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During its hardest moments, the storms of life often seem out of control. Our fate may sometimes seem to lie in the hands of hostile people, or in the outworking of impersonal forces of one kind or another. Yet the reality is that our every experience in this world, from the apparently coincidental to the determined acts of wicked men and women, lies under the control of our sovereign God…No sinful act ever catches God by surprise or thwarts his sovereign will…For believers in Christ, each circumstance is the Lord’s means of furthering His sanctifying goals. He has not abandoned or forgotten us. On the contrary, He will walk through these trials and preserve us through them by His grace.  lain Duguid

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Someone once asked me, “why don’t we sing the old hymns anymore?” When I asked which hymn she had in mind, she mentioned a revival hymn written in the 1920s. I suspect the hymn was very familiar – and she was feeling the need for something stable and familiar in her life. Perhaps the hymn was related to a spiritual or emotional milestone in her life, and singing it would enable her to re-experience the feelings again.

There is nothing wrong with her question or desire, and I tried to suggest she gather some friends at her house for a hymn-sing.

I also told her, “your hymn isn’t old enough. Let’s sing some really old hymns. Let’s go back several hundred years – and sing songs with what Spurgeon called, “good strong doctrine.”

Here are two examples of old hymns that have come to mean the world to me. Their exalted view of God is a great encouragement to me.

God moves in a mysterious way

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

Be still my soul

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessèd we shall meet at last.

Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, believing, to Thy Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all thy words and ways,
So shall He view thee with a well pleased eye.
Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.

1st, a Christ-follower thinks, “God made summer.” (Ps 74:17)

2nd a Christ-follower asks, “Why did God make summer?

Everything comes from Him and exists by His power and is intended for His glory! Rom 11:36 (NLT)

Everything was created through Jesus and for Him. Col 1:17 (NLT)

3rd, a Christ-follower asks, “OK, if God is giving me this summer to glorify Him, how can my family and I best do that in the way we spend our summer?

Here’s one answer.

This summer, we’re going to find ways to see, savor and show Christ.

We’re going to see Him.

We’re going to enjoy His world, so lots of time outside. We’re going to look for him in sports and cookouts, music and books, the lake and the city, home and wherever we travel, family time and solitude. I intend to end every day by answering one question – “where did I see God today?”

We’re going to savor Him

We’re going to make much of Jesus by gathering with His people to worship whenever possible. We intend to try to thank Him instead of griping. I want to talk to him first thing and last thing every day. I want to sing to Him and about Him to myself (no one wants to hear me serenade them – even about God!) I want to memorize a verse each week. I want to read a different Bible version this summer. I’ll try to trust his sovereignty in everything. This summer, I’m going to end each day by reminding myself, “God is for me, not against me.”

We’re going to show Him

Since God is love, we’re going to find some way to show love to someone new every day. At the end of each day, I want to know who saw Jesus in me.

What is summer for?

Summer is for seeing, savoring and showing Christ.

On Sunday, Feb 6, I was in an early Sunday morning prayer meeting when my phone rang. Our local fire department informed me that my wife had fallen, was in great pain, and they were breaking in the house to get to her. I said, “tear the house down – just get to her.” That phone call enrolled me in a new class in the school of discipleship.

During the last two and one-half months, my life has radically changed. I have been the primary care-giver for my wife. The nature and location of the break means she cannot put any weight on the leg for about three months. For her, this means being restricted to a wheelchair and walker, physical therapy and constant care, pain and helplessness. For me, it means laundry and house-keeping, grocery-buying and a hundred small details that are necessary in care-giving.

Here are a few lessons I’ve learned:

1. Jesus is building the church – not me.

I am planting a church. We are only a few months old as a church – and now, I am extremely limited in who I can meet, where I can go and what I can do. Caring for my wife and the home is sometimes all-consuming of my time and attention.

Several months ago, I had asked our Student Pastor to preach on that particular morning. It is God’s grace and providence that allowed me to be able to leave that morning with no worries about preaching or the church. In fact, at least one conversion took place that morning!

My staff and the lay leaders of the Orchard have stepped up to the leadership challenge and led well over the last several months. They have been understanding, patient and hard-working. I lead a high capacity and dedicated group of people.

2. Trials are synchronized.

This happened three days after moving into a new and smaller house. Imagine boxes and chaos in every room! In addition, my aging parents live 500 miles away and are rapidly declining in health. And, we are at that all-important, all-consuming stage in church planting when we establish membership, place elders in place, and launch community ministries. It is difficult to imagine a more “interesting” time for this to happen.

3. I really am more flawed and “high maintenance” than I thought.

Testing reveals the truth about us – and sometimes, it’s not pretty. Sins have sprouted in me like dandelions in my yard. My emotions have swung from anger to jealousy, from fear to self-pity and pride. It has been a battle to pray, to stay God-centered and Ruthe-oriented. The truth is – I preach better than I live. I am being humbled.

