Lessons from the Saddle of My Bike

Monday is for Discussion

[I started this post back in early July and I’m just getting back to it now.]

bicycle 2Turns out 60K on a 40 pound bike is about the limit for my 60 year old bones. I am completely wiped. But I also got to pray through the streets of Sheldon, IL. Today [July 3] was the day I took another step toward my 1,000 mile goal before the snow flies in the Fall. The goal was to do 60K (42 miles). The next goal is to do 60 miles sometime in September-October but by then, I am hoping to have a much lighter bike with better gear ratios.

42 miles is a good bit of time on a bike and beyond trying to ignore the pain in my legs, the fatigue in my muscles, and the stiffness in my right shoulder which somehow absorbs much of the road bumps, it is a good time to pray and think about the wonder of the gospel.

At about 11 miles I stopped to visit Bob and Phyllis Hartman. Body weary but spirit refreshed, I continued my trek. There is something about a goal that drives performance. So I pushed on.  Eventually, I finished the trip, showered and began the rest of my day off.

Now the weather has changed. Every day is a fight against the wind, wetness, or cold. Friday of last week was too windy to be on the bike so I retreated to the garage and pedaled away on my trainer for the equivalent of about 5-6 miles. I hated it.

Pedaling in place for 22 minutes is harder than pedaling down a road. How is that possible? In the garage, there is no wind, no hills, no upgrades of any kind, no rain, perfect smoothness for the tire, no cinders, no trucks, no cars, no farm machinery to pay attention to, no stop signs, no crossings of highways, no deer jumping out in front of you, no dogs chasing you, no railroad crossings to negotiate, no stop lights to pay attention to, no teenage drivers to be wary of, no drivers hurling things from their windows at you, no startling horns, no chickens to dodge, no pot holes to look out for, no drivers cursing you because they didn’t see you soon enough. None of that happens in the garage.

In the garage, I can listen to the radio and sing, and worship. I can sit up straight and take my hands of the handlebars. I can even close my eyes if I want to.

But it is harder to ride in the garage. Why?

Because I can’t SEE any progress. There is no place that I am making progress toward. My GPS stays in one place. I can’t tell how far I have gone or even know the pace at which I am pedaling with any precision. I have to guess. And there is nothing new in my field of vision.

It’s boring.

It turns out, those challenges mentioned a few paragraphs ago make riding the bike enjoyable. Hard but enjoyable.

And that’s true spiritually as well. The challenges of life, and the challenges to daily walking with God are what adds joy to our lives. Doing hard things with the goal of knowing God better is the only way “to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ.” (2 Pt. 3:18)

Walk with the living God today. Know Him as your Savior and friend. Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness (1 Tim. 4:7). There is great reward in enduring to the end of the journey (Hebrews 10:35-39).

Final note:   I’ve now completed 914 miles toward my goal of 1,000 miles before the first snow.

Four Jewish Men I Would Love to Have as Friends

Monday is for Celebration

Pray for the Peace of JerusalemI’ve never made a bucket list but if I did, meeting these four men would be on my list. All of them are Jewish in heritage.

  • David Berlinsky
  • Michael Medved
  • Dennis Prager
  • Benjamin Netanyahu

They are all over the map in terms of their commitment to Judaism. Berlinsky is a mathematician/philosopher and agnostic. Medved is a social critic, movie reviewer, radio host and very serious about his faith in the God of Israel. Prager is a writer, radio host, thinker and culturally Jewish, warm and admiring of Jewish law but I am not sure how observant he is. Netanyahu is the current Prime Minister of Israel with roots in Philadelphia.

In one month, I leave for Israel and will get to meet Dennis Prager, and who knows, maybe I’ll get to meet Bibi Netanyahu too!

I’m really looking forward to being in the land, on the streets where Jesus walked. I expect many new sermon illustrations, pictures, and historical references will soon pepper my messages at Trinity Church. Pray for me and for a great experience learning and (of course) witnessing for Christ.

Need a New Pattern for Your Daily Devotions?

Journaling with God

Ann VoskampI don’t know if this is original to Ann Voskamp but that is where I first ran across this suggested outline for journaling your devotional time.

Thanks Ann. (That’s Ann on the right.)

It has proven helpful and simple and I want to recommend it here as an aid to hearing the word of God in a fresh but honest way. (parenthetical comments in blue are my own.)

I was first exposed to journaling in a conversation with Gordon Klenck, first ever staff member with Campus Crusade for Christ [now Cru]. Gordon and his wife Marcy are still going strong, mentoring others, sharing the gospel and training people to lead small groups. They are a delight.

