Thursday, March 28, 2013

(Not) Stopped at a Green Light

Today, I drove home after a busy day of preparations for Good Friday and Easter Sunday services. Near my house, I came to a traffic light where I had to make a turn. I sat at the light, patiently waiting for it to turn green.

Finally, I realized that other vehicles were moving……and I was still sitting there. I was waiting for the signal to go when all the while, the light was already green. How silly of me, to be stopped at a green light.

How glad I am that Another did not allow Himself to sit there stopped at His own green light.


More than two thousand years ago, a Man knelt in a garden, wrestling with the reality of the sacrifice He was about to make. He had chosen to travel this road. He knew the time of suffering was coming. He knew that unless He took that road, you and I would be lost forever. And He knew that He loved you and me so much that He would make the ultimate sacrifice to win us back.

All these things, He knew. Knowing these things did not make it easy. So He knelt in the garden of Gethsemane and anguished over what was to come.
He knelt at the crossroads of history.
The light was green.

His Father said “Go”.
And so the Man stood and set His face toward the cross.
For you….for me.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

God Acts!

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This is the last chapter I'll share for awhile from my ebook From Captive to Conqueror. (I don't want this blog to be ALL about promoting my books, although I do hope some readers will be intrigued by the message and will want to buy the book Amazon.)  

Perhaps as you read these early chapters, you will remember a time in your life when you felt yourself to be in desperate circumstances and needed to cry out for help. In this chapter, along with the psalmist, we see that God is more than ready to act to rescue the one who called out to Him. In the remainder of From Captive to Conqueror, we see that God does not leave that person in a state of helplessness. Instead, He rescues, restores, and equips that person to be a conqueror.


God Acts!

 The earth trembled and quaked,
the foundations of the heavens shook;
 they trembled because he was angry.
Smoke rose from his nostrils;
consuming fire came from his mouth,
burning coals blazed out of it.
(2 Samuel 22:8, 9)

When God hears the cry of one who has come to the end of himself and realizes his need, something extraordinary happens in heaven.  Our human minds, limited as they are, cannot begin to understand the power that is in the hands of Almighty God.  The best David could do was to paint vivid word pictures in an attempt to describe in a physical sense what happens in the unseen realm when a desperate soul cries out to God.

Here, David pictures the earth and even heaven itself trembling in the face of the wrath of God.  God’s power is limitless and incredibly awesome.  His anger, once aroused, is formidable.  How reassuring it is to know that the holy anger described here is not directed, as I used to think it was, at the soul of the struggler in distress, but at the enemies who have him bound – at the foes who hold him captive. 

When David speaks of smoke rising from God's nostrils, and fire blazing from His mouth, I am reminded of a certain type of movie and television series that is popular in the country in which I live.  These programs feature villains and heroes with amazing superpowers.  Using a variety of martial arts, they are able to fly through the air as they battle their enemies.  Often, they are able to do things like shoot beams of light from their eyes or spew fire from their mouths – all this in a mighty display of power.  Good against evil battling it out.  The parallel ends at that point.  On television, the villain and the hero are nearly evenly matched.  The power of God, however, has no equal.  Not even close.

David uses similar imagery as he describes the power displayed when Almighty God is aroused to anger on behalf of one who has called out to Him.  The special effects used to display power in television shows . . . even the most incredible special effects out of Hollywood . . . come nowhere close to demonstrating the incredible, awesome power unleashed in the heavenlies when God acts!

Questions for Reflection

Using your imagination, rewrite this passage in your own words.  What happens when God gets angry at His enemy for attacking His children?
Here are links to other chapters from this book that have already been shared on this blog.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Cry for Help

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In the previous post, I shared the third chapter in my ebook entitled From Captive to Conqueror. In that chapter, we saw a struggler floundering hopelessly in stormy seas, unable to make it to safety. Sometimes we face situations in our own lives that feel hopeless, even when our feet are solidly on dry ground. Thankfully, we do not need to remain in a state of hopelessness. When we reach the point where we realize our own helplessness, there is only one thing to do. Cry out for help. That is what God is waiting for.


A Cry for Help

 In my distress I called to the LORD;
I called out to my God.
From his temple he heard my voice;
my cry came to his ears.
(2 Samuel 22:7)

At the end of the last chapter we left the struggling sailor floundering about, trying to stay afloat in heavy seas.  Waves pound him mercilessly, crashing over his head.  The rigging of his boat has coiled around him making it nearly impossible to move, let alone swim.  What a picture of desperation!  What a scene of hopelessness!  We have probably all been there in one way or another at some point in our lives; perhaps even right now.

