Monday, December 17, 2012


Recently a friend of mine started living for the Lord. After a year of sharing his faith vocally, we had coffee and he told me something he found surprising. He said that in chess, the pawn pieces are used to advance the more important pieces. They go forward and sacrifice themselves to create opportunities for the Queen, King and Bishop. He thought of himself as a pawn, trying to actively serve the needs of others and serve the kingdom, clear that life isn’t about him. He said the biggest surprise though was that the more he served and lived a life for Christ, the more he felt attacked. But not by other people, by other Christians. He was confused because he’s never seen a King attack its own pawn in a game of chess. He’d never seen a Bishop take out its own pawn, but the more time he spent in church, the more he got attacked by the people who were supposed to be his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. I started to think about that because it’s an issue I keep seeing come up. A pastor once said, ‘Nobody is as mean as Christians who are being mean for Jesus’” (Jon Acuff, “Why Are Christians Such Jerks?”,
Have you heard of “autoimmune disease?”  It is a physical condition that results in the immune system attacking healthy cells.  It is a case of mistaken identity, where the body turns on itself and damages its own tissue.  The general term refers to a group of more than 80 serious, chronic illnesses of the human body, including rheumatoid arthritis, Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and lupus.    It is estimated that up to 23.5 million Americans have an autoimmune disorder.
Something is seriously wrong when a physical body begins to attack itself.  The same is true of the spiritual body of Christ.  “But if you bite and devour one another, take care lest you be consumed by one another” (Galatians 5:15).  Remember -- we are on the same team.  Save the artillery for the real enemy.
God loves you!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Faithful Friends

          “When He had come back to Capernaum several days afterward, it was heard that He was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them. And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men. Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying. And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven”” (Mark 2:1–5 NAS95).
          This paralytic was blessed to have faithful friends.  They were faithful enough to be alert for an opportunity to help a friend in need.  They were faithful enough to make the effort to take him where he needed to be.  They were faithful enough to refuse to let some obstacles stand between their friend and the help he needed.  When they couldn’t get to Jesus through a door or window, they created their own access point!
          Note that nothing is said regarding the faith of the paralytic.  It is possible that his own faith was at a low point.  Perhaps he had given up any hope of life ever being any different.  The burdens of life (health or otherwise) can suck the faith out of a person.  But, thankfully, hope is linked not only to the faith of the one in need but also to the faith of those who rally around him or her.  It was the faith of the paralytic’s  friends that Jesus noticed and acted upon.
          Let me remind us all to surround ourselves with faithful friends.  The time will come when our own faith will waver and that is when we need friends with enough faith to carry us to Jesus.  Find faithful friends who will do whatever is necessary in your time of need.  Be a faithful friend to those in your sphere of influence who could use the help.

God loves you!

Monday, December 10, 2012


          “In the operating room of a large, well-known hospital, it was the nurse’s first day on the medical team.  She was responsible to be sure that all instruments and materials were accounted for before completing the final steps of the operation.  She said to the surgeon, “You’ve only removed 11 sponges.  We used 12 sponges and we need to find the last one.”  “I removed them all,” the doctor declared emphatically, “We’ll close the incision now.”  “No,” the rookie nurse objected, “we used 12 sponges.”  “I’ll take the responsibility,” the surgeon said grimly. “Suture.”  “You can’t do that, sir,” blazed the nurse.  “Think of the patient.”  The surgeon smiled and lifted his foot, showing the nurse the 12th sponge.  “You’ll do just fine in this or any other hospital”” (Dennis Waitley, “Your Absolute Bottom Line,” Priorities Magazine).
          Integrity is defined as “steadfast adherence to a...moral or ethical code” (  It’s doing what you believe to be right regardless of the consequences.  It’s staying true to your convictions even when it may be unpopular.  But having integrity is tough, isn’t it?  It’s difficult to stick to your principles when you know it could be costly. The temptation is to compromise when the pressure begins to build.
          God’s servant Daniel is a great example of someone who didn’t allow circumstances to alter his convictions.  As Daniel rose in prominence in Darius’ kingdom, other officials became jealous of him.  They did their best to find grounds for accusing him according to Babylonian law, but were unsuccessful because Daniel was a man of integrity.  So they formed a plot to use his integrity against him.  Knowing that Daniel had convictions about praying faithfully to his God, they convinced king Darius to pass a law forbidding it.  Now what would Daniel do?  “Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house...and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously” (Daniel 6:10).
          May God help us to be men and women of integrity!

God loves you!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I Want To Be Faithful

“Many years ago the legendary golf pro Gary Player was hitting balls off the practice tee one morning, and the first ball he hit went 280 yards straight as a bullet.  A guy in the gallery just within earshot said, ‘Man, I’d give anything to be able to hit a golf ball like you.’  Gary walked over to the guy and said, ‘No, you wouldn’t.’  The guy said, ‘Yes, I would.  I’d give anything to hit like that,’  Gary said, ‘No, you wouldn’t.  You wouldn’t be willing to do what it takes.  You have to rise early in the morning and hit five hundred balls until your hands bleed.  Then you stop, tape your hands, and hit five hundred more balls.  The next morning you’re out there again with hands so raw you can barely hold your club, but you do it all over again.  If you do that through enough years of pain, then you can hit a ball like that.’  Player won more than 160 professional golf tournaments and is a member of “the big three” -- along with Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer -- who dominated golf through the 1960’s and 1970’s” (Bob Merritt, 7 Simple Choices for a Better Tomorrow, p. 136).
Do you have a fellow Christian whom you admire?  Perhaps you have even said, “I wish I was as faithful as Brother or Sister ________.  Is that really what you desire?  You do realize that they weren’t born with a “faithfulness gene”, don’t you?  Although their parents or grandparents may have encouraged them along the path, faithfulness is not something that can be inherited.
How does one become faithful?  P-R-A-C-T-I-C-E!  “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14).  “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9).
The road to faithfulness runs through the practice field.  There is no shortcut.

