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Dec 2013 031Everyone in this country is wearing a smile or a frown.  Those who voted for the guy who won are elated.  But, surely everyone must also recognize that there are a lot of Americans who voted for the other guy.

Nearly every sports event that we watch or participate in with all of our energy has both supporters for one side or the other.  No one really enters an athletic event and hopes that their team loses.  Competing is about winning not losing.

Yet losing is an essential by-product of competition.  Think about the other half for just a few moments.  No matter what the event there exists the objective to rally ALL the participants into one unified group in order to move forward and make strides together.

One step toward this objective is for each person to adopt a post-competition perspective.  It is easy on one level.  But, on another level it is very difficult.

Here is the Biblical strategy: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12.15) The last half is easier.  When someone is overwhelmed and beaten down, we can show mercy and encourage them.

The first part to celebrate with someone when they are rejoicing is tougher.  Usually that means we have lost.  Our team came up short, our vote was not added with the winner or our opinion will no longer be germane to the future discussion.

The disposition for those who win and those who lose needs to shift.  Of course the winner enjoys a time of celebration. It comes with the territory.  All of us enjoy those moments.

At the same time when we lose and we all will lose some time in something, need to shift as well.  For a time we will be sad, mourn and even sort out our feelings in solitude.  None of us like those times but we have all experienced them.

If we can learn those dynamics in something as simple as sport, then perhaps we can bring those same feelings to real life moments.  It is too bad that our human spirit crowds out the possibility of experiencing something supernatural.  Our personal bias gets in the way.

When someone we do not like gets a blessing we do not feel like rejoicing with them.  Instead, we are annoyed.  If we had our way that person would be hurt instead of helped.  That is sadly our sinful nature expressing itself.  Leave the natural reaction aside and try the supernatural option instead: rejoice with those who rejoice.

photo credit: kristin  photography

 

Our drive up north is becoming a familiar journey.  Every other month I schedule a trip from Houston to Dallas.  A face to face with key personnel is a small price to invest in our ongoing communication with the mother ship.

Dallas Seminary is branching out.  It has several locations around the nation and overseas.  I have the privilege to serve in the Houston Campus.

Part of my long list of responsibilities is to give oversight to the educational endeavors of our fine institution in the fastest growing city in the USA.  Emails, text messages, Skyping and phone calls are countless.  But, nothing beats 30 minutes of smiles, conversation, immediate feedback and details of initiatives with instant approvals.

Most of the time I drive up from our megalopolis to this gem in the heart of Texas. It is a four-hour drive compared to the 3.5 hours of commuting, checking in and flying via commercial airlines.  That comparison does not even include getting from the airport to the campus once I arrive in Big D.

When I arrive my credentials and permits get me to a safe parking spot and on to the campus without any delay.  A list of people are on my mind and I head for my first location.  Invariably, I see someone and we stop and talk.

It is the unplanned spontaneous serendipitous meeting in the parking lot, in the foyer, in a walkway or along a stairwell that makes for strategic initiatives.  Ideas are born.  Personalities meld into operational plans.

During the day I am taking notes.  When I end my day, I am at my computer rehearsing ideas, making notes, recording thoughts and linking those thoughts with people.  The future is born out of those providential gatherings.

The sun is now setting.  As I scan the changing hues and marvel at the city lights, the long trip has been worthwhile.  Questions are answered and relationships with key people are deepened.

On my long drive home I will rehearse every one of those discussions.  In my spirit certain thoughts will seal into further plans.  Others will keep the back burners simmering until the time is ripe.

Sixty days will pass before I make my journey north again.  But, by then several initiatives that were discussed today will be in the history books.  I intend to make good ideas into real results in the near future.  Tomorrow is all about today’s conversations.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

Joshua 15-17
Part 6 of 6

This passage of Scripture is about obedience.  When we do what God wants, that is always good.  But, when we fail to complete God’s will that is not good.  Partial obedience is NOT obedience.

When Israel could not remove the Canaanites completely, they subjugated them to serve the Israelites.  That is not what God directed His people to do.  Now, the enemy was living among them with an influence that God never intended His people to have.

