Category Archives: nKurEdge

A LIFE TOO SHORT BUT WELL LIVED

David Marshall (1960-2017)

Grief is not only normal, it is healthy. It is God given . . . a process that He gives to help us through loss. He knows our needs as people because He created us. I grieve . . .

David has gained everything – more than any of us could ever think, imagine, or hope for. He is now experiencing all God intended for him since he was conceived; all that was planned for him since the creation of the world!

David lived a life to honor Jesus as his sovereign Lord – the Master and King of life who is the only all-powerful, all-knowing, and always present God. It is that testimony which has infected and impacted countless others.

I am deeply disappointed I will not be able to attend the service to celebrate David’s life but I will celebrate nonetheless.

This is my prayer for Glenda and all the Marshall family:

Heavenly Father, we know You are always more ready to hear us than we are ready to pray. You know our needs before we ask – but You instruct us to come to You as a child would come to a father with a request. So we humbly ask  for the unequaled power of the resurrection to transform sorrow into hope, fear into confidence, pride into humility, greed into generosity, hate into love, jealousy into trust, bitterness into forgiveness, bondage into deliverance, and unbelief into faith. Give us grace. Help us to live as those who are prepared to die. Enable us to live in such a way that all those around us will know that nothing in life or death will be able to separate us from your great love in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

CHOSEN

In 1 Samuel 16 we find Jesse and his sons in Bethlehem. They didn’t have any idea what was going on and it would be years before they recognized the significance of what took place that day. God sent Samuel to choose the next king for Israel and directed him to Jesse’s sons but none of the boys present had God’s approval. Samuel asked and found out there was one more son.  Jesse and the older sons referred to him as the “runt, the little one who is mostly unnoticed.”

When Samuel laid eyes on David he immediately knew: That’s the one!

I wonder how many times David recalled the moment when he was chosen.  How many times did he look back and find strength and courage? Was it the memory of that moment that gave him the character to respond in repentance? To face enemies? To deal with defeat and betrayal?

Being chosen, especially when we feel overlooked and unnoticed, makes us feel good. But more than that, being chosen boosts confidence and develops character. Those experiences become the foundation for even greater things in the future. God has chosen you, too.

As followers of Jesus we are “anointed” with the Holy Spirit – God is with us.

To borrow Eugene Peterson’s words, “Out of your insignificant, sheep-keeping obscurity, you are chosen.”*

Don’t ever forget.

*Peterson, Leap Over a Wall, p17

THANKFUL

“I am so thankful for Northgate!”

That’s what I heard from someone in the past few days and I heartily agree!

God is at work and you and I have “front-row seats” as we worship and serve Him together. I can’t even begin to number the people who have described life-altering experiences for which they trace the beginning back to a service or Life Group or other event at Northgate. It’s thrilling to witness God transforming lives. Here are just a few examples:

  • A marriage which is experiencing renewal after many years of angry words and mistrust.
  • Grandparents who have new hope for a grandchild who is suffering the consequences of some terrible decisions.
  • Someone who has reached out to ask forgiveness for years of bitterness and anger.
  • A daughter being reconciled to her father with whom she had no contact for more than 15 years.
  • Two people with severe communication problems who are now learning to listen and respond without using the terms “always” and “never.”
  • Several people who are learning to live with limitations instead of being angry at God for allowing those limitations in the first place.

And there are a lot more stories which can’t be told without breaking confidences. You may be one of the stories. In fact, I think it would be easier to count the people who haven’t experienced new hope, forgiveness, restoration, or purpose.  This is the power of the resurrection at work!

So I’ll rewrite the refrain of one of our recent favorite worship songs:

Holy Spirit, we witness you here

You flood our lives and change the atmosphere

Your glory, God, is what has filled our hearts

We are overcome by Your presence, Lord

I am so thankful for God’s powerful presence at Northgate.

A Leader We Can Trust

Lies. Cover-ups. Character assassination. Bullying. Conspiracies. Murder. Fraud. Manipulation.

None of it is new.

Satan has been using every tool at his disposal for thousands of years in a relentless attempt to distract Jesus followers from trusting their Leader.

