Sunday, March 31, 2013

He is not here

“You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here." -angel 

It's Easter morning.  The most glorious day in Christianity.  The day we remember and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  It is the defining event of the Christian faith.  If it's true then Jesus is God. On this event in time and history hangs the validity of the Christian faith.

One pastor wrote, 

"The resurrection is not merely important to the historic Christian faith; without it, there would be no Christianity.  It is the singular doctrine that elevates Christianity above all other world religions." –Adrian Rogers

Another man, a lawyer and skeptic who tried to disprove Christianity, said,

"The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the crowning proof of Christianity. If the resurrection did not take place, then Christianity is a false religion. If it did take place, then Christ is God and the Christian faith is absolute truth." -Henry Morris

In a world looking for God there is one stop on the quest that any serious person must make- the empty tomb.

He is risen!

Saturday, March 30, 2013


"When I first began to study the historicity of Jesus' resurrection under the direction of Wolfhart Pannenberg at the University of Munich, I, as a Christian, believed in Jesus' resurrection, but I had no idea how really firm the historical foundations of that event are. When you reflect on it, an event so extraordinary as Jesus' resurrection isn't the sort of thing one would expect to have much evidence for. So I was quite surprised to find how well-established the central facts undergirding that event are. It seemed to me that they could be conveniently grouped together as three main facts: (1) the discovery of Jesus' empty tomb, (2) the post-mortem appearances of Jesus to various individuals and groups, and (3) the origin of the earliest disciples' belief that God had raised Jesus. It dawned on me only later that not only are these facts well-established but they are acknowledged by the wide majority of NT critics today who have written on these matters. This majority view can't be written off to bias, as some internet bloggers naively assert, since anyone familiar with NT scholarship knows how sceptical this discipline has been, and those who acknowledge these facts include not just evangelicals but liberal Christians, unbelievers, and Jewish scholars. It is really quite an amazing situation. I can't think of any better explanation of these facts than the one the original disciples gave. HE IS RISEN!" -William Lane Craig

I believe

"I  believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."— C. S. Lewis

Friday, March 29, 2013

The gift

"For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life."  -John
I read a cute dialogue about Good Friday that captured the heart of the day,

George:  I don't understand why they call this day "good".

Bill: If you were scheduled to die on this day and someone offered to take your place what would you call that?

George: Good!

Bill: Have a nice day......

For me this is a day of mixed feelings.  I'm sad to think back on what Jesus went through on the cross, but I'm glad for the results in my life and my eternity.  I sorrow over the pain I caused him, but celebrate the life it gave me.  It is a day of mixed feelings, but at the heart of it all is a celebration of the greatest gift ever given.  And what's most fascinating is that the giver was God himself!  He gave his best to remedy my worst.  He loved me when I had no interest in him, was actually his enemy.  He reached out as I walked away.  What an amazing love!

It is, without doubt, the greatest gift ever given and today I remember and rejoice!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Joy and dread

It's Wednesday of passion week.  In two days, as we remember it, Jesus went to the cross, all the while knowing what was ahead of him.  The bible said he went gladly "for the joy ahead" but I see in the garden a dread as well, a dread of what he would suffer.

I don't know about you, but knowing what awaited me (if I were Jesus) would have had me looking for a way out and yet he went gladly, with joy and dread.  There was such a love for mankind, for you and me, in his actions that he faced the dread with joy.

I wonder, as he stood before Pilate, silent while being accused, I wonder what he thought.  Did he look ahead to the joy of the victory?  Did he rejoice in God his Father?  What were his thoughts?  Was he thinking of you and me?  I can't imagine, in the silence of his voice, the thoughts of his mind as the events of Thursday and Friday rolled over him.

He was falsely accused and yet fully obedient to the Father's plan.  Nowhere in his life do I ever see fear.  It appears, as he trusted God and obeyed him, he walked boldly into the events of the cross and his death....with dread and joy.  I will never know....I can't imagine the emotions of those days, but I can celebrate the results in my life.  

Thank you, Jesus, for accomplishing my salvation through the cross.  I am so thankful that the dread of the cross did not change your path.  I'm so glad that with joy you looked ahead to the salvation you would accomplish.  Thank you.  I look forward to the day when I can bow in your presence and praise you for your great love.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Paint your days with joy

What's ahead for you today?  

What dread do you awake to?

What faces you that you wish you could simply sleep through?

