Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tears In A Bottle

“You have taken account of my wanderings; put my tears in Your bottle.  Are they not in Your book?  Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call; this I know, that God is for me” (Psalm 56:8-9).
Life isn’t much fun at times.  Perhaps you can relate to some of the struggles listed by the author of Psalm 56.  Oppressors are treating you like a sidewalk, leaving their boot prints all over you.  They are proud of their efforts to make your life miserable (vv. 1-2).  They take pleasure in twisting your words as they dream up new ways to attack you (v. 5).  They lurk around every corner, seeking an opportunity to destroy you (v. 6).
But maybe your struggles are different.  Your battle may be with a health condition that is painful and debilitating.  Perhaps your trials result from the fracturing or destruction of a relationship.  It could be that you are overwhelmed with grief due to the death of beloved family member or dear friend.  These are all different life issues than the psalmist was experiencing, but no less real or painful.  Life can hurt.
Where do you turn in times like these?  The psalmist turned to God when life got rough.  It wasn’t because God magically made everything alright.  It wasn’t because God took away all of the pain and difficulty.  The author of Psalm 56 took solace in the fact that God was there in the midst of it all.  It was a source of comfort for him to know that none of what was happening was escaping God’s notice.  I especially love the imagery of God collecting the psalmist’s tears in a bottle (v. 8).  The writer trusted that no tear of pain or grief is missed by the One who loves His children.
God knows your pain and grief as well.  None of your tears are overlooked in a world of hurting people.  When life’s experiences tempt you to think otherwise, remember that God is for you, not against you!

God loves you!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Amish Issues

A recent speaker I heard referred to what he called “Amish issues.”  What are “Amish issues”, you ask?  The Amish are a religious group known for retaining many old ways of doing things regardless of the advance of the society around them.  From an outsider’s point of view, some of their choices seem a bit odd.  The speaker illustrated his point by referencing something he saw during a visit to Pennsylvania.  An Amish farmer was using a new or nearly new John Deere corn planter.  This corn planter was a modern, state of the art corn planting implement, costing thousands of dollars.  But instead of using a modern tractor to pull the planter, the farmer was using a team of horses!
The purpose of this article is not to ridicule the Amish.  No doubt they have their own reasons for availing themselves of some modern technology and avoiding others and they don’t have to defend them to me.  They can pull modern corn planters with a team of horses if they want choose to, regardless of how odd it appears to someone else.
My purpose in thinking about “Amish issues” is to consider if I have any of my own.  It’s easier for me to point out what appears to be foolish traditions in someone else’s religion and casually overlook the traditions of my own religious practice that appear to be outdated and inconsistent to others.  Am I guilty of clinging so tightly to the traditions of my religious past that my witness for Christ has become irrelevant or obsolete in the present?  If I am honest, it’s likely that I have “Amish issues” as well.
While the core principles of the good news of Jesus are unchanging and valid in any culture, the methods for sharing it are more fluid and adaptable.  The motto of the apostle Paul is still applicable: “I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some” (I Corinthians 9:22).  I must be prepared to engage culture rather than retreat from it.

God loves you!


Monday, November 11, 2013


“Then the glory of the God of Israel went up from the cherub on which it had been, to the threshold of the temple.  And He called to the man clothed in linen at whose loins was the writing case. The LORD said to him, “Go through the midst of the city, even through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed in its midst”” (Ezekiel 9:3-4).
Ezekiel lived during dark times for the people of God.  The nation as a whole had descended deeper and deeper into sin.  In the midst of a vision from God, Ezekiel had been given a opportunity to personally see what was going on.  Each new abomination he saw exceeded the previous one (cf. Ezekiel 8).  The merciful patience of God with His people had reached the breaking point.  Executioners were called forth to bring divine discipline and judgment upon the rebels (Ezekiel 9:1-2).  But another individual came with the executioners -- a man clothed in linen carrying a writing case (Ezekiel 9:2).  His task was different than that of the executioners.  This man was to go throughout Jerusalem and put an identifying mark on those who were grieved at the sin being practiced around them.
We, too, live in times that can vex the soul of one who has a heart for the things of God.  We live in a culture that has its own share of abominations that elicit sighing and groaning among people of faith.  But don’t lose heart!  God still has His “mark” on the faithful.  Societal disintegration and cultural implosion will not give God amnesia!  To borrow the words of the apostle Paul: “The Lord knows those who are His” (2 Timothy 2:19).  As the Good Shepherd, Jesus says, “...I know my own and My own know me” (John 10:14).  If sin against God still grieves you, then thank God!  That makes you a marked person.

