How Does It Feel To Be A Wave Walker?

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It’s not who or what you are that’s vital to happiness.  It’s whose you are!
— Michael R. H. Stewart, 2016

finaltimflippedThe picture of this handsome and happy couple, Tim and Erin Reif, the founders of Wave Walker, tells their story perfectly, and without words.

The closer to Jesus Christ you are, the happier you become.

If you are unfamiliar with Wave Walker, or have not read my previous article, click here to read it — and allow me to continue telling you one of the most impactful stories of dedicated, Christian entrepreneurship, it has ever been my honor to share.

I was among the first to wear the Wave Walker logo as a pin, (seen above), when it was given to me as a thoughtful and transformative gift.  Very soon, when their long-awaited website makes it possible, the rest of you will have the experience.

Knowing this, I will try to explain in this brief article, what doing so has already done for me, and what becoming a Wave Walker can ultimately do for countless others.

Overcome by the Waves of Doubt.

In Matthew 14, Jesus appears to his disciples, walking on water a short distance from their fishing boat, as it was crossing the Sea of Galilee.

In an act of immense courage, Peter asked to come to Jesus and stepped down out of the boat into the raging sea.

Peter became afraid of the storm and sank beneath the surface.  Doubt sank him.

Jesus saved him of course, rebuking Peter and challenging him in one of the most quoted verses in the Bible:

“You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”   Matthew 14:31 NIV

Why indeed?

One of my favorite Christian authors, Cherie Hill, has this to say in her popular book, DEEPER:

“Don’t be overcome by the waves of doubt” she begins.

“With God, everything is by faith,” she continues.

“But try as we might, faith tends to constantly be at war with doubt. And when one wave of doubt comes crashing in, countless others closely follow and soon we’re drowning in disbelief. It’s in the depths of doubt that we have to grab hold of our faith which brings us hope…the anchor to our soul. We have to get a grip on why our faith wavers, why we doubt. It’s vital that we don’t allow the waves of doubt to take our faith under.”

For me, becoming a Wave Walker was the tool God used as a reminder to remove all doubt, at a time when faith was sorely needed and doubt would have been an anchor, and it can do the same for you.

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Everyone of us has a Wave Walker story:  A time when the circumstances of our lives have threatened us with crushing doubt.

If your story might help someone else through a struggle, please take a moment and share it with us through the comment form below.

You’ll be glad you did.

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HEAVEN ON EARTH HAS A SECRET GATE: West of the Moon, East of the Sun

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“Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate
And though I oft have passed them by
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

Once you have decided which path you are going to follow; when your heavenly destination is divinely assured; even when all your other hopes and dreams have been realized; the question of how to spend the journey itself, and with whom to spend it, is still a vital conversation you should have with God.

When you finally understand, accept and receive the depths of His love for you — and grasp the miraculous beauty of His promises — He will lead you through that secret gate, where joy awaits you in the here and now.

“West of the Moon, East of the Sun …”

By concluding his famous poem with these words, J.R.R. Tolkien was adding his brilliant voice to millennia of stories that told of the search for a secret gate, at the end of a lovely path, that is impossibly difficult to find.

In the deepest recesses of my heart, since my very first memories as a child, I have been searching for the secret gate as well.

Like the sun, the moon rises in the east and sets in the west, but depending upon where you are, its place in the sky can be either north or south of where you might expect; but it is still on a predictable path.

I prefer to think of the gate’s location more romantically.

You can find it after the sun loses its warmth and sets into the sea, while the moon commands your attention.

You can search better with your heart, than with your eyes.

You are much more likely to find it through love, than striving.

And the flower-strewn path, is best followed through prayer.

Expect miracles.

Ask yourself this question:  “Do you believe in miracles?

We need miracles now, more than ever before.

There has never been a time in human history, when the world has seemed so broken, bitter and baffled.

All miracles are not global in scale, like securing world peace or eliminating hunger for children.

Some are very personal.

When one occurs, remember that you didn’t earn it — it was given to you freely, as a divine gift from a loving God.

While you’re waiting, follow Christ’s eloquent suggestions in 1 Corinthians:

Show your profound gratitude by being patient and kind; never envying or dishonoring others; avoiding boastfulness and pride.

Be slow to anger and keep no record of wrongs.

Always protect, always trust, always hope, and always persevere.

Do all these things, and you will learn the wisdom of God’s paramount promise:  Love never fails.

Along the path, you can show your undying gratitude by sharing your story with as many others as possible.

It all begins with love.

All miracles begin with love.  In fact, everything positive and lasting in our human experience begins with it.

Love started with God before time began.  Jesus Christ made it a commandment.  It was given to all of us as a gift of armor in a frightening world.  It radiates down from Heaven like the sun, and it is the source of all joy while we are here.

All we have to do is ask.

It may take a while.  It may even take a lifetime.  But that special day will come at last.  It may be waiting around the next corner.

When God brings that perfect person into your life — don’t question, doubt or fear.

Simply reach out tenderly, join your loving hands together, trust God, and whisper:

“Let’s take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.”

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WAITING ON GOD: Three Reasons We Give Up Too Soon

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The scene above looks peaceful, doesn’t it?  Tranquil yet powerful; memorable and quietly compelling; some would see it as a gorgeous tableau of God’s creation – filled with unmatched beauty, hope and love.

Sadly, others might insist it’s empty: a stark picture of loneliness and wasted opportunities.

It all depends upon how we view the world; and how we learn to wait on God for the blessings he promises to those who love him.

If we awaken every morning to a world we know is filled with God’s goodness, we can easily deal with life’s little disappointments.

We can look upon this scene and see God’s promises about to unfold.

If we awaken in a different, less hopeful place, we can also easily imagine a lonely beach; with a breathtaking moon, quiet water, but an empty bench.

Moments before, perhaps it held a believing but struggling person — seemingly trapped by circumstances — who, while faithful, finally gave up trying, simply because he was tired of waiting on God, or wasn’t sure his prayers would be answered.

Waiting on God can be demoralizing or uplifting, depending upon our experience with faith. It can be horriific or hopeful, depending upon our capacity for boundless trust.

We will have moments of waning determination, but it is at precisely those moments, that perseverance is crucial.

Cherie Hill, a superb Christian author and speaker, put it this way:  “The hardest part of faith is the last half-hour. We give up just before God shows up!”

Three Reasons We Give Up Too Soon

1.  We forget that FAITH is a spiritual muscle, not a diploma.

Faith is not a possession you acquire, like securing a college diploma, or getting your first driver’s licence.

It does not attach to your life automatically after reading the Bible cover-to-cover, or after learning to pray.

It doesn’t spontaneuosly grow and mature without effort and it requires constant attention.  It must be exercized and nourished, or it will atrophe.

Considering that it can easily mean the difference between eternal life and death, faith deserves our highest daily priority.

2.  We forget how crucial the wilderness may be to our journey.

Moses led the Children of Israel through the wilderness for forty years, before they crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land.

David spent years hiding from Saul in the wilderness, before he became King.

Even Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness; suffering through hunger, thirst and temptation, before he began his earthly ministry.

The wilderness can be important preparation, with a God-designed purpose.

3.  We forget Who Is In Control.  

We are taught to believe that in some special way, God is in control of everything — including the details of our daily lives.

Nothing happens, even the bad things, unless he at least allows it.

So when things go badly wrong, it’s easy to assign the blame to ourselves. Surely we must have done something wrong, if he allows such sadness into our lives.

Not necessarily so.

Don’t always assume that tribulation must be avoided at all costs, it may be there to deepen our faith and increase our resolve.

As Cherie Hill puts it:  “We cannot deliver ourselves from a crisis that God himself has orchestrated.”

A wilderness experience may be a blessing in disguise.  It does not mean that God has stopped loving us, that he has stopped caring for us, that our faith was misplaced to begin with, or that God is not in control.  The waiting can also be an important part of God’s plan for us.

As just one example, consider the plight of the Children of Israel as they stood hopelessly on the banks of the Red Sea.  They were surrounded by certain death on all sides — drowning in the sea in front of them, or dying at the hands of Pharoah’s army behind them.  God spoke to Moses, and Moses relayed the message to his people:

“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.” — Exodus 14:14 NIV

Moses’ followers were not blameless of course, but it’s also important to recognize that God himself, (through a cloud during the day and a firey cloud at night), had brought them to the shore of the Red Sea.  They too needed to learn how to trust God and wait.

God knows what He’s doing. He’s in control, even when life isn’t.  Trust that when your world seems to be falling apart, it’s really just falling into place in the hands of your Almighty loving God. Trust. Wait. Rest.

— Cherie Hill

Waiting on God can be a completely humbling and sometimes debilitating experience.

I know, I’ve been there.

When it happens to you, (and it certainly will), view it as a marvelous opportunity for faith, growth and trust.

And while you’re waiting … do something that matters for someone else.

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LEARNING TO LOVE FOREVER: The Most Breathtaking Miracle of All

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So many miracles occur during our lives, great and small, it is nearly impossible to fully appreciate them sufficiently as they occur.

They increase our faith, enlarge our trust, encourage our devotion to God and make our lives worth living.

Some may actually take our breath away, while others go unnoticed.

One thing is certain, however.

The most breathtaking miracle of all; and the one that leads toward ultimately understanding the meaning of life itself, is learning to love forever.

Learning to Love Forever

It began before time, with God.

As its creator, our loving Father knows its lasting value and transformative power.

He used it to create the Universe from scratch, and to resurrect his son from death.

Knowing that time is everlasting; that it has no beginning and no end; He is the only one who fully understands forever — in its transcendent beauty, simplicity and power.

Because he knows:  He could sacrifice his only son for us.

Because he knows:  He could endure watching him suffer.

And because he knows:  He can teach us to wait for the boundless joy, that springs from our spirits, when He gives us that absolutely perfect person to love.

Having created the world in which we live, he also knows that while we’re here:  Happiness delayed, can be everlasting joy fufilled, when you learn to love forever.

Learning to love forever: requires sacrifice.

Learning to love forever: requires unselfishness.

And learning to love forever: often requires suffering first.

Having created the world in which we live, he also knows that while we’re here:  Heaven is more than a blessed destination around the last curve, it can also be the gift of unconditional love, shared between two kindred spirits, in the here and now.

To love another person so completely, unreservedly and unconditionally; and to have that love gleefully returned; is the greatest blessing a man or woman can have in this world.

Add to that the sense of wonder that surrounds your every moment when that person loves God as much as you do, and you are living within a very special miracle.

It’s the kind of miracle that is never diminished by sharing it with others.

It’s the kind of miracle that makes life truly worth living.

It’s the kind of miracle that makes a loving couple more wonderful than they could ever be alone.

It’s the kind of miracle I am now blessed to wake up to every morning; to see in every sunrise and experience in every sunset.

It’s the kind of miracle that brings a tear to my eye and a prayer to my heart.

And it’s the most breathtaking miracle of all!

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STILLNESS, FAITH, TRUST, OBEDIENCE & COURAGE: The Path to a Certain Future

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“Be still, and know that I am God.” — Psalm 46:10

We all face unknown paths into our future.

Life easily and often comes down to one moment of stillness, faith, trust, obedience and courage.

As he stood on the shore of the Red Sea, with fearsome chariots advancing behind him — and an uncertain future standing before him — Moses was told to be still and trust in the Lord.

He was obedient; even though simply trusting God seemed a far too simple strategy against Pharoah’s chariots.  Fighting seemed more logical to an ex-general and Prince of Egypt.  But Moses obeyed.  And the entire future of mankind changed in a single moment.

When you are faced with a momentous choice; watch for the Son bursting through the clouds, and follow His loving lead.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” — John 16:33 NIV

It should not be a source of amazement, (but it invariably is), that we will encounter trouble in this world.

We have been duly warned.

Still, when it comes, we are surprised and sometimes devastated.

It’s simply human nature to believe it will only happen to others.

Some of us have witnessed miracles in our own lives — a few of us, more than others — but even with this amazing history, when uncertainty looms before us, we revert to fear and doubt.

What can we do to avoid this problem?

Stumbling Blocks vs. Stepping Stones

steppingstonescreekOne solution is to simply change our perspective.

As a very young man, I spent many happy hours in the mountains of Washington State. The streams were blue and cold and the air was filled with the sounds of the water splashing around the many large stones.

My dear mother, always protective of her only son, would yell after me: “Watch out for the rocks, they are slippery and dangerous!”  I remember thinking, “Yes, but they are also the only way to get across the stream.”

Such is life.  The only difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is how we use them.

This notion carries with it a significant advantage; once we get over the initial pain and disappointment:  Stumbling blocks actually become stepping stones, after we experience them.

