Peace


Continental Flight 1734 was the carrier on which I was to be flying through Houston on my way to the east coast for a conference. At 7:00 a.m. on the day planned, we pushed away from the gate at Omaha’s Eppley Airfield, and taxied as scheduled toward the runway. Approved for take-off, the jumbo jet quickly began accelerating. Our bodies were automatically welded to our seatbacks with our seat belts fastened as instructed; anticipating lift in only a few seconds. Suddenly, the aircraft noticeably decelerated and it was quite obvious ours was not to be a successful takeoff after this try. In a matter of moments, the captain related the aircraft had experienced power failure with the right engine, and it would need to be fixed before we could re-board for Houston.

After more than an hour delay, another announcement declared the flight was being cancelled due to a mechanical failure, and the gate agents would need to re-book us. Some passengers were concerned as they had appointments they were scheduled to meet. A few were outright angry at the inconvenience. I got in line and waited to be re-booked on another aircraft. Two hours later and the last person standing, when I reached the desk the flight attendant announced our original plane was finally repaired. We would be re-boarding within ten minutes. For me, there was only one problem—I was scheduled to be in Richmond by mid-afternoon to attend the opening ceremony at our annual convocation. The delay was surely going to cause me to miss worship.

I related my conflict, and in a matter of moments, new arrangements were found and secured for me on another airline. I was on my way to my destination with the reasonable assurance I would be there well in advance of the evening’s event. I guess you know I made it.

Church troubles are like mechanical failures and technical difficulties. Of course, they happen in this Christian journey, and sometimes they can delay you (your development, that is). Often times, they may deter you, even discourage your journey. The good thing about it is yours (that is, the church you attend) is not the only carrier to get you to your destination. It’s really not that serious. Sadly, some churches are just plagued with problems. It doesn’t mean the people are not Christian or they will wind up in hell. It means they are simply having a hard time getting off the ground, and just can’t seem to make any headway, and there’s nothing you can do to help them.

You may consider this: If you pray and trust God, He very well may provide for you another carrier that will equally help you reach your destination. So, do what you need to do, my brothers and sisters. Keep the goal in mind. After all, you don’t want to miss “worship.” It will be okay!

Peter’s experience with Jesus in Luke 5 teaches us some valuable lessons about fishing and failing. Perhaps (like Peter) your gift is failing you (at the moment), and not yielding the kind of results you feel (or even know) it should or could produce. Ponder these thoughts as you pray further about your situation:

1. Just because you have failed doesn’t make you a failure.
2. It may not be a fault as much as it is fate.
3. The problem may not be with your casting; it could just be your catching.
4. If the fish are not where you are, then perhaps you should go where they are.
5. Your failure can become favor, when you let Christ into your crisis.

I know these are brief and to-the-point, but I trust they will cause you to re-think your circumstance and feel better about your difficulty as you anticipate “catching some fish” with and for our Lord Jesus Christ.

After you have finished making the necessary repairs and critical re-adjustments, get back into the boat and do what you need to do. Remember, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again!

God bless you as you do!

Never have I felt as helpless being a parent as I did when a severe thunderstorm found its way into our community. My children were quite small and I was quietly attending to some work in my basement office at home. The Midwestern skies suddenly turned dark, and I heard small feet scurrying down the stairs. Lightening began flashing across the canopy of the skies and the heavens thundered in a series of bellowing roars. Soon, all three of them peeked around the office door as I sat at my desk. With blankets and pillows in tow, one spoke up and asked if they could come downstairs with me. Of course, I said, “Sure!” As they nestled in and sat calmly in the adjoining room, I thought how powerless I was in the situation. Had the storm become a tornado, there was nothing I could do to save them or myself. Even still, in spite of my vulnerability there yet was a strange peace that prevailed among them as they found sanctuary near me. I heard God speak in the particularity of it all.

