Tuesday, November 30, 2004

50 Years in God's Family

On April 6th, 2002 I celebrated 50 years as a child of God. A half century in God's family. Five decades of knowing Christ as my Savior and Friend. I'd say "Savior and Lord" but He hasn't always been Lord, in my life, sad to say. I can well remember the Sunday morning as a 6-year-old boy when my mother explained God's love to me. We knelt and prayed at the kitchen table and I became a young follower of Jesus. Did I completely understand the decision I'd made? No, but the Holy Spirit did His work and I realized that God had given His Son as a sacrifice for my sin. The pilgrimage hasn't always been easy. The road has had its bumps and detours along the way. But God has been faithful! He has been there each step of the way!

In the midst of life's storms He has been my anchor, my refuge, my lighthouse. A favorite scripture verse has been, "The eternal God is your refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms." (Deuteronomy 33:27) As I look back over 50 years, I'm grateful for the godly influence of Christian parents who led the way.

Even as a boy, the Lord used Christian radio programs like Billy Graham's Hour of Decision and the Back to the Bible Broadcast to encourage me on my journey. Christian visionaries from the past like George Muller and J. Hudson Taylor taught me faith principles that would shape my life. Missionaries like Isobel Kuhn and Jim and Elisabeth Elliot impacted my life through their writings. God has blessed me over the years with faithful Christian friends who stood by me during the good times and the bad.

Looking back, I'm a blessed man. God has lavished His love on me through His Son, Jesus Christ, and allowed me to share His love with a hurting, lost world. Thank you, Father, for reaching down and saving me so many years ago. May my life make a difference in the remaining years that You give me. Thank you! Amen!

On Being Falsely Accused

Several years ago I was falsely accused and when my accuser was asked to name the crime, he wouldn't be specific. Naturally I was surprised, shocked, stunned, saddened and sickened by the incident. For the next few weeks I went over the details of that conversation in my mind time and time again.

Shorty after that accusation was made I picked up an excellent book by Lloyd Ogilvie, Chaplain to the U. S. Senate, entitled "Facing the Future Without Fear". Ogilvie lists a dozen prescriptions for overcoming fear.

Prescription # 7 was meant just for me. "You are secure in God's love. Do not surrender your self-worth to the opinions and judgments of others. When you are rejected, do not retaliate; when you are hurt, allow God to heal you. And knowing the pain or rejection, seek to love those who suffer from its anguish". The writer goes on to say, "Unjust criticism or hostile rejection nearly always says more about the one doing the rejecting than about those who are rejected. In the light of God, we can see the real power at work behind people's hostile words and actions. The King of our lives knows! If we are to blame, it cannot be hidden from Him. And when we are unjustly criticized or condemned, He understands. If the hurt has been caused by distorted attitudes in those who have rejected us, Christ gives us the strength to forgive them."

Perhaps you, too, have been attacked, criticized or falsely accused recently. Your immediate reaction may have been to get even with the accuser. Why not let God deal with it. Rest in the knowledge that God knows your heart. He will vindicate you.

For we know Him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay." (Hebrews 10:30) He will give His peace in the midst of the storm. "For He Himself is our peace." (Ephesians 2:14)

Head Start . . . A Poem

Many years ago during a particularly difficult time, the Lord gave me a poem/song that lifted the burden. I've quoted it countless times since then. God knows our needs before we even ask. The answer may already be on the way. Trust the Provider. He has never failed!

Our Great High Priest above,
In righteousness arrayed;
Presents our every need to God
Before we've even prayed.

Jehovah is His name,
Our needs He will provide;
His Word declares it to be true
And He has never lied.

- David W. Fisher

Holding God's Hand

Several years ago my son, who was 5 at the time, begged me to take him on a hike through a densely treed forest. An old trail was vaguely visible through the tangled mesh of vines and rotting branches. Several times we stumbled as we trekked through the bush. Matthew asked me what we'd do if we got lost. I reassured him that I knew the way back and we'd be alright. We crossed an old man-made suspension bridge with a few rotting boards that we had to step around. Matthew was enjoying his "adventure" and when I asked if he was scared he quickly responded with a definite "no". When questioned if he'd like to make the trip back to the car by himself he quickly said "no" and told me he'd be afraid if he was alone. He said that having his hand in mine made him brave and afraid of nothing. You get the point! Take God's hand as you venture into the unknown. He knows what lies ahead. Let Him take you through to a "wider place". There's no fear when He's leading the way.

