Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Flesh Redeemed

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us."--John 1.14a
I think most of us are all too aware of the fallout of the Fall from Grace. (I am referring to the consequences of sin entering the world.) We look around, we read the headlines, we see the evening news.
But what about the fallout from the Incarnation and Christ's redeeming work on the Cross? The Incarnation means God becoming flesh in Jesus Christ. What are the results of this? Here's just a few:
1. Flesh, fallen from sin and destined for death, is redeemed, given a new destiny of eternal life.
2. The image of God that every person is created with, marred by sin, is restored so that the glory of God can now be seen in human beings.
3. The world, part of physical creation, which the Bible tells us "moans and groans" as a result of the Fall, now has signs of God's majesty. Just note the beauty of a sunrise, the flight of an eagle, the baby sounds of a newborn.
4. You are loved passionately and completely by your Creator, who saw fit to become one with you, his lovely creation.
These are just a few! I want to give you a challenge today. Instead of looking for signs of what's wrong in the world (that's really pretty easy, isn't it?), look for signs that God is still moving in this world: in the embrace of a loved one or friend, in an act of charity, in the excitation of children. Look for signs today that God indeed "has made his dwelling among us."

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


"Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'"--Matthew 4.8-10
This has always been an interesting temptation to me. The devil tempts Jesus with all the kingdoms of the world, which, by right of Jesus being the second person of the Holy Trinity, God in the flesh, belonged to him anyway. So, what was the temptation?
By coming to earth in the flesh, the Son of God (Jesus) had chosen to put aside his glory for a time. He had freely chosen to humble himself by being carried in a woman's womb, be born of a poor family, and live in a backwards corner of the world, dominated by a foreign power. He chose to walk dusty roads, to suffer through daily trying to teach 12 slow pupils. Jesus chose to reach out to dirty lepers, notorious sinner prostitutes, corrupt tax collectors, and even one he knew would betray him. Finally, he chose to endure a terribly degrading and excruciatingly painful torture at the hands of false religious leaders and the Crucifixion on a cross. So, when the devil tempted Jesus with all the kingdoms of the earth, the temptation was not for the kingdoms themselves (they would eventually belong to him anyway). The temptation was to have them NOW, without having to go through all the trials that culminated in taking the sins of the world on himself on the cross.
A wise Christian writer once said, "Haste is ever the sin of Adam." In other words, one of our biggest temptation as humans to try to have the glory without the cost (the crown without the cross). We want to avoid pain at all costs.
The strange thing about the human experience, though, is that there are some lessons we can only learn through life's hard crucible Some lessons we can only learn in the dark valleys. The sunny mountain top is where we all want to be, but it seems that the place we grow the most is on the hard climb.
Are you going through something today? Know that Christ walks with you! And that through it, you have the opportunity to depend on Jesus in a way you never have before.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


"Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weakling say, "I am a warrior."--Joel 3.10
Last week, I was reminded that I am NOT superman. An illness reminded me that I am just as fragile as every other human being. But it was also a reminder to me that "when I am weak, then I am strong." (2Corinthians 12.10)
In the world, people are considered strong who never falter. In the world, we admire warriors who show nothing but strength and courage. But because we have a Savior who showed his strength in the weakness of the cross that means that all of us who falter sometimes, all of us who stumble, all of us who fall have hope. Jesus came precisely because we are frail and fragile and weak. It is in acknowledging our weakness (not denying it) that we find the strength of Christ's justifying and sanctifying grace. It is in acknowledging our weakness that Christ finds us with His Extravagant, Justifying, Sanctifying Grace. That's the message of the Scripture above from Joel. All of us weaklings, all of us fragile people can say with the power of the grace of God, "I AM A WARRIOR."
Do you feel weak or fragile today because of life's trials? Have you been reminded too often in your life that you are weak? Then take heart! That is a perfect angle to see the incredible grace of God who loves us so extravagantly that He went to a cross to win our redemption, to win a future with hope for us all.
One of my favorite lines from a praise chorus is: "And now, let the weak say I am strong!"
Not in our own strength, but in the strength of the Lord!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


"Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question."--Luke 20.27
The Sadducees were a group of religious elite in Jerusalem in Jesus' day. One of the main differences between them and the other main group of religious leaders in Jesus' day (the Pharisees) was that they did not believe in a Resurrection of the dead. They were wealthy and influential people in Jewish society. Their belief was that if one was living right with God, then they would be rewarded in this life. Therefore, in their minds, there was no need of a resurrection and reward after death. They thought God would reward people in this life and then they would just sort of go to this peaceful, restful sleep after death.
I've never met a Sadducee in modern America. But I have met some people who say there is no life after death. They seem to have a similar outlook to the Sadducees. "Work hard in this life, eat, drink, and be merry and enjoy the fruit of your labors for tomorrow you may die!" Wait a minute! I've even met some Christians who proclaim this life philosophy!
The promise and assurance of Resurrection, of a glorious and eternal life after death is one of the most foundational beliefs of the Christian faith. And yet, I wonder how often even we Christians live what one writer called a sort of "practical atheism." What I mean is how often do even we Christians live as if there is no Resurrection?
This life can be full of incredible God moments, moments when we sense and experience the wonderful gifts of God in many and varied ways. But there must be more than this! Even those wonderful God moments can seem fleeting at best. There must be a time beyond time, a life beyond this life. There must be a place where we can truly experience the fullness of God's presence, uninterrupted by the effect of sin, which means by its very definition, separation from God. And because there is, then it puts a period on all our suffering and trials. Because there is, the "night of weeping" will not last forever but will ultimately yield itself to the NEW DAY that is eternity!
May you live in the fullness of the Resurrection today! May you see signs of it in your life today! May the Promise and Assurance of Resurrection and Eternal Life with God overwhelm you with Hope this Day!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


"Samuel said: 'Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the LORD and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these, I will make it right.' 'You have not cheated or oppressed us,' they replied. "You have not taken anything from anyone's hand.'"--1Samuel 12.1a,3-4
My devotional recommended this Scripture reading to me this morning. And at first, I have to admit, I was a little stumped. I even went back and double checked the book, chapter, and verses. But then, the Lord began to speak to my heart about these verses. This is part of the ancient prophet, Samuel's, farewell speech to Israel, God's chosen people. He knows that his days are numbered. And he takes the time to make a very interesting statement. He asks the gathered body of Israel to consider if he has taken anyone's property, cheated anyone, oppressed anyone, or accepted a bribe. Why does he ask this? Because this is the sort of thing a FALSE prophet does.
Samuel does not have to worry, though. His conscience is clear. His faithfulness is complete. He has been a good and worthy servant of the Lord.
This passage got me to thinking today about our conscience. Can we stand blameless before the Lord? Have we been completely faithful? Have we been completely honest in all our dealings with others?
When I think about those questions I hear another word, "perfection." Have I reached perfection yet? Not even close. Oh, I suppose I've done a lot of good things. I could possibly make the argument that 98% of the time, I do the right thing, I show the love of Christ in my dealings. But what about that other 2% of the time? Who do I hurt by my lack of grace? I am still "a man in need of a Savior."
I suppose that most of us are "good" people. We don't steal. We haven't murdered anyone. But this Scripture reminds me that we are called to be faithful not just in the "big" things (don't steal, don't murder, etc.) but also in the little things. The one who is faithful in the little things will be faithful in the big things.
I invite you to examine your conscience today. Is there something, some action, some attitude, that you need to turn away from? If so, I invite you to come to the One with mercy and forgiveness in His hands, that same Jesus Christ. I also invite you to surrender your life to Christ today that you may He may help you be faithful and one day hear those words, "Good and faithful servant!"

