Monday, June 27, 2016

Continue The Call

In my book Hospital Parables: “Front Office to Bedside” I wrote of being “Called and gifted” for ministry. More specifically I wrote of the audible calling of God as expressed in Isaiah 30:21 saying, “Whether you turn to the left of the right you will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘this is the way, walk in it.”  These words spoken and heard audibly by my Christian counselor and myself in his office was a clarion call to trust God and to walk in His ways. I have since written a 2-volume book of the same title words speaking of how to live out this call.

After hearing my call, I attended Bethel Seminary in St. Paul studying theology and pastoral care. There God made clear my call into the healthcare chaplaincy. I heard that call and made my way from “The Front Office to Bedside,” having been a hospital executive for over 30 years. God was saying to me something like He told Moses in the flaming bush and so many others who have gone before us. He was saying that He had prepared me for 35 years in hospital leadership to be finally able to care for people directly as a bedside caregiver and encourager. He was telling me to become a chaplain. I was the only one out of 40 students in my seminary pastoral care class to raise my hand when surveyed by the professor about my calling. My classmates were amazed advising me that I would not be able to share the gospel or preach. What a misguided admonition that has turned out to be in 2000. Since then I have been able to share my faith when asked or the Spirit has led me with 100s of patients and family members as well as hospital staff. Many have found eternal security through God’s promises and words of encouragement in the Bible. Not only has this been exactly what God wanted me to do, but also it is what He has called me to continue. Let me clarify that thought.

Three years ago I decided to retire at age 66 after leading a very difficult church implosion as the lead pastor after the three other clergy had been forced out by the congregation and the denominational hierarchy. Suffice it to say, helping a split congregation of  nearly 2,000 through this storm almost caused me to take my own life. God spoke to my spirit to take my leave only after I had been obedient and stayed under the trial until some calm and He released me to continue my calling elsewhere. After retiring, after only two weeks, my wife announced that I had “failed retirement.” Then these were to me at the time strange and harsh words. However, three years later after serving once again as a hospital chaplain and now an author of four books and a blog, I understand the admonition and the new call.

Some seven years before this dramatic crisis of faith bringing change and challenge, I had endured a hip “resurfacing,” or replacement. During my convalescence, my chaplain partner at Rogers Memorial Hospital, a five campus psychiatric facility, told me, “why don’t you do something useful with your time.”  This encouragement was strange at the time, but led me to begin writing a devotional for small groups at the hospital. In fact, I wrote a devotional based on the psalms that was and continues to be used at the hospital. Fast-forward seven years to my new place in failed retirement. As I began my new part time hospital chaplaincy, I also picked up my loose-leaf devotional Great is God’s Faithfulness and contemplated publishing it as a book. This happened after sharing my thoughts with another chaplain who had published two pastoral type books. He steered me to a Christian book publisher and a new journey in my continued calling expanded. Not only has this book been published through Amazon, Create Space Publishing, but three others have as well. This is The Way, Walk in It (Volumes 1&2) and Hospital Parables: “Front Office to Bedside,” have also been released. They are now being sold through several bookstores. Moreover, I have now published nearly 300 essays or sermons in a blog www.greatisgodsfaithfulness.com.  This blog, as all websites is worldwide. Fascinatingly, the greatest readership outside the United States is in Ukraine.  Some 500 readers in this Soviet controlled satellite are now hopefully finding some encouragement in their difficult lives. Most recently I am having my Hospital Parables book displayed in multiple dental office waiting rooms my son, a dentist, operates in the Northwest.


I have had the opportunity to give my testimony to a couple of groups and submitted my work for chaplain workshops. Recently, I shared my essays on “fear” on a local radio station. I am not sure where to go from here, however. Nonetheless, a recent sermon spoke to me about “call.” The Pastor shared about his journey in publishing Christian CDs for radio called the Brinkman Adventures. He spoke of being open to hearing and obeying God’s call. He spoke that as he goes out on his own with his family in his new adventure, that God had called him to “continue” his calling. I heard his call to continue and know God has not called me to something new, but to continue doing what he has called me to with vigor and enriched enthusiasm. I don’t know what that means, but I clearly know that God does, and I am prayerfully seeking His will as I continue to obey this call.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Wants

Only as we truly delight in God is it safe to give us our desires, for then they are not likely to become idols.
John Eldredge, in The Journey of Desire

What do you want? Do you want more of something, or someone or all of it or them?  Well, I think you are in company with most people. Yes, we seem to always want for more. Is there a solution? Of course there is, I will buy it. Well, does that take care of our seemingly insatiable desires?  No it does not.

So what is the solution, “keep up with the Jones?” Or as Rockefeller answered when asked how much more did he need? “Just a little bit more.”  He was saying that would make him happy I guess. I wonder if it did or does?   Did you know that God has an answer for our needs?

Psalm 23: tells us, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.” OK, I need verification, a second opinion. How about Psalm 34:10, “But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.” This Scripture is part of “wisdom literature.” So are Proverbs which tell us “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct or make your paths smooth (straight).”(Proverbs 3:5-6). Really, seek the Lord.  I need another Psalm idea you say. How about Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of you heart.” Wow, this is getting pretty good if you can believe these poems or stories or whatever you call the Bible. I call them the inerrant and perfect Word of God. It was breathed out and inspired as holy for He is holy. And the content is designed to make us holy too. The Word of God was written to bring us light in the darkness, wisdom. It conveys the infallible promises of God.

Paul in Philippians 4:19 tells us that, “God will meet all of our needs in His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” In this passage he has been telling us that he has learned the secret of being content no matter what his need, hungry or well fed. God will supply for all our needs. Here is a phrase that might be difficult. Because it says all of our needs, not wants. We have wants that might not be what God wants for us. “The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought” (Isaiah 58:11).

