Tuesday, July 17, 2018

I just call it All

I had the opportunity to read the following little story at the first ever Inspirational Writers Read at Brewed Cafe on Sabino Canyon Road in Tucson last week. It was an honor being part of this great experience. Thanks to Andrea Owen and Cafe owners Phil and Kate for making it all possible.

Over the past few years I’ve been making more of an effort to know God intimately, trying to abide in His presence as I walk out each day. What I’m beginning to realize is that it’s not about having my head on some heavenly plane, but more about knowing His Word and then following my conscience when He’s whispering beneath the roar of my flesh. He’s teaching me these things, not through some kind of divine revelation, but mostly through daily experiences. And often through my own failings.…

I first discovered the electric bike—more commonly known as ebike—while taking a ride along the beach in Santa Monica and watching several riders effortlessly glide past me. I’ve always enjoyed riding bikes, and have often wished I could leave the car behind and ride to work. Tucson has more than 100 miles of off-road paved bike paths, providing a great venue to commute to work away from traffic. The problem is that I work twenty-five miles away from where I live and I’m not exactly a fast rider. It would take me too long to get there and leave me too haggard and sweaty for work. But if I were riding an ebike instead of a regular bike, then maybe, just maybe the impossible could become possible. The best part is that I could ride most of the way on the Loop—an off-road paved bike path that circles Tucson.

I began looking online and found the perfect ebike for $1,500. My kids and my parents pitched in a cumulative $500 as a birthday gift, and by November I had my ebike: A RAD-City commuter. I was ready.

To be honest, I saw the posted sign on the path that states “Motorized Vehicles Prohibited,” but surely this rule didn’t apply to me. After all, my ebike is a Class 2. This means that it only moves if I’m pedaling and maxes out at 20 mph. It also has a handy throttle that helps me start from a dead stop, but I rarely use it because it drains the battery.  The minute I hit 20, a governor in my engine slows me down. Experienced cyclists often pass me at speeds exceeding 30 mph. 

So I continued riding the Loop with a clear conscience.

And then one morning in June a voice barked at me from behind. “Hey! Is that an ebike?”
Startled, I stopped and turned around. An older man decked out in riding gear had stopped just behind me, breathless but looking very determined.

“You scared me!” I told him.  

“Is that an ebike?” he said, pointing an accusing finger at the battery on my bike. 

 “Yeah,” I said. “It’s a pedal-assist. But it doesn’t go any faster than 20.”

“It’s a Class 2,” he said. “You’re not allowed on the Loop with that. You have to ride it out on the road.”  

The fact that this man was trying to prevent me from riding a safe route to work galled me.

“What? Why?” I yelled at him.

“Because it’s illegal,” he said.

“Why?” I said. 

“Because those are the rules,” he said. “No motorized vehicles on the Loop. Look it up. Haven’t you seen the signs?”

“But why are they the rules?” I said. “It makes no sense. I can’t ride as fast as most cyclists.”

“It doesn’t matter. You can’t ride here.”

“But why?” I said again.

Finally the man spluttered out that ebikes were dangerous. Even if I knew how to handle my ebike, he said, other people riding them might not know how to handle them safely. 

I told him that he just made a completely arbitrary statement. After all, I could easily say that about any bike. Should all bikes be illegal on the Loop because they could potentially be dangerous to some riders? Then I told him to leave me alone and rode off. 

I was steaming mad. Here I was, going out of my way to be a model citizen, and this self-appointed Loop watchdog had the audacity to tell me that I was doing something wrong.  

So I went online and found a chat service for the Loop. I typed out what had happened and asked whether my Class 2 ebike was really illegal on the Loop. The person who answered me confirmed that the no-motor rule applied to all ebikes—no exceptions, but suggested I leave a comment with the board overseeing the Loop. And so I took my case there, making sure to tell them how safe my ebike was and how much better it would be if they encouraged bike commuting by allowing an exception for pedal assist ebikes.

Their response? I received an email back stating that all ebikes were illegal on the Loop and that the board was working to make sure that ebikes would not be allowed on any of the connecting paths to the Loop as well.

Wow. Deflated and still angry, I told my sad tale to my friends. And being the good friends that they are, they commiserated with me. Just ignore the rule and the grumpy old man, they said.  

“Have the police stopped you?” one friend asked. 

“No,” I said. “I’ve even ridden past two policemen and they didn’t say anything.” 

“Well, there you go then. You should just keep riding it unless the police say something.” 

This made perfect sense. And I was almost convinced to follow his advice, except for one thing. My conscience was pricking at me. I had a suspicion that God might be using this whole thing to get my attention. 

And so I set it before God in prayer. It didn’t take long to get an answer. The still small voice of the Holy Spirit spoke to my conscience.  How did you treat the man who stopped you? Did you respect him? Were you filled with grace? Did you show him My love? 

Sadly, I admitted that I had had no intention of being respectful or kind. I was far too interested in justifying my own behavior. I also realized that I have a huge problem showing kindness and love to people I believe are being unkind to me. 


So I confessed my behavior and my wrong attitude to God, asking Him to help me become a better example to others.

