Acting Out Our Faith: What Shall We Do?


“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”  When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.” – Acts 2:36-39 (NIV)

I love the response the people had when they heard Peter share the good news of the gospel: “What shall we do?”  They didn’t ask what doctrinal statement they needed to sign, they didn’t look for membership papers to sign and they didn’t ask for training in theological argumentation.  They asked what they need to do in response to the most amazing truth they had ever heard.

So what shall we do?  In response to the gospel, what shall we do each day?  The initial instructions from Peter are repentance and baptism, but I think those things are good for more than getting on the right side of salvation.  They are the door into a life empowered by the Holy Spirit.  So every day we need to make sure we are centered on Christ, living in the power of the resurrection and empowered by the Holy Spirit.  That is what we should do, but is it what we shall do?

It is easy to get stuck on the other side of salvation.  We cross that line from being lost to being found and we forget to keep moving forward.  We forget to ask God, “What shall we do?”  Be a doer.  Keep that question alive in your life with God.  Whenever you here the truth of God’s Scripture ask how it answers the question, “What shall I do?”

Lord, help me to continue moving forward toward You.  Lead me to the answer to the question, “What shall I do?” every day with You.  Make me a doer.  Amen

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Resolutions: One Whose Eye Sees Clearly


A repost from last year.  May God bless you and yours this coming year.

 

Now when Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he did not resort to sorcery as at other times, but turned his face toward the desert. When Balaam looked out and saw Israel encamped tribe by tribe, the Spirit of God came upon him and he uttered his oracle: “The oracle of Balaam son of Beor, the oracle of one whose eye sees clearly, the oracle of one who hears the words of God, who sees a vision from the Almighty, who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened.” – Numbers 23:1-4

Balaam is an interesting man.  He is a prophet of God, but he works for an evil Moabite king, Balaak.  This puts him in a serious conflict of interest when Balaak summons him to curse the Israelites before they can overrun Moab.  When Balaam first gets the request, God tells him not to go because Israel is a people blessed by God.  Balaak does not relent and finally God releases Balaam to go as long as he says whatever God tells him to say.

Before Balaam was truly ready to speak on God’s behalf, he needed to go through a humbling experience with a talking donkey and an angel of death.  He needed to be reminded that it was better to fear God than a Moabite king.  When Balaam finally stands before Balaak, he is clearly a changed man.  The result of his transformation is proclaimed in the verse above; Balaam is now “one whose eye sees clearly.”

In the world of optics, resolution is very important; the better the resolution, the better the image. High definition TV’s, high resolution cameras, and prescription glasses are all intended to give us a clearer picture.  This is really what our resolutions should be about for the New Year – clearer vision.  Resolutions can give focus, clarity and definition to our intentions but that is only part of the picture.  It doesn’t help us at all to have good vision if we aren’t looking in the right direction.

I think that was Balaam’s problem.  He obviously could see before, but he wasn’t looking in the right direction.  He knew that God was on the side of Israel, but he didn’t want to be the one to bless them against the will of Balaak.  Once God had opened Balaam’s eyes, they stayed focused on God and not on Balaam’s fears and doubts.

In looking forward to a new year, and making the almost required resolutions, we would do well to check our vision.  Is it clouded by negative thoughts, fears and doubts?  Are we looking in the wrong direction or at the wrong things?  Are the worries and distractions of this world skewing what God wants us to see?  This year ask God to give you a vision of where He wants you to go.  Be one who “hears the word of God.”  This year, if you decide to make any resolutions, make sure they are being made by “one whose eye sees clearly.”

Pressing On – Part 1: Turning the Page


I was reminded recently that we can get distracted from pressing on in our walk with God.  Things close in, demands seem overwhelming, responsibilities push for our attention and we can let our time with God dwindle away.  But pressing on in our life with God is what makes us fit for the demands and responsibilities of this life.  I hope this post is a blessing to you.

Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.  Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh.  For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh–  though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more:  circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee;  as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.  But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.

