relationships (4)


The 4th chapter of 2 Timothy is Paul's final declaration of faith before he was executed by Nero. When he pinned these words he was in prison and fairly certain of his imminent death.

I suppose that my situation is somewhat similar to Paul's, although Paul's physical condition was much more severe than mine. But my doctors tell me I am going to die before too long.

I have communicated with several people in the last few months that had a much different perspective on life and death than I. One was a man in his 80s who was actually in amazing health for his age. I told him I was reacting against people saying if they were in critical condition they didn't want “extreme measures” to keep them alive. I said extreme measures were what I wanted. He spoke to me as if he had much more wisdom than I. “Well, when you can no longer have quality of life you would rather not linger.” But what he called quality of life was comfort and diversion. He jokingly said, “If I couldn't play golf.” Those are not my purpose in life.

In 2 Timothy 4 Paul gives us a marvelous example of integral hope in his life. Paul's life even at that difficult end was still buoyed by a higher purpose. 2 Timothy 4:1,2 reads,

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”

Paul challenges Timothy, and us, to preach the word. And faithful endurance of his painful situation was crucial to that encouragement. He saw his approaching death as part of his challenge and a crucial part of his worship. He encourages us in versus 6-8 by comparing his life to a drink offering. 

“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”

A drink offering was a powerful expression of devotion in the desert middle east where water was life. The first drink offering mentioned in Scripture was made by Jacob as he met God at Bethel in Genesis 35. As he emptied his canteen onto the ground, he was trusting his life to the Lord who had appeared to him. Later when drink offerings were included in worship in the Tabernacle the vessels for it were to be of gold, befitting costly devotion. 

Paul sees his final circumstance as the ultimate worship and witness for God. And he could endure it however long it wood last for two reasons. First, as he wrote earlier to the Philippian Church,(Philippians 1:22-24) God might allow him to continue his purpose on this Earth. Also, he knew the reward waiting for him in the presence of God was worth whatever he had to endure.

Relationships were also crucial to the hope Paul clung to. The English Standard Version of the New Testament labels the final two-thirds of this chapter as, Personal Instructions. Verses 9-13 capture this.

“Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.”

I do not believe Paul saw his purpose or even his worship as separate from the lives of other people. He was investing himself in them. 

God has allowed me to live some years longer than the doctors thought I would. But I still have the cancer that they believe will take my life. Shortly after they began telling me my condition was terminal, I wrote an article for Mature Living Magazine entitled Filling The Unforgiving Minute. You can see that article on my website listed below. Of course I took my title from Rudyard Kipling's poem If. “If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run.” In the article I said I wanted to devote the remaining days of my life to writing, prayer, and relationships. In these days I see writing is my purpose and calling from God. It is an extension of my original calling to preach. And of course prayer is essential to that. I pray for God to do what only he can do in the lives of people through my writing. Prayer is also crucial to relationships. I pray for those I love and for others i meet. And relationships are in the purpose of God. Even after my condition deteriorates so that I can no longer write, I hope to be loving and pray for people around me.



Read more…

Have Smartphones Replaced God?

9651021884?profile=originalThere’s no denying it: smartphones are, well, smart. Nifty and immensely helpful gadgets, they seem to do everything we need: connect us to our peeps, answer all our questions, and guide us to our destinations. We grab them when we wake up, and fall asleep with them in our hands. (See infographic, below). We drive with them, keep track of our kids with them, and work better with them. As a nation, we have become addicted to the kind of personal technology that helps us live life, lose weight, look smart, and keep up with the daily grind – yet still fits in our pocket. There really isn’t much a smartphone can’t do – and we like that – a lot!

For those of Judeo-Christian backgrounds, however, the smartphone explosion looks uncannily like a scripture passage in Deuteronomy 6. It reads: 
And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” 

(Deuteronomy 6:6-9, NKJV).

It doesn’t take a rabbi or a theologian to see that the kind of interaction we have with our smartphones today is the kind of interaction God designed for us to have with Him. Wearable technology – the kind you “bind upon your hand” – is becoming the newest trend, and Google has even created GoogleGlass ™, which looks eerily like the above statement about “frontlets between your eyes.” 

Click here to continue reading: Have-Smartphones-Replaced-God?

Read more…

frappuccino1.jpgI would guess that most of us have had some pretty negative responses from people when they find out we are a Christian or address spiritual things in any way. Comments like, "Don't try shove your religion down my throat," or "You're just one of those intolerant radicals," can be commonplace. People just walking away or changing the subject can be the norm much of the time.

However, there is one question I've rarely, if ever, had someone say "No" to or respond to in some other negative way. The question is simply, "Could I pray for you?"  In coffee shops, on airplanes, talking to a neighbor or meeting someone in a hospital have all been fertile ground for opportunities to pray for people. And I'm convinced that those brief times of prayer and care have been used by God to till the soil for people to one day embrace Christ.