"For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear; I will help you." Isaiah 41:13

Toads, Tractors and Temptation

Recently while cutting the lawn on old faithful, John Deere, I narrowly missed decapitating a small toad as it slowly made its way across the yard. Each time I approached the little creature it would jump just far enough to avoid sure death from the fast-spinning blade. Finally, after I'd circled the front yard about four times, the toad took off in another direction thus assuring itself of a longer life.

Playing With Fire

Being the contemplative sort that I am, I thought of how similar to that toad we humans can be. When temptation lures us we move back a step, remaining as close to the fire as possible without getting burned. The possibility of danger has a strange attraction. The Bible tells us to "flee". Instead we back up a bit. The most-quoted "temptation" passage in scripture is 1 Corinthians 10:13 where the Apostle Paul assures us that "He (God) will also provide a way out . . .".

Usually the most effective "way out" is to run in the opposite direction. Fast! James concludes his "temptation" account (James 1:13-16) by saying, "Don't be deceived, my dear brothers." I echo the words of Paul and James and add, "Don't be a toad! Get out of the way! Run in the other direction! Fast!"

Reflections from a Tree Stand

Recently a good friend, a deer hunter, related to me how God often speaks to his heart in the early morning hours while he's been sitting, quiet and still, in a tree stand. I've heard that it's darkest just before dawn. My friend agrees. He said that while waiting in the darkness for a deer to venture by, God would seemingly peek over the eastern horizon bringing glimpses of the dawn with His heavenly gaze.

View from a Tree Stand

As He'd look out over the landscape He'd speak peace and assure my friend of His eternal presence and watch-care over His people. What a way to begin a new day! With the Father's gentle reminder that He is always there. Even though we can't see Him, He's looking out over His creation, His people, and seeing every need, every care, every heartache. What about you? Are you going through a dark trial right now? Are you stumbling in the shadows and can't find your way. Look up! Even though you can't see His face or discern His voice, He is there, peeking over the misty horizon of your life . . . and He cares. Call out to Him. He will answer in the darkness and give you His wonderful Light, the Morning Star.

"We couldn't be more sure of what we saw and heard - God's glory, God's voice. The prophetic Word was confirmed to us. You'll do well to keep focusing on it. It's the one light you have in a dark time as you wait for daybreak and the rising of the Morning Star in your hearts." (1 Peter 1:19) - The Message

God's Abundant Supply

One of my favorite authors over the years has been Watchman Nee. I've enjoyed two of his devotional books, "A Table in the Wilderness" and "Through the Year with Watchman Nee" since I was in my early twenties. Recently I came across one of his meditations that has always blessed and encouraged me. In these days of financial stress it's refreshing to know that the Great Provider still meets our every need. Here are a few pertinent points from this beloved author. He takes his text from 1 Kings 17:9 "Arise, get thee to Zarephath; behold I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee."

"Because of our proneness to look at the bucket and forget the fountain, God has frequently to change His means of supply to keep our eyes fixed on the source. So the heavens that before sent us welcome showers become as brass, the streams that refreshed us are allowed to dry up and the ravens that brought our daily food visit us no longer. But then God surprises us by meeting our needs through a poor widow woman, and so we prove the marvellous resources of God.

We are the representatives of God in this world, and we are here to prove His faithfulness. Our attitude, our words and actions must all declare that He alone is our Source of supply, or He will be robbed of the glory that is His due. He who sees in secret will take note of our needs, and He will meet them, not in stinted measure, but 'according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus'."

May we trust Him implicitly to do what He has said He will do. He is Jehovah Jireh, our Provider and He has never failed !!!

Free Ticket to Heaven

Little did Jim Florada know, while strolling through the lobby of a downtown Toronto hotel, that an invitation to breakfast from a stranger would change his life for time and eternity.