4. I am more loved than I dared think.

God has sustained my strength. We have had wonderful meals provided by so many people. A number of women have volunteered to stay with Ruthe when I needed to leave. We have been the object of a prayer chain involving dozens of people each day. And God has not killed me for my sins. Ruthe has not fired me because of my irritability. It’s all grace!

5. God is a God of process

Healing is often not instantaneous. Nor is growth in Christ-likeness. Marriage is a day-to-day, “poco-a-poco” deal, as is church planting, evangelism, leadership development and most other important things in life. This is cause for hope!

6. I delight in my children, and God uses them as a means of grace.

All of our children are married and have lives of responsibility and pressure of their own. Two live out of town. Yet, each one has found unique ways to be present, support, encourage and help. Each one has been in constant contact and prayer for us. Each one, together with their spouses, have traveled to be with us. Each one has put his or her agenda on hold in order to assist us in practical and creative ways. Each one has helped us smile, laugh and forget out troubles. Each one has encouraged us in the Lord.

More to come.

My son, Charlie, recently gave me a book on the life of St. Patrick. It is fascinating, to say the least.

St. Patrick died a little over 1500 years ago. He was born in Britain, probably in Wales, around 385 A.D. His father was a Roman official.

When Patrick was 16, seafaring raiders captured him, carried him to Ireland and sold him into slavery. He spent six lonely years herding sheep and, he says, praying 100 times a day. In a dream, God told him to escape. He returned home, where he had another vision in which the Irish people begged him to return and minister to them: He studied for the priesthood in France, then made his way back to Ireland.

He spent his last 30 years there, presenting the gospel to pagans, ordaining priests, founding churches and monasteries. His persuasive powers must have been astounding: Ireland fully converted to Christianity within 200 years and was the only country in Europe to Christianize peacefully.

Patrick’s influence ended slavery, human sacrifice and most intertribal warfare in Ireland. Contrary to legends, he didn’t banish the snakes: Ireland never had any. Nor did he invent the Shamrock Trinity. That was an 18th-century fabrication.) His work did result in Ireland remaining strong as the rest of Europe crumbled. Patrick’s monasteries copied and preserved classical texts. Later, Irish monks returned this knowledge to Europe by establishing monasteries in England, Germany, France, Switzerland and Italy.

Patrick may have been the author of the following prayer – often called Patrick’s breastplate.

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this day to me for ever.
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan river;
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom;*
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of the cherubim;
The sweet ‘well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the Prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord,
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the starlit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life-giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea,
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave and the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same.
The Three in One, and One in Three,
Of Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Ruthe and I had planned to travel to Cabot, AR (just north of Little Rock) to watch Sam and Abe (our two grandsons) play football on Saturday morning.

Friday morning, Ruthe said, “how about riding the motorcycle (Honda VTX 1800)?” We suited up, took off in the afternoon, and fought a terrific wind the entire trip.

Friday night, we watched the Cabot Panthers play – ah, high school football! The joy was watching our daughter, the Cabot High Foundation President, recognize several fine students for their achievements in the pre-game ceremonies.

Saturday morning, we baked in the sun and watched four (4) games! What a joy!

Abe

Sam

Abe

Sam

After lunch, back to Memphis – fighting a terrific wind once again, on one of the most heavily -traveled highways in the nation – I40, between Little Rock and Memphis. The temperature began to fall and we began to chill in the wind. Thanks be to God for a cold but safe trip.

Sunday morning, the Orchard Fellowship overflowed with passionate worshippers – a great day of worship. By His grace, we are not far from moving to two services – 4 weeks into the launch of the church.

A short nap on Sunday afternoon – just like the Bible teaches – a long run and the evening with my sweetheart.

A good weekend – Thanks be to the Giver of Joy!

A gigantic new clock has been built in Mecca -and 1.5 billion Muslims could soon be setting their watches by it

It starts ticking on Thursday, the beginning of Ramadan. The clock’s four faces are 151ft in diameter and will be illuminated by 2million LED lights along with huge Arabic script reading: “In the name of Allah”. The clock will run on Arabia Standard Time which is three hours ahead of GMT.

When a glittering spire is added, topped with a crescent, the tower will stand at nearly 2,000 ft, making it the world’s second tallest building.

The clock of Big Ben (on the left in the picture above), by comparison, is just 23ft in diameter, while its tower stands at a mere 316ft.

Muslims in Mecca will be reminded that it is time to pray when 21,000 green and white lights, at a distance of 18 miles, flash five times a day.

Islamic scholars hope Mecca to eclipse the Greenwich Observatory as the “true center of the earth.”

Ambitious?