  1. Read the passage of Scripture. (Always more than a verse, never less than a paragraph)
  2. Listen for the verse God whispers directly to your heart. (The Scripture should always be understood in its context)
  3. Pick up pen and write the date down in your journal. (Daily habits are life-altering habits.)
  4. Copy out the specific Scripture. (You will be amazed at how much this simple act focuses your thoughts on the meaning of the text.)
  5. Now, listening, write a prayer founded in that Scripture. And let it line itself up slowly, word upon word, like a poem, repeating itself if need be, creating patterns, reflecting the gritty details of your life with naked honesty. Look full into the face of God and speak your heart in regards to that verse. Respond to His word to you through prayer …And again—no comparisons regarding quality of words or concerns of doing it “right”. Your only work in journaling, which is to pray, is simple, honest communion. That is all. Let the words lead you closer. (The important thing is to not try to impress anyone. Be honest with God.)
  6. At the bottom of the page, note one significant event happening in your life currently, general or specific, that ties into this prayer-poem. For example: “As I pray that our children will hear directly from You.” (Praying the words of Scripture back to God will give you confidence in prayer.)

Go and sit in humility under the authority and loving counsel of the word of God and enjoy reading your Bible. May God bless all of your discoveries in His magnificent word.

500 Words to Start Your Week (and change your life)

Monday Discussion

Marred Stop Sign 2Stop.

Just stop.

Whatever you are doing, whatever you are planning, stop.

Give yourself to this moment.

Ask just one question.

Are you ready for it?

I don’t think you are. I’m not sure I am either.

You’re thinking about what to eat, or the text message that just came in, or the response you want from the last text message you sent, or what’s on TV, or what time it is, or what your spouse will say when they find out about the ding in the car door, or when you are going to fit a trip to the grocery store into your schedule, or if your car has enough gas, or when your husband will be home from work, or when your wife will, or when your child’s game starts or ends, or bacon, a lot of you are thinking about bacon.

Stop and Think SignYou’re thinking about what the question might be.

You’re thinking about all the things you could or “should” be doing besides reading this post or the other five posts you have lined up that you think might make some type of qualitative difference in your life, or marriage, or ministry, or happiness, or effectiveness.

You just want me to get to the question that I asked you to stop everything for.

Though you have only read 200 words you are already impatient and want me to get to the point. “What is the question that this guy thinks is so important? What is the one question I should give myself to in this moment?”

It’s the question that all of us should be giving ourselves to in every moment–especially those of us who are under the redemptive wings of God, especially those who bow their knees to Christ as Lord.

Are you ready for the question? Are you willing to stop everything and give yourself to the question? Am I? Are we willing to make everything after the answer we get be a response to the answer we get? Are we willing to give ourselves to thinking about the answer to the question with all of our being, yes, even our heart, mind, soul and strength?

Here’s the question:

Multiple Stop Signs

What does God want me to do?


What does God want me to do?

Get a Bible, a pen and paper out. Spend some time in prayer.

Based on what you know of His word and His will, based on your responsibilities in life, and gifting, and opportunities, what does God want you to do? Are there relationships to be mended? Are there tasks to be done? Are there encouragements to give? Are there hard conversations to be started?

Do it.

That is the one question and the one response that matters today. Doing what you know God calls you to do today is the first concern of every day. And it is the one thing we don’t take enough time to think about.

It’s also the beginning of a life-long adventure.

Let’s do it.


Some “Faith Affirming” Films are Dangerous

Monday is for Discussion

scott-mcknightI am often surprised by how many people ask me questions about this or that book about the afterlife. People are well meaning, they want to see something in the theatre or read a book that affirms their faith in God and their belief in the resurrection. I understand that.

But Dr. Scott McKnight makes a brilliant and important point—we need to understand that “our foundation of information is the Bible and we challenge all experience on the basis of what we find in the Bible.” [emphasis added]

Here’s an excerpt from an important article.

Christian films continue to dominate at the box office thanks to a growing consumer appetite for faith-based entertainment, but one Christian professor says that a particular theme of Christian films and books, namely those about Heaven and the afterlife, could potentially be harmful to Christianity.

