Friday, March 27, 2009


"There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3.28)
In our fractured times, this is good news! It seems strange that with all our progress as the world-wide human community, that we would still have war. Ethnically-based disputes and their eventual outcome-violence-seem all too common.
God gives us a vision of a much different way of relating in the body of Christ: you are one! No more division, no more strife based on particulars. But how do we get there? I believe it starts with honoring our differences instead of fighting over them. Being one (as the Scriptures envision it) does not mean only being with the same kind of people. (The early church was very diverse). Being one means honoring the range of personalities, gifts, talents, ages, even colors of skin that God has blessed the earth with. God uses all colors to paint the beautiful landscape that is humanity. Let us honor that especially in the body of Christ, his church!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Stick with it!

"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel-which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ." (Galatians 1.6-7)
"Stick to it! There are many philosophies, world views, and religious systems in the world. Hold on to the gospel that you have heard from your mother and I and the Church!" Such advice has been handed down generation after generation in Christian families and my wife and I join that long line as we advise our sons today.
That's the scary thing about being a parent: you can strive to raise your child(ren) in the faith, but in the end, it is their decision. The Bible does give us hope in this Scripture: "Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray." (Proverbs 22.6)
It is the same with us adult Christians. Daily, we are exposed to limitless philosophies, world views, even other religious teachings through the mass media, internet, etc. Ancient Galatia was no different. No, they did not have mass media and the internet but there was no shortage of philosophies, world views, and religions. Paul encouraged the Galatians and us to hold fast to the pure gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. One big purpose of the Church is to help us hold to that which was given to us: Jesus as Lord and Savior!

Monday, March 23, 2009


"Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends." (1Corinthians 13.4-8a)
These few verses always challenge me greatly. I use them periodically as a "check-up" on how I am loving my wife, sons, extended family, friends, and brothers and sisters in Christ. It is always humbling to read this beautiful portrait of love because I am always aware of how far short I fall from this perfect standard.
The Good News is God knows we need help in loving others. That's why love does not depend on our sheer effort or will. It depends on Christ dwelling in us. So one of the keys to loving others well is to love Jesus and let his love flow through us. So, don't be discouraged when your efforts at love fall short. The two words, "I'm sorry" go a long way. As we spend time with Jesus, his indwelling love will help us love others as he loves us!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Is Christ divided?

"One of you says, 'I follow Paul' another 'I follow Apollos'; another, 'I follow Cephas'; still another, 'I follow Christ.' Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?" (1Corinthians 1.12b-13)
As I read this Scripture this morning, I was overwhelmed with the fracturing of Christ's body, the Church. (By that, I mean the whole Church Universal, not just the local church). It seems we spend so much time arguing about non-essentials. It seems we are constantly looking for things that we disagree on rather than the Christ who is supposed to unify us all.
By this, I do not mean to minimize our real differences. I believe that different Christians do have the right and obligation to live out their faith according to their convictions, convictions that must be shaped and disciplined by the Word of God (the Bible). Indeed, this is part of the freedom we have in Christ. But I wonder if we go too far. I believe that not recognizing each others' baptism and not welcoming each other to the Lord's Table is going too far. I believe that spending a lot of time putting down other Christian denominations is not what Christ would call us to do. There is no getting around the fact that our brokenness as the Church Universal is a witness against (not for) the Christian faith.
What might you do this day to further the cause of Christian unity?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Nothing can separate us!

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8.38-39)
This is perhaps the most uplifting verse in the whole Bible and one that I return to often. In fact, I have made myself a pack of "power verses" on 3x5 index cards that I carry with me everywhere I go and this is one of my favorites!
It seems that when I am in the midst of a struggle, it can seem so huge, so overwhelming. Sometimes, we may think some sin or mistake we've made (or even just a thought we've had) is just too bad to be covered by the forgiveness and grace of God. This verse reminds us that no struggle, no sin, no failure, no trial can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ. In fact, nothing in all the Universe can: no earthquake, no hurricane, no meteor falling from space, no super nova, no black hole, not even the end of the Universe itself. Nothing can separate you and me from the love of Christ! Take a moment and let that assurance wash over you today! And remind yourself of it tomorrow!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

