Monday, March 25, 2013

Are You Comfortable with God Behind the Wheel?


“You’re an idiot…I’m calling the cops!”

That line comes near the end of a soda commercial. It all begins with a famous NASCAR driver putting on a disguise and walking onto a used car lot. What was supposed to be a simple test drive turns into a high speed donut filled automotive nightmare for the salesman holding on for dear life. Not realizing he is a victim of a practical joke he first threatens to call the police. Granted I suspect the whole thing was staged but we are lead to believe the salesman does not recognize the privilege he has of being driven by a professional. In his eyes a madman has just put his life at risk.

There have been times in my spiritual life where I felt like the car salesman from that commercial. Not that I would ever threaten God, but there are times when I am not comfortable with His driving. At times God seems to drive way too fast. At other times He seems as if He is driving too slow and I hate being late. Then there are the times when I wonder if He truly understands the road we are on. Does He truly understand the risks that come along the path He wants to follow?

All too often I have tried to take the wheel. Each time I do the end result is less than it could have been had I let Him drive. In fact there are a number of times when my own driving has lead to disaster. And yet I still find myself wanting God to sit someplace other than the driver’s seat. There is just something about His driving that leaves me filling unsure. God knows I feel like this. He forgives me and patiently works to build my faith in Him.

Truth is He is more than qualified to sit at the controls. He has never had an accident and is guaranteed to get me where I need to be on time. It is blessing to have Him at the wheel. And yet I, like the salesman on that commercial, often do not see the honor of having a ‘professional’ at the controls. How about you? Have you learned to sit comfortably, allowing God to do the driving?

Monday, March 18, 2013

International Prayer: Prayer for Pope Francis


Last week Jorge Mario Bergoglio became the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church. Pope Francis takes over at a time when the church appears to need change. I am not Catholic but I see this as an important event for all Christians. Like it or not the Catholic Church is seen worldwide as the face of Christianity. Pope Francis is now the public face of the Catholic Church. His words and actions will have a huge impact on both believers and unbelievers. As such I believe it is important that we pray for the new Pope.

Please join in prayer for Pope Francis. Pray for fulfillment of his desire to see the Catholic Church minister to the poor. Pray the new Pope is able to do what is needed to run the worldwide organization that is the Catholic Church. Most of all pray that as a man Pope Francis remembers that Christ comes first.

I know that among Protestants and perhaps even among Catholics there are a number of opinions about the office of the Pope. Our differences should not keep us from praying for each other nor should they keep us from praying for church leaders, even those in other denominations. Let us lift up Pope Francis recognizing that we are called to pray for each other.

As always remember, across the seas or across the fence, we find neighbors who are facing hardship. Pray and make yourself available in case God wants to use you to help someone else.

Friday, March 15, 2013

What I Am Reading: Flight of the Earls


There are three ways for a book to hold my attention. The first is to deliver characters in whom I want to invest my time. If I care about the people in the book I want to find out what happens in the end. In his first novel Michael K. Reynolds delivers characters who held my attention from start to finish.

Part one of the Heirs of Ireland series, Flight of the Earls takes us back to 1846. Ireland is in the second year of a famine which would last until 1849, during which the nation would see crop failures caused by Phytophthora infestans. Once thought to be a form of mold the recently reclassified organism is, under the right conditions, capable of destroying an entire field of potatoes or tomatoes in a matter of days. Its assault on Irish potato crops caused a million people to die of starvation. Another million would migrate to America in hopes of finding work. Reynolds introduces us to the Hanley family just as they begin to suffer the effects of the Great Potato Famine.

The blight has just started to affect the Hanley fields, yet another burden weighing on the family. The decision is made to send daughter Clare and son Seamus to follow their older sister’s path to America. The plan was for the two to send money home to keep the family afloat until the end of the famine. Through their eyes we experience the difficult journey made by many past immigrants. We see a side of immigration which is rarely ever spoken of, obstacles and plot twists which beg us to ask if the journey was worth the effort. From the potato fields of Ireland to the streets of New York Mr. Reynolds weaves a story that is as compelling as the characters he uses to take us back in history.

