Tuesday, January 29, 2013

William Cowper

My wife shared a story with me this week about the friendship between the great hymn writer, John Newton and his friend, William Cowper.  William was an equally great poet, hymn writer and Christian, but I had never read his story before.  

William also struggled with depression that plagued him his entire life. The dark cloud of depression never left for William.  For some reason, although he knew the truth of God's word, he thought his situation was different, that he was under God's judgment.  He wasn't able to escape the darkness.

We all struggle with the storms of life, but most of us have days of calm, times when the sun is shining and we enjoy its warmth.  There are others, like William, who never see the sun, even on a clear day, but live with the constant and heavy weight of depression.

There are a host of scriptures that deal with this, but the passages that have helped me when darkness sets in are the words of David in Psalms.  I think, like Cowper, David struggled with depression, discouragement and times when he thought life was over.  I think we all have those struggles and to help us God included David's journals in the bible.  We call it the book of Psalms.  They are rich with the cries of a man depressed.  They ring with joy at times of happiness.  David was a man after God's own heart, he wanted to know God and sought him, but he also struggled and voiced it.  I'm so glad God heard David's voice and shared his words with us.

Men like David and William Cowper encourage me with the knowledge that God knows and cares.  Even in the dark hours, the times of grief and depression God is there to comfort and help us. He is our hope, our refuge, our fortress. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Thursday, January 24, 2013

In case you wondered...

Have you noticed?  The world hasn't ended yet.  In spite of all we have tried to do to each other, to the planet, to our unborn babies we are still here.  That's the grace and mercy of God you are seeing.  Peter wrote about it when he said,

"The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to be saved."   2 Peter 3

He's waiting for all of us to seek him, to know him, to find salvation.  Some ask me, "if God's so loving why does he send so many people to hell?"  My answer is really quite simple...he's not! He's doing everything he can to keep us out of that terrible place of judgment.  

In this time of grace God is reaching out to everyone and extending an invitation to life!  It's free, it's eternal....and he's waiting for those who haven't trusted him yet.  Do you know that?  Have you told those around you?  

The end hasn't come because God is merciful and gracious....but one day this time of grace will end.  Don't miss the offer of life that God has extended to everyone!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Don't worry....

My wife posted this verse from Matthew 6 on Facebook this morning (it's one of her favorites),

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today." –Jesus (from Matthew 6)

It’s convicting each time I read it.  I’m always amazed how quickly and easily I fall into worry and fear.  We all do it….as if we could really change something or fix it by worrying…what silly little creatures we are. 

Jesus sums up his sermon on worry with the words I quoted. The reason he could invite us to this strange place of trust is because of, 1. the power of God to meet our needs and, 2. the love of God that moves him to do so.  

The conclusions Jesus makes have foundations in the very heart and nature of God himself.  If, like so many today, he simply said, “Don’t worry” but gave us no reason not to we would all smile and dismiss him.  But Jesus based his invitation on God himself.  Don’t worry. God loves you and he is able to address and meet your needs.  He is a big God!  Enjoy your day.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Martin Luther King Jr. day

Today we remember a great man in our recent history.  He had weaknesses, as we all do, but he made a difference.  Today I leave you with his quote above.  A great way to remember him and start the week.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The quest to see

Photo by: Andrzej Radka 

I've been thinking about my own quest to see, my passion to know the truth of who I am, who made me, why I'm here.....and ultimately what I'm supposed to be doing with this gift of life.  

We only have a few decades of life and then we are gone.  Why are we here?  What is this all about?  Those questions and others are answered with authority from a thousand different sources.  All of them claim to know the meaning of life...why we are here, what it's all about.  The voices are as varied as you could possibly imagine.  There is no other topic on our planet that has such varied answers as the topic of purpose.

And so we each find ourselves on a quest to see...to know who made us and why.  We each seek purpose, meaning, value in this life.  We are all on a quest to see.  Some will tell you there's nothing to see, don't even bother.  Others tell you they have the answers so you don't need to go on the quest at all, just sit at their feet and they will tell you about the light, about the meaning of life.  Still others will say that the quest itself is the goal and seeing isn't important, but I would counter then why go at all?  A quest without a goal is just a walk in the woods.  