God wants His people to assess their abilities and trust Him in total dependence to give us success in our obedience.  He will make possible what we cannot do on our own.  Total obedience is the only obedience that God accepts.

Is there something that you have started for the Lord but have not finished it?  Did you give up too early when a task became too difficult?  Have you been living with the justification that what you have done is “good enough”?

Recall God’s instructions to you.  Pick up the tools and finish what He wanted you to do.  Never quit early.  He will be all you need to accomplish His tasks.

Thanks for joining me on this journey through the Scriptures.

Joshua 15-17
Part 4 of 6

In contrast to Caleb’s securing his borders and expanding his territories, Judah is not as successful. The description for the large tribe is disheartening. Here the Scripture simply says “Judah could not dislodge the Jebusites.”

Some may sympathize and justify Judah’s effort as being their best. Yet, the lingering consequences of this failure impact Israel’s future. Jerusalem as a city is impacted for generations.

The subtle truth is that Judah could not dislodge the enemy. A stubborn enemy is not overcome by our own efforts but how we depend on God to work through us to achieve His objectives. If Judah had come before the Lord and sought His strength instead of depending upon their own strength, the outcome would have been different.

Failure in faith is contagious. What we choose not to do or overlook in our faith efforts discourages others from trying. Remember those who are watching and depending on your initiatives to exemplify faith living.

More later…

Israel 2014 IFL 335There is a narrow road that swing uphill from the Kidron Valley.  The descent from the Walls of Jerusalem are not far behind.  It is natural to look up when the road starts to climb.

The road is narrow and winding.  Modern designers never would have planned the route like this.  It is another indication that today’s roads have simply followed the old roads of the past.

Lining each side of the now paved route are tall stone walls.  You feel penned in.  Yet, the sense of being on the right road is assured by our guide.

Israel 2014 IFL 336Not far along this journey is a gate off to the right.  Many pilgrims are filing in.  The sense of this being a very special place is in the air.

Once inside the gate, our guide gives us quiet instructions to follow the pathway and to speak softly.  People are meditating and this is a sacred site. Those words are just a vanguard of what our spirits have already sensed.

Israel 2014 IFL 338Inside the walls a security fence surrounded the grove of olive trees.  Down the middle gravel pathway stood the largest and apparently the oldest olive tree in the garden.  Its trunk was massive.

Scarred and twisted this old tree was still sprouting shoots into the sky that were dressed in new leaves.  Botanists tell us that this tree could very well be two thousand years old.  It stood tall, solid and unmovable before us.

Israel 2014 IFL 339Maybe it was a mere sapling when Jesus came here at night and wept tears of blood. The agony of the Savior may have soaked the ground with His ignominious perspiration.  Here He accepted the Father’s will to take on the sin of the whole world.

This task meant that He must die.  It is the penalty of sin.  Death is the only option available to bring sin to justice.

Our only redeeming option is to have a substitute that will die in our place. Jesus agreed to take our place.  He died on our behalf.

Israel 2014 IFL 342It meant that He would be separated from the Father.  That reality was what weighed on  Jesus’ heart that night.  Yet, out of love for us, He agreed willingly to do it.

No wonder a church stands next to this garden in commemoration of this great sacrifice.  Nations from around the world contributed to its construction.  Enter this garden, His garden and sense the forgiveness given through the great gift of love.

photo credit: brucefong photography

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For those who are followers of Jesus Christ, it is not a matter of what we know.  Rather it is more important that we know what we believe.  What we believe is not a matter of what we say.  Rather, we live what we believe.

This book series “Real Life” is about our daily living.  When we embrace and express our faith in our Savior, we live differently.  The Holy Spirit makes it possible to live each day differently because of what we believe to be true.

This volume Always Hope is about living each day after the bottom falls out from underneath us.  No one like tough times.  Trials are not our choice.  But, they happen in all of our lives.

When they come, each day keeps on coming, one after the next. They do not slow down or stop or disappear.  How we live those days when trouble has slammed into our lives is what this volume relives.