Lesson learned. 

Or so I thought... 

But my conscience was still bothering me. I had a feeling there was still some unfinished business I needed to address. So, a few days later I asked God, “What about the rule banning ebikes from the Loop? Do I really have to obey it?” 

What does My Word say?  The voice whispered.

Several scriptures came to mind. “That I’m supposed to obey manmade laws because the authorities who made them were placed there by God for my good?” 


“But does that really apply here? It’s just a stupid rule. Do I still have to obey it if it doesn’t make sense?”  

What does my Word say?

Reluctantly, I answered: “As long as it doesn’t come against the law of God I’m obligated to respect and follow the rules set over me.”


So there it was. My conscience seared by the Word of God, I surrendered and repented. I haven’t ridden my ebike at all since that fateful day because, frankly, it’s been too darn hot. But I’ve decided to ride to work on the roads instead of the Loop once the weather cools. Do I still think it’s unfair? Yes. But that seems like a minor issue now.  

Clearly God is doing a deeper work in me, and I desperately I need His help to see me through.

The odd thing is, once I came to this realization and surrendered what I already knew to be true in theory, I was no longer filled with anger or disappointment. I wasn’t even discouraged over failing so miserably to be a positive witness for Christ. Instead, I was awed and amazed. God almighty had taken the time to intervene into my little life to show me areas that needed correction so that I could draw closer to Him. When you really think about it, that’s amazing! 

As A. W. Tozer writes in his book The Pursuit of God: “God wants us all, and He will not rest till he gets us all. No part of the man will do.”

Note: I just found out that there is a petition going around to help make Class 2 ebikes legal on the Loop. So if you're a Tucson resident and feel sorry for me after reading this story, please sign the petition :-). Here is the link: https://www.pedegoelectricbikes.com/petition-for-class-2-electric-bikes-to-have-access-to-the-loop/

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Chasm of Self-deception

I John 1:8–10
“If we claim not to have sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we acknowledge our sins, then, since He is trustworthy and just, He will forgive them and purify us from all wrongdoing.” 

In order to be in a right relationship with God, we must understand who we are and who God is. Compared to the holiness and awesomeness of God, we are blackened by selfishness, pride, deceit, malice, bitterness, greed… need I go on? The Bible says there is absolutely nothing we can do to make ourselves right enough to enter into the presence of holy God. It is only by God Himself that we are made pure through our trust in Jesus, our redeemer. 

For any Christian, this is not news. It is the very foundation of our faith. 

But do we really understand it? Do we understand how much we have been—and are being— forgiven? Is it for a little or for a lot? It’s so easy to deceive ourselves into thinking that we only need God to help us smooth over a few rough patches. But thinking this way only reveals pride. And that’s no small thing. I am convinced that pride is a far greater sin than the obvious culprits—sins of the flesh—because it can so easily mask itself as a virtue. 

Jesus addresses this in Luke 7:37–47. He is the special guest at a meal with a Jewish leader named Simon. A prostitute, desperate for forgiveness, bursts into the room, finds Jesus, and falls down at his feet, weeping and washing His feet with her tears. She surrenders any false dignity she may have had and makes a complete spectacle of herself. She is well aware of what a great sinner she is, but she also knows what a great savior Jesus is, so she bares all to him and trusts Him to love her and give her grace.

And Jesus does not disappoint. He forgives her and loves her. He communes with her at the deepest possible level, and her life is forever changed.

Simon, on the other hand, is disgusted and shocked. Not only has this filthy sinner entered his house and embarrassed him in front of his guests, but Jesus is allowing it! Doesn’t Jesus realize that she’s a sinner?

Simon, you see, is deceived by pride. He thinks he is righteous already because of his title and his respectable standing in the community. He probably even follows the Torah better than most other Jews. But he has no compassion or love for this woman, only disgust. His pride has blinded him to his own desperate need for Jesus—the only one in that room who could forgive him for his stony, self-righteous heart. But Simon doesn’t see his need for a savior. He thinks he’s doing just fine on his own. 

Jesus’ response to him is crucial:
“Someone who has been forgiven only a little loves only a little.”

The truth is that we all need to be forgiven for much—and that doesn’t stop after the sinner’s prayer. If we truly want to abide in Christ and walk with Him through this life, we must be able to see our need for Him daily, hourly, minute by minute.

Don’t be blinded by self-righteousness and pride. Understand that the chasm of sin that separates all of us from God is massive, but God’s grace and love for us through Jesus Christ is deeper still!

“God made this sinless Man be a sin offering on our behalf, so that in union with Him, we might fully share in God’s righteousness. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Clear the Mechanism

Read Psalm 33 

It’s so easy to get distracted when praying. I’ve made it my daily liturgy to get up early and make prayer and Bible reading the first part of my day. But even when the house is quiet and there are no distractions, my mind has a hard time being still. I’m fighting sleep, I’m thinking about what I’m expecting from the day ahead of me, if I watched a movie or TV show the night before, the story may still be running through my mind. And when I finally settle down to pray and focus on God, there is my prayer list calling out to me. If I’m not careful, my prayer list becomes my priority and my prayers soon become remote and cold. When this happens, I’ve missed God. I haven’t spent time abiding in His presence because I’ve taken over control of the time and have missed His loving embrace.