So many times in life we will find ourselves in similar circumstances and there is literally nothing we can do to change it. Three small toddlers taught me a lesson I have never forgotten. Every last one of us can do exactly what they did. As soon as the storm began, they (1) immediately stopped what they were doing, (2) took cover and began paying keen attention to the developments, and (3) found sanctuary near their father. Oh, if we would but do likewise. Bless His holy name!

If there is a storm brewing in your life, try the above child-like strategies, and let the Father give you a peace that will surpass all comprehension.

Believe me; unlike the rest of us, God is not helpless under any circumstances!

Correct doctrine is essential for every believer’s health and witness. Unfortunately (at times), a given people’s methodology—the way they do things—gets in the way of the clear message of the gospel, and becomes more of a hindrance to effective ministry than a help. Our adversary—the devil—has successfully complicated the matter of faith along these noticeably skewed lines (denominationalism). In fact, a closer look at the spelling of the word “denomination,” clearly reveals it resembles the word “demonization” (or of the devil). In my view, denominationalism has been for too long a confusing weapon used to divide the body of Christ than a creative witness to show its diversity.

Some churches today are even deleting their group’s label from the marquis in an effort to more effectively champion the simple gospel of Jesus. Wisely, they yet hold true to those core values that lay the foundation for their persuasion. Their strategy is to present Christ without prejudice or any particular predisposition that publishing a denominational brand may create.

A man just called me as he was driving in the Dallas area approaching an entrance ramp to get onto I-635. An unsettling spiritual concern prompted his call, and after offering my view, I asked him the question, “How many lanes are there on the interstate in front of you?” He replied, “Six!” I asked further, “What kind of vehicle are you in?” He told me the make and model of the one he was driving. Finally, I said to him, “It really does not matter what vehicle you drive, or which of those six lanes you choose, as long as you’re heading in the right direction.” He said kindly, “Man, thanks; I got it!”

Some churches are liturgical, others are loud. Some worshipers are shouters, while others are clearly solemn. Some atmospheres are rather reticent; still others lean toward a more open response. When it’s all said and done, the critical issues for encouraging a nurturing faith and an effective witness are this: (1) the ministry must be Christocentric—that is, Christ is at the center; and (2) YOU (personally) must be heading in the right direction. If these two things are clearly the case, by the grace of God, you should do just fine.

Make sure you’re on-the-right-road, dear friends, and enjoy the ride!

The other day the control panel in my car sounded and revealed the specific (visual) message, “Check Brake Linings.” Right on cue, my technician discovered it was time for the front rotors and pads to be replaced. I must say I yet marvel at the miracle of technology. Daily we are blown away with newer advances and even more modern measures designed to enhance the quality of our lives. With the creation of telematics—the transmission of data communications between systems and devices—manufacturers can monitor safety, security, and provide information services for consumers where ever they may be via remote control. From a centralized location these observe speed, tire pressure, oil life, brake systems, fluid levels, plus engine and transmission performance. Too, they offer remote access, crash assistance, and can provide turn-by-turn navigation when one needs directions, among other things. Without question, these advances are simply ingenious!

One should not ignore the great possibility that God has allowed humans to make such remarkable technological advances to reveal as well the “High” tech Genius with which we—human beings—have been similarly made (by God). Some continue to complain about knowing God’s will and finding life’s purpose, and without ever realizing a unique monitoring system which allows for the transmission of critical information between us and God. This spiritual system is called faith. It enables proper communication between humanity and God so we can readily experience His safety, security, and the information services He readily provides. Once the faith journey begins, God is appreciably more able to monitor speed and direction, give valuable insight and information, and provide His safety and security no matter what circumstances in life we face. In fact, God mysteriously employs distinct spiritual alarms—like an inner disturb or the absence of peace, restlessness, sleeplessness, uneasiness about decisions, adamant burdens, and more, to let us know something may be wrong or also the best course of action in a given dilemma. These given sacred signals alert at God-directed moments to apprise us of things to which we otherwise may not respond.

