Saturday, June 11, 2016

Trust in the Lord

rocks in heart shape“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones” (Proverbs 3:5–8).
These verses prompt us to consider an important question in life: “Where will I place my trust?” The temptation is to trust ourselves.holding hands After all, no one knows us better than we know ourselves, right? Perhaps we have been burned by trusting in someone else who let us down in a critical moment of need and we vow never to let that happen again. Such experiences leave us scarred and fearful of opening ourselves up to the possibility of being hurt again.
But trusting in our own heart can be perilous. It’s foolishness to think we can be the standard of wisdom and understanding (Proverbs 28:26). Error messageWe have all made enough mistakes in life to prove that to be true. If we are honest with ourselves, we admit that our failures reveal that we are incapable of successfully making our own way in life (Jeremiah 10:23).
Wise counsel promotes God as the only safe place for our trust. He alone possesses the knowledge, wisdom, and understanding necessary to be a trustworthy guide for life. What is involved in trusting God? It includes trusting Himdirection post completely (“...with all your heart…” and “ all your ways…”), honoring Him reverently (“...fear the Lord…”), and heeding His call to repent (“...turning away from evil…”).
My soul, wait in silence for God only, For my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, My 
stronghold; I shall not be shaken. On God my salvation and my glory rest; the rock of my strength, my refuge is in God. Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out ocean rocksyour heart before Him; God is a refuge for us” (Psalms 62:5–8).

God loves you!

Long Live the King

Queen ElizabethEarlier this month,(Sept. 2015), Queen Elizabeth II became the longest-reigning monarch in the history of the United Kingdom.  She surpassed the previous record set by her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, by reigning for 23,226 days, 16 hours, and approximately 30 minutes (the approximation is due to the fact that the exact moment of her father’s death is unknown).  At the age of 89, the queen is quoted as saying that the record was “...not one to which I have ever aspired,” noting that she was simply the beneficiary of a long life (source:  Regardless of your opinion of the British monarchy, this is an impressive record of continuity in a world where the turnover rate among most national leaders is fairly high.  Perhaps all of those years of UK’ers saying “Long live the queen!” has paid off.
As a disciple of Jesus Christ, I serve a King with a far more impressive record.  Centuries before the life and ministry of Jesus, Daniel spoke of an indestructible kingdom that would be established in the time of Roman domination (Daniel 2:44).  Jesus would become the King over this kingdom.  His enduring monarchy was declared even before His conception.  The angel Gabriel told His mother Mary:nativity “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 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 1:30–33).
The sun will one day set on the British Empire (as it will for any earthly kingdom or nation).  castleBut Jesus is King over a kingdom that will endure forever.  As servants of this King, we are given the privilege of reigning with Him (Revelation 22:3-5).  What an incredible blessing!  Long live the King!
God loves you!


cracked groundDrought.  Here in California, we are in the fourth year of a record-breaking dry spell.  In January of this year, the governor declared a state of emergency and imposed strict conservations methods statewide.  Due to modern day advances in food preparation and storage in this country, the word doesn’t strike as much fear in our hearts as it does for those in others countries.  While we endure oppressive heat, cloudless skies, and diminished crop yields, a drought for many others can mean a life-and-death struggle for survival.
But despite the seriousness of a physical drought, there is another “drought” that is slowly extending its grip.  I’m speaking of a spiritual dryness that comes from a lack of respect for God and His word.  When the Israelites of old turned away from God, He warned them through the prophet Amos with these words: Bible“‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the Lord.  And people will stagger from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east; they will go to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, but they will not find it’” (Amos 8:11-12).  The message is that when God’s people find ways to reject the word of God, the time will come when God will take it away.
What is the remedy for a spiritual drought?  A return to God and His word!  We need to plead to God with the Psalmist: “My soul cleaves to the dust; revive me according to Your word” (Psalm 119:25).  We can trust the promise made by Jesus Christ in Matthew 5:6: fountain“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” The Lord also promises that those who believe in Him will become a fountain of living water (John 7:38). Doesn’t that sound refreshing? May we develop a thirst for God that causes us to seek HIm earnestly (Psalm 63:1).
God loves you!