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Jesus' faith in you

"I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven."--Matthew 16.19
This past Sunday, the Power with Purpose Young Adult Group was looking at a lesson by Pastor Rob Bell. In the lesson, Rob asked an incredible question: "Faith in Jesus is important, but what about Jesus' faith in us? I mean he must have faith in us because he leaves it all in the hands of these disciples. Do you believe that God believes in you?"
Wow! What an idea! That God, the Lord over all the universe, would believe in me, the bundle of humanity that I am, with all my faults and oddities, with all my mistakes and sins, with all my insecurities and doubts. How can this be?
In the Scripture above, Jesus gives an incredible responsibility to his followers. Similarly, at the end of Matthew's gospel, Jesus gives the famous Great Commission: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. and surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28.18b-20)
It's absolutely astounding that the Lord of all the Universe would entrust His Salvation Mission to a rag-tag group of 11 disciples (the 12th, Judas, had recently "tendered his resignation.")
As Rob Bell points out, this group was a group of people who had been looked over by the religious leaders of the day. That's why none of them were rabbis, chief priests, or religious scholars. Most of them were common fishermen. And what mistakes they made! Just read the gospels and you'll find out how human they were. Peter, one of their top leaders even once denied that he even knew who Jesus was! If the Lord of the Universe would entrust His Salvation Mission to this group, if he could believe in these common men, then surely He believe in you and me!
"Do you believe that God believes in you?" (Here's a hint: God would not have created you with His own hands and breathed into you the breath of life, His life-giving Spirit, if God did not believe in you!)
So, be who you are! There is no one that does it just like you! You are God's gift to the world!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

wisdom, not just data

"If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you."--James 1.5
This is one of those great places in the Bible where God makes a clear promise: IF YOU PRAY FOR WISDOM, GOD WILL GIVE IT TO YOU. I find that this is one of my most frequent prayers. As a wise Christian once said, "This physical world creates a spiritual haze." It is sometimes difficult to see God's way amidst all the other "ways" that are offered to us in this world. It is sometimes difficult to hear God's voice amid all the other "voices of the world" we hear. As we seek to follow Jesus in this world, we all need wisdom.
Now, I want to distinguish this: We could sit in front of the t.v., the computer, books, or newspapers every day and gather all kinds of data, but that is different than wisdom. Wisdom comes from walking with Jesus day after day after day and walking with his Word day after day after day.
Need God's wisdom for a problem or situation you face today? Ask for it and it is yours!
"Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them."--Proverbs 4.5

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Jesus first

"Another of Jesus' disciples said to him, 'Lord, first let me go and bury my father.' But Jesus said to him, 'Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.' "--Matthew 8.21-22
This saying is right up there with Jesus' saying, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes, even his own life--he cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14.26)
What in the world is Jesus saying? Does he really want us to neglect, even hate our families? How does this instruction reconcile with "honor your father and mother" and "love your neighbor?"
I don't think Jesus is saying we should hate or neglect our families. But what he is saying is that he comes first. FIRST. Even our families can become an idol. I'll give you a simple example. When our family goes on vacation, I am tempted to skip my morning devotional time. The beach calls every morning when we are on vacation. Fishing calls every morning. Surfing calls every morning. So, it would be easy for me to say to the Lord, "I just can't talk this morning, Lord, I'm with my family!" And if I did, I would be wrong. Jesus would be first in my life, even above family, or he would be nothing. (Remember that Jesus said, he despised the luke-warm Christian). One simple sacrifice I can make is to assure that I talk to the Lord and read my Bible every morning, even when I'm on vacation. Just a simple example.
Now, for some people, they may be tempted to neglect their family in the name of spending time with Jesus. That is not what I am advocating. But simply keeping first things first: Jesus first, then family. In fact, I have found that the more I keep Jesus first, the better husband, father, and son I am. It's one of the ironies of the Christian faith: spend adequate time with Jesus and you'll be able to be more present with those you love when you're with them.
Is Jesus first in your life today? Or is someone else?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Bad news-Good News