What’s the point? By faith, you should enter into a more meaningful relationship with God and begin to pay closer attention to your control panel (your spirit). Learn to recognize the spiritual prompts that alert when things are not right or may be headed contrary to the divine will. If you will keep looking, listening, and learning, God will plainly show you areas where crucial changes need to be made and what you can do to enjoy a better quality of life. Discover how God’s system is far more advanced than humankind’s. Human systems are located miles away from their consumers; but God is “…a very present help in the time of trouble.” (Psalm 46:1) Human-made systems afford access from a remote location; but God is only a prayer away; and He said if you will come near Him (get close), He will in turn come near to you (see James 4:8). Don’t ever think God would allow a human-made system to exceed the genius with which He has already created us. The Psalmist has clearly stated we have been “…fearfully and wonderfully made…” (139:14)

Become more spiritual today! Do it now? It will surely enhance the quality of your life! I promise you!

Only a moment ago I stepped out of my truck and walked around to the passenger side door to retrieve my brief case and shoulder bag. When opening the door, a small meal receipt fell out and onto the church’s parking lot. Before I could pick it up, a gentle breeze lightly swept it under the vehicle and it was too far gone for me to reach. Calmly, I walked to the other side of the vehicle, backed up a bit to see if I could see it, and just stood there unmoved. After a few minutes, the receipt eased its way from under the vehicle, and I quietly picked it up. As I walked into my office, I rehearsed (in my mind) my harmless incident and clearly heard God speak.

In case you feel you have fallen short in raising or parenting your children, perhaps my innocent experience in our church’s parking lot can help. If you have dropped-the-ball or even feel as though somehow you missed-the-mark with yours (or simply wish you had done things differently), then do what I just did:

1. Notice (pay attention to) where the mishap occurred.
2. Reposition yourself so you can see the direction in which they might be headed.
3. Wait for the Wind (of the Holy Ghost) to breathe on them.

God still has a way of gently breathing on our imperfect efforts and returning to us what seems to have been lost. Solomon said if you train the child properly (“…in the way he should go…”) while he or she is young, the child will not depart from the path when the child becomes old (read Proverbs 22:6).

How do we know God yet breathes? It is because the Wind is still blowing!

Upon awakening today I was surprised to discover a deluge of arctic snow. Approximately four full inches had already fallen and there were predictions of possibly another four inches by the days end. Few things can compare to the wonder of a freshly bleached blanket of clean, undisturbed snow. The only words to describe it are “simply beautiful!”

In addition to the pristine picture on the ground there existed a definite driving hazard that threatened the mobility of every citizen in our community. The driveways of homes and the parking lots of businesses and schools would need clearing if people were ever to get around. That included our church’s lot! Our church secretary—a sweet, short, three-quarters-of-a-century (in years) young lady—would definitely need assistance if she was to enter and exit the facility without any encumbrances. In fact, the conditions were so risky we decided she needed to leave early to avoid having to negotiate the dangerous streets. We spoke briefly over the phone about the situation, and she was elated to be able to go home.

About fifteen minutes later my home phone rang, again. My secretary was on the line and she was reporting on her safely making it to her residence. “Pastor,” she said, “the streets were just terrible.” The sigh of relief in her voice was unmistakable. “It was really difficult for me to see,” she continued, “and I would not have been able to make it had it not been for a snow plow in front of me; so I just followed it all the way to my house.” Under otherwise treacherous and unsafe conditions, she was able to make it safely home because some authorized heavy equipment was paving the way in front of her.

Isn’t that just like God? Perhaps you are likewise feeling forced to live under terribly arduous (demanding) conditions. Your path, it seems, is quite perilous. Your streets appear very strenuous; and the drive you are taking is difficult to say the least. Find comfort in knowing that our God is a Way Maker like none other. He is a Master-Heavy-Equipment-Operator; and has the authority to do whatever is necessary for us to make it safely home. No matter what you may be going through, the Lord is able to make a way for you if you will simply follow Him.

As far as I’m concerned, on a cold and snowy day in the Midwest, God mysteriously led a short little old lady safely home on some very slick and dangerous streets by allowing her to get behind a snow plow. That was no accident; that was Providence! What a joy to know that the Lord even has snow plows in His inventory! Isn’t our God good?

