Saturday, September 30, 2017

Sept 30/Oct 1 - Romans 14:8

If we live,

we live to the Lord,

and if we die,

we die to the Lord;

so then, whether we live

or whether we die,

we are the Lord’s.

Romans 14:8


These are comforting words — especially at a funeral. And yes, we use them at a grave site.


This is a simple, one sentence summary of a bigger doctrine. The Apostle Paul is writing here to the Church in Rome, and to these bellieves he trumpets this glorious truth: Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.


In 2 Corinthians 5:8, takes this hope even a step further. He says, “[I] would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” Prefer? Yes! Indeed, he confirms this sentiment in Philippians 1:21, saying, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain”! 


In fact, says Paul in the following verses — Philippians 1:23-24, “I am hard pressed between the two [— between the desirability of life vs. death — because] my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you.” Now, you probably know that Paul spiritually opts to stay. Not that the length of days is really his choice, of course. Our days are ultimately in God’s hands. But spiritually he wills himself to stay for the purpose of earthly ministry, rather than escaping prematurely for the “far better” comforts of heaven.


Interestingly, a few verses later in Philippians 2:5-11, Paul shows that for the purpose of earthly ministry, Jesus himself opted to leave the realm that was objectively “far better” to come for a purpose that was far better for us. Indeed, Christ “6did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 rather emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, and being found in human form.”


5Let this same mind be in you,” starts this passage.


Well, do you have this same view of heaven vs. earth? Do you view “death” as “gain”? I quoted 2 Corinthians 5:8 slightly incorrectly. I added brackets and substituted a word. Instead of “I,” it should read, “we.” “We would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” Is that your hope?


In last Wednesday’s Truth Project class, a haunting question was asked: Do you really believe that what you believe is really real? (Read that a few times. Let it sink in.)


Paul believed in heaven. In fact, he believed so confidently, that heaven was so real that to “die” was “gain”!


What do you think it would take for you to get that confidence?


For me, I’ve had the privilege – strange word for what I’m about to say – of doing one hundred funerals. It hurts to lose a friend! And I walk this road with lots and lots of friends. But here’s why I call it a privilege: Because every time I do a funeral, I grow more confident of heaven! I see God show up! I see the veil between heaven and earth pulled back, even just a little. And like Paul, I can say with growing confidence, “To live is Christ; to die is gain.”


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who is learning

to really believe that

what he believes

is really real


Thursday, September 28, 2017

Sept 29 - Nehemiah 9:32

Now therefore, our God,

the great, the mighty,

and the awesome God,

who keeps covenant

and loving kindness,

do not let all the hardship

seem insignificant before you,

which has come upon us.

Isn't this a perfect verse for this past September in our hemisphere? "O God ... do not let all the hardship seem insignificant before you, which has come upon us."


Hurricane Harvey. Then Hurricane Irma. Then Hurricane Maria. Then multiple Mexican earthquakes. Many of our own southern cities are battered and waterlogged. But the worse damage is generally in poorer places - Carribean islands and Mexican villages. "O God ... do not let all the hardship seem insignificant before you, which has come upon us."


That's the petition: "Help us, Good Lord."


But before the petition, the prayer reminds us and reminds God about the basis upon which we dare to make this request: 


O God, you are "great," please remember us. You are "mighty," apply your strong arm to save. You are "awesome," hear our prayer. You "keep covenant," do not let us fall. Your heart is full of "loving kindness"; in love you could never forget your children, could you. Therefore, indeed, "do not let all the hardship seem insignificant before you, which has come upon us."

We constantly need to remind ourselves of who God is - especially when tragedy strikes. Do we need to "remind" God? No. He knows! But do you think we ever need to remind him that we are reminded, that we truly know. 


We call "knowing" God's goodness "faith." And our faith is always the basis upon which we approach the ever-faithful God. And he yearns to joyfully respond to faith. 


Try incorporating praise into your prayers - reminding yourself and reminding God!


In Christ's Love,

a guy who is writing

this at breakfast;

time to remind God

that he is the provider,

as I go to get my

daily bread



Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Sept 28 - Psalm 8:4

When I look at your heavens,

the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars

that you have established;

what are human beings that

you are mindful of them,

mortals that you care for them?

