Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Too Mcuh Ifno

For those of you who know me, I figure that you think I did it again. I forgot to do a spell check on this article. But you would be wrong. Did you read the title to read “Too Muck If No” or “Too Much Info”? Chances are your mind fixed the “typos” and you breezed through to the body of the article. Now if you were like my wife, you would have struggled with the title.

We have a tendency to skim when we read. Do you question that statement? Well just read on: “Aoccdring to rseearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in what order the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoantnt tihng is that the frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae, The rset can be atoatl mses and you can still raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tish is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe.”

I know the above was a bit much but it goes to prove the point that we tend to read the whole and not the part. I have grown to rely on spell checker and auto-correction programs in Word to get me through.

I have found that I often have the same non-attentive attitude when it comes to listening. I don’t listen word by word. Rather I anticipate the whole sentence and preempt the speaker. I’m sure that many of you do this with your spouses, family or good friends. It often works but sometimes we anticipate (guess) wrong. It can be quite embarrassing when that happens. We are so concerned about what we are going to say, or we get impatient with those who speak slowly that we skip ahead and try to beat them to the punch.

Sometimes I think we do the same thing with God. We jump ahead instead of slowing down to hear His Word. We try to dominate the conversation with God so that we end up with a monologue of our thoughts and hear nothing of His heart on the matter.

Yet the writer James in the book titled with his name tells us that we have two ears and only one mouth so we should be twice as likely to listen and a lot less likely to speak.

James 1:19 (NIV) 19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,

Maybe we should all consider slowing down and taking our time to listen to each other and more importantly listen to what God wants to tell you. By doing things God’s way we will be a lot less likely to get angry and a whole lot more likely to be conformed to His Son’s image and way.

“Let him who has an ear, let him hear”,

Dr. Val

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Second Fiddle

A friend of mine – Dr. Jim Hart, president if IWS recently wrote that we need to be ". . . developing, teaching and modeling a more intentional leadership style in our community, one that is characterized by humble service without compromising biblical convictions." And, in our emphasis on forming leaders in worship renewal we need to explore the ". . . hard, sacrificial, sometimes surgically necessary kind of formation that is often painful and exhausting, but capable of bearing the weight of glory. And all accomplished by grace."

Leonard Bernstein was once asked, “What was the hardest instrument to play?” His answer: “Second Fiddle!”

The life of an associate minister is one of sacrificially giving up your rights, dreams and goals to support, and champion the dreams and goals of your senior pastor, all the time trusting God to meet your needs, wants and dreams.

A recent Willow Creek magazine has an interesting article about life in the second chair. It is a series of interviews with second in command and how they have learned to support the dreams and visions of others. Being a second banana has its benefits and its challenges. A major benefit is that you chose to hook your wagon to someone else’s bandwagon and thus someone else takes the hits. The challenge is that you are often asked to play someone else’s hit man.

I have played second fiddle for most of my ministry life. It is a unique position to be in. It has correctly been said, “one can accomplish almost anything, as long as you don’t care who gets the credit.” I have personally found it to be true. The most difficult situation is when you have a senior pastor who has no vision, or if he does, he is incapable of communicating it.

I’ve seen good ministries that have failed and almost closed their doors because the staff and the congregation were going in as many different ways as there were people.

If you read some of the different versions of the same verse Proverbs 29:18 you will get a glimpse of what happens when leaders fail to lead

Proverbs 29:18 (NIV)

18 Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law.

Proverbs 29:18 (NASB77)
18 Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law.

Proverbs 29:18 (MSG)
18 If people can't see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.

Proverbs 29:18 (KJV)
18 Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

The specific truth that we can grasp from reading this verse is that our people need a clear vision and goal if they are going to succeed. Without a game plan the game is lost and without clear vision of God’s leading people will do their own thing. They certainly won’t be attending to or happy about doing God’s will for their lives.

Judges 17:6 (NLT)

6 In those days Israel had no king, so the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.

To paraphrase the verse above
“In those days the church had no leadership, so the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.”

Pray for your leadership
Pray that they are listening to God’s voice and are sensitive to His leading
Pray that they will cast a vision that God has given them
And pray that you will be willing to listen and follow

Prayerfully submitted

Dr. Val

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Amazing Universe

I am always pleased when “Science” and the Word of God end up saying the same thing. It is always amusing when scientists end up sounding like Scripture.

Don’t you think?

