Friday, July 30, 2010

Extending grace

I have a good friend who is a pastor in another part of the country. Tonight I'm responding to an e-mail from him about the legalism of Christians where he is serving and how harsh and cruel we can be as Christians. We so easily imitate the Pharisees of the gospels. We are masters of the rules, but novices of grace. We easily speak for God, but miss his heart and his love for those around us. In the cross of Christ God has redeemed us, forgiven us, justified us.....there is so much more. But in the cross God's grace was poured out upon mankind. It was God's hand reaching out to us to help us up from the crippling effects of all that sin had done. Now, in Christ, we have forgiveness of all sins...past, present and future. Now, in Christ, we have God's grace not only providing what we need for salvation, but much we have his grace to give us all we need to live the Christian life. Now, he has extended his hand to us, he has extended grace to us and invited us to walk in an intimate relationship with him.
There are religious people all around who will try to steal this grace and freedom from you. Don't let them! Celebrate God's grace, enjoy his provision, rejoice in his life. In Christ and through his grace we have "everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires." Rejoice in Him. Don't let anyone steal his grace from you. It's part of your inheritance!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


My friend, David, took this photo. He sent it to me as a screen saver for my phone. David is an amazing photographer and I love the photo. It's the seed for my thoughts this morning. As I looked at this drop of water captured in a fraction of a second I thought about the many visits I have with people. A similar visit happened this morning. One of our men has a crisis of life that is tempting him to simply quit. Because of the moment he's willing to suspend everything, to check out. I reminded him that this moment, these events will change. It's not life ending. It's only a day, a moment.
James described it this way, James 4:14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.
Our eyes would not see this marvelous photo if the camera had not caught this fraction of a second in time. We would have missed it, and yet, we think our events and life situations.....although only a moment in time....are eternal and life changing. The events of life are simply moments in eternity. Like this drop of water about to disappear into the pool around it our problems and situations will change. The moment will pass, our moods will improve, God will work and we will wonder why that moment in time seems so horrible. so important. Life is full of moments that are simply a fraction of eternity. Don't let the moments of time convince you that this is the way it will always be. The moment will pass and you will forget why all of life seemed to be over. The crisis of the moment, the problems of today, the tears of a relationship are moments in eternity. Take those moments to God. Ask him to help you see them clearly. Realize the moment will pass and things will be different, life will change, God will work and we will wonder why the moment seemed so big.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Last words

Last words are important. The last thing someone says is what he wants you to remember as you separate. We often record the last words of famous people. The last words spoken before they are silenced by the grave.

Here are a few last words, I wish time allowed for more-

-Paul Claudel (1868-1955) "Doctor, do you think it could have been the sausage?"

-Grover Cleveland (1837-1908) "I have tried so hard to do the right."

-Karl Marx (1818-1883) "Go on, get out. Last words are for fools who haven't said enough."

-Winston Churchill "Everything is so boring."

-Joan Crawford "Damn it! Don't you dare ask God to help me!"

-John Newton (1725-1807) "I am still in the land of the dying; I shall be in the land of the living soon."

-Polycarp (70-168) "Eighty and six years have I now served Christ, and he has never done me the least wrong: How then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?"

Last words. It's a last chance to share our hearts, our thoughts with those we care about. It's our last chance to praise or rage against the God who made us. This morning I read the last words of Peter, the apostle, and they have challenged me and addressed two things he wanted to share before he died. Here are Peter's last words-

"Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen."

Here are the two things Peter left us, his last words,

1. Stay on the path. You will always have to watch out for error and lawless men.

2. Keep growing. You will need to keep growing until you meet the Lord face to face.

Peter asked only two things of us and both of them involve the bible.

Watch out for errors and keep growing.

What simple last words. What a reality check. These two things are necessary for us until the day we too die. We will always have to stay on the path (watch our doctrine) and we will always need to grow. You never arrive, but are always on the way. You never fully mature, but are constantly growing. You never are above error, you will have to watch out for error and evil men all along your trip. What simply things to leave us with. What profound admonitions. In today's language we would say it this way,

Stay on the path and keep climbing.

You're not there yet!


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Saturday's cartoon

It's amazing what we will fight over when there are so many important things to do.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Where are you?

