Wednesday, February 25, 2009


"The people of the city were divided" (Acts 14.4)
This is the summary given of the situation in Iconium where Paul and Barnabas were preaching the good news of Jesus. You would think that with Paul and Barnabas' powerful preaching that the whole city would have accepted Jesus, but they did not. This is one more occurrence of the classic "mixed response to the gospel." That is the way that some accept Jesus and others do not. It happened even with Jesus himself.
This is good news for us who try to love and share the grace of God, only to be rejected by some people. Some folks will not accept our love or the message of Jesus. That does not mean we have failed. It means that all people have free will and some will use that free will to reject Jesus.
It is not up to us to make everyone accept Jesus, for they simply will not. Ours is only to share the light of Christ in our spheres of influence (the people we encounter) and let those who will accept the good news of salvation through Jesus.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


"Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples . . . But the Lord said to Ananias, 'Go! This man [Saul] is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel." (Acts 9.1, 15)
It's amazing how much change happens to Saul (later known as Paul) in one chapter of the Bible! At the start of Chapter Nine, he is killing every Christian he can find. By half way through the chapter, he's preaching the very Jesus he denied. "Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah." (Acts 9.22)
It's amazing what transformation God can bring in us and what kind of purpose he can use us to fulfill. Never think that you are beyond forgiveness or beyond being used by God! Nothing you have done, no sin, no mistake, no blunder can disqualify you from the grace, forgiveness, and purpose of God! If he can use someone who even denied Jesus and killed Christians, then he can transform and use you in his holy work of sharing the love of Christ with the world! Inside of you is a miracle waiting to happen!

Monday, February 23, 2009


"Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. 'Do you understand what you are reading?' Philip asked. 'How can I?' he said, 'unless someone explains to me?' So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him." (Acts 8.30-31)
In this Scripture, Philip has been guided by an angel to an Ethiopian who was reading from the book of Isaiah. The Ethiopian tells Philip plainly that he needs someone to help him interpret what he is reading (which we find out is about Jesus). This passage reminds me that we all need teachers along our spiritual journey to guide us into the truth of God's Word. I remember all the teachers I've had, some I knew personally. Some others I have only read, but who have taught me nonetheless.
Here's just a few: Atlas, Ellen, Mary Neal, Leon, Mildred, Bob, Roy, Suzie, Wilson, Jean, Angie, John, Cliff, Tom, Bruce, Ralph, Geoffrey, David, Origen, Clement, Jerome, Polycarp, Teresa, Athanasius, Henri, Clive, Stanley, Will, John & Charles, Augustine, James, Dwight, Grant, Jackson, Rick, Brennan, Lee, Bill, Robert . . . (and on and on it goes).
How about you? Try making a list of all who have taught you the Christian faith (including those you have known personally and those you have read). Then give thanks to God for spiritual guides along the way. And remember, you are also passing on the faith to others too!

Friday, February 20, 2009


"But Peter and John replied, 'Which is right in God's eyes: to listen to you or to him? You be the judges!'" (Acts 4.19)
It's amazing all the voices we hear in this culture! Just flip through the channels on t.v. and you'll find plenty of conflicting opinions, lifestyles, and agendas. In his book, "The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations," Bishop Robert Schnase suggests that Christians make a list of four core values that the gospel and the Christian faith holds. Then make a list of four values that t.v., secular music, and magazines promote. I did that this morning and was struck by the contrasts. How about making your own lists today? Put the two lists on the same page across from each other and I suspect you too will be amazed at the contrasts.
It would be very helpful for us to be aware of the different voices we are hearing each day and to be intentional about which we listen to.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


