to play and loaf and enjoy the pleasures of this world as well. They are at ease while the world burns; and they can furnish many convincing reasons for their conduct, even quoting Scripture if you press them a bit. I wonder whether such Christians actually believe in the Fall of Man."
A.W. Tozer (1897-1963), pastor, preacher and author

"There really is no cost -- only the privilege of serving the King of Kings."
Dr. Helen Roseveare, missionary doctor to the Congo from 1953 to 1973, and who stayed there through Congo's civil war of the 1960's during which she was taken prisoner, beaten and raped, and frequently threatened with death. She was eventually rescued, but after the war, she returned to the Congo to help the nation rebuild.

"God will reveal the glory of His kingdom among all peoples. We are within range of finishing the task, with more momentum than ever before in history. Be a part of it – 'Declare His glory among the nations!'”
Ralph Winter (1924-2009), founder of the U.S. Center for World Mission and writer of Perspectives on the World Christian Movement

"Make no mistake. God honours those who seek His work above their worries.”
Ralph Winter (1924-2009), founder of the U.S. Center for World Mission and writer of
Perspectives on the World Christian Movement

"It is not enough to have a Christian presence in every place, but also to have followers of Jesus in every people.”
Patrick Johnstone, co-compiler and co-writer of Operation World, a book that chronicles what God is doing in every country of the world and lists how we can pray for each country

"True evangelical faith cannot be dormant. It clothes the naked, it feeds the hungry, it comforts the sorrowful, it shelters the destitute, it serves those that harm it, it binds up that which is wounded, it has become all things to all people.”
Menno Simons (1496-1561), an anabaptist leader whose followers became known as Mennonites

"No one can do everything, but everyone can do something, and together, we can change the world."
Ron Sider, author of Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger

"God had an only Son and He made Him a missionary."
David Livingstone, pioneer missionary explorer to Africa, 1840-1873

"Passion for God in worship precedes the offer of God in preaching. You can't commend what you don't cherish."
John Piper, author of Let the Nations be Glad!

"Some wish to live within the sound of a chapel bell; I wish to run a rescue mission within a yard of hell."
C.T. Studd, an illustrious and wealthy college student and athelete who gave up a life of certain affluence and prestige to become a missionary to China, India and Africa, 1885-1931

"I have but one candle of life to burn, and I would rather burn it out in a land filled with darkness than in a land flooded with light."
John Keith Falconer (1856-1887), Arabic scholar at Cambridge University who became a missionary to Yemen for the last two years of his life before he died of malaria at 32 years of age

"We profess to be strangers and pilgrims, seeking after a country of our own. Yet we settle down in the most un-stranger-like fashion, exactly as if we were quite at home and meant to stay as long as we could. I don't wonder that apostolic miracles have died. Apostolic living certainly has."
Amy Carmichael, missionary to India for 55 years, from 1895 until her death in 1951, and founder of Dohnavur Fellowship, a ministry that primarily reached out to children who were child widows, temple prostitutes or orphans.

"God is a missionary God. The Bible is a missionary book. The Gospel is a missionary message. The church is a missionary institution. And when the church ceases to be missionary minded, it has denied its faith and betrayed its trust.
J. Herbert Kane, author and mission historian

"The way I see it, we ought to be willing to die. In the military, we are taught that to obtain our objectives, we have to be willing to be expendable. Missionaries must face that same expendability."
Nate Saint, missionary pilot who was martyred on January 8, 1956 when five Waorani tribesman of Ecuador killed Nate Saint, Jim Elliot and three other missionary companions as they were trying to bring the Gospel to the Waoranis. Not long after, many in the tribe chose to follow Jesus, including some who were involved in the killing, and the tribe gave up their violent ways.

"God, I pray Thee, light these idle sticks of my life and may I burn for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life but a full one, like You, Lord Jesus."
Jim Elliot, honour student and all-star athlete, and on January 8, 1956, five Waorani tribesman of Ecuador killed Jim Elliot and his four missionary companions as they were trying to bring the Gospel to the Waoranis. Not long after, many in the tribe chose to follow Jesus, including some who were involved in the killing, and the tribe gave up their violent ways.

"Prayer is the greatest power God has put into our hands for service — praying is harder than doing, at least I find it so, but the dynamic lies that way to advance the Kingdom."
Mary Slessor, missionary pioneer to tribal peoples in the rain forests of present day Nigeria from 1876 to 1915. She brought the Gospel and addressed significant justice issues among previously unreached peoples.

