Archive for April, 2005

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Turning Caves into Cathedrals

April 21, 2005

My current fascination is with the emerging Missionary movement in China as they prepare their people to reach the final frontier: the vast people groups among the Buddhist and Muslim worldviews. In reading one book “Back to Jerusalem” I ran across a heart-enriching story I wanted to share with you.

Two girls in their late teens were called by God to go and preach to a village in the Northwest corner of China, an area that is primarily Muslim. During their first few days in that place, the townspeople found out their purpose and began to persecute them. They would not allow anyone in town to feed them or give them aid in any way. Without food and shelter, the girls wandered around the area, preaching when they were allowed, praying when they were not.

These are teenage girls mind you.

After several days of this, they were very hungry and thirsty and tired. They asked the Lord to help them and He lead them to go to a cave overlooking the town. God literally lead them…they only walked in whatever direction He said to go. They found a cave that was almost hidden from view. In the cave was a small stream that had very fresh water. When they awoke the first morning, they found mushrooms growing all over the cave. They found the mushrooms to be delicious and nourishing, totally satisfying in every way. In fact, they had never tasted mushrooms like it. The cave was clean and dry and had all they needed for their sustenance. They continued to go down into the town day after day, week after week, and even for several years, teaching the people about Jesus.

Finally, some of the villagers became believers in Jesus and a Church was started in that town. With these new converts, they began to teach the Bible with great power and accuracy. More people came to believe. Finally, they were invited by leaders of the village to come and stay in the town. They decided to go back to the cave and sleep there one last night.

In the morning, when the awoke, they were startled to find that there were no mushrooms growing on the floor and no stream flowing in the back. That was their last night in the Miracle Cave. However, they have returned many times over the years. That cave has now been made into a training center, where people can come for prayer and be instructed in how to do ministry.

Hebrews 11 calls people like this “those of whom the world is not worthy.” These two girls gladly accepted hardships and persecution and their reward is now great. Great accomplishments call for great sacrifices.

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Does Marriage Counseling Work?

April 20, 2005

I guess it would depend on how you would define work. I stopped doing couples counseling about ten years ago, because the success rate of Cognitive/behavioral therapy was so small, not just in my counseling experience, but for hundreds of other people I had read.

This article in the New York Times might help to explain why. Listen to this interesting assessment that comes out of the article.

But does marital therapy work? Not nearly as well as it should, researchers say. Two years after ending counseling, studies find, 25 percent of couples are worse off than they were when they started, and after four years, up to 38 percent are divorced.

Many of the counseling strategies used today, like teaching people to listen and communicate better and to behave in more positive ways, can help couples for up to a year, say social scientists who have analyzed the effectiveness of different treatments. But they are insufficient to get couples through the squalls of conflict that inevitably recur in the long term.

Read the whole article. But the reason I don’t do marital counseling is not just because it is relatively ineffective. It is also because I found something that does work. I have found that most people struggle with marriage only because the person they are married to is close enough to get caught up with our real problems; and we are close enough to get caught up with theirs. The real problems we face are based on lies that we have believed about ourselves, about life and about others. We have held these viewpoints since childhood, and unless these lies are confronted, they will destroy not only marriages, but friendships, partnerships, churches and any other kind of relationship.

How can this happen? Very simple. Let’ say a husband believes that he can never trust anyone. He may believe this as a result of having several friends in school cheat him or hurt him. The pain of that memory is still real. Every time his wife comes home later than expected, it triggers that pain. Any time her story doesn’t “seem” to add up, he suspects her and it triggers that pain. Any time she gets angry at him, he feels like she wants to leave and it triggers that pain. Even if she is the model wife, the pain will still be triggered. As he reacts to his pain, he may hurt back. That will then trigger lies that she believes. This vicious cycle will only end when they are away from each other.

But it won’t end. The next person who dares to get close to them receives the same treatment. That is why only 35% of first marriages end in divorce, but 80% of second and subsequent marriages end. We give up easier the second and third time around.

The answer is to let God reveal the lies and speak truth into them. At our counseling ministry here at Gateway, we have several trained people who can help you get to the bottom of these lies.

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Hearing God When You’re Making Decisions – Part 3

April 14, 2005

It was sometime before 5 a.m. and my wife and I were asleep in our camper. Technically, I should have been awake and aware of my surroundings because on that early morning shift I was the Senior High School camp director. We had a full group of campers that year so I elected to bring my truck and camper to the site. My wife was the camp nurse, so we had that wonderful opportunity of sleeping in the same bed with each other, even while roughing it. After 25 years of marriage, we find it hard to sleep without one another occupying that space to our respective sides.

The noise that woke me was the one my ears were tuned to hear. It sounded like muffled voices, snickers and coughs, shuffling feet and abrupt halts and starts to the movements. In short, it sounded like someone was playing a practical joke somewhere on the main part of the campus. My wife, who sleeps lighter than I, was already awake and trying to peer out the window to see if it was our truck having layers of toilet paper applied to it. Quickly I dressed to see if I could ambush the forest felons. What stopped me was a voice. It was the familiar sound of one of our pastoral staff who seemed to be taking charge of the situation.

I just as quickly took off my pants and snuggled back into the blankets. “He’ll take care of it” was all I told my wife, and back to sleep I went. She wasn’t so sure. Something in her spirit told her to go out and check anyway. She started to get dressed to leave, but I stopped her. I didn’t want her to take away my primary source of body heat for something that didn’t need doing. After all, if our assistant pastor couldn’t handle it, who could? I convinced her to go back to bed and leave it to the staff. A good pastor has to learn not to micro-manage.