God loves you!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

From Death To Life

“Australian doctors have saved the life of a woman who was clinically dead for 42 minutes.  The miracle patient was rushed to the hospital after a major heart attack, but was declared clinically dead soon after arrival.  With the aid of a hi-tech machine that kept blood flowing to her brain, doctors at Melbourne's MonashHeart managed to unblock vital arteries and return her heart to a normal rhythm.  The hospital today described her survival as "astonishing".  Doctors say Vanessa Tanasio, 41, a mother of two from the suburb of Narre Warren, needed numerous defibrillator shocks, including one in the ambulance on her way to hospital.  In a telephone interview from the hospital, she said she was eager to get home. "I'm feeling excellent. For someone who has been dead for nearly an hour of this week I am feeling tremendously well."  Emergency medics used a device called LUCAS 2 to keep her blood flowing last Monday while cardiologist Dr Wally Ahmar worked to unblock the arteries to her heart” (foxnews.com, 8-20-13).
Modern technology truly is incredible.  But medical scientists still have a ways to go to match the Great Physician.  Reviving a person who was clinically dead after 42 minutes is impressive but how about accomplishing the same thing after four days?  You can read about it in John 11.  Lazarus, brother of Mary and Martha and friend of Jesus, had died.  By the time the Lord reaches Bethany, Lazarus has been dead for four days.  His body had been prepared for burial and placed in a tomb.  The process of decay had already begun.  But at the command of Jesus, “...the man who had died came forth” (John 11:44).  Lazarus couldn’t walk out because he was still wrapped in the burial cloths, but he was alive and came out anyway!
The grave is no match for the Son of God!  It doesn’t matter whether you have been dead for 42 minutes, 4 days, or 400 years.  When Jesus says “Come forth!”, the dead live again.  That truly is astonishing!

God loves you!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Getting Historical

“A man, who was telling his friend about an argument he'd had with his wife, commented, "Oh, how I hate it. Every time we have an argument, she gets historical." The friend replied, "You mean 'hysterical.'" "No," he insisted, "I mean historical. Every time we argue, she drags up everything from the past and holds it against me"” (sermoncentral.com).
Keeping a record of wrongs is not a problem limited to marriages.  It can plague workplaces, classrooms, and church buildings.  Grudges are nourished.  Forgiveness is withheld.  And if it goes on long enough, relationships are destroyed.  What is so tempting about bringing up the past anyway?  Perhaps we feel empowered by having such a potent weapon in our arsenal.  Maybe we think we hold the trump card that allows us to win any argument.  Whatever our reasoning, its wrong.
The Bible tells us that true love “...does not take into account a wrong suffered” (1 Corinthians 13:5).  I like how the NIV renders this verse: “...it keeps no record of wrongs.”  Nothing good is gained by keeping a running list of offenses committed against us.  In fact, to do so evidences a lack of love on our part.  How much better it would be for us to follow the lead of our Heavenly Father, who promises to forgive our sins and remember them no more (Jeremiah 31:34, cf. also Isaiah 43:25).
Make no mistake -- it stings to be hurt by someone.  It’s natural to want to keep a record of such wrongs and to hold those transgressions over the heads of those who have mistreated us.  But we are called to live above our human nature.  No, it is not easy.  But we must release the past before we can truly live in the future that God wants for each one of us.  No one benefits when we start getting historical.
God blesses those He forgives by not taking their sins into account (Romans 4:7-8).  Let’s bless other by doing the same.

God loves you!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Slow Down!

By now, most of you have probably read the news accounts or watched the video of the horrific train derailment in Spain on July 24, 2013.  Seventy nine people were killed and dozens of others were injured as the passenger train jumped the tracks as it rounded a curve.  The investigation continues but it is apparent that the train was travelling too fast to safely negotiate the curve.  Information recovered from the train’s “black box” data recorder backs up theory of excessive speed.  The train was equipped with an automatic warning system to alert the operator when train speed was too high.  Three such warnings were given before the crash occurred. “Police forensic tests on the train's black box data recorders showed the last warning came just 250 meters before a dangerous curve where the accident occurred...At that point, the train was going 121 mph when the speed limit was set at 50 mph.  Four seconds later the driver applied emergency brakes.  By the time Francisco Jose Garzon Amo applied the brakes, the train was already beginning to lose contact with the rails, the statement said. The total derailment occurred at 111 mph.  Garzon has admitted in court that he was traveling too fast but could not explain to an investigating judge why he didn*t slow down earlier” (Harold Heckle, Associated Press).
Our lives can look like this trainwreck if we are not careful. Commitments, deadlines, and responsibilities can begin to accumulate and we find ourselves speeding along at breakneck speed.  That speed can often be managed when the tracks of life are straight but serious problems arise when we encounter life’s curves.  The spiritual and physical warning alarms of excessive speed begin to beep or flash but, too often, we ignore them.  And, before we know it, we experience a derailment and the resulting crash.
Is it time to slow down a bit?  Don’t ignore the warning signs.  With God’s help, we can safely negotiate any curve in life.  Often, we just need to reduce our speed long enough to listen.