"But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me."--Micah 7:7
Just before this verse, Micah, a great prophet of the Old Testament, laments:
"What misery is mine! I am like one who gathers summer fruit at the gleaning of the vineyard; there is no cluster of grapes to eat, none of the early figs that I crave. The godly have been swept from the land; not one upright man remains. All people lie in wait to shed blood; each hunts their brother and sister with a net. Both hands are skilled in doing evil; the ruler demands gifts, the judge accepts bribes, the powerful dictate what they desire-- they all conspire together. The best of them is like a brier, the most upright worse than a thorn hedge. The day of your watchmen has come, the day God visits you. Now is the time of their confusion. Do not trust a neighbor; put no confidence in a friend. Even with the one who lies in your embrace be careful of your words. For a son dishonors his father, a daughter rises up against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law-- one's enemies are the members of his own household."
Wow! It sounds like Micah is describing the headline news report from this morning! But the key thing I want to focus on today is his response to all the disturbing news of his day: "But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me."
We can become so overwhelmed by bad news in these times, that we feel tempted to just give up. But remember to "watch in hope for the Lord." Remember that "God is your savior and He will hear you."
A wise preacher once said, "Don't ever read the newspaper or watch or listen to the news (which is almost always bad news) until you have read the Good News (the Bible)!" Great advice for us all. Why not try that today? Instead of spending so much time listening to the (bad) news, why not dive into the Good News of God's Word! I promise you'll feel better for it!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

no judgment

"Therefore, let us stop passing judgment on one another."--Romans 14.13
I don't know about you, but I often find myself making judgments about everything. I judge the new pair of shoes I just bought. I judge how my favorite baseball team is playing. I judge how that hamburger tastes that I just cooked on the grill. We all make judgments every day. Making judgments about things is part of life. The problem comes when we feel tempted to judge other people.
We live in a society that is full of judgment. Turn on the t.v. or scan your latest news on the internet and you will surely find some serious judgment about people. You will even find Christians, who claim they believe in God's grace and forgiveness, judging each other. It is human nature to make judgments on one another. But it is also NOT part of God's plans for us as new creations in Christ.
In his letter to the ancient Roman church, the Apostle Paul (a leader in the early Church), simply commands "let us stop passing judgment on one another." The only way this is possible is to walk with Christ daily, to die to the sinful self, and let Christ's Spirit of love and forgiveness work through us. In Christ, there's no room for judging each other. Who have you felt tempted to judge recently? Why not confess this to Jesus and ask for His Spirit of non-judgment to take the place of judgment?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Looking back

"Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble; and he delivered them from their distress."--Psalm 107.6
It seems I have been taught by many people in my life not to look back. In our culture, we tend to be a "look forward" people. This isn't all bad. It's good to look forward to special times of celebration: a graduation, marriage, the birth of a newborn, even another birthday. It's good not to dwell on the past in a negative way. It's good not to focus on past hurts and pain. It's good to forgive and forget.
But sometimes, as followers of Christ, it's also good to look back on the times when we have been delivered by God, the times when God has meet us at the point of our need and shown his power, love, and grace. That's what the psalmist is talking about in the Scripture above. In Psalm 107, he recounts many different people who were suffering various trials, "Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble; and he delivered them from their distress."
Why not take a few moments today and remember what God has done for you? Recount his blessings and the times that God has delivered you from trouble and hard times.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The harvest is plentiful

"Then Jesus said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few."--Matthew 9.37
It seems that our whole culture is built on a mentality of scarcity. We are constantly told by experts, commercials, friends, employers, and many others that there is simply not enough to go around. This strikes me as odd, given that America is one of the wealthiest nations on earth. (I am not diminishing the real struggles that many people are having in America today with lost jobs, anxiousness about our jobs, and losses in the stock market.) But it seems even when we have work, money, and all the possessions anyone could hope to have, we still feel like we don't have enough.
This really becomes a problem when we think about the mission Jesus has given us to "make disciples of Jesus Christ." We get so used to thinking that there's not enough to go around, that we can be tempted to think that there's not enough people around to keep the universal Church of Jesus Christ going. But notice that in this one verse, Jesus makes it absolutely clear that the "harvest is plentiful." In other words, there's more than enough people out there who have not heard the good news about Jesus or at least are not active members of the church, to fill our churches to overflowing. The only deficiency is in the number of workers to go out and bring these folks (the harvest) in.
How might Jesus use you TODAY to reach others in his name and bring in the harvest?