When I did get up at 6 a.m. I was met with a sight that I cannot describe to you. There are two reasons I cannot do this. One, I want to protect the innocent and two, I don’t want the guilty parties to think I’m telling on them (even though about 10,000 people have probably heard the story around the world by now). I will just say that it was one of the vilest and mean-spirited practical jokes I had ever witnessed against a person. It had all the justification for a lawsuit (which fortunately, due to the grace of the people involved, did not happen). And it was perpetrated not by campers but by some of the people in charge. As a result, the last day of camp was spent explaining why our counselors and leaders had chosen this camp to play one of the worst pranks ever recorded at that location.

In one of the many retrospectives that we went through, my wife and I realized that there were two things we needed to learn. She needed to heed that voice that told her to go out. And I needed to learn to hear that voice at all. She was much more tuned in, which only showed me that she is always much more tuned in. And I needed to be.

This is what we all mess around with. You can’t hear God when making crucial life-decisions if you have not tuned your spirit to hear His voice on a moment-by-moment basis. We are told in the Scriptures to “Pray without ceasing”. I don’t think Paul is saying we need to recite rote prayers all day and night. I conceive of prayer as a running conversation with God. Most people view prayer as making a phone call to God. I see it more as opening up a Nextel connection that can be beeped at any time. God has things to say just as we do. His things are divine and ours are not. Big difference. He knows how to hear our voice…we need to learn to hear His voice all day long.

The best way to do this is to have this running conversation going about all things pertaining to your day. I am not saying that we need God to give us permission for every little thing. But just get into the habit of bringing God into the flow of what we’re doing. That can prevent so many “little” mistakes that actually end up being huge.

For instance, in Joshua chapter 9, a group of people met Joshua and the army of Israel as they were on their campaign to conquer Canaan. These people told Joshua that they were refugees fleeing a foreign war and wanted to take refuge with the Jews. They had ripped clothing and smelled of sweat borne of a long march. Every indication says that they were indeed what they said they were.

But that is far from the truth. They were Gibeonites, residents of the next town scheduled for demolition. They were playing a ruse, hoping to save their lives. When Joshua realized that he had been tricked, he wanted to order them destroyed. But he had promised they could live with the Jews as servants, and God would not allow him to break that promise. God’s warning to Joshua was clear: “You should have checked with me before making that decision.”

Joshua had seen such clear guidance from God up to this point, he was sure he knew how to make a good decision on his own. But in the dangerous playing fields of life, there really aren’t too many decisions we can make that don’t have a number of implications we can’t see. This is why we need to heed that still, small voice that seeks to warn us. You can only do that if you make it a habit to do it many times a day.

So, what I conclude as I look back on the camp situation is that it was more my wife’s fault than mine. Well, not really, but it certainly makes me feel better to conclude it.

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Bob Radio

April 13, 2005

This is not an advertisement, since no one could afford what I would charge to get their name on this eclectic mix of spirituality and nonsense. But I was taken sideways with a billboard the other day for a new radio station. Hopefully by the end of this week, I can post a picture of it. It says (in essence) “Bob Radio: We Play Everything”. That’s right, the radio station is named after this guy Bob. If you listen to it, you find out that Bob is a strange mixture of River-rafting dropout and science fiction guru who listens to Bruce Springsteen, Tanya Tucker and Avril Lavigne. And he just plays this blend of musical twists on the air.

Bob Radio…what does this signify? The Internet has done something to Mainstream Media if nothing else. It has shown the ivory towers that there are people in the world with levels of taste that may actually exceed those who pull the strings. For instance, I have my own radio station. I think my wife and I are the only ones who listen to it, but it is definitely there. I subscribe monthly to a service called Rhapsody, which boasts several hundred thousand albums available. You can pay a monthly fee ($9.95) and listen all you want to any of these albums. Any kind of music you want to listen to is there from Norweigan Jazz to Malian Reggae to Christian Contemporary. But, you can also design your own radio station. You can list up to ten of your favorite artists and then the music service will select random hits from those ten people and play them as long as you want to listen. In a day, you will never repeat a song. I listed Stephen Curtis Chapman, Keith Green, POD, Switchfoot and Mozart on my radio station.

Music is a personal thing and the boom in Ipod sales just confirms that. Everyone who plunks down their 150 CDs onto this electronic wonder can listen to whatever, whenever, wherever and it fits only their taste level. No more having a DJ or a Record Producer telling you what to listen to or what you like.

Mike Radio is on the way. And I don’t care if I’m the only one listening. Take that Bob.

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A First Look at NBC’s "Revelations"

April 13, 2005

Starting this month, NBC will be running a mini-series on the Last Days. This probably won’t be very Biblical in detail (except for maybe some of the references to Bible things…don’t expect to follow the plot from your NIV). Steve Beard, a Seminary drop-out, but a good writer nonetheless, writes this review of this television spectacle.

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Narnia Explored

April 13, 2005

For those fans of Fantasy/Science Fiction or of C.S. Lewis there is a new book out called “A Field Guide to Narnia”. The author of this book has also written another book called “Tolkien and C.S. Lewis: The Gift of Friendship”. You can read this interview with the author of this book in this page from the Breakpoint web site. Both of these books look like winners. I am adding them to my wish list for my birthday.

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