Psalm 8:4


I was with a friend’s child recently. This little one carefully arranged a group of stuffed animals and cried out, “Everybody, watch! We’re going to do a show!”


The cry of joyful, playful child was, “Look at me!”


That’s cute ... when done by a child.


It’s not so cute when adults do it! Prima donna is one way to describe people who are clamoring for attention. “He thinks the world revolves around him,” is a phrase we’ve all been tempted to say.


Fortunately ... that’s not the prevailing attitude of the Psalms! The Psalmist looks at the heavens, comprehends “the moon and the stars,” and realizes -- in awe -- that this is what God has (and only God could) “establish.” And instead of crying “look at me,” instead of thinking like a prima donna that the world revolves around him, the Psalmist bows in wonder and humility:  “what are human beings that you are [even] mindful of [us].”


I hope the first thing you hear in today’s verse is awe. “Wow! God is so big.”


The second thing I hope you hear is love. “God may be vast, but he’s also personal. And his ‘mindfulness’ of you and me shows his constant love and care.


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who likes watching kids

as they think they can bring

stuffed animals to life

(but has a word for adults

who think the same thing:



I wonder … how many of us – you and me –

occasionally act like the world revolves around us

and are thus delusional, not giving credit to God


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Sept 27 - Psalm 30:5

His anger is but for a moment; 

his favor is for a lifetime.

Weeping may linger for the night,

but joy comes with the morning.

Psalm 30:5


We had a ritual at our house when the boys were young: Bath. Book. Prayers. Bed. 

The books ranged from "Goodnight Moon" when they were young to Hardy Boys when they where older. We're also surfing the web to find and give away to young parents what are now used copies of a favorite children prayer book, "Can you see me, God?"

Then, we'd snuggle the boys into their bed. The fresh smell of their baby shampoo wafting up. They'd cuddle. Giggle. Close their eyes. Squirm. Giggle some more. Relax into our presence. And there was love. 


No matter what the day had brought - including tantrums, rebellions, anger, slamming doors, yelling, parental commands, lots of no's, and lots of tears - it was all wiped away in an instant. It was all wiped away in a blanket of love. 


That's what this passage tells us that our relationship with God is like. When we rebel, we hurt God's heart. We cause a fracture. And like any parent, there's moments of grief, pain, frustration, and even anger on God's part as he deals with us. But - as today's verse says - "his anger is but for a moment[, but] his favor is for a lifetime."


In the evening, try creating a bed time ritual ... with God. And see if more joy doesn't come with the morning. 


In Christ's Love,

a dad whose watching

his grown sons start

bedtime rituals with

their little ones

Monday, September 25, 2017

Sept 26 - Deuteronomy 30:19

I have set

before you life and death,

blessings and curses.

Choose life.

When I was younger, I loved long buffet tables. One hundred delightful food options spread before me. And every serving was my choice. My delight. When I was younger, it was truly all you can eat. 


Nowadays, a buffet is both a delight and a curse. My eyes are far bigger than my stomach. I can't eat all I want to eat. I require a few servings of moderation. I even throw a few healthy things on the plate - a teenage waste of a good appetite, now digestive wisdom. 


Life is like a buffet. Some people approach life like it is all you can eat. It's hedonistic. Often selfish. They have huge appetites. 

I liked buffets because they were a rare exception. A steady diet of bacon grease will kill you, but a night of acting like a pig - twelve pieces of bacon - was fun. Justifiable. The sign said, "All you can eat," right?

But how many people live like that? We have our normal life, but we excuse (even justify) some occasion splurging. It's the "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" attitude, right? It's college (even high school) students studying hard all week and then justifying blowing off some steam by binge drinking. It's the husband who's honorable ninety-nine percent of the time, but on a business trip when "no one is looking" ...


An everyday buffet of sin is obviously destructive. But occasional binging and splurging destroys our more foundation just as surely. 


How many of us have found that as our faith deepens, we've gradually quit doing some of the things we used to do. We're just not as attracted to sin. Our tastes are maturing - growing spiritual maturity. We're getting wiser in our choices. We know the effects - long term, but even immediate - to giving into our appetites. 


