Anywhere the person who is devoted to Jesus Christ goes, Jesus Christ is there with them. — Oswald Chambers
Last night it was a privilege for Dina and I to observe and be a part of (via Zoom and Youtube Live) a farewell/retirement celebration for Dr. Thomas Penland, the Headmaster at Taejon Christian International School (TCIS) in Daejeon, South Korea. Dr. Penland faithfully served the Lord in that place for twenty-four years.
As an ardent Christ-follower and professional educator, Dr. Penland used his days at TCIS to educate students with excellence, serve and encourage others around him, and to glorify God in all things. His life mission and motto for the past forty-five years has been to have, “Maximum Impact for God” (MIFG).
After last night’s celebration of Dr. Penland, there is no doubt that he accomplished the mission of MIFG in his time and work at TCIS. As scores of people shared about Dr. Penland’s service and influence at TCIS and beyond, they referred to him as a model, inspiration, blessing, leader, minister, father, educator, encourager, missionary and friend.
Twenty-four years ago, Dr. Penland and his wife, Shirley, were available to God and felt called to serve at TCIS. It was their “ministry”—their obedient response to God’s call in their lives. And now, like a mist that appears for a little while, their work and service at TCIS is finished, but the rest of the story is yet untold as it ripples outward for God’s glory into time and eternity.
I want my life to have “Maximum Impact For God” (MIFG), don’t you?
Well, it begins today—your “ministry” begins today. Wherever you are and in whatever you are doing, make yourself available to God; look to Jesus every moment of every day, let Him fill you with His love, light and Presence, and God will use you for His glory. All of us are “called to the ministry" of being Jesus in our world—and if He is lifted up, He will draw all men unto Himself.
And as you make yourself available to God, your life will have MIFG…just like Dr. Penland.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding . . .
(Prov. 3:5, NIV)
These days are unprecedented. There is no personal or experiential understanding to lean on. So, where do I turn? I trust in the Lord. I start the day with Jesus. I need help. To find light enough for my next step on this unknown path I look to His Word, and to words from His saints who have gone before. And then I pray. I call upon the Lord for guidance, strength and the Holy Spirit’s help to live, serve and love like Jesus.
My gleanings from this morning touched on not fretting about tomorrow, being responsible with today, realizing treasure in tribulation and drawing closer to Jesus. God is using these passages to help me today. I share them with you.
Tomorrow makes today’s whole head sick, its whole heart faint. When we should be still, sleeping or dreaming, we are fretting about an hour that lies half a sun’s journey away! — George MacDonald, p. 40
Today is mine. Tomorrow is none of my business. If I peer anxiously into the fog of the future, I will strain my spiritual eyes so that I will not see clearly what is required of me now . . . — Elisabeth Elliot, Keep a Quiet Heart
Without tribulation some of life’s noblest treasures would never be found. Tribulation is the flail which releases the grain from the imprisoning sheaf and gives us the bread of life. — J.H. Jowett, Come Ye Apart, p. 57
The world, the flesh and the devil will put imaginary grief in your way just when Jesus Christ is wanting you to enter into fellowship with His sufferings. — Oswald Chambers, Run Today’s Race, p. 24
God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that. (1 Corinthians 3:8-9, MSG)
Praise? At a time like this?
A sacrifice of praise is a choice; it is not automatic, it does not come easy and it comes at a cost. At times like these, praise is not our first thought or response. Rather, worry, fear, concern and questions fill our minds. Where is the hope?
The Word of God gives me counsel. Its pages are filled with people in need, facing trouble, navigating unknowns, mired in struggle, dealing with disappointments and asking questions. In the very middle of God’s Word we find the Psalms. Interestingly, seventy-percent of the Psalms are laments. Lament is the deep feeling and expression of sorrow and grief.
Surely a time of questions, concerns and lament are upon us.
So, where is the hope in the midst of all this trouble? In short, it’s in Jesus, the one who said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33, NIV). Our inclination is to depend on our own efforts, scramble for safety and turn every which way for help, but currently all our “help” is crumbling around us.
“But take heart,” even “though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.” Jesus is our help and hope. Look to Him. Call upon His name! (John 16:33 & Ps. 46:2)
Yes, a time of struggle and lament is upon us, but on the other end of lament is praise. The Psalms, of which seventy-percent are lament, are punctuated with an exclamation of praise. The final word (Ps. 150, NIV) in the Psalms says this:
Praise the Lord.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.
