Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Waiting for Jesus

We can leave our house, forget something, turn around and come back and our dog, Sadie, will greet us as if we have been gone for three days. She wags her tail so hard her whole body wiggles. She will roll over to beg for a belly rub. She will paw at you to get even more attention. She even gives a doggy hug wrapping her paws around you. One of the words for worship in the Bible is an image of this kind of love and devotion toward someone.

I kind of feel like my dog, Sadie, when I really think about seeing Jesus either when I go to Him at my death or He comes back to save us. I eagerly await the rapture, the catching up of believers, so that I can see Him face to face. 

There is much trouble now and it seems to be increasing. There are many reminders of what eternity without Jesus would be like...evil, no love, no rescue from trouble or torment, hatred, godlessness, horrible friendlessness... It makes me want to be very sure of my salvation.  My sins take me away from the love of God forever, but Jesus paid the price for my sins so I can live forever with Him.

Jesus, who loves us has a place prepared for those of us who love Him and eagerly wait for his return...

“so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” Hebrews 9:28 ESV

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Only Thing That Counts,,,

In these confusing and tumultuous times, it's hard to know what is most important. There are debates about refugees, sexual orientation, terrorists, ISIS, Isreal, end times events... the list is endless. People also debate what the church needs to be doing. What it needs to be saying. Should it engage? Should it be silent? 
At the end of the day, the evaluation that really matters is still the same... 

As Paul adressed the Galatian church about one of the debates of his time. He reminded them what is most important in our lives. There are two questions we will all have to answer at the end of this life... What did you do with Jesus Christ and what did you do with His Love?  

Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit says, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”
Galatians 5:6 NIV

Thursday, October 8, 2015

No More Cheeks to Turn: A Journey Toward Manhood

This was it; this was the grand acknowledgement of the first steps of manhood for our scout troop! This was much like the acknowledgement of a Jewish boy becoming a man granted by a Bar Mitzvah or a young African tribesman killing his first lion. This was a pilgrimage to the Canadian boundary waters for a canoe trip.  It marked the end of my 8th grade year. I was 12.

My Dad, though he was unable to go, invested heavily in my preparation…he had coached me and bought me my own paddle. And we had marked it with black electrical tape to identify it like the war paint on the spear of a young Indian brave preparing for his first battle. Dad gave me his favorite fishing rod and some of his favorite spinner baits and advised me on just how to use them. He took me on a local lake to give me additional canoe practice.

The day of departure finally arrived and “little Bill” as I was called by a coach at school showed up with sleeping bag, fishing gear, new paddle and all the clothes and gear I needed to canoe for 5 days in the boundary waters. There were no roads or ranger stations anywhere close. No phones. “No safety nets,” just a bus full of teenage boys and a few adult leaders out on remote lakes. We were excited but a little apprehensive that we would be  staying in groups of 3 and each group was in a different campsite on a different island every night. We would be making a large 25 mile loop through lakes and portages. We would pack everything in with our canoes: food, tents, supplies… set up camp every night and paddle and hike every day. We would cook the fish we caught over a fire and eat it. We did have other food in case the fishing was slow.  What I did not know was the first manhood challenge I would face was not in the wilderness lakes of the U.S. Canadian border, but on the bus ride there. 

This hopeful little boy could hardly carry his pack to the bus. Spindly little legs with knobby knees wobbled with the weight of all the gear. After a word of goodbye to the parents we hopped on the bus for the longest ride any of us had ever taken…  From Knoxville, Tennessee to Ely, Minnesota. We jumped on and selected our seats, but “little Bill” was kind of hyper. He could be annoying sometimes, but for the most part fun and fun loving. Little Bill was standing in the seat and walked up and down the aisles for several hours.

We stopped for dinner and we all returned with soft drinks and snacks. I finally calmed down a bit. I was so small I could lie down in the overhead luggage rack. So, I decided this would be a good place to get quiet and rest.  This was another bigger boy’s opportunity to do what he did best…be the bully… This boy was called Bud by his friends.  He was always the life of the party, but at someone else’s expense. And it was too easy this time.  He saw his prey in the luggage rack.  He bit off a little piece of napkin and loaded his blowgun otherwise known as a McDonald’s straw. McDonald’s straws were the best because they were stiffer and longer than those from other restaurants, so the spit filled paper projectile would exit the barrel at a stinging velocity. Bud took aim and BAM, it hit my face and stuck there. I frowned and wiped it off as his “buddies” laughed.  He saw that he was winning attention and more laughs so he continued, grinning at me with an insolent smirk each time he bit off a piece of napkin to reload. I asked him to stop, but he was in the zone. He wasn’t stopping. 