I have heard from various job coaches and employment websites, “A good resume may help you get the job, but it won’t help you keep a job.”  This idea that what you have done is far less important than what you are doing and where you are headed comes across clearly in Paul’s statement above.  Forget your resume.  I don’t believe that Paul is asking us to be like Dory in Finding Nemo, where every moment the past is a blank slate.  Where would testimony fit in this kind of viewpoint?  What would we do with a passage like, “Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering.”? (Hebrews 10:32 NIV)

I think Paul is warning us not to get stuck in the past, to not become those perennial fixtures at bars, bistros and church pews who share the same stories year after year.  They experience a flash of genius, a moment of brilliance or a dispensation of grace and that experience makes an impact.  Instead of this moment providing the motivation to turn the page in their story, it becomes a bookmark; their story is on pause and never is complete.  And like a story, our lives should be moving toward something; a culmination of events, choices and relationships, woven together by a merciful and just God.

However, you can’t get to the end of the story if you aren’t willing to turn the page.  Each page must be left behind to see what is on the next. Paul had a lot of interesting chapters to his story before he met Christ on the road to Damascus.  He had one of those amazing testimonies about transformation and redemption.  I’m sure he could have told his story again and again for years and impacted many people in his day.  But Paul turned the page.

Are you turning the pages of your story?  Are you willing to let go of what has been to live what is so you can move toward what can be?  Or are you reading the same page over and over again because it is safe and comfortable.  Put your trust in the “author and finisher of our faith” that your story is worth turning the page.  Someday, someone will need to read your story to help them turn the pages of their own.  Turn the page.

Remembering September 11th and What Followed: A Moment of Honor and Nobility


The rest tent is the white rectangle in the middle of the picture.  You can view a current picture of the World Trade Center here.

Something I post every September 11th.  Pray for peace.

“But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate — we cannot consecrate — we cannot hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

The Gettysburg Address

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
November 19, 1863

It was early on Tuesday morning as I got dressed and ready for work.  Molly and Keely were still asleep when the phone rang and my Mother’s broken voice came across the line, “Turn on the TV, Christopher!”  The image of that first tower smoldering in the New York Skyline is still fresh in my mind, ingrained there with so many other images that came into homes and business throughout that day on screens too small for the enormity of the event.

A few weeks later the call came from The Salvation Army Headquarters that they needed officers to volunteer for duty at Ground Zero; I had my name in the same day.  There were five of us from California and we arrived in New York October 15th of 2001.  We went through the standard briefing, received our assignments and then they took us to Ground Zero.  When the subway arrived at the Chambers Street station you could feel the quiet, the normally bustling crowds subdued and solemn.

Words fail to describe the scene at the World Trade Center.  Photographs may be worth a thousand words, but a thousand words would not be enough to describe what that place of desolation felt or smelled or sounded like on that day.  Those with me said little and walked on in silence around the perimeter of Ground Zero.  With each stop we would meet the men and women who worked diligently to recover those who had fallen what seemed ages ago.  They would smile and welcome us to the work, but the weariness and sorrow in their eyes was deep.

Our team worked at Ground Zero for two weeks and much could be written about what we saw and heard in those 14 days, but I will only share one event as the nation remembers September 11th, 2001.  I was assigned with a fellow officer to man a rest tent across the street from the World Trade Center and what was now called “The Pile.”  We provided drinks, snacks, basic first aid supplies, magazines and other items for the recovery workers, but we also served as chaplains as the need arose.

I was by myself one evening (I worked the shift from 11pm to 11am) when a firefighter asked if I was a chaplain.  I answered “Yes” and followed him to The Pile.  The crews had just uncovered an elevator car and were recovering the remains of seven people; seven sons and daughters taken from their resting place to be identified and laid to rest again with honor and dignity.  As they lifted each stretcher from the hole, an American flag was draped across the body and then they placed the stretcher on a motorized cart to transport them to the morgue.  I was asked to accompany one of the fallen and took my place at the foot of the stretcher and waited to make the walk.

