Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Don't be afraid...

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
    Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
    I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

A friend posted this verse on another site this morning.  It's always encouraging to be reminded of truth that touches your life in a moment, truth that resonates with your very soul.  This is one of those verses.  

"Don't be afraid..."  Why not?  And here is God's reason not to fear, "for I am with you."  You are not alone. God himself walks with you to comfort you, protect you, to be with you.  That is the most important thing you will read all day- if you are God's child "he is with you", you are not alone, it's not all on you to win the day, beat away the dragons, defeat the enemy.  God is with you.  

Dwell on those four words for a moment.  How would your day change if you lived like that were true?  It is true by the way.

"Don’t be discouraged..."  Why not? Once more, here is God's reason for this admonition,  "for I am your God."  I don't know about you, but discouragement is one of my plagues.  I fight it off frequently.  I don't think I've ever spent a moment to let this truth sink into me that the reason I shouldn't let discouragement win the day is because God is MY God.  The only God who exists is MY God and the result? I don't have to be discouraged.  

Two admonitions for the day.  Two reasons for the admonitions.  Both are connected to the nature, character and person of God.  In the moments that tempt you to fear or discouragement pause and read this passage.  It's the words of a loving father calming a distraught child.  It's the love of a parent holding the broken one sobbing from pain.  It's the loving hand of the father reaching out to hold my hand and calm me.  It's Father telling me, "It's ok, I'll take care of you."  

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

God's love and our reality

Fears abound in days like these.

All around me I see trouble, crisis, violence, cultures collapsing, fearful change on a daily basis.  Fear and change is the diet of our day and it only gives us indigestion.  How do we deal with these days?  How do we live with all that is happening around us?  Do we let fear rule us or do we find an oasis in the midst of the storms of world events to find peace?  Where do we find a place of peace in the midst of these hurricanes of fear?

Here it is,

"Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?  As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.” No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord."  -Romans 8

The hiding place we seek, the relief from the storms of fear we desire is the love of Christ.  It's this passage that gives peace to so many in the midst of the storms of fear, violence and world events.  In the middle of the storms of your days you can (and should) find a place of calm in the love of Christ.  It provides the peace, the calm, the confidence to deal with any reality we might face.  

God's love doesn't promise we will escape the storm, but it gives us  a place of peace and rest, calm and confidence while all around us fear prevails.  Listen to and meditate on these words, they will change your life if you let them- "No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord." 

Today, in the midst of your reality, as chaotic and fearful as it might seem, take a moment and step into the love of God, the assurance that he loves you and will care for you no matter what happens around you or even to you.  It will calm your fears, quiet your heart and give you peace in the midst of a world of storms.

Nothing will ever separate me (or you) from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus my Lord.  It's the calm in the storms of my day that I run to when fears and chaos overwhelm me.  

How strange that the solution to all our problems is not world peace, but the love of Christ.  How would your day change if you took a moment away from the storm to rest in his love for you?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Trunk or Treat

Last night we had a great time in our church parking lot with something called "Trunk or Treat".  I had never heard of it before, but it was a great success and a lot of fun.  We had hundreds of beautiful and sugar loaded kids going from car to car to get candy and have fun in a safe environment.  I hope we do it again.  

Friday, October 26, 2012

Happy Birthday!

Today is my sweet wife's birthday!  It's so great to spend these years with such an amazing lady.  Happy Birthday sweetie!

Monday, October 22, 2012

The dissipation of days

Gradually, day by day, I'm dissipating myself into the days behind me.  Each twenty-four hours I leave a bit of myself in those moment and in the lives of the people I touch.  There is a dissipation of days that gradually, day by day, leaves bits of me behind in the day and in the lives of others.

Here is a really strange question for you to ponder- How are you dissipating your days?

Strange question to ask, isn't it?  

We are each, moment by moment, dissipating our lives into the days we live, into the lives we encounter, into the events we are part of.  

What are you leaving behind you?  How has your presence affected the life of that waitress?  The man in the next car on the freeway?  The cashier at 7-11?

There are times, as we struggle in our own lives, that our passing feels like sand in the eyes of the one we just encountered.  There are times when those behind us regret they ever met us.  And then there are others times when our passing changed a life for the good...for the glory of God.