Wise Living

Father and son“My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments; for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute In the sight of God and man” (Proverbs 3:1–4). The insistent plea of wisdom continues on into chapter three of Proverbs. What important truths are included in this section?
We are reminded of our propensity to forget what we have learned.  ribbon on fingerAt first, we get all excited over a newly-learned facet of godly wisdom.  We may even memorize a verse or two and find a way to apply what we have learned to our lives.  This is very commendable.  But as time wears on, we get distracted.  Urgent matters tend to begin crowding out more important matters.  And, before we know it, we have forgotten what we have learned.  Oh, we may be able to recall the principle, but we have “forgotten” in the sense that we no longer practice the principle.
We are encouraged to find ways to counteract our amnesia.  The key is to make wisdom a matter of the heart and not merely the of the mind.  What’s the difference?  Wisdom that is only mind deep can become just a collection of facts or an academic exercise.  Wisdom that is heart deep is different.  heart beatWisdom written on our hearts takes the facts and embodies them.  It finds ways to practice the principle.  It’s good to know about wisdom but it must go deeper if we are to remember it and enjoy its greatest benefits.
What benefits?  Generally speaking, when we practice godly wisdom, we endeavor to avoid habits or activities that unnecessarily shorten our lives.  We live in ways that promote peace within ourselves and with others.  raindropWe cultivate respect in our relationship with God and with those around us.  Unwise living undermines all of these efforts.  Unwise living endangers life, promotes strife, and breeds disrespect.
God loves you!

Secret Service

motor sensor“Crankshaft and camshaft sensors. I didn’t know that these sensors existed until we spent a few hundred dollars replacing them on my step-daughter’s car. For quite some time those sensors went about silently doing their work, along with the others parts of the engine, ensuring that her car made it safely down the road. They did their task so well, they went unnoticed; that is, until they ceased to work. In spite of my shortcomings in automotive knowledge, I think I comprehend enough to notice some very real parallels between the workings of a car and the church.
You see, each and every day there are people in our churches who are ministering. Sometimes they minister out in the open, and their skills are praised. The public observes those individuals’ capacities, their importance, and the impact of their work, just as everyone knows the significance of the engine. Others however, labor tucked away in an obscure location, with most people oblivious to how vital their work is to the purpose and mission of the church. Like the crankshaft and camshaft sensors, they perform a task whose importance is less than apparent. helping handsThey clean, cook, mail letters and notes of encouragement, decorate, visit, and do a host of other things that offer little to no audience and very little opportunity to be appreciated. We show up to church and see the bulletin board has been changed, that the bathrooms are clean, that the dwindling coffee supply has been replenished, without thinking that all of this is because of someone’s service” (Justin Simmons,
Every healthy church has disciples who serve in various quiet, behind-the-scenes kinds of ways. We have them here. Perhaps you are one of those secret servants.  secret agentPlease know that your efforts are invaluable to what we are trying to accomplish for the kingdom of God. You are making more of a difference than you think. Thank you for your selfless service for our church family. We couldn’t do it without you!
God loves you!

"LOL" is Dead

emoji-653309__180The following title caught my eye this past week: “‘Lol’ Is Dead, According To Facebook’s Research On How Users Express Laughter.” The article speaks of changing trends in online expressions of laughter. “”Lol” is so over, according to Facebook. The social media giant published data on how users express laughter online. Facebook says the most common way to express laughter online is “haha,” followed by emojis and “hehe.” Researchers say more than 51 percent of users use “haha,” 33 percent express their laughter using various emojis and a little more than 13 percent say “hehe.” According to the data, less than two percent of users say “Lol.” Facebook says younger people and women tend to prefer emojis, while men seem to like a longer form of “hehe”” (
While certainly not ground-breaking research, this study highlights how quickly trends can change in human culture. It seems like it wasn’t that long ago that I didn’t even know what ‘lol” meant (in case you are not internet-literate, ‘lol’ is online shorthand for ‘laugh out loud’). Now that I have it figured out, I learn I am again behind the curve.curve arrow And, chances are, when I get up to speed on the new acronyms, the ‘net will have moved on to something else. Culture is a place where change is inevitable. Some change is good while some change is bad, depending on your perspective. Many changes (like the death of ‘lol’) are neutral and inconsequential. But it is change nonetheless.
A changing culture presents a challenge for the disciple of Jesus. How do we navigate such difficult waters? It starts by avoiding two tempting extremes. The first extreme is the tendency to avoid any change by choosing to live in the past, that golden era that exemplified life as we preferred it.  Change signThe second extreme is to uncritically accept any change that comes down the pike without regard for biblical counsel.  Remember, culture isn’t the enemy.  It is merely the arena in which we seek to wisely serve as ambassadors for the King.
God loves you!