The next time you dread an uncertain future, remember that God will be with you every moment, even if it brings sorrow.

Recount Your Miracles

Remember and recount the miracles that have already occurred in your life, and see your present and future through eyes of faith, not fear.

If you love and trust God, He guarantees you hope and a future.

Will you get tired of waiting?  Of course you will.

David, the greatest, though flawed King of Israel; suffered from fear and loneliness for thirteen years on the run from King Saul, after he was anointed by the Prophet Samuel.

Was he tired of waiting?  Of course he was.

Did events eventually turn in his favor?  Of course they did.

Interestingly, it was only three days after his most exhausting and troubling experience in the wilderness, that Saul was killed in battle, and David’s future could actually begin.

Most Importantly, Never Give Up

As you reach the final struggles before God turns everything around, expect trouble to occur.

When Satan cannot defeat you; he will try to demoralize you instead.

When he can’t force you to give in; he will try to make you give up.

God knows that we need to be brought to the end of our own abilities, so that we will trust in His.

All He requires of us is stillness, faith, trust, obedience and courage.

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PASSION CHURCH: Living Free of Worry through Prayer

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Be anxious for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. — Phil. 4:6 NKJV

Everyone yearns for a worry-free life.

Since Adam and Eve’s first mistake lost them their home in the Garden, mankind has struggled, made some progress, and then fallen back; never quite free from the burden of nagging doubt and worry.

The Apostle Paul, of course, despite the abysmal conditions under which he was forced to live out his last days in prison, had a solution through Christ.

You may find his wise suggestions in the 4th chapter of Philippians, beginning with the 4th verse.

This scripture has always been one of my favorite passages in the Bible, and a constant source of reflection, solace, wisdom and faith.

It starts with some of the best advice Paul ever gave:

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!

It doesn’t matter how serious your concerns; it is virtually impossible to worry in the midst of rejoicing.

Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.

Being gentle, is a scarce skill today.  A close cousin to love, gentleness — and a reputation for giving it to others — is a valuable, Christ-like attribute that deserves cultivation.

It also eliminates worry, when concern for others takes precedence in your life.

And finally, the grandfather of all worry-free scriptures:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Passion Church

passionatejourney5Beyond the Bible, there is another bastion of worry-free living, your local church; one of the most powerful being Passion Church in Tucson, Arizona.

I simply cannot recommend them higher.

Their Pastor, Bob Sawvelle, is a rarity for a local church: a true theologian and published author, with a humble heart of gold and a relentless desire to serve.

If you are fortunate enough to live in Tucson, Arizona, spend some time in Passion Church — you will want to make it your home.

Otherwise, visit them online, where you can immerse yourself in Pastor Sawvelle’s wise and empowering sermons.

However you experience Passion Church, remember these words of Pastor Bob’s:

God has chosen to co-labor with you, therefore you have unlimited resources to complete the assignment you’ve been given. Any limitations are self-imposed … limitations are not from God…with God all things are possible.

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You can follow Pastor Bob on Twitter @BSawvelle and the Passion Church @PassionTucson and on FaceBook at PassionChurch.

Watch for Pastor Sawvelle’s highly anticipated new book, which will be published in the next few months.

 

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HOW GOD THINKS: The Staggering Cost of Delay

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God, as the Creator of all things,
(including mathematics),
thinks logarithmically.
— Michael R H Stewart, 2016

As human beings, one of the most intractable challenges we face, is first to make a decision, and then to take immediate action.

Procrastination can be deadly, especially when trying to work out our salvation in a broken world.

How many times have we heard others rationalizing:

We can think about Heaven later: We’re young and there are more pressing matters today.

We can take that missionary trip next month: What’s the rush?

We can lead others to Christ some other day: There’s plenty of time.

What’s 30 days more or less?  God doesn’t call us to be impulsive or irresponsible.

Actually, when determining where we will spend eternity, and where countless others, who seek our advice, will spend it — time is definitely of the essence.

God cares mightily.

God dislikes delay; especially when the lives of His children are hanging precariously in the balance.

And He thinks logarithmically; which means he counts lives lost on a logarithmic, not linear scale.

What is a Logarithmic Scale?

A logarithmic scale, as Wikipedia attempts to explain it, is a scale of measurement that uses the logarithm of a physical quantity instead of the quantity itself.

In other words, on a logarithmic scale, each tick mark on the scale is the previous tick mark multiplied by some number.

Still confusing, isn’t it?  It’s a crucial subject, so let me try to simplify.

For example:

Suppose you determined to begin saving money tomorrow; and vowed to continue your new savings regimen for thirty days.

Beginning small, you saved $2 on day one — but vowed to double the amount you saved each day for a month.  You would be saving logarithmically.

On day two, you would save $4; on day three $8; and so on, so at week’s end you would be saving $64 per day.

Not bad.  But ask yourself this question: If you continued saving under the same logarithmic sequence, how much would you save on the 30th day — just three weeks later?

Don’t calculate, just guess.

Everyone of whom I have asked this question, had a similar answer. The most common answer was $3,000 per day.

The actual answer? On day 30 you would save $1,073,744,824.

That’s correct; over a million dollars.

That’s the power of thinking — and counting — and taking action, logarithmically.

Another Form of Saving – Saving Lives

Let’s think about another form of saving: saving lives.

If you have a compelling story of faith, hope and love; that if told to the entire world through the logarithmic power of social media; if that story would save lives for God; and if you started today would translate into saving a million lives per day in a month; does a thirty day delay matter?

Absolutely, it matters!

Would God prefer you to wait until it was logical, comfortable, affordable, or considered smart by the world?

Absolutely not!

The cost of delay is too staggering.

Importantly, if you take a leap of faith, for yourself or others; for your ministry, church or business; will God allow you to flounder?

If He does, it won’t be for longer than you can withstand.

That’s His promise.

What’s Really At Stake?

Now that you’re thinking, what’s really at stake?

After twenty years of painstaking effort, the noted Christian journalist and author, Jim Harwell, published his book, Heaven: 33 Stories from a Real Place.

Please read what five different, yet ordinary people, like you and me, from different places and many years apart, had to say about their near death experiences, with Jesus, in Heaven and sometimes in what the Bible calls Hell.

It will help you visualize what’s really at stake:

Lorraine Tutmarc – Heaven – Seattle, WA – 1928

“He looked down at me. He had such beautiful eyes. I’ll never forget those eyes. They were so large and full of meaning–and kindness and forgiveness and compassion. Everything you would want to see in Jesus’ face was there.”

Kenneth Hagin – Heaven – Oklahoma – 1950

“I looked into Jesus’ eyes . . . they looked like wells of living love. It seemed as if one could see a half mile deep into them, and the tender look of His love is indescribable. As I looked into His face and into His eyes, I fell at His feet.”

Betty Malz – Heaven – Indiana – 1959

“I felt I had everything I ever wanted to have. I was everything I had ever intended to be. I was arriving at where I had always dreamed of being.”

Dr. Richard Eby – Heaven – California – 1972

“The scene was gorgeously unsurpassable in its beauty, with the foliage having a radiance.

It was a great outdoors of mountains, trees, flowers, music, and sweet smells.

Forests of symmetrical trees unlike anything on earth covered the foothills on each side.

Every tree was tall, graceful, perfect, unblemished.

There were rolling hills under cloudless skies that seemed to stretch for miles.

The skies were a new color, an iridescent white-gold light.

The valley floor was gorgeous. Stately grasses with perfectly straight blades were mixed in with ultra-white, four-petalled flowers on stems two feet tall, with a touch of gold at the centers.”

Marietta Davis – Hell – New York – 1850

“Davis descended and passed through a low and gloomy subterranean vault and thick folds of darkness.

Dread consumed her as she shook with fear.

As conflict arose in her heart, her thoughts shattered into utter chaos.

A blue fire flash lit up the darkness, and grim specters floated by her, enveloped in fire.

She felt horror and despair.

She writes: ‘Alone and in that dreadful place there are no means by which I can give even a faint idea of the agony of that moment.’

Her life flashed before her, with her conscience and previous doubts and skepticism condemning her. All her secrets were uncovered.

A gloomy black veil rose up from below, and Davis began to descend rapidly.

Eventually, she saw a vast unending plain filled with crowds of people, moving restlessly from place to place. They wore all kinds of clothing, cloaks, crowns, tiaras, jewelry, and gaudy clothing.

They all carried themselves with pomp and pride. The people were laughing and shouting in amusement and revelry. They yelled obscenities, curses, and sarcasm. Some added in degrading language, backbiting and fake compliments and congratulations.”

Hell sounds a little like Earth, doesn’t it?

There You Have It

Two diametrically opposed end results, of the lives people choose to lead.

One of unboundless joy; and the other of unrelenting sorrow.

Given the choice of our home for eternity, where should we choose to live?

What could possibly be more important than the simple decision that leads irrevocably to one place or the other?

What decision deserves a higher priority?

What stronger argument exists to never delay, even for a moment?

And what can we do to ensure that countless others make the right choice for them?

Now we understand How God Thinks.

 

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HOW TO LET GO: It’s Simple – Trust Him and Release Your Grip

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Life is as fragile as a butterfly’s wing

Cling to it lightly, it’s a miraculous thing …

Most live too fast; a few live too slow

To experience it all, let it go …

— Michael R H Stewart, 2016

A single-minded devotion to God, absolute trust and the willingness to turn your life entirely over to him, is breathtakingly simple but unbelievably difficult.

It is the secret to living a full, uncomplicated and worry-free life, and it is our pathway to Heaven, while we tarry on Earth.

Most importantly, it is the key to unlocking God’s miracles and finding our ultimate, God-promised destiny.

Life can be a long and sometimes tumultuous journey.

It can be a serpentine road; with travail crouching like a ravenous lion on both sides, while miracles are waiting patiently over the next hill.

Its hallmark is that we seldom know which result to expect, and we sometimes cannot tell the difference until it’s too late.

This is not a sermon, or even a list of suggestions to avoid dangerous curves along the way — I am not qualified to give you that kind of advice — it’s merely a handwritten map, scratched in my thoughts as I rounded those dangerous curves myself.

I offer them humbly, to lend a hand if and when you need one.

Jesus Take The Wheel

Eleven years ago, and a decade before I understood its full meaning in my life, Carrie Underwood recorded Jesus Take the Wheel, as the first single from her debut album.

She frighteningly immortalized a nearly fatal car crash, where a frantic mother, while her baby was sleeping in the backseat of her car, careened off a treacherous road on a sheet of black ice.

“It had been a long hard year.  She had a lot on her mind and she didn’t pay attention,” Carrie Underwood explains, “and she was going way too fast.”

“She saw both their lives flash before her eyes; and she didn’t even have time to cry,” she continued.

In what was one the most impactful lyrics in country music history,
the young mother threw her hands up in the air and cried out:

Jesus, take the wheel
Take it from my hands
Cause I can’t do this on my own
I’m letting go …

With a tear in her eye; and in mine as I listened; she finished by pleading:

So give me one more chance
Save me from this road I’m on
Jesus, take the wheel!

Five Thoughts

Here are the five thoughts I recorded in my memory as I rounded those dangerous curves myself:

1. Swallow your pride, and slip over to the passenger side.

What is it about human nature, that makes this obvious, life-saving maneuver so difficult to learn?

With life hanging in the balance, and sadly, with the lives of those we love unwittingly along for the bumpy ride, why do we recoil from this simple solution?

Hidden along this unavoidable journey, a very important lesson may be learned: Pride can be as deadly as black ice on a deserted road.

2. Never forget:  God is making all things new.

In Mel Gibson’s one-of-a-kind movie, The Passion of the Christ, Gibson and his co-writer Benedict Fitzgerald, momentarily depart from the biblical text and recount a scene where Jesus’ mother, Mary, watches her son fall beneath the weight of the cross.

At that moment, she relives a memory from her son’s childhood, where he also fell, and she rushed to his side to help and comfort him.

Returning to the present, she rushes to Jesus’ broken, bloodied and battered side, lifts him in her arms, and he responds with the words:

“See Mother, I make all things new.”

There is no biblical evidence that Jesus actually uttered those iconic words as he staggered toward his crucifiction, but the prophets Isaiah and John certainly made the point in the Books of Isaiah and Revelation.

It’s a crucial message for all of us, as we learn to let go.

Leave the past in the past, where it belongs.

Concentrate on the windshield and not the rearview mirror.

It makes negotiating the dangerous curves so much easier.

And remember, now more than ever; with evil of all forms running rampant in the world, and getting worse by the day; God is making all things new.

Being God, he doesn’t require our help — but because we love him, he is giving us the honor of joining him in his most vital work.