In an article that went out over the AP wires that can be found on the web at

We read some of the latest discoveries that astronomers have made. I’ve excerpted the article below:

"It's an odd universe we live in," said Vanderbilt University astronomer Kelly Holley-Bockelmann.
"This is the glory of the universe," added J. Craig Wheeler, president of the astronomy association. "What is odd and what is normal is changing."
Just five years ago, astronomers were gazing at a few thousand galaxies where stars formed in a bizarre and violent manner. Now the number is in the millions, thanks to more powerful telescopes and supercomputers to crunch the crucial numbers streaming in from space, said Wheeler, a University of Texas astronomer.
Scientists are finding that not only are they improving their understanding of the basic questions of the universe—such as how did it all start and where is it all going—they also keep stumbling upon unexpected, hard-to-explain cosmic quirks and the potential, but comfortably distant, dangers.
Much of what they keep finding plays out like a stellar version of a violent Quentin Tarantino movie. The violence surrounds and approaches Earth, even though our planet is safe and "in a pretty quiet neighborhood," said Wheeler, author of the book "Cosmic Catastrophes."
In the past few days, scientists have unveiled plenty to ooh and aah over:
—Photos of "blue blobs" that astronomers figure are orphaned baby stars. They're called orphans because they were "born in the middle of nowhere" instead of within gas clouds, said Catholic University of America astronomer Duilia F. de Mello.
—A strange quadruplet of four hugging stars, which may eventually help astronomers understand better how stars form.
—A young star surrounded by dust, that may eventually become a planet. It's nicknamed "the moth," because the interaction of star and dust are shaped like one.
—A spiral galaxy with two pairs of arms spinning in opposite directions, like a double pinwheel. It defies what astronomers believe should happen. It is akin to one of those spinning-armed flamingo lawn ornaments, said astronomer Gene Byrd of the University of Alabama.
—The equivalent of post-menopausal stars giving unlikely birth to new planets. Most planets form soon after a sun, but astronomers found two older stars, one at least 400 million years old, with new planets.
"Intellectually and spiritually, if I can use that word with a lower case 's,' it's awe-inspiring," Wheeler said. "It's a great universe."

Sounds strangely like

Psalm 8:1-9 (NAS)
For the choir director; on the Gittith.
A Psalm of David.

O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Thy name in all the earth,
Who hast displayed Thy splendor above the heavens!
2From the mouth of infants and nursing babes Thou hast established strength,
Because of Thine adversaries,
To make the enemy and the revengeful cease.

3When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers,
The moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained;
4What is man, that Thou dost take thought of him?
And the son of man, that Thou dost care for him?
5Yet Thou hast made him a little lower than God,
And dost crown him with glory and majesty!
6Thou dost make him to rule over the works of Thy hands;
Thou hast put all things under his feet,
7All sheep and oxen,
And also the beasts of the field,
8The birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.

9O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Thy name in all the earth!

Psalm 19:1-14
For the choir director.
A Psalm of David.

The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
2Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.
3There is no speech, nor are there words;
Their voice is not heard.
4Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their utterances to the end of the world.
In them He has placed a tent for the sun,
5Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber;
It rejoices as a strong man to run his course.
6Its rising is from one end of the heavens,
And its circuit to the other end of them;
And there is nothing hidden from its heat.

7The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
8The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
9The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.
10They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
11Moreover, by them Thy servant is warned;
In keeping them there is great reward.
12Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults.
13Also keep back Thy servant from presumptuous sins;
Let them not rule over me;
Then I shall be blameless,
And I shall be acquitted of great transgression.
14Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Thy sight,
O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.

What else can we say?


Dr Val

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Speechless Word

The Word became human and thus became a word-user, but not before being speechless. Think of it, the Son of God, called the Word (know as the Logos in the Greek language) the one who was involved in speaking creation into being (See Genesis “God said . . . “) comes to earth. He becomes human in every aspect and as a baby the in ability to speak until His human body grew and developed.

This is not simply a reiteration of what God has already revealed in the ancient writings but a new revelation of who God is and how he will relate to humans. The wordless Word is the light in a darkened world, piercing the darkness and creating a new creation by the power of His word. He comes to become the second Adam and the beginning of the new creation.

The Word was made flesh and not simply words. He chose to take on our human flesh and not some other flesh. It pleased God for the Word to dwell for a season with like flesh of humanity. Malcolm Guite in his contribution to the book Beholding The Glory, the fullness of God chose to dwell in the flesh of our humanity. The oldest term in the English language for a human being is “reord-berend” or “word-bearer” and we are of all the creatures of flesh, especially word-bearers. It is an even more profound truth that followers of Christ bear the Word in our hearts!

He chooses to empty Himself and the Word becomes wordless for a season. He must grow as a human and learn what He already knows.

I recently read a sermon excerpt of a seventeenth century preacher, Lancelot Andrews who spoke of this paradox.

He says “the Word without a word. The eternal word not able to speak a word.’ Just as our wounds are healed by His stripes so our loss for words to express our fears, our guilt, and even our praise is redeemed and energized by His Spirit that takes up residence in the lives of followers of God. And in our incoherent silent anguish He speaks for us to Father.

T.S. Elliot takes up this thought in his work entitled
“Ash Wednesday”

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word, the unstilled world still whirled
About the center of the silent Word.

Think of it, the eternal Word of God begins the redemption process by ‘speaking” silence. And He ends his ministry of redemption with the echo of His final words ringing in the silence – It Is Finished!

May the silence of our hearts be filled with the Spirit’s pleadings for us today.

Dr. Val