All my life there had been a teacher or leader to step in to protect “little Bill” and I had gotten pretty good at self-preservation by working the bully protection angle from authority figures.   But we were in the back of the bus and the leaders were all up in the front.  So, as I waited for a deliverer, a rescuer, none came. And it became clear that Bud wasn’t going to stop even after the laughter had subsided.  He was now just antagonizing me, spit wad after spit wad. I had learned in Sunday School to turn the other cheek, but I didn’t have any cheeks left to turn.   So, the next time he looked down to grab his napkin, I sprang from the luggage rack like a kamikaze flying squirrel right on top of his head. I had landed a good shot, but I hadn’t really thought through my next move. I just knew I didn’t want to be his victim the whole trip. So, Bud, outweighing me by a good 40 pounds quickly threw me off his head and into the seat… and just as he had raised his hand to throw a punch, the Troop Leader grabbed his arm and stopped him. He separated us and we both calmed down.

Apparently the counter attack was enough to change this bully’s perception of me as the easy target. The rest of the trip and other trips after, Bud left me alone, for the most part. He even tried, in his own way to make me an ally.

The trip was awesome. We all camped, canoed, fished, cooked and had a great time. We had earned our stripes; we had earned our single feather as recognition of the first steps toward manhood. And I had learned that sometimes, regardless of your size, you have to resist a bully when you are disrespected.

Looking back now, I am sure there were other more peaceful ways to deal with this aggression, but as a pre-teen, it was the only solution I could come up with, but it seemed to work. A man's deepest desire is for respect and this had earned me just a bit from a young man who had little respect for anyone.  It was a life-changing trip in spite of this bit of adolescent tomfoolery. It was sort of a defining moment for me as a young man and fortunately was one of very few physical confrontations this undersized young man had to face.  By the grace of God, I learned how to "survive" on my own with the help of some other scouts. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Becoming a Christ Follower

Believe that God loves you
John 3:16 (NIV)  "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

Believe that you are a sinner who needs God
Romans 3:23 (NIV)  "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,"

Believe that God's Son, Jesus paid the price for your sin
Romans 5:8 (NIV)  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Believe that God's gift to you is eternal life in Jesus Christ
Romans 6:23 (NIV) For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Believe and Confess that Jesus has authority over everything, including everything in your life
Romans 10:9-10 (NIV) That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

Believe that you have been saved from sin and death and the punishment of hell. 
Romans 10:13 (NIV)  "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

Believe and Follow Jesus everyday
Luke 9:23 (NIV) Then he(Jesus) said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

If you have questions about following Jesus, feel free to contact me.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Prayer of Confession

Lord, I am upset when You are disregarded and disrespected publicly like when the Ten Commandments are taken from public places, yet I violate them with my life choices...

You say, have no other gods before me, yet in my pride and selfishness, I exalt things, people and myself to god-ish status. Forgive me.

You say, don't make an idol, yet I am an idolater with a small screen, a big screen and an even bigger screen in the name of entertainment and I often serve money rather than You.  Father, Forgive.

You say, don't misuse Your Name, yet I watch and listen to programming that takes Your Name in vain condoning its abuse and I flippantly say Your Name in very inappropriate ways. I am sorry Lord , forgive me.

You say, remember the Sabbath and keep it Holy, yet I don't always set aside a day of rest, recreation and reflection with You. God forgive me.

You say, honor your father and mother, and in my lifetime I have dishonored them way too many times in too many ways. I regret my selfish arrogance, forgive me.

You say, you shall not murder, but I have condoned the sacrifice to Molech for personal and societal gain and I have spoken and wished ill on others in my anger, which Your Son says is the same thing.  Forgive.

You say, you shall not commit adultery, yet I have seen things that can only lead to impure thoughts and Your Son says that's all it takes, Father forgive.

You say, you shall not steal, yet I have taken what is not mine and I have forced others into slave labor stealing their livelihood so I can have nice things at a cheap cost.  Father forgive.