Thursday, July 8, 2010


"But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"--Romans 10.14-15
In his book, "Life of the Beloved," Henri Nouwen writes, "Think of yourself as being sent into the world . . . a way of seeing yourself that is possible if you believe that you were loved before the world began . . . a perception of yourself that calls for a true leap of faith."
Sometimes, it is hard for us to believe that we have truly been sent as God's messengers in the world. Sometimes, we are tempted to believe that the only thing we are sent in this world to do is to survive. (Many of the voices we hear in our culture seem to tell us that). When we fall into that kind of thinking, it is no wonder that we struggle with our sense of calling to share Christ's love with the world.
But, as Nouwen writes, when we see ourselves as God sees us, His beloved children, then we can begin to see ourselves as God's mission and message of love to the world. Know that you are beloved today, chosen of God. He chose you before the world was made. He was stirring in the deep recesses of your soul while you were being knit together in your mother's womb. You are beloved! You are chosen! Now, as beloved and chosen, share God's love!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Scarcity and Abundance

Ephesians 3.20-21: "Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen."

“There’s simply not enough to go around.” Have you ever heard that statement? Or “We just don’t have enough ____________ to do this or that!" (you fill in the blank: money, time, resources, people, talent, land, etc.)
We live in financially uncertain times. Many have lost jobs or are anxious about losing jobs. Many have lost all their retirement savings. Those who have investments have seen them lose 25%, 500% or worse. Certainly, we have reason for concern.
The folks in the early church would understand our anxiety. In the time of the early church in Israel, people were crippled by taxes (imposed by a foreign government) that ate away their ability to provide for their families. Usually, if you were born poor, that’s where you stayed for your whole life. If your father or mother was a slave, you would be a slave for the rest of your life.
Add to that the persecution that early Christians faced all over the world. Many were fired from their jobs simply because they were Christians. Many had their families threatened. Many lost their homes because of persecution. And some paid for their Christian faith with their very lives at the point of a sword, hanging from a cross, or at the teeth of lions in the arena.
And yet, Paul, the writer of the Scripture above and leader in the early church, writes about ABUNDANCE! How in the world could he write about abundance in a time when money, resources, people, even the security of one’s life was so scarce? Again, he writes, “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine . . .”
Now, of course, this “him” Paul is speaking of is God Almighty. The God we serve is never short of cash, resources, talents, people, land, or anything. Our God is a God of abundance! And notice that the Scripture says that God can always do “ABUNDANTLY FAR MORE THAN WE CAN ASK OR IMAGINE.” How? By the power of the Holy Spirit!
Now, does this Scripture mean that somehow God magically creates all the money, resources, talents, and people we need to fulfill the mission he has charged us with as a church? Does it mean that these things will somehow fall from the sky? I don’t think so, although God certainly has the power to do that if he wanted to do so.
What it means is that God will provide when we open ourselves to be part of God’s mission to the world. As we open our lives, our resources, our pocket books, our time, our talents, to fulfilling God’s mission to FOLLOW JESUS, MAKE DISCIPLES, AND TRANSFORM THE WORLD, then God will provide "abundantly far more than we can ask or imagine.” God provides the power of the Holy Spirit to work through us to accomplish his will in the world. So, we must be willing to commit ourselves to do his will, his work, his mission.
We must guard against a SCARCITY MENTALITY which says that there is never enough to get by, whether that scarcity thinking tells us there is not enough money, not enough people, not enough talents, not enough whatever. We must trust God if we are to faithfully carry out his mission. If we tell ourselves that there is not enough to go around, then that is really doubting God and saying that God cannot get it done, that God cannot provide.
The key is this: If we commit ourselves, our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness (as our membership vows challenge us to do), then there will be ABUNDANTLY FAR MORE THAN WE CAN ASK OR IMAGINE to complete the mission God has given us. But if we hold back, if we do not commit our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, or our witness, then the mission will suffer. The choice is ours.
On God’s side, there is no question that he can and will provide the power for us to accomplish far more through the church than we can ask or imagine. The only question for us is if we will cooperate with God’s power or try to work against it.
If we fulfill our membership vows to support Christ’s Church by our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness, then God will give us the power to fulfill His Mission for the church to FOLLOW JESUS, MAKE DISCIPLES, AND TRANSFORM THE WORLD!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