The Lord says, "I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life." Life is a buffet. Choose life!

In Christ's Love,

a guy who appreciates the

subtle change in advertising

at some buffets ...

instead of "All you can eat,"

it's "All you care to eat"

(Take care! Choose life!)

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Sept 25 - Luke 12:48

Jesus said, “From everyone

to whom much has been given,

much will be required.”

Luke 12:48

I had a friend who grew up in an old New England church, old New England family ... old New England money. She frequently quoted this verse. Said it was kind of the philanthropic code she was brought up on: "From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required.” 

Do you know the context for this verse? (I didn't. I had to look it up!) 

Jesus is telling a number of parables. Earlier in the chapter he's talking about a rich man with an abundant harvest who is busy building bigger barns and is surprised when death sneaks up on him. The point: He is rich in the things of earth, but poor spiritually, and thus unprepared (and unfit) for eternity. 

From this parable of bigger barns vs. a bigger eternal destiny, the key statement from Jesus is, "Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Now read that through the lens of today's verse:  “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required." 

Ahh. Interesting, right? Rather than an earthly attitude of "19 relax, eat, drink, be merry," we could make the case that we are to be philanthropic rather than selfish. We are to be spiritual rather than worldly. Those are good points… but that's the wider context, not the specific context, of this verse.

This passage really has a more eschatological bent. This passage is from the interpretation that Jesus gave to his disciples about watchful servants. Their master has gone to a wedding feast, and wise and faithful servant's stay awake to let him back into the house when he returns. Not knowing the day or hour of our heavenly master's return, Jesus admonishes us - his kingdom servants - to "35 Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit." 

Indeed, talking of the unexpected hour of "the master's" return, Jesus says, "43 Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives." 

And what is our work? Well, if "from everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required," then our work depends on what we are given? Thus, what are we given? In Romans 12:6-8, we are told that "we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness."

My old New England friend was taught to make today's passage be about giving money and leading with our superior Ivy League intellect -"
From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required." We should indeed use whatever worldly gifts we have to bless the world. But isn't Jesus calling us to see the world, our priorities, and our gifts through a spiritual lens? We are really called to minister, lead, and be compassionate based on our spiritual gifts. "From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required." 

In Christ's Love,

a guy who is not fully

happy or whole unless

he's ministering

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Sept 23-24 - Hebrews 3:1-3

Therefore, holy brothers and sisters,

who share in the heavenly calling,

fix your thoughts on Jesus, 

whom we acknowledge

as our apostle and high priest.

He was faithful to the one

who appointed him, just as

Moses was faithful in all God’s house.

Jesus has been found worthy

of greater honor than Moses,

just as the builder of a house has

greater honor than the house itself.

Hebrews 3:1-3

What are mission team goes to West Virginia, we generally repair houses. We patch roofs. Repair ceilings with new drywall. Fix rotting floorboards. And stabilize crumbling porches. It is good work. Important work. It restores hope to crumbling lives. 


And yet… any repairs we make will not last forever. That's why we are told to focus on the people as much as the house. Houses are temporary. People - through the grace of God – are eternal. 


And our verses for today, the Apostle admonishes us not to give undo honor to temporal, physical things like a house. It is the builder of the house who deserves honor. And the ultimate builder (the creator of heaven and earth) is God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 


"Therefore ... fix your thoughts on Jesus," chants the Apostle. 


In fact, he reinforces this point. In a letter to the Hebrews – good Jewish Christians – the Apostle talks about one of Israel's greatest earthly heroes. Moses is worthy of great honor, he contends. But Moses is physical. He is temporal and temporary. Jesus, on the other hand, is worthy of infinitely more honor (just as the builder of the house is more worthy than the house itself). He is God! He transcends this earth. Indeed, He created it. Therefore fix your eyes on Him!


He, indeed, is our "apostle" and "high priest." "Apostle" means "sent." This reflects Jesus' role within the Trinity. The Son is "sent" by the Father - sent to represent the Father on earth, to testify to God's Truth, and to win our salvation.


Jesus is also "the great high priest." Historically, the high priest stood between God and the people, interceding for them and making sacrifices for their sins. That is precisely what Jesus has done for us… yet in an eternal way. 