Consider these facts:

*Ramadan is the Islamic month of fasting. Muslims believe it was this time of year that Allah revealed the first verses of the Qur’an to his Prophet Mohammed.

*Ramadan is about forgiveness, remission of sins. Muslims abstain from food, drink, and sex from sunrise to sunset in hopes of purifying themselves and earning reward from God.

*The UN states that Europe will be 55% Muslim by 2040.

*9 of the 10 least-reached mega peoples are Muslim.

*Of the 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide, probably only one third know any Christians at all.

*Today, for every Christian worker in the Middle East and N. Africa, there are at least 500,000 lost looking to Islam to save them.

*In 2002, key Christian leaders in the Arabian Peninsula (AP) asked the Lord, “How can we reach the 50+ million … ?” The Lord said, “Pray!”

Join millions of Christians around the world who are participating in praying for ihe Muslim world.

You can find great resources to pray (and download this year’s prayer booklet) online at http://30-days.net.

Malcolm Muggeridge was a 20th century British journalist and satirist. He came to Christ later in life, and was able to look back over his lifetime with a perspective that we desperately need in the 21st century.

We look back upon history, and what do we see? Empires rising and falling, revolutions and counterrevolutions, wealth accumulated and wealth disbursed. Shakespeare has written of the rise and fall of great ones, that ebb and flow with the moon.

I look back upon my own fellow countrymen (Great Britain), once upon a time dominating a quarter of the world, most of them convinced, in the words of what is still a popular song, that ‘the God who made them mighty, shall make them mightier yet.’

I’ve heard a crazed, cracked Austrian (Hitler) announce to the world the establishment of a Reich that would last a thousand years. I have seen an Italian clown (Mussolini) say he was going to stop and restart the calendar with his own ascension to power. I’ve heard a murderous Georgian brigand in the Kremlin (Stalin), acclaimed by the intellectual elite of the world as being wiser than Solomon, more humane than Marcus Aurelius, more enlightened than Ashoka.

I have seen America wealthier and, in terms of military weaponry, more powerful than the rest of the world put together–so that had the American people so desired, they could have outdone a Caesar, or an Alexander in the range and scale of their conquests.

All in one lifetime, all in one lifetime, all gone! Gone with the wind!

England, now part of a tiny island off the coast of Europe, threatened with dismemberment and even bankruptcy. Hitler and Mussolini dead, remembered only in infamy. Stalin a forbidden name in the regime he helped found and dominate for some three decades. America haunted by fears of running out of those precious fluids that keeps their motorways roaring, and the smog settling, with troubled memories of a disastrous campaign in Vietnam, and the victories of the Don Quixote’s of the media as they charged the windmills of Watergate.

All in one lifetime, all in one lifetime, all gone! Gone with the wind!

Behind the debris of these solemn supermen, and self-styled imperial diplomatists, there stands the gigantic figure of One: because of whom, by whom, in whom, and through whom alone, mankind may still have peace–the person of Jesus Christ.

I present him as the way, the truth, and the life.

Malcolm Muggeridge, 1970

I remember reading this quote many years ago, and recently came across it at Tullian Tchividjian’s blog

Tomorrow, my granddaughter Eloise – all of 3 1/2 years old – will undergo open-heart surgery in Little Rock Children’s Hospital. This will be her fourth. Hopefully, it will be her last, until a possible transplant when she is a teenager.

She was born without her left ventricle – and life has been a battle – for her and her parents.

The Father has raised up an army of intercessors around the world to plead for her.

And the Father has been so good!

Tomorrow, at 7:00 (CST), I ask you to go to your knees again.

I’ll blog throughout the day as we learn of her progress. We anticipate a 10 hour surgery.

Our hope is in the One who scattered the stars and then named them; the One who set His glory in every atom of every molecule in existence; the One who did not even withhold his own darling Son but gave him up for us all, and then raised Him from the grave.

As a faith-stimulator, enjoy this celebration of resurrection from Budapest, home of my favorite Sunday-to-Sunday preacher and good buddy, Ronnie Stevens.

Scooter Noland, youth pastor extraordinaire, introduced me to this song. After 2 times through, I was on my knees – repenting, grieving my sin and selfishness and idolatry.

Perhaps the same will happen – or – you’ll just be encouraged.

WARNING – THIS IS UNEDITED, UNSANITIZED and perhaps the most startling video I have seen.

Do not watch it without prayer.

As you watch it, remind yourself that no one should be treated like this – but – Jesus is worthy of this sacrifice.

For more information about the status of our brothers and sisters – and what can be done, I know of no better organization than Voice of the Martyrs.

Below is a video of two strangers who begin to worship Jesus – the action starts at 0:30.

Apparently they were shooting a music video for a Sunday service and a homeless man came into the frame and started singing to Jesus.