Perspectives on Spiritual, Intellectual and Pastoral Issues: Host – Lowell Qualls

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The Battlefield of Your Mind

The week leading up to the first Easter, Jesus knew He was headed for a week of war.  His war would be physical, emotional, and spiritual.  He knew that the battleground for this fight would be His mind.  Jesus knew what was ahead.  And phase one of the battle for His mind began on “Palm Sunday,” the day Jesus was celebrated by the crowd.

Matthew 20:17-19

17 As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside privately and told them what was going to happen to Him. 18 “Listen,” He said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law.  They will sentence Him to die. 19 Then they will hand Him over to the Romans to be mocked, flogged with a whip, and crucified.  But on the third day He will be raised from the dead.”

I’m going to put the goal of my blog treatise out front, in plain view.  It is this:  I hope to convince you that if the Holy Spirit of God has our mind, our will and emotions will follow God’s leading.  If God has our minds we will live our lives God’s way, with all the perks!

Satan knows that if he has our minds he can ruin us!  Confuse us.  Cause us to doubt God.  If the enemy gets your mind then every part of your being is open to his control … your mind and your will and your emotions!   You’ll say “yes” to every dark and sinful idea that he brings to your mind.  And as he gets you say yes over and over again, you are taking steps toward addiction and spiritual slavery and ultimately spiritual death.

The bottom line is … OUR mind is the prize.

On that first Palm Sunday Jesus was  popular!  His reputation had preceded Him.   People in the crowds that day were testifying, “This prophet JESUS raised a man from the dead, a man that lives just over the Mount of Olives, in Bethany!!”

Some others were saying, “Oh, well, you think that’s impressive?  This Man fed two huge crowds of people… thousands of people each time … the first time with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, and the other time with 7 loaves of bread and a few small fish!  What do you think of that!”

Matthew 21:8-11 tells us, 

Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of Him, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around Him were shouting, 

“Praise God for the Son of David!
Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Praise God in highest heaven!”

 10 The entire city of Jerusalem was in an uproar as He entered. “Who is this?” they asked.  11 And the crowds replied, “It’s Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

While during that first Palm Sunday Jesus had the approval of multitudes of people, just 5 days later these same people that were singing “Hosanna” would be shouting, “Crucify Him!  Give us Barabbas!  But crucify Jesus!”

Do you see the battle taking shape?  What Jesus was receiving from the crowds on Sunday was “the approval of man.”   Is that something you long for?  Ache for?  Would die for?

It is important we understand that our desire for approval and fear of disapproval, and why both is so strong.  We all long for approval and significance.  That’s why the fear man is so strong.

When God created Man He designed Adam to be motivated by these emotionally powerful forces – approval & disapproval – because they uniquely reveal what we love.

Because we are created beings our identity, our value, our meaning comes from the One who created us – God.  He has the rightful authority to define who we are, what we are worth, what we should do, and how we should do it.  He is called “the Lord,” not “a lord.”

That is why Jesus said the greatest commandment is to LOVE the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, all our strength and ALL OUR MIND.  All the other commandments will be obeyed if we love God totally.

God designed us to obey the one we love … or the one we fear.

So if we elevate Man to the highest place in our life, we will obey what we believe Man wants us to do, and how Man wants us to think.  Fear of Man is giving God’s rightful position in our lives to people, and that, my friends, is called idolatry.

The Bible says, in Proverbs 29:25, 25 Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety.

How do we battle and win over the fear of Man?   I wish it was simple, but it is not.  We must love God more, and place Him at the highest place in our hearts.   We must long for His approval!   His “thumbs up” should mean the world to us.

And while your battling the Fear of Man get ready to experience betrayal.  Betrayal will mess with your mind!

Just days after the crowds were praising Jesus, Judas would betray Him.  Judas, one of The Twelve Disciples, had his feet washed by Jesus.  Judas had seen the miracles.  He was there when the blind saw and the lame walked.  He watched as the demons came out of people.  He even saw the dead raised on THREE occasions.

And still he betrayed Jesus.