God loves you!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Condemnation-Free Zone

We live in a world where condemnation is a part of life.  Those who break the law and are apprehended are judged for their crimes.  When a particularly heinous act is committed, the perpetrator can be condemned to life imprisonment or even death.  Buildings are condemned when they become unsafe for use due to deterioration or damage.  Such structures are demolished before someone gets hurt.  Governing authorities can condemn property through the use of eminent domain if a case can be made that it is necessary for the public good.  Then there is the personal condemnation that the citizens of this world heap on one another.  We condemn each other on the basis of race, gender, social status, occupation, appearance, income level, and a myriad of other distinctions.  We even condemn ourselves over our own failures and inconsistencies.  Condemnation is standard issue in our world.  We have come to expect it.  Worse yet, we practice it.
Perhaps that is why some have difficulty believing the truth revealed in Romans 8:1: “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  We read the words “no condemnation” and think that there has to be a catch.  To live without being condemned seems like a fairy tale.  But it’s true!  If we are “in Christ”, it’s as though we are covered with a non-stick spiritual coating.  Satan can cast his accusations of guilt at us, but none of them are valid anymore.  No longer can our sins condemn us because we are continually cleansed by the precious blood of Jesus (1 John 1:7).  Those who listen to Jesus and believe in God are given the opportunity to escape judgment (John 5:24).
Even though it may be difficult to believe, we can live a life free from spiritual condemnation.  There is no one who can bring a charge against the one whom God justifies (Romans 8:33).  There is no one who can condemn the one for whom Jesus intercedes (Romans 8:34).  The child of God lives in a condemnation-free zone!

God loves you!

Monday, November 19, 2012


“‘Isaac’s Storm’ is a very interesting book about the hurricane that wiped out Galveston in 1900. One of the main plot lines of the book is about how everyone was convinced that a hurricane could never strike Galveston, even as one approached. The author vividly describes how as the streets began to flood people went about their business as if nothing was wrong. Children played in the water, men gathered for breakfast at the local diner, and no one fled from the storm that was about to strike.  Some didn’t worry because Issac Cline, the national weather service officer in Galveston, assured them it would not be a severe storm. Other’s simply believed that Galveston was invincible. Some thought that since they had never seen a hurricane strike Galveston one never would. So for a number of reasons, people assured themselves nothing bad would happen. And as a result over 6,000 people died one September day in 1900” (Steve Hanchet, citing "Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History," by Erik Larson and Isaac Monroe Cline).
Jesus faced a similar kind of complacency in His day regarding the coming “flood” of judgment on His people.  “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah.  For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:37–39).
In our modern day of instant communication with every corner of the world, it seems that we get a daily dose of bad news.  We are always being warned of one danger or another.  In such a situation, it is easy to become numb to all the prophets of doom. But Jesus is different.  When He warns us, we had better listen closely.  He issues no false alarms.  He makes no idle threats.  Hear Him and live!

God loves you!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Gray Hair

What causes gray hair?  A recent Yahoo! article shares some of the science behind graying.  We learn that “...gray hair is simply a part of the normal aging process, and the rate you go silver is genetically predetermined. Going gray is not associated with earlier mortality, and premature graying is not, generally speaking, a sign of a illness or ill health in younger adults. There are, however, some specific health conditions, such as vitiligo(an autoimmune disorder that causes uneven pigmentation) associated with gray or white hair, but for most of us, going gray is just a fact of life...Hair color comes from the pigment melanin, which has two hues, blackish brown and reddish yellow—the amount and mix of each determines your individual shade. Hair without any melanin is pure white. The pigment is produced in cells called melanocytes, located at the base of the hair follicle. The melanocytes inject pigment into the hair. At some point in everyone's lifetime, these cells slow down and eventually stop producing color all together in what's called apoptosis, or genetically predetermined demise. Scientists have yet to identify the exact mechanism by which melanocyte cell death occurs...In 2011, L'Oreal announced it was in the early stages of developing a pill that would prevent melanin reduction, but at this point, there is still no silver bullet to keep away the grays” (Sarah B. Weir,,com, 10-1-12).
Graying is a normal part of the passing of time in our lives.  We can try to hide it but we cannot mask the reality associated with it.  We are ALL getting older.  For the child of God, getting older should not be a reason for fear or despair.  In fact, we learn from the Scriptures that, for those seeking to live godly lives, gray hair is a badge of honor.  “A gray head is a crown of glory; it is found in the way of righteousness” (Proverbs 16:31).  “The glory of young men is their strength, and the honor of old men is their gray hair” (Proverbs 20:29)
God loves you!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Take A Deep Breath...

