Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Cancer Executive Conference

I just returned from Charlotte, SC where I attended the Association of Cancer Executives National Conference. This is an annual event and probably the group I have benefited from most during my professional career in oncology. However, this year was different because I was asked to address this group and talk about roadmapping tools I developed for strategic planning and progress management. Having done so, I learned a couple of things about myself:
  • The passion I have to teach is significantly influenced by the audience I am addressing. The people in this association are very good folk. I have really enjoyed and benefited from the collaboration I have had with many of them. However, there was a distinct difference for me in addressing this group as compared to looking into the audience and seeing bothers and sisters in Christ whom I share life with and have grown to love deeply.
  • The passion I have to teach is fueled by the topic I am teaching. Although I am proud of the tools I developed, it is not something that "lights my fire". As I presented on the topic, I felt restrained because I knew that what I had to say would not likely change some one's life. This is in sharp contrast to the Word of God which is living and active and sharper than any two edged sword piercing to the very marrow of the soul. Now that lights my fire!

In other words, although I was honored to present to such a prestigious group on a national level, I learned that I am not a teacher for teachings sake. I am a pastor, compelled by the Spirit of God, for the love of His people and the good news of the Gospel which is sufficient unto salvation. Thank you God for confirming this in the deepest parts of my heart.

Saturday, January 27, 2007


I'll be the first to admit, I am not the best at keeping up with world events. Since I don't routinely watch the news and I rarely read the paper, I learn of only the the most significant of the current events such as 9/11 and the Asian Tsunami. Yet, I have been intrigued, even challenged recently by reading Joel Rosenberg's book, Epicenter. As an Orthodox Jew turned Evangelical Christian, he has an amazing understanding and experience of political world events and how they correlate to biblical prophesy.
Early in his book, he shares the personal impact of Jesus' critical words in Luke 12:54-56:

"And He was also saying to the crowds, "When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming,’ and so it turns out. "And when you see a south wind blowing, you say, ‘It will be a hot day,’ and it turns out that way. "You hypocrites! You know how to analyze the appearance of the earth and the sky, but why do you not analyze this present time?" (Luke 12:54-56, NASB95)

Those living in first century Palestine knew the Hebrew scripture and its prophesies well. Yet, they could not (or would not) connect the dots to see that Jesus was this promised Messiah they know was coming.
In the same way, I think we can be familiar with the scripture as well and even anticipate the Lord's return. However, we too can miss the "labor pains" of Christ's return by not looking at the world through a Biblical lens. We don't connect the dots to see how current events may be fulfilling the promises of God and the fulfillment of His plan.
"So what?", we might ask. "I'll know when I am raptured," would be something I might say if challenged in this regard. But that is selfish don't you think? If nothing else, taking the time to see the events of the world through a Biblical lens and recognizing God's promised plan unfolding, accomplishes 2 things for me.
1. It reminds me that our Creator God and King is active in the lives of mankind to faithfully bring about His promised plan. He still moves the hearts of kings as streams of water and even though we don't exactly know when He will return...we do know that each day is one day closer.
2. The knowledge of this imminent return encourages a more bold and meaningful testimony of my faith in Christ and the need to share His love. Without paying attention, I can become very comfortable in my conservative sheltered world. Yet, the realization that Christ will return and His admonishment to be "watchful and ready" motivates me to diligently carry out His mission as His tool "to seek and save the lost".
Bottom line, it is a good wake up call. The Lord is coming. I need to be ready. I need to recognize his plan unfolding. I need to be alert to give of defense for what I believe as a watching world will increasing become aware that this world is not our home.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Still Had Fun!

Well, it wasn't 12 inches as we had hoped, but it was still fun. We used most of the snow in the backyard to build the snow cave (or igloo as Graham likes to call it). We had a brief intermission to have some more adventure. My brother, Shannon and I pulled the boys behind the 4 wheeler using and old inner tube from the lake. Big fun!
I understand I missed out on a great basketball game as Texas Tech beat #5 Kansas. But I was having too much fun with Graham and he will win out over a basketball game any day.
Oh, in case your wondering. The 2 yo would have nothing to do with anything that required him to wear a bubble jacket and boots. Given the option, he chose to stay inside. Maybe next year.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Sad...But True

