Friday, October 18, 2019

"Who Was That Masked Man?"

Jeremiah 15.19b NAS

“And if you extract the precious from the worthless, you will become My spokesman.”

I am old enough to remember the 1950’s television show (adapted from an earlier radio program which I do not recall) called “The Lone Ranger”.

“A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust, and a hearty ‘Hi-Yo Silver!’ Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear. The Lone Ranger Rides Again!”

Each episode ended as the Lone Ranger on his trusty steed, Silver, and Tonto, his American Indian sidekick, rode into the sunset to the music of Rossini’s William Tell Overture and one of the story’s characters scratching his head in admiration, wondering, “Who was that masked man?”

I’ve always wanted to be “that masked man;” the guy who rescues the girl, shoots the villain, inspires the town, and saves the day. I don’t have a horse. I don’t have a gun. I don’t even have a mask. But I do have at my disposal something more influential than all of these implements of power. I have words. Words have clout. They can change the course of human lives and leave people wondering what hit them. 

I confess, sometimes I wish for the impossible, like going back in time. I’d like another chance to say it better; “I wish I had said…” When I become analytical about a recent interaction and relive the moment, it’s usually for an un-redeemed purpose. In my fantasy, I win the argument, save face, appear more in control, and better drive home my point. I visualize the people with whom I was engaged and I deliver the ‘real zinger’ I should have said. I tell someone off and leave my audience in speechless contemplation of my profundity. As I walk off into the sunset, I imagine they are wondering, “Who was that guy?”
This fantasy is not reality nor is it God’s will. When words convey “the wisdom from above,” as they should, they are “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy”  (James 3.17). I am called to “extract the precious from the worthless” (or the divine from the human) in my choice of words. I must distinguish the way Jesus would say it from the way of Dave. This takes forethought, prayer, and humility, and other things I’m not very good at. When I am thinking more about ‘what I should have said’ than ‘what I plan to say,’ I am backward, not forward thinking. 

It’s better to be caring than clever. I don’t have to be a masked hero. I just need to take out the “Dave part,” then thoughtfully and lovingly convey God’s message as I understand it.

“And if you extract the precious from the worthless, you will become My spokesman.”

Thursday, October 17, 2019

"Listen to the Darkness"

Jeremiah 13.16-17 NKJV

“Give glory to the Lord your God before He causes darkness, and before your feet stumble 0n the dark mountains, and while you are looking for light, He turns it into the shadow of death and makes it dense darkness.

But if you will not hear it, My soul will weep in secret for your pride; My eyes will weep bitterly and run down with tears, because the Lord’s flock has been taken captive.---

Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet. His lament was not a sign of weakness or a personality disorder. Like Jesus who was “deeply moved in spirit” (John 11.33-35), this prophet openly wept over the condition of the people he loved. Jeremiah was called by God “as a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1.5) but he most deeply identified with the suffering of his own people:

“Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears!
I would weep day and night for the slain of my people.”
Jeremiah 9.1 NIV

The prophet would “weep in secret” for the plight of Judah. He warned the nation to change its ways or else it would be “taken captive” by a foreign power. Unfortunately, the people did not heed Jeremiah’s warning and spent seventy years in Babylonian exile.

The wrath of God is not sudden. Because His nature is gentle and loving, compassionate and full of mercy, God sends more than a few warnings allowing ample response time. Divine ultimatums do not normally come with immediate deadlines. God is longsuffering, hence His lengthy timetables for repentance. The darkness of a difficult message from heaven is gradual, like the setting of the sun. We’re given notice and more than sufficient time to regard His cautionary message. But we must listen to the darkness before it advances from twilight to nightfall.

As a child, my mother would remind me, “Be home before it gets dark.” It was not hard to comply with her mandate, if I wanted to. I didn’t need a watch or a sundial. I just kept my eyes open. The day got dim. Dusk reminded me of mom’s expectation and I made my way home before dark. If I waited too long and got lost in the night, I might never come home. I could be hit by a car, lost in the woods, or snatched by a stranger. I was as dense as most boys my age, but one thing I understood… I should not make my mother cry. I could endure My dad’s wrath, but not my mother’s tears. She was the prophet Jeremiah to me:

“Get home before dark because if you are ‘carried away captive’ and I lose you,
‘my soul will weep in secret for your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly and run down
with tears’ because my boy ‘has been taken captive.’ Don’t make me suffer like that.