We won’t go into the whys and wherefores of Judas’ betrayal.  We just need to remember,  all of Christ’s DISCIPLES except John ran and hid for the three days of Jesus’ torture and death.  John and many of the woman, including Christ’s mother, went with Jesus to The Cross.

I don’t think the Holy Spirit is saying, “Prepare to be betrayed.  Don’t  trust anyone … even your inner circle!”  NO.

I believe the Holy Spirit is saying to us, “Prepare for YOUR OWN betrayal of Jesus.”

Part of spiritual warfare is understanding the nature of human beings.  Jesus knew He would be betrayed … but His betrayers were shocked by their own weakness!   Peter almost didn’t recover.  He was so surprised and embarrassed by his actions!  His betrayal of Jesus almost broke him.

I digress, but think about this:  Judas betrayed the Lord and felt he was UNFORGIVABLE.  My friend, if you fail the Lord don’t ever believe He won’t forgive you.  He knows that you aren’t perfect, and still He loves you so much. Unconditionally!  Ask the other disciples of Jesus.

Peter and the other brothers and sisters of Jesus stayed close enough to experience His resurrection, and the JOY of having a second chance!!

Give yourself some grace as God pours out His forgiveness on your heart when you blow it.  But also, let’s give some GRACE TO OUR FRIENDS!  No pointing fingers!  No “holier than thou!”  None of that stuff should ever surface.  We must understand, followers of Jesus (and that includes you and me) are just one mind-game away from breaking faith with our Lord.  If you want God’s grace, share in God’s grace!  We are not to judge our brothers and sisters.  We are to love and encourage anyone who sins.

Another powerful truth about spiritual warfare is THE IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER!

EVEN JESUS needed His Garden of Gethsemane!  His best preparation for what He was facing and would be facing would take place on His knees.

Your time of prayer … your Garden of Gethsemane … is your opportunity to address GOD!  Commune with Him.  Drink in His living water.  Feast on His Word.  Bend the knee in worship.  We must take advantage of our opportunities to speak to Him and to hear from Him if we ever hope to be victorious in the battle for our mind.

I believe if we take some time on our knees we will, like Jesus, come away from our prayer time saying, “NOT MY WILL BUT YOURS!”

Here’s a good question.  Are you walking in self-confidence or God-confidence?  (Are you living a successful and God-honoring life in your own strength or His?)

I’ll tell you what also comes out of our times of spiritual warfare prayer.  Look back at the Garden of Gethsamane.   Observe:  while others are cutting the ears off of the people around them you will be prepared to heal even your enemies.

After we pray and clear our minds our goals will change. After we spend time in God’s presence we won’t judge sinners but we will do everything we can to help them become His friends.  We’ll lay down our swords and pick up the servant’s bowl and towel.  We’ll wash feet instead of having to clean things up after a blood-bath.

The last thing I’ll share about spiritual warfare and the battle for our minds is this:  YOUR CROSS WILL REVEAL YOUR TRUE HEART.

Not too many days ago I celebrated “Good Friday.”   Does it ever strike you as ODD that Christians celebrate the death of our Savior?  It does me.  We Christ followers glory in the Cross of Jesus.  We sing about the Cross of Jesus.  We love the Cross of Jesus.  We wear reminders around our necks and get tattoos of a gross instrument of capital punishment.

We love the Cross because there is a strange beauty that is revealed while Jesus is dying.  If it is true, that whatever is in our hearts comes out through our mouths, and I do, then listen to what Jesus said from His heart.  What He said while He was dying proves my last point.

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”  (Luke 23:34)

No anger!  No cursing!  He preached forgiveness, and then He demonstrated forgiveness.

If you have anything against anyone, from your cross, forgive. Is it in your heart to do so?

“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

Again, this is about forgiveness.  This time directed to one who asked for mercy.  Our challenge many times is to not hold forgiveness as a weapon.  Don’t withhold forgiveness to teach someone a lesson, or to punish someone.  Release forgiveness.  Is it in your heart to do so?