On Friday, the Michael Polish-directed feature film, “90 Minutes in Heaven,” which is an adaptation of The New York Times best-selling book of the same name by Pastor Don Piper, was released to theaters across the U.S. It tells the real-life story of a Texas pastor who had a near-death experience and comes more than a year after Randall Wallace’s box office hit “Heaven Is for Real,” which made $101 million during its box office run. It also comes ahead of the highly anticipated Christian drama “Miracles From Heaven” starring Jennifer Garner.

Scot McKnight, who’s a professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, Illinois., shared his concerns about NDE-inspired films and the impact that they can have on Christian theology during an interview with The Christian Post on Friday.

“It has to do first with how we learn to believe what we should believe as Christians and our primary source of information — our foundation of information is the Bible and we challenge all experience on the basis of what we find in the Bible,” McKnight told Christian Post.

Please, if you have read any of these so-called “Heaven Tourism” type books, read the full article at http://www.christianpost.com/news/christian-professor-warns-movies-about-heaven-near-death-experience-can-harm-christian-theology-145125/#sipJG0FsomJCcWs9.99

Contemporary Writers on the Incarnation of Christ

Monday is for Discussion

One Solitary Life“Christ’s easy yoke drew dozens and then thousands and millions into Christianity, which for the first three centuries of its existence was professed in the Roman Empire under penalty of death.”

“It [the message of Christ] answered, as it were, to the facts, to something deep within men. God crucified formed a bridge between our human perception of a cruelly imperfect and indifferent wold and our human need for God, our human sense that God is present.”

John Updike, “The Gospel According to St. Matthew” in
Contemporary Writers on the New Testament: Incarnation,
Edited by Alfred Corn (Viking Press, 1990), 10.

This one life, this solitary life, this matchless life, has changed the world and continues to change the world. Jesus continues to be the world’s greatest hope. Proclaim Him today. Believe in Him today.

One Solitary Life 2

To Mourn Well: Why We Lament When We Are Not Lame

Original Musical Composition by Aubre Schoenleber to Accompany Poetry Project

Read Psalm 16

Suggested by a Reading of Psalm 16
Part of the Poetry Project

Lament (How Long O Lord)A Miktam.

Nobody knows what Miktam means. It only occurs in six places (Psalm 16, 56-60). One interesting note is that each of the psalms it appears in breathe an atmosphere of lamentation or urgent supplication. The psalmist is in pain and emotionally distraught. He is in agony because of the sin that he sees around him. And out of that profound agony, he cries out to God for relief. This particular psalm is a messianic psalm. Below I have re-cast its words as if Christ Himself is praying the psalm.

Why We Lament When We Are Not Lame
Why We Lament When We Are Not Lame

Christ knew he was to die for the sins of men. He mourned and cried out to the Father in the midst of His agony in the garden. But he knew also that He would rise. These mysteries are great but He is also our model.

We have much to lament, much to mourn in our age. But we don’t hear much lamentation in the church. We should.

On our watch,

  • abortion on demand became the law of the land
  • abortion has ended the lives of 57 million children
  • the corruption of our political system took place
  • divorce has become common place
  • marriage has been dishonored
  • marriage has been redefined
  • college students can’t tell you who we fought in the revolutionary war
  • college students can’t tell you who George Washington was
  • or what the civil war was fought over
  • sexuality has been redefined
  • Jesus and his word are dishonored
  • Church attendance is at its lowest point in the last 80 years
  • Christian giving averages only 2.5% of income
  • and younger generations replacing the old give even less
  • TV sells alternative lifestyles as normal in nearly every program
  • and with all of this, God’s people seem to have little interest in prayer

In short, there is much that we should be crying out to God about. And that is what lament is all about. Psalm 16 is a good place to begin.

Hope from Agony

 I am a refugee seeking protection.

 Declaring, “The LORD is My shepherd;
.        and all My wants are satisfied in You.”
All those invited to Your banquet hall

.        are My delightful friends.
The sorrows of those who turn their back on You shall increase;
.       But You are My guide, I will not follow their example
.        or proclaim their passions as My own;
 You are the one who fills My cup

.        and holds My future in Your hands.

 It may not look like it now;
.        but My inheritance is a promised and beautiful thing.
 My heart will delight in Your counsel;
.        and the sleep I lose will be spent in Your presence. 
 You will be before Me in every scary moment;
.        so nothing will shake Me.
 My heart has risen from the depths and My whole being rejoices;
.        because I dwell in security.
10  For there is no way that You will abandon Me.
.        You won’t let Your Son end in the grave.
11  You make the path of life crystal clear;
.        and in Your presence there is fullness of joy;
.        at Your right hand pleasures never end.

Go to Psalm 17