Where are you?
This is the first question recorded in the bible. It's God's question to Adam,
"where are you?"
He didn't ask this question because he didn't know. He asked because Adam didn't know.
Adam didn't realize the full impact of what his choice of sin had done. He was now "lost" and needed God's help to find his way. Since the fall God has been on a quest for his men and women with the same question, "where are you?" Do you realize you are lost?
Adam responded with three new words, three new experiences he had never known, should have never known. Adam replied, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid." Three new words he had never needed, three new experiences he had never known.
From that moment on we have wandered in fear, feeling naked, needing to hide. From that moment man has been lost. Until a man or woman trusts Christ for forgiveness and salvation they would repeat Adam's words to God. But now, in Christ, we are found. We are no longer lost. Fear is gone, now we know God's love. Nakedness is resolved. We are now clothed in Christ's righteousness. Hiding from God is now replaced with a wonderful fellowship with the God who made us. Once more a man can walk with God. Once more relationship with God can be what he designed it to be....but it's only found in Christ.
God's question to each of is the same one he had for Adam. It's his question to you, "where are you?"

Thursday, July 22, 2010

You know it's going to be a bad day when....

Quote of the day

"God did everything that mattered." -Brandon Scott, missionary

Checking my pulse

It appears that the blog format is no longer a popular one for those roaming the web. Apparently Facebook is the new hang out. It may simply be that my thoughts and posts are not of interest to anyone or that they are "hanging out" somewhere else. Either way, it might be time to let this format die. I would love your feedback, if you are out there, to let me know your thoughts. If there are no responses I will probably begin to phase out this blog as a way to communicate my thoughts. Let me know what you think....

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Quote of the day

God’s kingdom is right side up only when it is upside down.

Who do you answer to?

1 Cor. 11:3 Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ,
This morning I came upon this phrase in a passage I am reading and it caught my attention in a new way. Suddenly I saw that it doesn't say Christ is the head of every CHRISTIAN man, but in fact the claim of this passage is that Christ is the head of EVERY man. Every man answers to Christ because he is their authority, their boss, their Lord. The great battle of mankind is this battle over who do we answer to. The world claims, "I'm my own boss! I answer to no one! I have no head over me." But this verse claims that every man is accountable to Christ, he is the boss. It's this rebellion against his reign in their lives that is the great battle of the human race. It was Satan's rebellion. It was his temptation to Adam and Eve. It's his temptation to me to rebel and be my own boss. It is his invitation to you as don't have to answer to anyone. You are the lord of your own life, but it's not true. Paul is not vague on this when he writes, I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ. What we see around us is the great cosmic rebellion against the Lord of heaven and earth, but one day soon....
at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Focused on the wrong things

I love this cartoon. In just a few words, with an amazing illustration, this cartoonist has focused our attention on what we so easily do- we focus on the wrong things.
If I were to ask this man, assuming he really existed, what his real problem is he would have to conclude that his real problem is a hole in the boat! But, like us, he has his focus on the wrong things.
We easily do that ourselves. We focus on things that aren't all that important when in reality our boat is sinking! I hear it as I listen to discussions about politics, finance, family, marriage and religion. Our default reaction to problems we encounter has three parts- 1. a focus on the wrong things, not really addressing the problem that exists, 2. blame someone else for the problem and, 3. keep doing what we are doing now in hopes that it will all go away.
I think of Jeremiah the prophet, when addressing the sins of Judah. He made it clear to them what was wrong, but their response, like ours so often, was 1. a focus on the wrong things, 2. blame others for the problem they had and, 3. keep doing what they were doing now in hopes it will all go away. Funny, isn't it, how things have not changed much over the years.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Here is a portion of an article on the Fox News sight today that created a host of responses as I read it, sadness, smiles and amazement. It's clear that they simply don't understand baptism at all. Here is part of the article with comments to follow:

U.S. Atheists Reportedly Using Hair Dryers to 'De-Baptize'

"American atheists lined up to be "de-baptized" in a ritual using a hair dryer, according to a report Friday on U.S. late-night news program "Nightline."

Leading atheist Edwin Kagin blasted his fellow non-believers with the hair dryer to symbolically dry up the holy water sprinkled on their heads in days past. The styling tool was emblazoned with a label reading "Reason and Truth."
Kagin believes parents are wrong to baptize their
children before they are able to make their own choices, even slamming some religious eduction as "child abuse." He said the blast of hot air was a way for adults to undo what their parents had done.
"I was baptized Catholic. I don't remember any of it at all," said 24-year-old Cambridge Boxterman. "According to my mother, I screamed like a banshee ... so you can see that even as a young child I didn't want to be baptized. It's not fair. I was born atheist, and they were forcing me to become Catholic."
Kagin doned a monk's robe and said a few mock-Latin phrases before inviting those wishing to be de-baptized to "come forward now and receive the spirit of hot air that taketh away the stigma and taketh away the remnants of the stain of baptismal water."
Ironically, Kagin's own
son became a fundamentalist Christian minister after having "a personal revelation in Jesus Christ."
"One wonders where they went wrong," he chuckled to the TV show."