“Jesus said to His mother: “Woman, this is your son.” Then He said to the disciple: “This is your mother.”  (John 19:26-27)

There are at least four people at the foot of the Cross.  There are three Marys mentioned, and John.  There is (1) Mary, the mother of Jesus, (2) Mary, His mother’s sister, and (3) Mary Magdalene.  And there is John, the one disciple that didn’t fade into the crowd and go into hiding.

While you may be suffering your cross there are others around you that are suffering, too.  Is it in your heart to love others even when you are longing for love?   Is it in your heart to care for others in spite of your personal pain?  Or is it always about you?

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34)

After three hours of suffering Jesus cried out in anguish!   Friends, we have this record of Christ crying out to God, “Have YOU deserted Me, too?”

One of the beautiful things about our loving God is that He never leaves us, but sometimes it feels like He does, doesn’t it?   Don’t be surprised if, while you are struggling on your cross, you get discouraged and you feel alone.  Is it still in your heart to cry out to God?   Is it in your heart to be honest with yourself and with God?

BE HONEST WITH GOD!  It’s important.  Don’t hide behind what you think is faith.  And don’t have faith in your faith.  Sometimes … many times … faith is crying out to the God you can’t see or touch, and believing that He is still listening … because He is!

This is truly spiritual warfare!

“I thirst.”  (John 19:28)

I don’t want to be whimsical and try to make a point by stretching what happened on the Cross of Christ when He said, “I thirst.”  But I can’t help thinking about an incident that happened earlier in the ministry of Jesus.  He had an encounter with a woman at a well, and He said to her, “Can I have a drink?”  (“I thirst.”)  They ended up having a conversation about well water and something else.  Jesus said, “Whoever drinks this well water will thirst again.  But whoever drinks the water I give will have eternal life!”

Was this moment on the Cross our Lord’s cry for eternal life?  Is it in your heart to thirst for the love of God?

Are you thirsty for the salvation of your family?  Your friends?  Your schoolmates? Your workmates?

Going back to the Cross, the Lord’s body is now giving out.  He has a tremendous thirst.  Next the Word of God tells us:

When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished;” and He bowed His head and handed over His spirit.   (John 19:30)

Luke’s Gospel says, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit.”  (Luke 23:46)

I believe a part of spiritual warfare is this simple thought.   When you’ve done all you can do, can you trust Him with the end of the story?

When you are battling against the enemy of your soul, and your strength is giving out, is it in your heart to say, “I can trust You with the outcome!  Let it be what You want, O God.  I confess that You are strong when I am weak.   I want You to do the work.  You are God.”

It takes tremendous faith to let go of whatever you’ve been trying to fix.  It takes a lot of faith to intentionally surrender the outcome of your fight to God.  That kind of surrender is all about trust and hope.

Now, you should never surrender to Satan.   Don’t ever give up by surrendering to the enemy!

Let me be clear:  you should surrender yourself and all of your desires, totally, to the will of God.  Is it in your heart to trust God?  Are you ready to confess, “You are the way, You are the truth, and You are the life, Jesus!”  Paul said it this way:  “For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Think (meditate) on this from Romans 12:2 … “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

One Man’s Bridge

On February 8, 1999, I was laying on a mat on the floor of Henrico Doctors’ Hospital in Richmond, Virginia. My wife Vicki was in her bed, battling the cancer that would eventually take her life four years later. As the following vision unfolded I shared it with her, and she recorded it – word for word – in her journal.

I was in the Spirit one day when I began to see a path begin unfolding before me … a path that gradually stretched out for miles. The pathway rested between two very steep mountains; these two unnamed mountains formed a “picture frame” for what I saw next.

About 100 feet in front of me a Person suddenly appeared. This Person was walking away from me, but when He glanced back over His shoulder I instantly recognized Him. It was Jesus!

Jesus stopped, turned toward me and smiled a warm, welcoming smile. Then, turning again to continue His walk, Jesus gestured to me to catch up, beckoning with His hand extended over His head. Jesus continued waving until I began to run toward Him.

As soon as I began to pick up some speed the path that had been clear and free from impediments suddenly disappeared! It just melted away, replaced with a 30-foot wide chasm. I skidded to a stop. I knew I couldn’t jump across the gorge. And when I peeked over its side, the chasm appeared to be bottomless. Certain death awaited anyone foolish enough to attempt the leap!