"The mark of a great church is not its seating capacity, but its sending capacity."
Mike Stachura, pastor and former president of Operation Mobilization USA

"I never care for a crowd, only for one person. If I visualized a crowd I would never get started. The important thing is the individual. I believe in a person to person approach.... The greatest illness is not leprosy, but rather the feeling of not being accepted. The greatest scourge is indeed to forget the next person, above all when the next person is Christ Himself."
Mother Teresa (1910-1997), missionary to Kolkata, India and founder of the Missionaries of Charity

“Men do not reject the Bible because it contradicts itself but because it contradicts them.”
Frank Mead, author

"Only if significant numbers of dedicated Christians will think small will anything come of the big plans that our missions, our churches, and our schools might have for the rest of the world. What would have come of God's plans to save the world if Jesus had succumbed to the temptation to think on such a grand scale as to have no time for the blind, the crippled, the little children, the gawking crowds?"
Jonathan Bonk, past missionary, missiologist and author

"We can either try to convince others in the arena of the mind or we can approach people in the arena of the heart. For the most part, traditional approaches to evangelism go head-to-head instead of heart-to-heart... [but] we truly enter the lives of others in evangelism when we touch their hearts."
Steve Sjogren, pastor, evangelist and author

"The whole history of the Church is one long story of this tendency to settle down on this earth and to become conformed to this world, to find acceptance and popularity here and to eliminate the element of conflict and of pilgrimage. That is the trend and the tendency of everything. Therefore outwardly, as well as inwardly, pioneering is a costly thing."
T. Austin-Sparks (1888-1971), evangelist and author

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)
"As the Father has sent Me, even so I am sending you." (John 20:21)
Jesus Christ, Son of God, the same yesterday, today and forever!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Walking the Word (church bulletin cover)

I've heard people described as being a man or woman "of the Word." Of course, I know that to mean that such people are "in the Word" a lot -- reading God's Word, the Bible, a great deal. It must also mean that they know the Word of God very well, remembering what they've read. But if someone can be described as a person "of the Word," it must also mean that they live according to what God's Word says.

Psalm 119, a long psalm written entirely about the importance of God's Word in our lives, begins with a verse that says, "How blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord." As I read that, I'm struck with a question: How much of my life is actually spent living according to what I've read and remember from God's Word? In other words, how much of my "walk" reflects the Word of God?

I'm not talking about being some legalist who introspectively measures every moment of every day and beats myself up for straying the tiniest bit from what I know the Bible to teach. I simply mean, how conscious am I of God's Word throughout each day that God gives me to live for Him? How mindful am I to deliberately love the people I meet, to be thankful for every circumstance, to rejoice always and to share the Gospel with others just as God's Word commands me to? Yes, all of those things are commands in God's Word. Commands I'm meant to obey by the grace and strength God promises to those who know Him. That's how I can truly be a man of the Word -- by walking in the law of the Lord. It's only by walking the words I read in God's Word that I will truly be a man of the Word.

So please join me in seeking God's abundant help to live each day according to what we learn from His Word. After all, that is the exercise we need to grow stronger in walking God's Word.

© 2009 by Ken Peters

Monday, October 19, 2009

Remembering that I'm beyond reproach!

I've had a few moments in the last couple days where I really overreacted to people who meant me no harm and I had to go back and humbly apologize to them. I felt terrible for how I'd treated people who are my friends. It's left my soul feeling low today, and I could feel our enemy creeping at my door accusing me of being all kinds of nasty things. I even went so far as to start talking down to myself -- you might know the kinds of childish things some of us choose to call ourselves when we blow it and our pride gets touched. And as the day drew to a close, I had to ask myself, is this a road I want to continue down tomorrow? No.

So I looked back to something I wrote in a journal I keep as I read my Bible. It was an entry regarding a chapter of what has become my favourite book in the Bible. The verse I had focused on says this: "yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through [His] death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach" (Colossians 1:22).

It's not uncommon for me to struggle to see myself the way God declares me to be. When I mess up, my pride wants to put me down. Mistakes are not allowed, and pride wants to call every fender-bender a write-off. And then if someone offers me a compliment, I want to dismiss it as I magnify my failings enough to cancel out anything good I might have done. What a case. But the truth is -- I actually am a failure! And no compliment can compensate for the sins I've committed against God, and I deserve God's punishment! And that is exactly where Jesus Christ enters the picture. And that is why Colossians 1:22 is such a great encouragement to me.

Paul made it extremely clear in Colossians 1:22 that it's because of Christ's death on the cross that God can declare me "holy and blameless and beyond reproach"! Me! I'm all those things! But not because of anything good that I've done. It's all because of Jesus. Through His death, He rescued me (1:13), redeemed me (1:14), has forgiven me (1:14) and has reconciled me (1:20). And the reason Christ's death on the cross can accomplish all this for someone who blows it all the time (the way I know I can do) is because the shedding of Jesus' blood "made peace" (1:20) between God and those who put their faith in Jesus. God says, "You may mess up, but I've paid the penalty for every mess you've ever made so that there can now be peace between you and Me, and I can call you holy, blameless and beyond reproach any moment of any day!" Wow.