Several Toronto Blue Jay ballplayers were sharing their faith at an outreach sponsored by Athletes in Action in the spring of 1987. We had reserved a table for 10 but found we had an extra ticket. I went to the lobby to find someone to join us. An elderly man was walking toward me and I asked if he'd like to join us for breakfast. He consented and listened intently as Joe Johnson, a pitcher with the Blue Jays, explained how he'd found peace, joy and contentment through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Jim and I exchanged addresses following the breakfast and parted company. Several weeks later he wrote me and said that ever since hearing the Blue Jay players, he wanted to have what they had. He asked if I'd come down and help him with his search for peace. Jim lived in Oneida, NY, east of Syracuse, and I told him I'd be down that way in early July. We arranged to meet at the ballpark in Syracuse and go out for something to eat after the game. A wise, all-knowing God had His plan mapped out and Joe Johnson had been sent down to the Syracuse Chiefs by the parent club, the Blue Jays. I asked if Joe would join us following the game. He agreed and another Christian teammate, Don Gordon, came along as well.

The game went longer than usual but we arrived at a nearby Denny's Restaurant around midnight. We spoke of spiritual things, the most important issues of life, and Jim was more convinced than ever that he needed to make a decision. At 2:30 in the morning we went out to my car and after another hour of conversation, Jim prayed, asking Jesus Christ to come into his life and give him the peace he so desperately longed for.

Instantly Jim became a new creation, a new believer, a Christian. I gave him my study Bible and wrote an inscription in the front. We stayed in touch by phone and mail and several years later we visited him in his home. He wasn't well but he had grown in his Christian faith and kept his Bible at his side at all times. Due to failing health, Jim was moved to a health care facility and in January of 1999, his wife Ellen wrote to tell me that Jim had passed away. She told me he had been attending Calvary Temple in Oneida. The people there had extended much Christian love and care.

Desiring to learn more of Jim's involvement at Calvary, I phoned the pastor, Mike Usborne, and was encouraged to learn of Jim's spiritual growth. He had been a blessing especially to the men in the church. I told Mike "the rest of the story" how Jim had come to faith in Christ. Mike asked if I'd speak to his congregation and I had the joy of relating Jim's story in August of 1999.

Joe Johnson planted the seed at breakfast in Toronto and was there to see it come to fruition at dinner in Syracuse two months later. God is sovereign. He makes no mistakes. He used that breakfast ticket to lead Jim to an encounter with the living Christ and eternity in heaven with Him.

Keep sowing the seed. God will bring about an abundant harvest in His time.

Bothering God

In recent weeks we've been asked to pray for many people in a variety of situations. Through the incredible vehicle of e-mail we've been able to mobilize hundreds of friends to lift these needs before our Almighty God. God has answered prayer . . . sometimes in big ways, more often in, what seems to us, smaller ways. People are asking us, more and more, to send out prayer requests for a variety of needs. The temptation is always there to mention only the "urgent", the "pressing" needs. I'm learning that in God's economy, there aren't big and small, possible and impossible, urgent and not-so-urgent requests. Nothing is too difficult for God. Nothing too big for Him, nothing too insignificant. Have you misplaced something? Pray about it! If it concerns you, it concerns Him. "He will perfect that which concerns you". Let's become praying Christians, committing each concern to a faithful God who hears and answers prayer. You won't be "bothering" Him, He's already invited us to come "boldly" and "with confidence" (Hebrews 4:16).

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Finding a Safe Place

Where is your safe place? A spot where you can find rest and peace in the midst of life’s storms? Perhaps you have a place that you retreat to where you can unwind and relax and clear your mind. Maybe it’s just a place you wish you had, a place that dreams are made of, a mountain cabin, a warm beach in the Caribbean or, if those are impossible, just an empty booth at the back of a smoky restaurant.

I’m so glad we can look to our loving Father when the storms of life surround us and troubles rush in like a flood. God is a REFUGE we can run to when life’s circumstances seem overwhelming. I know, I’ve been there many times. During these discouraging moments, GOD certainly is our:

R – Rock of Strength
E – Energizing God
F – Faithful Friend
U – Unchanging One
G – Gracious Father
E – Eternal King

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” - Psalm 46:1

R – Recognize the problem and admit it
E – Escape (or pull back) from the situation to get a better perspective on it
F – Find someone to confide in who can help us in the situation
U – Unburden our hearts to that person
G – Grow through the circumstance
E – Equip ourselves to help others when they face the same struggles

“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” – Deuteronomy 33:27

My prayer is that you would look to God in “every” circumstance of life and find that He is everything you ever needed and more. He loves you and cares for you! He will be your safe place!