3. When Jesus takes the wheel, don’t question his driving.

A noted Christian author and speaker, Rev. J Martin, tells the story of a hapless building cleaner, who suddenly finds himself dangling precipitously from a high ledge, hanging on by a loose cable.

When he calls out for help, the author explains:

To his surprise, a voice said, “Yes, son, what do you need?”

He replied, “God, I can’t hold on any longer; please rescue me.”

God said, “Ok, son, let go of the cable, and I will catch you.”

After a long pause, the man said, “Is there anyone else up there I can talk to?”

The moral of this amusing story is that the only thing worse than never asking for God’s help in the first place, is not to take the help when it is offered.

Admittedly, this story is offered tongue-in-cheek, but it is no laughing matter when God’s answer seems more terrifying to us than the original question.

At this juncture, it is well to remember the words of the prophet Isaiah:

As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
— Isaiah 55:9 NIV

We cannot fully understand God’s motivation this side of Heaven.

It requires enormous faith.

But one thing we can be certain of: All his blessings spring from love.

If his solutions appear illogical, frightening or easy to dismiss in favor of our own thinking, it’s only because of our incomplete understanding.

When he tells us to let go — we should.

4. Let go of the future as well as the past.

We have been told repeatedly; in books, music, movies, popular culture and while listening to our spiritual leaders from the comfort of our church pew, to let go of the past.

Virtually no one would disagree.

But clinging to the future, (at least the future as we have always imagined it), can also be devastating and counterproductive.

In other words, if we continue, unabated and relentlessly, to ask for the future we have always asked for without success, it may be time to realize that the requested future may not be God’s best for us.

Consider the explanation of Rev. J Martin:

Thinking about the past leads to anger, regret, sadness or grief. Thinking of the future leads to anxiety, fear, worry, and stress.

The future may certainly seem more pleasant than the past — but what if it isn’t?

Dwelling upon the future, if it is demonstrably less than God’s best for us, while settling for God’s good in its place, is a serious mistake.

In fact, it may easily be the worse choice imaginable, because it can masquerade convincingly as God’s will, when seen through immature eyes.

5. Letting go can, (and definitely should), fundamentally change our lives!

Consider this provactive notion:

  • If we believe that God exists …
  • If we believe that he loves and cares for all of us, individually …
  • And if we truly believe, that as the Creator of the Universe, he has the power to change our present and our future, simply by deciding to do so …

Why do we place a higher priority on anything else?

Look at it another way:

If we awoke one morning, absolutely and thoroughly convinced that a loving God created the entire universe solely to illustrate his love for us, would any of us shift gears to plan our day, determine what to have for our breakfast, think about our company’s sales, plan our vacations or balance our checkbooks?

We would fall to our knees in gratitude and praise God’s holy name.

And if our faith was weaker than that, why would we expect him to grant our requests in the first place?

Letting go means more than trusting God as a last option.

It means trusting God as the only option.

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
— Psalm 91:2 NIV

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DEBRA PRICE: The Voice Behind the Music

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The paramount difference between a good recording artist and a truly great one, is the voice behind the music.

This is particularly true of the remarkable and awe-inspiring life and career of the gospel recording artist, Debra Price.

With two albums and four awards on her musical resume, not to mention her acclaim as a speaker, she has proven the relevance and popularity of her music and her other skills before an audience.

However, recounting her story in this way, by simply listing her many accomplishments, would ignore her fundamental power and authenticity.

Because the voice behind Debra’s transcendent music, and the inspiration behind her speaking, is not hers alone.

She found it in her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and as she often charmingly refers to Him — her Daddy GOD.

Good Music in 5 Steps, Great Music in 8.

As a non-musician — and a lifelong marketing executive — when I think of music success, and the process that makes it happen, I think of five steps:

  1. Music
  2. Lyrics
  3. Arrangement
  4. Production, and
  5. Marketing

But true success, the kind that changes and empowers lives, requires eight — the first three being the most impactful:

  1. Inspiration
  2. Brokenness
  3. Empathy
  4. Music
  5. Lyrics
  6. Arrangement
  7. Production, and
  8. Marketing

True joy cannot be found until it is inspired in our spirit by Jesus Christ.

Sadly, in today’s world, with so many other competing influences, before we can give that inspiration the careful attention it deserves, it is sometimes necessary for our spirits to be overcome with brokenness.

Only then, when we have tasted the bitterness of a long wilderness experience, can we empathsize with others who are suffering beside us.

We all have our own stories to tell.  And those who are fortunate among us, have stories heavy laden with faith, hope, love and the courage to fight back from adversity.

In her own, heartfelt words, Debra tells her story this way:

“My passion to encourage, empower and inspire women and young girls comes from me being in a abusive relationship for seven years and realizing how any kind of abuse, be it physical, mental or sexual, affects a woman emotionally .”

She continues:

“I felt unattractive, rejected, alone, scared, depressed, unloved and unlovable.”

It was into this sad mixture of life’s most intolerable circumstances, that God poured His soothing love.

He used the bleak surroundings of a women’s shelter, as His perfect stage for the rebirth of Debra’s spirit, and through her, created a powerful ministry to rescue the lives and renew the hopes of countless women everywhere.

Debra absolutely believes, as do I, that God keeps His promises.

We both believe in the absolute efficacy of Mark 11:23-25:

“Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.  Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.  And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
Mark 11:23-25 NIV (Italics mine)

As is true with music, the formula for joy is nearly mathematical in its precision.

You can move a mountain, but there are essential elements to that miracle that must be present:

  • You must have no doubt in your heart.
  • You must ask in prayer, believing that you have already received it.
  • And you simply must forgive all others.

What I most respect about Debra Price; beyond her abundance of faith, hope and love; is her remarkable ability to forgive.

Speaking about her ex-husband, and the marriage that brought her to a period of sadness and desperation, she told me recently:

“I’ve learned over the years that hurt people hurt people.”

She continued, with extraordinary faith and understanding:

“I bless my ex because I understand he had no one to give him the love he so desperately desired and he didn’t know how to love me correctly.  It took so many years to forgive him and I Thank Daddy GOD I have and I do desire the very best for him.”

Surely Jesus Christ and her Daddy GOD are justifiably proud of Debra.

I know I am.

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If you would like to help Debra and countless other women through her music and speaking ministry, please retweet this article to your followers.

You can also spread her story by clicking the buttons on the right of this page to share with Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest or email.

If you would like to hear her music for yourself, or book her for a speaking engagement or performance, follow these links:

Every Sunday morning when Debra is in town, she sings at downtown Linn Park (710 20th St. N., Birmingham, AL 35203) with Extended Hands Alliance outreach to the homeless.  Sunday Mornings 7:30 am Breakfast & 8:00 am Praise & Worship & Food for the Belly & Soul.
If you would like to purchase her music on Amazon: Click Here.
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SERVING GOD IS HARD WORK: But It Doesn’t Have To Be

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Have you ever been in a situation where you felt like you were hanging on by your fingertips?

You’re exhausted with the struggle, though physically and mentally prepared.

You’re climbing the vertical wall God placed before you, but the sun beats down on you mercilessly, sapping your strength.

You’re wanting to give up, go back, and re-evaluate, but your spirit won’t let you.

It’s during these frightening moments, when you find yourself dangling precariously between incredible success and abject failure, that you learn a crucial lesson:

Now is the time to trust God completely.

Serving God – in your personal, business or ministry life – may seem like impossibly hard work: but it doesn’t have to be.

Making choices under these lonely and dangerous circumstances may seem illogical: but it doesn’t have to be that either.

Taking further risks, persevering and staying in the fight may seem to be foolish: but it isn’t.

What Happens on the Rock Face?

We must understand and confront the problem, (or more likely, the crisis), that meets us on the rock face.

It’s not a lack of strength, we have trained for that.

Its not a lack of skill or stamina either, we have trained for those too.

The subtle and pernicious enemy on the rock face can be identified in a single word: hopelessness.

The real battle is not with the rock face; it’s a battle between hopelessness and hope.

The superb Christian author, Cherie Hill, explains it this way:

It comes with little or no warning. It grips you before you ever know you’re within its grasp. It shows up like an uninvited guest. Without you knowing it, it schedules an appointment in your life; there’s no warning signal, no phone call, and no note left on the kitchen table. Night falls just like any other night, and the sun rises just like every other morning, but the despair closes in unexpectedly, and you’re not sure you’ll make it through the day.

Hopelessness has a voice.  It’s not the booming tirade you would expect from the giant, Goliath — if it were, our Christian defenses would spring into battle.

Instead, it’s a whisper that plants lies in your mind:

“You’re not good enough.”

“You’re not strong enough.”

“You’re hoplessly alone; now and permanently.”

“God is not with you; and even if he was, he doesn’t really care, and will do nothing to help.”

Hope also has a voice.  It’s a whisper too, but an infinitely powerful one.  It isn’t filled with lies, it’s filled with love.  It doesn’t reside in your mind, it lives abundantly in your spirit.

It is the very special voice you would only expect from Jesus Christ.

“You don’t have to be good.  You just need to be mine.”

“You don’t have to be strong.  I will fight your battles for you.”

“You will never be alone.  I will never abandon you.”

“I am with you always, even to the end of the world; I loved you enough to die for you; and the power of my Father, the King of the Universe, is yours for the asking.”

At times like these, the secret is to turn everything over to God — believe and listen attentively.

Your solution is already on its way and it will arrive at the perfect time.

 

Abraham’s Sacrifice of Isaac
(Gen 22: 1-18 ESV)

Abraham was 100 years old, when God told him to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac:

“Abraham! Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

There was no discussion between God and Abraham.  God didn’t justify the request and Abraham didn’t object.  After a lifetime of listening to God, and unreservedly doing His bidding, Abraham was prepared to sacriifice the son God had promised to give him 25 years earlier.

As Abraham and Isaac walked up the mountainside, Abraham must have thought he was hanging on to his faith by his fingertips.  God had promised Abraham a son, and through him, “I will make you a great nation.”

Inexplicably, God was now commanding Abraham to kill that son.

The command was impossibly hard, seemingly illogical and foolish. But Abraham was obedient, and had no intention of disobeying God now.

He placed Isaac on the altar, raised his knife over his head and prepared to plunge it into his beloved son’s heart.

At the last possible moment, the angel of the Lord called out to him and said:

“Abraham, Abraham! Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.”

thramThe unsung hero of this story is the ram.

Who would have believed at that moment that God’s promises would be delivered in the form of a dumb creature whose head was trapped in the thorns.

The ram was totally unexpected, but was the perfect surrogate for the life of Isaac, and significantly, arrived at the best conceivable time.

More to the point, consider this profound nuance carefully:

In order for the ram to arrive at God’s perfect time, its journey up Mt. Moriah must have started a long while before it was needed.  In other words — the answer to Abraham’s unspoken prayer was on its way before Abraham even knew of his impending need.

At another time, under vastly different circumstances, the ram might have been a new job to replace the one lost, a medical breakthrough to save a loved one’s life, or the perfect spouse and warrior, to complete a marriage already made in Heaven, even after the human search had been abandoned.

The point is:  God keeps His promises — and even when it looks like He doesn’t care, isn’t listening and has no plans to deliver; He may already have the solution pulling itself up the mountain.

The Bible passage ends with God making another promise to Abraham:

“Because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore.”

Serving God Can Be Effortless

If you can trust God completely; knowing that because you love him He will return an abundance of love to you; it follows that you can turn your situation entirely over to Him, cease to worry about it, and that in His perfect time and perfect way, He will grant you the desires of your heart.

When this becomes a spiritual habit, serving God can be effortless.

One last caveat:  Sometimes, an omniscient God, capable as He is of seeing every detail in your life, outside of time, refuses your request — not because He doesn’t love you, but because He does.

It is this fact, more than any other, that has completely convinced me.

I can easily look back on a few fervent prayers, that were not granted, to my serious disappointment at the time, only to be immensely grateful later, when that refusal has saved my life.

Love requires God to give us what we need, and not always what we want.

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WAITING ON GOD: Three Reasons We Give Up Too Soon

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2waitingonGod

The scene above looks peaceful, doesn’t it?  Tranquil yet powerful; memorable and quietly compelling; some would see it as a gorgeous tableau of God’s creation – filled with unmatched beauty, hope and love.

Sadly, others might insist it’s empty: a stark picture of loneliness and wasted opportunities.

It all depends upon how we view the world; and how we learn to wait on God for the blessings he promises to those who love him.

If we awaken every morning to a world we know is filled with God’s goodness, we can easily deal with life’s little disappointments.

We can look upon this scene and see God’s promises about to unfold.