But our Leader is not a king or a pharaoh; a ceasar or a prime minister; a chairman or a president. Our Leader is the Creator of the earth and everything in it; the Master of every atom and molecule; the only one who has ever conquered death never to die again. Our Leader is the Ruler of the Universe.

The election on November 8, 2016 will not change Jesus’ status: He will still sit at the right hand of the Father to carry out God’s will and work in our world. Nothing can alter the course He has laid out for us. No email scandal or offensive video will derail God’s control.

Please don’t make a grave mistake and put your trust in the outcome of an election. The results of this election will not surprise Jesus. He has a plan and nothing can stop Him. Nothing could be more certain.

Jesus is the Leader, Master, Ruler, and President of all who follow hard after Him.

Trust Him.

COLOR, TEXTURE, TONE . . .

Many years ago we were living in Bloomington, Indiana home of Indiana University which has a world-renown music department.  I recall attending two graduate piano recitals within a couple of weeks of each other with a professor who has amazing musical gifts. After the second recital he pointed out the subtle difference: Both were technically perfect but one played with emotion; coaxing out of the instrument color and texture, tone and vibrancy. The distinctions were significant and you might guess which one we enjoyed the most.

Life in the Household of Faith can become plain and technical unless we give it special attention. We dare not allow our gatherings to become perfunctory or superficial. The primary way to avoid becoming mechanical or routine in our worship is to become a participant; to get involved. Each one of us has an obligation to serve one another – worship and service are inseparable.

The beginning of a new school year is a great opportunity to get involved in worship – to challenge each other to follow Jesus better. There are all kinds of ministry opportunities with both children and adults, music and media, teenagers and guests. Find your place in the Household of Faith to coax out the color and texture, tone and vibrancy of life with Jesus.

“Breaking News!”

dallas

Tragedy.  Trauma.  Terrorism.

Frustration.  Fanaticism.  Fear.

Accusations.  Anger.  Anarchy.

It seems as if every day the headlines announce a new wave of destruction, deception, and death.

Opinions are a dime-a-dozen. After listening to, watching, and reading the news for the past 36 hours I’ve become convinced there are more opinions than facts.

The other observation is even the facts seem to change – almost as quickly as the opinions.

In the middle of all this horrific violence, how should Christ-followers respond? Here are some thoughts:

  • Evil is alive and well. Satan’s job description is to “steal and kill and destroy.” (John 10:10)
  • Jesus gives life – full of meaning and purpose. (John 10:10)
  • Every single human life is valuable, sacred – and worth protecting. (Genesis 1:27 & Psalm 139:13)
  • God loves everyone. No matter the color of skin or what language they speak or whether or not they just shot someone. God loves liberals, conservatives, socialists; pro-life and pro-abortion supporters. Every member of the LGBTQ community is loved by God. And He loves them so much He died for them. (Romans 5:8)
  • The “breaking news” is that the world is broken. But our hope is in God who is our fortress and protector in times of trouble. We take refuge in Him. (See Psalm 37)

C.S. Lewis wrote, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

THE TWO-MAN SLED

Perry Parson shared this story with me and I wanted to pass it along for Father’s Day!

My first sled was short with faded lettering and one broken board.  Mom bought it for my brother Lynn and me at the sale barn.  Lynn and I struggled all winter to have fun with that sled.  But the sled was so short that we couldn’t “belly-drive” it.  Instead each of us had to squeeze up while sitting on our rear and steer with our feet.

We must have complained about the short sled, because next Christmas we were given a brand new, five-foot-long sled.  It had new shiny varnish and a painted brand name that you could still read.  And it was long enough that I could lay down on it on my stomach and my feet would just barely hang over the end.

Lynn and I decided that we would try both of the sleds that very afternoon.  And instead of staying on some of the smaller hills on our farm, we pulled the sleds a mile down the road to get to the Vincennes road hill: a steep hill with a wicked turn halfway down that curved sharply to the left.

Lynn and I took turns with each sled the rest of the afternoon.  One of us would “belly-drive” the long sled while the other one would try to make it down the hill with “Shorty.”  That little sled would do fine until the curve.  And then, no matter how much I would lean to the left, it would never make the curve.  Having to sit up just raised the center of gravity too high.  I couldn’t make that curve and would just flop over.  But “Long-boy” was a different story.  A running belly flop start sent me flashing down the hill.  And dragging the left leg would pull me around the curve, flying down the road to the little town below.  By the time “Shorty” had dumped Lynn and he had picked himself up, “Long-boy” was already at the bottom and I was beginning the walk back up.