No boasting

"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus . . . Where, then is boasting? It is excluded." (Romans 3.23-24, 27a)
They drive us crazy. You know, the people who are always boasting. It may be about their new car, their new job, their overly achieving children, their new vacation home, their new jet ski, their new boat, whatever it is, they find a way to brag about it. As much as we hate to admit it, we'd all like something to brag about too. In fact, one of the things that bugs us about braggarts is that we'd rather be the one bragging to them. We'd like to think we're getting just a little more than the next guy.
But this is impossible with the Christian faith! "All ground is level at the foot of the cross." No spiritual (or worldly) achievements can rank us above others. "for we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God." We all need redemption equally. We all need God's grace. So, the next time you hear someone bragging, just smile and remember the extravagant love of God who makes us all rich in his grace!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

created things

"They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. Amen." (Romans 1.25)
Was this written about 2009 or 57 A.D.? Both! The Apostle Paul, leader in the early church, wrote this to Christians in Rome in the first century, but also to us. It seems they had the same spiritual problems: materialism, consumerism, idolatry, trying to create God in their own image. One wise Christian teacher once said, "the basic sin of humanity is worshiping what was intended to only be used and trying to use that which should be worshiped." Very true! We tend to worship things, even Creation itself. We try to use God to get what we want. We were meant to worship God and use things, not worship things and try to use God.
Think today about the things you own. Do they receive more of your attention than your relationship with God and other people? (Richard Foster writes that every material thing we own takes care and attention). Do your possessions own you? Recommit your life today to worshiping God and holding the things of this world loosely.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

To know him

"Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, "In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out." Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day the evil spirit answered them, "Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?" Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding." (Acts 19.13-16)
This has always struck me as an amusing scene. These sons of Sceva are playing around with something they don't really understand. They are way over their heads. They are trying to invoke the name of Jesus to cast out demons, when they don't even know Jesus. They find out just how dangerous this is.
It's not enough to just know the "historical Jesus" or even to know what the Bible says. We must know Jesus personally. It's not enough to just know the facts of Jesus' life. We must really know him. How do we come to know him? Spend time with his family, the church. And ask Jesus into your heart. The Christian faith is much more than head knowledge. It involves a real relationship with the One we call Lord and Savior.

Friday, March 6, 2009

An unknown God?

"I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship--and this is what I am going to proclaim to you." (Acts 17.23b)
There's a lot of people in the world who are worshiping an "unknown god." I'll never forget years ago, a friend told me there was a guy in our dorm who worshiped corn. I would have never believed it if I had not seen the "corn altar" myself! Some people worship the "elemental spirits" of the earth. Some people worship fame and power. In Hinduism, there are thousands of gods and goddesses, some who appear more like demons than gods.
The situation was not much different in Paul's day. As he walked around the ancient city of Athens, Greece, he saw many altars and shrines to many gods, even this altar mentioned to "AN UNKNOWN GOD." Paul tried to make clear to the Athenians that the God we worship is not unknown. There is only One True God: The Father/Son/Holy Spirit. Today, our world is hungrier than ever to know the One True God. The Good News is God is not inaccessible to us! God has been revealed clearly and plainly in Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. Do you want to know Him? Just ask Him to come into your life today. He will! Know someone who doesn't know our God? How about sharing His identity with them today?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Hard Times

"They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. 'We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,' they said."
(Acts 14.21-22)
The "they" in this Scripture is the Apostle Paul and Barnabas: leaders, church planters, evangelists, and overseers in the early church. Certainly, they knew what it meant to "go through many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God," as did many in the early church. But what about us?
None of us like hardships, trials, and pain, me especially! But as I look back over my life, though I would not have chosen the hard times, it seems that I grew much more in those hard times than when everything was going right and I felt like I "had the world by the tail." There's something about hard times that knock me off my high horse, humble me, and force me to look to God for help, direction, and deliverance. In fact, it is in those times that I have learned to trust God the most. How about you?
One thing about it, the hardships, trials, and pain we face are an opportunity to trust God in ways we never have before and for our faith to grow dramatically. When these hard times come, our sisters and brothers in Christ can help us move from bitter to better, just as Paul and Barnabas were "strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith." May we do the same for each other in the church today!

Monday, March 2, 2009

"The Promise of Paradox"

"Then Jesus told his disciples, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it." (Matthew 16.24-25)
How can this be? How can you save your life by losing it? Or lose your life by saving it? It's really not as strange as it sounds at first. I have known people who find true life by giving it away in service to others. Likewise, I have known people who focus only on themselves in an attempt to save their lives. They only care for themselves, spending all their resources and time on themselves. In their attempt to selfishly save their lives, they lose them.
This is what Parker Palmer is talking about in "The Promise of Paradox." He writes, "The dictionary defines a paradox as 'a statement that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth.' Neils Bohr, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist, says . . .'the opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may be another profound truth.'" Palmer sites Thomas Merton, the great Trappist Monk Spiritual writer, in another place, "I have become convinced that the very contradictions in my life are in some ways signs of God's mercy to me; if only because someone so complicated and so prone to confusion and self-defeat could hardly survive for long without special mercy." And Palmer writes "God has called us, lost in contradictions, we will be swallowed by grace and find ourselves . . . traveling toward our destiny in the belly of a paradox."
As followers of Christ, paradoxes should be no strangers to us: in death, we find resurrection. As we pass through the darkness of this world, we find light in Christ. If we focus only on ourselves, selfishly trying to save our lives, we lose them. But in losing our lives in service to God and others, we find true life!