And because such a statement is based on what Jesus did on the cross rather than on my performance, it means that such wonderful declarations are no divine whim that could change back to wrath without warning the next time I mess up! They're as true for me today as they are every day, even though today was yet another unpleasant reminder of how much I need this wonderful gift of forgiveness God offers us. And if I have faith in that (which I do)... to stay discouraged because of today's failings is to minimize the infinite value of what Jesus did for me on the cross. I'm not going to do that. I'm encouraged now!

© 2009 by Ken Peters

Sunday, October 11, 2009

And one more thing! (church bulletin cover)

Imagine that you're giving instructions on how to live for God-- a quick list of bullet points -- to a group of people you care a great deal about. You mention compassion and kindness, humility and gentleness, patience and peace, forgiveness and forbearance, and of course, love. And before you move on to other thoughts, you find there's one more thing you want to mention. What would be the item you'd want to make sure you added?

I find it interesting that the apostle Paul appeared to be in such a position as he wrote to the Colossians. He lists all those qualities one after another, and not as bullet points, but in flowing sentences with caring explanations for some of those items (see Colossians 3:12-15). And then there was one more item he wanted to add -- an instruction that stands alone, emphasized by its singularity: "And be thankful" (Col. 3:15).

That's what Paul wanted to make sure he included. Nothing else he mentions in this passage sounds quite so blunt and forceful. "And be thankful." And though none of the other qualities he had just listed are repeated before he quickly concludes this paragraph, he mentions thankfulness two more times before he's ready to move on to other thoughts: "...singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God" (3:16), and in verse 17 he says, "And whatever you do, in word and deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."

Gratitude mattered to Paul when he considered how we're to live for God. When he said, "And be thankful", I don't believe it was an idle afterthought. It was an emphasis. It was important enough to him to mention it three times. It's as though Paul was saying, "Whatever isn't taken care of by all the above items I've listed will certainly be covered if you're thankful in whatever circumstances you face!"

So if you're ever talking to yourself about something you're going through -- speaking to your soul to get yourself back on track -- make a point of always adding one last thought to whatever you're thinking: And be thankful! It's an expression of faith and trust in God that helps us to see whatever we're going through in its proper perspective. It acknowledges that God is above anything we're facing. Anything. It's a command that is always relevant: And be thankful!

© 2009 by Ken Peters

Friday, October 9, 2009

For the love of fonts!

I'm known as the Document Guy at the office. Or sometimes Captain Document. It's because I'm the only one who seems to care at all about a million itty-bitty picky little details when creating a document for distribution (I wrote a post about how I was actually convicted about this recently).

I'm picky about what grade of paper we use. I pay attention to whether there's a space of four one hundredths of an inch or six one hundredths of an inch between an inserted photo and the text that appears next to it. I generally shun clip art as overly desktoppish. And I may be a bit of a font snob. I tend to find many of the Windows default fonts as too old and stale to use, so I download newer ones for a fresher look. Perhaps that's why I find the following video so amusing.

© 2009 by Ken Peters

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Happy Birthday to my Dad!

My dad turned 75 today. Three-quarters of a century and going strong. It makes me feel like the son of a patriarch when I put it that way. In fact, I'm as proud of my dad as if he were a patriarch. He's a godly example to both his kids and his grandkids. He loves Jesus and loves to live for Him.

I didn't always get along that great with my dad, but somewhere along the way, I grew up enough to appreciate him. And somewhere along the way, he met Jesus in a way that changed him forever. I don't mean changed all at once into some perfect guy. I mean continually changing -- growing in God year after year -- and still growing now! He's become an example to me in how he shares the love of Jesus with his friends. He's an example to me in his incredible generosity to his family. He's a challenge to me in how he stands up for what he believes is right.

And despite my reluctance to listen to a word he said in those crazy childhood and adolescent days, my dad somehow managed to impart many valuable lessons to me that are still a help to me today. Though I didn't even realize it at the time, his values were shaping mine, becoming a part of who I grew up to be, and I'll always be grateful for that.

Simple things. Like I still remember the day he taught a little boy named Kenny how to sweep a garage floor without creating a cloud of dust. "Keep the broom nice and close to the floor after you push," he instructed me. Sure enough, that kept the dust down.

Insightful things. Like when he sent me downstairs to get a tool, and I came back saying it was too high for me to reach. Though I was quite young when this happened, I still remember his response: "If that had been a candy I'd sent you down for, you'd have found a way to reach it!" As he went downstairs to get his tool, I sat there guiltily thinking how right he was!