Each day, each moment, we dissipate our lives into time and into the lives of others.  

What are you leaving behind?  

What will others remember?  

How have you changed other lives by your passing?

How is eternity changed as you dissipate your days?


Today good friends of ours celebrate 20 years of marriage.  They have been tough years, difficult at times and we wondered if they would make it....if their marriage would survive.  It has!  We are most excited to see their faith in God, love for each other and obedience to their promises come to this day of celebration.  On Facebook this morning Rose wrote, 

"Our 20th anniversary is today. Our marriage is a testimony to the grace and wisdom of God. 5 years ago we had given up. Now we are best friends. Mike is the best husband. I couldn't ask for any better. I am so grateful and extremely blessed."

Today we celebrate with them their love and the rewards of trusting God with their lives together.  Happy Anniversary!

Friday, October 19, 2012

The purpose of practice

What is the purpose of practice?   Practice means you haven't mastered something yet, but are working on it.  Here's a simple definition from the dictionary,

Practice-  repeated performance or systematic exercise for the purpose of acquiring skill or proficiency. 

It's the work we do so it doesn't look like it took any effort at all to do it.  It's mastery of a skill.  Archers shoot hundreds of arrows at a target until they are able to hit the center with precision.  Gymnasts practice hours each day to make impossible feats of gymnastics seem effortless.  

Practice makes a hack at the piano a master musician who draws thousands to hear him play.  When we say, "I wish I could do that."  He would reply, "You can if you practice eight hours a day for about 20 years."  Practice.  It's the disciple we use to master something and become proficient at it.

My wife recently had surgery.  She didn't look for a doctor who was new to this type of surgery. She looked for someone who had done thousands of them.  Why?  His practice had made him a master at this difficult procedure.

You get the idea, don't you, but I'm sure you're wondering where I'm going with all this.  I'm setting the stage for these amazing and often overlooked words from Jesus,

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven."  -Jesus, Matthew 6

What he didn't say is "don't practice..."  He said be careful how and where you practice.  Then, for the rest of the chapter he deals with the things he wants any disciple to master by practice- prayer, giving, fasting, etc. What we often miss in the words of Jesus is this- you will be practicing these things to master them, just be careful where and how you do it.

Today some are revisiting the very idea of practice and it has many confused.  What this whole discussion is about is simply this- sanctification.  All of these things Jesus talks about in Matthew 6 are simply the disciplines of sanctification.  They are things we do to grow into Christlikeness.  And, clearly Jesus knew we needed practice so he gives us guidance to perfect our practice.

What's the goal?  Hebrews 10:14-  "He has made perfect forever those who are becoming holy."  The goal of practice is to become like the one who has saved us.  It's the practice of perfecting godliness (2 Cor. 7:1) 
 and doing it intentionally that produces Christlikeness.*  Then, one day, after all your practice, you will hear these words, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

*A comment that will arise is this- "But what about the Holy Spirit's work in us. You left that out."  Yes, I left it out for brevity. I am very aware that godliness and Christlikeness must happen as the Holy Spirit works in us and with us, but for brevity and focus on the topic I left this portion of sanctification for another day.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The politics of the Universe

"All authority has been given to Me 
in heaven and on earth." -Jesus

As I watch the politics of the day in my own country I read a lot of fear in the comments made by many people of faith.  The words go something like this, "We can't let that candidate win.  Our country will never be the same if he gets in office!"  Driving it all is a fear that reveals a poor understanding of who is really in charge.

I've been thinking and meditating on this passage spoken by Jesus as he neared the end of his time on earth.  The words are a claim that addresses all our fears in only 12 words.

If Jesus' words are true then there are some things we must make part of our thinking and our lives.  If he is right then here is what we must believe and live out,

Jesus is sovereign.  He's in charge of everything everywhere!  Nothing happens apart from his doing it or his allowing it to happen. This is true in the seen AND unseen worlds.

Jesus is king.  King over every king on this planet and any other planet.  All kings report to him and are accountable to him.

Jesus is Lord.  Lord over all the lives and affairs of men and angels.  Things we can see and things we can't.  He is Lord of all.

Jesus is in control. He's in control of who rules every country, every nation, every kingdom.  He controls the events and directions of nations. He's in control of everything.

