h1

Against the Wind

October 1, 2010

Several years ago I read a book titled “The Heavenly Man” by Brother Yun.  This house-church pastor in China was passionate about Jesus Christ.  Hounded by the authorities he was on the run, frequently detained and sometimes tortured.  This took a terrible toll on his family.  Acquaintances feared to be seen in association with him.

Prison conditions were harsh.  He memorized large portions of the Bible for inner sustenance.  Beatings were common.   Amazingly he looked forward to cleaning latrines overflowing with filth.  A companion over this mess was also a believer.  Performing this repulsive duty they shared the peace of Christ while quietly singing songs of praise.

One afternoon, in the course of my reading, I had had enough.  Hurling the book across the room my heart cried out for persecuted Christians.  Having donned athletic clothes I headed out of town on my bicycle.  My mind was focused like a laser and I was ticked.

Intense emotions had trumped my usual concern for the wind.  My heart and my body were in different realms.   Defiantly, I headed straight into a fierce headwind.  Perhaps the windiest day of the year.  Through clenched teeth I prayed.  Syllable by syllable I expressed prayer for the persecuted.  With each downward stroke of the pedals a piece of my heart was thrust forth in prayer—staccato grunts of intense petition.

For five miles I pedaled—against the wind.  Stopping to turn around I was struck by how effortless it had been to prevail against the wind.  Passionate prayer for persecuted people provided persistence.

Turning toward home the wind was at my back.  The pace quickened and prideful eyes gazed at the speedometer.  Wow, I was flyin’!   Laughing to myself I said, “Is this livin’ or what?”  Then, approaching the city limits a chill of terror swept over me.  It was a “Woe is me, for I am ruined” kind of moment.

With the wind at my back…for five miles…not once…NOT ONCE…did I pray so much as a single word!  In the blink of an eye I went from the puffed up pride of prowess to “Wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death?!”

We like the wind at our backs.  Yet when we persevere against the wind—we pray more, right?  Take heart, having the wind at our back isn’t as sweet as it seems.  People who strengthen others most are those who pray—against the wind.

Steve

(Bible references:  Isaiah 6:5; Romans 7:24)

h1

Tears In A Bottle

July 21, 2010

(A meditation based on Psalm 56)

“This I know, that God is for me.”
Psalm 56:9 (ESV)

David is one of the most recognized characters in the Bible.  He had been anointed by God to be the next King of Israel.  God had already rescued this shepherd boy “from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear” (I Sam. 17:37) .  David had bravely confronted Goliath with five smooth stones and a sling…and he won!

Yet after all this he was a man on the run.  Saul sought to kill him.  Perhaps it was between gasps for air that he was sustained by these words, “This I know, that God is for me.”  Or perhaps he tossed and turned on stone strewn ground under the stars.  Could it be that what sustained him through sleepless nights were these words, “This I know, that God is for me”?

As you read Psalm 56 words like the following are sprinkled throughout.  “Trampled, attacked, oppressed, afraid, injury, strife, tears, enemies, falling, death.”

David found comfort in the fact that God “kept count of (his) tossings” and his tears, “are they not in your book?”  God knew his predicament.  Because David knew that God knew he could say, “in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.”  Because David knew that God knew he could get on with life (“perform my vows to you”), celebrate (“I praise …I praise …I will render thank offerings”), find traction (“you have delivered…my feet from falling”), stand up tall (“walk before God”) and step out from the oppressors’ dark shadow (“in the light of life”).

Do you ever feel like David?  Remember the good old days when the future was bright and you did brave things?  All of sudden you are on the run by day and a tossin’ and a turnin’ by night?  God counts your tears!

Oh my, how our lives change when these words come to mind in the challenges of life.  “This I know, that God is for me.”

It’s taken me a long time to learn the secret of resting in this sweet promise.  If you are resting too, let’s celebrate.  If you are still a tossin’ and a turnin’ more than a believin’ and a trustin’ then let’s call on the Lord together.  I pray that FBC will increasingly become a body of believers who greet one another with a twinkle in the eye and a simple word.  “This I know, that God is for me.”