Therefore, fix your eyes on him!


In Christ's Love,

a guy who needs

a new pair of glasses -

Son Glasses!


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Sept 22 - Jeremiah 49:16

The terror you inspire

and the pride of your heart

have deceived you ...

Jeremiah 49:16

Jeremiah was preaching the word of God in a historical context.

First, the people of Israel were very rebellious. God's message was constantly, "Repent ... or I will remove my hand of protection."

Second, Israel was surrounded by very real enemies. In this verse, they're threatening neighbors are the Moabites. (By the way, I like the ominous way that Siri translated "Moabites" for me – "mower bikes." Just imagine a menacing gang on fast flying motorcycles with chomping mowers on the front. Yikes.)

But I guess Siri knows best, because that's how the Moabites were viewed - viewed by the Israelites, and viewed in their own imaginations of their own hearts. Thus God, through the prophet, says this to them: "The terror you inspire and the pride of your heart have deceived you ..."

They traded on creating fear. People do that still today. From the bully in the lunch room to the rogue nation with nuclear codes, someone is always trying to seek an advantage by instilling fear.

But… "the pride of [the wicked] [keeps] deceiv[ing them]." God is the great equalizer. Evil will not succeed forever. Listen to the end of this verse ...

"Though you build your nest

as high as the eagle’s,

from there I will bring you down"

declares the Lord.

God allows free will – which means God allows bullying and occasional evil. But evil does not have the last laugh. We cannot run far enough nor climb high enough (like an eagle) to escape  God's ultimate judgment and the restoration of right.

Do you have enemies? (Hopefully not mower bikes!) Don't worry. God has a plan to restore you in the end! And in the meantime, he Will always stand beside you to comfort, encourage, and hold you.

In Christ's Love,

a guy who wants the patent

for the first Mower Bike

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Sept 21 - Psalm 31:15

My times are in Your hand;

Deliver me from the hand

of my enemies and from

those who persecute me.

Psalm 31:15

Think quick ... when I say "two hands," what are you envisioning?

I don't know about you, but I'm thinking about my hands. A left and a right. (And in my case, the left being much more skilled.)

Maybe you thought about two hands offered in friendship - thus, hands shaking in the warmth of a greeting.

Did any of you think about two hands grasped tightly, angrily? Perhaps like two competitors arm wrestling? And what if those two hands are grappling in a fierce and mortal combat?

Those are the two kinds of hands that today's verse talks about. One hand is the hand of an enemy. It is persecuting us. Threatening even to slay us. "Deliver me," cries the Psalmist, "from the hand of my enemies."

Some hands are clenched in anger, threatening violence. But other hands reach out with compassion. They help. They comfort. They save. That's how the Psalmist views God. Not only does our Lord bless us and keep us each day, but our entire lives (our very "times") are in his hands ... if we desire that to be the case.

Have you ever watched a child try to squirm out of a parent's loving hands? Have you ever watched a confused teen run into the arms of trouble and temptation? The disposition of our heart does nothing to change God's loving care or evil's dark intent, but it constantly changes what and how we experience life.

Avoid the hands and temptations that want to do you in ...

And place yourself, instead, in God's loving embrace.

In Christ's Love,

a guy who has better

insurance than even

AllState can provide

(I'm in good hands

with God who's Great)

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Sept 20 - Jeremiah 18:14-15

Do the gushing waters dry up
that flow fresh down the mountains;

Yet my people have forgotten me:

they offer incense in vain.

Jeremiah 18:14-15

What do you take for granted?

Bread always being on the grocery store shelves? The simple ability to walk to the mailbox? The freedom to worship? How about the love of your mom?

These things are always there. Steady. Constant. Dependable. Therefore, we take them for granted ... until a snowstorm comes and there's a run on bread ... until our knee gives out and it's nearly impossible to walk ... until mom succumbs to cancer and we're left with a massive whole in our heart. 

The prophet today talks about things people in Israel took for granted: streams of water. In a desert culture, it seemed to too many in Israel that they never really had to worry -- the gushing waters [would always] flow fresh down the mountains[, right]?" 

