July 12, 2010

Chapter-a-Day 1 Chronicles 13

Consider the source. David was terrified of God that day; he said, "How can I possibly continue this parade with the Chest of God?" 1 Chronicles 13:12 (MSG)

Today's chapter was a good reminder to me of the healthy respect and fear I should have of God and His power. This weekend my dad and a friend were wiring our basement. With all of our knowledge and safety standards, electricity often seems pretty harmless. You flip a switch and it's on. You plug something in and it works. However, when you dig deep into the wiring and junctions, you come into contact with the raw power of electricity. When sparks fly, circuits blow, and things pop you begin to have a bit healthier respect for how dangerous and deadly the power behind that light switch is.

Jesus came to bridge the relational divide with God, to reconcile us and bring us into oneness with God the Father. Nevertheless, like the raw power behind a seemingly harmless spiritual switch, God is holy. It is always a good thing to have healthy respect for our loving God's raw power and holiness.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and star_guitar

July 09, 2010

Chapter-a-Day 1 Chronicles 12

Whodunnit. When David went out to meet them, this is what he said: "If you have come in peace and to help me, you are most welcome to join this company; but if you have come to betray me to my enemies, innocent as I am, the God of our ancestors will see through you and bring judgment on you." 1 Chronicles 12:17 (MSG)

My wife is great at guessing what's coming next in a movie or television program. Within the first few minutes of a program like "The Mentalist" or "Law & Order," she'll be saying, "I think he did it." By three quarters the way through the program she'll usually have announced who did it along with the means, motive and opportunity. Most of the time, she's right. Perhaps it's from hanging out on the couch with her, but I find myself doing the same thing now. I'm not as good as she is, but I've gotten better at it.

That's why the verse from today's chapter caught me off guard.

When I read David's opening words, "but if you come to betray me to my enemies..." my mind conjured up a host of likely conclusions that would come from a red-blooded male warrior:

  • I'll kill you 'til you're dead.
  • I'll make you an offer you can't refuse.
  • I will personally cut off your head and feed your body to the lions.

What I didn't expect was "God will see through you and bring judgment upon you." That's what I love about David and his story. In so many ways he is a flawed many like any other, like me. But, you constantly catch glimpses of why God called him "a man after my own heart." David does not presume, like most ego-centric, paranoid warrior kings, to be judge, jury and executioner. He reserves judgement for God and trusts God enough to reveal his betrayer.

How often am I quick to judge? How often do I jump to conclusions and make snap judgements about my children? My family? My co-workers? My friends? Today, I take my lesson from David's example. Reserve judgement. Stop being so paranoid or jumping to conclusions about who did what. Let God reveal what is true when it's necessary and in His good time.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and loopzilla

Note: My blog will be moving in the coming weeks to http://tomvanderwell.wordpress.com, if you are a subscriber, please visit the new site and change your bookmark or subscribe to the new feed. I've begun posting in both places and will do so for a period of time to allow people to make the switch.

July 08, 2010

Madison is Safely Home

I got a call from Madison last night. She arrived back in the U.S. from India about 5:00 p.m. last night (Wednesday). Now she has a couple days of debriefing in Texas before flying home.

She sounded great and we had a wonderful conversation about her experiences. She said she feels great, remained healthy during her trip and feels well rested. She said there was a huge part of her that didn't want to leave India. She fell in love with the Indian people. Her team had an amazing ministry in India working in all sorts of different capacities. One of the highlights of the trip was a small school where Madison and her team worked with the young female students. I won't recount the whole story, but suffice it to say that she and I were both crying as she told me about her experiences.

I imagine you'll should start seeing Facebook posts and pictures after she arrives back in Iowa on Saturday.

Thanks to everyone for their love, prayers, encouragement, and financial support to make this trip possible for Madison.

Set off Fireworks! Taylor Turns 20!!

070410 Playhouse 001

This past weekend was spent at the lake with family as we gathered to celebrate Taylor's 20th birthday (wow, has it been that long?). Taylor and Clayton caravaned down with Wendy and me on Thursdays. My sister Jody, her son Sam, and her daughter, Emma, joined us on Friday.

Taylor's birthday is always a lot of fun. Being a 4th of July baby, people are always celebrating and there are always fireworks! On Friday night we got in the boat and anchored out in the bay where we could have an unobstructed view of Captain Ron's firework display. There were more fireworks on Sunday, but we opted to simply sit on the dock to watch them.

We spent much of the weekend relaxing, eating, and chatting. It was so nice to wake up each morning and sit out on grandpa and grandma's glider with Jody. We were usually up before everyone else and it's been far too long since we had the opportunity to have quiet brother-sister chats. For Wendy and me, this weekend was a small taste of why we've made such a huge investment of time, energy and resources in building the Playhouse. The family gathered around the dining room table, enjoyed a nice meal, and then we laughed, shared life, and broke out old family stories.