As the presidential election enters the home stretch, I am hearing more believers hyperventilating over the possibility that their candidate might not be elected.  If you listen to some, you get the impression that it will be the end of civilization as we know it.  Some of my Christian friends on social media are resorting to the same kind of name-calling, mud-slinging, and crude joking that has characterized so much of the campaigning to this point.  In the midst of the hysteria, may I remind us of a few things?

  • 1. Our earthly citizenship is not the highest priority.  We are citizens of a heavenly realm (Philippians 3:20).
  • 2. Our King rules over a spiritual kingdom, not an earthly kingdom (John 18:36).
  • 3. God’s command to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44) applies even to political enemies.
  • 4. God doesn’t promise to protect our standard of living or way of life. He does tell us to expect persecution (2 Timothy 3:12).
  • 5. Our hope for the future isn’t grounded in ANY particular human governmental system.  Our hope is in God and His Son Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 4:10; 1:1).

If you have the opportunity to participate in choosing your governmental leaders, then be thankful for that.  If you are free to give voice to your beliefs and opinions, do so in a godly way.  Do what you can to make the world around you a better place.  But don’t give into despair if things don’t go your way.  Remember that most believers throughout history have lived and worked under far worse situations than we are experiencing.
Regardless of who is in the White House, in Congress, or the Senate, the King of the universe is still on His throne.  He will see us through the worst that this world can devise against us in His way and on His time.
God loves you!

Monday, September 24, 2012

How Big Is Your God?

I am so thankful that I serve a God who can defend Himself.  When someone speaks evil of my God, I don’t have to personally resort to the destruction of the blasphemer’s life or property.  God doesn’t need me to have His back.  My God is perfectly capable of standing up for Himself and dealing with offenders if that is what is needed.  Only an impotent God would need me to fight His battles
I’m reminded of the time when God called upon Gideon to deliver Israel from foreign oppression (Judges 6).  He is reluctant to accept the role, but he finally accepts.  The first matter of business for Gideon was to destroy an altar to a false god that belonged to his father, Joash.  He knew there would be repercussions for such an act against the false religion of his own people but he forged ahead anyway, carrying out the deed under the cover of darkness.
The next morning, the destroyed altar was discovered.  Immediately, passions were fanned into flame and Gideon was found to be the culprit.  The angry mob confronts Joash and demands the death of Gideon.  To his credit, Joash stands up to the blood-thirsty defenders of Baal and challenges the “manhood” of their god: “But Joash said to all who stood against him, ‘Will you contend for Baal, or will you deliver him?  Whoever will plead for him shall be put to death by morning.  If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because someone has torn down his altar’” (Judges 6:31).
Does it bother me when someone takes God’s name in vain?  Sure.  Should I share my displeasure with those who blaspheme God and mock His ways?  Yes.  Should I stand up for my beliefs?  Of course.  But beyond that, my God can handle His own detractors.  Rather than exacting my own revenge, I’ll let God dispense whatever wrath is needed (Romans 12:19).  It’s only impotent gods who need human defenders.  My God is big enough to contend for Himself!

God loves you!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Time Is Filled With Swift Transition

“One evening, a grandson was talking to his grandfather about current events.  The grandson asked his grandfather what he thought about the shooting at schools, the computer age, and just things in general.  The grandfather replied, ‘Well, let me think a minute.  I was born before television, ball-point pens, penicillin, Pizza Hut, polio shots, McDonalds, frozen foods, instant coffee, Xerox, pantyhose, contact lenses, air conditioners, Frisbees, dishwashers, credit cards, clothes dryers, laser beams, and space travel.’  He continued, ‘When I was a boy, ice cream cones and sodas were a nickel.  A nickel would buy enough stamps to mail a letter and two postcards.  You could buy a new Chevy coupe for $600.00 and gas was 11 cents a gallon.’  You probably think this grandfather is a very old man.  If so, you are in for a shock.  This man would be only 69 years old” (House to House, Heart to Heart, vol. 17, no. 4).
Time has a way of marching on regardless of whether we are paying attention or not.  And it progresses faster than most of us are willing to admit.  When James, the brother of the Lord, was counseling his readers regarding the importance of including the will of the Lord in their plans for tomorrow, he reminds them that their lives “...are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).  As King David rejoiced over the generosity of those who donated for the construction of the temple, he praised God as the ultimate source of the bounty (1 Chronicles 29:10-16).  As part of his thankfulness to God, he admits that he and his people are merely “...sojourners before You, and tenants, as all our fathers were; our days on earth are like a shadow...” (vs. 15).
In light of such a reality, Paul’s admonition in Ephesians is vital.  “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but wise, making the most of your time...” (5:15-16).  Are we using our limited time wisely?
God loves you!