God loves you!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Numbering Our Days

“So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).
The focus in the early part of Psalm 90 is on the contrast between the eternalness of God and the transience of humanity.  God has been the dwelling place of faithful people “in all generations” (v. 1).  The One who created the world is the God who exists “from everlasting to everlasting” (v. 2).  He is not subject to time as we know it (v. 3).  Humans, on the other hand, are just the opposite.  We know the ravages of time.  Our physical bodies came from dust and will return there (v. 3).  Time, for us, comes and goes like grass that flourishes and then withers (v. 6).  There are limits on our longevity (v. 10).
It is this relative brevity of human life that prompts the psalmist to appeal to God for instruction regarding the wise use of the time we have.  It is a perspective that appears in other places in the Scriptures.  “LORD, make me to know my end and what is the extent of my days; let me know how transient I am” (Psalms 39:4).  “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15–16).  “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity” (Colossians 4:5).
Time is short, even for those who have been blessed with long life.  Rather than becoming obsessed with how much time we have left, perhaps our time would be better spent making good use of the time we have been given.  The only time we really have is the moment in which we are living.  Anything beyond the present is not promised to us.  “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:13–14).  Make today count as you serve God!

God loves you!

Monday, August 26, 2013


Opponents can make life miserable.  They are the kind of people who watch you carefully, waiting for you to make a mistake that they can exploit.  They set themselves up as rivals to your own progress and success.  They seem to take great joy in causing you distress and harm.  Perhaps you already have a mental picture of an opponent in your own life. It may be someone where you work.  Sadly, it could also be someone within your own family, maybe a spouse or a relative.  Or it might be the brother or sister in Christ who sits on the other side of the auditorium on Sundays.  Whoever it is, an opponent can be a real thorn in your side.
As troubling as an earthly opponent can be, imagine how much worse it would be if God Himself became your opponent!  Notice God’s words to the captive Israelites in Babylon: “Therefore, thus says the Lord God, ‘Because you have more turmoil than the nations which surround you and have not walked in My statutes, nor observed My ordinances, nor observed the ordinances of the nations which surround you,’ therefore, thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I, even I, am against you, and I will execute judgments among you in the sight of the nations’” (Ezekiel 5:7-8).  What chilling words!  To have God declare Himself as an opponent!
The Bible teaches that when God is for us, it doesn’t matter who or what else seeks to oppose us (Romans 8:31-39).  We will ultimately conquer all opponents when God is on our side.  But the inverse is also true.  When God is opposed to us, it doesn’t matter who or what else claims to be our allies.  We are guaranteed to fail when God is our opponent.
Lord, please help me to live in such a way that You can be for me instead of against me.  I desperately need You to be on my side.  May I forever claim You as a friend instead of an opponent.

God loves you!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Ezekiel had a difficult job ahead of him.  God was giving him the unenviable task of bringing a message of discipline and judgment to His people.  “Then He said to me, “Son of man, I am sending you to the sons of Israel, to a rebellious people who have rebelled against Me; they and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day.  I am sending you to them who are stubborn and obstinate children, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD’” (Ezekiel 2:3–4).  Doesn’t sound like much fun, does it?  But, thankfully, God also had a plan in place to prepare Ezekiel for what lay ahead.  “Behold, I have made your face as hard as their faces and your forehead as hard as their foreheads. “Like emery harder than flint I have made your forehead. Do not be afraid of them or be dismayed before them, though they are a rebellious house”” (Ezekiel 3:8–9).
Some children are more compliant than others.  Compliant kids don’t take a lot of parenting expertise.  But other children seem to be born shaking their little fist at the world around them.  These small packages of defiance are a whole different ballgame.  We euphemistically refer to them as “strong-willed.”  Parents of strong-willed children have their work cut out for them.  They learn (some sooner and some later) that the strength of their will must exceed the strength of the will of their little “rebel.”  Strong-willed children require strong-willed parents!
God had some stubborn, obstinate, and rebellious children on His hands.  That is why He needed a hard-headed prophet!  As a spokesman for God, Ezekiel was going to need a determination that matched and exceeded the determination of those who heard him.  He would be tempted to give up.  His patience would be tested to the limit.  But with God’s help, he could do it!
Lord, help me to be hard-headed without being hard-hearted.  As a disciple of Jesus, may I learn to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) in every circumstance.

God loves you!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Dangerous Prayers

The famous English mariner, Sir Frances Drake,  penned the following prayer in 1577 as he prepared to embark on another adventure: "Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves, when our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little, when we arrive safely because we have sailed too close to the shore. Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess, we have lost our thirst for the waters of life; having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity; and in our efforts to build a new earth, we have allowed our vision of the new Heaven to dim. Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas where storms will show your mastery; where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars. We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes; and to push into the future in strength, courage, hope, and love."

These words challenge me.  Frankly, when I reflect on my own prayers, I struggle to remember a time when I prayed for God to disturb me.  Much more common are the times when I pray for difficulties to be taken away or resolved.  While there is nothing wrong with those kinds of prayers, perhaps I need to expand my prayer horizons.  Instead of always praying for ease, do I have the courage to pray for struggles?  Instead of always praying that my needs are met, do I have the courage to pray for seasons of deprival?  Instead of always praying for safety, do I have the courage to pray for opportunities to exercise my faith in dangerous ways?  I wonder...