If we awaken in a different, less hopeful place, we can also easily imagine a lonely beach; with a breathtaking moon, quiet water, but an empty bench.

Moments before, perhaps it held a believing but struggling person — seemingly trapped by circumstances — who, while faithful, finally gave up trying, simply because he was tired of waiting on God, or wasn’t sure his prayers would be answered.

Waiting on God can be demoralizing or uplifting, depending upon our experience with faith. It can be horriific or hopeful, depending upon our capacity for boundless trust.

We will have moments of waning determination, but it is at precisely those moments, that perseverance is crucial.

Cherie Hill, a superb Christian author and speaker, put it this way:  “The hardest part of faith is the last half-hour. We give up just before God shows up!”

Three Reasons We Give Up Too Soon

1.  We forget that FAITH is a spiritual muscle, not a diploma.

Faith is not a possession you acquire, like securing a college diploma, or getting your first driver’s licence.

It does not attach to your life automatically after reading the Bible cover-to-cover, or after learning to pray.

It doesn’t spontaneuosly grow and mature without effort and it requires constant attention.  It must be exercized and nourished, or it will atrophe.

Considering that it can easily mean the difference between eternal life and death, faith deserves our highest daily priority.

2.  We forget how crucial the wilderness may be to our journey.

Moses led the Children of Israel through the wilderness for forty years, before they crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land.

David spent years hiding from Saul in the wilderness, before he became King.

Even Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness; suffering through hunger, thirst and temptation, before he began his earthly ministry.

The wilderness can be important preparation, with a God-designed purpose.

3.  We forget Who Is In Control.  

We are taught to believe that in some special way, God is in control of everything — including the details of our daily lives.

Nothing happens, even the bad things, unless he at least allows it.

So when things go badly wrong, it’s easy to assign the blame to ourselves. Surely we must have done something wrong, if he allows such sadness into our lives.

Not necessarily so.

Don’t always assume that tribulation must be avoided at all costs, it may be there to deepen our faith and increase our resolve.

As Cherie Hill puts it:  “We cannot deliver ourselves from a crisis that God himself has orchestrated.”

A wilderness experience may be a blessing in disguise.  It does not mean that God has stopped loving us, that he has stopped caring for us, that our faith was misplaced to begin with, or that God is not in control.  The waiting can also be an important part of God’s plan for us.

As just one example, consider the plight of the Children of Israel as they stood hopelessly on the banks of the Red Sea.  They were surrounded by certain death on all sides — drowning in the sea in front of them, or dying at the hands of Pharoah’s army behind them.  God spoke to Moses, and Moses relayed the message to his people:

“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.” — Exodus 14:14 NIV

Moses’ followers were not blameless of course, but it’s also important to recognize that God himself, (through a cloud during the day and a firey cloud at night), had brought them to the shore of the Red Sea.  They too needed to learn how to trust God and wait.

God knows what He’s doing. He’s in control, even when life isn’t.  Trust that when your world seems to be falling apart, it’s really just falling into place in the hands of your Almighty loving God. Trust. Wait. Rest.

— Cherie Hill

Waiting on God can be a completely humbling and sometimes debilitating experience.

I know, I’ve been there.

When it happens to you, (and it certainly will), view it as a marvelous opportunity for faith, growth and trust.

And while you’re waiting … do something that matters for someone else.

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GOD’S GOOD IS THE ENEMY OF GOD’S BEST: How a Famous Poem Became a Spiritual Tragedy

GoodorBestTwoRoads

Almost exactly 100 years ago, two young friends, who were also gifted poets, were walking through an English forest together, as they often did.

The younger poet, Edward Thomas, was notoriously indecisive whenever they came to a fork in the road, and was chronically unable to decide which road to follow.  Not only that, but he would often lament later that they had made the wrong choice.

The older poet, the now famous Robert Frost, found their constant quandary amusing; so much so, in fact, that when he moved back to New Hampshire, USA, in 1915, he wrote a good-naturedly mocking poem to his friend about their misadventures.  Penned for an audience of college students, when he presented it to them, his tongue was firmly planted in his amused cheek.

This is where the Road Not Taken, by far my favorite lifetime poem, became a little known and completely misunderstood tragedy, and the heartrending subject of this story.

Ironically, the New Hampshire audience loved the poem, and took it so seriously that it became legendary.

Sadly, Thomas also took it seriously and personally, and it may have been the last straw in Thomas’ decision to enlist in World War I, where he was killed two years later.

The Road Not Taken, perhaps the most celebrated poem ever written regarding choice and its consequences, begins simply with this dilemma:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood …

It ends with a profound choice, and an important conclusion, that became a mantra for my entire lifetime of choices over the decades:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

It has been strenously argued over the years that while a case could be made for the sigh being one of satisfaction, according to Wikipedia:

“A New York Times Sunday book review on Brian Hall’s 2008 biography Fall of Frost states: “Whichever way they go, they’re sure to miss something good on the other path.”

With decades of painful personal experience as my empirical evidence, I would add that, for me at least, the poem explains the potential tragedy of bypassing God’s divine suggestions, by ignoring His plans and making crucial decisions entirely on my own.

God’s Good is the Enemy of God’s Best

Two years after Road Not Taken was published, a profound Christian writer, Oswald Chambers, had this to say:

The greatest enemy of the life of faith in God is not sin, but good choices which are not quite good enough. The good is always the enemy of the best. 

Absolute faith in God; especially if it has not been your lifelong blessing; can be fragile and deceptively dangerous.

The degree to which you apply faith and trust to your personal or business decisions, will likely be inversely proportional to the importance of those decisions.

In other words, the more life-altering the potential decision, the less likely it is for a new Christian to trust God instead of his or her own experiences.

While seemingly logical, this approach to making important choices can be devastating.  And the devastation is caused by Satanic subtlety.

The Bible explains that after Jesus Christ was baptised, he spent forty days in the desert being tempted by Satan.

And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.'”
Luke 4:1-4 ESV

What is deceptively dangerous about this Satanic temptation, you may well ask?  Jesus had been wandering in the wilderness for 40 days, so of course he was hungry. Certainly God knew that, and wished to help his son.  So what harm could come from accepting a few morsels of bread?

The subtle answer is that the bread was being offered from Satan, not from God, as a temptation to Jesus.  Had he eaten the bread, although his hunger would have been satisfied, all would have been lost.

Instead, Jesus rebuked Satan’s effort, famously insisting, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.'”

Obviously, God could have used Satan to provide needed food for Jesus, but that would have been God’s good.  Instead, through the Holy Spirit, God changed the entire future of the world, creating one of the most important lessons in the Gospel, teaching that there are much more important sources of sustenance than bread alone.

That lesson was God’s best.

Avoiding Spiritual Tragedies

The more valiant you are for God, the more dedicated, persistent and subtle Satan’s temptations will be.

Subverting your noble intentions, through seemingly innocuous choices, will become the enemy’s most dangerous battle plan.

When this occurs, and it absolutely will, be on the lookout.

Arm yourself with the Holy Spirit.

Guard against spiritual tragedies.

And steadfastly avoid God’s good, while waiting patiently for God’s best.

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FAITH, HOPE AND LOVE: Finding Heaven in the Here and Now

FindingHeavenNow

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. –1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV

In our search for Heaven, as a final and eternal place of peace and rest, it is rare but possible, to find a tantalizing glimpse of it in the here and now.

To experience Heaven before we make the journey; to find unequalled Earthly joy; we must meet four challenges, at least:

We must believe that if we trust in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our heart.

We must know that God always keeps His promises.

We must realize and accept that He has never made a promise that is too good to be true.

We must do our part; praying as though everything depends on Him, while striving as though everything depends on us.

When we meet these challenges; while surrounding ourselves with faith, hope and love; we will look upward toward Heaven and realize that the angels are much closer than we think.

TRANSCENDENT FAITH

stairwaytoheavenDr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said famously when discussing the stairway to Heaven:

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.

By definition, every choice in life can be crucial; even life-altering; and every choice must be made without complete information.

As just one example of a particularly life-altering choice; one that certainly affects our ability to fully experience Heaven in the here and now; is our decision to share that experience with the perfect, divinely-chosen someone, as a friend, partner, helpmate and spouse.

Of course, the choice could also involve the perfect occupation, ministry role, people to help, or place to live; but none of these is quite as monumental as the person with whom you choose to spend your precious time.

Perhaps you have been searching for a long time without success; or have tried and failed.

This is the perfect example of having to take the first step on the stairway to Heaven before the entire staircase is visible.

Since no earthly person operates outside of time, as God does; able to see our entire lives in the same instant; we must trust God to direct us, protect us from harm and safely grant us the desires of our heart.

Total trust in God is no gamble, but it can be disconcerting without rock-solid faith.  For this reason, among many others, transcendent faith is essential.

The corollary to having faith without complete knowledge, is the concomitant reward explained by St. Augustine, the early Christian theologian and philosopherwhose writings influenced the development of Western Christianity and Western philosophy:

Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.

In essense, this suggests that believing God for His promises, helps them in a spiritual way, to become a reality.

However we exercise our faith, a few facts are undeniable:

We only have one life; and it is finite in duration.  What we do for God will outlast all of our other accomplishments.

Faith is essential to prolonged happiness.  We can no more do without it than we can without food, shelter, or clothing.

And finally, it is also impenetrable armor, protecting us from defeat.

As one of the great leaders of America, President Ronald Reagan once said:

We are never defeated unless we give up on God.

 

HOPE IS THE THING WITH FEATHERS

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tune without the words – and never stops at all.

One of my favorite poems in all of literature — and one of the most profound definitions of hope ever written — was penned by Emily Dickinson.

Hope is an intangible emotion, and like the bird in the poem, once it is formed in the heart, it begins to sing, and never stops.

Through good times and bad, happiness and despair, joy and struggles; nothing fazes it.

It perches in the soul, eager to share its song with those who suffer, who mourn and who cry out to a loving God.

What could be more valuable, than a transforming melody, that is always available to soothe a saddened heart, or uplift a downtrodden spirit.

And hope, like our loving Lord, never asks for anything from us in return. It provides comfort and solace but does not require anything back.

Hope is like the sun, which, as we journey toward it, casts the shadow of our burden behind us.

The 19th Century Scottish writer, Samuel Smiles, explained that hope leaves the shadow of our burdens behind us, where they should remain, as we walk toward a welcoming sun.

The metaphor is simple and elegant.

We are forgiven our misdeeds, and the shadows which would otherwise remain a burden to our future, are placed behind us, where they can do no further harm.

There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope.

Bernard Williams, the English philospher, is responsible for this profound thought.

Neither the dark of night, nor the depth of an intractable problem, can defeat the most glorious sunrise, or weaken the most brilliant ray of hope.

Hope is a free gift from a gracious God; everlasting in its availability, and mighty in its power.

And best of all — hope shared … is hope enlarged.

 

LOVE IS THE KEY TO HEAVEN

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When we embark on our last journey, and enter humbly and alone through the magnificent Gates of Heaven, their beauty will light up our everlasting lives with faith, hope and love.

Heaven will rise before us gloriously, glistening with the purest gold, and will be far beyond our meager ability to describe it.

gatetoHeavenHowever, if we are enormously blessed before that wonderful day; if we are granted a glimpse of Heaven while in the here and now; we will enter through a simpler, secret gate, at the end of a lovely path; strewn with flowers and bathed in the quiet light of peace and tender love.

Our lives there will be a waking dream, filled with kindness and caring; warmed with mutual respect; and bound with shared purpose.

Love will be the only gold.

That journey will be precious, but temporary, and we will walk through that gate together with someone we adore.

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THINGS THAT MATTER: A Passionate Journey, ENCORE

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CONGRATULATIONS, PASSION CHURCH!

It is with a great deal of pride in Pastor Bob Sawvelle, his remarkable wife, Carolyn, their tireless staff, and devoted church family, that I offer my heartfelt congratulations on a job extremely well done!

Over the last few months, the Passion Church story has been seen and appreciated by over 20,000 interested viewers, in more than 20 countries around the world, spreading the love of Jesus Christ to an enormous number of grateful men, women and children.

It begs the question:  When Bob and Carolyn first decided, in the mountains of Haiti not that many years ago, to do their small part for the Lord, could they possibly have imagined the impact they would make?

One thing is for certain:  They and the church they planted in Tucson, Arizona, have achieved the accolade reserved for the very few — recognition by our Lord Jesus Christ, as His good and faithful servants.

~

Encore of the first article published, April 2016.

It’s a long trip from the mountains of Haiti to the deserts of Tucson, Arizona — but not if you’re passionate about the journey.

