Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Christmas Spirit

 Early and mid-December generally finds us in full anticipation mode.  Christmas is coming!  We purchase gifts, decorate our homes, plan special meals, and prepare for parties.  ‘Tis the season to be merry and bright….


And then, if and when we dare, we look at the news.  Wars and rumors of wars.  Displaced migrants.  Human trafficking.  Natural disasters: earthquakes, volcanoes erupting, hurricanes and tornadoes.  Suffering of unimaginable depth and endless duration.  


Christmas seems incongruous in our world today.  It can feel inappropriate and even callous to celebrate Christmas in light of the suffering in today’s world.  But I believe that that is exactly the point of Christmas, and precisely why it is so important to celebrate.


Jesus was born more than 2000 years ago.  Israel was under the rule of the Roman Empire, known for its authoritarian government which relied on brute strength and cruelty to maintain peace.  It was a dark time of fear and suffering.  


Madeline L’Engle writes these words as part of a poem celebrating the Incarnation:

            This is no time for a child to be born,

            With the earth betrayed by war & hate….

            That was no time for a child to be born

            In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;


And yet the Bible tells us that Jesus was born as God Incarnate “in the fullness of time.”  During a time of brutality, hardship, and suffering, the glory of God shined down from heaven, and a host of angels celebrated in giving glory to God.  God became Incarnate man and dwelt among men.  Sin and suffering did not evaporate: Jesus lived and breathed in the trenches and in the wreckage caused by the fall.  


And so, some 2000 years later, we mark the greatest event in human history.  And by all appearances, mankind has not made much progress in the centuries between then and now.  Suffering continues.  Many people live in hopelessness and desperation.  We are reminded, again, of our need for the Messiah.


The Messiah has come, and He is coming again!  This is worth celebrating!  We are called to manifest Christ, to love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly with our God. Marking the Incarnation and anticipating Christ’s return represents the sure foundation upon which we can fulfill that calling.  A wholehearted Christmas celebration is exactly what this world needs.  May the light of Christ—and our celebration of His birth—shine in the darkness….




Wednesday, November 22, 2023

November Thought #18

 "We should certainly count our blessings, but we should also make our blessings count."

                                                                                     Neal A. Maxwell

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

November Thought #17

 Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's willful you in Christ Jesus.                                                                                 

                                                                                              I Thessalonians 5:16-18

Monday, November 20, 2023

November Thought #16

 "When we learn to read the story of Jesus and see it as the story of the love of God, doing for us what we could not do for ourselves--that insight produces, again and again, a sense of astonished gratitude which is very near the heart of authentic Christian experience."

                                                                                               N.T. Wright

Sunday, November 19, 2023

November Thought #15

 I will extol You, my God, O King,

And I will bless Your name forever and ever.

Every day I will bless You,

And I will praise Your name forever and ever.

Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised,

And His greatness is unsearchable.

                                          Psalm 145:1-3

Friday, November 17, 2023

November Thought #14

 "We must find time and stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives."

                                                                                            John F. Kennedy

Thursday, November 16, 2023

November Thought #13

 "Appreciation can change a day, even change a life.  Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary."

                                                                                              Margaret Cousins

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

November Thought #12

 Though the fig tree should not blossom

And there be no fruit on the vines,

Though the yield of the olive should fail

And the fields produce no food,

Though the flock should be cut off from the fold

And there be no cattle in the stalls,

Yet I will exult in the LORD,

I will rejoice in the God oft y salvation.

The Lord God is my strength,

And He has made my feet like hinds' feet,

And makes me walk on my high places.

                                Habakkuk 3:17-19

Monday, November 13, 2023

November Thought #11

 "The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but the thankful heart will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings."

                                                                                               Henry Ward Beecher

Sunday, November 12, 2023

November Thought #10

 "Living in a state of gratitude is the gateway to grace."

                                                Arianna Huffington

Friday, November 10, 2023

November Thought #9

 "Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude."

                                                                                A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

Thursday, November 9, 2023

November Thought #8

 "We can complain that roses have thorns, or rejoice because thorns have roses."

                                                                                             Alphonse Karr


Wednesday, November 8, 2023

November Thought #7

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow

Praise Him all creature here below

Praise Him above ye heavenly host

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost

                               Traditional Doxology


Tuesday, November 7, 2023

November Thought #6

 "Let us be grateful for those who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom."                                 

                                                                                                Marcel Proust

Monday, November 6, 2023

November Thought #5

 "Gratitude is the ability to see life as a gift.  It liberates us from the prison of self-preoccupation."

                                                                                             John Ortberg

Sunday, November 5, 2023

November Thought #4

 O Lord, You are my God;

I will exalt You, I will thanks to Your name;

For You have worked wonders,

Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness.

                                                      Isaiah 25:1

Saturday, November 4, 2023

November Thought #3

 "Gratitude is riches.  Complaint is poverty."          Doris Day

Friday, November 3, 2023

November Thought #2

 O Heavenly Father who hast filled the world with beauty: Open our eyes to behold thy gracious hand in all thy works; that, rejoicing in thy whole creation, we may learn to serve thee with gladness; for the sake of him through whom all things were made, thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

                                                                                    The Book of Common Prayer

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

November Thought

 I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart;

I will tell of all Your wonders.