When people act out of character and do harmful things in rage, anger management therapy is routinely the prescribed solution to help them better manage themselves through future difficulties. Is anger ever the real problem? Or is there something else camouflaged or masked at a deeper level that needs to be resolved. Let’s see!

In my humble opinion, anger is only a symptom of a greater concern that sits at the heart of the matter. People who misbehave in exaggerated anger (i.e. strike out, become violent or profane, etc.) are likely hurting. That’s right; they are grieving over something (a wrong or some inequity) that has caused them great pain. And the primary reason people are quick to become angry is because it is the most convenient and easiest emotion to assume. It deceivingly feels better (for the moment), and usually gives one a false sense of renewed control over the malady or situation out of control. This is not true!

Consider, for a moment, the grief cycle—shock, denial, bargaining, anger, guilt, mourning, acceptance, and healing. Practitioners do not agree on the chronology, but we all (to some degree) traverse these steps (and each of us differently) at times of bad news, during a significant loss, some injury is sustained, and so on. Yes, you read right! Anger is just one phase of the entire grief process. So then, anger management is really insufficient. Grief management therapy is what is needed. People need to learn how to grieve in healthy (and unharmful) ways. Treating anger without dealing with grief is like trying to help one get rid of a cold by teaching one how to blow a runny nose. The nose is normally running because one has a cold. Consequently, if you get rid of the cold, the nose will stop running.

I have found in over twenty-five years of ministry intervention and counseling, the consistent thread and common denominator in dysfunctional anger has always been grief. A husband assaults his wife (or vice versa) for unfaithfulness. He or she gets mad (understandably); but their anger is because they are hurt and greatly disappointed. When persons become destructive, their violence can normally be traced to some deep emotional pain; and they’re simply lashing out to try and feel better. This is especially true for men! Girls are encouraged to grieve. It seems to compliment their soft side. But boys are normally discouraged from grieving, because it hints of weakness and helplessness. This archaic gaffe has made a mess of countless relationships and helped destroy many marriages all because many a brother (and some sisters, too) never learned how to articulate and deal with their grief.

Perhaps you are holding on to a painful issue that continues to re-insert you into episodes of painful grief and sorrow. What can one do? Here are three considerations. The first is to explode (a common out-of-control response)—to cause destruction and damage. Explosions can create irreparable damage. When pursued, they cause unavoidable harm to oneself, to other persons, and even to property. Anyway you look at it, if you explode, it ultimately will cost you. My advice is, “DON’T DO IT!” A second option is to implodeto hold on to it until it caves in on you and ultimately brings you down. Implosions collapse and crash inwardly. You see, anger is like an acid; it eats away at the container that’s trying to hold it. Holding on to hurt will cause it to fester and it may never heal. Again, and quite frankly, “DON’T DO IT!” The third (and preferred) option is this: unloadpursue a healthy avenue to safely and sanely obtain relief from the burden (or pain) in order to heal and find wholeness. In other words, talk about it with a qualified and trusted friend or professional. It can be a pastor, psychologist, social worker, or someone you know who has successfully (and soberly) negotiated the same painful circumstance. Getting in touch with your emotions and allowing another to hold you reasonably accountable for your actions can help you see better, behave better, and eventually help you feel better in spite of the pain.

Here it is in a nutshell! When you can’t control others (and you certainly can’t), and you cannot control your circumstances, no matter what happens, remain in control of you! Don’t lose your cool; break no rule, and be no fool. It’s not wise to explode; don’t wait to implode; choose to unload. Find a healthy outlet to get it out and get passed it. You will discover you can grieve, you can get over it, and you can go on! Mourn, manage yourself through it, and then move on! Believe me; you’ll be just fine! Trust me on this one! In fact, trust Him!

