Monday, October 31, 2016

11/1 - Numbers 21:4 - Will you face the old to embrace the new?

4 Then they traveled from Mount Hor

on the road toward the Sea of Suf

in order to go around the land of Edom;

but the people's tempers grew short

because of the detour.

Numbers 21


I like progress, but I hate detours.


I know. “Hate” is a strong word. But my dislike for being rerouted is often palpable.


I want to move forward. I don’t want to be slowed down. I don’t want to be distracted. I don’t want a longer route. I don’t want the inconvenience. Indeed, like the Israelites taking the long way around Edom, “tempers gr[o]w short because of the detour.”


And, you know, most of us are like that in life. We just want to move forward – no slowdowns, no distractions, no inconvenience.


But sometimes we can’t move forward – swiftly, effectively, for the rest of our life – without a little road construction.


As a driver over these last two years, I’ve been repeatedly inconvenienced by the building of at least three new bridges. My humanness wanted to squawk every time I hit that detour sign and five extra minutes were added to my old familiar route. But you know what? A year later, those routes are much safer and I’m flying through my journey more productively.


Was it worth the inconvenience? Well, imagine if traffic engineers never rebuilt the original 1930s bridges over wide rivers. Modern metropolitan traffic would be bottlenecked as two narrow lanes were the only link between different quadrants of cities. A city couldn’t progress.


And in life, neither could you!


In life, many of us travel slowly and unsafely because we haven’t dealt with real issues in our past. We’ve put a makeshift bridge over the hurts in our past, and we lie to ourselves, saying that “of course we’re moving forward.” And we are – kind of. But it’s not fast and free.


No one wants to go back and reopen old scars. No one! But sometimes true healing can’t take place until we do a little surgery.


Now, depending on the depth of the hurt and pain, I don’t recommend that you do this phase of road construction alone! For example, if you are detouring to deal with the pain of past abuses, it’s imperative that you see a counselor. And it’s imperative that God is part of this process too. He loves. He heals. He forgives. He rebuilds bridges, straightens twisted roads, and fills in deep pot holes.


But if you aren’t truly moving forward in life, it’s time to take a detour, and find a new route until a bridge that can sustain the weight your future joy can be fully built.


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who already this morning

was trying to figure out how

to run an errand

because of a detour

(I need to reroute my thinking:

“Thank you, Department of

Transportation for progress!”)



How might we pray ... in November?!

Prayer List for November …

How can we pray for you?


10/31 - Exodus 20:10 - Are you working from your rest?

10 But the seventh day is a 

sabbath to the Lord your God;

you shall not do any work—

you, your son or your daughter,

your male or female slave,

your livestock, or the alien

resident in your towns.

Exodus 20


One of the most important questions anyone ever asked me is, “Are you resting from your work … or working from your rest?”


Think about it. This is much more than a clever turn of phrase.


In my mind, I illustrate this with a canteen. If I’m going on an adventure, it’s wise to fill up my canteen before I start my hike. With a full canteen, I have the sustenance to venture forth boldly, scaling tall mountains, crossing raging rivers, and escaping darkened forests.


But … if I start my journey with my canteen empty, all I do is spend my day searching for water.


Life is a lot like that. If our canteen is full – if we are rested and fresh – we can venture forth boldly. We will scale steep mountains. Leap tough obstacles. And praise God even in the storm.


But … if we start our days with an empty canteen, all we tend to do is whine! There’s never enough rest. There’s always a new deadline. “Life isn’t fair.” “If I could just catch a break ...” With no reserves, small inconveniences become tall mountains, little creeks to cross become raging rivers, cooling and refreshing shadows on a hot day become cold forests that envelop us in darkness.


And that’s where the question that started today comes in: “Are you resting from your work … or working from your rest?”


Now, we all like to occasionally work from our rest. But what happens when that’s our perpetual state? To rest from our work, we have to continually stop the journey to fill up a perpetually empty canteen. For example, at the end of a busy week of work, we come home and our canteen is empty. We’re all poured out. And we hope the weekend will refill and refresh us.