I will be glad and exult in You;

I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.

                                                   Psalm 9:1-2

November Traditions

 November is here.  Some are thrilled that we are moving into the holiday season.  Others are stressed at the thought of preparing for the holidays.  This is nothing new.  Neither is November’s annual reminder to give thanks.


We are called to give thanks.  It is a theme that runs from the Old Testament through the New.  The Bible is God’s revelation to us and for our benefit.  It reveals a God who is glorious and worthy of praise, at all times, in all places, and in all circumstances.  But beyond that, Scripture introduces us to a God who is as personal as He is glorious.  Please consider with me just a few of the many, many examples offered in Scripture.  The LORD God breathed air into Adam’s lungs and shared the Garden of Eden with the man and the woman (Genesis 2); He tried to coax Cain to turn away from his murderous thoughts (Genesis 4); He allowed both Abraham and Moses to “negotiate” with Him (Genesis 18; Numbers 14); He satisfied Gideon’s need for reassurance (Judges 6); He engaged in a personal conversation with a rebellious Jonah (Jonah 4).  And of course, the LORD used individual, faithful men and women to accomplish His will.   He worked in the lives of Eli and Samuel to lead Israel and (eventually) put David, a man after God’s own heart, on the throne and establish David as the progenitor of the Messiah (I Samuel and II Samuel).  He used Esther to save the Jews from a hateful Haman (Esther).  He guided Elijah to reveal the power of the LORD to the people of Israel so that they would turn away from Baal (I Kings 18).  And if God’s personal attention, time after time after time, wasn’t enough, the Father’s only begotten Son, the second member of the eternal Trinity, Christ Jesus, became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1).


First and foremost, the Gospels reveal a Jesus who spent His days touching and being touched.  Jesus opened His arms to those who had been dismissed, rejected, or neglected by their families and communities.  He heals lepers (by touching them!) calls tax collectors, and welcomes children.  One of my favorite “personal” Jesus stories is found in the Gospel of Mark.  As Jesus is ministering to the people who have gathered to see and hear him, a synagogue official named Jairus falls at His feet, begging for healing for his seriously ill daughter.  Jesus readily agrees to come to Jairus’s home, but as they head in that direction, they are interrupted by a woman who has been plagued with a hemorrhage problem for many years.  The woman is healed as soon as she touches Jesus’s robe.  It would be easy for Jesus to leave it at that and continue on His mission to Jairus’s home.  But Jesus gently demands a personal conversation with the woman and takes time with her to personally reinforce her faith.  I can only imagine the impatience and panic within Jairus as he waits for Jesus to finish this impromptu encounter and get to their destination.  When they finally arrive and find that Jairus’s daughter has died, Jesus takes care of the problem as only He can do.  


And so as we (hopefully) heed the reminder to give thanks, may we turn to our Lord and Savior who is as up close and personal as we will allow Him to be.  We are invited to approach the throne of grace with confidence.  As we do so, the perfunctory, generic “thank you,” “praise to you,” “praise God from Whom all blessings flow” phrases don’t quite do the job.  It behooves us put time, energy, and effort into pursuing our Lord and pouring out our hearts to Him.  We don’t need to have King David’s eloquence.  We have been assured that when our words fail, the Spirit will intercede for us with groanings too deep for words (Romans 8:26).


As we pursue Jesus, we will find that He has been pursing us!  Praise the Lord!  May we truly draw near to Him in faith, offering Him the deepest recesses of our hearts.  And when we do, something amazing happens.  Those who look forward to the holidays are able to celebrate more fully and joyfully; and those who are stressed at holiday preparation can lean on a Lord who genuinely cares about their stress and can help them see beyond it.


Sunday, October 1, 2023

Stress Testing

 At my annual check-up this year, my electrocardiogram (EKG) showed an abnormality.  Thus began a summer of medical dominoes.  Although my primary care provider did not think my EKG was especially alarming, she recommended a visit with a cardiologist.  The cardiologist was wonderful, and although she did not think the EKG was of particular concern, she made a convincing case that a thorough evaluation was appropriate.  That meant scheduling an echocardiogram, a calcium cardiac scoring test, and a stress test.  As I was arranging my day’s schedule to accommodate the stress test, one thought kept running through my head: Given the stress of my days, why did I need a formal stress test?!  


The cardiologist gave me an A+ on my stress test.  I am, of course, grateful for that result, and I don’t want to take it lightly.  But the fact remains that I do not get an A+ for the way I deal with the mental and emotional stress of days.  To be sure, being a fallen creature in a fallen world does not help.  But Jesus came to redeem us, not only for eternity in heaven but in the here and now.