When I looked up I took note that the pathway continued on the other side of the chasm; it still stretched out to Jesus, and The Lord was still gesturing to catch up. What did all this mean?

Then, I noticed to my right, and just off the path, a pile of boards. Each board was sturdy and strong, and each was longer than the chasm was wide. Here was the answer to my dilemma! Instinctively I grabbed the board that rested on top of the pile and dropped it across the chasm. Perfect! It had no problem reaching the other side. Problem solved!

But when I attempted to walk across this one board, as sturdy as it appeared to be, it began to sag. With each step toward the middle of the board, the board’s ends would move closer and closer to the edges of the chasm. I froze! I thought, “With the next step I take I will surely fall into this ‘bottomless’ abyss and I will die!” I very cautiously retraced my steps and returned to my side of the chasm.

Then I heard a Voice thundering in my heart: “You, my son, must build a bridge. Your weight is too great from just one board, or even two or three boards. You must use all the boards. You must use ALL of the materials provided for this bridge’s construction. Jesus will wait for you … unless you try to shorten the process. That is, if you disobey this command, Jesus will move on.”

While I was concentrating on listening to the Voice, Jesus had turned around and walked back to the far edge of the chasm. He stood there so majestically for a moment, waiting for the Voice to finish, and then He spoke to me, saying, “My dear friend, you must build the bridge. And this bridge will be built because you have the heart for it.”

The Lord opened up my mind to understand that every person who had walked with Him in intimacy in the past had had to build a similar bridge. Jesus said to me, “Walking with Me is never based on a man’s talent. Walking in intimacy with Me can not be based on a person’s effort, or even sincere or passionate desire alone. You see, my friend, I have work for you to do, and the work I intend for you to do cannot be accomplished in your own strength. Your wisdom and your strength will never be enough, and you need to learn this truth now. Thus, you must build this bridge. Bend to the process. And cheer up! Remember, you have the heart for it.”

In true humility I asked, “Lord, may I know what work You have for me?” And with amazing grace Jesus replied, “God, my Father, created you to do wonderful things. Let us call your work, ‘signs, wonders and evangelism.’ These three elements are interlocked, interdependent, and are meant for ‘the last days.’ And signs, wonders, and evangelism will take place in and through your life, but that’s later, after we walk together for a time. As for today … build the bridge!

After such encouragement I got to work. First I took note of the boards. Each had a name burned onto its surface. The first board I had impulsively dropped across the gorge was in its proper place, and on this board was burned the word “PRAYER.”

• The second board was named “WONDER & AWE.”
• The third board was “HUMILITY.”
• The fourth was “DISCIPLINE.”
• The fifth, “FASTING.”
• The sixth, “SUBMISSION.”
• The seventh, “TIME.”
• The eighth, “INTIMACY.”
• The ninth, “CHARACTER – INTEGRITY.”
• And the tenth and last board was named, “LOVE.”

And so the work began. Each board was dropped into place, each next to another, and each placed “in its proper time.”

After the ten boards were in place I noticed that hidden under the larger, long boards were shorter boards, and each shorter board had the same word written on it: “WORSHIP.” I laid the first “Worship” board across the width of my bridge, and the fit was perfect! Starting at my end and progressing toward the side where Jesus stood watching, I worked my way across the cavernous void, all the while on both knees and weeping. And as my tears fell they became silver nails that I pounded into my Worship boards. Beginning with the first board, silver tears for nails and on bended knees, I sang to my Lord.

As I finished my last Worship board, I stood and faced Jesus. I was within 10 feet of The Master, and within seconds I could have been at His side. But I noticed that Jesus was looking past me, toward what was now the far side of the bridge. So I turned and looked back over my work. My bridge was in place and solid. But something else caught my eye. On the far side another pile of “building materials” appeared out of nowhere … and I KNEW, these, too, must be added to the structure of the bridge … and my Lord would wait for me.