Jesus prayed a dangerous prayer in John 17:1: “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You.”  Those words might not sound too perilous, but, in essence, He is saying, “Bring on the cross!”  Disturbing? Yes!  But God-honoring as well.  Lord, as a disciple of Jesus, give me the courage to pray dangerous prayers!

God loves you!

Monday, July 29, 2013

24 \ 7 Christianity

This past week I read a book titled “While The World Watched” by Carolyn Maull McKinstry and Denise George.  In the book, Mrs. McKinstry tells her story of growing up as an African American in the deep South during the 1950’s and 60’s.  As a fifteen year old, she was in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama on September 15, 1963 when a bomb planted by racists exploded.  She escaped death, but four other young girls, all friends of Carolyn, died in the blast.  This church bombing was one of the main sparks that helped to ignite the Civil Rights movement of that era of American history.
Being just a young child in the 60’s and growing up in the Midwest, I was really unaware of what was happening in our nation during the turbulent events of those years.  The farm I grew up on in my little corner of the world seemed to be pretty tranquil.  McKinstry’s eyewitness account of how black people were treated in much of our country at that time, even by “church” people, was a sobering read for me.  The battle to secure equal rights for every American, regardless of race, was a costly one for so many.  Many gave their lives for the cause.
Early on in the book, McKinstry said something that I highlighted: “It seemed that what people learned at their churches on Sundays about unity and love they placed on the shelf during the remainder of the week” (p. 36).  As difficult as it is for me to understand how people in general can treat another person with such hate and violence, it is even more baffling to me that many did it (and continue to do it) in the name of God.  There are really only two scenarios that make it possible.  Either the hate and violence was taught in such churches or the people ignored what they heard on Sunday as they lived from Monday through Saturday.
Lord, help me to live Your truth EVERY day of the week.

God loves you!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Regal Residency

Queen Elizabeth of England was honored on June 4, 2013 with an impressive ceremony on the 60th anniversary of her coronation.  She was only 27 years old when she was thrust into the world spotlight as the successor to her father, King George VI, following his death in 1953.  Only one other English monarch in history has occupied the throne for a longer period of time.  Queen Victoria died in 1901 following a reign which lasted for 63 years and 7 months.  Given continued health, its possible that Queen Elizabeth could claim the title for herself in a few more years (Source: news.yahoo.com).
Sixty years is an impressive time span for any leader, especially in a world where rulers and leaders come and go frequently.  But let me tell you about my King.  He was born some 20 centuries ago and an angelic messenger spoke to his mother of his regal longevity: "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end" (Luke 1:32-33).  In contrast to human kingdoms which rise and fall, the kingdom of Jesus Christ was established by God his Father as one which will “endure forever” (Daniel 2:44).  In fact, the reign of King Jesus will last until God’s redemptive and restorative work is fully accomplished: “...then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.  For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet” (1 Corinthians 15:24-25).
Queen Elizabeth’s 60 year reign, as impressive as it may be, can’t hold a candle to the enduring reign of Jesus Christ.  He was King long before England (or America) existed and will be King long after they are gone.  Every knee will bow before Him (Philippians 2:9-11).  Long live the King!!!
God loves you!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Cutting Corners

“A wealthy man before leaving on an extended vacation said to a contractor, "While I am away, I want you to build me a fine new home according to these plans. Be sure you work with extreme care, and use the best of everything. Tell me the cost as soon as you have it and I’ll send you a check." During the process of construction the contractor discovered many opportunities to substitute inferior materials; he put in his own pocket the money he saved. His employer would never know the difference, and he himself would profit. But he soon regretted his dishonesty, for the wealthy man upon his return inspected the finished home and said: "You have built it exactly as I wanted it, and I’m sure that you used the best of everything in its construction. Now, in appreciation for your long years of service to me, I am giving you this new home for your very own. Here’s the deed!"” (sermoncentral.com).
Reading this illustration brought to my mind the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15: “According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”
Lord, grant us the strength and courage to not cut corners as we share in building Your kingdom.
God loves you!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

World Wide Web

The World Wide Web celebrated its 20th birthday this past week.  It seems like it has been around forever, doesn’t it?  But on April 30, 1993, the public first gained access to the information highway that had previously been available only to the scientific community.  Depending on your affection (or lack thereof) for the internet, you may view this milestone as a cause for celebration or disgust.  But regardless of our personal feelings on the matter,  the internet has changed the world we live in.  Referring to it as a “web” is an appropriate description.  Like the individual strands of a spider’s web, we now have nearly instant connection points with people, places, and information from all corners of the globe.  That can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how we use the connections.  It can be bad if we view, learn, or share things that are destructive to ourselves or others.  But it can be good if we use it wisely in healthy ways.  But, either way, it is a part of our lives whether we like it or not.
Long before the World Wide Web became the rage, God understood the value of connectedness.  He is the architect of a “web” known as the kingdom of Christ or the church (Colossians 1:23; Matthew 16:18).  As repentant sinners turn to Him in faith, God connects them with other believers (Acts 4:41,47).  From its initial launch in Jerusalem, the strands of God’s web eventually stretched into all corners of the known world (Colossians 1:6,23).  As Paul said, “...we are members of one another” (Ephesians 4:25).  As a disciple of Christ, I share a global spiritual connection with believers in all corners of the world.
Access to God’s world wide web is provided for through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  You don’t even need a computer -- just the blood of Jesus to cover your sins.  If you are not connected to God’s web, maybe its time to get online.