Radical Surgery

“And if your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire...And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than having your two feet, to be cast into hell...And if your eye causes you to stumble, cast it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into hell, where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED” (Mark 9:43–48 NASB).
I like the illustration Timothy Keller uses to explain what Jesus is saying.  “Sinful behavior (the reference to hand and foot) and sinful desires (the reference to the eye) are like a fire that has broken out in your living room.  Let’s say a cushion on your couch has ignited.  You cannot just sit there and say, “Well, the whole house isn’t burning -- it’s just a cushion.”  If you don’t do something immediately and decisively about the cushion, the whole house will be engulfed.  Fire is never satisfied.  It can’t be allowed to smolder; it can’t be confined to a corner.  It will overtake you eventually.  Sin is the same way: It never stays in its place.  It always leads to separation from God, which results in intense suffering, first in this life and then in the next.  The Bible calls that hell.  That’s why Jesus uses the dramatic image of amputation.  There can be no compromises.  We must do anything we can to avoid it...” (Timothy Keller, “King’s Cross, pp. 75-76).
Those who play with fire will eventually get burned (Proverbs 6:27).  Those who dabble with sinful desires and behaviors will eventually pay a far greater price than intended.  What seems harmless in the beginning soon becomes a monster.  That is why radical surgery is needed.  Put out the fire before it can spread.
God loves you!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Gripe, Gripe, Gripe

Quit griping about your church; if it was perfect, you couldn’t belong.”  I don’t know the source of this quote.  It came to me as part of a list of catchy one-liners without any attribution.  Perhaps they are all from that great philosopher and author named “Anonymous.”  But regardless of the source, the sentiment it expresses is so very true.
It’s so easy to complain about our own congregation, isn’t it?  “The church isn’t doing enough.”  “The people are too friendly.”  “The people are not friendly enough.”  “The youth group is too small.”  “The youth group is too large.”  “The church needs to have more ministry opportunities.”  “The church is running me ragged with too many programs.”  “We are spending too much.”  “We are not spending enough.”  “I’m leaving if they ________.”  “I’m leaving if they don’t ________.”  “The church isn’t meeting my needs.”  On and on the list goes.
I hate to burst our rose-colored bubble, but there are no perfect congregations.  The church down the road might seem to be perfect, but that’s just because we are on the outside looking in.  The imperfections only become evident when we rub shoulders and egos with those who are part of the group and they rub shoulders and egos with us.  As long as a congregation is made up of imperfect people, it will function imperfectly.  And even if there was a perfect church, the moment I joined, it would become imperfect.
Instead of searching for the perfect church that doesn’t exist or complaining about the imperfections our current group, let me suggest that we all work together at improvement.  It’s easy to point out problems.  It’s much more work to become part of the solution to the problems.  Am I saying that a congregation shouldn’t be criticized?  No.  Every group has room for improvement.  But I am saying that if we are going to complain, we should also be willing to pitch in and contribute to a solution.
Thank God for imperfect churches.  They are the only places where I can fit in.  

God loves you!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Anonymous Angels

         “One afternoon a man came home from work to find total mayhem in his house.  His three children were outside, still in their pajamas, playing in the mud, with empty food boxes and wrappers strewn all around the front yard.  The door of his wife’s car was open, as was the front door to the house.
         Entering the house, he found an even bigger mess.  A lamp had been knocked over, and the throw rug was wadded against one wall.  In the front room the TV was loudly blaring a cartoon channel, and the family room was littered with toys and various items of clothing.  In the kitchen, dishes filled the sink, breakfast food was spilled on the counter, dog food spilled on the floor, a broken glass lay under the table, and a small pile of sand was spread by the back door.
         He quickly headed upstairs, stepping over more toys and piles of clothes, looking for his wife.  He was worried she may be ill, or that something even more serious had happened.  He found her lounging in the bedroom, still curled up in the bed in her pajamas, reading a novel.  She looked up at him, smiled, and asked how his day went.
         He looked at her in bewilderment and asked incredulously, “What happened here today?”  She continued smiling and answered, “You know how, every day when you come home from work and ask me, ‘What in the world did you do today?’  Well, today I didn’t do it.”” (Glad Tidings of Good Things, Vol. 31, June 16, 2011).
         Here is a BIG “thank you” to all the disciples of Jesus who serve quietly.  Your service doesn’t get the attention it deserves.  Sadly, we often don’t notice your efforts until they are left undone for some reason.  And then we are too quick to complain.  The body of Christ would be crippled without the large army of under-appreciated servants who are willing to do their part without the fanfare.  Thank you for all that you do.  We couldn’t do it without you!

God loves you!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Fair-weather Disciples

“You are aware of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes.  The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains; but when in Rome, he eagerly searched for me and found me -- the Lord grant to him to find mercy from the Lord on that day -- and you know very well what services he rendered to me at Ephesus” (2 Timothy 1:15-18).
Have you ever had a “fair weather friend?”  This kind of “friend” is there for you when the going is good.  He is committed to you as long as nothing strenuous is required.  She is by your side as long as there is something in it for her.  They are eager to be part of a ministry that is exciting and popular.  But when service to God becomes difficult and opposition arises, they scatter.  Suddenly, they are not so willing to be known as your “friend."
It appears that the apostle Paul had his share of fair-weather friends.  Many were willing to be friends of Paul, the miracle worker.  But the list of friends for Paul, the prisoner, was considerably shorter.  Many wanted to be associated with Paul, the great preacher.  But supporters for Paul, the jailbird, were much harder to find.
Thank God for disciples like Onesiphorus!  The body of Christ needs more servants just like him.  Disciples who don’t shy away from the struggles of others.  Disciples who don’t run when troubles come.  Disciples who provide refreshment for parched souls.  How about it?  Do you know someone who needs an Onesiphorus right now? Paul had a handful of true friends like Onesiphorus that he could trust to be there through thick and thin.  Onesiphorus wasn’t afraid of associating with Paul at his lowest point.  He searched for his friend even when the trail led through prison doors.  He was an oasis of refreshment when Paul needed it most.