However, how many weekends are filled with all the errands and chores that we couldn’t get to during the week? We rest … a little … but we only fill up our canteen an inch or two. Then we head back to work, running on fumes.


But what if we turned that around? What if we worked from our rest? What if the Sabbath principle of rest filled us up before we ventured forth?


Now, here’s what I know. You’ve said two things in this devotional. First, you said that I want a full canteen before I go on life’s adventure. Second, you said that life is too busy and working from our rest is an impossible ideal in this crazy, modern world. (Am I right?)


I’m guilty of this too. Life is busy. There’s so much to do. And I can make all the excuses in the world, but when I rest first – when I abide in Christ as a priority see John 15 – I can venture from Christ’s rest, I work from his strength, I can scale tall mountains, and fight big battles.


I am called to work … and so are you. But we don’t have to do it on our own. And we don’t have to do it from a place of exhaustion. We can do it from the strength of rich sustenance and power.


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who owns a canteen

(… but it’s pretty girly.

It was my wife’s when

she was a Brownie Scout!

But I guess the package

doesn’t matter, only the

living water … or not.)


Thursday, October 27, 2016

10/28 - Prov 27:17 - Who's Your Accountability Partner?

As iron sharpens iron, so

one man sharpens another.

Proverbs 27:17


I always way to the flagmen who are directing traffic.


This is one of the most boring and thankless jobs in world. You stand for hours – often in the heat of the summer sun – and hold a heavy sign. Stop. Go. Melt in the sun. Freeze in the winter. Bored out of your skull.


I don’t know if it makes them feel any better, but I wave. I figure it’s a dose of humanity on an endlessly boring day.


Our sign for today is a flagman sign.


In this picture, our little flagman is holding a stop sign.


And what is the point of this sign on our journey to freedom? I’m using it to signify the need for accountability as we seek to escape our enslavements. It says to me: “Stop! Don’t go it alone! Trust your burdens to others.”


When Jesus sent out his disciples, he sent them in pairs. Why? I think it was for the blessing of accountability. (And probably mutual support and encouragement too!)


In my life, I’m a pretty smart guy. I’ve got pretty good instincts. But even if I get things right eighty or ninety percent of the time, those other ten or twenty percent can absolutely sink me! Those other ten or twenty percent of those can occasionally walk me to the edge of disaster. Therefore, I need someone to occasionally walk me back from the edge of the cliff.


I think that’s one of the primary reasons why God created marriage. It was for the blessing of accountability. In fact, my wife has walked me back from the edge of many cliffs. On my own, I could act foolishly. I could act angrily. I could have slip in my integrity. My wife is a piece of my accountability. (And she’s mutual support and encouragement too.)


Having a “partner” – including an accountability partner – is one of God’s foundational principles for human life (see page two of the Bible, Genesis 2:18).


More secular organizations pick up on this godly principle. That’s why there’s all kinds of cancer support groups and grief support groups and parents with disabilities associations. We need each other!


Alcoholics Anonymous is a good example. When AA seeks to set people free from their enslavement to addiction, one of the first things they do is link a new person with a veteran sponsor. This experienced accountability partner blesses the newly confessing alcoholic. They can say, “I’ve been there.” “You’re not alone.” “It’s hard, but you can do this.”


And yet it’s even more than that! These types of relationships are two-way streets. Testifying repeatedly to the discipline of sobriety blesses the sponsor too! In a wonderful twist, the sponsoree becomes a sort of accountability partner for sponsor. To help heal another person, the sponsor must stay strong themselves and must daily confess their own struggles.


If you’re on a journey to freedom, it’s counter-productive to try to do it on your own. God made you for community. But Satan keeps lying to you. He says, “No one will understand.” “If they know the true you, they won’t like you.”


Don’t flatter yourself. You are not the most creative person in the world. Others struggle daily with whatever is gripping you. Confess to someone who is trustworthy – like your pastor. Hear God’s forgiveness. Feel God’s embrace. And find a community that’s going through the same struggles.


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who believes

that iron shapens iron

… unfortunately, however,

I spend more time around

chocolate chip cookies

than iron

(Can you guess what

that’s doing to me?)



Wednesday, October 26, 2016

10/27 - Luke 10:34-35 - Where Should You Go for Healing?