What Do You Say? ...A Poem

What do you say to a dying man
His body racked with pain?
All the children miles away
His life-long bride has passed away
This could be his final day
Tell me, what do you say?

What do you say to a little child
Her parents, they don’t care?
She’s living in a foster home
With brothers and sisters not her own
Her mom and dad won’t even phone
Tell me, what do you say?

What do you say to a battered wife
Left on the street alone?
Her husband laughing in a bar
The kids all locked up in the car
There’s a shelter, but it’s too far
Tell me, what do you say?

What do you say to a businessman
When told he’s been let go?
All the years of toil and pain
Has his labor been in vain?
Finding work, his chances wane
Tell me, what do you say?

What do you say to a bunch of guys
Whose team can’t buy a win?
Meaningful words are hard to find
Another game in the daily grind
You’re really feeling in a bind
Tell me, what do you say?

What DO you say, what CAN you say
What WILL I say, my friends?
What I’ve found and this I share,
When your life is filled with care
Burdens more than you can bear
J E S U S . . . only J E S U S!

Though it may not be today
He will take your cares away
He has told us He’s the Way
Won’t you trust in Him today!
That is what I’ve got to say ...
J E S U S . . . only J E S U S!

- David W. Fisher

Dealing with Life's Disappointments

“Disappointment occurs when the actual experience of something falls far short of what we anticipate.” - Philip Yancey

THREE examples from Scripture:

1. Disappointment with the DEMANDS of OTHERS Mark 10:41
2. Disappointment with the DISGRACE of ONESELF - Luke 15:17-20
3. Disappointment with the DELAYS of GOD John 11:21

THREE questions to ask:

1. Was the circumstance that led to my disappointment completely out of my control?
2. Did I do my best, was I prepared, did I make every effort necessary, was my heart right?
3. Am I willing to put this situation behind me and learn from what happened?

THREE affirmations to make:

1. I will recognize that “all things work together for good to them that love God and are called according to His purpose.” This situation will somehow result in ultimate good for me and glory to God. - (Romans 8:28)
2. I will “trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding.” I will trust that God has a bigger picture and not use human reasoning to “figure this out”. - (Prov.3:5)
3. I will not allow this disappointment to hinder my efforts in the future. “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize.” - (Philippians 3:13,14)

King of Glory - A Poem/A Prayer

The Lord gave me this poem during a particularly difficult time on my pilgrimmage "home". May the following prayer be yours as well as we travel together.

“King of Glory, Friend Divine,
Lover of this heart of mine.
Come this moment, whisper ‘peace’,
And may all my striving cease.
Teach me more of Your great love,
Cleanse me, fill me,
Heavenly Dove.”

Are You Enjoying the Ride?

Beloved Christian author and missionary, Amy Carmichael, used the following words to describe our lives: a fight, a wrestle, a journey, a race and a climb. Life is all of these and more. Rick Warren in The Purpose Driven Life uses these word pictures: a minefield, a roller coaster, a puzzle, a symphony, a journey and a dance. Anaheim Angels’ chapel leader, Chuck Obremski, identifies with the roller coaster comparison when he writes,

“He can do something about my situation should He choose to do so! It has been quite an adventure so far but with Jesus it is OK. I tell folks I am riding the cancer coaster but it is OK because I know the ride operator! He will let me get off when He chooses. Until then, I take notes of all He wants to teach me. Like Job, I too agree, ‘naked I came into this world and naked I will go out, Blessed be the Name of the Lord’...."

Profound words from a man of God who is experiencing life with all its terrors, its fears, its bumps and bruises and, dare I say it, its ups and downs. Not an easy ride but…Chuck knows the Ride Operator and is “taking notes of all He wants to teach” him.

How about you? Are you enjoying the ride, the trip, the minefield? Maybe you haven’t started yet. Maybe you’re still trying to determine your desired destination. If you’ve started living the Christian life you discovered that it’s all of the following and more:

A fight/battle
A journey
A race
A climb
A minefield
A roller coaster
A puzzle
A symphony
A dance

Yes, living a victorious Christian life isn’t just difficult, it’s impossible, apart from the working of God’s Holy Spirit in our lives. But, when God is the Ride Operator it’s the greatest adventure on earth! Are you enjoying the ride?