Because the Lord provides for all our needs, what are we to do? “Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and to bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked that you cover him and not hide yourself from your own flesh?” (Isaiah 58:7).  If this is what the Lord wants of us, what will happen?  Then your light shall break forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry and the Lord will say, ‘Here I am.” (Isaiah 58:8-9). The Apostle John asks the question, “But, whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (I John 3:17).

Perhaps in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus answers these  questions ultimately for needs being met. Speaking of the Pharisees He says, “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” Matthew 6:8).  Yes, He does and He will do it. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.


Friday, June 17, 2016

Salt

Salt
Salt is a mineral used for millennia for preserving meat. If it is not used, the meat gets rotten and inedible. It is also used as a seasoning, often with pepper. They go together. In Matthew and Mark Jesus speaks of being salty. This means being a seasoning, something that enhances or flavors the conversation and life. Do not be dull He is saying. There are a lot of dull Christians out there. As well, it seems, there are many who are afraid to share the good news. Paul tells the Colossian Christians, “Let your conversation be always full of grace and seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6).  Seasoning makes something stand out. Sometimes it stands out too sharply. That is why the admonition to be full of grace, which is the redemptive or caring, forgiving and life giving character of Christ. Don’t be afraid to give the reason for the hope that is within you, but do it with gentleness and respect. It is in this manner that salt brings peace with one another. Calling out someone's sin just does not help very often. One pastor recently said, “When you are perfect, throw the first stone.”
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men”  (Matthew 5:13). Mark’s Gospel has a similar proverb from Jesus, but ends with, “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other” (Mark 9:50).  Salt has an image of wisdom.

James, Jesus’ brother, spoke about the tongue a lot. He talked about its small size, but yet with the power to start forest fires and turn ships, even with boasting. With the tongue we praise and curse. “Can both fresh and salt water flow from the same spring? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water” (James 3:11,12). James is talking about speech that hurts, intentionally or not.  People often say, after letting loose with a zinger. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”  Really?  What was the motivation of your heart?  Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:5 tells us that the Lord will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motivations of men’s hearts. David asks the Lord in Psalm 139 to search his heart for wrong motivations or fears and to lead him in the way everlasting.  James again in 4:3 says that we do not hear from God sometimes because we ask for the wrong motive. In other words, we ask for selfish reasons, not for the needed truth.

Perhaps the most important and useful application of salt comes for healing. Leviticus 2:13 says to put salt in all your grain offerings, to keep it from rotting or corrupting it. The writer says to not leave the salt of the covenant with God out. The covenant of God is for redemption and healing of the nations and the souls of men; healing from sin and forgiveness of trespasses. Salt was valuable and God’s promises in covenant are invaluable, imperishable and perfect.

So share the good news with saltiness. If you don’t use it, the salt becomes worthless and can be trampled under foot like it was in Carthage to waste the land destroyed.  We are to be the moral preservatives of the world. So go out and act like it!



Friday, June 10, 2016

Walk

Walk in it.  The first time I heard God’s voice was audible, and He said, “Walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21).  This was the true beginning of my walk with the Lord. I had received Christ as my Lord and Savior in a blizzard in the UP of Michigan the year before. However, my life changed slowly. Now this experience has profound meaning to me as God wants us to walk in His ways.  God says, “Walk by the Spirit…live in the Spirit, let us also keep step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16; 25).  When Paul was in prison for his faith he said, “…do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1).

James MacDonald reminds us of the walking theme echoing across Ephesians: “Walk in love…walk as children of light…look carefully how you walk” (Ephesians 5:2.8,15).   If we are to walk in Christ and deal with sin, we must focus on the next step. We are to concentrate on the strength He gives us to be victorious. “Therefore as we have received Christ Jesus as Lord, so walk in Him” (Colossians 2:6).


As you walk with Christ today, don’t scan the horizon for what is ahead, but focus on the next step living in Christ our Guide and Leader.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Number Your Days

I have written on Psalm 90 of Moses before saying:
Take Responsibility- take hold of it and do right for God is returning.
Reflect on the day- looking at relationships and looking for forgiveness
Rejoice- “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love” (v.14).
Rest Assured- let the “favor of the Lord our God rest upon us".

Today I see more important insights. “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).  Make the most of your days because you only get an allotted amount. What do we do with them?  You have perhaps seen or heard of the movie “Bucket List”? It is about making the most of your days by doing what pleases you. Try climbing a mountain, buying a red convertible, traveling, whatever turns you on.  I suggest that perhaps a moral bucket list might be better. Ask, what would God want me to do? This is the essence of gaining a heart of wisdom. Ask and it shall be given to you, pressed down and shaken together, overflowing, and poured into your lap Jesus says in Luke 6:38. God wants to give us gifts in abundance. Gifts of service to others are lasting gifts. Forgive and wash each other’s feet.  Yes, establish the work of our hands” (v.17).

God says these days fly away quickly so sing for joy in the day you have. Make God your dwelling place and learn more about Him. Seek Him more deeply.

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love” (v.14). I return to this thought of God’s unfailing love. The Psalmist speaks of afflictions and how we should be glad from them or in them, for God is in them. This is the penultimate knowledge that God wants us to know. He is with us in the storms of life and wants us to become more like him as a result. So don’t run from the storms, but embrace them and so embrace the love of God. As verse 17 says, the favor of the Lord will rest upon us and we can sing for joy and be glad all the days.

One other important thought in this wisdom Psalm, “Relent, O Lord! How long will it be?” (v.13). Life is hard and God’s wrath is beginning to be seen. The writer, and each of us is asking God to relent and also asking “how long” before you stop and return?  Yes, God is returning to bring His reign of peace. We who are His will dwell with Him in His light forever. Come quickly Jesus, Maranatha!