For Bob and Carolyn Sawvelle, beginning in 1993, it was a journey of discovery and encounter that was destined to shine a bright and healing light into the lives of many.

It all started with a simple, biblical truth:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. — Hebrews 13:8 NIV

Every journey begins with its proverbial first step.  For Dr. Bob Sawvelle, the journey that would eventually lead him to establish and pastor the Passion Church in Tucson, Arizona, began with the understanding of the simple scripture above.

Jesus hasn’t changed.

He is still healing others today, just as he did 2,000 years ago.

And he performs that incredible mission using ordinary people like you and me.

Influential pastor Randy Clark, praising Pastor Sawvelle’s important book, A Case for Healing Today, had this to say:

It is honest scholarship. It is written not from an ivory tower of a seminary, but from the pastoral context of a church planter. — Dr. Randy Clark.

The praise is well-deserved.

On my first reading, I was impressed with the personal, authentic and heartfelt passion Pastor Sawvelle imparts to every page.

The biblical scholarship, with which he “presents the case for the legitimacy of the Christian healing ministry today,” is remarkable and commendable.

“Christ intended it to be the common ministry practice for all who would believe and follow him,” Pastor Sawvelle states unequivocally, “including the twenty-first-century church.”

“God is a healer,” he continues powerfully, “and He desires to use ordinary Christians in extraordinary ways to reveal His love and compassion toward humanity and to reveal His glory and splendor as His power is released.”

The book emerged out of Pastor Sawvelle’s and Passion Church’s experience with ministering healing prayer to the sick.

Once completed, instead of resting on his scholarly laurels, Pastor Sawvelle did what Jesus would have done, he strode out into the world and healed the sick.

Passion Church has learned to live from what Pastor Sawvelle calls “Encounter Evangelism.” Modeled after the missional model taught by Jesus, Encounter Evangelism brings others into an encounter with both the love and power of God.

As a result, the next leg of his journey was even more passionate than the first.

As he did in the introduction to his book, Pastor Sawvelle makes you a promise. He says, forthrightly and without equivocation:

Passion Church is focused on loving God with all our hearts and loving others like ourselves. We passionately pursue the presence of God, and we worship Him with great passion and freedom in our church services. We long to see the Father’s love released to others who have never experienced His grace and mercy.

I have been away from my Arizona home for a long while, but as soon as I return, I will make it a point and a blessing, to make the short journey to Tucson, to take Pastor Sawvelle and his fellow believers up on his kind promise.

Feel It Yourself

Until you have felt the healing power of Jesus first-hand; until you have had your own health, or the health of someone you love, restored by a loving God who still causes miracles to occur in human lives, and until the mere thought of Him brings uncontrollable tears to your grateful eyes, you cannot completely appreciate the miraculous power of God’s healing.

Until you have witnessed the experience, you cannot fully fathom the mysteries and marvel that await you as a follower of Jesus Christ.  You cannot begin to see that God is a healer.

In Pastor Sawvelle’s own remarkable words:

Christ’s atonement was vicarious for both sin and sickness; therefore, salvation and healing are available through the finished work of the cross.

It is for those who haven’t yet felt this incredible, transformative, gratitude, that a ministry like Passion Church is so important — and so powerfully evangelistic.

You need to feel it yourself.

I hope when I step across the Passion Church threshold for the first time, I will see you there.

You can follow Pastor Bob on Twitter @BSawvelle and the Passion Church @PassionTucson and on FaceBook at PassionChurch.

Watch for Pastor Sawvelle’s highly anticipated new book, which will be published in the next few months.

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ARE YOU A WAVE WALKER? If so, get out of the boat!

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It had been a tiring day for Jesus and his disciples.  Near the shores of the Sea of Galilee, followed as he always was by a throng of believers requesting the miracle of healing, Jesus had fed 4,000 with five loaves of bread and two fish.

It had been his first miracle of the day.

He then sent his disciples by boat to Capernaum, on the other side of the lake, while he remained on shore to pray.

Night fell.  A storm arose, and the boat became caught in the violent waves.

The disciples rowed against the wind most of the night, without success, and while still a long distance from shore, even these seasoned fishermen became justifiably terrified.

But then the second and most amazing miracle of the day occurred.  They saw Jesus inexplicably walking on the surface of the water.

In an act of immense courage, Peter asked to come to Jesus and stepped down out of the boat into the raging sea.

Here we find the crucial moment in the story:  Peter became afraid of the storm and sank beneath the surface.

Jesus saved him of course, rebuking Peter and challenging him in one of the most quoted verses in the Bible:

“You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”   Matthew 14:31 NIV

This passage proves that Jesus had control over nature, illustrates the importance of faith, and describes the setbacks we might expect if our faith is lacking.

While thousands of words have been written about this one event over the centuries, one theme has received less attention than it deserves.

It is also the story of the tremendous courage, fortitude and faith required of Peter to get out of the boat in the first place.

~

The Challenges of Jesus in Modern Online Business — The New Wave Walker

Nearly 2,000 years have come and gone since Peter, the life-long fisherman, became a disciple and stepped out of the boat into history.

As businessmen and women of faith, perplexed and concerned as we are by the more complicated vagaries of life in the 21st century, what lessons can we learn from this important biblical story?

What wisdom can we apply toward our businesses, to do things that matter, and to make a difference in the world?

I recently had the pleasure of meeting online with a spiritually dedicated businessman from Cincinnati, Ohio.  His name is Tim Reif, and his inspiring story has guaranteed my rapt attention.

For more than a decade, while working diligently in his small business, Tim had a much larger and more complicated dream — a dream that is the epitome of Matthew 14.

It’s a brand new business called Wave Walker.

Ostensibly a trademarked Christian clothing and jewelry line, his vision is really more of a broad movement, similar to Promise Keepers, and a business completely devoted to representing the principles of Jesus across the world, done with passion and single-minded dedication, like Chick-fil-A or Hobby Lobby.

Here are nine of my initial thoughts, taken from scripture and shared with Tim, that might be useful in directing Wave Walker, or any business, from a biblical perspective.

Nine Broad Spiritual Ideas

1.  Be Strong and Courageous

Thirteen separate times in the Bible, God tells us to be strong and courageous.*

He is speaking to different individuals and groups, through different authors and at different times, separated by hundreds of years.

It is safe to assume, therefore, that he means for us to pay strict attention.

So I consider this first spiritual idea one of the most crucial recommendations made in the last two thousand years.

Strength and courage — in our beliefs and daily struggles — are mandatory for success.  They are a condition precedent, without which we would never get out of the boat.

2.  Dream Big

… to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us …

— Ephesians 3:20 NIV

For many believers, there is an apparent paradox between a desire to remain humble and unselfish, and an understanding that a loving and all-powerful God wants to bless those who love him, beyond their wildest imaginations.

The deeper you believe his promises, the fewer contradictions will seem to appear.

He does, in fact, want to bless you immeasurably, and he has the unequalled power to do so.

God promises to reward those who believe in him without qualification.  He also promises that if you first seek the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, all other things that you need will be given to you.

So, you should always dream big; not out of avarice or a desire for self-aggrandizement, but out of faith.

3.  Be Open to Learning

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
— Mark 6:34 NIV

Jesus Christ referred to himself as the good shepherd.  

There are several truths embedded in this definition:

  • Like sheep, not the wisest of animals in Creation, we have a great deal to learn.
  • Some would argue that learning itself is our principal reason for being in this world to begin with.
  • Like a good shepherd, his love for all of us is unbounded.
  • His love for children is well-documented throughout his teachings, and he loves them because the love they return to him is simple, trusting and uncomplicated.
  • An enormously productive business prayer, therefore, is to pray for wisdom, not success.

4.  Expect Disappointments

Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.
— Psalm 126:5-6 NIV

You should expect and welcome disappointments.

There will be many, especially at the beginning of any enterprise.

With the right attitude of trust and assurance of God’s blessings, they will be reliable and worthwhile chances for growth.

In business, as in life, instant success can be a long-term liability, if it comes without hardship, striving and trust.

A few tears along the way, will water and nourish the seeds that grow into long-term joy.

5.  Collaborate With Others

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
— Romans 12:4-5 NIV

Collaboration, with as many spiritually motivated individuals or businesses as appropriate and possible, is a grand idea.

Wisdom shared, is success guaranteed.

Fellowship is as important and fulfilling in business circles as it is in a church family.

The sharing of burdens, and the gifts that spring from their thoughtful removal by collaboration, become business assets that cannot be duplicated when you are always working alone.

God is always with you, which is the most amazing of all collaborations, but when he delivers on his promises, sharing the results with fellow travelers is the very definistion of success.

6.  Help the Poor

They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor, their righteousness endures forever; their horn will be lifted high in honor.
— Psalm 112:9 NIV

Fundamental to God’s desire to bless your business, is to use it as a guaranteed vessel for helping the poor.

Everything you do, every plan you consider, and every strategy you employ, must have this as a central component.

It’s not enough to have good intentions; you must have concrete, demonstrable and ineluctable plans in place to share your profits, hiring practices and corporate largesse, with those who are less able to provide support for themselves.

7.  Work Diligently

Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.
— Ecclesiastes 11:6 NIV

There is absolutely no substitute, especially in a God-blessed and God-purposed business, for hard work.

You will be rightly expected to work longer, more consistently and more reliably than any similar business person with less noble aspirations.

God will supply the strength, courage and persistence necessary, if you simply make yourself available to do his will.

8.  Use Success to Spread the Gospel

“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.’
— Luke 14:23 NIV

Importantly, all of your effort and all of God’s blessings, presuppose that you are motivated by sharing his love with others.

You should have no more pressing responsibility than to give him glory, obedience and gratitude by spreading his good news throughout the world.

9.  Don’t Worry

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 6-7 NIV

Most business owners assume disciplined worry is a requirement of being in business for yourself.

For decades, I did.

While it is certainly true that you must be circumspect about your decision-making process, careful with strategy and tactics and a steward of the resulting profits … it is not a requirement to worry.

God promises that if you trust him completely, and gratefully ask him for what you actually need, (believing without reservation that it will be provided), it will be given to you eventually.

It won’t be easy, or comfortable always, but along the way he will provide you with a remarkable sense of peace that you can get nowhere else.

I recognize that this is a tall order for any of us; but I can assure you, with empirical evidence from my own personal experience, that it is absolutely true and completely reliable.

If you have the courage to get out of the boat — if you honor God and follow his divine guidance completely, (especially when your mind tells you to take another course), your ultimate destination will be exactly where you are supposed to be.

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*Strong and Courageous in the Bible:
Joshua 1:6, 1:7, 1:9, 1:18, 10:25
Deuteronomy 31:6, 31:7, 31:23
1 Chronicles 16:13, 22:13, 28:20
2 Chronicles 32:7
Ezekiel 22:14

Watch this space for future additions to the Wave Walker strategy; including new articles, future website locations, social media venues, crowdfunding campaigns and supporting documents.

NEW ARTICLE:  How Does It Feel To Be A Wave Walker?

The Wave Walker website is now live.

My Review: “New businesses, as well as new websites, come and go — but Wave Walker is something entirely different. Wave Walker is a clarion call to every heart, mind and spirit in the world, that Jesus Christ lives; hope exists in the face of hopelessness; strength and courage will be rewarded; and notably, that there is immense value in the power of never giving up!  Tim Reif carried this dream, day and night, for more than a decade; through doubt, adversity and storms of every kind; but he still “got out of the boat”.  Please join me in giving Wave Walker a rousing welcome, as a dream that never died, in a heart that never faltered!”

aBusinessisBorn

 

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THE BIBLE MAY BE SUMMARIZED IN ONE WORD: LOVE

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How many times have you been asked by a friend or associate, when they first learn of a book you strongly recommend: What’s it about?”

Most authors, myself included, have been asked this question in countless elevators, about their own literary creations, only to stumble while searching for a succinct answer.

Modern books have far too many similarities.  They tend to be relatively short, formulaic and predictable.  They average 64,000 carefully chosen words, written by one or two collaborative and closely affiliated authors, with the widest possible target audience, who have been carefully identified in advance as buyers.

For successful authors, book sales are virtually assured; pricing is whatever the traffic will bear; and respected writers sometimes become wealthy.

With all of this predictability and homogenized content, however, they still are challenging to summarize.

The King James Bible, on the other hand, is enormous, (783,139 words), varied, (prose, poetry, history and song lyrics), and almost entirely unpredictable.

It was written by 40 different authors, on three continents, in three different languages; and had a target audience of every human being, both living and yet to be born; most of whom would be altogether disinterested.

It is often given away; banned entirely in many countries; and none of the authors were rewarded, but instead died ignominious deaths.