We can always credit nature for -- the beginning of verse 14 -- "the snow ... from the mountaintops of Lebanon" whose melt and run-off will always provide for us, right? Nature is dependable, isn't it? It will never "14 desert" or disappoint us, right?

And what? ... did you hear it? ... in those statements, we are taking God for granted! Ultimately it is he that provides the "mountains" and the "snow" and the "gushing waters." Bread doesn't come from grocery stores or bakers, it comes from the sun and rain and soil that God ultimately provides. Our ability to walk to the mailbox comes from our life that God provides. Love isn't a human invention; it comes from God who is love. And the love of a loving mother is ultimately a beautiful reflection of our heavenly parent. 

Do you see it? 

      1. God provides. 

      2. We continually take it for granted. 

And sadly, when we do, the final sentence in today's verse begins to come true. God -- through the prophet -- laments, "
my people have forgotten me." 

When we take things for granted and forget the unseen hand behind every good gift, it's a subtle -- but gradually growing -- form of forsaking God. Take a moment today to look for God behind every blessing. 

In Christ's Love,

a guy who takes for

granted the smart phone

on which he writes

these devotions.

Yet I become dependent

on stuff. But didn’t people

worship -- generally

more freely -- without

so much stuff? Hmm.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Sept 19 - Luther's Morning Prayer - Small Catechism

      Luther’s Morning Prayer:

      I thank You, my heavenly Father,

      through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son,

      that You have kept me this night

      from all harm and danger; and

      I pray that You would keep me

      this day also from sin and every evil,

      that all my doings and life

      may please You.

      For into Your hands I commend myself,

      my body and soul, and all things.

      Let Your holy angel be with me, that

      the evil foe may have no power over me.


October 31 of this year is the 500th Anniversary of Martin Luther posting "The 95 Thesis" on the door of the Wittenberg Church ... thus sparking the Protestant Reformation. One of Luther's passions was equipping average people with a knowledge of God and the tools to grow in faith. Thus, he wrote a short simple course on the Christian faith, called the Small Catechism. 

This Fall at Spirit of Joy we're analyzing pieces of the Small Catechism and focusing on basic tools and doctrines of the Christian faith. Last Sunday, we focused on Luther's Morning Prayer. 

I should have printed and handed out this prayer to you on Sunday Morning! Since I didn’t, I do it here (along with the quick commentary I offered.) In the Small Catechism, Luther wrote ...

·       In the morning when you get up, make the sign of the holy cross and say: In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

·       Then, kneeling or standing, repeat the Creed and the Lord's Prayer (or, I'll add, read a devotional book or a chapter in Scripture. Grab a cup of coffee, head to porch, and intentionally sit in God's presence. Now, you don't legalistically have to do your devotional time first thing in the morning; however, there's something powerful and transformative about dedicating your day to God before charging out into it.)

·       Then, if you choose, you may also say this little prayer: (see above)

·       Then go joyfully to your work, singing a hymn ... [based on] whatever your devotion may suggest.

Now, you can say this prayer word-for-word. That can indeed be a wonderful discipline. But you can also use this as a pattern for prayer. For example, in Sunday's sermon, I suggested several categories worth acknowledging each new day:

·       I thank You, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son ... Start with THANKSGIVING. Thankfulness is an attitude of worship that lifts our hearts above our own accomplishments. And what what should we thank God for? By listing Father and Son, the Trinitarian roles of each should give us a clue. We think Father-Creator for the gift of life, the wonder of the world, and the gift of a new day. We thank the Son-Redeemer for the gift of forgiveness that leads to eternal life.

·       that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger How often do we take for granted God's PROTECTION? We woke up this morning! Thank him. But more than that, we hope to make it through this upcoming day. Ask for his care over your life and your family.

·       and I pray that You would keep me this day also from sin and every evil. Next is PROVISION. God "keep me" in the palm of your hand, provide for my every need. And when praying for God to, essentially, lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil, part of the protection that we are praying for – and hoping to put on - is the FULL ARMOR OF GOD. 