Sadly, a hair dryer labeled "reason and truth" provided neither for these unbelievers. The story is sad because they simply don't understand the meaning or purpose of baptism which shows they have missed and misunderstood the truth of what God has done for them. Their hair-dryer gimmick shows a complete lack of reason. If they knew or had ever experienced salvation they would know that their little side show was just silly. Reason was not part of this exhibition. I'm sure this stunt was mostly meant for publicity, but I was so humored by it I couldn't help sharing it with you. I do wish these advocates of truth and reason really knew truth and were really interested in reason. Paul wrote that "man's wisdom doesn't even come up to God's dumbest." This little exhibition shows this to be true once more.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The results of faith

I'm amazed, as I read Hebrews 11, that we have so misunderstood faith. Let me start with a few negatives to help clarify this issue,

-faith is not a magic formula
-faith does not have power
-faith is not something I use to get what I want
-I can't have more faith than God has given me
-faith does not promise good results
-you don't need more faith than God has already given

Then, you might ask, what is faith? Faith is our dependence on God for his care and provision. It's a trust in HIS ability to work in our lives. Faith is not something I can make work for me to get things to go my's an unwavering trust in God and his amazing plan for my life. I only have the faith he has given me, it doesn't have to be much, my task is to take my little bit of faith and trust in God who can do all things. All things. It's God who acts, who works, who moves, who faith doesn't DO anything. It's God who does it all. I don't need more faith...I just need to have faith in the right God himself and he can do anything.

But, as I read Hebrews 11 I see this phrase in the later verses, "and others...." These others were men and women of faith as well and did not see good results. Some died for their faith. Others suffered hunger. You can read the list yourself, but what is noteworthy is that they were credited with faith that pleased God. Faith that made it into the hall of faith....even though in our eyes it looks like they failed. How can this be? Don't we have the idea that faith can keep us from harm? If you only have enough faith.... But these men and women had faith, faith that pleased God, and appeared to have failed. What's the answer to this faith puzzle?

It's simply this- trust in God, who will work in your life for HIS glory. You might not always have what you want, what you pray for or trust him for, but HE will take care of you. You don't need more faith, you simply need to take the little bit of faith he has given you and trust him. He will do the rest. By faith....what an amazing phrase. This hall of fame of men and women, both successes and failures in the world's eyes, were applauded by God because they trusted him no matter what happened. That's our call. That's the message of Hebrews God. The rest is up to him.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I'm nearly finished with a book I have fallen in love with. It's titled "50 people every Christian should know." It is a book written by Warren Wiersbe and contains 50 mini-biographies of key people in church history. I am enthralled by this has me thinking. Did any of these people live their lives with the intent of being significant? Did any of them think, "You know, if I do this people will remember who I was?" I don't get that thought from the stories of their lives. I see men and women who are simply living in their time, in the place God has placed them, being what God designed them to be. It's that being what God designed us to be that brought significance...they didn't get it by pursuing it, but by simply living their lives for God. One common thread I see with all these different lives is that no matter where they lived, when they lived, how much money they had or what opportunities they were given, the common thread is this- they sought to live for God. Even from a nothing beginning many of these men and women rose to significance in time and history because of their quest for God. They sought God and God took care of the rest. God gave them a platform, a place, influence and significance. God did the rest when they simply sought to be what HE designed them to be. So often I see people around me looking for a short-cut to significance. There is no short-cut. The only way to make a difference is to be a man or woman in pursuit of God and from that relationship God will take care of the rest. This passion in our time and culture for significance is misdirected. Leaving a mark in our time and in history only comes as we seek to know and walk with God. He will take care of the rest.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Fear and trembling

These are difficult days! People are afraid, nervous and unsure of what to expect next. It seems, to many, that everything is crumbling...everything is falling apart. Fear and trembling is our response. In America we have had an easy life....until now. We have been blessed, but now even our economy is struggling. Many have lost everything in this crisis. Others fear the days ahead. There is much to worry about.

This morning, as I read, I came to these words from Solomon in Ecclesiastes, "When times are good, be happy, but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other." Good times are from God. We would all respond "AMEN!" But when he adds bad times are from God as well, our response is less enthusiastic. We are thrilled to be blessed, but not so excited about what God is doing when days like these come.

