Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Suspended. And in Suspense

Isaiah 40:31

but those who trust in the LORD will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.

Many things in life, especially those things of greatest value, come with a great amount of difficulty. In relationships, in business, in spiritual matters, and in family matters I have faced many difficult tasks. Some seemed insurmountable. In many circumstances the completely blurred nature of the future holdings often protected me from my self-centered myopathy. Of all the things that have come into and out of my life, waiting on God has been one of the most challenging, arduous, frustrating, confusing and loneliest yet often most rewarding things I have ever done.

This journey began years ago. Doors opened. Doors closed. Opportunities came. Opportunities went. Over and over again, the answer I received to my desire to pursue a new path in life was, “Not at this time…” At times that voice was clearly the voice of God. Other times it sounded suspiciously like my wife. It came from friends, family and church leaderships.


There was the occasional nudge along a path when the response came back, “Go! But not too far…” As if that is the answer I wanted to hear. My desire was godly. My motives were pure. My calling was clear … at least to me. I was confident in that calling and the gifts God had given to me. I knew there was more I had to offer the Kingdom.

The path is lonely. Especially so when the command to go rips you out a life of comfort and complacence. Especially so when you find yourself far removed from friends an family that had provided you a home for so long. Especially so when your family is uprooted and tries to become grafted into a new community of faith and friends.

It is like a spider suspended down into a room teeming with life yet alone. Suspended by the thinnest line of silk, it is anchored solidly while given to the influences of the surrounding environment. And so he begins to spin a web by setting anchor points only to see them severed. And the suspense returns. He is surrounded by all kinds of life and activity. Each event in the room affects the suspended spider as the currents displace him from one position to the next. He searches for stability, a place to light, where he may fulfill the thing he has been created to do best - spin a web.

And here I am. Suspended. And in suspense. Anchored by what seems to be the thinnest of strands in the Will of the Creator. Waiting on the call of the Faithful Father whose promises of provision never fail.

There is reason to hope, yet I fear to hope yet again. Hope turns to disappointment. Promise to mirage. Excitement to frustration.

And there is a realization that man’s confidence is a stumbling block. That God can use me best in my brokenness. And yet I feel broken enough. How much work is left to do on this hard heart of mine? Quite a bit, I fear.

I feel his shield of protection around me. I feel the hammering of his mallet on my soul. I feel the angst of the responsibility to provide for the treasures he has gifted to me. I feel the gnawing pain of uncertainty in my gut. He has never let me down before. I have no reason to believe it will ever be any different. 

Psalm 30:10-12

Lord, listen and be gracious to me; Lord, be my helper.”You turned my lament into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, so that I can sing to You and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise You forever.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Harmonizing the Dissonance

Christmas decorations are out in many places where you look. For a while now (some places as long as a month or more) fir trees, colorful lights, fragile ornaments and pristine nativity scenes have graced the aisles alongside the red and green wrappers and peppermint flavors that make their annual appearance. In the past, I have been the guy that looked with disdain on such things. Never – ever – would Christmas decorations be seen in my house before Thanksgiving. I always thought it was such an “UnChristmas” thing to do to wash over what, in my mind, was the most precious holiday of the year – Thanksgiving. Not only was it unChristmas to me, it was unChristian. There was in my mind, a severe dissonance between these two holidays that I struggled to harmonize in my home.

We are exhorted over and again in scripture to live thankful lives

Ephesians 5:19-20
Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything,

Colossians 2:6-7
"6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness."

Colossians 3:15
"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful."

Hebrews 12:28
"Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe,"

And there are others. While at its idealistic core, we celebrate Jesus on Christmas, Thanksgiving seems to fall perfectly in line with our attempt to live Christian lives. No gifts. No materialistic thoughts. No lists. Just a spirit of thanksgiving. A focus on other people. An awareness of the many material blessings we take for granted in every other season of life. As a Christian, Thanksgiving is my favorite, yet often most convicting, holiday. I am reminded every year that I need to live a life of thankfulness. I am reminded that every day should begin, end, and be filled throughout the middle with an attitude of thanksgiving. I am reminded that I live life completely unaware of what I have because I am continually focused on what I lack.

I do enjoy Christmas, too. It makes my heart glad to hear songs about Mary and the Christ-child. I enjoy seeing the nativity scenes and hearing people talking about Jesus. This year I am one of those guys. I was reminded by a Compadre of mine that Christmas and Thanksgiving should go hand in hand. What greater gift do we have to be thankful for other than the gift of a Savior, of a Redeemer, of the Son of God who would come into this world and give his life that I might live?