·       that all my doings and life may please You OBEDIENCE is the simplest way to please God! Follow his precepts, do his will, obey his commandments, listen for the Spirit's prompting and obey. That brings joy to God, blesses our daily life, and makes a huge impact in the Kingdom. 

·       For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Are you willing to give God everything? Are you willing to TRUST and ENTRUST him with everything? Yes, we need to commend and commit our entire lives to God … but it starts with the daily commitment. We need to commend this a day to him! 

·       Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. The last part of Luther's Morning Prayer reminds us that we are about to set forth into battle. Our day will be filled with SPIRITUAL WARFARE. As Luther's old song sings, "that old Satan foe has sworn to work us woe." Therefore, we ask God's holy angels to have charge of us! We pray for God himself to fight on our side. We are not alone!

I urge you to take a moment to pray Luther's prayer Word for Word today. And then to pray through the pattern with each major theme. And may you have a blessed and holy day!

In Christ's Love,

a guy who was greeted on the way

out of church last Sunday, by a family

who daily uses Luther's morning

and evening prayers with their family.

And you can see the fruits that

it's working in the lives of their children!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sept 18 - 1 Thessalonians 5:6

So then let us not fall asleep

as others do, but let us

keep awake and be sober

1 Thessalonians 5:6

The Apostle Paul asks us to consider two pairs of words today: "keep awake" and "be sober."

Sobriety is continually urged throughout the Scriptures. It's in lots of scriptural lists as one of the sins that draw us from God. For example, in Ephesians 5:18 Paul warns, "do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit." Thus, while "sober" is absolutely the word Paul used here, he's not really talking about drinking in this context.

This is reflected in other English translations. They tend to render this word as "serious," "self-controlled," "calm," "collected," and "circumspect." Clearly, none of us are fully any of these things when we are drunk! Thus, Paul is urging us to be sober even when we're sober!

But that's the least significant of these two pairs of words. "Keep awake" is the more pressing call.

On the night when Jesus was betrayed, even as Judas was leading the soldiers to the garden, Jesus asked a few of his disciples to keep awake and pray while he went a few steps away to pray himself. They couldn't. They didn't. The spirit was willing, but the flash was weak.

And one of Jesus parables, he told about five wise and five foolish bridesmaids waiting for the groom to come. Five were wise - they kept their lamps trimmed and they stayed awake. Five for foolish, dozing they were not ready for the Messiah.

Each day, we can choose to be awake and attentive to the movements of God. Or we can be foolish and slumbering. Missing his presence. Inattentive to word. Blind to his will.

Paul is urging us to not only wake up, but to not fall asleep in the first place. To be attentive. Listening. Curious. Hungry. Focused.

In Christ's Love,

a guy who wants

some spiritual caffeine

Sent from my iPhone

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Sept 16-17 - Acts 26:22

God has helped me

to this very day.

Acts 26:22

By the end of Acts, Paul - who once persecuted the church - had been ministering to the Gentiles for roughly two decades. After much traveling and preaching, he'd been warned not to return to Jerusalem. Agabus was even given a word of prophecy and he warned Paul that a final trip to Jerusalem would lead to his imprisonment.

Paul went anyway, of course. And he was arrested, of course. And he, of course used his imprisonment to testify to God's love for both Jews and Gentiles through the Messiah, Jesus Christ. And part of that testimony - with many stories - was how God repeatedly showed up, blessing his own life and ministry. "God has helped me to this very day," he said.

What are your stories. How has God helped you in your life?

It's good to rehearse those stories. It will buoy your spirit, giving you strength and encouragement whenever the clouds in life seem to grow dark. But, like Paul, your stories of God's blessings are also designed to be a testimony to others. Indeed, how are using God's goodness in your life as a testimony to a hurting world?

In Christ's Love,

a guy who has been

very, very, very blessed

... but that's not why

I tell the story.

I tell the story of Jesus

simply because he's

Lord and King

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Sept 14 - Colossians 2:14


canceled the charge

of our legal indebtedness,

which stood against us

and condemned us;

he has taken it away,

nailing it to the cross.

Colossians 2:14


I’m a pretty careful driver. I’ve only gotten on ticket in my life! It occurred when one day I didn’t see a stop sign. Thus, I absolutely blew through it.