We each deal with difficulties, struggles, problems in our life that frame our moods, change our attitudes...but imagine that instead of letting events change you, you change them.

Imagine that despite what awaits you in your life, your day, you choose to have joy and celebrate God's care and provision.  In the midst of even your worse days he is LORD.  He is watching over the events of your life, so is there anything that he hasn't allowed for a reason, a purpose, a plan?  Nothing!

So how to respond?  Instead of letting events change change them.  Instead of letting your world dictate your moods...choose joy in spite of the world around you.  Isn't God in the good and the bad alike?  Doesn't he love you and care for you no matter what you face?  Of course!  

Paint your days with joy.  God's in charge!

"Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials."  -James 1

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Divine failures (revisited)

I've been thinking about my own life lately. Thinking about whether I would be considered a success or failure in God's work, but the more I think about it the more I realize I'm dwelling on the wrong questions. It's a bad habit in our culture to evaluate everything based on success or failure. God doesn't work that way.

One of God's glorious failures in ministry is a man I deeply respect, Jim Elliot. Jim went to Wheaton College and had as his dream a missionary career to an Indian tribe in South America. He planned, with others, this quest into an unreached people group and then, with several others, went to their village to begin the work.

Before they could make first contact Jim and his team were killed on the river bank where they had landed their plane. I wondered today, as I thought about Jim, did he think as he lay dying on that sand bar, "I failed! I thought God wanted me to reach these people, but I failed! Lord, I'm sorry I failed you."

But the truth is that Jim and his friends were one of God's amazing divine failures. What Jim might have seen as failure as he lay dying God was using to raise up an army of missionaries to reach not only this tribe, but many others. What we might see as utter failure God uses as part of his plan.

I wonder at times if I'm one of God's great divine failures. There are times when I think so, but then I realize that being part of his plan means I don't see the end. I don't see what he's working on. I can't see my part in the play. This whole mission to the world thing looks completely different than we in the western world might think it should. God does things his way that all men might walk in his provision and glorify him.

If, like so many, I feel like a divine failure I should be thrilled. God does some of his best work with those who fail at everything they try. In this upside down kingdom called the kingdom of God I think Jim Elliot would say that a divine failure is the most exciting kind of success......because through it God is glorified!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Not today

My wife had the opportunity to preview this movie last night.  The story of an entire people group enslaved by their culture is tragic! 

See the movie. 

Pray for the Dalit people in India.

Give to charities helping them.

Get involved.

Tragedy and Glory

It's ironic to me that the week ahead is the greatest celebration of the Christian world as we remember the greatest tragedy of all time.  I struggle for words to describe how I can celebrate with joy a time of great tragedy and loss, but I do, we all do if we know what that terrible day meant.  

In the week ahead we will intentionally remember the death of Christ on the cross, his burial, and finally celebrate his resurrection.  All events of time and history.  All critically important not just for the church, but for the world he came to die for and save.

There is an interesting passage in Colossians 1 that gives a panorama of these events. Here is Paul's grand overview of time, eternity, tragedy and glory,

He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn over all creation.

For everything was created by Him,
in heaven and on earth,
the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions
or rulers or authorities—
all things have been created through Him and for Him.

He is before all things,
and by Him all things hold together.

He is also the head of the body, the church;
He is the beginning,
the firstborn from the dead,
so that He might come to have
first place in everything.

For God was pleased to have
all His fullness dwell in Him,

and through Him to reconcile
everything to Himself
by making peace
through the blood of His cross—
whether things on earth or things in heaven

The creator becoming a man, dying on a cross by the hands of his creation, rising again and providing forgiveness and life for the very ones who crucified him.  It's an amazing picture of the great love and grace of God...that he would do all of this because he loves us.  How could we ever doubt his love once we have looked at the cross?

And finally, at the end of time, there will be a day when he will be worshipped by all of humanity from every nation, tongue and time as we all bow and declare,

They said with a loud voice:

The Lamb who was slaughtered is worthy
to receive power and riches
and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and blessing!

I heard every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, 
on the sea, and everything in them say:

Blessing and honor and glory and dominion
to the One seated on the throne,
and to the Lamb, forever and ever!

What a wonderful God!  How amazing that he could take the greatest tragedy of time and turn it into the greatest glory anyone will ever see. 