The quest to see is born in us all.  Some are passionate about seeing and knowing, others have given us claiming no one can know...and on it goes...but here's the one thing I want to say today as I write these words...the very fact that you want to know why you are here means there is a reason, there is a purpose and it's not in you, you have to seek it.

I'm sure there are readers who would expect me, as a Christian, to now tell you what the quest is all about, what you will see at the end, why you are here.  I'm not going to do that.  My invitation is simple, it's important....here it is:  you are here on purpose.  You life has meaning and a reason.  Find out what it is, find out who or what made you, seek it out.  Don't just take the word of some pastor or professor in university, go on the quest yourself!

We are here for a reason.  I invite you on the quest to see....to see and know why.....

Thursday, January 17, 2013


This morning, as I'm reading Romans once more, I came to this one little sentence and then stumbled as just a few words in the sentence caught my attention.  Here is the portion of Romans 14 that stopped me and then I want to drill down even further to just the few words that made me stop reading.

 "Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died."

The words that made me pause were these, "someone for whom Christ died."  In those five words is captured the worth of every man.  As I unpack these thoughts the word pictures are exploding in my mind of all this implies.  At the core is this-  my worth is not in what I have, who I am, what I have accomplished, how good looking I am, how famous I become, but in who was willing to die for me.

When we measure our worth by human standards we are always striving for more...more to make us feel worthy, but imagine that someone else set your worth, established your value by dying for you.  Suddenly all that we strive for to feel worth, to be important, pales in light of the identity God gave us.

You and I are "someone for whom Christ died."  Your worth is set by God, not by other fickle men who change their minds tomorrow.  These five words should be burned into the minds of every man, woman, boy and girl....you are important, you have worth because Christ died for you.  

My worth now is not based on what I do, how much I achieve, how popular I am, but it's based on what someone else has done....I'm important, I'm valuable because Christ died for me. I am priceless to God!

Are you struggling with worth, feeling valuable, feeling like you make a difference?  You need to know that you are someone for whom Christ died.  That makes you more valuable than any money, fame or power can ever give you.  That takes all the pressure off of you.  You are priceless, you are valuable because Christ died for you.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sweet words

"Pleasant words are a honeycomb,
Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones."
Proverbs 16:24

Our words make a difference.  They can  heal and comfort or hurt and cut to the heart.  We are most creative AND most destructive when we speak.  We choose which we will do...build up, encourage, love and comfort or hurt, destroy, and wound.  Words are powerful!

Last week, as we dealt with the death of a dear family member, I watched her mother, wounded and hurting, using words of love, healing, and encouragement.  With each one she met her words were sweet, healing, like a warm blanket to the hearer.  They each lingered to hear more.  I was amazed as I watched.  People flocked to her like hungry birds to bread scattered on the ground. 

She, the one hurting from the loss of her only daughter, was encouraging and comforting others!  Sweet and healing only begin to describe what the kindness of the lips can do in the lives of others.  We all need to know we are loved, to know it from those we care about and when the words of another are encouraging, healing, and loving it changes everything. It changes us.

I've been thinking about this since we left our family.  What I saw in my sister is a woman who collects friends like some collect coins.  The funeral home had to set up extra chairs for all those who came....and they came because they loved my sister and her family.  

Sweet words, kind words, encouraging words....I wonder what could change if we decided to only speak when those are the words we will use.

"Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift." Ephesians 4:29

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

God's nature

One thing that helps me the most as I deal with and live in a fallen, cruel and sometimes confusing world is to know what God is like.  

Knowing God helps me sort out the confusion of the world around me, to filter out all the clutter.  Knowing what God is like helps me deal with the questions I have, the questions others ask me.  Knowing God's nature gives me peace.  

There are so many facets to God, but one that is vital for me is this, it comes from Psalms 119:68,

"You are good and do only good"

God is good.  Out of his goodness he acts. 