Four Men Who Changed My Life

Sitting in a restaurant in early January 1992, I felt impressed to put together a tribute to the man who had impacted my life in a powerful way over the years. Dad had undergone surgery the previous fall and was not doing well. Letters were sent to about seventy-five of dad’s family, friends, employees, civic leaders, missionaries and others. The responses came back quickly and we presented dad with a tribute book in Kingston General Hospital on his 70th birthday. Looking back, it’s been the most rewarding thing I’ve done. Without the inspiration of a godly, loving father this would never have happened. Dad left a legacy of faith that I cherish more and more.

My life has been molded and shaped by a variety of people, places and things but the greatest inspiration came from dad. As I reminisce I can trace his influence in almost every important area of my life. Since dad’s passing others have impacted me in very significant ways. When I consider these people, a common thread weaves its way through the circumstances that brought us close . . . the dreaded disease, cancer.

Dad’s life came to a premature end after a battle with lung cancer. For almost his entire seventy years dad had been the picture of good health. The news of a shadow on his lung came as a huge shock. When he finally slipped into the presence of the God he loved and served, we lost a Christian gentleman, missionary statesman, respected businessman and a loving husband, father and grandfather. What an inspiration dad was to many!

Dad quietly taught me Christian values by example more than by preaching. My interest in world missions was nurtured by dad’s commitment to take the “good news” of God’s love to the whole world. If there was ever a generous man it was Chester W. Fisher! He held onto “things” loosely. He was never pretentious. Those who knew him loved him. I’m so grateful for a Christian father!

A family friend began to spend quality time with me after dad’s homecall. Mr. Keith Price, a faithful preacher of the gospel, offered encouragement, support and nurturing as I sought to serve the Lord through sports. Mr. Price lived in Victoria, BC and when his preaching schedule brought him to the Peterborough area he would always block out time for me. We would sit by the lake at Elim Lodge and he’d mentor me in the important things of life. His friendship and counsel were priceless. Several years ago when I was so discouraged that I considered quitting the ministry, a personal note arrived from Keith Price. God’s timing was perfect. I continued on with a renewed zeal.

In early January 2001 I flew to Victoria to be at Mr. Price’s side in his hospital room. He, too, was battling cancer and had indicated that he’d like me to visit with him one last time. When I arrived at the hospital, a small sign was taped to his door which read, “Do Not Disturb 1:30 – 3:30 p.m.” This dear man who had always taken time for me was giving me another gift, two precious, uninterrupted hours. He had taught me how to live. Now he was teaching me how to die. He drew me close to his side, held my hand for two hours and poured out his heart. He passed away a month after my visit but he left a lasting legacy just like my father had done.

When I owned the local Christian book store I met some wonderful people. One of those acquaintances has become a dear friend in recent years. Syd Birrell chronicled his son James’ battle with neuroblastoma through his regular e-mail updates. Those who received them were enriched in an incredible way. Syd’s transparency and vulnerability were so refreshing! I’d tearfully read his updates and pass them along to hundreds on my list. There was a strong bonding between Syd and me as we watched James finally succumb to this dreaded disease. My life was immeasurably blessed.

Syd and James

Since James went to “his house in heaven” in December 2001, Syd and I have met several times to encourage one another. Recently we had another talk and visited James’grave site. Words can’t describe how it felt to quietly stand with a man who had lost a child. Syd Birrell has been an inspiration to many. I thank God that I’ve been allowed, somehow, to get an insider’s look at how His grace can strengthen a grieving couple.

I met Roger Neilson in the mid seventies and have admired and respected him ever since. Roger has encouraged and blessed my life in ways that can’t be measured. One of my prized collections is the file of personalized Christmas cards from Roger that go back twenty-five years. Roger has a unique way of integrating his vast hockey knowledge and expertise with his strong Christian faith.

My relationship with Roger Neilson became a deeper friendship after he began his fight with cancer. It’s strange how relationships with my father, Keith Price, Syd Birrell and Roger Neilson were all deepened when we began walking together through the “valley of the shadow of death”. There’s something about the brevity and uncertainty of life that brings Christians together in a more intimate way when death becomes imminent.

Since Roger’s return from Ottawa I’ve visited him in his home. Before I left, we bowed our heads and prayed together. Driving home I thanked God for allowing me to be part of this man’s life. What an inspiration Roger has been! What a blessing!