God loves you!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


I’m concerned about the hyper-nationalism being displayed by many of my fellow believers.  When you listen to some, its easy to get the impression that the success of God’s efforts in the world are inseparably linked to the success of the United States of America.  Some appear to be more concerned with American “ideals” rather than God’s will.  Can we take a deep breath and remember some important words?
“Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm”” (John 18:36).  “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ...” (Philippians 3:20).  “But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13).  “All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:13–16).  Do these Scriptures still apply?  If not, why not?
Make no mistake.  I love my homeland, but this land is not my real home.  I value my citizenship, but I have an even greater one.  My allegiance to the flag is not as important as my allegiance to God.  Now if these commitments make me less than a patriot, so be it.  My calling is to seek God’s kingdom and righteousness first of all (Matthew 6:33).
God loves you!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Hoisted On His Own Petard

It had been a day that Haman would rather forget.  Due to a foolish miscalculation on his part, he had been forced to spend the day honoring his mortal enemy, Mordecai.  How humiliating!  He had no choice but to honor the very one who had steadfastly refused to honor him.  Mercifully, the day was finally over and Haman hurried home, likely nursing his pride and his rage.  But there wasn’t much time to dwell on either because the king’s servants soon arrived to take him to a banquet prepared by Queen Esther.  Perhaps the food and wine would take his mind off of his humiliation.
Little did he know, things were about to get much worse.  On the second day of the banquet, Esther drops a bombshell.  She reveals to the king that she is a Jew and, as such, falls under the death sentence engineered by Haman himself to punish Mordecai.  Now Haman knows he is in serious trouble.  While the king goes out to the garden to process what he has just heard, Haman begins to beg for his life from the queen.  When the king returns, he finds Haman being overzealous in his efforts to plead with Esther.  Haman is immediately sentenced to death and, in a bit of irony, he is executed on an instrument of his own devising.  “So they hanged Haman on the gallows which he had prepared for Mordecai, and the king’s anger subsided” (Esther 7:10).
Perhaps you have heard the phrase: “Hoisted by my own petard.”  A petard was an explosive device used in medieval times.  If not handled properly, they could explode and hurt or kill the one who intended it to use it to hurt or kill others.  Those who experienced such were said to have been “hoisted by their own petard."
That’s the problem with taking our own revenge.  Often, it blows up in our faces.  Haman learned that lesson the hard way.  Let’s not make the same mistake (Romans 12:19).

God loves you!

Monday, April 29, 2013


          Oswald Chambers was a Briton who served as a chaplain to British soldiers at a camp in Egypt during World War I. He died in November of 1917 of peritonitis that was caused by appendicitis that went undetected. He was only 43 years of age at the time and left behind his wife Gertrude and a young daughter named Kathleen. Chambers is perhaps best known for his collection of devotional writings entitled “My Utmost For His Highest.” Numerous other books bear his name as well.
          Would you be surprised to learn that Oswald Chambers never wrote a book? How can that be, you ask? In turns out that Gertrude and Kathleen Chambers are the ones responsible for the continued influence of Oswald Chambers in the lives of so many believers. Mrs. Chambers had become very proficient at shorthand as a young woman. After their marriage, Gertrude made it her habit to write down everything Oswald said as he ministered in preaching and teaching. Following his death, she took it upon herself to publish what she had copied down. Prior to her own death in 1966, Gertrude Chambers had typed thirty one volumes of Oswald’s words, and was working on the thirty second. Kathleen Chambers then took it upon herself to carry on the legacy (source: Sherwood E. Wert, “Their Utmost For His Highest,” Christianity Today, June 21, 1974).
          Reading this story made me think of others whose influence reaches beyond the grave. Like Abel. The Hebrew writer tells us that he “...offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks” (Hebrews 11:4).
          We need to start planting the seeds of our ongoing work now! It could be that our greatest impact on the world will be felt after we have left it. If we are faithful to our calling, those we leave behind will be able to multiply our efforts as well.