You say, don't give false testimony, yet I lie like there is nothing wrong with it for my own gain, image and convenience. Forgive me.

You say, you shall not covet your neighbors' stuff, yet I covet and envy and desire. Father forgive.

God you are right and I am wrong.  I have sinned against You, others, and myself in these and so many other ways. I am so grateful for your Grace and Mercy in saving me from my sin through the death, burial, and resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank you for saving me from the kingdom of darkness. I am helpless to save myself from these sins.  I cannot ever act right, behave right, or be right unless it is in Christ Jesus.

So, before I speak out against those who disrespect You and distain Your ways and disregard Your Truth, I confess my sins against You. Father thank You for forgiving me. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Stand On Truth With Arms Wide Open

As we live in today's world as ambassadors for Christ, we are called to be on mission. We have a lot of freedom in the ways we reach out with the Gospel. We can invest our time and resources. We can compromise on the rights we claim for ourselves if it helps reach people for Christ. However, there is one thing we cannot compromise as we reach out to people with the Good News, and that is the TRUTH.  We can walk many directions as far as the methods we use to reach people in today's culture, we can show them love in many, many ways, but we cannot move away from the Truth. Our feet must be firmly planted on God's Truth as we embrace people with the Gospel.  

The one thing today's society wants the church to give up is the truth.  They may like the ways we help others in times of need.  They may like the ways we love each other. They may like the ways we make sacrifices to assist the less fortunate or the ways we step up when there is a disaster. But they don't like when we stand on a Truth that is contrary to their lifestyle.  Many churches have let go of the truth in order to accommodate the sins we all commit. Churches who claim to be reaching out in love have forgotten that "love rejoices in the truth." (I Cor. 13:6)  We have called right, wrong and wrong, right. We have called evil things good, and good things evil. We have been deceived and taken the bait. We must return to the truth.

In the words of Pontius Pilate, "what is truth?", where do we find it. Jesus says, God's Word is Truth (John 17:17). He says, "I am the Truth."  (John 14:6).  We will either embrace the Truth or be broken against it. 

Stand on the truth, people need it. It sets them free. Our arms have to be wide open ready to embrace those who have been broken as a result of lies. Sin causes hurt. People are hurt by others who have rejected truth. People are hurt when they have broken themselves against the truth. Sin destroys, but we have a Savior who saves and restores. He loves and cares and came to rescue us from the lies we believe. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Jesus Balance

How is it that Jesus was able to stand for important biblical standards and yet still show incredible compassion and love?  How can a church stand for biblical standards and yet still be a vessel that shows the love of Christ?  How can a church avoid accepting every cultural moral ideal and yet still be the loving hands and feet of Jesus?

Jesus addresses the bottom line of this dilemma when a expert of biblical standards asked Him about the most important law that needs to be upheld.    "Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.'" Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV)

All the rules in the religious rulebook are summed up in these two commands to love God and love others. Jesus was more righteous than any legalistic Pharisee, yet He loved. His Love and Righteousness is what turned the world upside down,

If you Love God you will value His Ways, you will obey His Word, you will seek His Will and you will Love those He loves.

Love, don't fall away from the Truth. Don't accept the cultural morals of the day in place of God's standards, but love everyone.

Culture wants us to accept everything that it says is morally and politically correct, but to do so much of the time would be to disrespect God and His Word. Accept and love people, but love them enough to communicate the Truth and the Gospel.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

It Cost God Too Much for Us To Be Flippant About Sin

Jesus Passion was a hefty price for our undeserved salvation from sin and death. The Sinless Christ suffered and died so we could be saved from sin and its consequences.  As we consider the things we take a stand for or against, we need to remember what it cost Jesus to pay the price. If we are flippant about our sin, we disrespect His ultimate act of selflessness. If His Word clearly spells out what sin is and we decide that we are okay with those sins, we need to examine what that really means. When a church embraces sin rather than sinners, we are on shaky ground spiritually. Jesus warned the churches in Revelation against such practice. If we embrace adultery, homosexuality, or debauchery we don't have much to offer those in need of true grace. We have compromised our position in Christ.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Kansas "Church" is not a Church from my view.