So Christmas is in full swing at our house. The trees are up, the lights are on, the wreaths are changed, and the music is blaring; Not because we are skipping Thanksgiving, but because we are thankful for the Messiah above all things. We are thankful that our God created a plan of salvation for his people so that we could live in this life with the hope of a reunion with Him in the next. We eagerly await the coming of the Messiah to take us home to be with the Father in glory. In this season, while we await his second coming, we will celebrate his first, and we will live differently in the span between them.

May the grace and peace of our God and Savior be with you in all seasons.

Monday, May 6, 2013


So I have had this song in my head for about four days straight, now

Words, by Hawk Nelson

Words can build us up
Words can break us down
Start a fire in our hearts or
Put it out

Let my words be life
Let my words be truth
I don't wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You

It made me start thinking this morning about the power our words have both on those around us as well as on our own disposition. We are often so careful about what we say, when and where we say it, and to whom we say it to. But then other times, our words are carelessly strewn about. "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" may be the biggest lie we tell as little children (or as adults for that matter). The fact is, "words can kill me!"

It seems a little dramatic, but look around you today. Watch the child's spirit crushed by the il-chosen words of a distracted or short-tempered "caregiver". Please don't hear me relinquishing myself of any responsibility here. I believe there is a purpose for this particular earworm in my own life. I tell my children time and time again to mind their words. Speak to each other with respect and love. Watch your tone when you are talking to me. But the instruction seems to fall on deaf ears. Where could they possibly be learning such behavior?

James 3 has some powerful words to say in this arena. This is my mission today, and every day; I will be intentional with my words. I will strive to have everything that comes out of my mouth point to my God and my King. I pray my words will be true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, and kind. Will you join me?

I don't wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You

Let the words I say
Be the sound of Your grace
I don't wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You

I wanna speak Your love
Not just another noise
Oh, I wanna be Your light
I wanna be Your voice

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

First Responders

It is human nature, I suppose, to become reflective in moments of trial and tragedy. The brevity of life becomes far too real. As James says in James 4:13-15,

"Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit'; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.'"

The unjust nature of an imperfectly sinful world sprints to the forefront of our thought as innocent people are injured and young children are ripped from this life and on to the next leaving friends, family, and strangers to grieve the loss. So many times the question surrounding such a vile and evil act quickly turns to the church and those who know the Creator, "Where is your God, now? How can a God who claims to be so loving allow something so cruel, evil, and unjust like this occur."

It is the EMTs, the Firemen, and the Police that are often first to respond, and well they should be. But the church, the true church (that's you and me), should be among the first responders as well. It is an encouragement to me to see the response of so many who band together and show a pure side of humanity

I Peter 3:15 "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;"

The hope that we have is of great value and it should be made known. We do not have to defend our God! In fact, there really is nothing to defend. "If God were a just God, or a loving God..." The fact is, God IS a loving and just God. It is his justice that prevents him from stepping in and making all things perfect (that time will come). He has promised that all men would be free to choose whom they will be subject to. He created a free-will trust relationship, not mindless robots that blindly do what is right. He wants his people to look at the choices in front of them and choose Him. Evil exists. There is simply no way around it. It hurts, and it isn't fair. But it is always there. And until the day comes when all creation will be restored to the One who made it all, the pain and grief will persist. The pain can drive you closer to God or farther away, it is a choice we must make. Will we be reminded of a time that is yet to come where there will be no night, mourning, tears, pain or death? Or will we choose to selfishly dwell in the here and now allowing the pain to push away from God's presence?

I know where God was. He was here. He knows the pain and heartache of loss, the loneliness of abandonment, the grief of being hated by the world around him, and the physical pain of abuse. He also knows the pain of being separated from the Father. I know where God was; he WAS on a cross. More importantly, though, I know where God is. He is preparing a place for his children. He is preparing a feast like none this world will ever see. He is looking over his creation and longing for them to come to him. He is awaiting the time when he can call us all home to him in glory; into a perfect creation that will never tarnish. And he is walking among us now, waging war on evil and fighting for each and every one of his creations. He is on his throne. As evil as this world can seem at times, I know the truth. God Reigns Victorious. He has defeated death. There is no victory that he has not claimed. The pain and agony we experience in this world should be a reminder to us that we are not home, yet, and there is so much hope and anticipation for those who have entered in to his grace.