Jesus is judge.  Jesus is the judge of all men and their choices.  Good or bad all men will report to Jesus Christ and be judged by him.  There will be a day when all the evils around us will be dealt with and Jesus is the one we will all face.

Jesus is the one who presides over the affairs of men.  He is the Lord of Lords and king of kings.  When we fearfully squabble about who will rule our countries, thinking they will save us from ourselves, we find that no man will make things right but Jesus alone.  He is the only one who will right the wrongs done, fix the problems we face, quiet the fears we experience.  Only he can be the ruler we long for....and he is!  He is the ruler of all and will soon establish his rule here.

And here's the best part....he's good, kind, loving, forgiving, merciful, gracious, caring, empathetic, honest, understanding and he is one of us!  He understands.

Although we long for a "king" who will make all things right that longing will only be fulfilled when we make Jesus king of our lives and ultimately see him be king of all.  Until then we need to remember that ALL authority has been given to him and we are in good hands.

Have a nice day.

Monday, October 15, 2012

A spiritual walkabout

You may have noticed I haven't posted much lately.  There are times when I overflow with thoughts and the work of God in my life.  Then there are times when there is nothing in the well.  Empty, searching, wandering.  I'm in a time like that right now.  It's a time of walkabout.  Once more working on my walk with God and in those times there simply isn't much to say.  I will return with arms full of insights as I discover more of God and more of me, but for now....for the moment.....I'm on a spiritual walkabout.  Wandering a bit, but never lost.  I'll be back soon.......

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Photo walk

This morning I had the opportunity to go on a photo walk in downtown Dallas with a couple guys from our church.  It was a great morning for a walk and a chance to take a few photos.  Here are a few shots of the art work in the area we walked.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The problem of thorns

"The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced." -Mark 4

One of the things I see a lot is the distraction of the world.  It's not always the lure of good things.  Sometimes it's simply a lack we think should be part of a life pleasing God.  Often we find we are discouraged by how difficult things really are and we become unfruitful, ineffective, discouraged, disappointed.

The passage above is just one portion of the story Jesus told about the problems the world around us can cause.  For this particular illustration Jesus used thorns to describe what can keep us from being fruitful.  Thorns are painful.  They are meant to be.  They were designed to protect the host plant from animals and humans.  The pain of the prick causes us to step back, avoid the course ahead and find another way. 

The thorns Jesus mentions are these three- the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things.  Normally we don't consider these "thorns" but Jesus did because they keep us from our path, from following him.  The pain of these thorns cause us to look for another route, an easier one.  "This is just too hard" and so we look for another way.   A path where there is no pain, no thorns.

We look for a way where worry isn't a problem.

We look for wealth. (We have been told that will solve everything!)

We look for "other things" (how general is that?) 

But at the heart of each is a thorn that causes pain and forces us to find a different way.  We look for a path without pain, without thorns, where we can find happiness instead of worries, wealth instead of needs, pleasure instead of pain. 

As a result we never see fruit in our lives.  The pain of the thorns made us abandon the quest to follow Christ.  "The message is crowded out" and we forget our original quest.  The gps screams at us "recalculating..." but we lose our way because of the distractions that caused our pain.  Thorns, intended to protect the plant, can, by the pain of the encounter cause us to change our path and lose our way and ultimately never become what God had designed us to be. 

Thorns are never a sign you are on the wrong path.  In fact they may actually indicate you are right on course!  Pain is never a reason to change direction, but like the thorns in my bushes at home, they force us to find a way to deal with their pain and persevere anyway.  

Our goal?  Fruitfulness.  Don't let the pain of the thorns distract you from your quest to know God. Besides, what do they say in advertising?  No pain, no gain....awww, now we are there....with the gain of the quest there will always be the pain of the journey.  Don't let the thorns along the way ever discourage you from the quest to know Christ!  They are simply part of the trip.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The love of God

This afternoon I had coffee with a friend.  It was great to visit with her again.  We haven't had a time for coffee in several years so today was special.

She wanted to hear about my time away from the church and what I learned.  What was to be just an hour went into nearly two.  We talked about what my wife and I discovered in our time away.  We talked about what I read.  But most of all we talked about the love of God.