In the midst of our struggle, we need help and hope. We need a savior. We need Jesus. Call upon His name and trust in Him, for therein is faith. A good place to start is in praise and worship, even when it doesn’t come easy. Even when it's a sacrifice.
God helped me with this today through the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir’s singing of “Psalm 150.” Just like you and me, many of the people in the video are in the midst of “trouble,” but they are lifting up a sacrifice of praise to the Lord and therein is joy and hope.
Play this video on the biggest screen you can find and at the loudest volume you can handle! Our hope is in Jesus!
The Bravest Thing
by John Blase
maybe the bravest thing
is opening your eyes in the
morning and placing your
two feet on the cold floor and
rising up against the gravity
of the night. maybe that’s the
brave thing from which all other
bravery flows, the brave to
seek ye first, maybe that’s the
single thing God requires of you,
the spiritual discipline that takes
all your will to muster. Swallow
down the fear, my friend, and face
the dawning day for what the
surface of the world needs most
of all is bravery skipping and
you, yes you are the stone.
Up at the 4:30 alarm and thinking about the poem, “The Bravest Thing,” by John Blase. The first, most important step of my day is simply opening my eyes, putting my two feet on the cold floor and walking into the day ahead of me. My goal is to “seek Ye first,” and I pray from there,... God, get a hold of me and fling me furiously. May I skip, alight and impact the world with your aim, your impetus and your Presence.
As I drink my morning coffee, I think about the “perfect” skipping stone. It is flat, smooth, and is an ideal fit for the hand that is doing the throwing. Not all rocks are ready for skipping; only those that have been prepared by waiting at the bottom of a lake or river, worn down by sand, seasons, rushing water and time. God is ever looking for the right stone to skip into the world—for his influence, his impact and his pleasure.
For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.
(2 Chronicles 16:9, NIV)
Lord, find me, make me, empower me and use me for your Glory. May my life give you delight and may the places where I "skip" today ripple outwards with your love, mercy and grace.
On October 13, the movie, “Goodbye Christoper Robin” opens in the United States and I can’t wait to see it. It looks to be, in-part, a bit of backstory to the books, Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner. I love the tender, innocent wisdom of Pooh and I delight in the unique and colorful personalities of his many friends that reside in the Hundred Acre Wood.
The author, A.A. Milne is the creator of Winnie-the-Pooh and his stories were written for and about his son, Christopher Robin. The story of Winnie-the-Pooh is tinder for the imagination, and in the early 1900’s served both as a respite, and a point of hope, to a humanity ravaged by World War I.
Sometimes the real world occludes our vision of the things that matter most in life. We need stories like Winnie-the-Pooh to give flight to our imagination, allowing us to rise above the milieu and see, by means of make-believe, those things that are most real, like friendship, hope, love and Truth.
In 1996, the London Times reported that Christopher Milne (the real Christopher Robin) had died at the age of 75. In response to that news, the poet, Czeslaw Milosz wrote, in the voice of Winnie-the-Pooh, the following anecdote on youth and age, time and eternity.
by Czeslaw Milosz
I must think suddenly of matters too difficult for a bear of little brain. I have never asked myself what lies beyond the place where we live, I and Rabbit, Piglet and Eeyore, with our friend Christopher Robin. That is, we continued to live here, and nothing changed, and I just ate my little something. Only Christopher Robin left for a moment.
Owl says that immediately beyond our garden Time begins, and that it is an awfully deep well. If you fall in it, you go down and down, very quickly, and no one knows what happens to you next. I was a bit worried about Christopher Robin falling in, but he came back and then I asked him about the well.
“Old bear,” he answered. “I was in it and I was falling and I wore trousers down to the ground, I had a grey beard, and then I died. It was probably just a dream, it was quite unreal. The only real thing was you, old bear, and our shared fun. Now I won’t go anywhere, even if I’m called in for an afternoon snack.”
I love the exchange that Milosz created between Christopher Robin and the “silly old bear.” As a child I loved the stories of Winnie the Pooh—where toys were fast friends and the backyard was a world of adventure—limited only by my imagination. To me, Milosz’s anecdote fits; giving voice to an unexplored realm in A.A. Milne’s beautiful story, where each of us are one or more of the characters in the garden.
The anecdote begins with Pooh describing the garden where he and his friends live. It is a place of little or no change, where all abide happily together. Pooh has no idea what lies beyond the garden, nor does he care. Nothing seems to change; except for the fact that he says, “Only Christopher Robin left for a moment.”