I never did. I listened to the darkness and to my mother. Darkness is a divine signal. Jesus is calling you to come back before you lose your way. Listen to the darkness. There’s a message there... Go home, quick!

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

"Phantom Vibrations"

Jeremiah 10.8 NAS

“But they are altogether stupid and foolish In their discipline of delusion their idol is wood!

Have you ever believed a lie? I have. I was so sure. I knew I was right, but... I wasn’t.

Your brain can play funny tricks on you. If you want to believe it’s true, your brain can convince you it is. You think things are that really aren’t. A misguided thought pattern develops and you quickly grow accustomed to the illusion. With practice, repetition, and the “discipline of delusion,” it becomes easy to believe a lie. You adopt a false position and easily find empirical evidence to prove it... but you’re still wrong

As a technology addict, I’ve experienced this phenomenon firsthand. For years I wore pagers and cell phones on my hip. In public places I kept my devices on vibrate mode. Pagers would become passé, but soon after I threw away my hip holster, I actually felt the vibration of my mobile phone... but it wasn’t there! It was real. I felt it. I reached for my phone but it was not attached to my body. I knew it buzzed, but it didn’t. The buzzing was in my head. My brain played a trick on me. “Phantom vibrations” are commonly reported among mobile phone junkies.[1] It’s similar to the “phantom limb” phenomenon described by Merriam Webster’s medical dictionary as “an often painful sensation of the presence of a limb that has been amputated.”

Sometimes my brain tricks me in useful ways. I have not set my alarm in years. No matter how much or little sleep I get, my brain snaps me to attention every morning at precisely the time I must arise.

The prophet Jeremiah warned against the “stupid and foolish” practice of worshiping man-made gods. The people of his day believed their own propaganda. Through their personal “discipline of delusion” they became unalterably convinced of what was false. Jeremiah unswervingly exposed their cherished lie. He denounced sacred un-truth… “their idol is wood” and nothing more. 

Jeremiah is not a dusty book buried in a forgotten Bible. The spirit of Jeremiah is alive. He transcends time, pierces my heart, and delivers a directive... 

‘Challenge your phantom reality. 
Don’t be a fool. If your “idol is wood,” burn it.’

[1] “It’s not your cell phone buzzing; its your brain”, The Oregonian, Business section, p. C 9, October 15, 2007.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

"Superficial Healing"

Jeremiah 6:14 HCSB

“They have treated My people’s brokenness superficially, claiming: Peace, peace, when there is no peace.”

I’ve had plenty of cuts and scrapes in life. Some of them required stitches to properly heal. The emergency room doctors numb up the wound, then scrub it vigorously with anti-bacterial soap before reaching for needle and thread. The sequence is important. If the healing practitioner sews first and scrubs later, bacteria will be trapped under the skin and cause  infection. Superficial treatment of a deep cut will not heal the wound.

Most people are emotionally wounded in one way or another. They appear healthy but can carry within themselves a lifetime of unresolved conflicts, a string of broken relationships, and a general sense of chaos. It’s amazing how much quiet pandemonium hurting people can tolerate and hide from those who care. Easy fixes and their promises of “Peace, peace” simply do not work. The walking wounded eventually discover “there is no peace.” They choose to live with their brokenness and learn to accept inauthentic solutions to real problems.

I don’t know how to heal the wounded. I can’t even heal my own woundedness. But I know Someone who can. He’s a real doctor, a physician who refuses to treat my “brokenness superficially claiming: Peace, peace,” when there is none. He’s the Great Physician and I need Him.

“It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick.
I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
Jesus, Luke 5.31-32 NAS

Jesus came for people like me.

Monday, October 14, 2019

"Black Diamond"

Jeremiah 4.25-26 NLT

“I looked, and all the people were gone. All the birds of the sky had flown away. I looked, and the fertile fields had become a wilderness.”

From the Sermon on the mount by Darlene Slavujac Thau
I indulged myself a few years back. Black Diamond is an old coal mining town south of Seattle and I convinced my family to stop there on our way to see friends in Enumclaw. I was the pastor of the Black Diamond Presbyterian Church from 1978-1985 and wanted to stroll down memory lane at the old church I served over thirty years before.