Thank you, Jesus, for what you were willing to do to save me and show me the love of God for me.  Oh might I lovingly tell others of your amazing gift for them.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Photo by Mohammadreza Momeni 

Perspective is a wonderful thing!  In the midst of our lives in a place of plenty we easily forget how blessed we really are, how much we have even when we think we don't have enough.  All it takes is a dramatic change of vision and reality from another place.

When I travel to third world countries my vision is once more corrected to reality, but living in the part of the world I do it's easy to become near sighted, blind to how blessed we are.  It's easy to forget and complain.  

One of my favorite stories in the bible is the odyssey of the Jewish people as they wander through the wilderness and complain all the way.  Their perspective was clouded by "the good old days" in Egypt when they were slaves.  Their complaining is only exceeded by my own.  Their lack of contentment in the midst of God's provision is revealing about the heart of each of us.'s good, but often convicting.  The challenge is to be content in the provision of God, whatever that might be in the moment.  Whether little or much it is God who provides and if all is lost it is still God who will provide.  

Even saints struggle with this.  Paul wrote about it and said,

"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength."

Do you find a subtle discontent with what God has provided?  A change of perspective might really help your vision and turn your complaining into praise.

(Click on the photo above and take a minute to really look at this place so many call home.  Imagine living there yourself.  Now, look around where God has placed you and say, "thank you!")

In case you wondered this photo is of a village in Iran.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The death of death

Yesterday my wife and I attended the funeral my wife's long time friend and co-worker.  They were dear friends, sisters of different mothers in fact.  She had been ill for a while and died earlier this week.  

I thought about death as we were driving home...the reality of death in our world.  All of us will face it, all of us will one day die, but to be honest I have attended far too many funerals!  I am tired of death!!

I know that as a pastor death is part of my job description.  I have buried family, friends, members of my church and strangers.  I can't count how many funerals I have attended, but it's far too many.

As we drove home I thought longingly of the day ahead when death will meet its own death....the day when death will die.  I can't wait for that day, but it suddenly struck me that I can't imagine life without death anywhere on the horizon.  What would life be like if death were forgotten?  What would we do if we never faced this cruel end?

Honestly I can't imagine how wonderful it will be when death is a forgotten memory, but I do look forward to that day....

"Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.....(and) He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” -Rev. 20:14, 21:4

Friday, March 15, 2013


We got to attend our grandson George's baseball practice last night.  What a great time with a wonderful boy!


"A legacy is not about what you have accomplished or the possessions you have accumulated.   A true legacy, a worthwhile legacy...a lasting legacy is about the people you have loved and invested your life in."

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Never afraid

This morning, as I read Psalms, it struck me that one of the core problems all of us deal with is fear.  It's a dominant prayer issue for the authors of the book of Psalms. We each, in an honest moment, will confess times of fear.  Fear about our jobs, money, family, our health, and a hundred other things that cause us worry.  But it struck me, as I thought about the passages I read and my own life, there was one  who was never afraid!

Never afraid.  Imagine that.  I've never known someone like that in my life, never seen someone who didn't know fear.  But there was one who was never afraid.  Here's one of the stories about this man,

"That day when evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.  Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”..."  -Mark 4

This story is fascinating to me.  In the midst of a storm that would worry any man Jesus was asleep!  How could he be asleep? How could he not be worrying with the rest of his men?  Didn't he care what would happen?  That's the question they asked him....."don't you care?"  But that's not the right question.

Jesus responded with the right question in the verses that follow when he asked, "Guys, where's your faith?"  What a thing to ask?  Didn't you see the storm? Didn't you notice we were sinking?  

Who wouldn't be afraid?  That's the first question we have to ask and following that is this- WHY didn't he fear?  What did he know that we don't?  What was different about Jesus?  AND, most important to do I discover that in my own life?

To answer those questions I think about what Jesus taught.  All through his teachings were the answers to these very basic questions.  Core to them all are these fundamentals,

1. We have a BIG God!  He really is all powerful.
2. He cares about us, in fact he says he loves us.
3. Not only is he able to meet our needs but he wants to.
4. He has a plan for our lives and we are safe in his hands.

Jesus KNEW these things, he lived them out.  It starts with a big God, the one who made everything.  The root problem for many of us is we live our lives with a little god....our little god loves us, but he's just not able to do much...he would if he could.

Jesus knew the God who made the Universe and holds it together.  (In fact, he is God!)

If God is big.  If he cares about me. If he is willing and able to help me. And, if he is in charge of my life then why would I ever worry?  Why would I ever be afraid again?  