The Storehouse of Wisdom

shield“For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice, and He preserves the way of His godly ones” (Proverbs 2:6–8).
In these verses, Lady Wisdom highlights God as the go-to source for all things wise.  In a world that takes evil advantage of the naive and simple-minded and gives voice to scoffers and fools (1:22), true wisdom can seem elusive. open bookThat makes it vitally important to seek out the One Who is the ultimate storehouse of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding.
But such abundant riches yield the best benefit to those who align themselves with God’s desires and purposes.  According to the text, upon whom does God pour out the blessings of his provision?  It is the upright, the one who walks in integrity, the godly one.  While it is true that God “...causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45),rain on grass it is the one who seeks to please God that gets the greatest benefit.  The rest of Proverbs chapter 2 rehearses some of benefits of godly wisdom for the believer.  Things like discernment (v. 9), discretion (v. 11), understanding (v. 11), and deliverance (v. 12-19).
I need to be reminded that it is the Lord Who gives true wisdom because there are so many competing voices around me.  There is a daily temptation to seek wisdom from other places.  I must learn to measure all other claims against the yardstick of God’s wisdom. measuring stickI also need to be reminded God’s wisdom has its greatest impact in the life of one who is committed to Him.  Wisdom must move beyond my head and into my heart, hands, and feet.  Unless I am seeking to be a person of uprightness, integrity, and godliness, God’s wisdom will not have its greatest impact.
God help me to gain wisdom and to live wisely.
God loves you!

Signs of Life

Perhaps you heard or read the reports this past week of the new push to find evidence for life beyond our planet.  planetsThis is a search that has been on-going for years, but is now receiving a boost through the investment of 100 million dollars by a Russian billionaire, Yuri Milner.  Well-known cosmologist Stephen Hawking is lending his name and influence to the effort.  The influx of financing will provide resources which were previously out of reach, such as access to some of the world’s most powerful telescopes.  Proponents believe this will provide the best opportunity yet to discover if there is life “out there.”
My purpose here is not to debate the merits of this effort.  Some will praise this as a necessary step for scientific advancement.  Others will claim that the world has many more important issues to confront.  You have your opinion and I have mine.  But, bottom line, I guess it’s Mr. Milner’s 100 million dollars and he can spend it how he sees fit.  briefcase of moneyStephen Hawking is free to throw his support behind any effort he deems worthy.
Reading about the search for life “out there” got me to thinking about the search for life “in here.”  As a disciple of Jesus, I need to do a periodic search for the signs of life that should be evident in me as one who has been given abundant  life (John 10:10).  Detection of these signs of life do not require an expensive radio telescopetelescope capable of probing the dark corners of the universe.  They should be detectable to the naked eye as the Spirit of God produces His fruit in my life as a believer (Galatians 5:21-22). Signs of life are transmitted each time I respond to a brother or sister in Christ in a loving way (John 13:35).
Is there life “out there?”  I don’t know.  But I do know there needs to be life “in here” -- in my heart as a follower of Christ.  lamp and heartThe evidence should be there for all to see.
God loves you!

Planning for the Future

spacecraft-625564__180News on the scientific front this past week focused on the New Horizons spacecraft doing a flyby of Pluto as it heads on its way out of our solar system.  Scientists were eagerly awaiting pictures and data from the close encounter.  There are several incredible parts to this story, but I was struck by the careful planning and forethought that made this rendezvous even possible.  Do you realize that Pluto is 3 billion miles from earth?  New Horizons was launched from earth in 2006.  It has taken the spacecraft 9 1\2 years, travelling at 31,000 miles per hour to reach where it is this week, passing within 7,750 miles of the surface of the Pluto.  Think of the effort and patience that went into making this a reality!  Imagine waiting a decade for the fruits of your labor to become a reality!
I realize that believers are encouraged to “live in the moment” (James 4:13-14).  But there is also something to be said for planning ahead for future success in kingdom work.  Paul likens kingdom growth to the planting and cultivation of seeds, a process that involves time and effort (1 Corinthians 3:6). poppy-726267__180Sometimes we have to patiently wait for the blessings of the promises of God (Hebrews 6:13-15).  Sometimes we lay a foundation and others who follow us build upon it (1 Corinthians 3:10).  Living in the here and now apparently doesn’t preclude some measure of future aim and planning.
How about you and me?  Are any of our efforts for the kingdom of God aiming for something beyond ourselves? bullseye-429631__180Are we planting any seeds for future growth and expansion of the body of Christ?  Are we building any foundations for others to build upon?  A decade from now, will fellow believers look back in gratitude for our careful planning and effort in what really matters?
God had a plan for us (Acts 2:23; 1 Peter 1:20; Galatians 4:4-5).  Do we have a plan that includes Him?clock-244217__180
God loves you!