Because I didn’t want points on my license and the increased insurance cost, I went to court. I asked for a “Prayer for Judgment Continued.” I don’t know if this plea is still on the books, but they essentially suspend the charge, and as long as you didn’t get another ticket in the next three years, the charge would disappear. No points. No penalty. It’s wiped clean.


In some ways, that’s like what Jesus Christ does for us. We have a “legal indebtedness.” All of us sin. All of us fall short of God’s glorious standard. These charges continually “st[and] against us.” These charges eternally “condemn[] us.” But Jesus has totally “canceled the[se] charges.” He’s paid our fine. He’s served our penalty – which was a death penalty. Indeed, he’s “taken [our guilt] away [by] nailing it to the cross.”


We need a Prayer for Judgment Continued. But not a conditional pardon like traffic court offered me! We will all sin again and again. We’ll keep getting multiple ticket. Fortunately, God’s kind of grace unconditionally wipes the debts we confess free.


Show up to God’s court. And don’t plead the Fifth. Plead the 2:14th. And trust that the Savior is nailing your “legal indebtedness … to the cross.”


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who needs to

start thinking of the cross with

all kinds papers fluttering all over it

(They’re the legal charges

against my soul, and they’re

all stamped: Debt Canceled.)





Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Sept 13 - Micah 7:18

Who is a God like you,

who pardons sin and

forgives the transgression of

the remnant of his inheritance?

You do not stay angry forever

but delight to show mercy.

Micah 7:18

When the Apostle Paul preached in Athens - see Acts17 - he toured the city and was appalled by the hundreds of idols dedicated to almost every kind of pagan god imaginable. Appalled? Yes. And yet, he used their polytheism (many gods) to his advantage.

Seeing a statue dedicated to an unknown god, he said essentially, "What you proclaim as unknown I proclaim to you as known. The God who created everything, doesn't need to live in idols created by human hands."

This passage from Micah is very similar. When the prophet says, "Who is a God like you," Micah - whose name means, "who is like Yahweh" - isn't polytheisticly wondering which of many gods is like Yahweh. Rather, he is using the people's polytheism to his advantage.

He is saying essentially, if you're going to believe in some sort of god, why don't you believe in one "who pardons sin and forgives ... transgression ...?" Why don't you trust in the God who "do[es] not stay angry forever but delight[s] to show mercy"?

"Pardon" and "forgiveness" and a heart that "delights" in "mercy" rather than "anger." That is our God, proclaims the prophet, subtly imploring, "Why would you need another?"

Why would YOU need another?

Why would you need another priority, another truth, any worldly hope, any temporal security? As Elijah once said to God's people, 1 Kings 18:21, "'How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal [or essentially any other priority on earth can deliver], then follow him.' [But] the people did not answer him a word."

Today is your day to answer. Why would you ever need another priority?

In Christ's Love,

a guy who wants "eternal delight"

(By the way wouldn't “eternal delight”

be a good name for a decadent

high calorie dessert?

(Oops. Do you see how easily

we get confused and seduced?

I'm hungry already!)

Monday, September 11, 2017

Sept 12 - Isaiah 63:15

Lord, look upon us

from heaven, where you live

in your holiness and glory.

Where is your great concern for us?

Where is your power? Where are

your love and compassion?

Do not ignore us.

Isaiah 63:15

Sometimes I picture creation like a two story house. Earth is the first floor. Heaven is upstairs.

And what's between heaven and earth? Let's call it a barrier, ceiling.

Well, sometimes the thickness of the ceiling seems thin. Have you ever had wonderful seasons like that? We can not only hear distinct thumpings from above, but God seems so very real.

Other times, however, doesn't the ceiling seems a hundred feet thick and hasn't God seemed so far away.

I hope you've experienced those seasons when the ceiling seems thin and God's presence feels fresh and new. But I'm also guessing that you've experienced times when the ceiling seems so thick that you're not even sure there is a second story.

Have you ever been there? Have your prayers ever seemed to just bounce helplessly off the cold ceiling and fall back to earth. Have you ever cried like Isaiah in today's verse? "Lord, look down from where you live. Father, pay attention to my desperate cry. God, don't you know that I am struggling?"