Looking back I thank God for true friends, people who have loved me, supported me, and have given me the wonderful gift of their time. Each of these individuals has inspired me in unique ways. I pray that my life will somehow do the same for others.

God is Good...Reflections on Dave Dravecky

I was present in Montreal in 1989 when Dave Dravecky pitched the 2nd game of his comeback after cancer surgery. Pitching to Tim Raines, something snapped in his arm and he feel in a heap on the mound. Later, as he was being lifted into the ambulance, Dave looked at me with a pained smile and said, “David, God is good!” How could he make this statement in the face of such adversity? His career was likely over and yet he had bold confidence in God’s plan.

My Friend, Dave Dravecky

Several years later Dave spoke at the All Star Game chapel service in Baltimore, MD. His left arm had been amputated since I’d seen him last. I greeted him at the door and he asked if I’d do him a favor. He needed me to fasten the button on his right shirt sleeve. He had left in a hurry that morning and needed someone to come alongside and do for him what he could never do himself. Have you ever tried doing up a button with one hand? It’s almost impossible!

Yes, God is good! He is good because He sent His Son to come alongside us when we were incapable of helping ourselves. No amount of effort or hard work could buy our salvation. We needed Christ to pay the penalty for our sins. Jesus Christ did for us what we could never do ourselves. We are saved by grace through faith. He came to us when we needed Him most. Let's thank Him for His goodness today!

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of god – not by works, so that no one can boast.” – Ephesians 2:8,9

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.”
Romans 5:6

Sowing and Reaping

When Joe Johnson was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in 1986 he didn’t realize the impact he would have. The following spring Joe spoke at an outreach breakfast. Jim Florada, an elderly man from Oneida, NY, attended and was moved by Joe’s testimony. He later expressed a desire to invite Christ into his life and asked if I would help him. In the meantime Joe Johnson was demoted to the Jays’ AAA team in Syracuse, NY. Joe agreed to meet with Jim, myself and teammate Don Gordon following a ballgame. In the early hours of the morning, Joe Johnson led Jim in the sinner’s prayer and he committed his life to Christ. God uses various people to sow the seed, others water it but it’s God who brings about the harvest. In this case, God used a pitcher to both sow the seed and see it come to fruition.

God only asks that we be sowers of the seed, His Word. He equips us to share the “good news” and provides countless opportunities to do so. Athletes have been given a unique platform from which to do this. Usually we hear of the one God uses to reap the harvest but others beforehand faithfully sowed and watered. Billy Graham’s name is recognized around the world but it was Mordecai Ham who led him to Christ.

I encourage you to pray for opportunities to sow the “good news” today. You’ll be amazed how God will orchestrate events and circumstances so that people are brought to Himself and He gets the glory.

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” – 1 Corinthians 3:6

Notes from the Journey

Greetings from another pilgrim as we travel “home”. The road sure seems long and rough at times doesn’t it! I’ve been scuffling a bit lately, discouraged with the happenings of the daily grind. Why are things so difficult? Why do the heavens feel like brass so often? I know that God is there. He hasn’t moved. He still beckons us to “come unto Him” and we will find rest for our souls. Recently I read a quote that goes something like this: “God will write over our days, ‘Will explain later’.” Is that enough encouragement to continue on? It has helped me!

Whether the issues are financial, emotional, relational, physical, spiritual (or whatever they might be), our Father knows all about them. Although we are often paralysed by these “things” that make the journey “home” so discouraging at times, the touch of God upon our lives and the comfort of His everlasting arms can nudge us closer to the finish line.

Dear friend, as we continue along towards “home”, may it be a comfort to know that we are walking together. We WILL make it! God has not turned His face away from us and our predicament. He is still there, cheering us on, even though the “stuff” we’re dealing with almost deafens us to His tender, gentle voice. One of my favorite hymn writers, William Cowper, was plagued with depression for much of his life, even though he enjoyed a closeness with his God. Recently I bought a biography of him and have been encouraged to know that others who have gone before have fought similar battles.

Read some of his lyrics:

“Amidst the roaring of the sea,
My soul still hangs her hope on Thee;
Thy constant love, Thy Faithful care,
Is all that saves me from despair.”

And again, he writes:

“Ye weary saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread;
Are big with mercies and shall break
With blessings on thy head.”