clouds-806639__180In a blog post titled “Christian as an adjective. I don’t think that word means what you think that word means”, Mark Love discusses the use of the descriptive term “Christian.”  He highlights the fact that the term is first used in Antioch (Acts 11:26) where disciples from both Jewish and Gentile backgrounds first began to work and worship together.  He senses some significance in the fact that the believers were first called Christians in a time and place which exemplified inclusion rather than exclusion.
He goes on to contrast how the word is used today among many believers: “It strikes me that when we use the word Christian as an adjective, it’s almost for the opposite purpose. We use it to identify who we are in distinction from those around us. So, we have Christian bookstores or Christian schools or Christian news or music or Christian businesses. It’s a little like a rhetorical gated community. The rhetorical use of the word Christian as an adjective represents an attempt to maintain the privilege of a Christian culture. And I’m pretty sure that’s the opposite of what the word should mean. That’s what the principalities and powers do -- protect privilege, divide the world into affinity groups. No Kingdom of God love Craig Van Gelder’s observation that somehow Christians in North America have figured out how to be of the world and not in the world” (
After reflecting on these words, I think Love offers a valid criticism.  I’m aware that we are to keep ourselves from being stained by the world around us (James 1:27) but that doesn’t mean we have to retreat from the world.  Jesus, who was the greatest example of purity and holiness, didn’t let who He was keep Him from those to which He was called to minister (Luke 19:10). hands-543593__180May we always seek to emulate our Lord by refusing to use the name “Christian” to separate ourselves in a way that is detrimental to the purposes of the kingdom of God.
God loves you!

Read and Do

duck-220226__180This past weekend, an extraordinary event took place in Blackduck, Minnesota.  Residents of this small northern town hosted their annual Bible-reading marathon for the third year in a row.  During the days of June 27-28, volunteers took turns reading through the entire Bible.  Event organizers estimated that it would take a little over 19 hours to read the word of God from cover to cover.  News about the reading has spread and other communities are now considering hosting their own event (http://www.grand
The reading of the Scriptures was important in the early church.  Apostolic writings were circulated to be read among the churches: “When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is comingbook-692575__180from Laodicea” (Colossians 4:16).  As he closed his second letter to Thessalonica, Paul strongly encouraged the reading of his words to the brethren: ‘“I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren” (1 Thessalonians 5:27).  Among other encouragements that the apostle Paul gave to Timothy as a young man ministering in Ephesus, we read this: “Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13).  Perhaps the modern church would do well to give more attention to the reading of the word of God.
But there is something else.  James told his readers to “receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21).  This reinforces what we have already discussed -- the value of reading (corporately or individually) the Scriptures. blackboard-398453__180But he goes on to add a caveat: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:22).  Reading and hearing the Word of God is vitally important, but if we make no effort to change our lives in accordance with what we have read and heard, we are fooling ourselves.  Remember, we are to read AND do.
God loves you!

The Call of Wisdom

woman shouting​“Wisdom shouts in the street, she lifts her voice in the square; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the gates in the city she utters her sayings: How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing and fools hate knowledge?” (Proverbs 1:20–22).
If its opportunity that knocks, then it seems that wisdom shouts. Godly wisdom in this context is pictured as a woman who walks throughout a city, crying out to those in need of the help and guidance she offers. Who is it that needs wisdom? It would be those who are naive or simple-minded (1:22). These are the ones who would be especially vulnerable to the enticing temptations of the evil crowd who seeks to involve them in their deadly plans (1:10-16). It would be the scoffers and fools who enjoy mocking the wisdom and knowledge of God (1:22). Wisdom calls out with urgency in her voice: “Turn to my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you” (1:23).wisdom sign
​Sadly, there will be those who stubbornly continue to reject the call of wisdom and suffer the consequences. The time will come when the window of opportunity closes. At that time, the mockers will themselves be mocked (1:24-27). At that time, those who received the call of wisdom and spurned it will themselves call out but receive no answer (1:28-30). At that time, they will be forced to eat the bitter fruit of their own stubborn foolishness and it won’t be easy to eating lemon
​How much better it would be to listen when wisdom calls! “But he who listens to me shall live securely and will be at ease from the dread of evil” (1:33). None of us are as wise as we need to be. Let’s be quick to take advantage of the wisdom that God freely offers. It’s an offer that we dare not refuse!
God loves you!