This is when my vision became very mysterious. Up to this moment I felt I understood the need and purpose of the bridge. I felt I had grasped the importance of building into my life each aforementioned element of the bridge as it appeared. But as I approached this newest pile of revelation I was truly puzzled. There was a canvas cloth, heavy and dense, long and wide enough to perfectly cover over the bridge. And then there was a smaller board with no name burned on it, sitting next to the canvas. I turned and faced Jesus … and I knew. Stretch the canvas cloth over the bridge. Cover the structure. Make the ten long boards and numerous Worship boards disappear so that only you and Jesus would know what it had taken to cross the deep chasm that would finally lead to intimacy.

As I went to work the name of the canvas cloth slowly revealed. “Brokenness, Sorrow and Loss.” Three haunting words. But I knew, this canvas is the reason the ‘Humility’ board was the hardest board to lay across the chasm. Fearfully but courageously I completed the task of stretching the canvas across my bridge.

When I returned once more to the beginning side of my bridge to retrieve the “final board” of the project, as I bent over to pick it up its name appeared. A stake that would serve to hold this little board appeared as well. The stake and small board would make a sign in the form of a cross. I pounded my cross-sign into the hard soil at the end of the bridge farthest from The Lord. “COST,” the sign read.

As soon as the “Cost” sign was erected I ran across my bridge and into the arms of My Friend, Jesus … the One who had witnessed and supervised the building of a bridge that would make intimacy with God a reality. My bridge had crossed a Chasm of Despair and led to a pathway of Joy.

Today I walk in step with the One who created me and Who had mapped out my destiny long before the path and the chasm had appeared in my mind … and in my life.
Every discerning follower of Jesus who longs for intimacy with God knows that they, too, will have to build a bridge and cross their own chasm of despair.  St. John of the Cross called his chasm “the dark night of the soul.”   But true believers will build their bridge for the sake of walking with Christ, for He said, “If any man would come after Me …”

Hope Reprised

It’s been three years … 3 YEARS!! … since I took to the keyboard.   My hope is that you missed me, and that you’ll connect with me at a new, and deeper level.

A friend gave me a small, laminated post-it with the following circular outline:

  1.  Healthy things grow
  2. Growing things change
  3. Changing things challenge us
  4. Challenge forces us to trust God
  5. Trust leads to obedience
  6. Obedience makes us healthy
  7. Healthy things grow

At some point in time I stopped being healthy.  I am having to discover the truth of point number 4 – “Challenge forces us to trust God” – and I am in pain.   Self-inflicted wounds are the worst for they usually are not fatal, but they leave terrible scars.  And I am sad because my self-inflicted wounds don’t just pain me, but those around me suffer, too.

I know I’m being FORCED to trust God now, today.  (I thought I knew what it meant to trust Him.  I presumed to be an expert in trusting Him … but if trust was meant to walk and live in obedience, my true state of heart was revealed.  I heard His voice but ignored His commands and went my own way.)

In my case, my hope in God is a confident assurance that God will, in time, bring me back to spiritual health, that “all things” will work together for the good, and that my destiny, while delayed, is not “dead.”

Pray for me.

 

Follow Up to “It’s Time” (October, ’11)

Just a short update. I’ve acquired a two-burner and a single burner stove and some utensils. We’re starting small … out of the back end of my pickup. Several opportunities have arisen to provide a supper meal to kids that receive school breakfasts and lunches, and we’re inviting their siblings and parents to join in. We’re serving something warm, nutritious and tasty (stew, chili, soup and bread), and we’ll be doing so between 5 and 6:30 PM (hopefully, before dark). Pray for us at The Bridge (www.thebridge2hope.org), and especially the Youth Group. Our kids are going to be the preparers and servers going forward; we’re teaching our young people that the Church has no walls, and no age limitations when it comes to ministering the love and grace of Jesus! We’ll keep you posted here.

Hungry, Thirsty, Unknown, and Naked

Matthew 25:35-40 is a text social justice folks mention in hopes of mobilizing people who are apathetic about the needs of others.  These verses, I’ve observed, are quoted most often when talking about reaching into the heart of a broken city … a broken-hearted city like my own – Richmond, Virginia.