A Topeka, Kansas "church" was scheduled to show up in my city to protest during the funerals of the 5 servicemen killed by a Radical Islamist. Their speech and signs are typically hate filled toward homosexuals. They have missed the idea of love one another, but hate sin. They use the name Baptist in their name and that really bothers me as a Southern Baptist. This "church" does not reflect the truth of scripture in their methods.

While I believe that God is lifting His hand of protection from America more and more because of our sins against Him, I don't believe that those who call themselves believers should react with hate. Jesus tells us to love. There are loving ways to communicate truth and there are ways that are not loving at all.

I am impressed by a group of people planning to shield the mourners from this hateful church group. The grief of losing a loved one in a tragic massacre is enough, the families don't need hateful people communicating a hate filled messages to them as they grieve.
1 John 4:20 (NIV) warns, "If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen."

We are living in times that call for living out our lives in truth and love... a tall and challenging order.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

All in the Need of Grace!

Not one of us is without need of God's Grace shown through Christ Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. All of us are sinners, none are without need of His great mercy. We all fall short, we all fail. We are epic failures. We cannot do anything to save ourselves. Our only salvation is through Christ Jesus. White people, brown people, black people... every color, every race need His grace. No matter what your sin, there is rescue in Christ... Greed, Lust, Rage, Gluttony, Pride, Envy, Sloth... We all have a sinful bent toward one or more that can so easily overtake us. We can try to rationalize them. We can try to point out the ones in others that we are not as prone to, but we cannot escape that fact that we are sinners. . We can't run away from our sins, because we will return to them. We cannot do enough good to pay for them, to somehow tip the scales of good and evil to the good side, because we are so far from true goodness, that we can't even come close to being right with God. We can only be saved by grace.  We can only hope and trust in Jesus, in His salvation, in His grace, in the fact that He paid the price for our sin and has defeated sin and the resulting death. Without Him we cannot be saved. Our lives cannot be healed without Him.  We are totally depraved, incapable of true goodness without His saving grace.

My rants in this blog always bring me back to the fact of my own depravity, the truth that I once was lost, and the sin I don't want to do, I do.  I am a wretch, undeserving of grace.  BUT He is full of grace and gives it without me meriting it. That is awesome! That is marvelous! That is great! I deserve punishment, but He brings me peace.

Isaiah 1:18 (NIV) "Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Divine Abandonment

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. (Romans 1:26-28 ESV)

This is called Divine abandonment. God, after much grace and abundant warning, finally gives people over to their own unnatural passions and desires. God designed a woman for a man and a man for a woman. Right down to the DNA, Even at the chromosome level, God designed XX to naturally be a "helper" or complement to XY, woman for man, and vice versa. Sins against this nature are unnatural and against God's design. When a country's high court condones this unnatural arrangement of women marrying women and men marrying men, it is the last straw and leads to Divine abandonment.

Even those who don't have faith enjoy God's grace in many ways. Those without the Gospel are without excuse however, because God reveals Himself through nature. When man rebels against that very nature, he rebels against God and attempts to make his own way. God says, okay, not a good idea, and lifts His hand of protection and grace.

This is where we are as a country. We are ruled by 5 SCOTUS judges, who just officially lawlessly initiated the last straw against God according to this Biblical passage. This passage also says, "Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them."(Romans 1:32 ESV) we as believers must not be found giving approval to these things. Some churches have actually come out and applauded this decision and say "love wins" along with those who don't know the Word of God. This is a lie from the pit of hell, love did not win with this decision. This kind of love leads to destruction (of relationships, of God's design for family, of God's favor). This is a poor substitute for the true, overwhelming, abundant love of God.  God's love will win in The End, but this decision is not a win for anyone but the Deceiver. Many have been deceived into thinking this is a loving thing to do for those who have same sex attraction, but the Truth is, we have, by our action, asked God to leave us alone and His Word says He will do just that. That is a very vulnerable place to be, in the hands of the Destroyer. We have the illusion we have done something loving by calling something that is, by nature, and by Biblucal statement, sin, by saying it is a human right. 

At some point all those businesses, agencies, churches and schools who hold to Biblucal standards will be accused of hate crimes and forced to approve, even celebrate this decision, or loose tax exempt status and Federal Grants or even be shut down. Agencies that do good things like place kids into adoption or foster care, or help rehabilitate addicts, or help people in many other ways will be forced to go against Biblical standards, face legislation or go out of business. When same sex marriage was legalized in Massachusetts all of the religious based agencies that placed homeless children into homes were forced to shut down, because they wouldn't give kids to same sex couples for Biblical reasons and the state said that was illegal.  The kids were the biggest losers, because 30% of the kids placed in that state were placed through religious based agencies.