As the sun began to set, Lynn and I realized that we needed to head home soon.  But we each wanted to take “just one more ride.”  So we hit upon a plan.  We would use “Long-boy” as a two-man sled.  And being the older and larger of the two, it was decided that I would lay down first.  Then my brother took a running start and belly flopped onto my back.  As I gasped for my breath, we started out slowly, then picked up speed.  And struggling to hold on, Lynn grabbed on to me, pressing both my legs against the deck of the sled.  I struggled to get my left leg loose but I couldn’t get it free.  And so we did not make the turn.  Instead we shot straight across the road and plowed into the shallow drainage ditch along the roadside.  When we hit the frozen gravel piled along the edge of the road, “Long-boy” came to a sudden stop.  But Lynn and I did not.  In an instant I became the sled!  We continued sliding onward for another ten feet or so until we stopped.  I had snow inside my coat, under my shirt, and even behind my glasses, which somehow had stayed on my face.  I pushed Lynn off me and tried to clean my glasses.  We lay there laughing in the snow, enjoying the thrill of the ride, excitedly retelling to each other what had just happened.

As I sat up, I noticed that my heavy winter coat was open.  At first I thought it has been unzipped during the ride.  But instead, the coat was cut completely through.  And so was the shirt beneath.  Only the long Johns underneath the shirt were uncut.  Then we saw that we had slid through a trash pile someone had dumped along the roadside.  Digging through the snow, we found the jagged bottom of a broken mayonnaise jar.  If the coat had been thinner, or my layering of clothing less, it would have been my stomach that had been slit open.

We slowly walked home, pulling our sleds.  We were thankful for how fortunate we had been and wondered what would happen when Mom and Dad saw my clothes.  We were especially fearful of how our father would react.

Dad was a factory worker who dropped out of school in the 9th grade to help bring in money for his parents during the Great Depression.  And because of the Depression, he developed an attitude of  “pinching every penny until Abe Lincoln squealed.”  His lack of further education had also limited his wage earnings.  He worked long hours for every thing he brought home to his family, from new sleds to new winter coats.

As we came nearer to home, we were trying to decide what to tell Mom and Dad about our day, especially about the coat.  We thought that he would be angry and we were worried about what our punishment would be.  Should we lie?  Should we say the the Vincennes Gang attacked us (There was no gang of boys in a town of 30 people!) or some other far-fetched tale?  But my brother, who did not have a torn coat, said we should tell the truth.

We went inside the enclosed back porch, and dropped our snowy boots and coats on the floor.  Then we entered the back door into the warm kitchen.  Mom was at the oven, getting ready to serve the evening meal.  Dad was in the bathroom, at the front of the house, washing up for supper.  We hurriedly told Mom what had happened to the coat and finished just as Dad entered the room.

As I heard Mom retell our story, I braced for what I thought would come.  Dad looked at each of us, a frown on his face.  I thought he would explode!  Instead, he slowly said that coats could be replaced but his sons could not be.  I always knew that my father loved me, but it wasn’t until that moment that I realized how deeply.  He valued us much more than any earthly possession, knowing where the true treasures of life were.

After that day I would like to say that I always was careful not to cause my dad any problems, money or otherwise.  But being a self-centered, forgetful person, I can’t say that happened.

Our heavenly Father also loves us.  But His love is even greater than any earthly father.  He can see all the sin we have committed, all the sin we will commit, how often we will turn from Him, or hurt Him.  And yet He still sent His Son to die for us.  We need to remember this daily, ask the Lord for forgiveness, and consistently strive to do His will.

“‘ … for He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.”’ — Hebrews 13:5b.

Listen to me. Please?!

I shared this yesterday morning as we introduced our four week series, “I Pray.” I wrote it on May 22, 2008 when we learned the cancer in Lois could not be removed and she had less than 2 years. Since I was in a hospital waiting room I couldn’t pray out loud, so I wrote this which is loosely based on Psalm 5.