I think most Christians believe that God loves them, but have never really known that love.  That was something she had prayed I would find and indeed I did.  I found it in a gift I had held for someone else for more than 40 years.  

The bible describes in wonderful detail how much God loves us.  It is the reason for the gospel story and the high cost God was willing to pay to purchase his lost love back, but many do not really understand it.  We often have so much baggage from our past, from our childhood, that it's hard to see how grand and glorious that love is.

All this to say that the most important discovery and treasure of any life is the discovery of God's love.  It's much better than you could possibly imagine and more glorious than you even know.  If you aren't sure about this "Christian thing" it's simply described in this way- God loves us and has paid a very high price to purchase us from slavery, to take us "home with him" and all he asks is that we say yes to this wonderful gift and give him our lives.  

Monday, October 08, 2012

Happy Birthday Alice!

Our wonderful granddaughter, Alice, is 10 today.  She is a most amazing young lady and one of the funniest people I know.  

We are so blessed to have such sweet and beautiful grandkids.  Happy Birthday sweetie!

Sunday, October 07, 2012


"EVERYTHING without complaining or arguing."  Phil 2:14

This is the application of the verse, "Let this attitude be in you which was also in Christ." Phil. 2:5.  It's profound in it's meaning.  In these verses Paul is telling the reader that if we have the same attitude that Christ had we will not complain or argue.  AND, complaining and arguing are clear red flags for us that we are not trusting God.

Interesting thoughts, especially in a culture where complaining is a sport.  Arguing is normal.  How do we change our responses to the events of our life? How do we voice our responses in a different way?

Those are the issues I hope to deal with today in my sermon.  Let me know if you want me to unpack this further here.  I would love to tell you more, but will simply leave you with these thoughts and invite your inquiry into the "rest of the story". 

Friday, October 05, 2012

Have you noticed?

Have you noticed...

That we are in an amazing universe.

That, according to scientist, this may be one of the few planets with life on it.

That we, as living beings, think about these things and wonder why we are here, how we got here and who made us?

That, although there is evil around us, we all believe in and want the good.  We have a morality built into us.  Even the atheist has a moral baseline.

That we love, think, reason, want, hurt, grieve and hope.  All of these are the unknowable things that come from outside of ourselves.  Where did they come from?  How did we, unlike the animals around us, become beings who love, think and hope?

That life is more than breathing in and out.  It's more than just food.  It's about significance, about living for something.

Where did this come from?  Why are we like this? Why do we even ask these questions?  If we are just animals then we would never think about grand things like this, but we do.

Have you noticed that all we are...our loves, our thoughts, our hopes and desires...tell us that there is a God who made us.  As C.S. Lewis writes it is our inevitable conclusion if we are thinking clearly at all.

Have you noticed that the way we are made, the universe around us and the questions we ask tell us that God is there.  

Have you noticed him?  Do you realize that all he has made is designed to focus your attention on Him?  Have you noticed?


200,000 page views on "Finishing Well" as of this morning!  I'm amazed that so many have visited.  Thank you all for the moments you invest here and the comments you have shared.  It's been a joy for me to work through these many posts and I hope some of them have been an encouragement.  So, for all who have visited, thank you.

Thursday, October 04, 2012


 “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! 38 Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart."  -Jesus, John 7

Thirst is a wonderful thing if you're able to quench it. We are creatures who need water.  We are dependent on it.  Without it we dry up and wither away.  

We can live for weeks without food, but only days without water and our thirst tells us of our need....a dry mouth, a driven need for water.  It's a need we must satisfy all through our days.  Without it we die.

"Anyone who is thirst may come to me," Jesus declared in the temple on the last day of feast.  It was an important declaration, profound in fact, and it was not missed by the Jews.  He declared that just as we need water for our bodies we need him for our souls. 

He declared to all of humanity that he is the living water that can quench a thirsty soul.  There is no other solution for this soul thirst but him.  Just as water is the solution for physical thirst and hydration Jesus is the solution for our souls.

But what do we see?  We see a world living without him.  We know what physical thirst looks like, feels like, but what does spiritual thirst look like?  What are the signs that the world is dying of thirst for the only solution available- Jesus?  