I was hurt by others and difficult circumstances.  Each day I got up and struggled through the subsequent days.  By God’s wonderful grace and the love of His finest, I kept getting up, day after day.

If you read this book and the words inside cause you to smile, laugh, hope or reflect on good things, then it was worth the effort it took to write it.  May your hope forever be a part of your new days to come.

It is available on Kindle for all e-book readers.  Or you may order a hard copy from http://www.createspace.com/4190780. Thank you and enjoy your reading!

IMG_3489The build up to the most important event in the Christian calendar is nothing less than mind-blowing.  Months before Easter Sunday arrives, followers of the Savior plan, rehearse, organize, design, administrate and delegate.  Colors, music, printing, rehearsals, meetings, construction, purchasing, distribution are just a few of the activities that blend into a blur of fast-paced dust-creating calendar-filling moments in the fellowship of Christians around the world.

Do not let the flurry of busyness fool you.  Easter is far more than a single event.  This historic life-changing episode is more than just one more day on the calendar.

There are holidays and then there are holidays.  Sometimes we get a day off from work.  Schools shut down to give students a break and families time to connect.

Routines are interrupted to recognize a day in history, lives that sacrificed themselves for others or a ritual for our culture.  All of those occasions are wonderful.  They give us a chance to enjoy those closest to us and reflect on what is most important in life.

Easter stands above these calendar highlights.  This occasion is more than a reason to party.  The celebration will never be overshadowed by colorful eggs, rabbits or marshmallow chickens.

All those extra trappings are fun.  I have enjoyed a tasty treat or laughed at the discovery of a plastic egg filled with treats or given a solid chocolate rabbit to a very grateful child.  Yet, these happy moments lift the real reason for this special day.

Jesus rose again from the grave on Easter.  Three days after He died for the sins of the world, He rose.  His Resurrected life made it possible for all of us to put our faith in Him, have our sins forgiven and inherit eternal life forever.

This truth is more than a memory of a historic moment.  It is instead the memory of a new beginning available to all.  His grace made possible for every human being on the earth.

This great news crystallized when Jesus was Resurrected.  It is His Resurrection that is at the heart of the Gospel.  That is why Easter is more than a single day that is celebrated.

Are you enjoying the days until you can enter into eternity through Jesus’ righteousness?  It is not a matter of being good enough or not that bad.  Rather, it is a recognition that the impossibility of being holy or righteous are made possible because Jesus is our substitute.

He did it all and we benefit from His sacrifice through faith in Him.  Believe and enjoy not just a day but an eternity.

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

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Everyday the sun comes up, moves across the sky and then sets in the West.  It makes this same repeated journey every 24 hours and does so right on time.  Life follows the rising and the setting of the sun.  When we are joyful or grief stricken, the pattern or every new day is relentless.  Keep up with the dawning of every new day.  When the days keep coming live each one with all of the enthusiasm that you can pour into your responsibilities, your routine and your daily regimen.

Maybe you are reflecting over your life.  The years ahead are fewer than the years behind.  Use your past as new skills to meet the future days that are coming your way.  Rise up and live with a greater fervor.  Determine to pass on your knowledge to the next generation. Give them a leg up beyond just what we can do humanly.

Now, see that faith is at the center of life.  Choose faith as your great asset to make each new day a day that will be a part of your forever.  It is a choice that each of us can make.

Those horrid days are long past, now.  But, the memories are still fresh.  You have a choice.  Will you succumb to bitterness and resentment?  Or will you take life by faith and look for better days ahead.  The best is always yet to come when you make the choice of faith.

Yes, you have been hit hard.  Everyone has.  Get up and get going again.  It is the best way.  Let your past be your wisdom for the future.  Live today with the insight of the past and make today count for your forever.  In the aftermath of trouble, disaster or pain you are better prepared to live better, wiser and with great insight. For today and the rest of your todays, choose faith.