As the first of a series this book leaves me wanting more but I must wait until July for book two. I suspect the continuation of the story will be well worth the wait. If you love learning about the past or if you just love a good story you will find Flight of the Earls well worth your time.

For more on Flight of the Earls and the Heirs of Ireland series see michaelkreynolds.com. Follow Michael K. Reynolds on twitter: @M_K_Reynolds.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Is That What You Believe?


The Need to Make Disciples

 Not that I plan to brag but every now and then we all need those small things that confirm when we are right. And yet in this instance, even as I would like to pat myself on the back I find myself wondering if those with whom I argued, most of whom professed to be Christians, truly understood why I asked, “Is that what you believe?”

It all started many years ago when I found myself spending a lot of time (perhaps too much time) visiting an online forum associated with an internationally known Christian ministry. Another visitor to the site challenged us all on a matter of faith, asking if what his denomination believed was not more in line with what makes sense. A number of readers were willing to take a stand, offering answers which the visitor quickly put down. Not wanting to pass up a chance to talk Bible I weighed in; offering my two cents and giving an answer it seems no one expected.

After a moment or two spent examining his argument I realized that what he was misquoting the Bible, attributing his words to what he had seen discussed on the forum. I told him that I felt his words did not represent the prevailing opinion and he offered up another variation. While this one was closes than the original, it still was not on the mark. So I challenged the visitor to prove that his misquotes were in fact what the majority of those contributing believed. He won the challenge, not because his arguments were better but because most of the others did not understand my statements. The final straw came when the moderator stepped in, giving indication that the pastor of the parent church in fact believed just as the challenger had described. I left the forum feeling disheartened and wondering if my own beliefs were really that far off base.

I stopped visiting that forum for a number of reasons, including this discussion. But I did continue to receive a monthly magazine published by the ministry. In this periodical the pastor offers a daily devotional, one which the Lord has often used to open my eyes. It was in a recent devotional that the pastor addressed the very topic discussed on the forum. In teaching on the subject this pastor in essence taught what I had believed. I know it had nothing to do with that long ago discussion and imagine those involved have long forgotten the dispute long ago. I just found it interesting that the day’s teaching so mirrored what I once said, running counter to what once was implied to be the belief of the man who wrote the devotional.

But I take no comfort in having been proven correct. Instead I find myself with a number of questions. How is it that a web master was allowed to monitor a Christian forum while not knowing what his boss believed? Was he/she properly disciple before being assigned a very public leadership position in their church? Are other churches putting people into positions of leadership without taking the time to properly disciple them in the very faith to which we claim to adhere? It seems to me that this webmaster had not received the teaching necessary, not just to represent the organization for which he/she worked, but to survive the challenges of living the faith in a world full of secular challenges.

 I come away from this knowing that I for one have not fully obeyed God’s call to go and make disciples. Yes, I talk to others about Christ but I find I fall short when it comes to making sure those who accept Christ continue to grow in the faith. As members of the body of Christ we need to be open to building each other up. When given the opportunity we should teach knowing that those profess Christ have not finished their learning. Be ready to teach and at the same time be teachable. In the end you will see others grow while you become more like your Savior.

Monday, March 04, 2013

International Prayer: Republic of Kenya


In 2007 what was supposed to be a victory for democracy turned to violence as one of the most developed nations in Africa plunged into chaos. Tribal warfare would escalate eventually resulting in the deaths of 30-40 people who had taken refuge were died inside a church on New Year’s Day. Included among those who were burned in the church were women and children. The incident would become an embarrassment which continues to haunt the Kenya today.

The Republic of Kenya is home to the Great Rift Valley and the northern part of the Serengeti Plain. Located in the eastern part of Africa along the Indian Ocean, Kenya shares borders with Uganda and South Sudan to the west, Ethiopia to the North, Tanzania to the south and Somalia to the northeast. At 580,367 sq. kilometers, Kenya is twice the size of Nevada (according to the The World Factbook [CIA]).