I just left Omaha’s Von Maur Department store located in the Westroads Mall. Even though other mall businesses had been opened since a couple of days after “the incident,” Von Maur remained closed until today. The atmosphere this evening was nothing short of pure communion! I made my way up the escalator and through the departments where I have shopped before. I found myself looking keenly and specifically for familiar faces. As my eyes caught a glimpse of the ones I recognized or knew, I made a beeline to them without hesitation. As I approached them I felt the need to extend my hand just to touch theirs. A touch would quickly turn into a mutual and warm embrace. This happened several times; and not with me alone. Similar behavior kept reoccurring throughout the store. There was very little speech; yet a lot was spoken in the quiet serenity of a gentle hug! The only words I whispered were, “I’m so glad you’re here!” The noiseless floodgates opened ever so softly.

I really didn’t go there this evening to shop–at least not for merchandise! No, I was looking for something other than that. I was trying to find opportunity! I was seeking a chance to reaffirm my appreciation for the wonder of being; the delight of life; the joy of survival! The store employees felt safe as they carried out their various duties and waited on eager customers. Of course, mall security was heightened and an occasional police officer’s presence didn’t hurt. It was nice being inside this re-beautified store, again. I am convinced people were uniquely demonstrating the “true meaning of Christmas”–sharing the love of God with each other.

As I exited the store, I could not help but think about the resilience of the human heart and spirit! Isn’t our God awesome? It was only 15 days ago these same halls and walls were the scene of an unfortunate and senseless slaughter. People were running for their lives and screaming to the top of their lungs as a lone gunman wreaked havoc on innocent patrons and workers. Now, only 5 days from biggest holiday of the year, the once horrid scene had been transformed from a place of sorrow into a peaceful sanctuary–a place where love, joy, and community abide. I believe Joseph was right when he told his brothers “…you (the enemy) meant it against me for evil, but God meant it for good.” (see Genesis 50:20; parenthesis, mine).

The life lesson is clear! Hurt and pain are as natural a part of life as breathing. In the moment, it seems like the horror and discomposure will never end. Eventually, we discover that these don’t last forever! Before we know it, we’re back in-the-game, and living our lives in spite of every tragic circumstance! The resilience of the human heart is but a testament to the awesome creative genius of a God who does all things well! The Psalter said it best: “Weeping may endure for a night; but joy comes in the morning.” (Ps. 30:5). Tonight (and in a monument that once beheld misery), I experienced joy! Wow! What a feeling!

Recently I returned from a brief excursion in Monterey, California. I was privileged to spend Thanksgiving on the delightful shores of the Monterey Bay. Words are simply inadequate to accurately describe the landscape and environment I saw. From the balcony of an ocean-front property I was able to witness for three-days a beautiful sunrise in the cool of the morning. Its brilliance was only enhanced as it illumined the rippling surface of the massive and magnificent Pacific. As I beheld this great liquid expanse, I couldn’t help but be in awe of a God Who came up with the vision and created such a view for His children to enjoy. The bellowing barks of mating seals served as nature’s alarm clocks in case the manmade ones should fail. Adjacent to Monterey Bay is the luxurious community of Carmel. A seventeen-mile stretch takes tourists to the celebrated Pebble Beech (a golfer’s dream) right along the coast. Pacific Grove is only five minutes away where retirees and millionaires enjoy the life of Riley, relaxing and reflecting in one of the most tranquil environments on the face of the earth. I had a wonderful time.

Interestingly, as I flew home, I thought how Monterey (with all its amenities) was not the only marvel of its kind in the United States or the world. There are literally hundreds (perhaps thousands) of similar spots–many undiscovered–around the globe which God has created and which await our coming to see them. Then it occurred to me while this treasure has been there for some time, I would not (and could not) have experienced it had I not accepted the invitation and simply taken the trip. The same thing is true with a relationship with Jesus Christ. In Paul’s wonderful epistle to the Ephesians, he is trying to let this fellowship know there is much to experience and expect as members of the family of God; but one will never get to enjoy it if one is not willing to take the trip. In Christ, the journey is so much better, and the view is simply indescribable!