Trivial Pursuit on the Wii was also huge over the weekend with the guys beating the gals two games out of three. Guys rock. Just sayin'.

On Sunday morning we went to worship on the beach at Captain Ron's. There's usually about 10-15 people at worship on the beach, but for the 4th of July the church who usually leads worship on the beach brought their entire congregation. There were some 500 people worshiping and the service ended with people getting baptized and sharing testimonies. It was awesome. They even gave an open invitation to any who wanted to follow Christ and be baptized. One young man got up and waded down into the water in his jeans and polo shirt. We were all pretty pumped.

IMG00002-20100704-1053
IMG00003-20100704-1117 

As for the Playhouse, work on the lower level continues. It has been mudded, taped and painted. This weekend we begin finishing work with installation of doors, trim, outlet and fixtures. You can begin to see actual living space emerging from the construction materials. At this point, we're a little weary of the work and can't wait to have it all finished. We're not far off.

Chapter-a-Day 1 Chronicles 11

Wilderness These are the chiefs of David's Mighty Men, the ones who linked arms with him as he took up his kingship, with all Israel joining in, helping him become king in just the way God had spoken regarding Israel. 1 Chronicles 11:10 (MSG)

Great leaders aren't great leaders without great followers.
Great followers are made when a leader earns their devotion.

The prophet, Samuel, anointed David as God's choice for king when David was just a young boy. David did not ascend the throne of Israel until he was 40. Between his being anointed king and his ascension to the throne, an epic story unfolds. After his initial headline grabbing defeat of Goliath, David's rise to fortune and fame was short lived. King Saul, jealous of David's popularity and God's favor on him, puts a price on David's head. David spends the better part of 20 years on the run living in caves in the desert with a rag-tag band of warriors and mercenaries.

It was in the Judean desert that God prepared David for the throne. It was in the wilderness that David became a great leader. As he and his men scratched out a living and hid from Saul's army, David earned the respect and devotion of his men. A select group of highly gifted warriors rose from the ranks. Like comic book heroes, the Mighty Men became legendary and helped David inherit the promise God made to him in his youth.

Life's journey has its share of stretches through the desert and wanderings through the wilderness. They are difficult paths to walk and they often seem endless. Nevertheless, they acheive God's purposes for us. They prepare us for what God has in store down the road. They prove us and refine us. They develop maturity and wholeness. King David would never have been King David unless he'd spent half of his life in the desert earning the respect of the men who were single-heartedly devoted to him.

Press on. There's a reason you find yourself in a difficult place.

July 07, 2010

Chapter-a-Day 1 Chronicles 10

Die well. Saul died in disobedience, disobedient to God. 1 Chronicles 10:13 (MSG)

I had been asked to perform the funeral by the deceased man's family. There was a distant connection, and I agreed to officiate though I'd never met the guy. A few days before the funeral I gathered with the children of the deceased to listen to family stories and get a sense for who this guy had been in life. Usually, this is kind of a special time that helps me learn about the person I'm helping lay to rest and becomes a time of healing and closure for the family. This time, however, instead of warm tears, laughter and precious memories heartfully related, I received a table full of empty stares and agonizing silence.

At the church, prior to the funeral, a stranger walked up to me. "This ought to be a challenge. How do you find something good to say about this guy?" he said with a sneer before walking away. After the funeral, many people commented that they appreciated how I handled the service in view of the terrible man in the casket.

How will I die? I don't mean "how" in terms of the manner in which I expire, but "how" in terms of the state of my heart and life when I reach the finish line here on Earth. It's not a question we think much about, but it's one worth pondering. Today's chapter states that "Saul died in disobedience." What a sad statement. What a rotten epitaph.

I want to die in obedience. I want to die in the love of God, my family, and my friends. I want to die having walked the journey well, having pressed on through adversity, having arrived at a place of deep contentment.

How will you die?

July 06, 2010

Chapter-a-Day 1 Chronicles 9

Musicians on call for God 24-7-365. And then there were the musicians, all heads of Levite families. They had permanent living quarters in The Temple; because they were on twenty-four-hour duty, they were exempt from all other duties. 1 Chronicles 9:33 (MSG)

It's funny to think about musicians being on call 24/7/365, but that was true of the Levite families in charge of music in God's temple back in the day. We think of doctors, police and firemen on 24 hour duty, but in God's house it's the musicians.

I love that God is a God of music. I love playing on a worship team and being part of the music on Sunday morning. While I'm only on two Sunday mornings a month duty, the thought of being on call with my bass 24/7 is actually an exciting thought. I feel honored everytime I plug in my Vander Well custom and play with others to glorify God.

Pump up the volume. In God's Kingdom, music is everpresent.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and Jeanne.photography

July 02, 2010

Chapter-a-Day 1 Chronicles 8

After seven chapters of finding buried treasure in long chapters of family tree lists, I get to yet another chapter of who begat who and...I got nothin'.