Read more.  Order you copy of Choose Faith from https://createspace.com/4602632

You can also order your e-copy from Kindle.com  Thanks!

photo credit: cover design by brucefong design and photography

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Israel 2014 IFL 125The road sign was a welcome indicator to all of us on the bus. We had entered into the town of Nazareth. This was the home where Joseph and Mary we betrothed in marriage.

In many respects this is the town where so much of our real faith began.  At least it was the beginning of the new beginning.   God’s promise for the redemption of man started in Eden.

Nevertheless, the plan for the reconciliation of man with God required a satisfaction for the sins of man.  This meant that a sacrifice of eternal proportions was needed.  How does one find both perfection for a sacrifice and an actual death of such perfection?

God answers the impossible search by giving His one and only unique Son.  Jesus is born Israel 2014 IFL 129 of a virgin. This simple statement means that a human life begins, then it can die.  At the same time this life is protected from the sin nature with the Holy Spirit overseeing the conception.

For ages this miraculous truth rests in the hearts and convictions of generations of believers.  It is unbelievable yet miraculous.  The redemption story requires this inexplicable historic event.

The right woman to bear this child is Mary.  She is betrothed to the ideal righteous man to be her husband, Joseph.  She is total submissive to God in this divine strategy.  He is totally loyal and loving to Mary to believe the story and assume his role while protecting Mary through the standard social morass of a gossip and whispers.

Israel 2014 IFL 118Today’s modern Nazareth is couched in traffic jams and shops vying for business.  In contrast is a special plot of land set aside to recapture ancient Nazareth.  People herding beasts of burden, in costume locals portraying the craftsmanship of a carpenter’s shop, common workers harvesting olives, weavers working on a loom and others grinding grain.

Here ancient tools, pottery, furniture and buildings transport usIsrael 2014 IFL 142 back when a young couple are arranged for marriage.  They are excited and eagerly looking forward to a future together.  Yet, God finds their life of faith and righteousness ideal for His plan of destiny for the world.

God would send His angel to deliver a message to each of these two individually.  He would bring peace and faith to them so that obedience and courage would emerge from the both and together.  All the world would be forever blessed because of their choice.

photo credit: brucefong photography

IMG_3454Our modern air-conditioned bus with luxury seats climbed the road leading to the top of Mt. Carmel.  This was the site of one of the great Old Testament accounts between the prophet Elijah and 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah.

The gauntlet was thrown.  This would be a showdown to decide who the true God was.  He must show up at the offering of the sacrifice and must do so by fire.

The prophets of Baal and Asherah had their turn first.  They built their alter, sacrificed their bull and called on their deities to respond with fire.  Their worshipful pleas started in the morning and continued through noon.  However, their gods were silent.

Elijah took liberties to urge them to call louder in case their gods were on a long journey or otherwise preoccupied.  Yes, the prophet of the One True God was taunting them.  They exhausted themselves well into the evening.

Israel 2014 IFL 043Finally, Elijah’s turn came.  To make a point he called for his sacrifice to be drenched with water.  He had this done three times.

There is no water source on the top of Mt. Carmel. If his helpers had to go down into the Jezreel Valley to retrieve enough water for this soaking, that alone was a major undertaking.  But, it did not matter.

After a simple prayer that emphasized God’s glory and honor, God answered with fire.  From heaven this flame came.  It consumed the sacrifice, the altar and the water.  It was immediate and complete.

That great encounter took place right where we were standing.  It was a stirring moment to consider that this one of a kind event took place right where we were gathered.  A light wind rustled the leaves and whistled quietly through the rocks.

Israel 2014 IFL 047Each of us had a few moments to sit at the edge of the mountain top and consider our faith in the One True God.  No doubt we all wondered how we would have responded if we were the single representative of God while facing hundreds of prophets who were followers of a false god.  It was not a matter of truth or falsehood but how courageous would we be when surrounded by hundreds of others who opposed to us.

Truthfully, the reality is that one plus God always equals a majority.  However, the emotional confidence to hold strong against the hostile cacophony by others is a formidable challenge.    Always stand with truth no matter how loud or how large the opposition.

photo credit: brucefong photography and cellphone photography

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