God loves you!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"Winning Takes Care Of Everything"

A case could be made that Tiger Woods has been the greatest golfer of his generation and one of the best of all time.  But if you have followed his career, you also know that he is also well-known for his arrogance and rudeness.  Those character flaws contributed to a 2009 sex scandal that destroyed his marriage and nearly destroyed his career.  After some time off from the game, Tiger has worked to resurrect his golf game and rebuild his image.  Recently, he has even started winning tournaments once again.  Some claim he has learned from his mistakes and is a better person because of it.  But has this Tiger really changed his stripes?  A recent ad campaign by Nike, his major sponsor, raises some doubts in my mind about any real character reformation.  In the ad, a picture of Tiger is overlaid with a quote from him that reads: “Winning Takes Care Of Everything.”  Doesn’t that seem just a bit callous and cavalier in view of the damage caused by his recent life choices?
I suppose Tiger Woods couldn’t care less about what I think.  And my ultimate purpose here isn’t to cast stones in his direction because of his character flaws.  I certainly have enough character flaws of my own that need attention.  I’m more interested in highlighting the common but dangerous philosophy that he promotes.  Sure, winning may cause some sports fans to ignore, tolerate, or forget the sins of those they idolize.  But winning certainly doesn’t repair all of the damage done by the sinner.  Some of the destruction caused by our sin can never be repaired.  Sometimes relationships are destroyed that can never be restored.  And even in those cases where the damage is repairable, it won’t happen just because we become “winners” once again.
Our sin can only be dealt with when we turn in repentance to the One who truly can take care of everything -- God.  It is only with His help that we can begin to repair the damage caused by our sins.
God loves you!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Deeper Kind Of Faith

          “Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter.  If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”” (Daniel 3:16–18).
          Periodically, it is good for me to examine my motivation for my faith in God.  Do I only trust in Him because He answers my prayers in the way I like?  Am I following His lead merely because my life is proceeding according to my plans?  Do I take a stand for my principles only when it is convenient?  While these motivations could be viewed as better than none at all, I believe God is calling us all to a deeper kind of faith.
          I’m impressed with the faith of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego.  As I read the account, I can imagine them standing within seeing and hearing distance of the roaring furnace of fire.  In response to Nebuchadnezzar’s threat, they affirm their faith in God’s ability to rescue them from the situation at hand.  My guess is that was the way they wanted to see the drama play out.  But it is what they say next that astounds and humbles me.  “But even if He does not...”  They were still willing to stand by their principles even if things didn’t work out like they wanted.  Apparently, their faith in God was based upon what God had already said rather than on what God might or might not do in a particular situation.
          It’s easy for me to become discouraged when life takes some unexpected turns.  But I need to be careful about letting the turns of life become a barometer of my faith.  “O for a faith that will not shrink...”

God loves you!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Link In A Chain

          On March 10, 2013, twelve-year-old Josh McQuoid was playing with a friend in the surf along a beach in Napier, New Zealand.  All of a sudden, a wave knocked him off his feet and the undertow started to pull him away from the beach.  The lad struggled to regain his footing in the midst of the pounding surf.  A nearby police officer, Paul Bailey, was the first into the water to try and rescue McQuoid, but was having a difficult time himself.  He began to fear that he would become a victim as well.  Thankfully, another police officer instructed others on the beach to form a human chain from the shoreline into the water to rescue both McQuoid and Bailey.  A bystander took a video of the effort, showing more than a dozen people holding hands from the beach into the crashing waves to bring the two to safety.  With some feet firmly planted on the beach, those in the water were able to keep their balance as the water crashed around them.  McQuoid was unresponsive when brought in out of the water but was revived before he was taken to a local hospital (“Human Chain Saves Boy, 12, From Drowning,” Anthony Castellano, ABC News Blogs).
          This nearly tragic story highlights the power of community.  A group of people working together is nearly always more effective than someone working alone.  Perhaps that is at least one reason why God calls His people into a community.  Spiritually speaking, when we link our hands and hearts together into a “human chain,” we become a force greater than the sum of the individual parts.  Spiritual rescue is best accomplished as a team effort.  Even the apostle Paul, a great rescuer in his own right, acknowledged that he was just one link in the chain (1 Corinthians 3:5-10).
          Some are better suited to be anchor points on the beach.  Others are good at braving the surf.  But when we hold onto each other, we can reach into Satan’s stronghold and help God save a life.

God loves you!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Work-Life Balance

          “Former Lehman Brothers CFO Erin Callan joined in the ongoing public debate on work-life balance this week, telling the world she had regrets over the sacrifices she made for success, and prompting renewed buzz on the topic...I can’t make up for lost time,” she wrote in a Sunday New York Times opinion piece, “Is There Life After Work?” In it, Callan, who resigned as CFO in 2008, describes how work always came first for her, often at the expense of family, friends and her marriage (which eventually ended in divorce)...She explains how work took over her life gradually...“I didn’t start out with the goal of devoting all of myself to my job. It crept in over time,” she writes. “Each year that went by, slight modifications became the new normal. First I spent a half-hour on Sunday organizing my e-mail, to-do list and calendar to make Monday morning easier. Then I was working a few hours on Sunday, then all day. My boundaries slipped away until work was all that was left.”  She also writes, “Sometimes young women tell me they admire what I’ve done. As they see it, I worked hard for 20 years and can now spend the next 20 focused on other things. But that is not balance. I do not wish that for anyone.”” (Beth Greenfield, “Former CFO Erin Callan Regrets Not Having Children, Reignites Work-Life Balance Debate”, shine.yahoo.com, 3-11-13).
          Ms. Callan isn’t the first and won’t be the last person to regret taking better care of their career than their family.  Employment is a necessity for most of us.  Disciples of Jesus are encouraged to do honest work and provide for their families (1 Timothy 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:11,12; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-8,11-12).  Christians ought to be the best employees around.  But we must guard against letting our careers become more important than our marriages and families.  Sacrificing family on the altar of success is much too high a price to pay.