Yes, have you ever cried for help? Isaiah sometimes, too, felt like God was a million miles away? "Lord ... where is your great concern for us? Where is your power? Where are your love and compassion? Do not ignore us."

And in that cry is our model for help: Be like a prophet. Do cry. Indeed, keep crying. And don't give up.

Indeed, Isaiah didn't give up. He kept crying.  And he got to see the deliverance of God! Israel was restored.

When you seek restoration, hope, forgiveness, joy, and peace, keep crying, trusting that the Lord will never leave you nor forsake you. Yes, there are times when the ceiling definitely seems thick, but God has big ears and an even bigger heart.

In Christ's Love,

a guy who liked the vent

in his grandmother's ceiling

(As grandkids, we thought

we could get away with

going to the second floor

and sneaking open the vent

and spying on the family room

- and adults - from above.

But we always learned,

- always instantly - that

we couldn't fool grandma!)

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Sept 11 - Gen 3:8

The man and his wife hid

themselves from the

presence of the Lord God.

Genesis 3:8

Genesis 1 is the story of creation, and it was good, good, and very good.

Genesis 2 was very good too. It was a glorious garden - Eden - and the final triumphant words of this (scripture's second chapter) are "not ashamed." (Because there was no sin, things were very good and there was nothing to be ashamed about!)

Scripture is giving us a picture of what this unashamedness looks like. It's answered by one word: "Naked."

Now, here's the question: Why do we cover up?

Let's start with physical nakedness. Most cover up because we're less than thrilled with parts of our body! But why? Animals don't cover up, but humans do. So why? It's because of sin. People judge; therefore, we're wary of the judgment - and constant evaluation - of others. We cover up ... fearfully ... protectively ... because of sin.

We also cover up our physical nakedness because of another sin: Lust. To be blunt and earthy - but for a theological reason - dogs don't cover up. Indeed, a female dog in heat may have encounters by many, many male dogs. This is normal. We don’t think much of it. And unless we over-anthropomorphize our dogs, we don't cover them up. This is nature.

So why do we cover up human nakedness? It's because we're not dogs. There's something sacred about human sexuality. It’s designed into us by the creator. Therefore, we cover up a woman because she’s sacred (and to protect her from unwelcome lustful advances). We cover her up to protect the man from lusting in his heart and violating God's intent for human sexuality only within the sanctity of marriage.

Therefore, without sin - without self-consciousness, judgment, lust, and (old word) fornication - nakedness would be God's holy ideal. Indeed, without sin, there's no need for any barriers between people. (And clothing is a cloth barrier.) And there are other kinds of nakedness that God intended for humans to enjoy. But because of anger, betrayal, cheating, lies, and pain, people put walls and barriers between themselves and others. We are too rarely emotionally naked and psychologically naked. We don't share our fears and our dreams because we're afraid we'll be belittled and judged.

Thus, because of sin, we live in a world of walls. We put barriers between ourselves and others because we've been hurt and don't fully trust.

We also put walls between us and God. That's what today's passage is all about. And it's all about trust. We're ashamed. That's what sin does. We're guilty, and we know it. We lie, cheat, steal, and have doubts. And because we anthropromorphize God, we can't fully trust. We can't believe he's more loving than a nice human. We can't comprehend that he's as forgiving as the father in the parable of the prodigal son. Therefore, we try to hide from God all of our faults and fears ... because we're afraid we'll be judged.

We also try to hide from him, because we simply want to do what we want to do. We’re self-centered. Greedy. Lustful. Deceptive. Therefore, we fool ourselves into thinking that if we don't really admit our sins, God won't really see our wantonness and betrayals. Like in the Wizard of Oz, we're trying to fool God, calling, "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain."

Well, guess what: The man behind the curtain -- each of us -- is naked. And God sees it all. And yet he still loves. Yes, he continually grieves as sin continually hurts us and others. Tremendously. Therefore, he implores us to repent. Confession is stripping off the illusion of clothes. He knows all already. And what he doesn't want is the lies, the cover up, the illusion that we can't be seen. He wants you.

In Christ's Love,

a guy who is writing this

while wearing clothes

(I wonder why?)