Take a look at the New Living Translation’s version:  35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.  36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’   37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you?  Or thirsty and give you something to drink?  38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality?  Or naked and give you clothing?  39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’   40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

The words of Jesus.

Rarely are these words … His words … quoted in the context of judgment, but that is in fact what Christ was talking about.  Take a look:   31 “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne.  32 All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.   34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.  35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty … etc.

Maybe the most startling statement Jesus makes when preaching this sermon is verse 46.  It certainly is to me:   46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

He talks about separating the “sheep and the goats.”   According to Jesus, when He comes to judge the world, the righteous (the sheep on His right) and the unrighteous (the goats in His left) will be assigned their place in eternity.

I gathered from reading Michael J. Wilkins’ commentary on Matthew the following:  Jesus had given some clues about the events that would accompany His return (24:4-35), and then He taught lessons about watching, waiting, and being prepared for His second coming (His “first coming” being His birth in Bethlehem, His ministry, His death, and His resurrection).  Those lessons (24:36-25:30) include the parable about the homeowner and the thief, the parable about 2 kinds of servants (faithful and unfaithful), the parable of the 10 virgins (prepared and unprepared), and the parable of the talants (productive and unproductive).

When Jesus talked about sheep and goats He was talking about followers of God verses people living independent of God.  He made clear there was a reward for followers and punishment for the independent.  What is really cool is the surprised reaction of the sheep – those who would be rewarded:  “Lord, when did we see You hungry, thirsty, being a stranger, naked, sick or imprisoned” (the last two categories found in the other Gospels).

The Lord was referring to Isaiah 58:6-10, where God declares that true righteousness (right with God, right living, right motives) is displayed by caring for the needy.

But NEVER does Jesus in the New or God in the Old Testaments indicate that acts of mercy and kindness lead to salvation and eternal life!  Jesus was clear about that, and Paul made sure the people that received his letters were totally informed.  One example of Paul’s teaching is found in Ephesians 2, verses 8 and 9:   “God saved you by his grace when you believed.  And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.   Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”

Jesus was very clear:  acts of mercy and kindness are evidences that the sheep are already righteous!  The surprise of the sheep indicates that these acts of mercy and kindness were not intentional meritorious acts to gain access and entrance to the Kingdom of God, but were evidence that the sheep belonged to the Kingdom.

In light of my previous blog (“It’s Time” – October 11, 2011), I’ve been thinking long and hard about the motivation behind acquiring a specially-equipped truck, with all the bells and whistles and amenities.  I’ve come to a point where I’m asking myself, “Does it need to be ‘perfect’ before I begin to do what God is calling me to do?  Does the step-van/food truck need to come first – before I’ll venture out into the unknown?”

So … would anyone in the Richmond area consider joining me in an experiment.  First, prayer – asking for God to lead us.  Second, doing some “prayer-trips” around the city, looking for the places where needy folks are currently NOT being served by those already involved in such projects and ministries.  I think then, thirdly, it will be time to put a few propane burners in the back of my pickup, some previously prepared soup that we can warm up when we’re on location, something to serve coffee, some good water, along with cups, bowls and spoons.

What say you?

Life In A Faster Line

It can get so quiet in an airport. As passengers, and in my case, would-be passengers, wait for a weather update from up north it can become quite still – very much like the sound, or lack thereof, of a professional golf tournament crowd when a contender is standing over THE crucial putt.

Today it’s quiet in the main terminal of the Southwest Florida International Airport – the airport that serves Fort Myers, Florida. Eerily quiet, considering just a few hundred miles to our north the sky is exploding. Last night The Weather Channel estimated that “tens of thousands of lightening strikes” and roaring thunder filled the airways from Mississippi to the eastern Kentucky state line. They predicted that today would be “more of the same,” and they were right. Right now a gigantic storm 800 miles long and 500 miles wide is saturating the flight corridors of the whole Atlantic seaboard, from northern Florida to southern New Jersey.

A single storm.