That is when the siren sounded.  One long, deep clarion tone and everything stopped.  Truckers stopped their dump trucks and shut off the engines.  Cranes paused with loads of debris still in their grasp.  Dozens of workers stopped where they were and faced the Pile, hats off and held over their hearts.  A hush settled on that hallowed ground and we began the long procession to take the seven on their way to loved ones and a better resting place.  It was one of the most noble and honorable moments of my life.

Over the next few days that moment rested in my heart and mind and changed the way I saw what was around me.  Perspective comes at a high price sometimes, but then it can help us value what we ought.  Our team headed back to California on October 29th, ready to be with family and to consider all that we had seen the past two weeks.  I remember seeing my little girl, Keely, waiting with her mother in the concourse.  The sound of, “Daddy! Daddy!” was the sweetest sound I had heard in weeks.  She ran toward me and I toward her and we hugged and cried and mommy joined in soon after.

It has been 15 years since the towers fell and America rose to the resulting challenges and I have not forgotten that moment.  Each day is a day to live the life that hateful men tried to destroy. I will spend this September 11th with my family.  I will go and worship God with my brothers and sisters in Christ.  I will rest at home with my wife, daughters and extended family.  I will celebrate the life I have and give thanks to God.  We will play and laugh and eat good food.  We will snuggle and watch funny cartoons and read a book or two.  There will be days ahead when grief will visit us again, but we will not let it stay for long.  If you let it settle in and get comfortable, it is harder to kick out and it does not suffer roommates. This day is about God’s grace turning mourning into dancing.

Love your family, be grateful, remember what was sacrificed so you don’t forget what was gained and never take freedom for granted.  Remember the words of Abraham Lincoln, “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Read the Directions: Do Not Over Inflate


If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. – Philippians 2:1-5 (NIV)

I have played a few different sports over the years, and in that time I have inflated a number of balls.  Footballs, basketballs, soccer balls, volleyballs.  They all have the same thing in common – they should not be over inflated.  Several things can happen and all of them are bad.  Over inflation can stretch the ball out of round, cause leaks and weaken the seams, all of which make the balls useless for their respective sports.  Imagine what overinflating can do to an ego.

God has designed us to work the right way.  Just like a soccer ball is designed to cut through the air when it is kicked or thrown, we are designed to work a certain way.  If we are over inflated, we won’t fly right.  We will be off balance, wobbly and inaccurate.  We can also be under inflated.  We can fall flat and unresponsive.  On the one hand we can have a view of ourselves that ignores our limitations.  We see ourselves as better than we are and even worse, better than others.  On the other hand, we can have a diminished view of what God has created us to be.  We are blind to the abundant life He can produce in our lives.  Somewhere there is humility that refuses pride but engages the fullness of life in Christ.

It is easy to get over or under inflated.  In our culture of narcissism, over inflation seems to be the norm.   We are even taught to talk ourselves up and say positive things about who we are, whether they are true or not.  Plenty of the popular talk shows are based on the “You are Special” appeal to their audiences.  They sell them on ideologies that don’t demand true change of character, only a change of perspective. You are a princess because you believe you are.  Nonsense.  There is a great gap between your belief defining the truth and the truth defining your belief.

It is just as easy to become under inflated.  Pride breaks people, whether it is the proud one or the ones who got in their way.  That brokenness can begin paterns of thinking that deny the image of God in His creation.  It is this brokenness that allows people to go into self-destructive behavior, wrecking themselves and their relationships.  Under inflated people get stuck, living flat and empty lives.  This is not the abundant life God calls us to.

There is a level of inflation that puts in the right place with God and man.  We are not full of ourselves, but what He has put in us.  We understand this, so we have no desire to fill up on anything other than what He supplies.  This gives us the ability to fly right and suffer the blows from the world without being punctured or falling flat.  When God is at the heart of what we believe about ourselves we can understand our brokenness and the hope for wholeness with confidence, not arrogance or self-pity.

I pray that God helps me see when I am trying to over inflate.  I hope that my friends and family will, in love and gentleness, point out when I am being full of myself instead of the God who loves me.  I pray that God will guard me from losing air, limiting my expectation by my brokenness instead of His power to heal and renew.  Lord help us be filled with you and nothing else. Amen.