Consider for a moment.  What is God doing while all this is going on?  Let’s use a bit of “sanctified imagination”. 

Look.  There is God, seated in His holy temple in heaven watching the life and death drama being played out below as the struggler tries desperately to save himself.  The angels and those who have gone to heaven ahead of us - that “great cloud of witnesses”- are all standing around watching the scene. 

Listen.  One angel whispers to another, “Why does God just sit there?  Isn’t He going to help?” 

Another watcher says, “It’s obvious this poor struggler can’t hang on much longer.  What is God waiting for?”

Learn.  Hearing the whispered comments, God gently answers.  “As long as he is determined to struggle on his own, I’ll let him.  I am waiting for him to call out and ask Me for help.”

At long last, the struggler comes to the end of himself and acknowledges his helplessness.

In my distress I called to the LORD;
I called out to my God.

That was all God was waiting for.  The cry of a soul in distress who knows he cannot make it alone.  The cry of a humble heart that knows it has no strength or power to save itself.  That cry, however feeble, is heard in the temple of God.  No matter how weak the call, no matter how long it was in coming, that cry reaches the ears of Almighty God.  That is all that is needed. 

The struggler, whether he is David, or you, or me, does not need to bargain with God, or convince God that he is worth helping.  All he or she needs to do is to cry out.  God hears.  God is ready to answer.  God is ready to ACT!!!!

Questions for Reflection

When you use your imagination, what do you picture God doing when you are in distress?

In your journal, describe what you “see” when you Look, Listen and Learn.

How does it make you feel to know that he hears your cries for help?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

When Life Seems Desperate

The post I am sharing today is the third chapter of my ebook entitled From Captive to Conqueror. This series of reflections on 2 Samuel 22 grew out of my own personal experience of being rescued from my own "stormy seas". In the months that followed, 2 Samuel 22 became very precious to me as I saw over and over again a beautiful picture of how God had rescued me, restored me, and was equipping me to be a conqueror.

I will share some of these chapters, although not the entire book, in my next several posts. If you would like to purchase the ebook for $0.99 for Kindle or Kindle Readers, click here.

Keep in mind that this is just one chapter. Things look pretty desperate in this post. Come back for the next one. I promise, things will start looking up in the next few chapters. If you would like to know the background of my own story that is behind this book, click here for an earlier post called God Captures My Attention.

I hope these gleanings from 2 Samuel 22 will encourage and bless you.


 In Stormy Seas

"The waves of death swirled about me;
the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
The cords of the grave coiled around me;
the snares of death confronted me.
(2 Samuel 22:5,6)

These two verses were the first ones to catch my eye . . . no, to capture my heart.  They clearly described the situation I had lived with for so long.  When I read them now, I think of something that happened to me back in 1990 when I spent a year in Papua New Guinea as a teacher.

Over the Easter holidays, I visited a remote village where the parents of one of my students worked.  In transit to that village, I spent a day or two in the coastal town of Wewak where I joined some of my friends on a trip to the beach.  The waves were breaking near the shore, but out beyond the breaking waves, the water was calm.  I took a boogie board out to the calmer water.  Eventually, I passed the boogie board on to another swimmer.  After a while, I looked around and noticed I was the only person still in the water.  Realizing that it was time to go home, I began to head in.  I used to think that although I am by no means a strong swimmer, I could still swim enough to save my life, if that were ever necessary.  The events of the next few minutes forever cured me of that misplaced confidence.

After trying to swim for a while, I stopped to rest.  Treading water as I looked toward the beach, I noted with dismay that I had made no progress.  I tried again and again, swimming with all my might.  From time to time, I tried to put my feet down to walk in, but there was such a strong current down below that I could feel myself getting dragged back out. In fact, not only was I no nearer to the beach, but I had actually drifted parallel to the beach farther down from where my friends waited.  A growing sense of dread crept over me as I realized my perilous situation.

A large wave picked me up and spun me head over heels in the water.  I had no idea which way was up.  As I am not in the habit of opening my eyes in saltwater, I swam blindly trying to reach the surface, but made no progress.  Just when I was about to lose hope, it was almost as if a voice said to me, “Open your eyes.”  Just that.  I opened them and realized that I was swimming with all my might . . . toward the bottom.  Reversing direction, I swam to the surface, took a great gulp of precious air, and looked over my shoulder . . . just in time to see another wave coming after me.  I was so exhausted that I was sure the next wave would do me in. 