I’m headed north, into the teeth of the maelstrom. I’m now separated from my travel buddy – Becky. She was able to get out on the Noon flight. Me? I hope to catch US Airways flight 1810 – Fort Myers to Charlotte, North Carolina – that is supposed to leave at 3 PM but has been delayed another two hours, to five.

What if I miss my flight?

That would be inconvenient … requiring separate trips to the airport, just hours apart – the first to pick up Becky and the second to pick me up. And what if I’m delayed again in Charlotte? Will that put me into Richmond tomorrow? Will I lose a whole day because God scheduled reservoir-filling rain for today?

I’ve got another trip coming up. My departure will be right on time, with no chance of delay. I’ve had my ticket punched since the moment of my conception – when Claude’s sperm met Retha’s egg. “I was woven together in the dark of the womb” that God sees like it’s lit up with noon-day sun. “Every day of my life is recorded” in God’s book – the one He reads like yesterday’s news. And I’m on time.

While I’m waiting at the gate, how will I invest my time?

Here, at SFIA I can enjoy a latte, read up on the NFL draft, make a few time-filling phone calls … just waiting. Just waiting, waiting, waiting.

Or I can be more pro-active in my waiting – writing, praying, strategizing (while I drink my latte).

I have this sense that we’re all waiting … every man woman and child on planet earth … we’re all waiting at The Gate. And every person’s ticket is in order; no computer foul ups or human error complicating things. And every flight to The Wild Blue Yonder is right on time.

With only two destinations on the board, there’s no clickety-clack in the background like you’d hear in a European train station. Two long lines of human beings – men, women, children – are snaking in opposite directions, one headed for Concourse A and one toward Concourse B.

Today I’m thinking about those who have made the flight before me. I’m wondering if my waiting time is making a difference.

I’m watching people in the line I’m standing in leaving the queue, running over to some familiar soul in the other line, grabbing their arm, shaking them up with the news that there’s life to be had in one line and death in the other, and gently but urgently pulling them toward the other line.

Funny, I watch people from BOTH lines running to family and friends in the opposite line, and debating the pros and cons of changing lines. Both parties chatter. Both parties insist. “Sure you can change lines!” “My destination is set in stone.” “My destination is better than yours.”

Nobody talks about change fees.

There seems to be a faster lane. I wonder if that means anything?

Gearing Up for 2010

Thanks to all who’ve been supporting me, in every way, since I departed Trinity for points unknown.Leadership Training International

I’m still in uncharted waters, but confident that Jesus is directing my life.

Leadership Training International (or LTI) continues to excite me beyond words.  Since August I’ve become a “certified instructor” of the curriculum.  Not long ago I finished the highest level of teacher certification LTI offers – “Mobile Advanced Trainer” (or MAT).  That allowed me to travel to Lakewood, New Jersey and Washington, DC to participate with Neal Kelley (LTI’s operations director) in two exciting teacher training events.

After the first of the year the “I” in LTI becomes part of my experience.  I’m traveling to the Dominican Republic, to meet with the leadership of a denomination that has already purposed to use our Foundations for Emerging Leaders curriculum (all 12 modules) to train DR pastors!  I don’t have to “sell” them.  They’re SOLD!  I’m going with my buddy Neal, to meet the people we’ll be working with for years to come.  Neal will then stay in the DR for another week, overseeing our super training event.  Because LTI’s materials are in Spanish (and English, Russian and Romanian), these pastors will learn to teach our curriculum in their own language.  That’s invaluable!

I mentioned that Neal and I will part ways – Neal stays and I fly to Phoenix, Arizona, for the Tommy Barnett “33rd Pastors and Leaders School.”  Once again they’re expecting over 7,000 pastors and church leaders at the “school” – an intense three day event (February 1-3) that challenges conventional church thinking and methodology.  It’s all about “The GREAT Commission,” isn’t it?

Well, more updates will follow.

If you’d like to be one of my partners, write me at revgolf@gmail.com.  I’m looking for people who will enthusiastically share my travel expenses.  Donations of any size are welcome, and air miles would be great!!   I’m incurring costs almost daily now, and I’m serving LTI at no salary … so … any help would be wonderful!