Pooh knows that his friend, Christopher Robin, went somewhere. Wise old Owl says that “somewhere” is beyond the garden, where Time begins, and he describes this unknown place as an “awfully deep well.” Pooh lives beyond Time and has no idea that Christopher Robin’s “moment” is the deep well of a lifetime (75 years), where he left the garden and entered the world of adulthood—with all of its adventure, pain, regret, opportunity, loss, mishap, gain, anger, joy, hope and love.
Currently, I am surprised to find that I am a bit like Christopher Robin was in his “moment.” I am beyond the garden of childhood innocence and unchecked imagination, and Time (note the capital “T”) is having its way with me. I, in my long trousers and graying whiskers, am free falling headlong into the unknown deep.
Yet, as I fall, I find that I am even more like Pooh, a “bear of little brain.” But it is not because I am faced with things that I don’t understand or care about. Rather, it is because I forget to live into and appreciate the things that I already know. I take for granted the fact that each day, and the moments and people that inhabit them, are precious gifts.
So here I am in the midst of my “moment.” and it all seems very real to me, but I am reminded that it isn’t. It is quite unreal. It is at this point where beyond make-believe my imagination leads me to the only real thing—the Truth. There is something beyond this vapor of a life we live. What began in a garden long ago ended victoriously on a cross and all of our “moments” were subsumed in the depths of an empty tomb.
The author of this truest of anecdotes is Jesus. In Him alone is the genuine place of love, forgiveness, relationship and “shared fun.” In Jesus Christ is found the “only real thing,” a place where Time is no more; where there are no more tears, no more regrets, no more separation and no more goodbyes—just life together, in all of its fullness, forever. A place where we can say along with Christopher Robin, “I won’t go anywhere, even if I’m called in for an afternoon snack.”
1 Milosz, Czeslaw. New and Collected Poems (1931-2001), 2003, pg. 656.
Had a great time of devotion and prayer this morning. I came across some profound thoughts in the book, The Way to Pentecost by Samuel Chadwick. The chapter I read this morning was on the topic of “power” in our lives—the Holy Spirit is the “Spirit of Power.”
I find this quote challenging and inspiring:
“Satan’s way to thrones and dominion is by the assertion of self for self-realization; God’s way is by the surrender of self on the altar of sacrifice. Calvary is God’s way. In the Kingdom of Heaven the bleeding Lamb is in the midst of the throne, and in the midst of everything else that abides. The way of sovereignty is by the way of the Cross. The badge of authority is service, the mark of distinction is humility, and the right to rule is the power to obey. God’s way gets there, the other ends in the ditch, and the pit.”
Wow, these are great thoughts. In God’s economy, “The badge of authority is service, the mark of distinction is humility, and the right to rule is the power to obey.” As a leader, who is a Christ follower, I can’t be concerned about credit, or opportunity, or privilege. When I am serving, God’s power is present in my life. When I am taking the second seat, or better yet, the back seat, the Holy Spirit is acting in my midst. When I live under authority, obeying God and those that he has put in authority over me, the power of the Holy Spirit is at work.
Our society is inclined to see power in such different ways, and this affects me. I am conformed to the wrong conception of power by the world’s influence. I pray that I will be transformed in a way that service, humility and obedience are lived out in my life every second of every day.
God’s way to power, leadership, authority and rule is ”Calvary.” Think about that for a second . . . "Calvary." The “bleeding Lamb” stands at the highest point of all creation and is the means for us to partake of and engage in “power” in our lives.
The pursuit of power aside from God may give temporary influence, moments of strength and even acceleration, but the result will be a loss of control that lands you in the ditch. Or worse yet, power bereft of God may dull your senses to signs of trouble and traps that leave you lying at the bottom of a pit.
God help me.
Last December I read the book, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. It was a great read. To know the original story has helped me to understand and appreciate the various literary references related to the classic tale. It is a story filled with deep feeling and much symbolism.
The Christmas Season is upon us once again and at this time of year we all experience a range of feelings and emotions—excitement, stress, nostalgia, frustration, warmth, regret and celebration, to name a few.
Recently, I was reminded that Christmas is all about grace, joy, hope and love.
Below I have shared a writing by Ben Patterson about the Christmas Story. He bases his thoughts on the Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol.
Take a moment, give it a read, and be reminded of what Christmas is all about.