I Am…


My daughter was given an assignment in her fifth grade class to write a poem about herself.  I am really proud of what she wrote.

 

I am emotional and tender-hearted

I wonder how God became

I hear the sound of fighting that should be stopped

I see beauty in life

I want the world to have peace

I pretend nothing bad is happening somewhere

I feel innocent

I touch someone with kindness

I worry about what will happen to the world

I cry when people can’t get along

I understand that you just need to let it out sometimes

I say, “I love you.”

I dream of God being present

I try not to argue

I hope that everyone will listen

I am Keely Dae Yeager

The Discipline of Presence: A Place to Start


16 So Cain went out from the LORD’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden. – Genesis 4:16 (NIV)

We are wanderers in this world.  We are born disconnected, separated from the one who made us.  We are like Cain, living in a wilderness away from the Lord’s presence; and we would have no hope of changing this miserable circumstance if the Lord had not provided a way out.

Through Christ we are no longer wanderers in the world, we are the beacons, the lights on the hills.  God can now be present in our lives, or maybe it is better to say that we can now experience God’s presence in our lives.  It is not as if God wasn’t present before, but we were ill-equipped to perceive and understand it in our unredeemed condition.

So now we have walked through that door of salvation into the grace and love of God, granted access to His presence through the Holy Spirit, but it doesn’t always feel like God is present.  Our similarities with Cain do not die easily.  We struggle with experiencing God’s presence because we struggle with being whole people.

Our fragmentation and inner divisiveness come from inside us, even though we might try and blame the world and others and even God.  It is this fragmentary living that causes us so much pain and heartache, and I believe that at the root is a lack of love.  In the tragedy of Cain and Abel, Cain is driven by hate for his brother, himself and even God (or at least Cain’s idea of God).  If at any point leading up to spilling Abel’s blood Cain had allowed love to rule his thoughts and actions, Genesis might have been a different story.

When God commands us to love others as we love ourselves, we sometimes forget the loving ourselves part.  If we want to be fully present in the lives of others as God is present in ours, we must love ourselves.  This is not a call to selfish love, but a First Corinthians 13 love.  Read that chapter and see if it describes how you treat yourself and how you think about yourself.  I know for me the answer is “not yet,” and that is why I struggle to love others in the same way.

When my wife needs me to be fully present with her in a conversation or in silence, I need to love myself enough to love her enough.  That is a place to start…loving yourself.  Love that is defined by God, delivered by the Holy Spirit and purchased by the blood of Christ.  Love that heals and grows and mends.  Love that allows light into all of our dark corners so that God can do His work.  It is not just okay to love yourself; it is the doorway to loving others and being present in their lives.

As we learn to love ourselves the way God loves us, we become capable of greater love for others and more skilled at being present in their lives.  Take some time this week to ask God to search out your dark corners in the light of His limitless love.  Meditate on the love described in I Corinthians 13 and ask God to help you have that love for the person you see in the mirror. Pray that God will help you see yourself through His loving eyes.

In Loving Memory of Mike Gower


In Memory of Mike Gower

I first met Mike back in 1991.  He and Caroline had taken on the Resident Directorship for the men’s dorm at Simpson College and none of us knew then how much their presence would impact our lives.  We knew him then only as Gower, the big voiced, gregarious general with a strong handshake and a ready laugh, but we soon knew him as the compassionate, loving, wise and patient mentor who directed young men and women into a deeper life with God.

I remember being a resident assistant under his leadership, learning more about what it meant to serve others from him than I did in many of my theology courses.  He was an artisan with relationship, becoming the right person at the right time for each person under his care.  His prayers were insightful, purposeful, and always available.  He loved Caroline “as Christ loves the church” where all of us could see it and aspire to the same love.

I remember visiting Mike in the hospital the day after his open heart surgery with a fellow resident assistant to see how he was doing.  He spent most of our visit asking about how everyone was doing in the dorms.  He seemed indestructible, focusing his will on getting back to what and who he loved.