"After [Jesus] said this, he was taken up before their eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 'Men of Galilee . . . why do you stand here looking into the sky?" (Acts 1.9-11a)
This story always strikes me a little funny. I can just picture the disciples with their jaws on the ground and necks craned up to the sky to try to follow where Jesus has gone. Well, it strikes me funny until I realize the times I am tempted to do the same. Sometimes, we Christians just want to "lock ourselves away from the world," with our private prayer meetings and our safe worship services. To all of us, the Spirit of the Lord says, "why do you stand here looking into the sky?" Private prayer and worship is important. But there comes a time for action in the name of the Lord. If we really are connecting with Jesus in prayer and worship, then the time comes for an end to sky-gazing. The time comes to go out into the world, make disciples, and transform the world. The faithful disciple lives out a rhythm of prayer and mission outreach, worship and service in the world.
Dear Lord, as beautiful as Jesus is, help me to balance looking for him and service in his name.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." (1Peter 2.9-10)
In the "politics of the playground," the events of our early childhood, one of the worst things that could happen to you was to be chosen last. The experience can leave deep scars because we all want to be wanted.
In this Scripture, Peter reminds us that we are chosen! We are chosen by the One who created us. Some days we don't feel chosen. We feel "un-chosen," perhaps even rejected by some. It is a deep blow. Two of my teachers gave me the gift of remembering that I am chosen by God. The first was one of my favorite preachers who frequently said, "remember who you are and whose you are." This was a precious gift in my life, that no matter what the world labeled me as, I belonged to King Jesus. The other teacher was one I had in seminary who advised us fledgling pastors to remember that whenever we went to visit someone in the hospital, nursing home, or their own home that we represented Christ and the Church. (In fact, all Christians do!)
Both these teachers were getting at the same thing Peter was: WE ARE PRECIOUS IN GOD'S SIGHT! How did Peter know this? He was chosen by Jesus himself. Peter was a lowly fisherman, overlooked by the "in crowd" of his day. But Jesus saw in him a great disciple, one who would fish for people.
So, precious child of God, remember that you are chosen; you are highly prized by God!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Jesus prays for you!

"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message." (John 17.20-21a)
Did you know that Jesus prayed for you? As he was preparing to give himself for us and for our salvation, he prayed for his first-century disciples. But he also prayed for you and me! We are "those who will believe in [Jesus] through their [the disciples] message." The original twelve (minus Judas Isacariot) shared the good news with others who shared the good news who shared it with others who are shared the good news . . . (you get the picture) until it made it to you and me. Of course, now Jesus doesn't have to pray as we pray here on earth. He is at the right hand of the Father, directly interceding for your needs today!
That, in itself, is Great News! Whatever you're struggling with today, whether it's something major or something minor, give it to Jesus and He will give it to the Heavenly Father who will take care of it!

Thursday, February 12, 2009


"Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me." (John 15.4)
The word translated as "abide" in this passage in the original Greek is "meno." It means: "continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand, tarry." Jesus is saying that if we want to bear good fruit (do the good works that God desires for us) then we must dwell, stay, abide, live in him.
What are you living in today? I went through a stage when I was a teenager when I had this persistent sense of anger. I really couldn't figure out where it was coming from until I went to an F.C.A. (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) meeting one night. The speaker talked about the influences that we allow in our lives. Suddenly, I realized that some of the music I was listening to was really angry stuff. I thought, "well, duh" (or whatever the 1980's version of "duh" was) "no wonder I'm angry."
There were some researchers who found several years ago that angry music makes you angry. Depressing music makes you depressed. Duh! (or whatever the 2009 version of that is!) My grandma said it a different way: "if you lay down with dogs, you're going to get up with fleas."
How about you, are you dwelling in something today that is leading you astray?
The Apostle Paul had great advice when he wrote: "Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (Philippians 4.8) That's still as relevant and even more so in our information overload age. What are you abiding, dwelling, living in today?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13.34-35)
This was part of the "farewell discourse," Jesus' last instructions to his followers before his Crucifixion. It's interesting that he doesn't lay out some complex evangelistic scheme for how they are going to reach the world with the gospel. He doesn't take the time to lay out a systematic theology for the early church. No! What he says is "love one another." In fact, this will be the mark that shows someone is following Jesus, not fancy church buildings, slick programs, sophisticated theology, or even the number of converts one makes. Love will be the ultimate mark of a follower of Christ.
In deed, a wise teacher told me once that the best evangelism plan was for the church to simply "be the church," which obviously includes love and forgiveness being embodied by a community of faith. This kind of love can only come from the empowering and anointing of the Holy Spirit, who Jesus says God will offer to anyone who asks.
Years ago, the Beatles sang, "Love, love, love, love is all you need!" Try love today. You might be surprised how powerful it is. It is the only thing in the world that multiplies as you give it away!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