The comparison is obvious and striking.

Of course, according to Guinness World Records, the Bible is the best-selling book of all time with over 5 billion copies sold and distributed.

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The surprising and awe-inspiring difference between modern books and the Bible, is that the Bible can be summarized in a single word:

That word is “LOVE”.

For this reason, a direct avenue to God can be found by first following the Bible’s teachings about love itself.

Love is the quintessence of God’s intended relationship with mankind, mentioned more than 500 times in the Bible, and its words will teach us everything we ever need to know — about loving God, each other, and ourselves.

1.  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16 NIV

No discussion of God’s love would be complete, without His most amazing, sacrificial example, reposing as it always has, at the zenith of everyone’s list.

If you are a father, think of your only child as you ponder this notion:

Suppose, that without being asked, or compelled in any way, you offered your only son as a sacrifice, for potentially billions of selfish, disobedient and unappreciative individuals, that you had never met in person; allowing him to suffer and die a hideous death, so that complete strangers might live and be blessed.

In your own frame of reference, on your best day, would such a selfless act be even remotely possible?

Not very likely, is it?

And yet, that is precisely what the King of the Universe did for each and every one of us.

2.  A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you …
— John 13:34 NIV

There were already 613 commandments given to the Children of Israel, referenced in the Old Testament.  And yet when Jesus walked the Earth, he offered an entirely new commandment: Love one another, as I have loved you.

Noticeably not a prohibition, limiting freedom and choice; it was an entirely new type of command; a command of encouragement; encouraging behavior that had been almost non-existent before in human history.

It spawned a spiritual revolution, as a harbinger of wonderful things to come.

If you ever need to know where to find truly reliable love — love someone else first.

3.  Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:7

Since time immemorial, caring members of the human family have been trying to know God and understand love.

Libraries and concert halls, bookstores and music shops, Hallmark cards and iPods, have nearly burst from the effort.

And yet, all the while the answer was simple and straightforward:

To love God is to know Him, and to know God is to understand love.

The two imponderables in human existence are God and love. We may never understand them both, certainly not while clinging to our terrestrial life, but we are indisputably here to make progress.

Love alone may not be the complete answer; but it is most certainly the most direct path.

4.  There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear …
— 1 John 4:18 NIV

We live in a decidedly precarious world, at a precariously fearful time.

We are surrounded on every side by unspeakable terror and unimaginable evil.

As frail humans, we have little natural armor to protect us from the ravages of fear.

Fortunately, God understands.

And in His perfect way, He provides us with His perfect love, which acts not merely as a shield, but drives out fear completely.

~

The next time you are tempted to say “I love you” to someone, keep in mind what a sacred word you are about to use.

Entire civilizations have risen and fallen in its wake.

Battles have been bloodily engaged, and wars have been won or lost at its threshold.

And our Almighty King, Creater of the Universe, and Holy God, sacrificed His only Son, in its name.

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This article is the third in the Light of the World series.  To read the first article, click here.

To read the second article, click here.

Watch for the next article, a true labor of love for me, entitled:

FAITH, HOPE AND LOVE:
Experiencing Heaven Now.

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THE SEARCH FOR HEAVEN: Transformative Power of Love

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Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.  —  Matthew 6:33 KJV

Where is Heaven?  How do we get there?  What will be waiting for us when we arrive? And perhaps most provocatively, is Heaven a final, eternal, destination, or a continuation of the marvelous journey toward fully understanding God, and feeling in our hearts what it means to be loved?

Even in the 21st Century, we certainly do not have all the answers; or even a paltry few; but we do share some crucial questions with generations of theologians, scientists and ordinary people, who have come before us.

FinalfacebookJesusAs an unapologetic man of faith, and humble follower of Jesus Christ, I believe that all knowledge comes from seeking first the Kingdom of God, as promised in the first book of the New Testament; which is precisely why I have chosen the Search for Heaven to open this series of articles.

My objective is not to convince, but rather to invite all those who continuously search for ultimate Truth, to take a few steps along this journey with me, as we explore the mysteries of God through the eyes of faith.

 

The Journey Begins With Humility

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All journeys worth taking must begin with humility.

God created us as sentient beings; blessed with a brain with which to reason, but obligated by a conscience with which to search tirelessly for divine wisdom.

The beginning of all knowledge — as Socrates suggested — and the object of wisdom; is to accept that we know very little for certain.

The thoughts contained in this article are examples of Socratic questioning, ie. disciplined questioning that can be used to pursue thought in many directions, and for many purposes, including to explore complex ideas and to get to the ultimate truth.

From Parables to Paradise

When the Earth was blessed with the physical presence of the Lord, we knew a great deal less than we do today.

We understood so little back then, as a world of fishermen and shepherds, that it was necessary to learn about the Kingdom of God through parables.

KOGTwo centuries later and a world away, we understand that the Earth is not flat, the atom is not the smallest particle of creation, God’s creative power is unlimited, and with current events as a yardstick, there is apparrently no depth below which mankind may sink — out of hatred, prejudice and sin.

Now, more than ever, we need to find Heaven; not just as a destination, but as a journey; not just as an exit ramp, but as a roadsign pointing to God.

Many insist they have been there, and returned.

Most recently, and compellingly, the three-year-old pastor’s son, Colton Burpo, from the staggeringly believable book and movie, Heaven is for Realmakes even non-believers pay strict attention.

But urgent questions remain.

soul900

If every human being has a living soul that leaves the body after death, where in the body is it located, and why have we never found it during life?

In Latin, there is an expression: reductio ad absurdum, which when translated means reduced to absurdity.

Originating with the earliest and most profound Greek philosophers, and simply stated, it means that:

An argument is not valid, if a false, untenable, or absurd result follows from its acceptance.

For example:

  • The Earth cannot be flat, otherwise we would find people falling off the edge.
  • Rubbing a lucky rabbit’s foot cannot help you pass your Physics exam, otherwise you could use it to make your mom’s cancer go away, your father get a new job, or your family win the Lottery, and of course, every atheist’s favorite argument …
  • An all-loving God cannot exist, otherwise there would be no terrorist massacres, natural disasters, plane crashes or incurable diseases.

Is the notion that we all have living souls; souls that always leave our bodies when we die, and occasionally leave as we near death; simply a poetic creation of ancient biblical writers, with no possible foundation in modern reality?

Or is it something else entirely?

Is it merely a lovely, spiritual idea — one that brings solace to our broken hearts whenever we need it most; as skeptics sometimes suggest — but not a scientific possibility?

Is it simply a normal, routine, neurological event; caused by the biological shutting down of the brain; or is it something much more complicated, completely misunderstood and Divinely orchestrated; requiring quantum mechanical leaps into alternate dimensions, and requiring enormous power.

Perhaps if we broaden our minds just a bit, and review the options dispassionately, the resulting discussion will prove fruitful.

Near Death Experiences

In the United States alone, according to a Gallup poll of the adult population done in 1992, an estimated 13 million Americans have had NDEs (Near Death Experiences).  Since the U.S. population in 1992 was 260 million, that equates to a whopping 5% of the population.

How significant is this percentage?

Every person we know, has had someone in their family die from cancer.  Yet out of the 2016 population of 322 million in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society, there will be only 595,690 cancer deaths, or .001845%.

In other words, if my math is correct, it is 27 times more likely that an American will experience his soul leaving his body than dying from cancer.

Despite the ubiquity of near death experiences, no empirical, or scientific proof of any kind, has ever been found of the human soul or spirit.  Does it follow, reductio ad absurdum, that the human soul or spirit does not exist?

Let’s use vanguard scientific thinking to further investigate this potentially life-altering question.

Modern Science Points to Answers

Like many others in my generation, it was in science class, during my freshman year in high school, that I was first introduced to the atom.  

No one had actually seen one with the naked eye, of course, (much too small), but science insisted they were there and that was more than enough for me at the time.

AtomAtomic Structure, as it became known, was another idea originally floated by the ancient Greeks.

It’s hard to believe, 50 years later, but at the time our high school text books insisted that the atom was the smallest building block of all matter in the universe.

Atoms were composed of a variable number of electrons, circling wildly around a nucleus, which was composed of protons and neutrons.

Atoms combined to make molecules, and molecules combined to make human cells.

Simplified models of the atom were created to explain these tiny relationships, and interestingly, at the other extreme of scientific thought and immense size, so were models of our solar system.

Significantly, these models were provocatively similar in appearance, and for me at least, planted an ineluctable, intellectual seed, arguing forcefully in favor of a Divine Creator.

Seemingly lost in this advancement of knowledge, was a fascinating and startling corollary proposition:

The vast expanse of all atoms, solar systems, galaxies, and even the Universe itself … is 99.9996% empty space.

emptyspaceIt has been argued, by much more astute minds than mine, that there is enough empty space between every atomic nucleus and its orbiting electrons, to park a relatively-sized Mack truck — more than enough room for the soul and spirit to reside, we just don’t know how.

It has also been argued by some, that we are naturally blind to the implications of this empty space, for perfectly legitimate reasons dealing with the eternal nature of the souls we are attempting to locate.

Said simply; we are not yet supposed to know.

Instead of losing you entirely in the empty space weeds, by making the entire idea even more complicated by injecting quantum physics into the mix, let me posit one alternative approach:

Suppose, for sake of argument, that this enormous empty space, is by design.  

Suppose further, that the empty space was not merely unkown until this modern day … it was intentionally and divinely unknowable.

We now understand that the atom is decidely not the smallest unit of matter in the Universe, nor is the electron that orbits around it.

In fact, we have discovered, categorized and named, 18 known types of smaller elementary particles called leptons; including muons, tauons and neutrinos.

Amazingly, as recently as today’s headlines, the previously obscure and tantalyzing empty space idea has emerged as a potentially mundane addition to computer storage technology.

Nanotechnology will soon allow computer storage at the sub-atomic level.

Amazingly, computer storage requirements — that during my lifetime alone have grown from a minimum room-sized area for the original Univac computer in 1951, costing over a million dollars, to a microchip-sized memory which can be purchased at any Walgreen’s Drugstore for less than $20 — will soon inhabit the empty space between atoms.

Ponder that for a moment.  In the space of 50 years, the imponderable and unimaginable, is becoming the simple and commonplace.

With this level of exponential intellectual growth, what incredible breakthroughs can we logically anticipate in the next few years?

The Prophecy of Daniel

explosionofinfoIn the 1980s, research at CERN in Switzerland by British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee resulted in the World Wide Web.

As happened to biblical literacy in the 15th Century, when Gutenberg invented the moveable type printing press which made the bible widely and generally available to the common man; the vast public suddenly has access to every growth spurt in cosmology, physics, neuroscience and technology.

Resurrection Power – The Power of the Son

Beginning in April, 1932, when brilliant scientists split the atom for the first time, we began the Herculean task of identifying nuclear power — the power of the Sun.

13 years later, in August, 1945, we unleashed that unimaginable power, bringing World War II to an end.

Over the years we have attempted to fully understand and harness that power, and the spectatcular mysteries explored by that single event have placed mankind at the epicenter of a shockwave that has permanently altered our capacity for good — and for destruction.

In 2008, 10,000 scientists collaborated to open the Large Hadron Collider; the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator; housed in a 27-kilometer tunnel, buried 574 feet beneath the France-Switzerland border.  Its task?  To accelerate two opposite beams of sub-atomic particles to nearly the speed of light, and forcing them to collide with each other, to test unsolved questions of physics and enhance mankind’s understanding.

Perhaps one day, through our incredible and exponentially increasing scientific knowledge and immense wealth, we will come to understand the extraordinary power God used to bring His crucified Son back to life, in a simple tomb, 2,000 years ago, simply by deciding to do so.

And perhaps we will finally learn the mystery of our souls’ ability to leave our bodies in search of Heaven.

The Bible records a prophetic recommendation in the Book of Daniel:

But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.
Daniel 12:3-4 KJV

We were promised an explosion of knowledge, near the end of this earthly journey.  It was destined to occur, has already begun and the world will never be quite the same.

As we look closer at the divine creation of God; as we dig deeper and deeper into His mysteries; and as we more completely understand the infinite power released by the atom when it is split; will we discover the simple truth that our souls reside exactly where God intended them to be all along?

As we harness His imponderable power, we may come to understand the most important mystery of all … the infinite power of the resurrection, that enabled our Lord Jesus Christ to defeat death — the power of the Son.

The Transformative Power of Love

And now these three remain:
faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV

Jesus-CrossWe stand together now, a blessed generation, poised at the epicenter of an intellectual and spiritual shockwave, that has permanently changed our world.