God is always good, that never changes.  God's nature controls how he deals with us.  He is always, always good; that never changes and he's always good in every action he takes, everything he does...it flows from his nature.

Psalms continues with these words,

"How kind the Lord is! How good he is
So merciful, this God of ours!"

The goodness of God has side effects.  Goodness is kind and merciful as it flows out of God.  He's always this way, he never changes, this is our God.  Did I mention he never changes?

I often talk to people going through difficult days who ask, "Is God punishing me for what I have done?"  My answer is always the same, "No he isn't!"  I say that because I know God, I know his nature.  Goodness is part of the nature of God and that goodness took Jesus to the cross, paid for our sins and made us his children.  Goodness draws us to him, to his love. 

Goodness is the Father's nature and his way of dealing with us.  I'm so glad that God tells us what he is like. I'm so glad that God is good.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Quote of the day

A successful Christian life is not about doing great things for God.  It's about doing little things for others that God can turn into great things.  -Mike Messerli

Friday, January 11, 2013

What I'm reading

I just finished a book recommended by a friend. It's an unusual book, an engaging book. I really enjoyed it and would recommend it if you are looking for yourself and God's calling in your life.

Saturday's cartoon

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Dawn is near

It's been night for a while now. Most of the culture around us lives and walks in darkness, stumbling over they know not what. There are hints of light on the horizon, but most have been in darkness so long they have no idea what to expect of the day. Dawn is near and our world has only known darkness, lived in darkness....and are honestly more comfortable in the dark than in the light that is coming.

Some announce the approach of dawn, but only a few listen and respond. All they have known is darkness how could dawn be coming? It's never come before. And yet, the pink glow on the horizon hints at a change. Those in darkness tell you that the sun is permanently setting with eternal night ahead. Those who know the light smile and tell you of sunrise that is soon to come.

No one knows what to expect.

We've been in darkness for so long.

And yet the dawn was promised by the one who will introduce the eternal day, Jesus Christ. He said, "I am the light of the world; he who believes in me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." Jesus often used light and life as synonyms. He considered them the same. Light and life verses darkness and death. We live in a world that only knows death and darkness, but soon light and life will come and darkness will never be known again.

Dawn is near. The sun (Son) is soon to rise and with him comes life and eternal light. Do you know him? Are you ready for the dawn? The dawn is near.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013


"Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope."

Grief is part of the human experience. We avoid it, we dread it, but we will all experience it. Grief, when it happens, changes us and our lives and our future. There is no retreat from the loss that caused our grief. We grieve because our lives have been changed forever....in a way we never imagined, never wanted.

Grief is our response to a terrible loss. It's the right response to loss. How could we not cry when we lose someone we love? How could we not grieve when we are shocked by something that should never have happened? Grief is a right response to the loss. Tears are part of the grieving process.

Grief is also social. We grieve best in community. We need each other more when a loss happens and we gather together to grieve, to cry, to sorrow. Somehow community helps us deal with grief. We have an opportunity to talk about our loss, our pain, our hurt. We have a chance to cry with someone who listens and cares about us.

Grief, believe it or not, is a gift from God. He helps us through our grief to give us peace and comfort. What grief tells us all is that this is not the way it is supposed to be. What has happened to us that has caused our grief is not right, not the way we should live. And our response, as we grieve, tells us this is not the way we were designed.

Soon grief will be done away with. Tears will be dried. Reasons for grief will be permanently dealt with. Soon God will put death to death and grief will no longer be part of our lives. Until then he gives us hope, peace, a promise of eternal life ahead. Until then he gives us each other to hug, to cry, to grieve together. Until the day grief is put to death he gives us the promise of peace and life ahead. This is not the end.....grief will one day be swallowed up in joy.

This morning I look forward to that day more than I can tell you....

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Gone too soon....

Her name is Desiree.  She liked to be called Dez.  She had a great sense of humor and was always in such good spirits, but something happened and now she's gone.  We are on our way to grieve with family.  Tears and sorrow fill the hearts of our family, there aren't any words I can add or anything I can say that will fix this...she's just gone too soon.