There are, of course, many Bible verses that would call us to trust in the Lord, throw our cares upon Him, and walk in His peace and joy.  But as true as these passages are, they are not the whole story.  Even as Jesus talks about the peace and joy in Him, He warns His followers about trials, suffering, hardship, and persecution.  We may not be of the world, but we are in it.  We are living in the now and not yet: tastes of heaven and glimpses of redemption, now but not yet the full fruits of Christ’s victory.  


And somehow, I find this encouraging.  It is neither abnormal or shameful to find life in this broken world challenging and even painful at times.  But I am still left with the task of living in the tension of the two realities: the challenges that I encounter today even as I catch glimpses of the redemption that will have its culmination in eternity.  


It isn’t easy to live in the now and not yet.  Some believers prefer to focus on persevering through the slog of this life, and others would minimize and ignore the hardships and claim victory in Christ.  It seems to me that maintaining a “both/and” mindset, while difficult, best reflects the dual realities of our fallenness and our redemption.


King David gives us an excellent glimpse into living a life of dual realities.  In the book of I Samuel, we read of Samuel anointing David as King of Israel when David was a teenager and Saul was the reigning (but disobedient) King.  In the approximately 15 years that followed, “King” David was hunted and persecuted by Saul.  We can read about David’s distress during those times in several of his Psalms.  In those Psalms, David is not restrained in expressing his distress and resentment toward evildoers who go unpunished.  But at the same time, David repeatedly expresses his commitment to following the Lord in righteousness and declares the LORD God’s goodness and glory.  He walks in faith to the best of his ability, and he restrains himself from killing Saul on not one but two occasions when he has the opportunity.  He suffers; he waits; he perseveres; he waits.  When he is thirty years old, David—finally-- becomes King of Judah.  He becomes King of a united Israel a few years later. 


David’s life as it is recorded in the books of I Samuel and II Samuel and expressed in many of David’s Psalms is one of both struggle and faith.  David’s hardships and personal missteps cannot be missed.  But we also read how the peace, joy, and power that flowed from his faith relationship with the Lord sustained and empowered him in the hard times and took front and center in the times of triumph.  David’s life is recorded for generations of believers not merely as significant history but also as a model of what life on earth as an heir of heaven can look like. 


When we turn to the New Testament, we see John the Baptist, imprisoned for preaching the righteousness of Christ, reach out to Jesus for reassurance that Jesus is who He says he is.  Jesus has a ready answer: 


Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them.  And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me. 


Jesus’s answer also reveals an important truth about suffering: while the Lord does not will or rejoice in the suffering of this sin-laden world, He uses it to reveal His goodness and grace.  Indeed, I could make a good argument that David’s earlier suffering was used to make him a wiser and wiser king.  


To be sure, none of us has been called to be a king and ancestor of the Messiah, or as a forerunner of the Messiah.  But we are nonetheless called to fulfill the glorious purposes for which we have been created, and we are, through the Messiah, princes and princesses of the King for all eternity.  We are blessed.



Jesus, of course, has the last word.  


These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.











Saturday, September 16, 2023

A Perspective For Living Each Day

 "A commitment to kindness does not mean surrendering your convictions."

                                                                                     David French

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Thoughts For Every Day

 "Your mind will take the shape of what you frequently hold in thought."

                                                                                  Marcus Aurelius

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things, the things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you."

                                                                                  The Apostle Paul

                                                                                  Letter to the Philippians

Monday, September 4, 2023

Seasons of Change

 Last month, I wrote about the challenges of managing time as the close of summer and beginning of fall reminds us that time is indeed fleeting.  And as we usher in September, the challenges remain.  I would like for us to consider another aspect of the passing of time that may encourage us to appreciate the Lord’s redemptive use of time and its passing.  


As fallen creatures, we are unable to perceive time in anything but an extremely limited way.  We see time in a linear, uni-directional way that does not reflect our eternal, redemptive God.  Writers have expressed the struggle to more fully understand time over the past many centuries.  

I'm a time traveler.... People don't understand time.  It's not the way you think it is.  It's complicated, very complicated.  People assume that time is a straight progression of cause to effect, but actually from a nonlinear, nonobjective viewpoint, it's more like a big ball of wobbly wobbly timey wimpy stuff.

                                                                                                             Dr. Who



When I consider the history of the Hebrew people as it is recorded in the Old Testament, I hear a drumbeat: Remember, remember, remember…. The Hebrew people were not very good at remembering the LORD’s holiness, faithfulness, and personal watchfulness over them.  Over and over, they fell away from the LORD GOD as time passed.  And then over and over, circumstances and events would remind them of their need for the LORD, and they would repent and return to following Him.


We are not very good at remembering, either.  We are often tempted to follow the way of the world, to do life ourselves, and reserve faith for emergencies and holidays.  It seems to me that remembering might be easier if we considered time more from the expanded perspective of Dr. Who.  The Lord has promised to complete the work He has begun in us.  He is in the process of sanctifying us, of inviting us to partake in His nature and to become fit for heaven.  This means that we need to be willing to change.  And the kind of change that the Lord wants for us is eternal; it requires us to embrace change over time.