I have a confession. I am embarrassed to admit it but I actually watched some of American Idol tonight. I have seen maybe 3 episodes since America became captivated by the talent seeking sensation, and each time I ask myself, "Why did I do that?"
This was definitely one of those nights as the show was recorded in Seattle. Wow! There are some strange people in this world!
To be honest the show is unsettling to me. Since when is it OK to humiliate someone for what meager talent they possess, what they look like and what minimal intelligence they posses to even think they have something worthy to offer. Now, according to our standard of "rock star talent", they definitely don't measure up. But have we gone too far when America tunes in to watch the "idiots" of our society lose what little dignity they have left? It seems as if our society has lowered itself too far when it finds the public defamation of another human being funny - even entertaining. I don't think its funny or entertaining.
Not knowing what the episode would be tonight, we made the mistake of letting our 7 year old son watch a contestant or 2 try out in front of the judges. Having never seen the show before, he was literally brought to tears when he heard the judges cast insults to those on stage. He says to me, "But Dad, they are just doing the best they can. Why are they being so mean to them?" Is my son just naive or are we just that callous?
Here is the ironic part.
I changed the channel to PBS and watched a much more interesting documentary on the communist party in China. This particular episode highlighted the control that the Communist leaders have over religious and state affairs. Their appointment and removal of civic and religious leaders based on compliance with the party line was overt. In the same way, the control of the media to highlight the good of the Communist party while covering up those events that would not reflect positively on the government keeps the society in a state of apparent control and perceived peace.
Here is the question: Which is worse - a society that has no boundaries or one that is controlled by boundaries? I think it is a choice of 2 evils. Sad...but true.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Beautiful Letdown

I believe I go into a slight state of depression when I finish a sermon series. I spend so much time and effort preparing the sermon, I get excited about sharing what I have learned, and then...its done. On one side it seems positive because I think it reveals my passion. I truly enjoy the time in God's Word, I personally experience great benefit and challenge from what I learn, I love our church and I want them to benefit and be challenged as well. On the other hand, maybe I put too much in it. If I am going to do this every Sunday, how do I avoid the letdown - the exhaustion of having spent so much of myself in the process?
Perhaps one obvious answer is my dependence on God. Do I trust that He who has called me will also equip me? Is His power perfected in my weakness? The Bible says "yes" in both cases so it must be so.
The reality is, my life has divided attention as I continue to work in the hospital but also move closer to full time ministry with an occasional taste of what is to come. It too is both good and bad as God is using this time to shape me. Lessons of patience as the process drags on, trust in Him as I continue to be evaluated and critiqued (both by others as well as myself), a deepening passion for his people who call MPC their home. Yet it is also exhausting...the divided road is more and more difficult to travel as I keep one foot on each path. The longer I go, the more painful the stretch. Word is spreading at the hospital, so naturally people see me differently. Some see me as having limited impact and may even discount me as I am "on my way out". Others avoid me because now I am "clergy". Still others may initiate conversations that otherwise would have gone unspoken.
It really is a stretching time for me and has been for a few years now...and I still have 2 more to go. I pray for rest and peace in the comforting arms of God. I confess the need for support and encouragement from family and friends. But I have to be careful here because unless you have traveled this journey, it is difficult to know what it is like. I must not expect too much from others and then be disappointed when they don't come through.
But God knows...this is His plan. He has set me on this path and He knows the journey well. My prayer is that I will be able to praise God as David did in Psalm 4 when he writes:

"I will lie down and sleep peacefully, for you, Lord, make me safe and secure."

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Great Omission

I finish up my preparation for Part 2 of our study in Jonah this next Sunday. Quite frankly, I am deeply convicted. There are so many rich lessons to be learned and truths that are taught by this simple, all too familiar story. Yet, the poignancy of this book as it relates to the church in America today is startling to me.
Not unlike Jonah and the people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel during his time, we are experiencing a period of great affluence and relative peace. Oh sure, we have the threat of the evil terrorists...but so did Jonah. They were called the Assyrians and their version of evil rivals that of those who fly planes into buildings.
Yet, amidst this backdrop of impending evil, we have mega churches, like that of Joel Osteen, who encourage us to "Discover the Champion in You" as his website proclaims. One particular view of his best selling book, "Your Best Life Now" says:

"If you want to read a book in which discontentment is encouraged, a book that shows God to be powerless apart from your power-filled thoughts and words, a book in which sin is minimized and renamed in every conceivable way, and a supposedly Christian book that gives only trivial mention to Jesus Christ, Your Best Life Now is the book for you."

But let's not just pick on Joel. Take some time to browse your local Christian book store and just look at the number of best selling books which all share a common topic...YOU!
We have Denominational Churches and Bible churches alike that mine the truths of scripture. We are blessed with amazing teachers who expound the wonderful truths of scripture. Through archaeological discoveries and years of study, we know more and have more confirmed about what we say we believe than ever before. We are a well fed, highly educated Christian culture that seems to demonstrate a satisfied understanding of the character of God...but so did Jonah.
Yet, if we take all we know and apply it only to ourselves, danger lies ahead! If this happens…if we become so focused on ourselves, we will eventually see an end to evangelism! We will no longer have people raised up from within our church bodies - those who go out to the mission field and proclaim the Good News of the Gospel to the Ninevites. We will lose sight of God’s view of the nations and His desire for none to perish but all to come to eternal life.

The Great Commission will become the Great Omission.

Let's not make that mistake. The message of Jonah gives us fair warning. May we have ears to hear and eyes that see.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Warning Label

I think children should wear a warning label:

-Caution! If you are at risk of heart disease, suffer from anxiety or are contemplating suicide, I could push you over the edge!

And there are certain activities that have a higher risk level than others. Like the first day back after Christmas break. And can you blame them? We have showered them with gifts, fed them delicious food, let them stay up late at night followed by a long slumber in the morning.