"Quiet Desperation"

"When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. "Where have you laid him?" he asked. "Come and see, Lord," they replied. Jesus wept." (John 11.33-35)
Years ago, Henry David Thoreau wrote, "many people live lives of quiet desperation." And how true it is! Many suffer great distress and sometimes even those closest to them never know. Why is this? Perhaps we feel that no one, even our closest friends and loved one would really understand. Sometimes, we just don't want to plumb the depth of our feelings. As Jackson Browne wrote in the song "The Late Show," "No one ever talks about their feelings anyway without dressing them in dreams and laughter; I guess its just too painful otherwise."
However, in this Scripture above, Jesus shows that he not only understands the depth of our feelings, he experiences them too! He didn't just "float" into this scene of death and grief. He truly entered the grief of Mary and Martha, his close friends, as they grieved the death of Lazarus.
The message for us? Jesus enters our pain and redeems it. He entered it on the cross and in so many situations like Lazarus' death.
I encourage you today, to share your burdens with Jesus. If that seems hard to do, try writing him a letter, or put an empty chair in front of you and tell your troubles to Jesus (who really is there when you call on him.) A trusted spiritual friend can also help you get those feelings out.
There's no need to live a life of "quiet desperation!" Let Jesus know and he'll help you through.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Work, work, work

"Then they asked him, 'What must we do to do the works God requires?' Jesus answered, 'The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.'" (John 6.29) Even in Jesus day, people were judged by what they could produce. We get so caught up in that in our culture, where everything is measured by the standards of market productivity.
Yet, Jesus says the most important work one can do is to believe in "the one God sent," which of course, is Jesus! This word translated as "believe" in the original Greek of the New Testament is "pisteuo" which means to "put one's faith in, to entrust." Our being, our heart for Jesus, will always matter more than what we can do for Jesus. In fact, if we get it straight that our first "work" is really not work at all but simply opening our life to the limitless and infinitely loving Spirit of God, believing, trusting, nurturing our relationship with Jesus Christ, then we are liberated to do great works for Jesus. As Paul reminds us, "it is by grace we are saved, not by works."
Remember today that you are highly prized by God, not for what you can produce for him (or for the market economy) but because of who you are in Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

"Stay with me!"

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling with us." (John 1.14) There's a great scene at the end of the Harry Potter book series. It is when Harry, the hero of the series, walks into a deserted forest to finally face the wicked sorcerer, Voldemort. The touching part is, just as Harry begins his slow, laborious march into the forest, the spirit of his mother and father appear around him. (Harry's mother and father had died when he was just an infant and he had been housed in his abusive aunt and uncle's house). Harry looks at his mother and simply says, "stay with me." Harry can face the darkness as long as he knows that one who loves him walks with him.
How like us! We can face the darkness if we know that someone who loves us walks with us. Jesus is that One. He walks with us in the darkest valleys, even when our emotions fail us. Why not ask Jesus today, "stay with me!" He will always grant your request.
(I don't know what you think of the Harry Potter series, but I think it is helpful not to get so caught up in criticizing it for its inclusion of "magic." It is more helpful to see it as a story of good versus evil. Noted Christian authors C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein wove "magic" into their Christian allegories as well.)