"Clap your hands, all you peoples; shout to God with loud songs of joy. For the Lord, the Most High, is awesome, a great king over all the earth."--Psalm 47.1-2
When I was a teenager, the great R&B band, "Kool and the Gang," had a hit record entitled "Celebrate." The chorus went something like, "Celebrate good times, come on!"
Sometimes, I imagine Jesus saying the same thing to us! Too much of the time, I am weighed down by the anxieties and fears of life. Too much of the time, I focus on bad news. I have to remind myself to celebrate the blessings of God and the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.
Jesus had to remind people of this in his time. Once someone came to him and asked why his disciples didn't fast. He responded that the wedding party doesn't fast when the bridegroom is with them. He meant that when He is present, there is cause for celebration not mortification.
That's what the psalmist is reminding the people today. "Clap your hands . . . shout to God with LOUD songs of joy!" When is the last time you clapped your hands to the praise songs and hymns of God? When is the last time you sang them at the top of your lungs?
Why not try it today? Find something to celebrate this day, even if it is "just" the gift of another day in God's Creation. And "clap your hands and shout to God with a loud song of joy!"

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Blessed to BE a blessing

"May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations."--Psalm 67.1-2
"You are blessed to BE a blessing." I'm not sure the first time that I heard that phrase but the principle is found throughout the Bible. No individual or group of people is ever blessed just for their own comfort and pleasure. We see this in the very forming of God's chosen people, the Jews. When God blesses Abraham and explains to him that he will be the father of God's chosen people, he clearly tells him that this is all for the blessing of the whole world. In God's calling of Abraham, he said, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." (Genesis 12.1-3)
We are mistaken when we think the purpose of our lives is to experience personal pleasure. Sure, God gives us some great joy and wonderful experiences in life. But our purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Part of glorifying God is to reach out to those around us and make a difference. We are called to share Christ's love and grace in many and varied ways. You don't have to be a person of great worldly power to make an impact on others. You have the one tool you need to be a blessing to others, the love of God poured out for us in Christ Jesus. Use it to bless others today!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."--John 13.34
You never know when the last time you will get to hug a loved one will be. Yesterday, Janet and I received a call that our two nieces, Lindsey and Nicole were in a terrible car accident. We were told that Lindsey's injuries were life-threatening. Yesterday afternoon, we went to be with the family at Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem. When we arrived, we were told that Lindsey had died. Lindsey was such a sweet girl, 12 years old, the same age as our sons. It was quite a shock to say the least. All I could keep thinking of was the last time I saw Lindsey, hugged her, and told her that I loved her. I will treasure that memory forever. Nicole is going to be o.k., but I was sure to hug her tight and tell her that I loved her yesterday.
It all is a reminder to me that each moment is truly a gift. And that life is far too short and precious to miss opportunities to show our love to our family, friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, and the world.
Please take a moment today to let those around you know that you love them. Give them a hug for Lindsey.

Monday, March 29, 2010

And can it be?

This Holy Week, I am once again moved by the words to Charles Wesley's hymn, "And can it be that I should gain?"
May it bless you this day!

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior's blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain-
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

'Tis mystery all: th'Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
'Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
'Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
Let angel minds inquire no more.

He left His Father's throne above
So free, so infinite His grace-
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam's helpless race:
'Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
'Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature's night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray-
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

Still the small inward voice I hear,
That whispers all my sins forgiven;
Still the atoning blood is near,
That quenched the wrath of hostile Heaven.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th'eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach th'eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

On Trial

"I am on trial because my hope is in the Resurrection of the dead!"--Acts 23.6b
The Apostle Paul, leader in the early church had been called before the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was the most powerful political institution of the Jews during the Roman occupation of Israel. They had called Paul to account because of his preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Everywhere he had gone, there was a mixed response to the gospel. Some believed, were baptized, and joined the exploding number of new Christians. Others violently opposed the spread of the gospel, even attempting to murder Paul on several occasions.
Called before this powerful council, Paul made his defense. His crime? Setting his hope on the Resurrection power of Jesus! As I read this today, I wonder, could I be convicted of such a "crime?" Would those around me know by the way I live my life (not just by what I preach) that my hope is in the Resurrection power of Jesus? I always feel that the signs could be much more evident than they are. How about you? Are the "signs of the Resurrection" evident in your life? If we surrender our lives to Jesus this day, to the hourly movement of God's Holy Spirit, the signs will be there!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Father's Great Love