The second wave spun me around again, but this time, I remembered to open my eyes to see which way was up.  It pushed me far enough in that I could put my feet on the bottom without being dragged back out.  Shakily and thankfully, I waded back to the shore.  I gained a great deal of respect for the power of the ocean that day.  I also learned a valuable lesson about how helpless I could be in the face of such power.

With this as a background, perhaps you can imagine why 2 Samuel 22:5, 6 struck me with such power. 

"The waves of death swirled about me;
the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
The cords of the grave coiled around me;
the snares of death confronted me.”

When I read these verses, I picture a person alone out on the ocean in a sailboat.  A storm rages all around him and heavy waves pound the little vessel. Had the rigging been set correctly, perhaps the boat could have weathered the storm.  Unfortunately, the sailor had not set the rigging properly. The sailboat quickly becomes unmanageable, capsizing and tossing the sailor out into the merciless sea.  The ropes and cables that had held up the sails become “cords of the grave” and “snares of death” as they coil around him.  Battered by the waves and entangled in the rigging of his vessel, the sailor struggles to stay afloat, but it is obvious he is losing the battle.  He can’t hang on much longer.

Could I relate? Oh yes.  I could no longer pass these verses off with a casual, “David sure did have problems, didn’t he?”  No, the struggle I was going through at that time fit the description.  Waves of death.  Torrents of destruction.  Cords of the grave.  Snares of death.  I read these words and all I could say was, “That was me.  He’s talking about me.”

Perhaps David was talking about you, too.  Perhaps you are in the middle of some kind of a struggle right now that feels much like this.  If you are, I want to assure you that there is hope, even in the middle of the most hopeless situation.

Questions for Reflection

Does this passage remind you of a season in your life?  If so, describe it in your journal.

What advice would you give to someone in this situation?  Are there any scriptures that come to your mind?

Does this passage describe where you are right now?  If so, in your journal, describe as honestly as you can whatever you are currently struggling with. What is the seemingly hopeless situation you need to be rescued from?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Chicken Soup for the...Chicken Soul???

Some time ago, I was given one of the books from the popular "Chicken Soup" series. I had been enjoying some of the stories, and had left it on the dining room table. My seven-year-old daughter picked it up and read the title. She began well enough. "Chicken Soup for the...". Then, as we often do, she looked at the first two letters of the next word and assumed she knew what followed. In this way, "Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul" became "Chicken Soup for the Chicken Soul". Say what?

Sounds somewhat cannibalistic, doesn't it? We got a good chuckle over the idea of a bunch of chickens sitting around sipping chicken soup. Unfortunately, with that wording getting firmly into her head, Rachel is having a hard time reading the title the right way. Even though she knows what the real word is, she always has to pause a second to make sure she says the right word. Even so, sometimes the wrong word still pops out.

We sometimes make the same mistake with far more important things when, somewhere along the line, we have picked up wrong ways of acting and thinking. Even though we know the thoughts or actions are wrong or unhealthy, we return to them over and over again. A professor in one of my counseling courses called this stinkin' thinkin'. (I believe he was quoting someone else, but I am not sure who.)

This stinkin' thinkin' keeps us living in defeat. This stinkin' thinkin' tells us that we are worthless...or hopeless...or helpless...or weak...or ugly. This stinkin' thinkin' convinces us that nothing has changed, and nothing ever will.

The good news for those who have trusted in Jesus is that in Him, we have been made new. We don't have to keep repeating the mistakes of the past. Nor do we have to depend on our own strength to win. When we place our trust in Jesus, draw our strength and authority from Him, and focus our thoughts on Him and His truth, we will be renewed in our minds. The stinkin' thinkin' that kept us captive for so long can give way to the new person He has made us to be.

Rachel's habitual reading of the wrong title "Chicken Soup for the Chicken Soul" will no doubt go by the wayside fairly soon. (In fact, I suspect she sometimes reads the wrong word on purpose just to get a chuckle.) And we don't have to live with our stinkin' thinkin' that is there simply because old habits die hard. Our minds can be renewed. In Christ, we have been made new!

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

2  Corinthians 5:17
******************** transformed by the renewing of your mind,...
Romans 12:2

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Balinese New Year Monsters

Just to give you an idea of the size....

Gigantic monsters have appeared around the island of Bali. These monsters, called ogoh-ogoh, have been constructed by the men of each community as part of the celebration of Nyepi, the Balinese New Year, which begins tomorrow. Rachel and I took a drive around our town and captured a few pictures to share with you. 

These enormous figures are indeed ugly. At the same time, some of them are fascinating from the standpoint of the complexity of their construction.