Daddy, Daddy, Listen to me. Please?!

Daddy I need help making sense of all this. My brain hurts, my heart hurts, I can’t even cry anymore.

I really need you. I feel like my whole life has been broken into pieces – a thousand piece jig-saw puzzle with no picture on the box.

Forgive me, Daddy, for all the times I’ve insisted you do what I want – to make things come out my way. That’s never worked. I realize that now. I know you’ve forgiven me, but I’m still sorry.

I know you will protect us from the wicked evil in this world but I feel as if I’ve been overcome by the noxious fumes of confusion and deception and now I’m wandering around these hospital hallways in a fog. I can’t see where to go. I know I shouldn’t be afraid – but I am. Afraid of tomorrow let alone next week or next year.

So, I’d like to come into your study. I’ll quit talking.

I just need to be near you; for you to protect me. You don’t have to talk to me but if you do I’ll listen carefully, I’ll do my best to follow your instructions, because I know it’s the only way I’ll get through this.

Daddy, I need a hug – to be reminded that you love me just the way I am.

One in a Million

A father once said, “Son, you’re one in a million!”

The son replied, “Dad, I know you meant that as a compliment, but it means there are 1500 guys just like me in China!”

Late Sunday afternoon, May 15, we learned Don Callison, a man who was one in seven billion went home to be with his Lord. After a tough journey with cancer, Don’s life on this earth ended and his eternal life began.

We could search the entire population of the world and not find another man the caliber of Don Callison. Who can measure the value and impact of a life lived at full-throttle for Jesus? Only in the last few months, as the cancer took its toll, did Don slow down physically but spiritually and intellectually he was sharp – even as recently as my last visit on April 8th.  For every question I asked him about his health, he asked two about my ministry. It was never about Don; it was always about others – and mostly about pointing them to Jesus.

Don’s enthusiasm for the Gospel was highly contagious; his sense of humor disarming and his persuasive skills unequaled. I’m sure God has a record but there’s no way for us to count the number of people who packed their bags to serve at Echo Ranch Bible Camp in Alaska or on the mission teams to Russia. And those are just the short-term missionaries. The Holy Spirit used Don’s wit, sarcasm, and captivating smile to provoke many to give up promising state-side careers to move to remote places all over the world so they could share the Good News of Jesus, the Christ.

I’ve watched people add zeros to checks because Don had the bravado to say out-loud, “You can do more than that!” Few people realize what God did through Don’s vision for the Christian Union Triennium project which ended in June 2013 and provided funds for five radio stations, 8 clean water wells, and 1600 solar powered radios!

I first met Don in August 1990 and I am a different person because of our friendship. Over the years we did several things together but from 2008 on we were especially close as we spent many weeks each summer traveling promoting missions.

He taught me how to follow Jesus better. I know of no greater compliment. He was one in seven billion.

I will miss him.

The Danger of Individualism

I will never forget the all-nighter I had with God in 1983. I strongly sensed God was leading me to sell the bookstore our family owned – something I did not want to do. (Owning and managing a bookstore was a dream my Dad and I had shared and talked about since I was 9 yrs old.) Dad died in 1980 and his estate was bankrupt. We had worked for three years to pay bills and dig out of debt and I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Then God and I had an all-nighter. I remember talking to a friend and mentor the next morning. He encouraged me to seek counsel from at least three God-fearing friends. He said, “It’s all too easy to act as an individual but God created us to live in community – so seek the advice of those you’re in community with.”

There is Biblical precedent:

In Acts 6 we find the record of the Twelve gathering all the disciples together to choose seven who would be responsible for the “daily distribution of food.” The decision was made by a group.

There is also the account in Acts 13 where we find the church at Antioch agreeing as a group to set apart Paul and Barnabas and send them off to spread the Gospel.

There are certainly situations when God speaks to us as individuals about sin, people, and circumstances that apply to us as individuals. We should test those things against the Word of God (see 1John 4) and respond accordingly.

When our decisions have implications for more than ourselves, we should be careful. Our individualism, selfishness, personal agendas, and desire for control often become the very things that cause us to be deceived.

The disaster of individualism often begins with “God told me . . . “

Yes, I did sell the store. Everyone I sought out agreed it was the wise thing to do.