And finally:

“The dearest idol I have known,
Whate’er that idol be,
Help me to tear it from Thy Throne.
And worship only thee.”

And so, we fix our eyes on Him although at times our view is dimmed by tears. He beckons us from the grandstand of heaven. Our family and friends who’ve gone on before cheer us on. Let’s take each other’s hand and walk together. You are loved by Him and by this fellow pilgrim!

Developing a Disciplined Devotional Life

Those of us on the faith journey have to admit that we often grow weary as we travel. Not only weary but hungry, thirsty, tired, discouraged, disappointed, frustrated, annoyed and even angry.

Since I was a young boy I’ve always been encouraged to have a daily “quiet time” with the Lord. These moments have often been contrived, rushed, obligatory exercises when, in fact, I was not quiet and I did not sense God’s presence. Futile attempts to calm my anxious heart.

As I’ve grown older (and, hopefully, wiser) I’ve recognized that these “quiet times” can come in many disguises. God meets with us in the midst of our circumstances in serendipitous ways that could never be planned. Looking back we can attest to the fact that our Father came alongside when we needed Him most. That, though, doesn’t excuse us from developing a disciplined, devotional life!

Life’s journey is not easy! Our lives need to intersect with God’s on a daily basis or we won’t survive. The titles of some of my “quiet time” books remind me that we need to be refreshed regularly along the way. Volumes in my library include:

SANCTUARY – David Jeremiah

As you make your way towards “home” today, reach out and take His hand. He provides nourishment, refreshment and His loving touch as we travel down the path. “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16:11)

A Blazing, Morning Sky

Recently I glanced out the window after spending some quiet moments trying to "figure out" God. The God of creation screamed His love to me in shades of purple and orange, His handiwork stretched across the eastern sky. My Father shouted, "All is well in heaven today" as I thought of the challenges here on earth that I'm facing.

A New Day . . . and God is still in control!

I'm amazed that the God of wonders continues to whisper, speak and shout the fact, the truth, that He is in control. May you sense His loving embrace today as you face seemingly insurmountable obstacles. All is well with God today. Cling to Him. And if you let go, His strong arms will continue to surround you. Our safety and security depend on Him not on us. Thank you Father!

"The eternal God is your refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms." - Deuteronomy 33:27

Well-Read and Well-Aged

This morning, while enjoying breakfast with my pastor and a missionary friend, I was fascinated as an elderly couple sat down at the table next to us. The woman had a Bible in her hand and, after sitting down, opened its well-worn pages and began to read. I’m always encouraged when someone is not ashamed to be seen in public, reading God’s love letter to us. This lady had a unique beauty about her. She looked like she had lived well and had grown older with a special grace. Even though I know nothing about her other than what I saw, she appeared to have aged well and lived well. Her Bible was well worn and well read.

An hour or two later I read the day’s devotional thought in Our Daily Bread. Vernon Grounds, the writer, spoke of the gleaming brass on board an ocean liner. When one of the ship’s officers was asked, “How often do you polish all this?”, the reply came back, “Every day, for the minute you stop polishing it, the brass starts to tarnish.” Dr. Grounds goes on to say, “If your relationship with God has lost its spiritual luster, it needs to be polished by the faithful habit of daily Scripture reading.” Could this be why the lady in the restaurant had such an appealing and refreshing glow about her countenance? I think so! Are you aging well and living well? How about your Bible? Is it well-worn and well-read? I hope so!

“I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your Word.” – Psalm 119:16

Fed By Ravens

Recently I rode the commuter train into downtown Toronto to afford myself some "quiet time" to recover, reflect and recharge from the rigors of a hectic week. I took my Bible and looked forward to reading the account in 1 Kings 17 of the prophet Elijah being fed at the brook Kerith by ravens.

Settling back into my seat in an almost deserted train car, I opened my Bible and read, "Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there." (1 Kings 17:2-4)

Ravenous Feeding

What words of assurance to the prophet! Elijah had informed Ahab that "there will neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word." Yet, His God had made provision for his physical needs using brooks and birds. Imagine . . . the Creator of the ravens, commissioning them to bring daily bread to His prophet. "The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook." (verse 6).

As I mused on and marveled at the provision of God for Elijah I thought, "Can He not do the same for us today?" Of course He can! Reassured of this, I fell asleep and didn't awake 'til the train pulled into the station, 35 minutes later.