God's answer? consider. Consider what you are depending on. Consider what God is doing. Consider who you trust for your needs. Consider what is important. Consider. We have been a most blessed country, but if times get tough we respond with fear and trembling instead of trust in God. God tells us that he will meet our needs....even in difficult days. In a time of fear and trembling we have a wonderful opportunity to trust God who promises to care for us. When things become difficult consider....are you trusting God or have you been trusting your job, your savings, your retirement plan? David wrote these amazing words in Psalm 37,

"I was young and now I am old,
yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread."

Quote of the day

"I never worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will be good because it is in God's hands." -Haitian pastor speaking about life in Haiti after the earthquake. (60 Minutes, 7-11-2010)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Quote of the day

Live as though Christ died yesterday,
rose from the grave today,
and is coming back tomorrow.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Trying something new

This morning I went to the donut shop, a Saturday tradition at our house, and got maple bars with bacon on them. My donut shop owner had never heard of such a thing, but made them for me anyway. They were great. I highly recommend them!

Saturday's cartoon

Friday, July 09, 2010

The rest of the story

A fellow pastor, Bill, shared this video on Facebook and I wanted you to see it here as well. It's an idea that has been done many times, but this one is especially good. I hope it challenges you and gives you hope as well.

Cardboard Stories from The Austin Stone on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

The pace of life

Most of the time life is lived at a frantic pace. I know my own life is usually like a Ferris wheel with a turbo charger. The pace of life can make it hard to stop and evaluate what we really need to be doing.

I think that's one of the devil's best victories- keep Christians so busy with what is urgent that they never stop to evaluate what is important. And so, most of us would say we are very busy, almost with a little pride mixed in, because being busy is a sign that we are doing something, but are we really?

Is the pace of life keeping you focused on what is urgent and not what is important? Jesus, probably the busiest man of history, would often sneak away to pray. There are times noted in scripture when he spent the entire night in prayer...taking time away from the frantic pace of the Ferris wheel with the turbo charger, always spinning, but ultimately going nowhere. Jesus taught us what was most important...time with God.

David wrote in Psalms an invitation from God, "Be still and know that I am God." In the midst of the urgent there is a very real need to step away from it all and focus on what is important...a time alone with God that brings all the craziness into focus. Why do we hurry about so frantically? In our culture it's a sign of success, it makes us feel important. But take a moment to realize that the God of creation invites us to step aside from it all and just be with him....what could be more important? What could be more restful? What could clear our vision to the craziness of keeping up with everyone around us?

God's invitation and Jesus' example should invite us to step off the Ferris wheel and walk alone with God for a bit. It will clear your head.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Things to do on vacation

I'm on vacation for a couple weeks. We are getting ready to paint the inside of our house. It hasn't been done since we have been here, so it's about time. So, to get ready, we have to clear all the walls, clean up and get rid of all the clutter. While I have the time off I am also making a headboard for our bed. We have never had one, so I thought I would make one. For some that would be a small thing, but there are three problems, 1. I am not handy, 2. I don't have the tools I need, and 3. I don't know how to do it. This makes for a perfect comedy of errors or becoming a master of making something in a way it's never been done before. I think I am experiencing a little of both. I have the headboard partially made. There are some problems, but I think I can sand them away. The hard part has been doing all of this without the tools I need to make it right. Everything is harder if you don't have the tools for the task.
I think it works that way in the Christian life as well. That's why we are instructed to put God's word into our hearts and minds. It teaches us how to do things the right way. It gives us the tools we need to do things well. It makes every decision much easier. A Christian without the tools in God's word will find it much harder to live the Christian life, to do what God wants you to do. You simply don't know how and you don't have the tools you need for the task.
My wife is kindly excited about my project. She says she will be proud of my efforts. But it would be much better if I had the tools I need and if I knew what I was doing. Hopefully I can get this project finished tomorrow. I do want it to look good. Regardless of the outcome I'm glad I tried to do something like this. Now I know how important the tools of a craft are. Now I understand how important it is to know what you're doing.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Getting back to the basics