Wreaths and Ornaments

“Hear, my son, your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching; indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head and ornaments about your neck” (Proverbs 1:8–9).family-457235__180
These words headline a groups of verses in the first chapter of Proverbs that discuss the perils of the world in which we live (1:10-14).  We are warned to be wary of those who seek to involve us in their evil schemes.  We have to be careful because they are good at promoting their exploits.  They make it all sound so enticing.  “We will find all kinds of precious wealth, we will fill our houses with spoil; throw in your lot with us, we shall all have one purse” (vv. 13-14).gold and silver coins
How can we avoid such powerful temptations?  By listening to the wise and experienced counsel of godly people who love us and care about our welfare.  That is how parents fit into this discussion.  When a son (or daughter) hears the siren call of evil enticements, the wise thing to do is to seek out parental advice (or the advice of other experienced people you can trust).  Chances are they have faced the same temptations in their own life.  Perhaps they can share stories of how they were able to avoid being lured into the same traps.  Or maybe they can share the sorrowful price they paid for giving in and following the wrong crowd.  Either way, the message will likely be the same: “My son, do not walk in the way with them, keep your feet from their path, for their feet run to evil and they hasten to shed blood” (vv. 15-16).Heaven & Hell sign
The silver and gold of ill-gotten gain can’t compare with the adornments worn by those who heed godly instruction.  I hope your parents are (or were) the kind of people who steered you away from evil and toward good.  And even if they weren’t, I hope you have found someone else who filled the role of a godly counselor.  Value such people as the priceless treasure they are!
God loves you!

Where True Knowledge Begins

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7).costume fools
I think it would be fair to assume that most disciples of Jesus desire to be wise and knowledgeable in the way that the Bible uses those terms.  The book of Proverbs is a great place to find scriptural insight for the knowledge seeker. But where do we start?  According to the verse above, this important journey begins with “the fear of the Lord.”
Question mark
As used in this context, the word “fear” speaks of the attitude of reverence and awe which are due to God.  If we are to gain the wisdom or knowledge that we desire, we must approach him with the utmost respect for who He is and for the instruction that He is willing and able to  share with us.  By way of contrast, those who refuse to show God this kind of fear are characterized as “fools.” To deny God the reverence He deserves is to cut ourselves off from the Source of true knowledge and wisdom (Proverbs 1:28-33).
Proverbs goes on to highlight many of the benefits that those who “fear the Lord” experience.  Generally speaking, those who choose to follow God’s instructions will avoid the life-shortening consequences that often come to those who practice evil (10:27; 14:27).  Those who fear the Lord build a confident foundation for their own life and for generations who come after them (14:26).  It is a healthy reverence for God that encourages us to keep away from evil (16:6) and the dangers that always come with it (19:23).Faith Ahead Sign
The search for true wisdom and knowledge begins BEFORE we ever hear the instructions of the Lord.  It starts in our hearts with the attitude we display before our Sovereign God.  It’s more than just reading God’s book.  It is humbling ourselves in reverential fear before God Himself and opening our hearts to His instruction.  That, my friends, is where true learning starts!  Do you fear the Lord?
God loves you!

Elections and the Elect

We stand at the threshold of another election cycle in our nation. As much as I am thankful for the opportunity to participate in the choosing of our leaders, I must confess that I have come to dread much of what comes with it. It seems like election time often brings out the worst in many Americans, Christians included. Sean Palmer ( describes the problem:
“The transaction is apparent and predictable. The candidate we support will say or do something mean-spirited or opposed to the Spirit of God, but either because of our animosity for the other side or because we are aligned on a particular issue or party, we will defend the ungodly.imageWe will also take to Twitter and Facebook to Tweet, Retweet, or link some bitterly partisan, ungracious, half-truth about Democrats or Republicans. We won’t take the 5-minutes required to investigate ad hominem attacks. If the daily bile spewed by politicians and our preferred news outlets makes the other side look bad or seems to confirm our suspicions, so be it. We will even attack the folks dedicated to fact-checking attacks, knowing that if we can discredit them, then we can continue our attacks and wear our blinders at the same time. Worse, some of us will cheer, applaud, and celebrate the dehumanizing words, commercials, and messages about candidates. We will highlight all the ways “our candidate” represents the most crucial values while we minimize, relativize, and ignore, the myriad ways s/he deliberately distorts the message of Jesus.imageNo worries, though, enough of our friends will be join us is our distortions and give us a sense of anonymity. We will cuddle ourselves in the soft illusion that if enough of us join in the degradation then it must somehow be okay.”
I would encourage you to read Palmer’s entire post titled “Keeping Your Birthright In An Election Year.” He goes on to give five tips to maintaining our Christian witness in the face of partisanship. Bottom line? Election time doesn’t give us special permission to act and speak in ungodly ways.
God loves you!