34 [The Good Samaritan] went

to [the battered man] and

bandaged his wounds

… [and] brought him to an inn,

and took care of him. 

35 The next day he took out

two denarii, gave them to

the innkeeper, and said,

‘Take care of him; and when

I come back, I will repay you

whatever more you spend.’

Luke 10


A few years ago, my father was moments from having his leg amputated.


He had sudden and severe blood clots in his left leg. His foot was dying. The doctor came in to tell us that he was doing surgery. Reflexively, he took the pulse in my father’s foot one last time. And his expression suddenly changed. He was shocked. The doctor said, “His foot is warmer and the pulse is stronger.”


He came in to tell us that he was going to amputate. He left telling us that he was going to put in stents to open back up the vessels.


We call it a miracle that at the precise moment when the doctor took the pulse in my father’s foot my father’s foot was warmer!


And yet … that’s not the end of the story. It was lots of surgeries for my dad. It was a lengthy recover. My father – nearly eighty at the time – worked hard! (How many times have we said that hard work and diligence is required to be set free from the things that enslave us?)


Well, I was there for part of my father’s journey. While visiting my son in New Haven, Connecticut, my father’s foot went numb. A bad sign! Were the veins and stents collapsing again? Away from his regular doctor, we hurried to the Yale University Medical Center.


Wait … we tried to hurry to Yale’s Medical Center.


I had a brand new smartphone. I said to it, “Direct me to the Yale Medical Center.” And I started driving. We were in a town just west of New Haven, and my smartphone turned me in the wrong direction – further west.


Thankfully, I’m not directionally challenged. So against my phone’s advice, I drove east toward New Haven where the hospital is. When we got close to the city, I said to my phone, “Direct me to the nearest Hospital.” Already driving around Yale’s campus, it tried to direct me further west again, to the “nearest” hospital fifteen miles away.


I refused, and seeing a row of food trucks. I stopped and said, “Can you direct me to …”


They did! It was just a few blocks away!


Our sign for today is the hospital sign. (I could have used a sign like that, while trying to anxiously navigate those tight city streets. We knew where to go to heal … we just couldn’t get there!) The question for you, though, is do you know where to go to heal? Indeed, where is the place – perhaps with the right people – to set you free?


Too often we are stuck in the wrong place, with the wrong people, at the wrong time. And too often we are doing the wrong things.


The problem is this: When we’re in bondage, we’re often tired. Exhausted. Our bed and our couch have like this gravitational vortex. They suck us in … and keep us stuck.


When we’re exhausted, we’re stuck in maintenance mode. We do just enough to by. We compromise. We do the easy things and go to the easy places rather than work to find the places of healing.


If we hadn’t worked to find Yale’s Hospital, the results could have been disastrous for my dad. If you don’t work to find your places (and people) of healing, the results will be disastrous for you.


In Christ’s Love,

an old fashioned guy

who still uses maps to confirm

the computerized directions

when the trip is important

(for example, a couple is

married today because

I looked at a map

for a country wedding

and turned left instead of

right like my phone said!)









Tuesday, October 25, 2016

10/26 - Ephesians 1 - Are You Childlike and Free?

Blessed be the God and Father

of our Lord Jesus Christ, who

has blessed us in Christ with

every spiritual blessing … in love.

He destined us for adoption as

his children through Jesus Christ,

according to the good pleasure of his will

11 In Christ we have also obtained

an inheritance … 12 so that we, who

were the first to set our hope on Christ,

might live for the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 1


I have a ministry colleague from England. When he arrived on our shores, one of things he noticed right away is that we Americans define ourselves by what we do.


For example, when we meet someone, what’s the first question we ask? “What do you do for a living?”


And he said, in America, there are a lot of “just-a’s.” “What do you do?” “Well, I’m just-a clerk in the grocery store.” “I’m just-a mechanic at the dealership.” “I’m just-a stay-at-home mom.”


He says, “You never hear a doctor say, ‘Well, I’m just-a heart surgeon.’”


Our value, as most of us see it, is based on what we do.


Therefore, this friend has learned to answer this question counter-culturally. When someone asks him what he does, he says, “I’m a prince.”