"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him."--Luke 15.20
Sometimes we feel so guilty about some sin we have committed, some mistake we've made, some way we've mistreated others, that we wonder if we can ever bridge the distance to God again. Sometimes we feel so haunted by the past that we wonder how God could still love us. Sometimes we feel that we've so neglected our spiritual life that we're not sure why God would love us.
If you've ever wondered those things then this Scripture is for you. No many how many steps we take from Jesus, he's always just one turn away. That's what happened to this sinful son who had squandered the blessings his Father gave. When he turned to go home, the father ran to meet him with compassion, forgiveness, and love.
Know today that you are loved by a God of extravagant grace and love!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Purpose 4: You were shaped for serving God

"God has given gifts to each of you from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Manage them well so that God's generosity can flow through you. Are you called to be a speaker? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Are you called to help others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then God will be given glory in everything through Jesus Christ. All glory and power belong to him forever and ever. Amen."--1Peter 4.10-11
You were shaped for serving God! This is the fourth purpose of your life as outlined in The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. But this is not just an idea that Rick Warren came up with. It runs throughout the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation, we see regular people using the time, talents, and treasures God gave them to serve God and other people. You may not feel very gifted, but God custom designed you for a mission of service to him and others.
Yesterday, in the Sunday service, I noted that you can even use Martial Arts for Jesus! It's true! The evangelism ministry, Kicks for Christ, gets people's attention with martial arts and then shares the gospel. (Check them out at
There are bikers for Christ, cowboys for Christ, even metal heads for Jesus! You can use whatever talents and passions you have in life to serve God. What talents, time, treasures, or even trials you've experienced in life could you use today to bless others with the love of Jesus?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Purpose 3-Becoming like Jesus

"I am confident of this: that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."--Philippians 2.6
The third purpose of our lives, as outlined in The Purpose Driven Life, is to become like Jesus. Now, in itself, this would be an impossible task. Most days, we are all too aware of our sins and short comings. And if we are in doubt, the world will be sure to remind us of these.
The Good News is that we are not charged to become like Jesus in our own strength, but by the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through us. And the encouragement of the Scripture listed above is that by the end of our lives, God will complete that work of making us like Jesus.
Our role is to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, to give the Holy Spirit room to operate in our lives. We do this by worship, prayer, reading the Bible, doing good works for other people. All these spiritual disciplines are what John Wesley called "means of grace," tools that God uses to grow us like Christ.
So, remember today your goal, your focus, to become like Jesus. And remember that the Holy Spirit is working in you to achieve that goal.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Made to belong

"Christ makes us one body . . . connected to each other."--Romans 12.5
The Second Purpose for our lives, as outlined in the Purpose Driven Life, is that YOU WERE FORMED FOR GOD'S FAMILY. Rick Warren writes that "we were made to belong not just believe." It seems that people are more disconnected than ever. I believe that's why texting, Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter are used so much. It is the desperate attempt by a desperately isolated people, desperately trying to connect to each other.
The Good News is that God has already created a family for you, a place to belong; it is called the Church. It is a place to belong, to learn how to believe, to share burdens, and to share service in Jesus' name. You are not alone! I encourage you to connect with your sisters and brothers in the church today! Why not give one of your friends in the church a call, email, or text and let them know that Jesus is with them today! Ask them how you can pray for them and then share with them how they can pray for you. You were created to belong in God's Family!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Draw close to God