Trust Him today! He is still Jehovah Jireh, our Provider!

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Tractor Tunes

Many long-time friends will recall the Quiet Reflections e-mails birthed in my spirit as I rode the ol' faithful John Deere around our yard. It's amazing what comes to mind as you dodge pine branches and hopping toads.

Recently I was cutting the grass when I experienced one of my panic attacks. Perhaps I should have parked the tractor but instead I began praying (it was a desperate cry of "HELP") and seeking God's face. As I circled the lawn the Lord brought a sense of peace, giving me both the lyrics and melody of a chorus of praise, straight from His heart. An hour later I got off the tractor, came inside, and sat down at the piano. As I played and sang this "new song" I was filled with gratitude to a God who heard my cry, gave me His touch of encouragement and lifted my troubled spirit. Since that encounter I have quietly offered the song back to the Lord as an act of worship . . . many times.

Let me share the words with the prayer that you, too, will be encouraged. Our God is Jehovah-Jireh and He will provide for us! Often we have to wait (and some of us worry) but His promises remain true and steadfast.

Let's journey together, hand in hand with Jesus!


He helped me yesterday, I know He’ll do the same again;
He will provide, He’s such a wonderful Friend.
His Word declares His faithfulness will never end.
This Friend Divine, His name is Jesus.
This Friend is mine, His name is Jesus.

(repeat chorus, singing the words back to Jesus)

You helped me yesterday, I know You’ll do the same again;
You will provide, You’re such a wonderful Friend.
Your Word declares Your faithfulness will never end.
I’ll praise Your name, the name of Jesus!
I love You so, my precious Jesus!

(This song is dedicated to my friend and mentor, Paul Collet, who
has walked with me and prayed with me over the past year.)

Tears of Ministry

Oops! I almost did it again. One of my typos almost got widespread distribution but I caught it just in time. I was referring to the past 29 years of sports ministry but I accidentally typed "tears" instead of years. 29 tears of ministry? Actually there have been many more than 29 over the years. Ministry and life, in general, are not without their share of heartaches, sorrows, tears. They are part of the equation. I'm reminded, though, of one of my favourite Bible verses . . . a promise that I have appropriated and I have seen God confirm the truth of His Word.

The Psalmist writes, "Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him." (Psalm 126:5,6) As we share God's "good news" with love, compassion and tears, we can expect a glorious harvest in His time. Don't shy away from tears. As the songwriter penned, "Tears are a language, God understands."

P. S. I guess the classic typo from my pen was when I stated that "many livers have been changed through the Epistle, letter-writing ministry."

Noisy Restaurants/Where Would Jesus Sit?

Recently I stopped at a favourite restaurant of mine, hoping to enjoy a quiet, relaxing lunch in the middle of a busy, hectic day of “ministry”. The hostess seated me in a back room away from the buffet area where people were helping themselves.

A few moments later a group of mentally challenged adults, with their caregivers, were seated at a long table next to me. My solitude was short-lived! These people were grunting and groaning, shouting and calling out. Two other families asked if they could be seated in another area of the restaurant when they saw these people arrive. In the midst of the noise, God’s Holy Spirit spoke (or shouted) to my heart. I immediately thought WWJS …”where would Jesus sit?” if He were here. Of course He would be found at the center of that table, showering His love, care and compassion on these dear, precious people. If that’s where Jesus would sit, then I wanted to follow “in His steps” and look upon this intrusion on my “quiet time” as an opportunity to watch God at work.

The caregivers lovingly attended to their clients, helping them with their food and patiently expressing God’s love in a tangible way. The outbursts of these people, created in the image of God, became like a symphony, a choir, to my ears.

I was so intrigued by watching this transpire before my eyes that I lingered at my seat long after I’d finished my meal. As I was leaving, one of these dear people choked on her food and her caregiver handled the situation so well. Tears came to my eyes and I thanked God for my “quiet lunch”.

Oh that we might see people as our loving, compassionate Father sees them! Oh that our hearts might be broken by the things that break His heart! God had noisily got my attention that day!

Let’s look for opportunities today to witness God’s loving care for His people. Let’s ask how we can be His arms extended to His people today, ministering His love, mercy and grace to those who so desperately need His touch!

For more information on the organization that these wonderful people are involved with, please check out their web site at http://www.christian-horizons.org/