People’s jaws drop, but the half believe him because of the cool English accent and because he says it so earnestly!


“Yeah,” he says, “I’m a child of the King. I have all the wealth of the Kingdom waiting for me. I have a mansion just waiting in my name and all the sidewalks are paved with gold.” He goes on and on … until it dawns on people that he’s not talking about an earthly Kingdom! And if he is the child of the King, his Father is God!


Brothers and sister, you are a child of the King. Child of God, you have been adopted in the Lord’s family. As today’s verse say, you have an inheritance waiting in your name. As it says in John 14, in your Father’s house are many mansions. (I think yours is the third on the left.)


I love today’s full passage from Ephesians 1:3-14 (and you get just a glimpse of God’s wonderful treasures in today’s verses). When we are children of God, we are “loved,” “blessed,” “chosen,” “forgiven,” and “redeemed.” We are “adopted” into the King’s family, and “marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit,” we are “inheritors” of the abundant richness of the Kingdom.


And how generous is Father God, our King? He doesn't just give us these things, he “lavishes us” with these gifts!  


Our sign for today is “children at play.” And that’s a sign for you! Laugh. Pray. Live joyfully. Be childlike in your wonder.


This is a positive step toward freedom. When we’re stressed – in bondage, enslaved – we’re often too serious. And deadly seriousness can suck the life out of us.


Don’t let it!  


You’re a child of the king. You’re a victor already. The worst this world can do to you is make you go to heaven fifty minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, or years early … and heaven is a win. So live from the perspective of victory “so that we … might live for the praise of his glory.”


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who’s most child-like

when creating and enjoying

family holiday traditions






Monday, October 24, 2016

10/24-25 - 1 Tim 4:15 - What "Handicaps" You?

Be diligent about this work,

throw yourself into it,

so that your progress

may be clear to everyone.

1 Timothy 4:15


Do you know anyone who is handicapped? It’s hard work.


Most of us take so many things for granted.


·         We tie our shoes. Some people have only one hand.

·         We get up at a commercial break to get a soda from the frig. Some people can’t walk.

·         We can hear in crowded restaurants; others can’t.

·         We can see; others are blind.

·         When we walk to the mailbox, we forget how easy it is to breath; others can barely walk to the door.


Managing with a disability requires a lot of hard work! (Not to mention courage.) And one word for this is “diligence.” It is persistent effort – day after day after day after day.


Well, the road to freedom also takes diligence. It is hard work. Persistence. Perseverance. It is day after day after day after day.


Today’s sign is the handicapped sign. When you are in bondage, you are handicapped. (Now, I don’t say this to minimize true physical handicaps. Of course!) But I want you to see whatever enslaves us as a burden – a conquerable burden.


Let me give you an example … People describe COPD as an elephant sitting on your chest. With this disease, it is nearly impossible to breathe. Well, doesn’t the enslavement of grief has a similar effect? Grief sits on our chest. It makes it hard to breathe … to work … to think … to do.


Spiritually, life is hard when we’re chained by any enslavement, including grief. It’s a “handicap.” Nevertheless, people do get through it. Step by step. Day after day. One breath at a time.


Sometimes freedom takes daily obedience. Sometimes it takes daily sacrifice. Sometimes it requires repeated forgiveness. Sometimes freedom involves a lot persistent patience. And always it requires diligence. As Biblical wisdom coaches in today’s verse: “Be diligent about this work, throw yourself into it, so that your progress may be clear to everyone.”      


One final thought …


When the state issue handicapped stickers, some are permanent … because some disabilities are permanent. But the state also issues temporary handicapped permits. Why? Because some handicaps are temporary and people do heal!


The enslavements we’re talking about can be temporary! You can heal. You can truly be set free from whatever enslaves you.


Now, you can make these enslavements permanent, of course, by choosing to wallow in despair. But with courage, faith, determination, and diligence, you can be set free. It’s kind of like a stay in a rehabilitation hospital. Reclaiming your life will require hard work – day after day after day after day. But there’s adventure on the other side!