"Draw close to God, and God will draw close to you." --James 4.8
Reflecting on the first purpose of our lives, TO GIVE GOD PLEASURE, Rick Warren writes, "You are as close to God as you choose to be." Now this may be a little surprising, maybe even a little hard to believe. Why? Because in our human relationships, this is not always the case. Live long enough and you will experience the pain of rejection. Whether it be from a friend, boyfriend, girlfriend, teacher, parent, or child, rejection hurts. Sooner or latter, we will experience the frustration of trying to draw closer to someone in our life and them rejecting that.
But God is different! God promises to draw close to us when we draw close to him. We don't need to fear rejection from God. God, in Jesus Christ, has promised to never leave nor abandon us. If we want to be closer to God, God will always grant that request.
So, how do we do it? Worship, prayer, Bible study, being with other Christians, and serving in Christ's name. As we offer ourselves in this way, God is faithful and will come closer to us.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


"Jesus' disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?""Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life."--John 9.2-3
Isn't it just human nature to want to assign the sin label to victims of disaster? It seems that has happened again in the wake of the terrible tragedy in Haiti. But almost 2,000 years ago, Jesus exposed this tendency for what it is, IGNORANCE.
Our call, as Christians, is to "feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick." Jesus promised when we do those things, we are ministering not just to other people, but to Jesus himself.
My prayer is that we spend less time trying to assign blame for this (and other) tragedies and spend more time being the hands and feet of Jesus to a hurting world. In that way, "the work of God" would be displayed in power and love!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Surrender and Submission

"Surrender your whole being to God to be used for righteous purposes."--Romans 6.13
I can't think of two more unpopular words for 21st century Americans than surrender and submission. We pride ourselves on being free from everything and everybody. We pride ourselves on pursuing happiness. We pride ourselves on being winners. So, what is this talk of surrender and submission?
Well, it is actually essential to following Jesus. We cannot follow Jesus without surrendering our agendas, our self-interests, our control of our lives. We talk about Jesus being our Lord and Savior. The very definition of a lord is one who is submitted to. I think part of our problem is that there are many people throughout history who were forced to submit to others. Slavery is clearly wrong. Discrimination is clearly wrong. Racism and sexism is clearly wrong. Forced submission to a class of people based on race, sex, age, national origin, etc. is wrong. But the difference in surrender and submission to Jesus is that He is our Creator, so He actually is the only One who we owe complete surrender and submission.
The interesting thing about surrendering our lives to Jesus is that the more we surrender, the more liberated we are. You see, as Rick Warren writes in the Purpose Driven Life, we will submit to something or someone, even if it is our own self-obsession.
To fulfill the first purpose of our lives, WE WERE PLANNED FOR GOD'S PLEASURE, we have to submit to Jesus. This is actually a relief instead of an imprisonment. Followers of Jesus have found that to release control and self-determination to Jesus' Lordship, is to finally find peace in the knowledge that someone greater than us is in control, one who cares so much for us that even the hairs of our head are numbered! (Matthew 10:30)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A purpose-driven life

"Everything got started in God and finds its purpose in him."-Colossians 1.16
We are starting 40 days of purpose at Stony Hill Church. We will be focusing on the Scriptural insights from The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. The focus for this week is "Why on earth am I here?" The verse above answers this question clearly. The first sentence in Warren's book is "It's not about you." Quite a revelation for our "me-centered" culture! Interestingly enough, the most miserable people on earth are those who focus only on themselves. The most fulfilled people on earth are those who find their meaning and purpose in God. So, if we want to be happy and at peace in 2010, the wrong place to start is in ourselves. The place to start is in God! When we start with God, we begin to unfold our purpose in life, what God created us for. When we start with ourselves, we find only an endless pursuit of trying to please ourselves. I invite you to join us in the 40 days of purpose. I can't think of a better way to start 2010, a new decade for following Jesus! There are several ways you can do this: 1. Use the Scripture I'll send out each week through this devotional to focus your purpose in God. 2. Attend the worship services each week where I'll be teaching on the Scriptural insights from the Purpose Driven Life. 3. Read the daily reading from The Purpose Driven Life book at home. 4. Join us on Tuesday evenings at 7pm starting Tuesday, Jan. 12 to learn more about your purpose.
Whatever ways God leads you to get involved, my prayer for each of you is that you find your purpose in following Jesus in 2010 and beyond!