Pray to God, you who are faithful and stand on His Word. Pray that many will come to faith in this time of trial. God is sovereign and He is not surprised by this . He is still full of grace for those who call to Him, and repent. Be loving and full of grace to everyone. Pray for those in authority and obey them in everything except those things that are in direct conflict with God's Word. Be wise as serpents, but gentle as doves. Many will try to deceive Christ followers into believing that the Bible actually allows same sex marriage. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

What Is The Most Loving Thing to Do?

After a high profile former athlete recently decided to become transgender and reported that he/she had suicidal thoughts, I wondered how common suicide is among transgender people.  As I was channel surfing, I stopped briefly on a channel that was talking about this very topic. They reported a staggering 41% suicide rate among those who transition to another gender.  To be honest, I don't even know the channel or the show. But I googled it and apparently the Williams Institute has done research on this topic. Here is the article highlighting the findings: http://www.vocativ.com/culture/lgbt/transgender-suicide/

If the suicide rates for transgender people are really this high, then shouldn't we be loving these people and finding them healthier ways to deal with their gender issues?   If we don't discourage people from engaging in this situation with a documented 41% death rate, and in fact, encourage them by calling them "heroes."aren't we guilty of being complicit in a hate crime? Why don't we help them understand the truth about the thoughts they struggle with.

I understand that when sin entered the world, all kinds of awful things happened: lying, murder, stealing, adultery, and yes, gender confusion. But there is an answer, Jesus Christ. Jesus reiterated in Matthew 19:4 (NIV)  "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,'" There is something deep within our DNA that tells every cell in our body which gender we are. The X and Y chromosomes determine our gender: XX for women and XY for men. When we try to we go against the very nature that God designed, it has to be stressful to the point of wanting to end our life.  Jesus wants to bring life and hope and goodness, to change our gender seems to steal emotional health, kill relationships and destroy life... Jesus says in John 10:10 (NIV) "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."

I understand that there are chromosomal disorders and people with these disorders need love and sensitivity just like any of us with a disorder, but those are rare. The truth is, we all have a natural sin bent, a personal sin that reaches out to us and seems to easily lure us in, but we don't have permission to indulge that bent.  Why don't we encourage those with impulses to be ax murderers or pedophiles to act on those impulses?  Because it is harmful to them and others. So, why then do we encourage people to "embrace" and "act on" transgender impulses when we know it is going to be harmful to them and others?

We need to take another look at this issue in the light of the Truth.  Jesus said, "I AM THE TRUTH."
I believe Jesus would handle this just like he did with those he healed of other issues... He would pray to the Father and lovingly restore people to health and faith in Him.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Best Laid Plans

My youngest are on a mission trip that was well planned and prayed for. The students had prepped and studied, the travel arrangements had been made, the teams were working together well. And with great promise the much anticipated departure time had come.

The bus, coming from another state was right on time when the driver decided to stop for gas before load and departure. He was about to pull out of the gas station when the brake line broke. No problem they would just send another bus. The 9 pm departure would just be slightly delayed. The next bus arrives 2 hours later. but misses a turn and attempts to turn around and falls into a ditch. No problem,  they can have it towed out and be on their way. But when the tow truck pulled them out the oil pan was destroyed. No problem, bus number three can be sent. Finally, at 4 AM the bus arrives, the kids load up. They had been sleeping around the church like it was O'hare during a snow storm. They make it to their first stop and the doors won't close. But alas the doors close and they are on their way. 
Not a fun 24 hours, but the kids finally arrived in Texas only to find out there's a housing issue. Needless to say parents several hundred miles away are praying fervently for this trip.
The second 24 hours yielded an AC breakdown in fry-an-egg on the sidewalk temperatures. 
I don't know what is going on, but it's definately one of those prayer and patience kinds of trips. 
One of the most difficult mission trips I ever experienced was as a student minister, the facilities were much more primitive than promised and the folks we were ministering to were much more hostile than expected. A seasoned mission trip going volunteer suggested an old fashioned prayer vigil. Each of us would take a half hour through the night to pray. Each one woke the next one at the end of their vigil to pray. The Lord answered in miraculous ways. Children came to salvation, teens were discipled in life-changing ways and through it all, God was glorified.