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who doesn’t park

in handicapped spots

(and a guy who doesn’t

want to spiritually camp in

handicapped spaces either)







Saturday, October 22, 2016

10/22-23 - Matt 2:13-14 - What is your evacuation plan?

13 An angel of the Lord appeared

to Joseph in a dream and said,

“Get up, take the child and

his mother, and flee to Egypt,

and remain there until I tell you;

for Herod is about to search

for the child, to destroy him.”

14 Then Joseph got up, took

the child and his mother by night,

and went to Egypt

Matthew 2


Today’s sign is fresh on my mind because we just had four hurricane “refugees” at my house. As a hurricane was bearing down on the South Carolina coast, two sons and their two pregnant wives (plus a dog) headed to our inland home for refuge.


It was interesting hearing how they plotted how to travel. With a mandatory evacuation of a major city, the roads were going to be full. “Fill up with gas before you go,” warned the radio headlines. “You might get stuck in stand-still traffic and you don’t want to get stranded.”


One son left a day early and chose to travel at odd hours – to hopefully miss the bulk of traffic. It worked. Relatively smooth sailing.


The other son’s job forced him to leave later. In a busier crowd, he picked a maze of back roads for his escape route. It worked too. Relatively painless travel.


In life there are hurricanes. There are trials. And temptations. And pain … and grief … and confusion.


Sometimes the trials and temptations of life come with a little bit of warning. Nowadays, with satellites and radar, hurricanes are like that. Thousands of lives are spared because we have adequate warning and make wise preparation.


Therefore, whenever the dark clouds in life approach, this is your warning sign, and it’s wise to have an evacuation plan! You know what the warning signs and temptations are for you, right? You know when you’re generally vulnerable, don’t you?


Sometimes, all it takes to stay free is to follow the blue road signs that say, “This way to safety.”


This is like following conventional wisdom. And we can be spared a lot of pain in life by simply asking “What is the wise thing to do?” and then doing it!


But other times, the disasters in life strike without much or any warning at all. Tornados and earthquakes are like this. One minute all is well. The next … rubble.


How can we avoid this? Well, I listened to a young man recently who told why he moved home to the Carolinas. He’d been living for a few years in “Tornado Alley.” His house was on tops of a hill. He could see for miles to the west – the direction from which storms tend to approach. When he watch the fifth tornado sweep through the valley, he finally got wise: “I don’t have to live here anymore!”


Now, not everybody can choose where they live. Obviously, not everyone is fleeing tornado alley or the San Andreas Fault. Nevertheless, it’s not a bad plan! Indeed, that was God the Father’s recommendation to the Holy Family. When Herod sought to kill the Christ child, they weathered the tornado of Herod’s rage by relocating to Egypt.


Spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically your evacuation route for many of life’s trials may be to simply move away. To stay away completely from whatever tempts you. To avoid the drama and the trials by not even being around them!


What are you seeking to be free from? What is your evacuation route? Today? Every day?


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who remembers

the evacuation from a raging

forest fire. barrelling down on us

(because everyone was calm,

We all slowly but orderly made it out.

Panic would have caused disaster.

It’s wise to be wise and calm

and plan in advance!)





Thursday, October 20, 2016

10/21 - Hebrews 4:12 - What are you reading?

12 For the word of God

is alive and active.

Sharper than any

double-edged sword,

it penetrates even to dividing

soul and spirit, joints and marrow;

it judges the thoughts and

attitudes of the heart.

Hebrews 4


When I was little, my mom had choir practice on Wednesday nights. And on Wednesdays when my dad worked late, me and my little brothers would tag along.


To keep three active boys from disrupting choir, my mom would make a strategic stop first at the local library. We’d each pick out a variety of books to – hopefully – keep us out of trouble.


The choir loft was in the balcony. And I can remember each of us boys lying on separate pews (twenty feet apart, of course) and reading our collection of new books.


Everyone was happy!!!


Do you like to read? Indeed, what do you read? Do you like fiction or non-fiction? Do you read long volumes or short articles? Do you prefer the rich and classic or the simple and mindless? Do you like uplifting stories or stories with excitement? Are your reading habits clean or … well?