It is not easy for me to change: I don’t like it!  New events and adventures are uncomfortable, and I am always relieved when I can get my life “back to normal.”  But that is short-sighted.  If I look beyond discomfort to the redemptive purposes that the Lord puts those new events and adventures, I can allow Him to use them to change me.  And as this change occurs, I can look back in time and view those uncomfortable times with greater appreciation and gratitude.  It changes my view of history, which in turn changes the way I view the future.  I can learn to be changed in deep ways that remain as time passes.


And so here we are, at the end of summer and the beginning of fall.  It is time to put swimsuits away and get out school supplies and sweaters.  The party is over: back to work!  But we serve the great I AM, the eternal Being, the Lord who sovereignly guides past, present, and future toward His redemptive ends.  So rather than putting summer away, I would like to suggest that we take those parts of summer that changed us: that helped us to see the Lord more clearly or experience His faithfulness more deeply and carry them with us into the fall with an eagerness to continue to see the Lord do His redemptive work in us.  And in that way, we are living in three-dimensional time: we apply the confidence of the Lord’s work from the past to the choices of the moment as we look toward greater maturity in Christ in the future.





Thursday, August 17, 2023

A Principle Worth Remembering

 "No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted."


Thursday, August 3, 2023


 August.  Oh, no!  Summer is almost over….  It is a cry heard across the country as Memorial Day Weekend and July Fourth celebrations are in the rear-view mirror, and we look toward Labor Day and the beginning of a new school year.  And while not everyone loves the steamy days of summer, the evaporation of what we like to think of as a “break” in our daily schedules and the return of a “back to work” mentality has most of us feeling a bit disconcerted.  


Where did the summer go?  I would like to suggest that it would be more profitable for us to consider our frustrations with the passing of time within the broader context of Biblical and human history.


“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth….”  So the beginning of Genesis goes.  And while we often jump to God’s creation of mankind, it is worth considering that God created day and night, morning and evening, the sun, moon, and stars.  When God breathes life into Adam and creates Eve from Adam’s rib, they have the rhythm of the planet and of life itself as a foundation for exercising sovereign care over creation.


But with the fall, time—like the entirety of God’s good creation—becomes distorted.  Thistles and thorns make finding and growing food difficult and time consuming.  The misuse of free will consumes more time in broken coordination and conflict.  Time becomes a precious resource that fallen man will abuse and waste along with the rest of the resources the LORD God has provided.  And now, millenia after the fall,  we have become adept at cutting time corners as we depend on fast food meals, online shopping, multi-tasking, and copious caffeine consumption as we get less and less sleep.  Indeed, time is such a limited resource that Benjamin Franklin’s observations that “time is money” rings very true in our culture.  


True confession: I am perpetually busy and time conscious.  The white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland”—Oh dear!  Oh dear!  I shall be too late!”—rings very true.  I am usually in a hurry, and I am often running late or too close to it.  I have done a good bit of pondering about my discomfort with time has a long history and runs deep.  Beside the generic issues of the fall, I see two specific consequences that illuminate and magnify my struggles with time.  The first is my brokenness and my sin-laden response to hurt and trauma in my past.  I have a history of shame: not belonging, not measuring up.  My fallen human response has been to try harder, to earn my place, prove my worth.  Those efforts are major wastes of time, almost always leaving me with too little left for everything else.  The second consequence echoes the fall itself: not only do we know both good and evil, we practice both good and evil.  And so once again, the time we use our time to pursue the desires of our flesh, to pursue evil, leaving us with less time to do good.


But as the LORD pronounced the consequences of Adam and Eve’s fateful choice, He also promised the Messiah.  The Apostle Paul proclaims an important truth in his epistle to the Romans: “For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.”  (Romans 5:17).  And it is in Christ that we can find our identity and value without wasting time trying to earn or prove it.  And it is by the power of the Holy Spirit that we can use more of our time doing good and less pursuing evil.


I often marvel at the Jesus that we see consistently depicted in the Gospel accounts of His time on earth.  Jesus never rushes; He is never in a hurry.  He welcomes interruptions as opportunities, and He always has time for any and all who came to Him.  It is both convicting and inspiring.  And it isn’t just that Jesus models for us the Godly use of time.  By dying on our behalf, Christ—the One—earned for us our righteousness, our rightness with God and our eternal identity as heirs of heaven.  We have no need to spin our time wheels trying to earn or prove our salvation.  And by sending the Holy Spirit, we have the power that raised Christ from the dead living within us to turn away from the desires of the flesh.


Again, I turn to the wisdom of the Apostle Paul: “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.”  (Ephesians 5:15-16).  This does not mean that we rush from one ministry opportunity to another with no discernment or rest.  It is, however, an invitation to accept time as a gift from the Lord, to use for His good purposes and His glory.  If we are to take Paul’s words to heart, we must align our perspective of time with Him and see our frustration with time as a call to grow and to grow together in faith.  May we encourage one another to use our God-given gifts with wisdom and we walk toward eternity.