God loves you!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Safe Surrender Site

          As I walked into a hospital in Folsom the other day, I noticed a sign on the door that identified the facility as a “Safe Surrender Site.”  These sites are the product of legislation aimed at helping to prevent illegal child abandonment.  “The Safely Surrendered Baby Law allows a parent or person with lawful custody to surrender a baby confidentially, without fear of arrest or prosecution for child abandonment. This law allows for at least a 14-day cooling off period, which begins the day the child is voluntarily surrendered. During this period, the person who surrendered the child can return to the hospital to reclaim the child...A distressed parent who is unable or unwilling to care for an infant can legally, confidentially and safely surrender their baby within three days of birth...As long as the child shows no signs of abuse or neglect, no name or other information is required. A bracelet will be placed on the baby for identification. A matching bracelet will be given to the parent. The bracelet will help connect the parent to the baby if the parent wants the baby back” (http://www.probation.saccounty.net/home/Content.aspx?TID=720).  This effort helps to address the fears of overwhelmed parents who are out of options.  A helpless infant can be given a chance to live instead of being abandoned to die in a dumpster somewhere.
          Surrender can be frightening.  When I saw the words “Safe Surrender Site,” I thought to myself: “That is a great description of the kingdom of God!”  We can safely surrender our lives to the One who knows us inside and out and still loves us anyway (Romans 5:6-8).  We can safely surrender our lives to the One who has a easy yoke and a light burden (Matthew 11:30).  We can safely surrender our lives to the One who will not allow us to be tempted beyond our capacity to resist (1 Corinthians 10:13).  Don’t abandon your soul to destruction!  Find refuge in God’s Kingdom -- the original “Safe Surrender Site!”

God loves you!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My Right To Be Wronged

“Sometimes we fight for the wrong rights. Sometimes it is wrong to exercise our rights. Sometimes we need to remember that we have the right to be wronged” (Jason Sparks).
We get all wrapped up in our “rights,” don’t we?  We’ve codified them in what we call the Bill of Rights for easy reference.  We have our First Amendment rights  We have our Second Amendment rights.  And the list goes on.  We light up social media with calls to defend our rights.  Heaven help the poor soul who dares to question or threaten our rights.
Jesus and His apostles never spent much time talking about rights.  And even when they did, it was usually in ways that make us uncomfortable.  Instead of always standing up for their rights, they often willingly surrendered them and encouraged others to do so.  The Savior refused to stubbornly cling to what was rightfully his, but gave it all up to accomplish our redemption (Philippians 2:5-8).  Instead of a Christian taking another Christian to court and harming the church’s witness (something they would have had the “right” to do), Paul said this to the Corinthians: “Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another.  Why not rather be wronged?  Why not rather be defrauded?” (1 Corinthians 6:7).  Later in the same letter, Paul affirmed that he had a right to be supported as a preacher of the gospel, yet he willingly surrendered that right for the advancement of kingdom (1 Corinthians 9:1-23; cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9).
I’m grateful for the rights I have as an American citizen.  But I must never forget that I have a higher citizenship where my rights are not the primary issue.  Its a higher calling where my rights often overshadowed by the needs of others.  Perhaps my greatest “right” as a child of God is the ability to surrender that right for the purposes of God.  Am I willing to defend my right to be wronged?
God loves you!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


In a recent blog post, Patrick Mead answered a question from a reader regarding how much weight should be given to sources beyond the Bible itself (http://tentpegs.patrickmead.net/?p=1877).  The particular source in question was the writings of the Church Fathers, who were influential Christian scholars in the early centuries of Christianity.  Some of the earliest of these men would have been contemporaries of Christ’s apostles themselves and learned from them personally.
Mead answers the reader’s specific question with his usual grace and scholarship.  In doing so, he also addresses the dangerous tendency of some modern believers to only read among those who already agree with them or are on the reading list approved by their church leaders.  One particular quote really stands out: Reading only writers already approved by your denomination or with whom you already find yourself in broad agreement is a form of intellectual incest. After a time, you will develop spiritual faults because you have cut yourself off from fresh material and broader community. Every gene pool needs a dose of chlorine from time to time and that includes spiritual gene pools."

The point isn’t that all other writings are on a par with the authority of the Scriptures.  Mead goes on to say: The value in reading the church fathers and great reformers, restoration leaders, and contemporary writers is in broadening your community. There is no reason to read them as if they were authoritative on a par with Paul or John, but you might learn a great deal about Paul and John by opening yourself up to those old dead guys (and the new young guns of theology)."