The Maasai people of Kenya gave the Serengeti the name Maasai Mara. At 1510 sq. kilometers the Maasai Mara National Reserve is home to 95 species of mammal and 570 species of birds (according to maasaimara.com). Included among the reserves residents are a number of lions, the area claiming one of the highest density of lions in the world. The reserve also serves as the northern point of the annual Wildebeest migration, serving as their home from June until October. The wildebeest are joined by a number of Zebra and Gazelle who keep them company during their trek between Kenya and neighboring Tanzania. It is this migration which serves as a star attraction, drawing a number of tourists to this African nation.

Tourism was one of the industries threatened by the violence following the 2007 election. Prior to this Kenya was said to be one of the most stable nations in Africa. But as the election progressed outside observers began to question the results. Eventually the incumbent president would be declared the winner, the Election Commission having him sworn in even after its chairman agreed to investigate reported irregularities. The opposition refused to accept the results, threatening to declare their candidate the victor in their own ceremony. The divisions, mostly along tribal lines, turned violent being described by some as genocide. The memory of this violence now haunts Kenya as the nation completes a new round of elections.

As I write this post the election reports from Kenya describe the day as being mostly peaceful. Pray for the people of Kenya as they await the results of the elections. Pray for answers to the nation’s high unemployment, as Kenya has an unemployment rate around 40%. Pray for a nation where over half of the people live in poverty. As is often the case in developing countries, water quality is an issue. A lack of investment in infrastructure only adds to the problems. Pray for a government where corruption is said to be a major problem.

Over 85% of the people of Kenya are Christians. Pray for their continued growth and for them to serve as a light to neighboring countries. Let us stand with our brothers and sisters in Christ in the Republic of Kenya, lifting them up in prayer as this year’s elections open a new chapter for their nation.

Remember, across the seas or across the fence, we find neighbors who are facing hardship. Pray and make yourself available in case God wants to use you to help someone else.

Friday, March 01, 2013

When God Calls an Audible


In football the huddle has become an integral part of team strategy, each player listening as the quarterback calls the next play. After breaking the huddle eleven players take their places on the line of scrimmage. The quarterback calls for the snap and the team attempts to move the ball towards the goal. If only God would use huddles for more of His play calling. Instead I find that He often waits until the just the right time at which point He chooses to call an audible.

Don’t get me wrong, God does often huddle with me during times of prayer or Bible reading. He uses those times to prepare me for serving according to His will. But I find that God’s play calling somehow seems to come up short, at least from my limited view point. It seems as if He only tells me what I need to know to line up correctly at the line of scrimmage. His huddles end with what we call the sign to “Check with Me,” a warning that He plans to call an audible. Of course when God calls an audible it’s a little different than those called by a human quarterback.

In football a quarterback calls an audible after his team is at the line of scrimmage. It is there that he looks at the opposing defense. If he sees something he can exploit he uses an audible to change to a play he believes will work better than the one called in the huddle. An audible is an adjustment, an opportunity for the quarterback to outwit the opposing defensive coordinator when the defense does something unexpected.

 God already knows what He will see when He gets to the line of scrimmage. There is nothing the enemy can do to surprise our Lord, whose game plan is guaranteed to bring victory. God does not audible in response to an unexpected circumstance. His audibles are tools used to accomplish a special goal when we get to the line of scrimmage. For the Lord the audible is not about outwitting. They are about fulfilling His plan for changing my life.

By telling me only part of His plan, God leaves me to exercise faith. I know that at some point when I check with Him, He will tell me the next step. He will not be late nor will He make a mistake as He directs the path I should take. In the process I learn to trust in Him, growing in my reliance upon one whose will is perfect. His audibles are designed to help me grow, preparing me for the future as learn to live up to the promise of His design.

And so while at times I wish God would call a play in our huddles, I take comfort as I approach the line of scrimmage knowing my Lord has plan. I know that when God calls and audible His children are guaranteed the victory.