If we wish to resolve the apparent dichotomy between science and God, our remaining task is to expand our abilities and knowledge, refine our thinking, deepen our prayers and redouble our efforts to understand and appreciate our loving God, and the science He uses for His divine purposes.

But one final question eludes purely scientific explanation: why?

We may come to understand the scientific answers to how God accomplishes His will, but unless we understand why He wishes to do so, we have actually accomplished very little.

To ask the ultimate question, and to grasp the ultimate answer, we must understand what it means to be loved.

Why would an omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent God, sacrifice His only Son to an incredibly painful death — for usually selfish, constantly sinful and seldom attentive mankind?

Because He loves us.

Why would He help us to understand His ways, when understanding isn’t necessary for salvation?

Because He loves us.

Why would He create a beautiful, glorious, and eternal Heaven — a place without fear, or pain or death; replete with vibrant colors and grand surroundings — as a final destination for those who believe in Him?

Because He loves us.

And why, for a fortunate few, would He give a glimpse of Heaven, before we make the final and everlasting journey?

Because He loves us.

Our time on this Earth is limited; our present capacity for learning is insufficient; and our human ability to love is inadequate; but since we are created in His magnificent image, He only requires three ingredients from us:

Faith, Hope and Love … and the greatest of these is Love.

~

One Final Thought:

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Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.  Psalm 37:4

Tears may flow in the night, but joy comes in the morning.  Psalms 30:5

Far too many kind and wonderful men and women, spend their lives loving the Lord, sometimes enduring terrible suffering or great loss, and waiting patiently to spend a blissful eternity in Heaven.

They have been promised the desires of their hearts, and joy in the morning.

For all these many kind souls, my last thoughts are for you.

We serve a Lord who always keeps his promises.  

Never forget that for a moment, and begin every morning in joyful anticipation of the Heaven you can enjoy today, without leaving home.

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(This is the second article, in the Light of the World series, that explores the profound nexus between science and God.  To read the introductory article, click here.)

 

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LIGHT OF THE WORLD SERIES: Where Science Finally Meets God

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INTRODUCTION

Throughout the centuries of mankind’s convoluted history, there has existed a basic dichotomy between science and the teachings of Jesus Christ.

FinalfacebookJesusSeeming to be mutually exclusive, the scientific vs. biblical explanations of who we are, where we came from and where we’re going eventually, have been at life-altering odds.

Wars have been fought, countless martyrs have died, entire nations have been raised up or destroyed, all with this fundamental quarrel as a contributing factor.

Scientists and theologians, (of which I am neither), on opposite sides of this massive human divide, have argued strenuously, and often disparagingly, against their counterparts on the other side.

 For now we see through a glass; darkly …

 — 1 Corinthians 13:12 KJV

Over the years, this one verse has become the centerpiece for a cultural phenomenon.

It is central to several films, 12 important works of fiction and non-fiction, at least 4 notable poems, 6 pieces of music, 12 culturally important television shows and countless articles on the Internet.

But what does it mean, and why has it become increasingly important in today’s world?

We have been looking at the human future through impossibly primitive glasses; not just out-of-focus, but so dark as to be completely opaque.  It has been like attempting to read a complicated text, wearing dark sunglasses, in a pitch-black room.

Is it any wonder that competing explanations for what’s really going on have flourished?

Of course not.

However, it can be said with some empirical justification, that our relatively primitive minds have been incapable of grasping much more than the miniscule amount of information we have been given so far.

From the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden, through the burning bush on God’s mountain; to the Ark of the Covenant during 40 years in the desert with the Children of Israel, a loving God has given us the minimum knowledge needed to preserve our lives and slightly deepen our understanding.

He has asked us to proceed with child-like faith, His trademark idea.  It has been excruciatingly difficult at times, frustrating and confusing.

But He gave us this important promise; a profound prophecy hidden away in the biblical Book of Daniel:

But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.
Daniel 12:4 KJV

Thousands of years passed, until the Internet was created, and everything began to change.  Wikipedia explains it this way, matter-of-factly:

In the 1980s, research at CERN in Switzerland by British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee resulted in the World Wide Web … Since the mid-1990s, the Internet has had a revolutionary impact on culture, commerce, and technology.

Not to mention, I hasten to point out, the centuries old chasm separating science from God and His son, Jesus Christ.

The New York Times, not particularly noted for its philosophical or religious discussions, asked this question on October 30, 2013:

Key Question: How are the goals and practices of science and religion similar, and how might the two domains be brought together?

How indeed?

The following series of articles have been percolating inside my mind, like a tin coffee pot over a raging campfire, for some time.

Over the next several weeks, with your kind indulgence, I plan to investigate the nexus between science and God, in a fashion I hope you find interesting, illuminating and perhaps provocative of new ideas.

The first article is entitled:

THE SEARCH FOR HEAVEN
and the Transformative Power of Love

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SURVIVING THE STORMS OF LIFE: Releasing the Imponderable Power of God

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It’s early in the morning, when the sun rises majestically from an azure-blue ocean and caresses the waves, with just a hint of breeze.

The lovely sound of the water gently touching your boat, is the only reminder that you are floating in the Caribbean, and not in Heaven.

It seems like the peaceful day will last forever.

But then a dark cloud appears from nowhere, blotting out the sun, and soon a storm is raging around you from all sides.

By complete surprise, the tranquil morning becomes a nightmare of darkness and dread.

These are the storms of life — and when we become trapped by one, we can experience every negative emotion known to man.

It’s at times like these, when our very survival hangs in the balance, that we pray for miracles and we most need the imponderable power of God.

Life Is Not Smooth Sailing

Life is not smooth sailing.  It was never meant to be.

Instead, it’s a voyage you undertake with God, through unpredictable and uncharted waters, that tests your faith and proves His love.

The worst storms in our lives are the ones that come without warning.

We all suffer through our own private storms:  Financial catastrophes, the end of a prized relationship; the loss of a desperately needed job; the ravages of unexpected illness; and the death of a loved one, with its crushing loneliness, being perhaps the worst.

There will be times when you have reached the end of your endurance, and you may feel that nothing but a miracle can save you.

“As the storm continues to rage,” the wonderful Christian writer, Cherie Hill, explains, “you suddenly realize that there’s no lifeboat—there’s no quick escape. You’re on your own. Usually, very quickly, the terror sets in; with it comes despair and hopelessness. The desperation that overcomes you, suddenly, becomes more than you can withstand.”

The wonderful news is, miracles are always possible — and the imponderable power of God is always available — you just need to know where to find them and the secrets necessary to make them happen.

The Secrets

The secrets to receiving God’s miracles in your life are deceptively simple to understand, yet incredibly difficult to master.  Why are they so difficult to master? Because of how they must begin.

They begin with three pivotal prerequisites:

1. You must know that God always keeps His promises.

2. You must know that it is easily within His power to grant your request.

3. And most imortantly, you must know that if you believe and trust, without doubt, He will make the impossible possible.

Jesus explains this promise to his Disciples in one incredible verse:

Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.

—  Mark 11:23 NIV

 

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HONORING YOUR PARENTS: How to Release Prosperity Into Your Life

Honor your father and mother, (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth.
— Ephesians 6:2-3 NASB

Bob Sawvelle, the increasingly influential author and dynamic pastor of Passion Church, in Tucson, Arizona, shared this insightful parenting thought in a recent sermon:

Discipline is important, but love is the greatest change agent.

Stressing the importance of honoring your parents, Pastor Sawvelle explained the relationship between love, obedience and prosperity in a way that struck an important chord with me.

He seemed to be saying: Pay attention while you’re young, learn to love sacrificially, and honor your parents with obedience, because someday you too will be one.   We are commanded directly by God to honor our parents. And when we obey this commandmentsomething very important and special happens.

According to Wikipedia, by the time of Jesus’ birth, there were already a dizzying number of commandments that had been given by God to the Hebrews — 613 to be exact.

In Ephesians 6:2-3 above, the Apostle Paul reported that it was the “first commandment with a promise”.  Why is this scriptural fact so worthy of note?

By way of explanation, let me give you an embarrassing glimpse into my own childhood.

A Rule with a Promise

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Please don’t laugh.  This was me at age 15, an obvious geek, years before it became fashionable to be one.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had been a hopelessly spoiled child growing up.

From the time I was a toddler until this picture was taken for my 1966 Newport High School Yearbook, I had no regular daily chores or undue discipline.

To my credit, I wasn’t rebellious, and my parents never had to worry.  I didn’t smoke, drink or take drugs.  I did well in school, was a champian debater, and the first student body president of my high school.  I even made the varsity teams in track and football, despite the fact that I weighed almost nothing at 120 pounds.

I only remember one rule growing up, and I initially resisted it.

When my father told me to mow our large, lakeside yard before I was allowed to go water-skiing on the weekends, I felt enslaved by his unduly harsh rules, despite the fact that there was only one.

Nothing was more important to me at the time than feeling the exhilerating power of the boat’s engine, as I was rocketed out of the water; the all-encompassing heat of the sun pounding my body and the refreshing spray of the lake’s mist as I leaped over the wake.

It was the closest thing I knew to Heaven, and in a word, it was my first glimpse of prosperity at age 13.

The Backyard Rule

mombytheboathouseI remember the day my father imposed the backyard rule like it was yesterday.

His approach to doing so was unusual, compelling and memorable.

It was quite an event.  With my sweet, smiling mother watching from the side of the boathouse, he methodically explained the new regimen this way:

  • He would first demonstrate how to do it.
  • As he mowed, he would tell me precisely what he was doing.
  • He would then make it my job to do it every weekend from then on.

Surprisingly, I thought at the time, when I finished and stepped into my single water-ski, the experience seemed better somehow.

I had earned it.  I was proud of it.  I felt a sense of accomplishment.  I felt changed.  And I felt loved.

I had learned something enormously valuable that I would remember for a lifetime:  Discipline is important, but love changes everything.

Today, when I look back upon that unforgotten afternoon at the lake, I don’t remember it as an unpleasant chore imposed by a disciplinarian father.  I remember it as an expression, in the only way he was capable of giving it, of his love for me.

He was teaching me the value of obedience.  He was teaching me the meaning of honor.  He was teaching me how best to live a long and prosperous life.

How Jesus Expresses His Love: Show and Tell

One message taught by Jesus, both in words and deeds, as beautifully explained by Pastor Sawvelle, is the life-changing essence of his love.

No other lesson is more crucial to learn; no other skill more important to impart.

If I could change but one aspect of my childhood; if I could relive my early years as a father to my three precious daughters, and improve in one area only, it would be in the expression of love.

Pastor Sawvelle explained it this way:

Jesus did Show and Tell.

  • He demonstrated how to do it.

  • He told his listeners what he was doing.

  • He empowered them to go and do it.

Have you ever heard the methods of Jesus Christ explained more elegantly? Simple, straightforward, precise and affirming.

None of us have perfect parents.  God tells us to honor them anyway.  And to obey.  Why?  “Because,” Pastor Sawvelle humbly but passionately responds, “we are training for reigning.”

If you learn from God — and righteous leaders like Pastor Bob Sawvelle — your future can be a beacon of love and hope, for yourself, your children and everyone you meet.

If you honor your parents, with love and obedience, you have earned God’s promise to release prosperity into your life.

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You can follow Pastor Bob on Twitter @BSawvelle and the Passion Church @PassionTucson and on FaceBook at PassionChurch.

 

 

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WORSHIPPING JESUS: Teaching Explains, Music Compels

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jesusThe Incredible Power of Teaching and Music

It was 51 years ago this month, in Seattle’s Cinerama theatre, that I first witnessed the power of teaching and music, when carefully combined, to tell the story of Jesus Christ.

Nearly two hours into the spectacular movie, The Greatest Story Ever Told, in the last scene before the curtains closed for intermission, Jesus is seen standing in prayer before the tomb of Lazarus.

In a loud voice he shouts: “Lazarus, come forth!”

In one of the most spiritually compelling scenes ever put on film, set against a magical landscape of desert and mountains, Lazarus steps out of his tomb into the sunshine, alive through the power of God’s Son.

As a typical teenager, at that moment I was more interested in my new Ford Mustang, waiting for me in the theatre parking lot, than I was in an ancient story of a man being resurrected by a miracle.

But then something amazing happened.

Over the next five minutes, only a few lines of dialog were spoken, but the music began to swell in the background into a spellbinding rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah.  It quite literally took my breath away.

On the massive screen, a Jewish follower, a previously crippled youth and an aging blind man whose sight Jesus had restored, began rushing headlong from the home of Lazarus in Bethany toward the walls of Jerusalem, where the Roman soldiers were watching.