Do you ever have this problem? I’m not saying that praying for people and needs is bad. Absolutely not! The Word of God tells us to make our requests known to Him, to pray for the sick, etc. But if your list is getting in the way of you seeking God’s heart, then something is wrong. Your list has become a distraction and a hindrance. You may need to surrender it to Him.

I’m reminded of the movie For the Love of the Game with Kevin Costner. This movie was about a professional baseball pitcher who pitched a perfect game when everyone thought he was washed up and ready for retirement. Every time the pitcher went up to the mound, the fans of the opposing team would heckle him from the stands, blow loud horns to distract him, yell insults. To focus on the task at hand, the pitcher would say, “clear the mechanism,” and the entire stadium would become perfectly still and quiet. All the pitcher would see was the batter. His mind was now focused and he was ready to pitch. This is how we need to train our minds when we come to God. Like the pitcher who focused on the batter in this movie, we need to see only God when we pray. We should see that He is right here in the room with us, waiting to commune with us. If the list starts calling out to us as we approach the throne room of grace, we need to clear the mechanism and refocus on God. If our mind is skipping around to all kinds of thoughts that are taking us away from our heart touching God’s heart, we need clear the mechanism. Look at the Father. God wants to meet with us in our innermost being—that is His priority. He wants to commune with us—with you! Hold you in His arms, pour His love into you as you pour out your love to Him. Don’t you think God knows what is on your mind and what is on your list? If and when He wants you to pray from that list, He will lead you to it. But wait for His lead. Don’t rush in and take over control to get to your list.

Look at it this way. If God is not the Lord of your prayer life, how can He be the Lord of the rest of your day? If you can’t give up control to Him when you are in His presence seeking His face, how easily will it be when you are out in the world, rubbing shoulders with the unsaved? Our time in the morning with God is the most important time we have for God to lead us and teach us to surrender and abide with Him. He wants to teach us to let go of our priorities so that He can direct us—even in our requests. If we can learn to love and adore Him during our quiet times with Him, then His joy, His Spirit, His abiding love, will begin to spill out into our everyday lives.

So clear the mechanism today and seek only to touch the heart of God. Let God direct your prayers and he will direct your life.

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Friday, July 29, 2016

Who Is My Enemy?

“Have you any idea what’s going on in the world?!”

The older man’s face is red with anger and a look of disgust is evident in his eyes. I recognize the anger. It is the same angst I witness daily whenever I check my Facebook wall.

It is the same anger I have often felt in my own heart.

But this isn’t Facebook and it’s not Fox News. It’s a Bible study.

The young pastor sitting next to me has opened up this can of worms by suggesting that this may be an opportune time to reach the Muslim people for Christ.

The response? People go ballistic.

But I remember a challenging sermon from the book of Jonah. And so I offer...

“The Assyrians in Nineveh were even worse than ISIS, and God loved them enough to send Jonah.”

Now four people start voicing strong opinions against the pastor and me.

They are acting just like Jonah, I think to myself.

But who can blame them? Or Jonah, for that matter? Jonah hated the Assyrians in Nineveh for much the same, justifiable reasons we hate Muslim terrorists today. They were doing very evil things. He hated them so much that he disobeyed God and took flight (or ship) to the farthest city in the known world.

But he didn’t get very far. We all know the story.  

“Jesus says to love our enemies—” I begin.

“So you think we should just let them come over here and bomb innocent people?” The man with the red face is incredulous; he’s shouting, leaning forward in his seat, nearly standing up.

“Those people place NO VALUE on human lives,” an older woman next to him joins in. 
 “They torture innocent women and children. They are killing Christians in the streets—cutting off their heads!”

According to historical records, the Assyrians were feared throughout the world for their brutality and ruthlessness, such as skinning their victims alive and hanging their skins on the walls of conquered cities.

No wonder Jonah tried to run away.

“I’m not saying we should just open our borders and allow dangerous people in,” the pastor replies in a calm voice. “But most of these people have lost everything because they wouldn’t go along with ISIS and are fleeing for their lives. They are the victims of ISIS. And they have nowhere to go. This is the first time in known history when we have a chance to reach these people with the love of Christ.”

I find myself nodding in agreement, but I seem to be the only friendly face in the room.

There’s so much more to say, and my fingers are itching to dig into the Word, my mouth to start quoting verses. But tempers are running hot and fear has replaced truth.

And then I realize why Jesus said we each must lose our life in order to save it.  Because, as long as we care more about our own safety and security than we do about saving the lost, we will never really be His hands and feet on this Earth.

Am I advocating any kind of public policy on this issue? Certainly not! I’m hardly qualified to tell a whole country what to do. All I’m suggesting is that we tap into that source of love and grace that goes beyond all human understanding before we start attaching labels and condemnation to people.

And if our leaders allow some refugees a safe haven in the United States, will the church push them away or will we show them the love of Christ?

What would Jesus do?  

Go and do likewise.