Thursday, July 20, 2023

Thought For Each Today

 "Practice kindness all day to everybody and you will realize you're already in heaven now."  

                                                                                                               Jack Kerouac

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Thought For A Generation

 "Our phones have created what I like to call SADD--SOCIAL ATTENTION DEFICIT DISORDER."

                                                                                                                             Dan Levy

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Called To Freedom

July is the time when we in the United States celebrate the freedoms associated with our democracy.  Even as the political and ideological divisions in our country have received a good bit of attention and created significant distraction in our life as a nation, we have much to be grateful for.


We could say the same for the church.  There are divisions over theology, faith and practice, and even politics.  But again, we still have much to be grateful for.  I hear quite often that “these days” are so much worse than those past.  In truth, though, controversy and division in the church are anything but new.  The writings of the Apostle Paul confirm the wisdom of King Solomon: There is nothing new under the sun.  Believers singly and corporately have survived and even thrived in times of challenging disagreements.  


It seems to me that the concept of freedom can help us to walk faithfully before the Lord even in these uneasy times.  Please consider with me how Paul viewed Christian freedom in a time when slavery was widely if not universally accepted and oppression and a lack of freedom was the rule rather than the exception.  


For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.  But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.  17For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.  18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.  19Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  Galatians 5:16-23.


We are unequivocally called to put aside the desires of the flesh and seek the work of the Holy Spirit as we work out our faith in this hurting and unbelieving world.  For most of us, the more obvious desires of the flesh are reasonably easy to avoid.  We do not commit adultery, cheat on our taxes, become addicted to illegal substances, throw parties characterized by ungodly behavior.  But the pleasures of the flesh share a common denominator: they please our flesh because they enable us to feel good about ourselves as quickly and easily as possible, with little or no sacrifice and usually at the expense of others.  The pleasures of the flesh can represent temptation that is both subtle and counterintuitive.  If we want to use our freedom in ways that reflect and glorify Christ, I am convinced that how and why we do something is at least as important as what we do.


Please consider Jesus’s repeated warnings to and about the Pharisees whose status in the community became their idol and whose self-righteousness was about pleasing the flesh.  They were so focused on following the Law—for their own advantage—that they were unable to love and serve the weak; worse still, they were unable to see God Incarnate when He was standing in front of them.  


Paul deals with this side of serving the flesh in many of his epistles.  His first letter to the Corinthian church gives us two excellent examples.  The Corinthians were embroiled in tensions that arose as each sought personal status in which Christian leader he was following.  The leaders in question—including Paul himself—were delivering the same message and were not in competition with one another.  But the Corinthians were creating competition rather than following Christ in order to feel good about themselves.  The Corinthians also created competition in regard to spiritual gifts, seeking status in manifesting the flashier gifts.  So even though they were seeking the work of the Holy Spirit, they were doing so for their own fleshly purposes rather than actually walking by the Spirit.  The result was controversy and division rather than the love and unity that the fruits of the Spirit would produce.


There is no way around it.  If we genuinely desire to proclaim Christ in what we say and do, we must humbly seek the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts as we give up seeking to make our life of faith about us, to truly walk in the Spirit.  Our sin nature objects!  But please consider with me the overwhelming freedom that comes with a Spirit-filled and a Spirit-led life!  We do not need to fix the world, or save it.  Only Christ can do that.  Instead, we can enjoy the freedom that comes with being redeemed by the blood of Christ.  We have nothing to earn and nothing to prove.  We have no need to settle for the counterfeit pleasures of our flesh.  As we walk by the Spirit, He will bear His fruit in us: we will be able to walk before the Lord in faithfulness and manifest His goodness; we will know peace and joy; we will enjoy the benefits of self-control; we will be able to love others well and serve them with patience, gentleness and kindness.  May we indeed use our freedom to participate in His redeeming work in us and through us. 


Saturday, June 3, 2023

The Days of Summer

 June…. Summer!  


The concept of summer evokes a wide range of thoughts and emotions.  For most children and older students, summer means a break from school and homework and more time for fun.  But for adults in general and parents in particular, summer often means more challenges: shifts in the workforce, travel plans that go awry, and the need to keep children safe and constructively occupied if/as work schedules make that difficult.  And almost everyone of all ages and lifestyles needs to deal with the expectations that summer brings.


To be sure, summer brings wonderful opportunities and great plans.  But if we become too attached to those opportunities and plans, it becomes very easy to evaluate the days, weeks, and the season according to how they rate on our scale of expectations.  And then if our expectations are not met, it is easy to become disappointed and frustrated.  We can miss the joy of unanticipated opportunities to bless and be blessed.


There is no doubt that planning is essential in order to fulfill our responsibilities and use our time well—even for fun! Planning is, however, most fruitful and rewarding if we view our plans not so much as a rubric for success but rather as an outline to be adjusted and filled in as the days, weeks, and months unfold.  In the end, it becomes an attitude choice on our part: We can cling to our expectation-driven plans, or we can cultivate an eye of faith that allows us to find deep satisfaction in the Lord’s sovereignty that is more sure than our expectations and plans.