One soldier called down:  “What has happened?”

“The Messiah has come!” the first breathless man responded.  “A man was dead and now he lives!”

“I was crippled, and now I walk!” the second man shouted.

“I was blind and now I see!” the aging third man said powerfully.

“Who has done this?” the Roman soldier asked.

The old man, having just run across the valley with tears in his previously blind eyes, looking upward at the soldiers on the wall above him and past them toward Heaven, said triumphantly:

“A man called Jesus!”

A few words of dialog, one long sequence of beautifully crafted film and five minutes of extraordinary, compelling music, and like the rest of the audience, I was transfixed.

Then the curtain slowly closed.

Half surprised and half embarrassed, I wiped the unexpected tears from my face and looked around.  Many in the audience were also crying.

In those brief few moments I learned an important lesson about worshipping Jesus in a way that touches the heart:

Teaching explains, music compels.

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In the breathtaking valley surrounding Tucson, Arizona, where magnificent saguaros carpet the desert floor and stately aspen and pine tower high above them on the mountain peaks, you will find a very special church.

Passion Church, where passion for Jesus meets compassion for the world, provides a place where teaching combines elegantly with music, and people are healed.

There you will find Christ’s message — complete, balanced and powerful.

You will find dedicated, humble and unselfish church leaders, who mold that message with consummate skill and divine guidance.

The God-inspired words of Passion’s pastor, Bob Sawvelle, will combine with the compelling music of Glenn Wristen and the worship ministry team.  The entire experience will speak to your soul.

In this often difficult world, where hearts may sometimes be hardened by tearful circumstances, the Passion Church experience may still find a fertile spot to grow.

Like all of God’s creations when perfectly balanced, the wisdom of his teaching and the majesty of his music are uniquely wonderful and express his undying love for all of us.

Words and music, when offered together, will soothe and soften the heart and help prayer to heal.

The Bible tells us:

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

— Colossians 3:16 NIV

 

One Final Thought

Passion Church is much more than well-crafted sermons, beautiful worship and amazing healing services.

There is an ethereal quality to all those people who have dedicated their lives to its message.

Bob Sawvelle — author, speaker and theologian, along with his wonderful wife Carolyn, represent everything that can be good about Christian pastors.

Glenn Wristen, along with a mastery of his music, is a hard working servant of God, with a heart not merely to encourage and uplift those who listen, but a desire to materially improve their lives.  He continually presents ways to help musicians learn and grow, and over the past several years he has taught and empowered several other worship leaders to rise up and lead at Passion Church in powerful and anointed worship.  For Glenn, who is involved with many endless tasks necessary for the church to function, it’s far more than a job, it is a tireless calling.

And for Jason Andersen — a young man of exceptional talent, diverse skills and a fertile, enquiring mind, Passion’s work is never finished.  He is a pleasure and honor to know, and a delightful man to call your friend.

As the church team, they will make your first and every visit to Passion Church, memorable, satisfying and spiritually uplifting.

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You can follow Pastor Bob on Twitter @BSawvelle and the Passion Church @PassionTucson and on FaceBook at PassionChurch.

 

 

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COMPELLED BY LOVE: A Journey Worth Taking

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It’s early on a Sunday morning, nearly 2,000 years ago, when one of the most impactful stories ever told of being compelled by love actually begins.

Being set against an empty garden tomb, it involves a faithful woman named Mary Magdalene, and illustrates the unequalled resurrection power and healing love of Jesus Christ.

Soon the sun would be pounding the sloping garden path she had been walking down a few moments earlier, when dejected, tired and silent, Mary had been on her way to the burial tomb of a gentle rabbi who had once saved her life.

She had made serious moral mistakes, and her neighbors were about to stone her to death in punishment, when a kind and softspoken stranger, with piercing eyes and loving words that stopped the raging mob in its tracks, had reached down and lifted her up to freedom.

His love redefined, transformed and motivated her — changing her life forever.

But now she was filled with sorrow, on a mission to prepare his broken, crucified body for burial — a mission she fervently wished was unnecessary.

But then, something amazing happened.

And now she was retracing her steps, running back up the same path at breakneck speed, filled with excitement like she had never felt before, tears of joy cascading down her cheeks.

Her heart had been in abject despair, but now it was on fire.

Her gentle rabbi, now her resurrected Lord, had kept his most important promise.

He was alive.

Go and tell my brothers,” he had told her, as she ran off, utterly compelled by love and eager to tell the world, starting a spiritual chain reaction the effects of which would continue into eternity.

Perhaps more than any other single event in human history, that one moment changed everything.

“Life is all about love.  God is love, and the most important lesson He wants us to learn on earth is how to love.”
— Pastor Bob Sawvelle, Aug. 2014

With the above words, in an inspiring yet humble sermon, Pastor Bob Sawvelle of Passion Church in Tucson, Arizona, suggests simply and eloquently, what he believes to be God’s most important lesson.

Countless words have been written on the subject over the many years of Christian history, and indeed there may be no more consequential message than the notion expressed in the five simple words: Life is all about love.

But for me, there is something even more unique and powerful about Pastor Sawvelle’s words when they are combined with the suggestion that the most important lesson God wants us to learn on earth is HOW to love.

These remarkably cogent statements are just two examples of why I believe Pastor Sawvelle is worth our time and attention.

Powerful preaching sometimes produces pictures in my mind.

By the closing prayer, if I have learned something new or gained a fresh understanding of God’s Word, I am extremely grateful to the speaker.  It was time well spent.

If in addition, I am transported in my mind to a new and powerful image of God that expands my appreciation of Him, I am thrilled.  It was time well invested and it will pay immense dividends for years to come.

 

Pastor Bob Sawvelle:
The Man and the Message

According to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, there are approximately 350,000 congregations in the United States, with at least 56 million worshipers every week.

At the head of these congregations, you will find loving, unselfish leaders, who have willingly dedicated their lives to helping us find the God-given love and grace we want and need so badly.

Every one of these fine men and women deserve our heartfelt praise and gratitude.

I have learned, in my brief exposure to Pastor Bob Sawvelle, that in him God has a special messenger that epitomizes the qualities of leadership and humility that His love demands of those who would serve him.

He is a biblical scholar, a noted author and the pastor of a growing church — but I have never heard him utter a prideful, envious or boastful word.

His schedule is demanding, but he never seems to lose patience with his circumstances.

I have read his scholarly book, A Case for Healing Today, listened to him speak, and watched him participate in the healing of others, and I have always left those moments with the same experience of him: He has genuine love for others, with absolute love and trust in God.

His unique blend of engineering, theological and church planting skills, combine to make him a passionate, forceful and entirely credible advocate for the notion that God continues to heal the sick today.

He is a humble man of faith, who leads his flock by sharing Christ with others on the street, in schools, the workplace and neighborhoods; while in his own words, “praying for the sick, feeding the poor in church, helping others and stopping for the one.”

He is a man whose life embodies the three qualities the Apostle Paul suggested are crucial: faith, hope and love, and is not only willing to help but feels genuinely compelled to do so.

He would explain that he is compelled by love. 

It is a description I will always associate with him, along with sincere respect, admiration and appreciation.

I am honored and grateful that God has caused our paths to cross.

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You can follow Pastor Bob on Twitter @BSawvelle and the Passion Church @PassionTucson and on FaceBook at PassionChurch.

 

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THINGS THAT MATTER: A Passionate Journey

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It’s a long trip from the mountains of Haiti to the deserts of Tucson, Arizona — but not if you’re passionate about the journey.

For Bob and Carolyn Sawvelle, beginning in 1993, it was a journey of discovery and encounter that was destined to shine a bright and healing light into the lives of many.

It all started with a simple, biblical truth:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. — Hebrews 13:8 NIV

Every journey begins with its proverbial first step.  For Dr. Bob Sawvelle, the journey that would eventually lead him to establish and pastor the Passion Church in Tucson, Arizona, began with the understanding of the simple scripture above.

Jesus hasn’t changed.

He is still healing others today, just as he did 2,000 years ago.

And he performs that incredible mission using ordinary people like you and me.

Influential pastor Randy Clark, praising Pastor Sawvelle’s important book, A Case for Healing Today, had this to say:

It is honest scholarship. It is written not from an ivory tower of a seminary, but from the pastoral context of a church planter. — Dr. Randy Clark.

The praise is well-deserved.

On my first reading, I was impressed with the personal, authentic and heartfelt passion Pastor Sawvelle imparts to every page.

The biblical scholarship, with which he “presents the case for the legitimacy of the Christian healing ministry today,” is remarkable and commendable.

“Christ intended it to be the common ministry practice for all who would believe and follow him,” Pastor Sawvelle states unequivocally, “including the twenty-first-century church.”

“God is a healer,” he continues powerfully, “and He desires to use ordinary Christians in extraordinary ways to reveal His love and compassion toward humanity and to reveal His glory and splendor as His power is released.”

The book emerged out of Pastor Sawvelle’s and Passion Church’s experience with ministering healing prayer to the sick.

Once completed, instead of resting on his scholarly laurels, Pastor Sawvelle did what Jesus would have done, he strode out into the world and healed the sick.

Passion Church has learned to live from what Pastor Sawvelle calls “Encounter Evangelism.” Modeled after the missional model taught by Jesus, Encounter Evangelism brings others into an encounter with both the love and power of God.

As a result, the next leg of his journey was even more passionate than the first.

As he did in the introduction to his book, Pastor Sawvelle makes you a promise. He says, forthrightly and without equivocation:

Passion Church is focused on loving God with all our hearts and loving others like ourselves. We passionately pursue the presence of God, and we worship Him with great passion and freedom in our church services. We long to see the Father’s love released to others who have never experienced His grace and mercy.

I have been away from my Arizona home for a long while, but as soon as I return, I will make it a point and a blessing, to make the short journey to Tucson, to take Pastor Sawvelle and his fellow believers up on his kind promise.

Feel It Yourself

Until you have felt the healing power of Jesus first-hand; until you have had your own health, or the health of someone you love, restored by a loving God who still causes miracles to occur in human lives, and until the mere thought of Him brings uncontrollable tears to your grateful eyes, you cannot completely appreciate the miraculous power of God’s healing.

Until you have witnessed the experience, you cannot fully fathom the mysteries and marvel that await you as a follower of Jesus Christ.  You cannot begin to see that God is a healer.

In Pastor Sawvelle’s own remarkable words:

Christ’s atonement was vicarious for both sin and sickness; therefore, salvation and healing are available through the finished work of the cross.

It is for those who haven’t yet felt this incredible, transformative, gratitude, that a ministry like Passion Church is so important — and so powerfully evangelistic.

You need to feel it yourself.

I hope when I step across the Passion Church threshold for the first time, I will see you there.

You can follow Pastor Bob on Twitter @BSawvelle and the Passion Church @PassionTucson and on FaceBook at PassionChurch.

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THE TOGETHERNESS OF TEARS: Standing in Courage for a Broken World

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Tears are those tiny drops of humanity, miniature messengers, on call to substitute for crippled words. — Max Lucado

We live in a broken world.  From Paris to Brussels, from Sandy Hook to San Bernardino; in America, Europe and the Middle East, the incontrovertible evidence is everywhere.

Is there anything left for us but crippled words?  Yes, absolutely there is.

We can come together, sharing our horror and disbelief at the unfolding tragedies, and forge a world of peace and grace.

A whole new world, not built upon retribution or revenge, but fashioned through sorrow, as a clarion call to the rebirth our Creator has promised.

A world not created by sound bites, but transformed by our weary souls through troubled tears.

Whatever your spiritual tradition, we all share one common characteristic: We are mortal.

President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, four short months before he too was struck down by a bullet, said prophetically:

Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future.  And we are all mortal.

We need to unite.  We need to mourn for those who have been lost, shed a tear for them and rise to our feet with rugged determination.

We must stand courageously beside our fellow members of the human family, stand strongly behind righteous leaders, and stand uprightly, following a just and holy God.

As stewards of this planet, as the beneficiaries of creation and as perhaps the most fortunate generation of mankind since the dawn of time, we have a solemn obligation to stand together.

To be strong and courageous.  To be resolute but kind.  To be humble, as we continue to learn about each other and ourselves.

And to be resilient but determined to do what is right.

As the grateful follower of a Jewish carpenter who died 2,000 years ago at the hands of violent men, but with words of humility and forgiveness in his heart; as a man who is grateful to be alive and free, to be a father and friend; I offer this prayer by Max Lucado, and ask you to join me:

God, may we never be so educated, may we never be so mature, may we never be so religious, that we can see your passion without tears.

 

*To read one of the finest Christian books ever written, follow this link to the Max Lucado website.

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