We sometimes make the plans, but it's the Lord who orders our steps. And he causes all things to work together for good for those who Love Him and are called according to His purpose.

Saturday, May 16, 2015


Some endings are good: the end of allergy season, the end of a fun day at lake watching the sun go down, the end of a terrible, horrible, no good very bad day, the timely end of a life well lived... And there are bad endings: terminal cancer, a weak stomach and bad sushi, a recovering addict back in a bar, a divorce of a marriage that should have made it, an old man who could do anything, but is losing his mind a little more each day... 

Some battles end badly. We all want to finish well, but the truth is we can't possibly do that. We are destined for failure, it's in our corrupted nature. Many of the Heros of the Bible, didn't finish well. Samson, Solomon, even David didn't end without some major setbacks. But it's not over, the END hasn't happened yet. In the END all those in Christ, finish well, praising God around His throne forever. Doing what we were designed to do well. The corruption of sin has been defeated and we get to experience the awesome, pure, divine relationship with God we at our core desire. That is a good ending, but its a happy ending that never ends! 

Success in this life doesn't secure a good ending, only faith in Jesus Christ does that!  With this end in mind, keep following Jesus. Die to your self and live for Him. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Relationship Over Opportunity

I heard the phrase "choose relationship over opportunity" a few days ago. I'm sure I had heard it before, but this time it made me pause to let it marinate a little. What a great way to show real love; choosing people over personal gain. The world says look for opportunities to make your life better, strengthen your resume, bring you more fun, entertain you, get more pleasure or get ahead... but love says make your relationships healthier, stronger, more giving... Our natural bent is toward self-seeking narsissism and prideful selfishness. That self-serving part of us has to die, to be crucified,  in order to truly live. Jesus sought relationship with us over His position in heaven to reconcile us with God the Father. Here's the test for me today: will I select relationship with my family, friends and  other people over convenience, or self protection, or my own ambition?

Today, Lord, show me ways to think and live out the guiding value of relationship over opportunity. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Loosing Your Life, You Will Save It!

Sort of counter-intuitive to our basic desire for survival and self-preservation, we are called by Jesus to give up our lives. This doesn't make a lot of sense, but not giving up our life is not an option if we want to follow the One who gave His life for us.

It reminds me of the scene in the movie Divergent when the initiates are told to jump off a building. Tris carefully perches herself on the ledge of the building and after some moments of fear, flings herself into an unknown dark hole in another roof top below.  She has an abrupt but safe landing on a giant net obscured by the shadows that catches her and saves her from death. The truth is, had she tried to save her own life by staying on top of the building, she may have been executed.

We cannot stay in the safety and comfort zone of our own life. We have to give it up for the freedom and amazing adventure of a life with Jesus. If we stay in our worldly security, we die a little each day, but if we jump, take up our cross and fall in line directly behind Jesus we truly live more and more each day.  There is only one path, it is straight and it is narrow, but it is marvelous. The path is revealed only a step at a time sometimes.

I recently preached a sermon that included some of these thoughts. You can watch it here:

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Snake Handling Baptist

Not sure what part of the ministerial job description this is, but today I was asked to remove a snake from the church property. The facilities manager, who is even less fond of snakes than I, was my wildlife relocation assistant.

I normally would have said, "no" to the request to handle a reptilian varmint, however preschoolers from our Child Development Center were in close proximity to this ovoviviparous slithery creature. The child care workers said all the kids were looking at a new cable in the grass next to the playground, THEN IT MOVED!

Initially, we couldn't find this "moving cable," but my calm assistant decided to lift a garbage bin. All I saw was a salamander and then the ancient fear jumped into my throat as I saw the snake near the corner of the bin in the mud. I was trying to stay calm and not arouse fear in the preschoolers while my heart pounded in my head. I walked quickly to get a bucket and then it was time for a snake round up. I laid down the bucket and pushed the snake in with a broom handle, then covered it with a towel to keep him calm like I had seen the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin do on the TV.