Probably the most intricately-constructed ogoh-ogoh
I have seen in my area today.
Take this trio, for instance. I don't know the story behind this particular ogoh-ogoh, but if you look closely, you will see that the "bird", called a garuda, is attached to the monster by just a small area where the garuda touches the monster's fist. I didn't notice this until I examined the picture, but the monster itself isn't standing on anything. It is attached to the woman merely by a hand gripping her shoulder. The rest of his considerably-sized body is flying through the air. The woman herself is attached to the platform by a fairly small area of her skirt. She also has the appearance of flying through the air. 

Later tonight, accompanied by the gongs and bells of the gamelan orchestra, this ogoh-ogoh, along with hundreds of others around the island, will be paraded through the streets on the shoulders of dozens of young men. The young men will shake and bounce the ogoh-ogoh, and make lots of noise. All those accompanying the parade will also make noise. FIrecrackers and other noisemakers will be used. Whole families will line the streets watching the parade, enjoying a festive atmosphere. 

Three of seven ogoh-ogoh waiting for the parade later tonight.

In the homes of Balinese Hindus, at some point, the women will light bundles of leaves and grasses and use them to "sweep" the evil spirits out of their home and into the streets. There the noise and the monsters are supposed to scare them away from the island. 

For the less devout Balinese Hindus, I suppose this festival has about the same significance as Halloween does to many Americans. It is just part of tradition and culture. The young men work hard to make an impressive ogoh-ogoh for their community because prizes are given for the best one.

Some ogoh-ogoh take on a more modern flavor.
For the devout Balinese Hindus, the ogoh-ogoh parade, and the accompanying noise and frenzy, has the important function of helping to restore balance to this island by driving out the evil spirits.

Tomorrow, all throughout the island of Bali, everyone has to stay indoors and keep quiet. No stores are open. No cars or motorbikes will be on the street. The airport will be closed, so the skies above the island will be empty. Traditionally, on the day of quiet, no one is allowed to use electricity or other types of light. Technically, cooking over an open fire is not permitted. Voices must be kept quiet. 

These restrictions apply to everyone present on the island, whether Hindu or not. Even tourists who have not planned their holiday to be away from Bali at this time must stay inside the grounds of their hotel. Usually, the major hotels will have been given special permission to conduct activities on the hotel grounds for their guests.

Over the twenty years I have lived in Bali, I have seen some communities become much less strict about the quiet day. Even so, the level of noise and activity screeches to a virtual halt.

So what are the Balinese supposed to do during the quiet day? What is its significance? I have heard several explanations. 

I'm not sure of the story
behind this four-headed guy.
One explanation is that after the evil spirits have been driven out of the island , everyone is to stay inside and remain quiet in order to fool the evil spirits into thinking the island is uninhabited. They would not be interested in an uninhabited island. Of course, they find their way back during the course of the year, and the process needs to be repeated yearly.

A second explanation is that people are supposed to use the quiet day to reflect on their lives, actions, and character during the past year. What needs to be changed and given new direction in the year ahead?

As a believer in Jesus, I have no need of gigantic monsters to scare away evil spirits in order to get a fresh start with a clean slate. However, taking some time during the quiet day to reflect on my life in the past year is not a bad thing. Purposefully looking into the year ahead as I follow Jesus into all He has for me would be a wonderful way to spend at least a part of the day of quiet that starts at midnight. 

For that matter...why wait for the enforced day of quiet that goes along with Nyepi? This kind of reflection is a good discipline all throughout the year.

Is there any time of year that you take to reflect on where your life has been and where it is going? Why not share in a comment below.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Katie Grace Has Arrived!

Do you have young children, aged 5-9? Perhaps they would like to meet Katie Grace. I just published the first book in the Katie Grace series a few days ago. You can find "Katie Grace Makes a New Friend" as an ebook on for Kindle. You can also find it in pretty much all formats at 

I truly hope your children, and other children you know, will enjoy meeting Katie Grace. I also hope that they will grow and learn along with her.

So, what is the first book about? Read on.


Buy at
There is a new girl in Katie Grace's first grade class. Maddie, one of Katie Grace's friends, thinks this girl is "weird, definitely weird"...and so is anyone who tries to be friends with her. What makes things harder is that the new girl doesn't seem to want to be friends anyway.

What is a girl to do? Should Katie Grace go along with Maddie and avoid being called "weird" herself? Or should she try to make friends with the new girl no matter what Maddie says? And why does it take so long to see any change for the better?