Do not boast about tomorrow, 

For you do not know what a day may bring forth.  Proverbs 27:1



Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.”  Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow.  James 4:13-14a


Thought For The Day

 "Who you are inside is what helps you make and do everything in life."

                                                                             Fred Rogers

Friday, May 26, 2023

Thought For The Day

 "Happiness is not a goal, it's a by-product."

                                        Eleanor Roosevelt

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Flowers and Fruit

 “April showers bring May flowers….”  So the saying goes.  And here we are: after those April showers, new life is springing forth everywhere we turn.  For the gardeners among us, this is a happy season indeed.  For those of us who are less enthused, we tend to bemoan the need to trim shrubs and pull weeds.  But all of us can appreciate the rhythm of the seasons with which the Lord has blessed us.  And, we can all learn and grow from it.


The seasons in our life do not always reflect the natural season outside our windows, but we, too, have seasons of cold and darkness, dormancy and rain, followed by growth and life.  


If we face a time of cold and darkness, even of trials and suffering, we can exercise perseverance and walk through it with patience, confident that the Lord works even the most acute hardship for our good: Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.   And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  (James 1:2-4).  This is faith life at its most potent: the assurance of hope and the conviction that God’s goodness is at work even if we cannot see it.  Our roots of faith must grow deeper in order to find nourishment and refreshment in a time of apparent drought.


A time of dormancy and rain can be dreary and frustrating.  Just like our trees and shrubs need time to develop and grow underground before they flower and grow above the ground, so it is sometimes the case that we must wait for the Lord’s timing before an active phase of spiritual life and ministry begins.  Jesus spent his childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood out of the public eye and then spent 40 days alone in the wilderness dealing with the temptations offered by Satan before He began His public ministry.  And just as Jesus relied on God’s Word to return those temptations back to hell from where they came, we must rely on the Word of the Lord: Christ Himself.


And then as we abide in Christ as the true vine, the time will come when we bear fruit, much fruit.  The fruit-bearing season is preceded by rapid growth and activity.  It is a time of energy and opportunity.  It is also a time of pruning: Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.  (John 15:2).  As we grow and minister, the Lord sanctifies us so that our fruit manifests His goodness and abundance.  In other words, He pulls the spiritual weeds out of our hearts and minds so that nothing restrains or detracts from the fruit He is bearing through us and the joy that comes with bearing that fruit.


While seasons of life are often individual and personal, there is a corporate element to abiding in Christ and bearing fruit as well.  As the body of Christ, it is crucial for us to join together before the Lord in worship, prayer, and study, to invest in deep relationship with one another, and then to bear fruit as we use our gifts in a coordinated manner to powerfully minister to those in our community.  Although we are a small body, we have an amazing collection of gifts.  And with the Lord doing His loaves and fishes thing, we can look forward to bearing some exciting fruit for God’s kingdom.

Monday, May 8, 2023

The Power of Repentance


"A stiff apology is a second insult… The injured party does not want to be compensated because he has been wronged; he wants to be healed because he has been hurt."

                                                                                                             G.K. Chesterton 




Friday, March 31, 2023

Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus

 For believers, April brings a resounding cry: He is risen!  Indeed!  This is the time when we remember Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross for us, for His death as payment before God for our sins, and then His resurrection as the first fruits of His redemptive work on our behalf.  The death and resurrection of Christ are two of the best attested events in ancient history.  And all four Gospel accounts bear witness to the fact that Jesus Christ died and was raised on the third day.  For us.


The death and resurrection of Christ is the bedrock of Christian faith.  And while believers are quick to profess belief in that truth, we are not always quick to remain grounded on that bedrock.  Not unlike the Israelites who quickly forgot the LORD’s work in parting the Red Sea as they grumbled in the wilderness, we often forget that our foundation is Christ and His death and resurrection.  We thank God for His sacrifice and praise Him for the power of the resurrection.  And then we go through our days hurried and distracted, looking for ways to feel good about ourselves apart from the Lord.


I think it might be helpful to consider that Good Friday and Easter are not events that are isolated from Christ’s entire time on earth as God Incarnate.  In Philippians 2, we read that in becoming incarnate, Jesus emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant.  He patiently grew through His childhood as a member of a family.  And even though He knew who He was when He spent a good bit of time in His Father’s house—the temple—as a twelve-year-old (Luke 2), He remained patient through almost two decades before beginning His public ministry.  Jesus submitted to baptism (Matthew 3) and then spent forty days in the wilderness fasting and being tempted by Satan (Matthew 4).  Christ’s life as God Incarnate was a series of choices that reflected His ongoing relationship with the Father as a day to day commitment.


Jesus was able to fulfill His mission on earth by living out His relationship with the Father on a day-to-day, choice-by-choice basis.  And we have a mission as well!  The Lord has created us for good works, prepared by God beforehand, so that we would walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).  If we are to walk in those good works and obey Christ as He calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow Him (Luke 9:23), we must abide in Him as branches on a vine and follow Christ as we live our day-to-day lives on a choice-by-choice basis.  As we learn to do this, something amazing happens.  We become increasingly free from the appearance, performance, and status standards that the world would place on us.  We become less driven by self interest and more driven by the Holy Spirit.  We become better able to love.  We become more like Christ.  And we are able to experience the peace and joy that He offers.


Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Thought For the Day and For the Year

 "More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness."

                                                                Charlie Chaplin

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Faith For The Day

 Mental health professionals often stress the importance of being present in the here and now moment as we live our day-to-day lives.  These mental health professionals have recognized an important truth in the way the Creator has created His creatures, even though they might be surprised to realize that their position is actually grounded in Scriptural truth.  


God Almighty is eternal, without beginning, without end.  The I AM is the essence of unchanging being, at all times.  He has created us in His image, for unending relationship with Him.  Christ died to cover our sins to make that possible.  The eternal Holy Spirit dwells within us as the first fruits of an abiding relationship with the Triune Godhead that will be fulfilled in heaven as we spend eternity in His presence.


I am not good at living in the present.  Scars from my past tend to make me quite apprehensive about the future, and so I am continually scanning the horizon looking for threats.  Many if not most of us spend a good bit of time looking backward in time as we process a myriad of experiences and then forward to prepare for future experiences.  But when we do so, we risk missing the here and now (Matthew 6:25-34).  


The Apostle Paul and the author of the epistle to the Hebrews both encourage their readers to avoid bitterness.  Avoiding bitterness requires us to exercise forgiveness so that we are not bound to past hurts and offenses inflicted by others.  The Apostle Matthew records in his Gospel Jesus’s exhortation to not worry about the needs of tomorrow but rather be seeking God’s kingdom in faith. 


The Gospels are full of accounts of Jesus living in the present moment as He ministered during His time on earth.  One of the most powerful examples is described toward the end of the Gospel of Luke, in Chapter 10.  By this time, the Jewish authorities have given Jesus and His disciples good reason to believe that they are looking for a way to get Jesus out of their way, to eliminate their competition, as they see it.  In this chapter, Jesus is clearly preparing for His crucifixion as He foretells the suffering that is coming in Verses 32-34.  But instead of focusing on past conflict with the Jews or on His upcoming suffering, Jesus takes time to bless children—considered insignificant in that culture—to deal patiently with James and John as they asked Him for special treatment, and to heal a blind beggar.  Jesus remains present even when there was a good bit in His recent past and upcoming future to think about.



A few weeks ago, I went out in our back yard for my morning time of dog play.  It was damp, chilly, and foggy.  But as I walked past our miniature Japanese maple tree, I noticed droplets of water clinging to the ends of its many branches, shining.  It was truly magical, and I forgot about the dreary conditions and my lack of enthusiasm for the activity.  Dog play soon commenced, and by the time I walked by the tree again, the light had changed and the droplets of water, while visible, were no longer glowing.  I processed the incident as I collected dogs and tennis balls and went indoors.  Had I not taken that blink of time to appreciate our bare but transformed little tree, the Lord would not have been able to bless me with that glimpse of His creative goodness.  And once again, I am able to see a cycle of blessing: as I pay attention to what is before me in the present, I am blessed with glimpses of the Lord’s personal goodness.  And that attentiveness strengthens my mental health and the ability to remain in the present moment and see more of what the Lord is doing.   



To be alive to the wonder of the commonplace, I thought, that is the very gift of a wildly generous Creator, who ever invites his creatures to contemplate the exuberance of his excellent handiwork.  There is a deep and abiding joy at work in this worlds-realm, and we who toil through our lives do often forget this, or overlook it.  But look: it is all around!  Ceaseless, unrelenting, certain as sunrise, and constant as the rhythm of a heartbeat.

                                                                                                    Stephen Lawhead


Saturday, February 4, 2023

November in February

 February brings Valentine’s Day and thoughts of love and romance.  Perhaps a candlelight dinner at a secluded table for two, soft music in the background, and a special meal of … roast turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie?


Wrong holiday?  Not necessarily!  While the turkey, stuffing, mashed potato, and pumpkin pie menu takes us back to Thanksgiving, there is an important link between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day.  If we want to love well—romantically and otherwise—cultivating a grateful heart is essential.


At Thanksgiving, we are reminded to count our blessings and offer praise and thanksgiving to the Lord for His goodness and gracious provision.  That is a very good thing, especially since giving thanks does not always come naturally to us.  Giving thanks requires us to turn from our all too common and self-focused grumbling and look with eyes of faith toward the Lord and others.  And this looking outward, beyond ourselves, enables and empowers us to love more genuinely and deeply.  


This brings us back to Valentine’s Day.  While romantic dinners and kind gestures toward others can be appropriate expressions of love, I would like to suggest that applying the principles of thanksgiving to those we want to love can be more powerful and longer lasting.  If we want to generate thankfulness in relationship, we need to look at others with that intent, to see beyond their annoying habits, idiosyncrasies, and faults to those qualities that remind us that they are image-bearers of their Creator.  And as we come to appreciate them, we can love them more fully.