And now..we want them to get up at what time??? And move how fast??? And go to school where the aforementioned vacation is a figment of the imagination???

Just be ready! Read the warning label! Those unprepared could meet their demise.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

What did Jonah know?

Often times, when we consider the character of Jonah in the Bible, we don't necessarily leave with a high opinion of this prophet. He seems shallow and foolish as he tries to run from God.

Run from God...are you kidding?

What a silly man Jonah is...or is he?

I am intrigued because I am convinced that Jonah knew the character of God quite well. Perhaps better than most in scripture. I'm not so sure that Jonah didn't intend to escape from the presence of God, but instead, he was running from the will of God. He knew well the mercy and forgiveness of God and he did not want this grace to be extended to such a barbaric people such as the Ninevites. But that's not all...

One of the "fellow prophets", a contemporary of Jonah, was Hosea. This is what Hosea spoke to the people of Israel:
  • "They will not return to the land of Egypt; But Assyria—he will be their king Because they refused to return to Me. The sword will whirl against their cities, And will demolish their gate bars And consume them because of their counsels." (Hosea 11:5-6)

So think about it. Jonah and Hosea were fellow prophets who lived during the same time, in the same region of the Northern Kingdom, each speaking to the people of Israel. As such, they were well aware of what the other was declaring on behalf of the God they served. Therefore, Jonah likely knew, from the prophesy of Hosea, that Assyria would "demolish" and "consume" the people of Israel. And yet, these were the very people God told Jonah to go and "call them to repentance".

This is what Jonah knew:

  1. God is a God of mercy and grace. When people (of any vile nature) come to Him with a heart of repentance, He will forgive.
  2. God Does not lie. So if God said that Assyria would capture the people of Israel and send them into exile, it would definitely happen.

So put yourself in Jonah's shoes. Make it personal. If you have a family, imagine that you knew you and your family would be kidnapped and taken hostage in the wilderness by a crazed man. A terrible thought, but let's assume you had a vision from God and you knew, with the utmost certainty, this would happen at some point in the future.

Now, one morning, you have another word from God and he tells you to go and encourage this man, the man you know is going to kidnap you and your family, and you are to tell him about the love and mercy of God.

Are you kidding? Who wouldn't run the opposite direction?

Perhaps Jonah knew more than we give him credit for. And which one of us has not known of something that we knew God desired of us and yet we ran? I think we can relate to Jonah more than we realize. He was a man just like us...very much like us!

Jonah was foolish to try and avoid the will of God for his life...so are we!

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

A Glimpse Into My World at Work

Each week, I send an email to the staff of the Cancer Center where I serve as Administrator. In general, it is an update on our efforts to create a culture of service to our patients and to one another. Motivating staff to perform at the highest standards of excellence is what I consider to be one of my highest priorities as a leader. Here is a glimpse into my world at work seen through my most recent letter to staff sent out this morning.

I sure hope everyone had a great New Year. I expect 2007 to be our best year ever as we close out 2006 on so many positive notes. I don’t know what our 4th quarter patient satisfaction scores are at this time, but what I do know is that they will be the highest we have ever had. I can’t wait to see the fruits of your labor and pass the good news along. Trust me, I’ll send it your way as soon as I receive it.

As we begin the New Year, many of us will consider New Years Resolutions. Most of them will be broken during the first month (i.e. “I resolve not to eat so much of the delicious food that is so often brought to the Cancer Center.”). Resolutions, as a rule, are not often carried through.

Why not?

Any resolution will fail at the point of meeting its first obstacle, if the resolution was conditioned upon someone else. For example, “I would have not eaten that chocolate if she hadn’t made it especially for me. That would not be nice.” OR “I would not have become so angry if they wouldn’t have been so rude to me.” OR “I would exercise more if I didn’t have so many last minute projects to take care of.”

But I believe there is a difference between a resolution and a promise. Whereas resolutions are often contingent upon something external, a promise is an internal commitment unaltered by external conditions. This is demonstrated well by one of my favorite authors, CS Lewis. He was determined to pay what he had vowed. His biography tells of the suffering he endured because he kept a promise he had made to a buddy during World War I. This friend was worried about the care of his wife and small daughter if he should be killed in battle, so Lewis assured him that if that were to happen he would look after them. As the war dragged on, the man was killed. True to his word, Lewis took care of his friend’s family. Yet no matter how helpful he tried to be, the woman was ungrateful, rude, arrogant, and domineering. Through it all, Lewis kept forgiving her. He refused to let her actions become an excuse to renege on his promise.

That’s the difference! A promise is unaffected by another persons actions.

As we begin the New Year, consider the promises we should make to both our patients and our co-workers. Decide today how you will treat each other with dignity and respect. Consider how you will demonstrate compassionate care to our patients and sincere concern for their families. And then make a promise. Because we all know someone is going to have a bad day, patients will become anxious and families will be demanding. Yet, if you made a promise, your response will remain unaffected by another persons actions.

This year, avoid the New Years Resolution and make a Promise.