Those are some questions I'm working on this morning.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


I've been thinking about the clutter of my life...the things that are around me that I bought or gathered to make life easier. It seems to have actually made my life harder!

How is it possible that things accumulated over time can actually make life harder?  It's the clutter of things that most of us try to maintain, that most of us really enjoy, and yet I'm realizing that my clutter has become my burden as well...all the stuff I have gathered now has taken over my life.  

This week, in one of the groups I lead, we talked about avarice.  Most of the guys had never heard the word before but it has to do with the desire for things.  And yet, with the accumulation of all those things we find life harder, more difficult.  I thought about it this morning and realized we have boxes in our garage that haven't been opened since we moved into this house more than 14 years ago!  Why do we keep them? What's in them?  What clutter is hiding there for us to discover anew?

All this to think about the challenge of our discussion...the challenge to "deaccumulate" our lives.  I wonder how much of the stuff of my life I could actually do without? I wonder how many things I really "need"?  What could I live without?

Jesus invited 12 men to leave everything and follow him.  I know I will probably not be challenged to that choice, but what should I, what can I let go of?  What can I live without?

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Come away with me

It's easy to get busy.  

There is so much to do.

All around are needs and people and problems and things that must be taken care of right now.

And yet I watch Jesus intentionally taking his 12 aside for a time of rest.  On more than one occasion he said to them, "Come away with me and rest."  He knew they were willing to work, that was never the problem.  The problem is getting them and us to be comfortable with a time away, a time of rest.  

There is so much to do, how can we take time to rest?  How could we possibly step away from all of the things we have to do?  And yet we desperately need a time with God, a time to be still, to be quiet and listen to God.  Often God calls, "come away with me" and we put him off....we are too busy serving him. 

There will always be needs and people and things that must be done, but our greatest need is time with God, time to be still and be with him.  When he whispers to you, "Come away with me for a bit and rest" listen and respond.  The work will always be there when you return.

Friday, March 08, 2013


Quote of the day

"I sit this afternoon reflecting on this: there is too much attachment to culture, not enough attachment to Christ. Life comes from transcending our expectations in every moment." -Matt Stone

Monday, March 04, 2013


"For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing." -James 3:16

Jealousy, according to the dictionary, has to do with love and affection, but in the real world where I live jealousy deals with much affects work relationships, friendships, children and's not just about love and romance.  Jealousy deals with envy, affection, selfishness and pride.  It's possessive and petty in both relationships and possessions.

What fascinated me about this verse in James is what happens when jealousy has its way....we find ourselves in "disorder and every evil thing."  Jealousy and selfish ambition undermine love, peace and order.  It destroys instead of builds up.  When this "green monster" infects a relationship, a community or an organization it destroys the very thing the jealous person was trying to hold onto.  It's like rust....eventually there is nothing left!

I'm I write this...that when I see "disorder and every evil thing" going on my first question must be, "Ok, who's battling jealousy?"  Isn't it amazing what a selfish little sin like this can do?

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Humility or Humiliation?

This morning I spoke at our mid-school bible conference.  This weekend our youth pastor is leading the teens through the idea that service is humility in action.  I loved the idea.  My part was to talk about humility.  

I've read a lot about a lot of books, articles and different opinions.  I'm not satisfied with the conclusions.  They all seem vague, unclear and leave a lot out.  In thinking about humility this week as I prepared I thought about my own mid-school days and realized that humility was never a problem for me, but humiliation was!  Mid-school, in my day, was where all the bullies asserted their dominance over the rest of us.  They were difficult years.  I doubt it has changed much.

As I thought about the subtle difference between the words, humility and humiliation, it struck me that it all boils down to this- humility is something I choose, a decision I make, an identity I take.  Humiliation is an identity chosen for me, forced upon me by another.  

Here is a simple definition as I thought about this topic-  humility is believing God's story about me and living it out.  Humiliation is believing someone else's story about me...even if it's a good one... and living that out.  Both are choices I make, both are identities I take, but how different they look as I live it out!

We are in the midst of a humiliated culture, believing and living out the identities imposed upon us by others instead of humble people believing God's narrative about us and living that out.

What a big difference a word makes.  Whose story have you believed?  What has driven your life and actions?  A humble response to God or a humiliated response to others?

1 Peter 5:5-6- all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humbleTherefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.

Colossians 3:12- So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Saturday's cartoon