God loves you!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Strong Churches

“But Paul chose Silas and left, being committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord.  And he was traveling through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches” (Acts 15:40-41).

“Strengthening the churches.”  As I was reading through the book of Acts this past week, this phrase caught my eye.  Further study revealed that this “strengthening” was the ministry of establishing, supporting, confirming, and upholding the work of various assemblies of disciples.  Scripture tells us that it is a service that both Jesus and the apostles valued and promoted (Luke 22:32; Acts 14:21-22; 15:32; 18:23).

The fact that assemblies need to be strengthened implies that the church is a living organism that experiences the struggle that comes to all living things as they seek to mature.  There are seasons of vitality and seasons of weakness.  There are advances and retreats.  Our adversary is always seeking to keep us from reaching our full potential as a body of believers.  Some attacks come from without.  Others come from within.  Sometimes it is just the wear and tear of life.  But the end result is the same -- the weakening of an assembly of God’s people.

Understanding the importance of “strengthening the churches,”  I need to evaluate my own participation in this valuable ministry.  How can I strengthen my own congregation?  By taking advantage of the opportunities for fellowship and learning that it provides.  By setting a godly example for younger believers.  By supporting its efforts with my time and resources.  By promoting and participating in its ministries.  By living in harmony rather than fostering division.  The list could go on and on.

Everyone wants to be part of a strong church.  But am I willing to do MY part to strengthen it?  It’s not everyone else’s responsibility.  It is MY responsibility.  And if you are a disciple of Christ, it’s YOUR responsibility.  A strong church doesn’t just happen.  It results from local disciples rolling up their sleeves and committing to its success.  Let’s all work together with God to strengthen OUR congregation.

God loves you!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Team Competition

Perhaps you, like me, have been watching some of the 2012 Olympic coverage.  There have been some incredible individual performances.  Some of these athletes have been training for this moment for years.  When you combine the obvious natural ability that these competitors possess with intense training and countless repetitions in practice, you end up with athletes who can compete with the best that the world has to offer.

As much as I have admired the individual performances of these Olympics, I am even more impressed with the team competitions.  Why?  Because team competitions require a dynamic that individual competitors don’t have to consider.  Individual athletes only have to be concerned about their own performance.  Team competitions require more from athletes.  Here are some examples:

Team athletes have to work together to be successful.  Team goals have to trump personal goals.
Team athletes must learn to compensate for the various strengths and weaknesses of the individual team members.
Team competitions require individual athletes to trust in and depend on the efforts of others on the team.
Team athletes must “pull their weight” or everyone loses.
Team athletes must share the responsibility for victories and defeats.

By now, I hope the parallels between teamwork in the Olympics and teamwork in the kingdom of God are obvious.  If you claim to be a member of God’s team, then you should know that your team needs you.  We all have to work together to be the best we can be.  When we combine our efforts, we become greater than the sum of each individual part.  We must build trust and dependence on each other.  We must “be there” for the team and do our part.  We share the credit for the successes and we share the responsibility for failure.

Our team needs us.  This is the medal round of competition.  The stakes are too high.  We have worked too hard to give up now.   “Run in such a way that you may win” (1 Corinthians 9:24).

God loves you!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Turn Back

“And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God.  It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:16-17).
It was getting late by the time our family arrived in Bridgeport for the campout last Thursday evening.  In the darkness, I managed to drive past the entry road to the campground.  As I proceeded on down the main road, I became more and more convinced that I had missed my turn.  Every foot travelled from that point on was just taking us farther from our preferred destination.  The only way we were going to get to the camp was to turn around.  Was it easy turning the Suburban and trailer around on a narrow highway?  Nope.  But it was the only way to get to where we wanted to be.
It’s easy to get headed in the wrong direction, isn’t it?  A missed sign here.  A wrong turn there.  And before you know it, you are headed away from God.  An important part of John’s job as the forerunner of the Messiah was changing the trajectory of people’s lives.  Turning people back to the Lord.  Turning father’s hearts back to their children.  Turning disobedient attitudes back to righteous attitudes.
The gospel call is a message about turning back.  “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).  It is such a vital ministry!  “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20).  Do you know anyone who needs to turn back?
God loves you!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

"What Should I Do?"

“What is God’s will for my life?”  Every disciple of Jesus Christ has likely asked this question.  Normally, we are concerned about the will of God regarding the big decisions we have to make.  Decisions like: “What job should I take?”  “Should I go to college?”  “Should I get married?”  “Who should I marry?”  “Should we have children?”  These big questions (and others like them) are important and we ought to seek God’s input as we make our choices.

But what about the “little” decisions of life?  What could I do this week that would honor God’s will for my life?