I pray that the hope and love of the church will overflow into the streets of Boston today. I pray that an equal amount will flow into your own communities, neighborhoods, and workplaces as well. May the voice of the church, the people of God, ring louder than the voices of evil in this world. May the message of hope be delivered to those who are seeking it. May we live lives filled with a hope that calls people to our God

Monday, May 2, 2011

Is There Rejoicing?

As Christians, what do we do with the death of one of the most prominent leaders of evil forces in the world today? What is the appropriate response as people living in a world changed by his action, as people who lost loved ones and friends by his hand, as people who have lost loved ones and friends by his military, as followers of the Almighty God, or as those whose lives have been changed by the Risen Savior.

“Osama Bin Laden has been killed by US Navy Seals! His body is in possession of the US military.” That was the report. My first reaction was satisfaction… I don’t know if joy really describes it, but it was definitely a positive reaction. I was quickly reminded of the instruction from Jesus in the sermon on the mount.

Matthew 5.43-48
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

But, surely Osama was far more than an enemy. He was moving about the world breathing murderous threats against the west due in a large part to their Christian perspective and the perceived threat to the way of life that his religious thought called for. He was single-handedly responsible for taking the lives of thousands of people across the world. His face would likely appear on the Mount Rushmore of evil powers. Once again I am reminded of the words of Jesus, this time as he looked down from the cross. Were not the soldiers who drove nails in his feet and hands and beat him within an inch of his life more than simply enemies? As Jesus looked down and asked God for their forgiveness, he acknowledged that His sacrifice was even for those who took his life and were the source of his agony. Is it possible that my extreme view of Osama Bin Laden has served as a reprieve for unchristian thinking? More than possible, it is likely that is the case.

I am also reminded of another who went around the world breathing murderous threats against Christ and killing his followers. This man, though, repented and turned from his ways to become a mighty warrior FOR the Kingdom as opposed to against it. I think it is important to acknowledge the justice that is God’s. I think it is equally important to acknowledge the sadness that comes to the father when one is lost. I Tim. 2.4 says that he wants all to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. It is easy for my heart to be hardened and calloused when there is so much evil in the world. I pray that I may be able to properly balance a soft heart full of the love of Christ, an intolerance for evil, thanksgiving for the closure that many now have, rejoicing in the justice of the Almighty God, and the kind of forgiveness His sacrifice obligates me to.

As children of God, we are called to love as Christ loves us. Loving those who stand in opposition to us is what sets us apart - or makes us holy. I fear much of my response leaves me in a place no different from the rest of the world. In our love we are called to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect. It is a struggle daily. Today, though, more than others, the struggle is great. May the God of peace be with you today. May His love be rich within you and beam out into the world of darkness.

I pray God's protection be on all those who continue to fight across the world for freedoms that we enjoy at home. I pray that this event may facilitate some closure to the war in this part of the world. I pray that our loved ones may soon be able to return home to their families, I pray that this will have a positive effect on situations across the world. I pray that our men and women be protected against any backlash that may arise in the coming days.

Peace <><
Joshua Fowler

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

43/46 Home Stretch

Easter falls right in line with the timing I need to gain some sustenance (the physical kind) for finals. 3 more days to go and this chapter will be closed only to be read over and over again. I am thankful to my God for the blessing of the breath of life and the constant provision and guidance He offers. I am thankful for friends who have supported me with prayer and words of encouragement. I am grateful to my lovely wife and kids who have dwelt with an often cranky father and husband. I must offer an apology to my professors who have very likely been delivered some work that is much lacking due to a brain-flow issue over the last several weeks. I feel healthier than I have been in years and covet your prayers for continued success as I attempt to maintain proper habits regarding food. It will be interesting to see how my body adapts to "regular" eating. I suppose that word has taken on a much newer meaning for me.

This summer will be a "good" test. I will be on my own for 12 weeks and on the go trying to keep up with a bunch of teens. The discipline of planning and preparing foods will be difficult for my wife to manage from so far away, but I am sure she will figure out a way to get my lunches ready along with her own and the 10-13 kids that will be in and out of the house daily. I love being married to Wonder Woman. (She doesn't wear her cape, boots and tights much, though.)

May the peace of God which transcends all understanding guard your minds and hearts in Christ Jesus. Happy Resurrection Day! May your week be filled with thoughts of our Risen Savior, memories of His sacrifice, chocolate bunnies and colorful eggs hidden in awkward places.

Peace <><