I remember the premarital counseling sessions that he did with Molly and me, challenging us to love each other more every day.  He pushed us to ask the hard questions and encouraged us to accept the hard answers.  He helped us lay a good foundation for a life together and we are both very grateful.

Choices and changes took our family away from Redding and the Gowers, but each time we returned we looked forward to seeing them and re-connecting.  And each time they made us feel like the connection had always been there, strong and true and genuine.  We finally moved back to Redding a few years ago and stepped back through the doors of our old church, Risen King, to be greeted again by Mike.

It was good to feel that handshake again, strong and true and genuine.  Mike put as much love into a single handshake as many people put into their deepest friendship.  If you were fortunate, his handshake would be followed closely by a hug from Caroline, God’s love and joy in each gracious embrace.  Together they not only welcomed people into a service, they extended an invitation to belong and be loved.  I don’t know if there are greeters in Heaven, but I certainly know someone who can do the job.

I miss Mike.  It will be some time before the sore spot in my heart and spirit go away, but if that is the worst I have to suffer for having called him friend, so be it.  My prayer is that I will not forget that handshake and the loving attitude of service that was extended with each simple greeting.  I hope that someday I can have that same love and grace toward others.  I want my marriage to be a reflection of God’s love for His people.  I want to be like Mike.

Hammer and Nail: A Poem


While it is the Christmas season, it is also cold and flu season; we are celebrating both in the Yeager home.  This has caused some delays in posting a new blog entry, and I apologize.  I hope that you will forgive me re-posting an entry that I initially posted during the Easter season, but certainly relates to Christmas.  May you and yours be blessed as you celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior.

Hammer and Nail

Muscled hands, calloused and rough,
Work with care and a gentle touch.
Tree to timber with saw and stone;
Through patient skill a form has grown.
A stable manger of humble scale,
Put together by hammer and nail.

A babe is born in Bethlehem;
A wooden manger a bed for him.
Babe becomes child, child becomes man;
The Carpenter’s skill flows through His hands.
Left His home on a long, hard trail.
Earning His keep by hammer and nail.

Love has led Him to a lonely hill;
The Cross His burden for doing God’s will.
The mockers taunt, the angry yell,
Those sinners He would save from hell.
A slaughtered Lamb to rend the veil.
Hung on the Cross by hammer and nail.

I strike a blow each time I fail;
Hand and foot, hammer and nail.

by Chris Yeager

Provision: Worry is A Waste of Life


Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? – Matthew 6:25-27

It is easy to worry. The “what if’s” come one after the other when we are facing difficult situations and we find ourselves in a hypothetical hysteria. We have allowed our worries to lead us into a world that doesn’t exist and probably won’t.  There is one who knows the future and holds it in His hands, but He is gentle with those who think they can hold it in their own hands.

Fret, worry, anxiety, fear… these are prison guards of a bounded life, dictated by worst case scenarios, armed with self-pity and doubt.  They maintain order through intimidation and manipulation, keeping their prisoners so focused on what might be lurking in their cell that they cannot see the way out.  The irony of this prison is that we are our own warden.  We can dismiss these cruel guards at anytime if we would only trust in the one who casts out all fear.

This is exactly what Jesus is asking us to leave behind.  He wants us to live with the truth that tomorrow is in the hands of its author and fully engage the life He has given us today.  By no means is this an excuse to be lazy, waiting for our needs to fall from the sky.  Instead it is an attitude adjustment.  We plan, we organize, we prepare, we work, but always understanding that whatever we need must be found in Him, even if our plans fail, our organization crumbles and our preparations fall short.

There is no question in scripture that we live in an imperfect and painful world; that we will have trouble in this life.  Christ is clear here that by accepting that our worrying cannot change the world, we free ourselves to live fully trusting that God can meet us each day with what we need in the moment. If the cares of this world our pounding on your door, keep living the life God desires of you.  When we worry our eyes are on ourselves and what we lack.  When we trust God our eyes are on Him and He lacks nothing.