I can forgive someone who has wronged or offended me (Mark 11:25-26; Luke 17:3-4; Ephesians 4:32).
I can share someone’s burden (Galatians 6:2).
I can be patient with an immature believer (Romans 15:1)
I can encourage a fellow disciple (1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 3:13).
I can choose to be with the family of God (Hebrews 10:25).
I can rejoice with those who are happy (Romans 12:15).
I can weep with those who are sad (Romans 12:15).
I can abstain from sexual immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
I can seek to gently restore someone who has given into temptation (Galatians 6:1).
I can speak truthfully to my neighbor (Ephesians 4:25).
I can pray for my brothers and sister in Christ (James 5:16).

How’s that for a start?  I can choose any action from the list above and know, without a doubt, that I am smack-dab directly in the center of God’s will for my life.  No need to wait on a word from the Lord because He has already given it.  No need to pray for discernment because God has plainly revealed His will in these matters.  When I am uncertain about God’s direction in one area of my life, I can always get busy with what I know God wants me to do.  Is there anything on the list that you could do this week?

God loves you!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Responding Judiciously

The recent Supreme Court ruling regarding “Obamacare” has unleashed a flood of negative responses from those opposed to the plan.  Some of my Facebook friends were quick to voice their disapproval.  They certainly have the right to do that.  Some strong, even caustic, comments were directed toward the majority side of the 5-4 court ruling and toward Chief Justice Roberts specifically.  The sentiment seemed to be that 5 of the 9 Supreme Court Justices were running roughshod over the Constitution and that Justice Roberts was a traitor.
My purpose here is not to debate the merits and demerits of “Obamacare.”  Even what little I know about it has raised some real concerns in my own mind.  I have my doubts that it is the right answer to the health care problem in our country.  But I am also reminded that what we currently have isn’t working too well either.  So the debate rages on.

What concerns me is the tone of the debate.  What the current discourse has reinforced for me is just how fickle we can be.  I have to wonder how the tone of the discussion among religious conservatives would have changed if the subject of the ruling was different.  Imagine if the court would have voted 5-4 to uphold a ban on abortion.  Instead of hyperventilating about judicial activism, there would have been praise for the courage of the majority.  Instead of vilifying the swing voter, he would have been proclaimed a hero for standing up for what is right regardless of the pressure.  What changed?  Just the issue.  Because I am for it, it’s just common sense.  Because I am against it, it’s of the devil.
Again, my purpose is not to persuade anyone on the issue.  You are entitled to your opinion.  I am trying to get us to think about how we respond in the debate.  Before clicking “post” on our latest social media rant, let’s pause long enough to think about the Kingdom we represent and how Jesus might react in the same situation.
God loves you!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Blind Spots

“A car's blind spot is one of life's accepted inconveniences. Check your mirror, lean forward, look over your shoulder and change lanes. That is standard operating procedure.  But a math professor from Drexel University in Philadelphia named Andrew Hicks has designed a curved mirror that eliminates most of that blind spot, using a mathematic algorithm that increases your field of view from the current standard of 15 to 17 degrees to an astonishing 45 degrees without distorting the image.  To achieve the design without the fun-house or fish-eye effect, Professor Hicks's patented design is similar to a disco ball with tiny individual mirrors precisely directed using his algorithm, so that each ray of light bouncing of the mirror shows a wide yet undistorted view.  But don't expect the newest car designs to roll off the production line with these mirrors just yet. At this point, manufacturers are still required to install side view mirrors that are flat, due to issues with distortion. But Prof. Hick's just received his patent so it may take some time for the rules to catch up. Until then, you will most likely first see the mirrors in aftermarket car part stores where curved mirrors are allowed to be sold. And don't be alarmed - while the prototype cost an exorbitant $20,000, expanded manufacturing will greatly reduce the cost for consumers” (Yahoo News, 6-14-12).

Now if we could just find a way to deal with spiritual blind spots.  According to Jesus, spiritual blind spots occur when our spiritual eyesight is distorted or blocked by foreign material, such as logs (Luke 6:41-42).  These kinds of blind spots are dangerous because they can cause us to overlook our own faults and to be critical of the faults of others.  And fancy mirrors aren’t the solution.  The only remedy is to clear our vision so that we can correctly assess our own faults before moving on to help others with their faults.  Anyone have a log extractor that I can borrow?

God loves you!

"I Absolutely Could Not Wait"

Martin and Gracia Burnham, missionaries to the Philippines, were kidnapped along with several others by Muslim extremists on May 27, 2001 and held for ransom.  This is a fairly common occurrence in that part of the world and it usually ends with the ransom being paid and the hostages being released in a relatively short time.  This group of detainees expected the same treatment.  But due to a number of extenuating circumstances, the Burnhams ended up being held captive for just over a year.  In The Presence Of My Enemies is Gracia Burnham’s eyewitness account of the extreme struggle the hostages faced during their captivity.  Martin Burnham was eventually killed during a gunbattle with Philippine government forces on June 7, 2002.  Gracia Burnham was wounded but rescued and airlifted to safety.