Faith grows and matures in the context of community, even those parts of the community that disagree with me.  Exposure to different viewpoints might reaffirm my commitment to what I already understand the Bible to say.  But it may also reveal some flaws in my understanding.  It may cause me to see something I had missed in my study.  Either way, it is a valuable process.

God loves you!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Wrong Turns

          “For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been” (1 Kings 11:4).
          What a tragic end to a story that had such a promising start.  Solomon had ascended to the throne of Israel following the death of his father David.  Early in his reign, God promises to grant him a wish.  Showing a maturity beyond his years, he chooses wisdom over other more selfish gifts.  He is granted the privilege of overseeing the construction of God’s temple in Jerusalem, the same opportunity that had been denied to his father, David.  At the dedication following the completion of the project, he lifts his voice in praise to the God of heaven and prays for His presence among them.  He encourages the people to follow his lead and have hearts that are “wholly devoted to the Lord our God, to walk in His statutes and to keep His commandments, as at this day” (1 Kings 8:61).  Solomon’s fame spread far and wide.
          But something happened on the road to success.  Solomon permitted his heart to take a detour.  He allowed the numerous wives and mistresses in his life to “turn his heart away” from God.  I’m confident Solomon didn’t intend to take this exit.  But over time, little by little, his devotion to God was compromised.  God had warned him of the danger, but before he knew it, he had no desire to turn back.
          Periodically, I need to take inventory of my own life.  Am I allowing anyone or anything to turn my own heart away from God?  It doesn’t even have to be something sinful.  Even good things can come between me and the total devotion that God deserves.  And when that happens, even good things can become sinful.  Beware of exits off the road that leads toward God.  They may look appealing, but they always end in disaster.

God loves you!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Unassisted Rescue

          “Watchman Nee tells the story of his stay in China with twenty other Christians. The bathing accommodations were inadequate in the home where they were lodging, so they went for a daily dip in the river. On one occasion, one of the men got a cramp in his leg and began sinking fast. Mr. Nee motioned to one of the other men, who was an excellent swimmer, about the drowning man. To his astonishment, however, the man did not move. He just stood there and watched the drowning man. Mr. Nee was agitated, but the swimmer was calm and collected. Meanwhile, the voice of the drowning man grew fainter and more desperate. Mr. Nee hated the swimmer who just stood and watched on the shore when he could have jumped into the river and rescued the drowning man. As the drowning man went under for what looked like the last time, the swimmer was there in a moment, and both were soon safely on shore. After the rescue, Mr. Nee chewed out the swimmer, accusing him of loving his life too much and being selfish. The response of the swimmer revealed, however, he knew what he was doing. He told Watchman that if he had gone too soon, the drowning man would have put a death grip on him and they would have both drowned in the river, and he was right. He told Mr. Nee that a drowning man cannot be saved until he is utterly exhausted and ceases to make the slightest effort to save himself” (sermoncentral.com).
          To be saved spiritually, we must also allow ourselves to be rescued.  Scripture tells us that salvation is not a self-directed endeavor (Ephesians 2:8; 2 Timothy 1:9).  We cannot be saved on the basis of our own righteous deeds (Titus 3:4-5).  Eternal life is a free gift given by God (Romans 6:23).  Like a drowning man, we must cease our struggling and allow ourselves to be rescued by the only One who can do it.

God loves you!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

God Will Provide

“An elderly Christian lady had very little money and lived in a rundown house, but she was always praising the Lord. Her only problem was with the old man who lived next door. He was always trying to prove to her that there was no God. One day, as the old man was walking by her house, he noticed the woman through an open window. She was kneeling down in prayer, so he crept over to the window to see if he could hear. She was praying, " Lord, you’ve always given me what I’ve needed." She prayed. "And now you know that I don’t have any money, and I’m completely out of groceries, and I won’t get another check for a week." She continued, "Somehow, Lord, can you get me some groceries?" The man had heard all he needed. He crept away from the window and ran down to the grocery store. He bought milk, bread, and lunchmeat. He ran back to the woman’s house carrying the groceries. He set the bag down on by her door, rang the doorbell, and hid beside of the house. You can imagine how the woman reacted to seeing the bag of groceries. She threw her hands over head and began praising the Lord. "Thank you Jesus," she shouted. "I was without food and you provided the groceries." About that time the old man jumped out and said, "I’ve got you now." She was too busy shouting “thank you’s” to Jesus to pay any attention. "I told you there was no God," the old man said, " it wasn’t Jesus who gave you those groceries it was me." "Oh no," the woman said. "Jesus got me these groceries and made the devil pay for them” (sermoncentral.com).
The apostle Paul says that “...God will supply all our needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).  He may do it in some unorthodox ways.  He may even use his enemies to do it.  But never doubt that God will take care of His own, one way or another!

God loves you!