We released him into the woods a little ways from the church, after we attempted to show him to some petrified secretaries who locked themselves in the office a the first mention of the word snake and first glimpse of the bucket.  Oh and did I mention he was just an 10 inch Garter snake?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Gifts and Talents

Each of us have been given or endowed with gifts and talents and things we do well. Unfortunately whoever said, "your greatest strength can also be your greatest downfall," was right. Some of us feel so compelled to use our greatest gifts, that we force them upon unsuspecting folks who didn't ask for our gift. As a matter of fact they may see it as an afront. 

Our gifts have been given to us to bless others, not to become burdens that have to be tolerated by others.  Most times it is the perspective of who the gifts are for. If we see the gifts as primarily to satisfy our need to use them to feel useful, superior, or sufficent, then we will have missed the best use. If instead, we see our gifts as gifts we can use to help, assist, or build up others, we will begin to settle into the best way to use them. 

Ephesians 4:10-13 (MSG) ...He handed out gifts above and below, filled heaven with his gifts, 11 filled earth with his gifts. He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher 12 to train Christians in skilled servant work, working within Christ's body, the church, 13 until we're all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God's Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.

Monday, March 16, 2015


Made for relationships, we human creatures. The only thing "not good" according to God about His creation was that Adam was alone. There are times we need aloneness, but in the long run we must have relationship. We are not made for isolation. Humorist Psychologist Charles Lowery says, aloneness makes us crazy. It is not good for man to be alone. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Whole Shebang!

The whole shebang, the whole enchilada, the whole nine yards... the whole thing.  That's what God wants of us.  He wants the whole of us. He wants ALL of you and me.

"Love the Lord your God with ALL your heart and with ALL your soul and with ALL your mind and with ALL your strength.'" Mark 12:30 (NIV)

I have tried the "you can have almost all of me" thing.  And it doesn't work.  If I hang on to one part of me that I want to keep for myself, it ends up corrupting the whole rest of my relationship with God. Jesus says, a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough. If I hold one part back, then I begin to do things like point to how "good" I am in my "good" areas.  I begin to be self righteous about my good behaviors and pretty lenient on myself on the parts in which I want be my own god. It just doesn't work.  My relationship with God becomes a percentage thing... I'm 60-40 good-bad.  It doesn't work like that.  It's all or nothing.

Like the song of Ado Annie in Oklahoma - "with me its all er nothin'... it can't be in between... it can't be now and then... no half and half romance will do.  The King of Kings and Lord or Lords deserves our all in all.  I am painfully becoming more aware each day of the parts I hold back from Him. He is redemptive of those parts, but He's not afraid to discipline me to let go of them.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

When Biblical Community Gets Even Better

What is Biblical Community? It's all the "...one another" verses being lived out together (see them below). It is the expression of Jesus command to love one another like He loves us. It's not just the Sunday morning connection of pew sitting believers,  it's more than that. It's the hanging out and praying together when the alcoholic spouse is AWOL on a binge. It's standing around a hospital bed with a family as the mother is going under the knife to remove cancer, uncertain of the outcome. It's weeping with a young mother who will never see her son again after a tragic accident.

Oh there are some times when community hangs out at the pot luck dinner to share some food and fun and maybe a devotional thought. But Biblical Community gets more real when we connect with hearts that have been ripped out by great disappointment; and when we lock eyes with eyes that are fiery red from regretful weeping about pain inflicted carelessly on loved ones; and when we have sympathy stomach pains, post-kick, because someone we love is doubled over at the shocking news of betrayal.

I like the way Joy Jordan Lake describes community in her book Why Jesus Makes Me Nervous
“Christian community, taken seriously, means suddenly you’re shouldering the tragedies, the abandonment, the grief of the people around you, just as they are shouldering yours.  Community means sharing each other’s joy and hope and healing. In a thousand ways, taking Jesus seriously makes life harder, tougher, uglier. 

And richer. Finer. Finally worth living.” 

(Kindle Location 368 from Why Jesus Makes Me Nervous by Joy Jordan Lake, Paraclete Press. Brewster, Mass)
So, enjoy the body of Christ when it's fun and full of laughter, but also embrace it when it is painful and risky to do so.  You will engage in something so much bigger than yourself... something eternal...something Good... something satisfying.

Here's a list I found of the "one another" verses. Try these in your Biblical community.