I had a friend who would read seven novels a week. It was her escape from reality. Simple. Mindless. Throw-away novels. At the end of a week, she couldn’t tell you what even one of them was about. (It was surely more wholesome than escaping into the numbness of a bottle, but it had in some ways the same effect. Time passed without much thought or feeling.)


Along the side of the road, you occasionally see today’s sign. It points us to the nearest library. Libraries can be places of knowledge and wonder.


Well, have you walked into a library lately? (Or let me ask that a different way: Have you walked into a bookstore lately? In a materialistic culture, the bookstore is a library’s equivalent – why borrow it for free when you can spend money to clutter your shelves, right?)


But have you walked into a library or bookstore lately? What do you encounter almost immediately? A table full of “suggested” books. Good books! Books that someone thinks you “ought to” or might like to read.


In this world, there are good books and bad books. Uplifting books and sad books. Enlightening books and misleading books. Helpful books and wasted paper. But … there’s only one Good Book.


The point of today’s devotion is simple – don’t settle for good; read the best! Read God’s word. Daily.


It can be in short bites or long chunks. It can be in linear order or you can just start at an easy place (like the Gospels). If you don’t know what you’re reading, get a study bible which will help explain it.


And pray first for a hunger. I had a friend who tried for years to read the Bible in a year. He’d give up about the first of February. So after five failed tries, he prayed from February 1 to December 31 – “God give me a hunger for your Word.” The next year he cruised through joyfully … and has kept reading ever since.


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who reads his Bible

like he reads other things

(I’m a grazer. I read bits

and pieces … but regularly.

How about you?)



Wednesday, October 19, 2016

10/20 - Luke 4:8 - Do you point up ... joyfully?!

Jesus answered … “It is written:

Worship the Lord your God,

and serve Him only.”

Luke 4:8


Yesterday’s sign was a “one way” sign. These signs usually show which one – and only one – direction a street’s traffic is to flow.


Today’s sign is different form of a one way sign. I’ve seen it used most frequently at the edge of a parking lot with several driveways in and out. One driveway will have this sign – it says essentially, “enter,” “go forward,” or “this way only”! The other driveway, of course, has a bright red sign – “Do Not Enter.”


That’s what it technically means. But I didn’t choose this sign for what it says, literally. I chose it because it points up! And because it says, “only.”


Or in other words, “point up only!”


Or as Jesus said, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only”!


What does this sign say – to me, and hopefully now to you? It says …


Worship! (Because God is “up.”)

Praise! (Because God is “up.”)

Give thanks! (Because God is “up.”)


There’s a growing trend in small group ministries and Bible Studies. They’re less about learning. They’re less about head knowledge. And they’re more and more about worship.


If we gather for an hour first and worship … then our hearts are changed. We align ourselves with God’s presence. As we worship, we submit to his majesty. As we praise, we welcome his power.


Then – as the meeting continues – whatever we discuss, is not mere head-knowledge; it’s heart, soul, mind, and strength … powerfully!


How much do you use worship to shape your day-to-day interaction with God?


You don’t need a church building. You don’t need a song leader. You don’t need a pastor. All you need is a submitted heart!


God will meet you when you praise him. You can turn on a Christian song. You can exalt in the beauty of his creation. You can rejoice in the blessings that friends and relatives are receiving. Worship! Point up … only!


God will also meet you when you thank him. Make thanksgiving part of every prayer … because it changes things! Often we operate on essentially the myth of scarcity. We have a need – “God provide!” That’s a valid prayer. But a better prayer starts with thanksgiving. After we spend a few minutes giving thanks for all of the ways that God has helped us in the past and is blessing us in the present, then we approach God with more abundant confidence.


We’re not praying, “God might you be able to provide?” When thanksgiving is our habit, we’re suddenly exulting, “God it’s clear that you are generous and that you always desire to bless your children. Therefore, I come to you boldly!”  


How might you incorporate more worship – more joyfully – into your life today? And every day?


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who loves the

classic movie …


(Oops. Sorry

for the interruption.

I love the Pixar movie Up,

from which came the

dog who was constantly

distracted by squirrels.)

I don’t want to be distracted.

I want to focus up.