The essence of thanksgiving is the giving of thanks.  So as we become thankful for someone, it is essential that in addition to thanking God, we thank the person, express appreciation.  The Apostle Paul models this as he addresses the believers in the church at Thessalonika:


We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father….You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.  I Thessalonians 1:2-3, 6-7.


Paul shepherds the congregations under his supervision with care and attention.  He knows them, and what they are doing.  He thanks God for them and then takes the time to share his appreciation of them in detail.  What an encouragement that must have been for this early church, new in the faith living in a pagan world, and facing the ongoing threat of persecution.  And so it all comes together: Paul has committed his heart and mind toward cultivating gratitude.  He expresses that in the continual giving of thanks, encouraging and blessing others in love.  His encouragement of them reinforces his attitude of gratitude, generating continual encouragement.  It is a theme that runs through his epistles.  


As we seek to love others in this “love month,” may we, like Paul, turn our hearts to the Lord in gratitude and thanksgiving so that we may love as He loves.


Monday, January 2, 2023

A DIWG New Year

 Now that we are past Christmas and the New Year is upon us, it easy to develop a dutiful “the party is over” mindset.  We return to school and/or work.  And, we gear up to pay for the party, so to speak: holiday bills, holiday pounds, exhaustion, and the all-too-common strained family relationships from family gatherings, all of which often generate or exacerbate fatigue, depression, and anxiety.  We pay more attention to budgeting, we ponder the fastest and least painful way to lose weight and gain fitness, we set a new bed time, and we promise ourselves to change our participation in family gatherings even as we sometimes deal with guilt and shame because of our present condition.


It is easy to understand why New Year’s resolutions are a common theme in January.  This is the time of year when we encounter and confront the consequences and the cumulative consequences of our choices, some of them poor ones.  The typical approach to a New Year’s resolution is to browse the ads and offers of a quick DIY fix on our medium of choice.  We plan to get our act together as quickly as possible and then get on with life.  


But the quick DIY approach can be discouragingly counterproductive.  It was first introduced to humanity by no other than Eve in the Garden of Eden.  She engaged in conversation with the serpent by herself, even though Adam was at her side and the LORD was certainly within calling distance.  She made the fateful choice herself, largely attracted by the serpent’s lie that the forbidden fruit would make her wise like God—so that she could continue to do life herself.  We can’t fix ourselves, and when we try, we become self-focused and vulnerable to the pride that was exposed and exploited in the Garden of Eden.  C.S Lewis puts it this way:

            Teachers, in fact, often appeal to a boy's Pride, or as they call it, his 

            self-respect, to make him behave decently: many a man has overcome 

            cowardice, or lust, or ill-temper, by learning to think that they are 

            beneath his dignity--that is, by Pride.  The devil laughs.  He is perfectly 

            content to see you becoming chaste and brave and self-controlled 

            provided, all the time, he is setting up in you the Dictatorship of Pride--

            just as he would be quite content to see your chilblains cured if he was 

            allowed, in return, to give you cancer.  For Pride is spiritual cancer: it 

            eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common 




Another problem with the DIM (“DO IT MYSELF”) approach is that it invites us to become performance oriented.  We follow the way of the world and measure our value and status in society by how well we perform and how closely we conform to the expectations of our culture.  This generates a competitive attitude, making it difficult if not impossible to find contentment and peace and to love as our Lord calls us to love.


We can give up and stay as we are.  We can charge forward to fix ourselves anyway.  Or, we can consider a Biblical approach.  We can put our need before the throne of God that is both perfect and full of grace.  We can DIWG—Do It With God.


The DIWG approach means that we find our identity and value in Christ and our place among His people.  We look for the Holy Spirit to do His sanctifying work in us as we walk in faith and in the fellowship of believers.  We not only talk the talk of faith, but we do our best to walk the walk.  As we worship and minister in the body, our weaknesses and sin patterns will be exposed.  We will be invited to confess and repent, to grow in conforming to the character of Christ.  And as we do that, we will find that becoming whole, as our Creator intended, involves our bodies and minds as well as our souls and spirits.  If we want to become who the Lord created us to be and to fulfill His purposes for us, we need to pursue physical and mental health as well.  


Research has demonstrated that a healthy lifestyle of good nutrition, exercise, and adequate sleep is essential for brain health and our ability to make wise choices.  And brain health and wise choices are essential in our faith walk.  And the cycle continues: Our faith walk—built on deepening and growing relationships with the Lord and His people—also supports a healthy lifestyle as it enables us to fail without shame and to grow as we both humbly and confidently abide in Christ and depend upon the work of the Holy Spirit within us.  


I, for one, find that I am surprised that 2023 arrived so quickly.  I don’t feel that I have managed to clean up after 2022 yet!  But ready or not, 2023 is here.  May we accept the Lord’s invitation to seek wholeness in Him as we in turn invite the resident Holy Spirit to make Himself at home, choosing to keep company with our spiritual brothers and sisters to prosper that work in all of us.