 (credit North Wake Church)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

We Are All Just Prisoners Here of Our Own Device

We are so easily entangled by our sin. But we have a solution...an answer. We have a deliverer, a rescuer.  Here is a sermon from last year with some thoughts on the subject. The sermon begins at about 24.00 minutes into the worship. Click here to view the sermon.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Unless the Lord Builds the House...

For several years I tried the latest self-help. self-improvement, motivational plans:looking back, looking forward, goal setting, vision honing, purpose discovering,... with limited success. Perhaps I was deceiving myself in believing that I was planning my work and working my plan. But I have discovered that...

"Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. 2 In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat-- for he grants sleep to those he loves." Psalm 127:1-2 (NIV) 

This Psalm comes from Solomon, the wisest man to ever live.  He built a temple, a palace, gardens, roads, government buildings... He knew about God enabling him to build.  He also knew when God was not allowing it, nothing would be built, no matter how hard he worked.

So, before going back to the drawing board, we should go back to our knees and talk to God about our great plans. He may have other plans and He is the One to built everything from tiny atoms to the vast expanse of the universe.  And by the way "... in him all things hold together." Colossians 1:17 (NIV)

Jesus says,  "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:33 (NIV)

I guess I'll be seeking first the Kingdom of God and build what He builds...
(photo Habitat for Humanity)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Hole in Your Heart

Love hurts. True Love, heavenly love won't hurt, but love in a fallen world can be extremely painful. We hurt those we love, not always intentionally, yet we still, in our fallen state, hurt them. We bump around like bulls in a china shop crushing precious fragile feelings with words, actions, and unfulfilled expectations. We neglect and abandon. We look to our own interests at the expense of others. We knock to the floor with careless words, then crush what is left by blaming others.

We get a taste of heavenly love from Jesus, who loves us even though we don't deserve it. It cost Him much pain, but resulted in much joy. I'm looking forward to loving more like Him; unconditional, unsuperficial... Love that builds up and nurtures and doesn't retaliate when hurt. The turn the other cheek kind of love that would rather give up his own interest for the sake of real, true, no imitations, no shelf life kind of love.

Source: Copyright 2014 Claudia Karabaic Sargent

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Happy or Holy?

Does God want us to be Happy? My first response is "Sure He wants us to be happy, right?" A famous pastor's wife once said, "God wants you to be happy." Well maybe, but I believe He is more interested in our Holiness. He wants us set apart with Him. Happy is temporary and fleeting depending on our circumstances. Holiness may bring happiness at times. But holiness brings joy mostly. Joy can exist in pain, grief and sorrow. Not so with happiness. Some sins can bring us temporary happiness, however the consequences always result in sorrow and regret.

Peter says, "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." (1 Peter 2:9 ESV)

He doesn't say you are a happy nation called to please themselves. We must aim a bit higher.

We have become lovers of ourselves instead of God. Paul warned believers have nothing to do with people like us. Ouch! (2 Tim 3:2)

Jesus didn't die just for our happiness, He died for our salvation, our holiness. He set us apart from sin. 

I also believe God desires our purity over pleasure. I believe God gives us great pleasure, but not at the expense of purity, 

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age," (Titus 2:11-12 ESV)

Next time instead of asking for happiness request holiness instead. Next time before seeking pleasure seek purity. In the long run, the results will be joy, not regret. And you may even enjoy some happiness along the way. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Word Bludgeon

I don't care what I was told as a kid, words can be just as painful as sticks and stones. The blunt force trauma inflicted on the psyche can leave scars for a lifetime. Researchers have now discovered that adults repeatedly abused by words as kids are much more likely to have heart disease, diabetes, addictive behaviors and other lingering physical maladies, not to mention the lasting emotional issues. Life expectancy for the the severely abused can be up to 20 years less than those with emotionally nurturing childhoods. It takes significant resilience to recover from word pommellings. Words hurt. 

Truth is words can come out easily, but they are impossible to truly retract. Saying I am sorry can help, but sometimes the damage has already been done. 

Jesus says, "I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak," (Matthew 12:36 ESV) That makes me want to be more circumspect about the words I use even in jest.

I overheard another verse when my wife was teaching a group of teenage girls in my home and it stung a bit. "There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." (Proverbs 12:18 ESV)

I definately want to be wiser with my words in the future.  I want my words be healing and not wounding!