Personal things. I can recall how he helped me to face up to how prone I was to being defensive (as I still can be). He'd overheard me talking with some friends and later told me privately how unfriendly I sounded due to how defensive I'd been with them. As he walked away, I remember thinking about defensive players in football and wondering how on earth I was behaving like them. It was somewhat later when I finally realized what he'd meant!

Deeply meaningful things. As long as I remember earning money in jobs outside our home, which I began to do when I was about 10 or 11, I remember tithing. I don't remember my Dad teaching me about tithing, but I do remember that he tithed. I don't even know how I know that he did. He must have told me. But however he communicated that value to me, it led me to want to follow his example, and it's been a reflex ever since. And I'm sure that it's the main reason why God has blessed me in the area of provision as much as He has to this day. Check out Malachi 3:10 if you don't believe me.

God has given us His teachings "which He commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments" (Psalm 78:5-7).

My Dad and I may not have always gotten along in those early days, but I still looked to him for many cues and learned many good things from him. I'm especially thankful that he raised me to know God and to follow God, and that I can now teach my children to do the same. And now, as he turns 75 today, I truly consider him a friend and thank him for his influence on my life as the patriarch of the Peters clan.

© 2009 by Ken Peters

Monday, October 5, 2009

Looking through the right lenses

I'm reading a book called Discipleship on the Edge by Darrell W. Johnson. Johnson describes the book as an expository journey through the Book of Revelation. If you're looking for an uplifting book that unpacks how applicable the apocalypse is to our everyday lives, try this one! I was greatly encouraged today as I read what he had gleaned from Revelation, chapter 4. Here's a sample that I hope will turn you gaze upward and place God in the center of your vision and at the center of your world!

Scripture never promises that the visible circumstances of life will proclaim the sovereignty of God. The visible circumstances often call the sovereignty of God into question. That is when we need to put on Revelation 4 glasses!...

"From the throne proceed flashes of lightening and rumblings and peals of thunder"... The imagery tells us that we are, after all, dealing with Someone terribly awesome. The God who calls us into his presence, who calls us to himself, who invites us into tender intimacy is, after all, bigger than the whole universe, more massively powerful than anything we have ever known. And the imagery tells us why we must pay attention. The imagery tells us why we dare not play games with God. We are dealing with sheer greatness...

"And there was a rainbow around the throne"... The rainbow is the symbol of God's mercy and faithfulness. We need it to be there after seeing
[the thunder and lightening that] comes from the throne! The rainbow declares that the holy One welcomes the unholy -- it is "safe to come." The rainbow declares that we can trust the living One when he judges. His judgments are merciful and his mercy is just. The rainbow declares that we can dare to dream of a new creation, for the One who promises keeps his promise...

Looking through the lenses of Revelation 4 we realize that the great end of life is knowing, and loving, and serving, and enjoying the great King... ...The single, most reliable indication that our vision is clear is that we are a worshipping people. People who worship with their lips and hearts, with their minds and bodies. People who worship with their words and deeds. People who surrender everything to the One who sits on the throne.

© 2009 by Ken Peters

Thursday, October 1, 2009

What I can miss in my diligence

I can be pretty diligent in my service to God. So much so that I can end up, for example, working late into the night, strenuously pecking at a keyboard and masterfully maneuvering my mouse to make sure some document I'm creating has the just the right font and everything is properly spaced and formatted. And while there's nothing wrong with striving for excellence, I can't help but wonder if I'm overdoing it just a tad as I read what Jesus said to the pharisees in Luke 11:42. They too were trying to be very diligent in their service to God as they paid their "tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb". They didn't miss much in their commitment to God. They even made sure that their tithe included "every kind of garden herb". They weren't gonna miss one leaf.

But Jesus was concerned with much larger things that the pharisees had missed. He said that they "neglect justice and the love of God." Jesus wasn't opposed to diligence or to giving God a full tithe. In fact, He said in verse 43 that they should have brought their tithes without neglecting the other things. But woe to anyone who thinks that hyper-diligence or accurate tithing (or the perfect font) will be good enough to cancel out a lack of concern for justice or a lack of affection for God. What Jesus is after is a transformed heart rather than what I call selective obedience. Selective obedience strives hard at what I want to do well at for God. But a transformed heart is filled with a motivating concern for the things that concern God, such as my relationship with Him and the plight of the vulnerable around me.

Speaking of vulnerable, that's how I feel as I consider this. Vulnerable to being so busy with picky-little-details that I don't have time for a poor refugee family in need of assistance -- or of simple friendship -- or to have time for a meaningful relationship with the God who called me to the very work I'm so busy with. The solution is simply making sure that what I do throughout each day -- and how much time I spend at what I do -- is in fact precisely what God actually calls me to do. And I know that will always include time spent with the God I love and time spent expressing that love to others.

© 2009 by Ken Peters