Monday, January 07, 2013


Psalm 56:8
You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.

What do you do when sorrow and loss overwhelm you and those you love?  How do you deal with the loss of someone you love...especially when it was so unnecessary?  What do you do with loss beyond emotions?  

Today, those are the questions in my family as we deal with a loss of someone dear.  Most sad, most unnecessary, and so now we grieve.  The only consolation for a grieving heart and tearful eyes is a loving Father who knows, who loves, who cares, who understands.

Lord, today would you comfort?  Would you hold us close as we grieve the loss of one who shouldn't be gone?  I know you care, you showed us that when you wept, and now we weep.  We come to you with tears and questions.  Comfort, care, calm, and hold us close.

Friday, January 04, 2013

A work of art

This new year is a blank canvas.  As I think about the year ahead I'm thinking about what picture I want to paint with this year...what I hope others will see as I paint each stroke, as I live each day.

What do I want to do with these days ahead?  What will the year look like when I'm done with it?  

I won't get to erase my work, each stroke of the brush leaves paint on the canvas. Each decision, each word, each action is like a brush stroke full of paint....it changes the painting, it becomes part of the work.

I know I'm not a gifted artist, but I'm working on it, I'm trying, with each brush stroke, with each word, with each decision to create a work of art that pleases God.  I'm trying to take the canvas of this year and make it a work of art.

To be honest I still feel like a child finger painting.  My canvas, as I finish it each year, looks like a mess!  I have to explain what the painting I've created with my year is really all about.  My year, as I reflect on the work behind me, is sometimes hard to figure out, confusing, child's play at best, but I'm trying to do better.

What will my canvas look like at the end of 2013?  Each day I will be making brush strokes on the canvas of this year.  Each word touches my canvas, each action leaves color behind.  What will others see when my canvas is finished?

My desire is this...that at the end of the year, when the canvas of 2013 is finished, others will see Jesus.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Starting over in the new year

You're tempted, aren't you?  You're tempted to make some new years resolutions, a list of things you really are going to do this year.  

But we all know that soon, within a few weeks, we have abandoned our quest to do better and have fallen back into old habits.

Why do we try to do better? Why do we want to change?  For me it's the knowledge that I'm not what I want to be...there's things to change, to fix.  I'm still a work in progress....but I can't make the changes on my own...that never lasts.   I think that's why a verse I read this morning was so encouraging.  It gives the daily prescription for how to become the person I know I want to be, the man I know I should be.  Here is that verse from Galatians 2,

"My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

I live by dependence, not by resolution.  I please God by surrender, not by success.  I find peace in trust, not in trying.  I find real life by letting Christ live his life through me.  So I live today, trusting Jesus Christ to live his life through me.  Any other course of action is always doomed to fail.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

New year, new beginnings

It's a new year.  A chance for new choices, a fresh start.  A time to look ahead and change what was wrong, to plant a new crop for the new year.

It's a chance for new beginnings.  What will you do with the next year?  It's all in your hands to live each day with the excitement of a child as they open each Christmas gift.  What will you find in the days ahead?

We always begin a new year with hopes and dreams of better things, but soon find that the same problems, same choices, and same people are still the same!  But don't let the sameness around you keep you from planting new crops in your life, from doing something different, from new adventures.  Make the choice to do one new thing this year that you have always wanted to do.  

Plant a new kind of seed in your life.  Become a student of a new interest, learn something new that has always interested you, go somewhere you have always wanted to go.  God is a God of adventure in our lives with him and in his desires for us personally.  He smiles when we thrive.  So, this year, with a new year beginning what new things will you do?   What adventures will you go on in your walk with God?  

We are in the last days.  The Lord is coming soon.  There has never been a time like this when God's people can be part of such an amazing time.  Love people.  Get to know God more deeply.  And consider the new year ahead the greatest adventure you will ever embark upon.  It will be exciting!

Happy New Year!

A new year begins.  I hope you have a great new year.  
Trust God, love people, enjoy every moment.