The last part of the book records Mrs. Burnham’s thoughts after finally being reunited with her children and how the year as a hostage caused her to view some things differently.  I was particularly struck by one paragraph: “The next day was Sunday -- an ordinary Sunday to millions of other people, but not to me.  This was my first chance in more than a year to go to church.  I absolutely could not wait.  So many Sundays in the jungle I had sat on the ground thinking of the high privilege of gathering with other believers to worship God.  To sit in a pew (actually, in my case, they parked my wheelchair in the center aisle), to sing again, to pray, to listen to the Word of God -- it was exquisite” (In The Presence Of My Enemies, Gracia Burnham and Dean Merrill, 2010, Kindle edition)

I know it is fashionable today for even some believers to bash “the church.”  The practice of regularly assembling with fellow believers is chided as being out-dated, irrelevant, or unimportant.  Maybe we are taking too much for granted.  Perhaps if we were suddenly deprived of the privilege of assembling, it would mean more to us.  But, then again, maybe not.  What do you think?
God loves you!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Power Blindness

“The large crowd of the Jews then learned that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead.  But the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death also; because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and were believing in Jesus” (John 12:9-11).
The raising of Lazarus from the dead sparked differing responses.  Of course, Mary and Martha would have been overjoyed at the news.  The brother who had died was now very much alive once again.  For others, it was the miracle that prompted them to put their faith in the Miracle Worker (11:45).  For still others, it was the event that led to discussions as to how best to eliminate Jesus as a rival (11:46-57).
          The lust for power and influence is a deadly sin that leads to blindness in its victims.  Instead of acknowledging Jesus as a conduit of God’s power, the Jewish leadership saw Jesus as a threat to their base of power.  And for that reason, they began plotting a way to eliminate Him.  It’s the age-old ugliness of power politics.  It can be found in every corner of human relationships.  If you’ve experienced it, you know that some will stop at nothing to gain and maintain power over others.
The opening verses of this article highlight just how bad the problem can become.  These men were so drunk with power that they were not satisfied with just killing the Miracle Worker. They also began planning to kill the one who had been blessed by the miracle!  That’s right.  They were prepared to take the life of the very one who had been given life.  They would stop at nothing to satisfy their craving for power.
Father, please shield us from the consuming lust for power.  Forgive us for the times we have wounded others in our blindness.  May we ever be amazed instead of angered by Your powerful workings in our world.
God loves you!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Is Money The Answer?

A few days ago, Gina Rinehart made it to the top of the list.  The 58 year old heiress to a huge Australian mining business is now the richest woman in the world.  How rich, you ask?  Try to wrap your mind around these numbers.  Last year, Gina Rinehart’s wealth grew by 19 billion dollars.  That’s an impressive number by any estimation.  But it becomes even more mind-boggling when you break that one large number down.  Nineteen billion dollars a year breaks down into approximately 52 million dollars A DAY.  Or 2 million dollars AN HOUR.  Or 36,000 dollars A MINUTE.  Or 582 dollars A SECOND.  Incredible!

Apparently, though, that kind of money doesn’t solve all of life’s problems.  Three of Ms. Rinehart’s four children have brought legal action against her over the vesting of a trust fund associated with some of the family wealth.  The youngest child, who has taken her mother’s side in the family feud, has criticized her siblings publicly for damaging the family’s good name.  Some have been critical of how Ms. Rinehart HAS spent some of her billions.  Others have been just as critical of how she HASN’T spent some of her billions.  I guess wealth isn’t a cure-all after all.

If you are tempted to believe that wealth will always make things better, think again.  Consider this example from the life of the world’s richest woman.  Wealth can solve some problems.  But it can also create problems or make existing problems worse.  Money can’t buy family harmony.  Riches can’t guarantee that everyone will approve of  you or your decisions.

But what really matters for me is, not how Gina Rinehart handles her wealth, but how I handle MY wealth.  Most of the world would be just as incredulous at my per second income as I am by Ms. Rinehart’s per second income.  Before I can shake my head at the problems wealth has caused for Gina Rinehart, I must be honest enough to admit my own struggles.  Father, please help ME not to trust in riches (Proverbs 11:28).

God loves you!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Majority Truth

On a recent trip to Walmart, an aisle display for Gillette Fusion Proglide shavers caught my eye.  It was not the need for a new shaver that made me stop.  It was the wording on the advertising.  Blazoned across the display, in big, bold lettering, was this phrase: “Millions Of Guys Can’t Be Wrong.”  My first (tongue-in-cheek) thought was this: “Obviously there are no women in the advertising department of Gillette.  If there had been, such a blatantly false statement would never have seen the light of day.  Only a room full of men could delude themselves into believing such a thing!”  Right, ladies?

But further, more serious, reflection on the matter still led me to the same conclusion.  The statement is still a lie.  Millions of men can be wrong.  Millions of women also can be wrong.  Truth is not determined by popular consensus.  If a vote were to be taken tomorrow and 99.9 percent of the people on earth voted to repeal the law of gravity, that still would not keep me from falling to my death if I jumped off a skyscraper!

The majority can be right.  But the majority can also be wrong.  The Bible testifies often to that fact.  Nearly everyone was in favor of wickedness and evil thinking in Noah’s day, but that didn’t make it right.  The majority was wrong.  Apparently everyone but Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego bowed down to King Nebuchadnezzar’s golden idol, but that didn’t make it right.  The majority was wrong.  When Pilate appealed to the crowd regarding the fate of Jesus, most called for His crucifixion.  But that didn’t make it right.  The majority was wrong.