"We have water. Thank you Lord."
This short praise was on Facebook this morning from a dear friend, Ruth Scott. She and her husband, LJ, are in Haiti as missionaries. Before the earthquake Haiti was a hard place to live, but since the earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands it's become much harder. And so, this morning, Ruth is thankful for the simple things...for water. It made me think. I haven't thanked the Lord once for water in recent years. It's always there! I've not been grateful for the simple things that are "normal" because they are always there. You only begin to be thankful when you don't have it and then it's once more restored.
Paul wrote, "Give thanks in (for) all things for this is the will of God for you." Why don't I do that? How do I take things for granted so if it's my due? I haven't thanked the Lord for air conditioning in a long time. I haven't said "thank you" to God for a place to live, a great vocation, amazing people to hang out with and a host of other things. I think this is what Jesus meant when he talked about a hard heart. It's a heart that doesn't acknowledge God and realize I only have these things because he gives them to me. I'm sorry, Lord, that I have become so hard of heart. It wasn't on just happened. So, let me join Ruth's voice this morning and say "Thank you, Lord, for water. You are most kind to bless me so richly. Help me to not be a thankless brute as I've easily become in the past. Help me to live with a keen awareness of your provision and say thank you for it."

Monday, July 05, 2010


This evening I found an old photo CD that was in a computer we are getting rid of tomorrow. Funny how quickly computers become useless. On the CD were dozens of family photos that are priceless to us. On the CD were some photos I took on a trip to Haiti in early 2005. Joye and I went to Haiti to teach a retreat for the missionaries on the western part of the island. We had a great time with them. As I looked through the photos I began to think back on the people I met, talked to and counseled. I wonder....what did those days in Haiti accomplish for the days that followed? It's funny how little we know about the days ahead, but how blessed we are to be able to care for and encourage each other today. God will take care of tomorrow. Tonight I'm just reflecting on memories of good days in early 2005.

Wise choices

Psalm 1-
1 Oh, the joys of those who do not
follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with mockers.
2 But they delight in the law of the Lord,
meditating on it day and night.
3 They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
and they prosper in all they do.
All of life seems to be a matter of making good choices, little choices, that add up to the sum total of our lives. A man who hangs out with fools soon becomes one himself. Make friends with an angry man and you will become angry. A woman who lives a loose life quickly is labeled for her choices. The young man who "just wants to have fun" will soon discover that the fun he longed for has eluded him. Wise choices are about who we hang out with, where we go, what we do and what we read. From those choices our lives show the "fruit" of the choices, the little choices we make....there is evidence to the world around us of the choices we made. Everyone will see the results.
This short chapter at the beginning of Psalms is one of my favorites. It begins with the little choices of association and quickly moves to the results of relationships. It contrasts the advice of fools with the wisdom of God's word. It reveals the results of right choices. The picture it paints in six short verses is vivid. It's a passage that has been written about and discussed as long as I have been a Christian. Wise choices have to do with who you listen to, who you hang out with and what you read. All of those things are small things by themselves, but they add up and determine the kind of man or woman we are....everyone will see the fruit of our choices. This beginning chapter in the book of Psalms should be memorized by every believer. It's a wonderful reminder of the results of our little choices. It's a wonderful guide for making wise choices.

The tour has begun

The "Tour de France" has begun. Once more a host of amazing athletes do the impossible and literally race across France and through the mountains to fame or failure in Paris at the end of the month and several thousand miles of riding.

It's the one sporting event I really enjoy. It is long, difficult and a combination of individual and team sport in one. I've learned a lot about the church by watching this race over the years. It's a wonderful lesson in teamwork. I hope you get the opportunity to watch a portion of the race through the month. I plan to catch as many stages of the race as I can.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Happy Birthday, America!

Happy Birthday, America! It's been pretty tough in recent years, but it is wonderful to be part of such a great country and history. Personally, I'm thankful that we have such a rich Christian heritage of men and women living for God. America is the result of Christians living out their faith in the way they formed our country. I'm glad to be part of this amazing country. Happy Birthday!

Friday, July 02, 2010


I've been thinking about something I read a few days ago. It has really challenged me! I've been thinking about a post I read on a site I visit often. It's written by an atheist. My intent is not to challenge them, but to read his thoughts as challenges to me and his post did that. The title of the post was harsh, but I have been thinking about it.....
Here is the title of his post:
There are a number of things I could say about the title alone, but let me simply direct my comments to the walk of the Christian believer- what does a personal relationship with Jesus Christ look like? How do you know when you have one? Is your relationship with Jesus Christ one you could describe to me? Is your relationship with him anything like any other relationship? Is it what you want it to be? My questions for my own faith from this title are many, but my personal challenges are simple....what is my relationship with Jesus Christ like? Could I articulate it to someone else? Is it what I want it to be? And, how do I pursue a more authentic relationship with Jesus Christ in my daily life?
I know the article was meant as an attack upon the Christian's faith, but it actually challenged me to pursue my relationship with Jesus in a more passionate way. I am definitely challenged!