Buy at
Katie Grace's mother uses some of the parables of Jesus told in a fun, conversational way, to help her daughter discover and make good choices.

Kids will enjoy the fun times Katie Grace has with her friends. They will relate to the struggles she has with peer pressure and with waiting for change to happen. Parents can use this book to help their children discover important lessons about being a good friend, and the need for patience as they wait for good changes to happen.

Sound good? You can purchase "Katie Grace Makes a New Friend" for only $0.99 by clicking one of the ebook cover images in this post. Or, you can click one of the links below.
  • Purchase at Amazon for Kindle and Kindle readers.
  • Purchase at Smashwords for all formats.
If you and your children enjoy Katie Grace, please be sure to tell others. I'd certainly appreciate it if you would drop by either or and leave a review.

Two other Katie Grace books will be coming in the near future.

Katie Grace and the Me Firsties - Katie Grace has a bad case of the "Me Firsties". She always wants to be first in everything, from getting to the car first to being first in line at school. She wants to have the most...the biggest. 

Unfortunately for Katie Grace, the "Me Firsties" get her in trouble with her friends. Katie Grace learns about being truly sorry, and being forgiven. But when her brother breaks something that is special to her, will Katie Grace choose to forgive as she has been forgiven?

Katie Grace's mother shares several of the parables of Jesus to help her understand about forgiveness and not always trying to be first.

Katie Grace and the Sticky Fingers - A lost pet and a lost paper for a school project give Katie Grace a large dose of worry. That worry, though, turns to rejoicing when the lost is found.

When Katie Grace finds herself with sticky fingers that take money from her mother's purse to buy treats for her friends, she loses something even more important. Will her parents be able to forgive her? Will God forgive her?

Katie Grace's parents share the three "Lost" parables to help her understand that God...and they...will always rejoice when the "lost" one is found.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

How Beautiful on the Mountains

Ten years ago, I began partnering in ministry with a children's home in Bali. For more than seven years before that, I journeyed about two hours into the mountains of Bali every other weekend.
Not the best weather for pictures, but this is one of the views from high in the mountains.
At first, I made the trip using public transportation. In some cases, this meant riding in the back of an open-bed pick-up the rain...with a tarp held over our heads...and cold rain dripping down my neck because the tarp reached only as far as the middle of my head and the rain ran off the tarp in that strategic place. Brrrrr. After a couple years of that, I bought Harley Junior, (my motor scooter) and the trip became much easier. 
Pak Nurnya and his wife, Ibu Diah
Pak Nurnya, a local pastor had asked me to come to his village, called Munduk, to teach English to the children in the area. I agreed to do this, and asked if it would be OK to share Bible stories after the English lessons to any of the children who wanted to hear them. The pastor gladly agreed. I gave the children (and teens) a choice of whether to stay or not. They all stayed. They always stayed. It was such a privilege to share the Good News with them,.
Over the years, the people in that village grew very dear to me. I have not seen them so often since I began ministry at the children's home. In fact, years went by between visits. The last time I visited the area, Rachel was four years old. She is seven now. One of my former students from the area who lives in the city now keeps me up to date on major happenings there, but that's not the same as being there myself.

Rachel and I on Harley Junior at the end of our loooong journey.
Rachel and I made a trip to the Munduk area this weekend. We just returned about two hours ago. It has been nearly ten years since I made that trip by motorbike. Let me tell you, I am feeling my age...and so is Harley Junior. We joined the local church for their Sunday morning service. 

I can't even begin to describe how I felt to see these dear friends, especially a couple of the young men of the church who were in elementary school when I taught them. They themselves are now involved in teaching children in a program associated with Compassion International. Of course, CI is called by another name in Indonesia, but it is the same thing.

Agus and Oka were two of my students starting when they were ten years old. They are now twenty-seven.

Shortly before I left, Oka, one of these young men told me something that touched me deeply. He said that whenever he is getting tired of doing the ministry he has been given, he remembers me making the long trip in the back of a truck, or by motorbike, to minister to them, and it inspires him to keep going.

That meant so very much to me. Sometimes, I wonder if what I have been doing for all these years has really made any difference in anyone's life. Then every once in a while, God gives me a tiny glimpse of how my life has had an impact. Just a glimpse. But that is enough.

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those 
who bring good news...
Isaiah 52:7

I truly hope our feet...yours and mine...have been and continue to be, beautiful. Whether in the mountains or in the valley. In a tiny village or in a city. In our home countries, or halfway around the world. Not beautiful because of us, but beautiful because of the Good News we have the privilege to bring.
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