July 01, 2010

Update from Madison's Trip Leaders in India

This was posted on the team's Facebook page, but I thought I'd repost it. There's a brief mention of Madison. Most of all, I am knocked out by her leader's description of their ministry experience:

Dear family and friends!

It's hard to believe how quickly the time is going by here in India. At the same time it feels as though we live a weeks worth of life in a day! I think that is because when all other obstacles and obligations are removed from our lives to the point that you have no other objective and responsibilities in day but to share the gospel you really do live exponentially. The identity of one day to the next typically fades away as you realize you wake up with one purpose. GO and share the greatest message on earth with another person...and do it over and over again.

Wow! I don't even know where to start and I can hardly type fast enough to get out the story of what happened last night! I was with the team Ebenezer ( mostly a C trip team with a few A trippers) and the students took a rather long ride to a Hindu village. To give you an idea of time here, it was a 40 mile journey that took almost 3 hours. The roads here are not as "developed" and a bit windy. No worries. We have VERY skilled drivers whom were privately hired for us. But you can only go so far. We often are traveling through busy villages and an encounter everything from cows to motorcycles along the way.

We have spent most of our time previously going to villages that were a bit closer where there was a church present in the village and we supported the ongoing outreach of the local missionary. Due to the large presence of Caucasian Americans , even the Hindu's would stop by our programs out of curiosity..but only about a handful.

The last few nights we have traveled far to Hindu villages where there has been no representation of Christianity and no church plants. This was the case last night. When we arrived to the village our first challenge was finding a spot to do ministry where the expected nightly cow crossing would not disrupt the VBS. After choosing a safe place next to a school. Our program began. There had to be nearly 250 people present.  A majority of very excited elementary aged kids who hung on every word and action our teenagers said. They were very eager to pose for pictures and marveled over pictures of themselves. They were eager to try and learn any song our missionaries wanted to teach them. Any game they wanted to play...we blasted Switchfoot and they eagerly joined silly dances with Kevin. It was as if the missionaries were rock stars. All though I do believe many of the children had never seen or touched a white person before as they scurried away when Megan first tried to shake their hands....bu Kevin's dancing definitely  broke down the walls.

Due to the growing size of the crowd we cut the program in half an presented a few song and games with the kids and then a testimony, brief testimony from Madison and the team leader Andres gave a powerful net.( gospel presentation)

Our translator priskilla took over from their encouraging the people to choose Christ. Soon many women over a dozen began weeping an wailing and crying out all at once with their hands extended in the air in surrender.. First one or two then many.. there was a gorup of older Hiindu  men ( the hardest to reach) who also began responding to the call of salvation. The unsual part is that the people were so caught up in crying out to the Lord it was hard to call them forward to respond...rather there was no need. The passionate heartfelt respnse to the gospel was written all over their faces as they literally cried out to
 the one true God. Priskilla our translator went throughout the crowd to see what was happening and if it was true that this Hindu village had really understood that all other Gods must be forsaken for the devotion to Jesus Christ only. And she said they did. The people were crying out " We want you God. We want you to save our village!..We only want you!"

Many people came forward afterward for healing. Priskilla then confirmed that there was no church in the village and we would need to introduce them to the pastor/missionary of the area to get them on the road to discipleship. The students prayed for the new believers and we quickly loaded the van with dozens of kids running behind us. ( This is the norm)*smiles*

Well it was a great time. I have never seen God do what he did in that village in all my trips. Ive never seen such a passionate response from a people. The power of God was so evident! The Gospel is life changing still. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever!

Thank you for your prayers! We love you all. And I'm very blessed to know that man of you are reading our updates!

Blessings and Joy!
Candace and Kenny

Chapter-a-Day 1Chronicles 7

Tom & Girls 2010 05 These were Asher's sons, all of them responsible, excellent in character, and brave in battle—good leaders. 1 Chronicles 7:40a (MSG)

Driving away from a client meeting in Wisconsin yesterday, my phone rang. Clear as a bell, on the other end of the line, was my daughter Madison calling from India. She is there on a month long mission to work with the poor and orphans and to encourage the local believers there. Her childlike "HI DADDY!" was music to my ears (she is doing great, by the way).

This weekend we get away to celebrate Taylor's 4th of July birthday (As Grandma says, "She's our firecracker!"). Taylor and Clayton are working hard this summer and prepping to help lead a team of Central students to Haiti to help with the on-going relief work.

Last night I talked on the phone to my old high school buddy Doug. He was telling me about his kids, and talking about what good kids they are. We had a dad moment, appreciating how great it feels to have good kids.

When I read about the sons of Asher, my heart nodded in understanding. It is such a blessing to have good kids. It is wonderful to look at your children and see "them responsible, excellent in character, and brave." As I tell them, "no pop could be prouder."