In fact I wonder if we Christians aren't often insensitive to what's going on in someone else's world when we try to say too much about Jesus before we've tried to first be like Jesus. Taking a moment to just pray often touches the deep recesses of someone's soul in a way they will remember positively and perhaps never forget.

I was in a Starbuck's not too long ago after a hospital visit having a little time to kill before my next appointment. I ordered my drink relishing a little alone time and sat down in a vacant corner of the coffee shop. Before long a young man sat down nearby holding a big Frappuccino. While wanting to just kick back and leave him alone God seemed to be prompting me to say something so I did. With a frown on his face he told me that he really didn't know what this drink was but a friend had told him to get it sometime.

I wondered in my mind why he wouldn't know about something so common but then he began to tell me that he had just gotten out of prison and was now looking for a job. Now I understood the lack of knowledge about coffee drinks. And before we were done I simply asked if I could pray for him and that he found something quickly. He was more than happy for my prayers.

I'm confident others would be too if we could start there. It's from that kind of care and compassion that longer relationships can be cultivated and conversations about spiritual things can continue and deepen. With people like the young man at Starbuck's we sometimes have to just trust God to bring the next person along who can grow their relationship in the fertile soil of our introduction to Christ through prayer.

So, who in your world today or tomorrow or the next day might need you to pray for them?  Look for chances to do so. Pray for those opportunities. My hunch is that you will not get turned down.

Read more…

Been betrayed lately?

Celebrating 50 years (this year) in ministry I can assure you that misunderstandings, mistrust and betrayals are unavoidable. In fact, as odd as it may sound, they are actually part of the plan. After all, if we're to reign with Him, we must first suffer with Him. It's in our suffering that we are conformed into His image.

For resurrection life to exist, something must die. It's not "if I'm ever betrayed". It's "when I'm betrayed". You see, many people blame the devil, when all along it's God who provides our "Judas'".

Why? God provides our Judas' to get us to our crosses. We must take up "our crosses daily and follow Him". Those are the crosses on which we die--to ourselves, our dreams, our desires, self-will and even self-esteem. "Accept" myself? Certainly. "Esteem" myself? Never. God says I'm to esteem others better than myself. Esteem ourselves and in every betrayal, we'll see ourselves as victims and wallow in self-pity. That is not the role of a kingdom Christian. We are more than conquerors!

Let's get to it. As long as we can be offended, God will see to it that we are. It's a measure of our death to self. Spiritual maturity is growing to a place where we are "un-offendable". It's a long-term process. I'd like to live at the place where I can say, "You may grieve me, you may hurt me, but you'll never offend me. I don't 'rent space to people in my brain'." But such maturity isn't easily gotten.

So the question is--what am I to do when others hurt me? Here are three things I notice that Christ did when He was betrayed.

1. Jesus didn't allow His immediate pain to distract Him from His ultimate purpose. He knew who He was and why He was here. He had come to die. Regardless of the pain of His betrayal, Jesus kept His focus. So should we. The enemy wants to distract us. He knows that as long as we're focused on our betrayal or our betrayer, we will never reach our kingdom destinies. We must keep our eye on the prize. No successful football running back focuses on those who are trying to tackle him. His focus is on the goal line!

2. Jesus didn't hate His betrayer. When Judas betrayed Him, Jesus said: "Friend, why have you done this?" Judas was still his friend. Can we say that about those who betray us? Remember, it was Jesus who said we are to love our enemies; bless those who curse us; pray for those who persecute us; and do good to those who despite fully use us. Perhaps these are the three least obeyed commands in Scripture! Paul adds. if our enemies hunger, we're to feed them; and if they thirst, we're to give them drink. Us?

Most of us, who escape the tendency to hate our betrayers, usually opt to ignore or disregard them. This is actually, in one sense, worse than hatred. Why? Because if one hates another, at least he assumes his or her existence!

Understand, we are called to be ministers of reconciliation. That's our God-given assignment. We are to be in the restoration business. Ignoring a broken relationship is ungodly.

3. Jesus didn't drop out of the ministry. The easiest option when one is betrayed is to drop out of the ministry (one's personal ministry, professional or not). Often, church volunteers (i.e. Sunday School teachers, etc.) who become offended often turn in their resignations. Pastors, who are betrayed by churches, often resort to selling insurance, used cars or real estate. The pain of betrayal causes many to turn aside from their heavenly calling.

Not Jesus. He picked up the ear of the high priest's servant and placed it back on his head. You remember, the ear that Peter had cut off with his sword. Why did Jesus do that? He did it for two reasons. First, He knew that the man's wife expected her husband to come home that night with two ears! More importantly, because Jesus was STILL The Healer.

Have you been betrayed? Don't allow your immediate pain to distract you from your ultimate purpose. Don't hate, resent or even ignore your betrayer. Seek reconciliation. And, don't you dare drop out of your ministry--your God-given assignment and calling.

Thank God for your Judas'. You need them. Everyone needs a Judas to get them to their cross!

(More on this and other timely issues in our book:  Intercessors & Pastors: The Emerging Partnership of Watchmen & Gatekeepers, available at:  )

Read more…