Insatiable.  It's the word we use for those who have an appetite for something and can never get full.  It's how we feel when we are thirsty, it's how our soul responds when spiritual water is missing in our lives. 

There is only one solution, Jesus, but the world for the most part rejects this solution, so what is the result? We try to quench our spiritual thirst by filling our lives with inadequate substitutes and we are never satisfied, our thirst is never quenched.

Until we come to Jesus for the water that truly satisfies, until we have him, we will find our soul thirst insatiable but never satisfied. He is the only water that can quench our thirst and give us life.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012


Are there days when you feel "blessed"?  Days when the sun is shining and all is right with your world?  We all have had that sense that the sun is shining on us and God likes us.  I know that feeling as well as most, but today was a day when you might not use that word to describe my day.

I wonder why we think this word "blessed" only applies when things are going well, when all is right with our lives and world?  If the word "blessing" only applies when things are good then what word would you use to describe your life when things are not so good?  Does "cursed" describe the other pole in this discussion?

Do you consider yourself blessed?  Do you only think that when you win the lottery, when you get that raise, when the tornado misses your house, when you kids get scholarships to college, when you're in the 50% that didn't get laid off from work?  

Let me frame these questions in a different way- do our circumstances determine whether we are blessed or not?  And, what does "blessed" really mean in a fickle world like this anyway?  

This whole discussion was the theme of the book of Job.  It was a hotly debated topic for Job's friends.  Job must have done something wrong because God is not "blessing him" any longer (their words, not mine), but what if blessing has nothing to do with our situation, our circumstances?  What if it isn't about good things OR bad?  I'm asking a lot of questions here on purpose.  I'm trying to unpack this myself as I reflect on the day.

No one would look at my day and called me "blessed" but I am, and it had nothing to do with good things OR bad.  It has everything to do with who I am in relationship with.  The idea of being blessed is woven into the very idea of knowing God.  It's a relationship that generates this word as commentary of a life....even when the tornado does hit my house, the car breaks down, the dog dies, I get laid off and lose everything.  

You see being blessed is all about who you know not how the day went or what you have.  I think we miss this too easily, I know I do, but this afternoon as I watched a nurse interact with my wife and I and heard her say (not is these exact words) "Boy are you guys blessed!"  I knew in that commentary from a nurse I didn't know that she saw in us the blessing of knowing God (and it sure wasn't because of how the day went!)  

Today and every day, good days and bad, I am blessed, and so are you, because we know God.  That's what "blessed" really means.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Vote, It's important

We have a great responsibility in this country that few others enjoy....we are able to be part of the governing process by voting.  
It's important that you be part of the process and vote.  

It's important, vote!

A prayer in the night

Lord,  it's the middle of the night and I'm awake.
I think of you at times like this...times of quiet, times when all the distractions of the world are gone and in the silence I am aware that you are there.

Lord, I love you.  I know it's not a perfect love. Like a child expressing his love for his parents my love for you is only in its infancy, but I do love you and want to love you more. 

Lord, I need you.  Of this I am most aware.  I need you for breath, for direction, for peace, for salvation, for everything.  I need you.  I'm keenly aware of how much I need you and know that need will never decrease.  As I depend on you for all of life help me to not fear the threats of the world around me.

Lord, I'm like a child.  I'm dependent on you for everything and I'm glad for that dependence.  Even as I trust you for all things help me to grow into the mature believer you want me to be, a man of God fully trusting you for my every moment.

Lord, I praise you.  I know some prayer models tell me this comes first, but all of this prayer is praise, I just want to tell you that I'm so thankful that you are the God who found me, loves me, saves me, watches me, cares for me, smiles at me, helps me and yet never condemns me.  I praise you  because you are simply amazing.  What a wonderful God you are.  Thank you for showing us that you love us.  There is no other god who loves his creation as you do.  Thank you for your love.

Lord, thank you for listening in the middle of the night.  What an amazing God you are.  Even in the silence I know you are there and you hear me.  Thank you  for listening to these feeble words of need and praise.  I offer them to you as an offering and sacrifice of worship.  You are most wonderful and glorious.  Thank you for your love, for your forgiveness, for your care.  Thank you that you love a broken feeble creature like me.  Because of you I am blessed.

Thank you.