When it comes to spiritual truth, don’t be swayed by the popular vote.  Seek the counsel of those around you whom you trust but always compare their words with God’s words.  And when the majority disagrees with God, the rightl choice is to “...obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).  After all, millions of guys CAN be wrong!

God loves you!

Monday, May 21, 2012


“Mississippi police fear that a killer posing as a police officer is pulling over motorists late at night on dark highways and then shooting them.  Authorities suspect the shooter may be pretending to be a cop because the perpetrator may have been driving a white, unmarked Crown Victoria sedan, which can resemble a police car.  One driver, a 74-year-old Nebraska man, was found in his car on Interstate 55 in Panola County on May 8 about 1:30 a.m. A 48-year-old Mississippi woman was found near her car on Mississippi Highway 713 in nearby Tunica County about 2:15 a.m., three days later.  The shootings appear to be random and there is no known connection between the victims. The Nebraska man was en route to Florida to get his grandson, and the female victim worked at nearby casino. Police are analyzing shell casings discovered at both scenes.  Authorities have launched a dragnet, saturating the area, looking for clues and a possible suspect” (, 5-16-12).  If the suspicions of law enforcement in Mississippi prove to be true, it only serves to make a terrible crime even more heinous.  To pretend to be someone that can be trusted so that evil can be committed is diabolical.

There is biblical evidence for that last statement.  In 2 Corinthians, Paul had to defend himself against pretenders who were maliciously attacking his ministry.  In doing so, he claimed that these “false apostles” were merely following the example of their leader, Satan, who is the master of disguise.  “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.  No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.  Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

Not every “angel of light” has your best interests at heart.  Entrust your soul only to PROVEN servants of righteousness.  Your most dangerous adversaries are those who are pretending to be on your side.
God loves you!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A New Name

“He really is the lizard king.  A 23-year-old Nebraska man walked into a courtroom in York County Monday afternoon as Tyler Gold -- and walked out as Tyrannosaurus Rex, the York News-Times reported.  Gold said he wanted to change his name “because the (T-Rex designation) is cooler,” according to an official filing he made with court. “Also, as an entrepreneur, name recognition is important and the new name is more recognizable.”  Gold repeated this line of thought aloud during the court proceedings from the witness stand, the York News-Times said.  Judge Alan Gless asked Gold if he was hiding from creditors or law enforcement. Gold said none of those factors were involved in his request.  And just like that, a new Tyrannosaurus Rex was born” (, 5-8-12).

New names are sought for various reasons.  Some are trying to hide from their past.  Others seek a fresh start for the future.  A few choose bizarre names in the hope of attracting attention.  Some choose a plain name to avoid an odd one. Here are some examples:  Alphonso D'Abruzzo became Alan Alda.  Google was once known as BackRub.  Samuel Langhorne Clemens is better known as Mark Twain.  Her many fans knew Dianne Desiree Belmont as Lucille Ball.  Pepsi-Cola was once called Brad’s Drink.  Professional basketball player Ron Artest is now known as Metta World Peace.

Faithful followers of God are promised a new name (Isaiah 62:2; Revelation 2:17; 3:12).  That’s good news because the names I earned before becoming a disciple are not very flattering.  Names like sinner, enemy, rebel, and loser.  Names I am not proud of, but deserved, none the less.  But because of Jesus Christ, no one can use those names for me anymore!  Call me forgiven instead of sinner.  Call me friend instead of enemy.  Call me follower instead of rebel.  Call me winner instead of loser.

Please do not use my old names.  I used to answer to them but I don’t any longer.  My Father has given me a new name!
God loves you!

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Road To Victory

Wilma didn't get much of a head start in life. A bout with polio left her left leg crooked and her foot twisted inward so she had to wear leg braces. After seven years of painful therapy, she could walk without her braces. At age 12 Wilma tried out for a girls basketball team, but didn't make it. Determined, she practiced with a girlfriend and two boys every day. The next year she made the team. When a college track coach saw her during a game, he talked her into letting him train her as a runner. By age 14 she had outrun the fastest sprinters in the U.S. In 1956 Wilma made the U.S. Olympic team, but showed poorly. That bitter disappointment motivated her to work harder for the 1960 Olympics in Rome--and there Wilma Rudolph won three gold medals, the most a woman had ever won (Today In The Word, Moody Bible Institute, Jan. 1992, p. 10).

Victory is not just for the strongest, smartest, or most talented.  Often, it is reserved for those who persistently pursue their goals, even in the midst of struggles and disappointments.  People who increase their strength through bearing heavy burdens.  People who become smarter through learning from their mistakes.  People who develop their abilities through sheer repetition.

People like Joseph.  He didn’t become second-in-command in Egypt and rescuer of his extended family the easy way.  The road to success for Joseph ran through death-threats, a dark hole in the ground, and being sold by his own brothers into slavery.  His path to victory was detoured through the fires of temptation and an undeserved stint in prison.  He endured the potholes of disappointment over being forgotten by those whom he helped.  But through it all, Joseph kept running toward the goal.  And, ultimately, he was victorious.

Let’s “...lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus...” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

God loves you!