Pastor Steve

h1

Invictus

July 12, 2010

While the afternoon was still hot my wife and I enjoyed homemade pizza with a new crust recipe that turned out perfectly.  We ate while watching the movie “Invictus”.  It was an excellent story taking place in South Africa after Nelson Mandela was voted in as President.  There were good lessons about reconciliation and forgiveness.  It was focused on the national Rugby team and their contribution to a spirit of national healing in the wake of Apartheid.  What a rugged sport.  I still don’t understand the rules but it is definitely a very physical game.  They don’t have helmets covering their faces so it is entertaining to see all the shapes a man’s face can take.   The variety is endless as they hurl there muscle laced bodies into the action.   Good movie.  Afterword we enjoyed a bike ride around Hesston in the cool evening air.

h1

Commuter car

May 28, 2010

Since I’m going to be hitting the road to Wichita several times a week I figured an economical car was what I needed.  Traded the pickup for a 2004 Honda Civic 4 door sedan with a 5 speed stick shift.  I love it and it gets somewhere between 37 and 40 mpg.  My daughter also loves it!  She just thought the 5 speed manual transmission was the neatest thing.  In fact, she would like the car for herself.  But first I had to teach her how to drive with a clutch.  We spent an evening driving the countryside.  Starting, stopping, backing up.  She was a fast learner.  I talked to a mechanic at Bud and Steve’s and he said he always buys manual tranny vehicles.  And he said the funny thing was his daughters were the ones that loved to drive them the most.

Found out the car is minus a jack for when I have a flat.  Other than that I look forward to driving past a lot of gas stations.

h1

Bicycling

May 28, 2010

On Tuesday May 18 the weather was absolutely awesome.   80 degrees, light breeze and sunshine.  I got out on my bike and pedaled out to the countryside on the gravel roads.  I covered 8 miles faster than I have in years.  Somehow I had just the right stuff on this day to find that maximum zone and stay at it over 8 miles.  14.8 mph on a Trek 7300 hybrid.  Not bad with half the distance being gravel.    But man did I feel it for the next several days.

Yesterday, Wednesday May 26 it was 90 degrees and hardly any breeze.  I felt so good I rode for 12 miles.  But only 13.1 mph this time.  (There is a big difference in energy expended between 13.1 and 14.8)  Very refreshing and I’m not sore today.  Bicycling is good for the soul.

h1

Church in Halstead

May 28, 2010

On Sunday morning May 23 Deborah and I attended Crossroads Community Church in Halstead.  They meet in an old two story building downtown.  It’s the one with “1884” on the very top.  It was great to see our son standing by the entrance as a greeter.  The congregation has a real informal feel and there is a very warm spirit there.  The sanctuary is long and narrow with a small stage near the entrance.  Everyone has to walk right past the stage to enter.  They had a good worship team and it was easy to participate from the audience.  Tom, the lay leader had a great way of pulling everything together with his comments and prayers.

Crossroads is part of the http://www.lifechurch.tv network.  They are one church, multiple locations.  The pastor at the base church in Edmond, OK is Craig Groeschel.  His sermons are given in Edmond and sent by video to numerous congregations like Crossroads in Halstead.  We watched on a screen hanging over the stage.  The current series was Forgotten Virtues and this particular message topic was Integrity.  It was a great message and very relevant.

Crossroads is doing a great job at reaching out to young people in Halstead.  It was a friendly fellowship.  After church we went to the new home of our son and daughter-in-law.  We checked out how they had fixed up the place and enjoyed a BBQ meal.  Was a terrific day.

h1

Sunday church — twice

May 27, 2010

Sunday morning May 16 my wife and I got up early and attended West Evangelical Free Church (Maize Rd. in Wichita).  Worship singing was much simpler than what I experienced the night before.  The songs were more singable and thus it was easier to participate.  Less focus on staging.

Pastor Cooper’s message was excellent.  He worked off the CSI television show theme.  In this case it was OTSI (Old Testament Scene Investigation).  He examined the Crime scene of Cain killing Abel.  One thought that was new to me was this.  Why didn’t it take 10 or 20 or 30 generations before sin got big like murder?  Why didn’t sin for Cain consist of little deceptions or gossip and then over a generation or two move on to stealing or adultery and then after a few more generations murder?  But Cain, son of Adam and Eve and BOOM! murder!  Sin is crouching at the door.  Watch out!  Was a timely message.  My wife liked the homemade cookies in the visitor gift bag.

After coffee and bagel at Panera we attended the late service at First MB on W. 21st in Wichita.  Worship singing had songs that were more singable and also made participation easier.  Paved the way for the preaching of the Word.  Pastor Brent did a great job introducing a series on I Timothy.  The text was the first 11 verses of chapter one.  The main point was about false teachers and how do we deal with that in the church.  He spoke clearly and really moved along.  Great message.

Since I was associate pastor at 1st MB from 1983 to 1986 it was great to connect with a few people after the service.  Then it was Braums for lunch and home.