It was Sunday afternoon and front door was unlocked so we walked in. I was struck by the generally poor condition of the facility. I witnessed deferred maintenance everywhere. God’s house was a mess. It was tired and seemed ready for a serious make-over. The building needed paint, repair, cleaning, landscaping, and major de-cluttering.

It hurt my heart to recall the days when this rural church was alive and packed with several hundred enthusiastic people hungry for God. We were a single-minded fellowship of genuine faith and motivated to reach our community with the gospel of Jesus Christ. I remembered when there was no Christian education wing and the vision and courage it took to build it. I remembered the Labor Day parades and mini-Passion plays in the school playground. I remembered the music and fun, the pot-lucks and picnics, the children and programs, the work parties and prayer groups, the worship and joy, the love and dreams we all shared together.

Now “I looked, and all the people were gone... and the fertile fields had become a wilderness.” It was eerie. The space was silent. I found only a few faded mementos of days gone by… a portrait of Jesus hanging in the lobby donated by the local artist, the old pulpit I used to preach from, the “state of the art” speakers we hung from the sanctuary ceiling. I felt sadness, even mild remorse. I thought to myself, I have a new life now. A new wife, a new family, a new home, a new career, a new ministry, a new future. But I really missed the wonderful people and experiences of those days. I still do. I cannot recreate this amazing experience, nor should I try. The Bible says...

“Do not say, ‘Why is it that the former days were better than
these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this.”
Ecclesiastes 7.10

Ten years ago I was in Spokane and watched my dear friends Randy and Cherri bury their daughter. Laura Elizabeth (Simon) Quentin was born on June 23, 1981 and went to be with Jesus on October 4, 2009. Almost exactly thirty-eight years ago I gave their precious Laura to the Lord in an infant dedication ceremony at Black Diamond Presbyterian Church. I stood before a cheerful and vibrant congregation while very young parents Randy and Cherri beamed with joy and love and hope for Laura’s days ahead. We were all so fresh and youthful and wrinkle-free and idealistic about the future. That future is now and so much sadder than any of us anticipated. 

Four years and six weeks ago I said good-bye to the love of my life, my precious wife Adonica. How does one embrace a present reality that looks so different than what was imagined three decades earlier, before Laura died? Or, even five years ago, before my healthy, vibrant wife was diagnosed with Leukemia? We cannot recapture the past. It’s gone. The realization that what could have been, and never fully was, is almost too painful to bear.

“I looked, and all the people were gone. All the birds of the sky had flown
away. I looked, and the fertile fields had become a wilderness.”

Only those who have lost something very precious can take comfort in Christ’s words...

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Matthew 5. 4

The beautiful painting above is entitled "From the Sermon on the mount..." and used by permission of the artist, Darlene Slavujac Thau. It's rendition of Matthew 5.4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" moves me. You may view and purchase Darlene's work at

Friday, October 11, 2019

"I Am Not Nothing"

Jeremiah 2.5-6 CJB

“Here is what Adonai says: ‘What did your ancestors find wrong with me to make them go so far away from me, to make them go after nothings and become themselves nothings?’ ”

I am not nothing. Nor am I good for nothing. I’m better than nothing, much better. The Bible says I am something. I have significance by virtue of God’s design for me which He had in mind long before I was conceived. Of me He says…

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you”
Jeremiah 1.5a NAS

I am called. I have purpose. My destiny is secure. This was God’s intention before He made the world.

I was not created to be nothing. However, I can make nothing of myself. Check out these various versions of the text, Jeremiah 2.5...

If I go after nothing, I become nothing..
“…to make themselves go after nothings and become themselves nothings”
The Complete Jewish Bible

If I pursue that which is worthless, I become worthless.
“went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves”
New Revised Standard Version

If I walk after emptiness, I become empty.
“walked after emptiness and became empty”
New American Standard Bible

If I chase vanity, I become vain.
“walked after vanity, and are become vain”
King James Version

If I engage in useless activities, I become useless.
“worshiped useless idols and became useless themselves.
New Century Version

If I follow after foolish things, I become a fool.
“changed them into fools who worship idols”
The Living Bible

If I act falsely, I become false.
“walking after what is false, have become false”
Bible in Basic English

Apparently, I become what I pursue. The Bible tells me what to pursue: 

“…pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.
1st Timothy 6.11 NIV


Note: The painting above is a water color by Igor Kagan in 2002 and entitled “Monkey reaching for moon.” It humorously reminds me of the futility of pursuits that are nothing more than a reflection of reality.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

"Have You Taken the Holy Test?"

Isaiah 65.2-3a, 5a KJV

“I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts; 

 A people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face;... 

 Which say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou.

I’ve always wondered where the term “holier than thou” came from. Now I know. It’s found in the King James Version of Isaiah 65.5. There, in bold-faced print, are the words unbelievers have quoted for centuries in their critical assessment of high-minded church folks: “Holier than thou.” 

On this point, the pagans have it right. They and God agree. Self-righteous Christians “continually and blatantly offend” [1] both God and everyone else. The church should be the one place in the world free of the cliques that plague and vertically divide society. The church should be a hospital for sinners, not a country club for saints. However, some institutional churches are anything but. How sad.

Am I guilty of being “holier than thou”? I am an active church member. I have cultivated a close-knit group of believing friends. I tend to resist circumstances that bring me into contact with new people and activities. Maybe I am one of those I am pointing my finger at. Could I be blinded by my own ‘holier-than-thou-ness’? Am I what I am ashamed to admit? Am I a person who appears to think I am “holier than thou”? 

We believers can be blissfully unaware of how we come across to others. We may emit “holier than thou” vibes easier and more often than we think. The opinion of those outside our religious social circles may be surprisingly similar to God’s. Perhaps we should be more concerned for what outsiders think about our personal portrayal of the faith in Christ.

I found an interesting quiz on the internet called “The Holy Test ~ Are You Holier Than Thou?” The quiz is sponsored by “Unholier Than Thou” whose mission, it appears, is to “expose hypocrites.” I certainly do not endorse the organization but, while their assessment tool is obviously biased, their point is well taken. Do my “Holy Test” results accurately expose the image I project to those outside the church? I hope not, because this is how I scored:

“Your score is 71. You are Holier Than Thou! You must be very proud of yourself. Take a bow, but be careful that your halo doesn’t fall off.”

Ouch. The quiz link no longer exists, so you cannot see how you would rank. This evaluation was biased, of course, but a good exercise nonetheless. When my wife was alive, she scored 64. She was less “holier than thou” than me. Good for her!

I assume Jesus was exactly the opposite of “holier than thou.” He associated with children, fishermen, sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes. Jesus’ choice of friends enraged only the overly-pious folks, and it’s no  wonder... He exposed their hypocrisy.

This leads me to the all-important question I must ask now myself... “If Jesus came to my town today, would He associate with me or expose me?”

[1] New English Translation (NET) of Isaiah 65.3.

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

"It Could Never Get Better Than This"

Isaiah 61.9 ERV

“Their descendants will be known throughout the earth, and... ...everyone will know their children. Whoever sees them will know that the Lord has blessed them.”

Have you ever noticed how even the humblest of people swell with pride when talking about their children? Folks who never consider bragging on themselves can unleash a litany of their offspring’s accomplishments which mimics a rehearsed introduction to a famous public speaker. Parents unashamedly and proudly proclaim the achievements of their kids. 

I’m one of them. I admit to be overly proud of my children for excelling in a variety of venues. I’ve developed short descriptives designed to peak interest in casual conversation and secure an invitation to say more. Here’s a few of my favorite openers…

  • “My oldest is a C.P.A. living in Eugene.”
  • “My daughter is a successful Portland Real Estate broker.”
  • “My son played professional baseball.”
  • “My boy is a published composer.”
  • “My youngest son took first place in the regional Bible Bee.”
  • “My son is a commercial broker with a top-notch firm.”
  • “My youngest is the best setter on her volleyball team.”
  • “My boy is on the national honor society.”
  • “My son attends the Air Force Academy.”
  • “My little girl is so precious. Want to see a picture?”

I can’t help it. These accolades roll off my tongue. I look for any possible excuse to talk about my children’s successes. They reflect on me and I love the image they cast.

‘Bragging rights’ are instinctive when it comes to children. Something’s at stake. Typical parents do everything in their power to insure the success of their kids and then talk about them to anyone who will listen. As a mother or father grows old, it dawns on them that their personal success becomes much less important than that of their children’s. God made parents this way.

Of all the blessings He bestows, the gift of children is the best. The Lord compares children to arrows and commends the man “whose quiver is full of them” (Psalm 127.5). The only thing better than having and raising kids is watching them succeed. When Isaiah 61.9 becomes true for me, I might as well die and go to heaven. It could never get better than this...

“Their descendants will be known throughout the earth, and everyone will know their children. Whoever sees them will know that the Lord has blessed them.”

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

"Prepare (and Get Out of) the Way"

Isaiah 57.14 NIV

“Build up, build up, prepare the road! Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people.”

I can easily become an obstacle to progress and should occasionally remove myself from the process. When I am the impediment, I must find the humility to admit this truth and step aside. Sometimes I can best “prepare the road” and “remove the obstacles” by getting out of the way.

Jesus said,

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;
and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish;
and no one will snatch them out of My hand.”
John 10.27-28

Sheep follow their Shepherd. They know Who and where He is. If they get lost, stuck, or delayed, I may be called to gently try to help fellow-followers back on track. I serve best by identifying and removing barriers to faith in Christ. If I am that barrier, I must remove myself from where I like to be... the center of the action and attention. 

If I wish to “build up” people, sometimes I must prepare the path, then get out of the way. 

Monday, October 07, 2019

"He Looks Worse"

Isaiah 52.14 NAS

“Just as many were astonished at you, My people, so... His appearance was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men.”

Have you ever said anything you wish you hadn’t? The words escaped your mouth before your brain filtered their content. Your listeners, more skilled at word filtering, stared at you blankly and said nothing. You felt like an idiot and thought, “I can’t believe I just said that. How stupid I must appear.” Yes. You made yourself look bad. But things could be worse. They were for Jesus. No matter how bad you look, He looked worse.

“He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, 
nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.”
Isaiah 53.2b NAS

Jesus relates to everybody, even people whose appearance may astonish some… burn victims, deformed people with facial disfigurements, the scarred, ugly, and overweight, folks with disabilities, hunchbacks, the elderly, the overly freckled, pimpled, blemished, or birth-marked, the disproportioned, and those who avoid a mirror at all costs. However horrible we think we appear, at some point in His life, Jesus looked worse.

“His appearance was marred more than any man,
And His form more than the sons of men.”

The sufferings of Christ transformed Him into a man we could almost not bear to look upon. We’re told by the prophet that “the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief” (Isaiah 53.10). Why? Perhaps that others so crushed, bruised, pierced, and scourged could have a Savior they could relate to.

I once entered church I saw a physically malformed and homely woman in a wheelchair. She appeared to suffer from a mental disability. I did as I often do. I refused to look away but instead, tried to engage her in conversation. I caught her eye, smiled, and said, “Good morning.” She responded with a look of disgust and stuck her tongue at me! I was surprised and felt it best to just keep walking. Apparently this lady could not relate to me. But she has a Savior she can relate to. We do not have (or need) a Savior “who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4.15). 

No matter how foolish or ugly I appear to myself or others, Jesus has looked worse.

“His appearance was marred more than any man,
And His form more than the sons of men.”


Dan Piraro and Norman Rockwell are two of my favorite artists.

Friday, October 04, 2019

"I'm 48!"

Isaiah 50.4 TEV

“The Sovereign Lord has taught me what to say, so that I can strengthen the weary.

Every morning he makes me eager to hear what he is going to teach me.”

The verse above is contained in one of Isaiah’s “Servant Songs”[1] and prophetically describes the mission and work of Jesus Christ who was to come seven hundred years after Isaiah’s futuristic vision. Some scholars hold to a multiple identity of Isaiah’s “Suffering Servant.” John Calvin, for example, thought the “Servant” passages referred to the prophet Isaiah himself, to Christ, and to all servants of God in every age.[2] Others ascribe a mythological character to Isaiah’s “Servant” or consider the “Servant” to be one in the same with the nation of Israel as implied by Isaiah 49.3:

“He said to Me, ‘You are My Servant, Israel,
In Whom I will show My glory.

I side with John Calvin. Depending on the context, the “Servant of the Lord” may correctly identify Jesus Christ, the prophet Isaiah, the nation of Israel, any servant of God, or any combination of the above.

It has been occasionally true that “the Sovereign Lord has taught me what to say.” I can remember precious moments in past times when I was able to “strengthen the weary” with my words. Most days I rise early to read my Bible. In my morning ritual I am often aware of a Divine Presence that “makes me eager to hear what he is going to teach me.” These verses find their historical fulfillment in Jesus Christ and their present relevance in me and countless of others like me.

Sunday is my birthday. I will be sixty-seven years old in two days. My children, in-laws, and grandchildren will gather soon for a little cake and celebration. At sixty-seven, birthday parties are no big deal to me, but they are a wonderful excuse to gather together with the people I love the most. 

My re-birthday, however, is a very big deal. I was born again in August, 1971. That makes me forty-eight years old in Christ! I celebrate the reality which is still true for me today, nearly five decades later...

“Every morning he makes me eager to hear what he is going to teach me.”


[1] Isaiah’s “Servant Songs” are located at Isaiah 42.1-9, 49.1-6, 50.4-11, and 52.13-53.12.

“The Servant of the Lord not only would encounter and accept suffering in the course of His work, but He also would realize that His vicarious suffering would become the means by which He would give His life as a ransom for others”.

“The New Testament writers are unanimous in stating that the Servant of the Lord is a messianic figure and that Jesus is that Servant.”

(“Servant of the Lord”, Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986.)

[2] “This passage [Isaiah 50.4] is commonly explained so as to relate to Christ, as if it had not been applicable to the Prophet, because he afterwards says, that he had been beaten with rods, which we nowhere read was done to Isaiah. But there is no great force in this argument; for David complains that his garments were divided, (Ps 22:18,) which applies literally to Christ, (Matt 27:35; John 19:24,) and yet it does not follow that this did not happen to David himself. For my own part, I have no doubt, that Isaiah comes forward as one who represents all the servants of God, not only those who were from the beginning, but those who should come afterwards.”

(Isaiah 50, Calvin’s Commentaries, 22 Volume set originally printed by the Calvin Translational Society, Edinburgh, Scotland, May 1753.)

Thursday, October 03, 2019

"Who is Your Cyrus?"

Isaiah 46.11 NASU

“Calling a bird of prey from the east,

The man of My purpose from a far country.

Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass.

I have planned it, surely I will do it.”

Cyrus was “the man of [God’s] purpose from a far country.” God used him to deliver Israel from Babylonian bondage. Cyrus was the pagan king of Persia whom the Lord chose to play a central role in the unfolding drama of Jewish dispersion history:

“Thus says the LORD to Cyrus His anointed... ‘For the sake of Jacob My servant,
and Israel My chosen one, I have also called you by your name;
I have given you a title of honor though you have not known Me.’”
Isaiah 45.1, 4 NASU

Around 539 B.C. Persia overthrew Babylon and king Cyrus gave Jewish exiles their freedom to return to Israel after seventy years of Babylonian captivity.

Have you encountered “a bird of prey from the east” or a “man of [God’s] purpose from a far country?” This is the biblical equivalent to Cyrus; that is, an individual called by God to do or say something helpful in your life. He’s the last guy you would expect it from. He is not a Christ-follower, yet his wisdom is undeniable and his words are timely. He brings deliverance to you in a time of crisis. He is your Persian king redeemer.

The story of Balaam’s donkey is recorded in Numbers, chapter 22. God opened the mouth of a beast of burden to speak words which saved the prophet’s life. I’m sure Balaam was surprised when his donkey talked. I’m likewise surprised whenever an ass speaks to me, less by the fact that donkeys can talk than by the helpful things they have to say. The king of Persia, Balaam’s donkey, or people who “have not known the Lord... God performs on our behalf in mysterious ways through those we least expect.

Who is your Cyrus? 


Wednesday, October 02, 2019

"A Prophet Named Dick"

Isaiah 43.18-19 NASB

Do not call to mind the former things, 
Or ponder things of the past

Behold, I will do something new
Now it will spring forth; 
Will you not be aware of it? 

I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, 
Rivers in the desert.

I was a young pastor at the Presbyterian Church in Black Diamond, Washington in the mid-eighties. It was there and then I met Dick Mills. The guy was a pretty incredible and gifted personality. Dick was a traveling prophet. From the pulpit, he called out specific people in the congregation whom he had neither met nor previously seen. Asking them to stand to their feet, Dick called out Scriptures from a wealth of memorized verses and personalized them for the people he addressed. I watched these folks crumble under the amazing accuracy and power of God’s Word from this servant of the Lord. Some would quiver and cry. Others raised their hands and softly murmured, “Thank you, Jesus.” I’m not the only one who admired this man...

“Dick Mills has one of the most unique ministries of any man of God I know in the world...He has been used of God to bring deep spiritual blessings at crucial times in my own life, and I am sure this is true of tens of thousands of others around the country.” ~ Pat Robertson of the 700 Club

“Dick Mills has been prepared and gifted by God to speak clearly and powerfully prophetic words of truth. He edifies, exhorts, and encourages those who have ‘ears to hear’ the world over.” ~ Dean Jones, actor
For my part, Dick Mills' character, ministry in the Word of God and prophetic gift continue to define the ministry of a prophet to the Body of Christ. ~ Jack Hayford, pastor Church On The Way, Van Nuys, CA
“Dick Mills is a man who has a word from God for people who have been hurt, trampled on, or just seeking direction.” ~ Larry Goshorn, CEO Global Digital Satellite Systems, Inc. 

I invited Mr. Mills to speak at my church somewhere around 1980. After the services I had lunch with Dick and his wife Betty. I casually commented that Dick must get very tired traveling the country on a demanding schedule and ministering with such intensity. “On the contrary,” Dick replied (with words something like), “I never get tired sharing these insights with God’s children. Jesus placed them in my heart and I have to hurry and get them out to as many people as I possibly can.”

Dick died in April, 2012 at the age of ninety. His legacy lives on through his son, David, and grandsons, Judah and Blake. The prophetic word he gave me nearly forty years ago is still fresh and meaningful to me. I was twenty-seven years old. Dick quoted Isaiah 43 to me. Somehow I knew this Scripture would come true in my life and it has... over and over again. 

I re-read Isaiah 43.18-19 this morning and smiled as I thought of old prophet Dick. I’ve made many transitions, some of them difficult, but I always knew God would “do something new.” I did not need to “ponder things of the past.” I could always hold my head high and walk confidently on “a roadway in the wilderness” and drink life-giving water from “rivers in the desert.”

Thank you Jesus, and thank you Dick. 

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Tuesday, October 01, 2019

"Real Zeal"

Isaiah 42.13 NIV

“The Lord will march out like a mighty man, like a warrior he will stir up his zeal; with a shout he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies.”

How does “a mighty warrior... stir up his zeal?” Does he pour a package of dried zeal in a pot, add boiling water, stir vigorously, and drink it hot? It’s not that easy to be a zealot. A warrior may be muscular, confident, strong, quick, tenacious, and capable. But he must also be zealous. A mighty warrior must get fired up and enthusiastic about his mission or he’ll never win a battle.

How does a person “stir up his zeal”? Is it a matter of concentration and mind over matter? Or, does a guy have to pray hard and fast often? Does he psyche himself up with battle mantras like “Charge!” or “Geronimo!” or “Go Get ‘Em!”? How about marching music and the rhythm of drums, mental pep talks, motivational speakers in automobile CD players, rock n’ roll music? All of this may inspire zeal temporarily, but true zeal is more than what I generate from within myself. Whatever excitement I can produce doesn’t last long. I get mentally pumped up after attending a stimulating conference but within a week, the entire event fades to a foggy recollection of a pleasant time.  

I need a certain level of passion for my activities in life, otherwise they become routine and I get bored. I am an ambassador of Christ. He commands me to “let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5.16 NET). I must maintain a positive outlook and show a little enthusiasm for the things I do so others will be attracted to the Source of my inspiration.

Paul commanded his young disciple Timothy “to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you” (2nd Timothy 1.6 NIV) and he reminded his followers in Corinth, “your zeal hath stirred up very many” (2nd Corinthians 9.2 ASV). Obviously, zeal is contagious. So is apathy. A lethargic, indifferent, or lackluster attitude will turn anyone off to whatever I offer. That’s why zeal is so crucial.
“Jesus, I do not know how to ‘stir up my zeal’ but I must learn. Others are counting on me. My light is shining but it’s a little dim. I need more spiritual wattage for a brighter bulb. I can’t fake it. I need some real zeal. Pour it in so I’ll have something to stir up.”