The below excerpt is from the book He Has Made Me Glad by Ben Patterson
In my opinion, the finest picture of this glorious gospel outside the Bible is Charles Dickens’ tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, a man incapable of joy. His story is the gospel in paraphrase. Scrooge is extremely rich, but he lives alone in barren squalor. He takes pleasure in nothing, hates almost everything and is indifferent to human suffering.
On Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by a series of ghosts who take him on a tumultuous journey of insight into his own character. They show him with jarring clarity how pain and disappointment have made him self-absorbed, bitter and callous. Love has been all around him, but he turns away from it. The ghost of Christmas future has the most shocking vision of all. In a desolate graveyard, the spirit’s bony finger points Scrooge toward a headstone. Scrooge is wordlessly commanded to wipe the snow off and read the name carved on it. He knows the name will be his own. Weeping and shaking, Scrooge pleads with the spirit.
Are these the shadows of the things that will be, or are they the shadows of the things that may be, only? . . . Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends . . . but if the course be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me! . . . Hear me? I am not the man I was . . . Oh tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!
That last sentence is the most wrenching of all. Can words etched in stone be wiped away with a sponge? Can the past be removed? Humanly speaking, it’s impossible. And that is the human predicament. We are chained to our pasts, to things done and undone that cannot be changed. “What is twisted cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted” (Ecclesiastes 1:15). The misdeeds of the past are like chains. Our guilt is carved in stone—or so it seems.
Scrooge awakens from his vision and discovers he is not dead. He still has time, the course can be departed from, the end may change, he is not the man he was. Grace is given! Joyful, he dances around his bedroom: “I’m as light as a feather. I’m as happy as an angel, I’m as merry as a schoolboy, I’m as giddy as a drunken man.” And then, in the movie version of the story, the old man jumps up and down on his bed, falls backward and shouts, laughing, “Merry Christmas to everybody, and a happy New Year to the world!” And it is said that from thenceforth nobody knew how to celebrate Christmas like Ebenezer Scrooge.
Ebenezer, significantly, is the biblical name for a pile of stones the Jews put up to remember an event of God’s goodness and grace in their history. When Scrooge’s stone is wiped clean, he lives the rest of his days gratefully and joyfully as a memorial stone of that event.
Dickens titled his tale “A Christmas Carol.” A carol, according to the dictionary, is a song of joy and mirth, especially of the religious kind. To behold what God has done for us in Christ is to see ourselves as Scrooge saw himself in his desolation, and then generously and inexplicably be given a new life. It is to be made grateful, to sing a song of joy and mirth and to know how to really celebrate, forever.
As I read my daily dose of My Utmost for His Highest this morning, this line from Oswald Chambers caught my attention:
“I must keep my conscious life as a sacred place for the Holy Spirit.”
My conscious life? Really? That’s a lot of space to manage, let alone keep sacred. But it all boils down to what I want, and want to be, in my life.
I want to live my life as a Christ follower and I want to be assisted, guided and empowered by God’s spirit—the Holy Spirit.
My conscious life is mine to control. It is my “thinking” place. Or, as Winnie the Pooh might call it, my “thotful spot.” So, what do I do?
In Philippians 4:8 (NIV) I find the answer:
“Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
This familiar verse is a great one—almost too great and too familiar. It has been quoted and used so much that I find that I am inclined to write it off as just another exhortation to good and positive thinking.
But it is bigger than that. My conscious life is the place that I receive thoughts and ideas that greatly affect what I think about. And my thinking leads to my living.
Anything that I allow into my “thotful spot” from the Internet, the TV, the radio and my conversations, should be nothing less than true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.
It is only in this way that I can, “. . . keep my conscious [thotful] life as a sacred place for the Holy Spirit.”
Lately I have been listening to an album by "All Sons and Daughters." I came across this group via a recommendation from my own two daughters. They try to help me stay "current" when it comes to music. I need and love their help.
There is a song on the album called, "Great Are You Lord" and the lyrics and the melody won't let me go. I am particularly captured by the chorus:
It's Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It's Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise to You only
As I get older, I hate to admit it, but I am not doing very well at keeping up with the current music and cultural trends. I am a bit out of touch, but at the same time I am also realizing how precious each day of life is. Every breath that I breathe is a gift from God and I want to be a good steward of that precious gift. I want the breath in my lungs to be used to praise and proclaim the glory of God--the everlasting one, whose life, love, grace and hope will last forever.
Check out the song: