Happy New Year

Ever known a REAL Uncle Rico? That former high school football star who still thinks it's 1982? All he can talk about are the great plays he maneuvered, the wins he accomplished, the hero-status he basked in. Those were his glory days and he's never moved past them.

Even sadder are the ones who can't stand to look at the past because of the shame. Is this you? That one mistake, that series of bad choices, that hated person from years ago that you see in the mirror no matter how hard you try to run?

The past. Too often it refuses to stay there. It either inflates an ego that no longer deserves the boost, or it continues to stab an identity that needs redefining. Neither is a healthy option.

As with most issues, God has something to say about the past. The Apostle Paul writes,

"forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Phil. 3:13-14)

No matter what your past holds, whether pride or pain, it is the past. Let it go. It no longer counts. Give it to Jesus and move on. Last year's failings are forgotten at the foot of the cross. Yesterday's triumphs no longer matter. It is today you are responsible for.

Let Philippians 3 be your New Year's Resolution, and press on toward the prize.

Happy New Year!


Quite Puzzling

I love jigsaw puzzles.

My mom loved them and taught me to love them. I find them relaxing. Usually in the winter or in hot summer months, I have one going all the time.

Every now and then, as I rummage through the box of pieces, I find a piece that doesn't seem to fit. A splash of color I can find nowhere in the picture on the box. An odd shape or size unlike the rest of the pieces. It keeps popping up as I continue my search through the box and becomes almost like an uninvited guest.

I even start to imagine it doesn't belong to my puzzle. Maybe there was an earthquake at the puzzle factory and this piece hopped over into my box from the adjacent assembly line. Maybe somebody threw this piece in here from another puzzle. I'm almost tempted to throw it out, convinced it doesn't belong.

But sure enough, at some point--sometimes right at the end---that piece fits perfectly and without it, the puzzle would be incomplete.

Often we are faced with life events that don't seem to fit the picture. A child dies. A marriage collapses. The unthinkable diagnosis is spoken aloud and you recoil. No. It doesn't fit.

We want to throw it away, convinced it will mar the perfect picture our life was supposed to become. And we can, if we choose to. We can retreat into denial, grow angry at God, or react in self-harming ways.

We can choose to reject that piece that doesn't fit with our interpretation of the photo on the box. But when we do, we risk marring the picture that the Creator had in mind. Our lives continue with a hole that was never meant to be there, incomplete somehow, and we don't understand why.

Do you have one of those odd-shaped pieces floating around in your box? Does it irritate you every time you unearth it? Are you convinced that it doesn't belong in your puzzle?

Before you decide to throw it away, reconsider the picture on the box. Could it be there is a spot just perfect for it? Could it be that the One who promised to work everything for the good knows what He is doing?

We can choose to work the puzzle the way we think it's supposed to go, or we can trust the One who put the pieces in the box. We haven't seen the finished picture yet, so it's too soon to throw anything away.

There was no earthquake in Heaven when the Designer created your puzzle. All the pieces fit. You'll be glad you kept it when you finally see the finished picture.

Another Chance

If anyone had ever felt like a failure it was Pete.

His grandiose words of a few days ago echoed in his ears like cruel taunts: "
I'll even die for you!" he had proclaimed with enough bravado to sink a boat.

Now the memory sank his heart. He'd been so sure this time. So certain that this was his life's calling. The Teacher from Nazareth had swept him away, convinced him that he was destined for greatness. He'd never been a part of anything so grand. Him. Pete! A nobody who smelled like dead fish. And the Teacher, the exalted Rabbi had chosen him as a companion. It had taken him months just to get the reality through his head.

There had been a time when he believed he would die for this cause. For this Man.

Then he'd had the chance.

Shame washed over him as he scrubbed his fishing nets a little harder. Fishing. He'd thought he was finished with fishing. These last three years had changed him, but apparently not enough. What a jerk! What a loser! Just when he'd had the chance to prove his braggadocios words, he'd tucked tail and run. What a coward.

He was almost glad the Teacher was dead. That last look of compassion was enough to finish Pete off. The Teacher had known about Pete's failure. He'd heard!

And that look...
It was bad enough that Pete would have to face himself in the mirror every day. At least he wouldn't have to gaze into the disappointed eyes of the friend he'd betrayed.

A shout, and then John was running down the bank toward him, leaving dust clouds in his wake. He groaned and scrubbed harder. Not John again. The faithful one. The one who'd actually stuck it out. Stood there and watched the whole violent mess. Just hearing his voice brought it all back with a sickening rush to the stomach.

John couldn't catch his breath. "...to-to tell us...and you.."

Pete rose stiffly and wiped his sweating face with the back of a hairy arm. "Slow down. What?"

John shuddered to a stop before him, gasping. "An angel! Really! A real one! He said...said, 'Go tell the disciples... and Peter...that he is risen! He rose, Pete! Just like he said he would!"

A trembling began somewhere inside Pete's soul. It wasn't even the word "risen." Somehow he should have known about that, if he'd been paying more attention. It was the other word, that phrase that made hot tears spring to his eyes.

"Say...say it again." He swallowed hard. "This angel...who'd he say to tell?"

John grinned in that knowing way he had. John always seemed to catch on before anybody else. "Yeah, that's exactly what he said: 'Tell the disciples...and Peter.' He specifically mentioned you."

A wave of nausea washed over Peter and he sank back on his haunches. "He did. He said that?"

The disciples. And Peter.

He knew. He knew Peter no longer considered himself one of them. Was no longer worthy of the honor. Even in death, the Teacher was thinking about everyone else.

So that's what that last look had meant. It wasn't disappointment. It was forgiveness.

Peter inhaled sharply as he stood and threw the nets aside. "Okay then."

Hope rushed through his being like warm spring water. Like he'd taken a first breath after three days without oxygen.
He smiled through his crusty beard for the first time in days and clapped John hard on the shoulder.

"Okay then. Let's gather the other guys and go see this angel!"
(Mark 16:7)

Have you failed God? Your friends? Yourself?

That look God is giving you is not disappointment. It's forgiveness.
He's calling you by name.

He's the God of another chance.

Make a Wish

I wish I may, I wish I might...

I wish upon a star!

How we'd love to have a pocket genie who'd grant us three wishes. Or four. Or five...

Wishing is universal. Our hearts long for things, for events, for people that are beyond our reach. When we lack the power to make something happen, we wish anyway.

Have you ever felt guilty about wishing? As though unrequited longings were not spiritual? A sign of not trusting God?

This post should make you feel better.

I found an interesting phrase in Luke 12:49. Jesus is finishing a long teaching seminar and apparently out of the blue, he blurts, "I was sent here to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it was already kindled!"

Notice the words: How I wish.

Did you ever think about Jesus having unfulfilled wishes?

Did you ever picture a young Jesus lying in bed at night, gazing at the stars and wishing things could be different? Wishing he'd come in a different era when crucifixions were not in vogue. Wishing his disciples would get a clue. Wishing this trek on earth was over. Wishing people would pay attention.

We understand that God's will is not always accomplished in the rebellious hearts of men, but we picture His angst in a vague, spiritual sort of way. How could God really get all that emotional over it? After all, He's God.

Jesus puts a voice to it. His humanness wished hard, just like ours does. Maybe he closed his eyes and held his breath. Maybe he crossed his fingers. Maybe he wished upon a falling star. (If the wish didn't come true, did he make another star fall?)

For the first time in history, God was constrained by TIME. What Jesus wished for would eventually come to pass, but his human flesh felt the urgency, the ache that we feel when something we long for is still a long ways off.

What do you wish for?

It's okay. You're not disappointing God. He has wishes too. Go ahead and wish together.

Is There Room at the Top?

What a day!

Every Hebrew who could walk was out on the mountain, watching the impossible.

The only prophet of God's, who had slipped through the murderous fingers of Queen Jezebel, was calling for a showdown. Bring the popcorn. What a show!

The exalted prophets of Baal were gonna take on crazy ol' Elijah and they were always good for a show.

Which gods would win? Didn't really matter. Bets were going both ways. Let the best god win!

The Baal staff did not disappoint; dancing, shrieking, cutting themselves from morning till late afternoon. They used their best tricks, their most powerful incantations. Had to cover the kids' ears every now and then, but well worth charging admission.

Every eye in the crowd darted toward Elijah at some point.
Was he impressed? Was he ready to call it a day? Would he do something equally spectacular?

He slouched against a rock, cleaning his nails with a piece of straw. "Yell a little louder, guys!" he taunted. "Maybe ol' Baal is on vacation."

The crowd grew restless. After a few hours of this, the thrill wore off.
What was wrong? Why wasn't fire coming down to meet Elijah's challenge?

When the bloodied dance recital finally ended and Elijah took the stage, God dropped his H-bomb. Fire engulfed the sacrifice and fear engulfed the masses.

The story in I Kings 18 is familiar, but there is a little tidbit that often goes unnoticed.

In verse 21, Elijah asks the people: “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.”

Notice that he did NOT say that they had totally rejected the LORD God. They had merely added others alongside him. They were all for leaving a little altar to the God of Israel--right next to the temple of the Asherah and the high places of Baal.

And we do that every day.

We think that we can offer the LORD God a portion of our lives and he will be satisfied with that. The rest of life is ours to do with as we please. The other portions of ourselves we can devote to friends, hobbies, jobs, dreams and our pet vices. We fool ourselves into believing that God wants to be "a part of our lives." We even preach and teach it.

The Israelites of Elijah's day would beg to differ. They had thought that too: "
As long as we acknowledge God, we can chase other things too. No sense totally ignoring our culture and the customs around us. He won't mind. "

He does mind.
  • Your showing up at church on Sunday does not impress him.
  • Your reluctant effort toward Bible reading and prayer is just another version of Baal's dance recital.
  • The eagerness with which you glance at your watch halfway through the sermon versus the eagerness with which you flip on the football game an hour later does not go unnoticed by God.
  • The delight of your heart cannot be masked. God knows when your delight is not Him.
Elijah's challenge still rings in the air:
Who is God in your life?

If Jehovah is God, then worship and serve him. Build your entire life around bringing him honor and glory. Dedicate everything you do to his purposes.

But if that turns you cold, then quit pretending. Go ahead, chase your personal dreams, make your excuses, keep playing the church game and pretending.

But don't be surprised when fire falls from heaven and consumes it all


Shiver Time

I'm always cold.

I shiver like a Chihuahua all winter.
Even in summertime, they keep the restaurants and stores at such low temperatures that I have to bring a sweater in July.

The room I use for counseling also has a rebellious heating system. It's either too hot or too cold, so I've learned to bring my little heater/fan. It stays in my car so it's available whenever I might need it. One flick blows out air; flick it the other way and it's a heater.

As you could probably guess, I'm also a sun-seeker. The minute spring warms the air, I'm outside soaking it up. Give me a book, a lawn chair, and 80 degrees and I'm good.

Maybe that's why Psalm 84:11 appeals to me so much. "The Lord God is a sun and shield...no good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly."

I love the idea of God warming me all the way through. As I lift my face to his brilliance, he he warms me from the inside out until I'm not shaking anymore. Just like my multi-purpose fan, he not only warms, but he protects me from too much heat.

He is so in-tune with my needs that he knows when the trials are too much. Like a good sun-block, he guards me from overheating. He's a shield against damage and harm.

Isn't it interesting that the Psalmist coupled those two ideas when he described God? He's both a sun and a shield.

Is your heart cold?

Is your life overheating?

Plug in to God. He knows exactly what temperature you need.


Which Crowd Are You In?

The polls are up. The polls are down.

The political candidate is everyone's darling until he isn't.

And it's anyone's guess when the winds will change.

The celebrity is the hottest thing going one day and the next, he can't get a movie part anywhere.

We each like to think of ourselves as beyond that kind of fickleness, but are we? Who are those people answering the polls? Maybe you are more gullible than you think.

Have you ever wondered which crowd you would have been in
the day Jesus was put on trial?

Before you take a side, be honest with yourself. Everyone from Oprah to the President likes to speak in respectful tones about the great prophet Jesus and how wise he was. What a good teacher, an excellent role model. It's hard to find anyone who will openly state they hate Jesus and everything he stood for.

Then who were those people crying out for his murder?

Were they kooks carted in from the asylum? Were they aliens from Mars?

Of course not. They were the same people who had waved palm branches a few days before. Now they waved sticks and swords. They hadn't heard about all that role model stuff. This guy said he was God and he had to be stopped.

The reality is that we see with 20/20 hindsight. We understand now how the story ended and we want to be sure we're on the right side. But what about then?

If you had walked those same dusty streets, heard his confusing sermons, puzzled over a parable or two, and then heard the leaders you respected calling the Nazarene a troublemaker, what would you have done? Those guys were smarter than you; they knew the Scriptures. If they said he was crazy, then would that be good enough for you?

There were four options that day.
The options haven't changed.

  • First, there were the ones who'd been whipped into a frenzy and were actively calling for his death. They were angry. Felt betrayed by the whole King of the Jews thing. He'd made fools of them and they'd gone along with it, but no more. No sir. They'd put things to rights and he'd never make claims like that again. No one was God unless they decided he was God. And God would do things their way. Whoever shouted the loudest had to be right.
  • Then there were the disinterested masses. Most people couldn't care less. Another criminal being crucified. Ho-hum, so what? Not worth missing the Jerusalem vs. Bethlehem stickball tournament. Maybe he was who he said he was. Maybe not. Couldn't work up a care either way. The free food was nice, but it was probably a trick. There will be another "Messiah" come along any day. Unless he was handing out freebies, they wouldn't bother.
  • The ones we shy away from identifying with are the disciples. When things got scary, they all fled. The very ones who had just finished an argument about who was the greatest in God's kingdom didn't wait around to see it come. Religion was fine when it was popular, but when everything turned upside down, they took off.
  • The last group is the one we all like to imagine we would have been a part of, but would we? The stragglers who followed the cross and the bloodied ex-hero up the hill were under no illusions. Their world had come crashing down. They'd put faith in this man and his claims. They still loved him, even if he turned out to be a nut. With every step, their dreams died a little more. There would be no turning this around. Maybe they'd misunderstood, but they loved him anyway. They would rather follow a bloody defeated Jesus than have no Jesus at all. However this turned out, they were there for him and wanted him to know it.

So put yourself in AD 33 . Slip on some sandals, a robe, and an attitude. Where would you have been?

Whichever crowd you would have been a part of then,
you are still a part of.

Your answer makes all the difference in the world: Which crowd are you in?


Hey, Angel

We all have our own ideas of what we think heaven will be like.

Everyone mentions meeting relatives who died years ago, Bible characters, and
of course Jesus. We picture glad-handing a disciple or two, hugging Grandpa, and meeting children who died before birth.

But have you ever thought about the other creatures who will be present?

Several places in the Bible describe heavenly creatures that are as hard for the writer to explain as they are for us to fathom. Frankly, they don't sound all that warm and cuddly, but they're there and their purpose will only be understood when we are there too.

Have you ever thought about the fun of meeting angels who already know you?

After I'm finally finished hugging Jesus (if such a time comes), I look forward to meeting the angelic messengers who protected and ministered to me on earth. We know God gives his angels instructions to guard and care for his children, so imagine the stories they can tell!
  • The burly one who threw himself in front of the speeding 18-wheeler that night you were driving home from college. He barely missed you and your heart didn't stop pounding for the next 50 miles. You kinda wondered even back then...
  • The fast one who raced down the hill in time to stop your baby before he got to the street. The angel stood between baby and the street and you always wondered why the baby had suddenly stopped crawling, sat up, and laughed at the sky. Won't it be fun to meet the reason?
  • The gentle one who nudged the bank officer's hand into signing the loan, even with a frown on his face. "Don't know why I'm doing this..." he'd growled. Won't it be fun to find out the real reason he did it? He might enjoy finding out too.
  • The host of them who stood around you, holding you as you cried out that life wasn't worth it and you were ready to end it all. For some reason, you didn't. You've always been glad. Won't you be thrilled when you can thank them?
Angels are never to be worshiped. They are the first ones to correct that nonsense. But I can't wait to meet the ones who have been personally involved in caring for me during my journey on this earth. I want to thank them for being obedient to God and kind to me.
Which ones will you want to thank?

Lead On, Sisters!

"You go, Girl!"

Women rule!

Since the Garden of Eden, women have loved to take charge. We love to forge ahead into new ideas, new ways of doing things, new horizons.

It is true that "the hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world." From Timothy's mother in the New Testament to the mother of Saddam Hussein, women have had a far greater impact on the world than probably even we understand.

But there is a new trend that does not speak well for women in leadership. As a counselor I am encountering this trend at an alarming rate.

We are familiar with the old pattern of a disgruntled husband and father leaving his family for another woman. It is sad, but familiar.
What is not so familiar, but becoming so, is when the mother leaves.

Over and over again I hear the same story: a middle-aged wife and mother suddenly decides she is not "fulfilled" and "wants her freedom." She leaves a stunned husband and sobbing children to go "live her life." In defiance, she sets her jaw and declares that she has given her best years to this family and deserves "a life."

When asked to define this "life," she is hard-put to do so.
She doesn't need to define it. It is the unspoken truth in the room. She has decided that monogamy is no longer fulfilling and she wants to "live on the edge." She is taking her life and the lives of those she promised to cherish and trading it all for a self-focused existence with no boundaries.

We shouldn't be surprised. The book of Romans has prepared us for this. The whole first chapter is a preview of a society that has decided God doesn't know what He's talking about.

Verse 26 says, "women exchanged their natural function for that which is unnatural." It is interesting that the downturn into sexual perversion begins with women. Quickly following that is the declaration that men will turn to homosexuality. I don't think the sequence given here is accidental.

Women love to lead, if given the chance. And society is now giving them the chance. Mom is pumped full of Satanic ideas by Hollywood and single female coworkers ranting on about their exotic lifestyles. She goes home to a pile of laundry and a whiny husband and decides: "Who needs this?"

Notice how verse 26 words the defection of mom from the home. It says she "exchanged her natural function for that which is unnatural." There is nothing more unnatural than for a mother to abandon her offspring. There is nothing natural about a woman trading a faithful husband for the opportunity to expose herself to STD's, abuse, and a deadened conscience.

Yet, in a culture that has decided women have the "right" to abort their unborn children, divorce a husband and take him for all he has, and demand government support for any illegitimate children conceived after she has prostituted herself...what can we expect?

We have already begun to reap the profits of women leading the way into perversion and the utter collapse of the family. And women still don't get it. They boast of their sexual freedom, their independence, and their complete self-absorption as though those were newly-discovered virtues.

So lead on, Sisters.
You're right.

You are Woman, hear you roar.

But if you'd like a peek at the future you are creating for yourself and that family you abandoned, read the rest of Romans 1.


To Die For

I read a news story recently about a mother who was pushing her child in a stroller across a train track. As she hurried to beat the oncoming train, the stroller wheel got stuck. She fought frantically with the stroller as the engineer laid on the whistle.

At the last moment, she shoved the stroller free, but the train struck her, hurling her body several feet in the air. She died at the scene, but her baby was untouched.

That kind of love and loyalty stirs something in our hearts. Such an act of selfless devotion brings a dual rush of both admiration and cowardice. We think: S
o heroic of her, but would I do that? Could I?

I've been reading a book from
Voice of the Martyrs about heroes of the faith-- martyrs from Stephen (in the Book of Acts) to recent persecutions in places like Pakistan. The same thoughts crowd my mind: So heroic, but would I do that? Could I? If called upon to renounce Christ or be tortured, could I choose what those martyrs did?

And then it occurred to me that that is a question every one of God's children must answer. We are all required to die. Colossians 3:3 says, "You have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God." Galatians 2:20 reminds us that we "are crucified with Christ so that it is no longer I who lives, but Christ lives in me."

One reason the thought of martyrdom is so overwhelming is that we haven't really died to ourselves. Scripture is clear that we cannot live for both ourselves and God at the same time. And most of us in comfortable, persecution-free countries opt for self, rather than God.

In places where trusting in Christ is synonymous with death, there is no such thing as easy-believism. To accept the free gift of God for them means certain death or persecution. No one has to explain to a former Muslim about dying to self. That's a given.

So whether or not you are ever faced with a firing squad, God requires voluntary martyrdom. Not because he is sadistic, but simply because He is to die for.


The surly young prisoner scowled at the judge.

The judge scowled back. "Son, the charges have been dropped. You are free to go."

The boy paled and his handcuffs rattled. "Whaddya mean?"

The judge glared over the tops of his glasses. "I mean, this is your lucky day. The charges have been dropped. Can't say I approve of it, but my hands are tied. You can go. Bailiff, release him."

As the bailiff stepped forward with a key, the young man pierced the judge with angry eyes. "What is this, some kinda joke? Who would do that? I thought I was lookin' at the death penalty. Why...Who?"

The judge cleared his throat and shuffled some papers. "The father of the young man you killed has asked us for leniency. The DA has agreed. Nothing I can do. You're cleared."

The prisoner's mouth gaped as his hands were freed. He glanced wildly about the empty courtroom. "No way! This is a joke, right?"

"No joke. I wish it was. Now get oughtta here."

The prisoner hesitated, then looked slyly at the judge. "I don't believe it. Nobody would do that. I killed...I mean...he said he saw me kill his kid. He was all for seeing me fry. Why would he...?"

The judge's lips tightened. "Frankly, I don't know. You're guilty as sin and I was looking forward to handing you the maximum.

"But the guy's got connections. He paid all your court costs and cleared you of any crime. He says to tell you he believes in you and to go and make something of your life. Makes no sense to me, but if you don't get out of here in about five seconds, I'm gonna put you back behind bars for contempt."

The young man's fists tightened. He turned from the judge to the bailiff and stuck out his wrists. "No. I don't believe you. It's a trick. You all know I did it, might as well say so. No father would do that. You're lyin'. Besides, even if ya'll are telling the truth, what I did needs punishment. I got my pride. I'll do my time."

Wouldn't that be an idiotic thing to say?
If you were that kid, given a chance at freedom, would you take it?
Are you sure?

Aren't you doing the same thing?

That guilt you carry. That shame from your sin long confessed. The price has been paid, the sentence dropped; yet, you insist on living like the condemned.

When Jesus cried from the cross, "It is finished!" he meant it. Finished. Complete. Nothing could be added or taken away from perfection. The charges have been dropped.

When we confess our sin, God says he remembers it no more. Your record is wiped clean.

But like that young prisoner, we can't accept it. We wallow in self-recrimination, rehashing our mistake, dragging it back to the altar of God like a dog with a rotting carcass.

To insist on carrying a load of shame is as pointless as that young prisoner trying to pay a price no longer imposed. It was an insult to that bereaved father to imply that his sacrifice was not sufficient.

And it is an insult to your Heavenly Father to imply that His Son's sacrifice was insufficient to pay for your crime. Your record was wiped clean with that one statement: "It is finished." You cannot add or take away anything from the price He paid.

So are you trying to slip back into the handcuffs?

If you've admitted your guilt and accepted His sacrifice, then your Father has dropped the charges.

He believes in you. Leave your shame at the cross. Go and make something of your life.


Are You Driving Through It?

Butch looked at me with a sheepish grin. "I know it's not what God wants, but..." He shrugged as if that was the end of it. "...I know He'll forgive me. I mean, none of us is perfect, right?"

With that, he classified his ongoing sexual immorality as an "aw shucks" mistake and prepared to continue it.

Are you guilty of something similar?

Maybe this story will help clarify it.
There was once a man who had a son. His wife died and he set about raising this beloved child with all the tender care of two parents.

He worked all day and then rushed home to cook supper and spend the evening helping with homework, tossing a frisbee, or just taking long walks to talk about life.

As the boy approached his eighth birthday, he set his heart on a new bike for Christmas. The father knew he could scarcely afford it, but found another job and worked extra hours to pay for it.

The shriek of delight from his son on Christmas morning more than made up for the long hours he had worked.

Together they took the bike out into the frosty morning and within a few minutes, the boy was peddling proudly around the block.

"Watch out for cars!" the father called and laughed as he watched his delighted son peddle furiously out of sight.

He had just pulled the Christmas turkey from the oven when he heard sirens shriek past his house. As any caring parent does, he froze. Was his son all right?

He dropped the dish towel and raced to the front door. An ambulance raced past, lights flashing. Behind it, a fire truck.

Something knotted in the father's stomach and before he knew what he was doing, he raced from the house.

His feet pounded against the frozen sidewalk and his breath came in white puffs.
"Please, God...don't let it be..."

At the end of the street, a crowd had gathered. Red and white lights strobed the neighborhood. Medics were loading a stretcher into an ambulance. Before he could get there, the doors closed and the sirens screamed as the vehicle raced away.

His feet pounded on, his eyes trained on a grueling sight near the curb. The onlookers had started back to their homes when he glimpsed what he dreaded to see. His heart lurched and his breath made a cloud around his face.

He squeezed his eyes shut, but when he opened them again, there was no mistake. On the pavement lay the twisted remains of his son's new bike. A pool of blood spread dark tentacles across the street.

"No!" his cry echoed down the now-silent street.

Pitying eyes met his and then turned away.

A hand touched his shoulder and he whirled to face a uniformed police officer. "I'm sorry, sir. Was that your son?"


"They say he swerved to miss that pup over there and..." The hand patted and then dropped.

The rest of the morning was a blur as he paid the obligatory visit to the morgue to identify the body. A body. That's all it was. The life was gone. The light was gone. The sun would never shine again.

Cold rain had started by the time he made it home. He sat in the drive and stared at what had once been a cozy house. It was now a vacant warehouse, dark and uninviting. How could he go in there? The warmth was gone. It wasn't home anymore without the boy.

He got out and walked coatless, blinking against the stinging rain until he stood at the scene again. There it was. The blood. So much blood. His son's life blood, spilled on the street like refuse.

A car rounded the corner and rolled right through it, leaving a red tire path halfway down the street.

He whirled to watch it leave, stunned as another car followed. Careless. Unknowing.

His breath caught and the tears froze on his cheeks. He staggered into the street and waved his arms at the receding taillights.
"Don't! Don't drive through my son's blood!" he cried. "Don't drive through my son's blood!"

Anger surged through him as another car rounded the corner. He leaped in front of it, shouting like a madman. "No! Stop! Don't drive through my son's blood!"

The car swerved and a voice shouted, "Idiot! Get out of the way!"

The father stumbled into the red pool and lay down. "My son, my son! I won't let them drive through your blood."

Are you driving through His Son's blood?


Step Right Up, Folks!

Would you buy anything from this guy?

If we saw him at the fair,most of us would lift a skeptical brow and keep walking.

But when it comes to spiritual matters, snakeoil salesmen are thriving.

I learned something recently that was both interesting and somewhat puzzling. In my home city (and I'm sure in may other cities) there exists a Theological Seminary with a Unitarian Universalist club on campus.

Does that strike you as odd?

If you were a Unitarian, why would you go to a Theological Seminary? Isn't that kindof like a blind man attending a speed-reading class? Or a dwarf trying out for the LA Lakers?

One Unitarian website boasts the inclusion of atheists, active homosexuals, Wiccans, and a host of other decidedly non-God-honoring groups in their "churches."

The presence of this school-sanctioned Unitarian club tells me all I need to know about the quality of this so-called seminary. If I didn't know better, I would swear that this particular school was what the Apostle Paul was referring to when he wrote to Timothy: "they hold to a form of godliness, but deny the Source of power."
(2 Tim. 3:5)

He describes them again in Romans 1:21-22
(NLT): "Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools."

Any seminary that would welcome a Universalist club and train its ministers is salt that has lost is savor. (Matt. 5:13) Jesus said something about it being "good for nothing but to be trampled underfoot." Not my words, they're His.

What in the world do they study?

Universalists don't hold to any belief system. They teach an "all paths lead to heaven" doctrine and worship Diversity--whoever that is. Can this deity--Diversity--save anyone? Heal anyone? Forgive sin? Or promise eternal life? Diversity did not leave heaven, walk the earth He created, or take my place on the cross.

Any seminary that proclaims that it "follows the teachings and life of Jesus Christ" should do just that. What about these words of His: "
I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father, but by me?" (John 14:6)

Those words don't sound very
inclusive. Neither do these: "The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”(John 3:35-36)

I wonder what the Universalists do when they have to study that part of the Bible? Or maybe they don't study the Bible at this theological seminary. Imagine that--theology without God.

I'm not buying it, are you?

A New Twist on Sharing

Deliver those who are being taken away to death,
And those who are staggering to slaughter, Oh hold
them back.

If you say, “See, we did not know this,” Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? And does He not know it who keeps your soul? And will He not render to man according to his work? Pr. 24:11-12


When we hear the word "help," our fingers usually tighten on our wallets and this month's list of bills looms large in our minds. The pleas for assistance echo on and on and it seems everybody wants some of what you've got.

Many times material possessions are not what is needed most. Notice the above scripture said nothing about giving money. It talked about taking action when you know you should. Stepping up, being a hero if only by carrying the mail in for the man across the street.

Maybe it is time that someone needs. Maybe it's a kind word. Maybe someone needs a friend at the moment and you could fill that need.

What you have to offer may not look like much to you, but it may be exactly what God wants to use to bless someone else.

The puppy needed a blanket. All the hen had was her feathers, but she could offer that. And they both received a blessing. He got a blanket; she got a cozy nest.

The world's need is overwhelming and it is easy to turn a deaf ear to the ongoing cries. Our hearts harden with the thoughts:
What can I do? What is my pitiful offering in the face of so much need? I'd rather stay shut in my house and take care of me and mine.

But what if, instead, we went looking for it? What if we met every day with the thought:
What need can I meet today for somebody who can never pay me back? How can I be the hands and feet of Jesus today?

You might find that what you intended as a blanket for someone else becomes a cozy nest for you.


Which Way Do You Roll?

"That surface is as flat as it can be," the engineer declared. "I study these things. I should know."

"I dunno. I think it might be slightly tilted to the left," answered the boy.

The scientist lifted a brow. "Son, I work with planes and angles all day long. I am an expert and I know what I'm talking about. The balance is precise. The table legs are exactly even and this room is square. I can guarantee that is a perfectly flat plane."

The boy pulled a marble out of his pocket and dropped it on the center of the table. It inched to the left. Then rolled again. It ambled across the table and then dropped onto the floor.

The boy looked up at the engineer. "See? It might look flat, but marbles don't lie."
Some things look and sound great in debate, but they don't represent real life.

How many times have you listened to people wax eloquent about their spirituality? They can recite passages of Scripture, debate pre-trib, mid-trib, and post-trib with flare, and present an impressive prayer list. They state unequivocally that God is Number One on their list, their top priority. They are satisfied that God is equally impressed with their devotion.

But try dropping a marble on their table.

That marble is called Passion. Where is their passion? When given some free time, where do they go? What do they do? What do they instantly seek when given free rein?

When given the chance to do anything you like, would you prefer to cheer your favorite sports team, celebrity-watch, channel surf, bury your nose in the latest thriller, or shop 'til you drop? Do you instantly gravitate toward your hobbies, your social circle, or mind-numbing television? Or maybe you welcome the chance to make more money? Every hour should be billable.

None of those things is wrong in itself. But they are marbles on the table. They reveal the truth beneath the grandiose claims.
When you are given a block of unscheduled time, what passion rushes first to mind? What thought makes your heart lighten and your pulse quicken. What personal delight brings eager expectation?

When you read verses like Psalm 73:25 ("...nothing on earth I desire besides You") does your conscience smite you? Do you feel like a liar when you read that aloud?

Does your mind fold its arms and lift a brow at you? It quickly names a half-dozen things you desire besides God. You acknowledge Him, obey Him (mostly), thank, and appreciate Him. But He is not your heart's desire. There are a few earthly delights ahead of Him in line. You'd just prefer not to look at it that way.

Our words can be trained to reflect what our ego has decided is true. But our passions don't lie. They are marbles on our table. Honesty about our passion is not a condemnation, but a plumb-line to show us whether we are off the mark.

So where's your passion? If a marble was dropped on your heart, which way would it roll? Remember, marbles don't lie.

A Poem for God

Some people like to distance You with words
like "Thee" and "Thou."

Some prefer to question You
with What? and Why? and How?

Still others feel more
comfortable with a list of rights and wrongs.

But I just want to climb up in Your lap,

Stroke Your face,

And sing You love songs.

What Was it Like?

You can't believe your good fortune!

The richest man in the world, benefactor to thousands, wealthy beyond your comprehension, has invited you to his next dinner party!

You show up, nervous, invitation in hand, leaving behind a gaggle of wide-eyed friends awaiting reports.

You lift the heavy brass knocker and a maid opens the door.

She looks quizzically at you and you thrust the invitation toward her.

Her face relaxes and she steps back. "Come in. You're invited."

You swallow the wad of cotton in your throat and step over the threshold.

Tantalizing scents swirl around your face and gentle laughter ripples from somewhere just out of sight. Your eyes try to take it all in at once. Yep, there's the winding gold staircase you've heard rumors about. And the hallway that seems to go on forever. How many rooms were reported to be on the first floor?

You quiet your thudding heart and look around for the lord of the manor. Is he as amazing as his reputation says he is? On those rare occasions when he's been sighted, he is always impeccably dressed, unnervingly polite, and kind beyond anyone's comprehension. One story had him kneeling in the rain beside the road in his tuxedo helping a lone woman change a flat. Surely all the stories were exaggerations, but you're dying to find out for yourself.

It is nearly midnight when you tumble into bed.

The phone rings.

"We-e-ell?" your friend asks. "I've been waiting for you to call. What was it like?"

"It was incredible, all right," you answer. "I--"

"Are there really twenty-three bedrooms on the first floor? Is the food as great as they say? What about the music? I hear he imports musicians from all over the world! What about--"

You give a nervous laugh. "I don't know about that. I never heard them."

"What? No musicians? Well, what about the guy himself? Is he really like they say? Tell me about him!"

You swallow. "Well...I never...I mean...I didn't actually see him..."

"Whaddya mean? Weren't you there? I thought you went?"

"Oh, I did. I went."

"Well, tell me what it's like! Is the guy as great as everyone says? Did you talk to him? Did you get a gift like people say he gives out?"

You force a nervous cough. "I-um...well, see...I did go, but I just stayed inside the doorway. I, uh, I never went all the way in. It was too overwhelming and I, well, I saw a lot of good things right where I was."

A dead silence. "You're kidding, right? You get invited to the party of the century and you didn't go all the way in? You just stood in the doorway?"

Shame heats your face. "Yeah...sounds kinda dumb, now. I was just...I dunno, I thought that was good enough, just getting invited, you know? I mean, I was inside his house. I met his maid. I smelled the great food and heard a few strains of the orchestra. I just...well, I didn't know what was expected of me so I stayed where it was comfortable."

Would you have gone all the way in?
Are you sure?

Many people hear the call of God. They respond and accept His gift of salvation, delighted that they are now going to Heaven.

But they stay right there.

All their lives, they stay just inside the safety zone. Never growing in their faith. Never truly experiencing everything God has for them. They view salvation as their Get-Out-Of-Hell Free card to be cashed in upon death. They stick it in their back pockets and go on about their lives, completely missing the whole meaning of a relationship with God.

That choice is as ridiculous as spending the whole evening on the threshold of a wonderful event. The Lord of the Manor is as wonderful as the reports say, and he wants to know you. His gifts and presence are highly desirable and only a fool would not take every opportunity to spend as much time at the mansion as possible.

You may have an invitation, but it won't do you much good unless you trade it for all the benefits it represents.

Go ahead.
Walk on in and close the door behind you.
You won't want to leave anytime soon, anyway.

Now, Why...?

This photo doesn't even need a caption. We've all felt this way.

  • Two seconds after the comment slips through your lips...
  • That moment when you realize you've locked your keys in the car...with the baby...
  • Your ATM card has just sailed across the floor and down through the grate...
  • You've already blown your character-trait-for-the-day practice and it's not even breakfast
Why did I say that!
Why did I do that?
Why didn't I listen?
How could I?

Most of us are very good at berating ourselves. We are our own worst critics. Our expectations for ourselves can be much higher than anyone else's expectations of us and when we fail to reach that impossible standard, we feel shame.

People who live under an umbrella of shame tend to take it out on the world around them. I may feel shame that I did something stupid, but you'd better look out! The next move you make will be my chance to make myself feel better.

What if we learned to forgive ourselves the same way we know we are to forgive others?

Does that sound like feel-good psychology?

It's not.

It's the truth.

I John 3:20 encourages us with these words: If your heart condemns you, God is greater than your heart and knows all things.

In other words, stop being so hard on yourself. God isn't. Your willful sin has to go. Your selfish choices, addictions, and evil behavior are non-negotiables. God hates it more than you do.

But the millions of little foibles that plague every member of the human race don't count against you. The "uh-oh's" and "oopses" that make up our lives don't have to go on our Low Self-Worth list. You won't find them on God's list anywhere.

OK, so you went through the drivethru backward,
so your skirt was tucked into your pantyhose all afternoon,
so you're overdrawn at the bank,
and you accidentally texted your pastor a steamy message meant for your spouse.

It happens.

But when the barrage of self-berating words bubble to your lips, stop. Ask yourself: Would I say this to someone else? Would I call my friend a stupid idiotic loser because she straightened her boss's tie before realizing what she was doing?
Would I call my co-worker a no-good jerk because he led a meeting with spinach between his front teeth?

Why do we believe it's acceptable to treat ourselves with less respect than we treat everyone else? Each of us is a valuable person, created by God just the way He wanted us.

That's why he reminds us that our hearts can't always be trusted, but He can. Maybe it will help to remember this week that even if your heart condemns you, God is greater than your heart.

My baby girl, Susie, is in Europe for a month with our friend, Ruth Lovin, a talented photographer who took this shot on the northern coast of Ireland. They are working with a mission organization, Operation Mobilization, taking photos for publicity materials and recording video documentaries to promote the work OM has all over the world.

Ruth's caption on this photo reminded me of something. Everywhere we look, nature displays the glory of God. The skies are filled with color, the forests with sounds and scents. The animal kingdom exemplifies God's creativity and proves that He is the only giver of life.

Just as the sky is filled with God's glory, the earth is filled with His story, as His people scatter over every nation, tribe, and tongue proclaiming it.

He paints the sky with color and expects those who've sampled his palette to bring beauty and color to the lives of those who've known only darkness.

He infuses creativity into every object of nature. He has passed some of that creativity on to us and expects us to use those creative skills to echo His truth.

Are you using all He's given you for His glory?

Is some of His brilliance hidden away in some dark closet of your soul
because you are afraid of failure?
Of rejection?
Of what others will think?

Take another long look at this photo. Is some of that beauty tucked away in your arsenal of unused skills? Is it fair to deny access to the God who gave it to you?

Take it out today. Dust it off.

Is His glory filling your world?
Are you using what He gave you to spread His glory to others?

This would be a great day to start.

Is Your Glass Half Full?

Polly lifted the mud-filled bowl so that her mother could see the problem. "I wanna put water in here. It won't go."

Mom took the bowl gingerly between two fingers. "It's full of mud, honey. See?"

She handed it back to her daughter. "You can't put anything else in there when it's already full. Empty out all the mud and then you can fill it with water."

Seems simple, doesn't it?

So why do we have such a hard time with it?

Many Christians wonder why they feel so far from God most of the time. They want to be closer. They want to be filled with the Holy Spirit, as we are commanded to be. They pray, they try. But nothing happens.

The problem?
They are like the muddy bowl. They are already full.

Philippians 2 shows us to the starting gate. "Let this be your attitude, the same one Jesus had. He was God, yet he voluntarily set that aside and emptied himself, took on human flesh, and became one of us."
(my paraphrase)

Notice the first thing He did. He emptied himself of all rights and privileges that made Him the "darling of Heaven."
(Darlene Zscheche, Worthy is the Lamb) Before he could become like us in our weakness and frailty, he had to first empty himself of everything that separated him from us.

And we are to do the same.

Before the Holy Spirit can completely fill and empower us, we have to empty ourselves of everything that keeps us separate from God: our will, our opinion, our rights, our agenda. Just as Jesus did.

Jesus had to empty himself before He could step down to dwell with us. We have to empty ourselves before we can be lifted up to dwell in the "secret place of the Most High." (Psalm 91) We cannot soar on wings of eagles while anchored firmly to earth. If we are still captivated by this world's goodies, still living with tunnel vision as though our little lives were the center of the universe, we are too full. We force the Holy Spirit to ride in the overcrowded luggage compartment.

To empty yourself means you voluntarily set aside everything that makes you YOU, just as Jesus did. Not that everything about you is wrong. It's just in the way.

The Holy Spirit cannot fill a vessel that is already filled with YOU. Until your will is lost in His, until you are "hidden with Christ" (Col. 3:3), until God is your delight and single-minded focus, you are a glass half-filled with mud.

There are many areas of life that you don't get to choose, but you get to choose what fills you.

So how's your bowl? Is it ready for water?

Maybe you need to empty it first.

What the World Needs Now

Notice anything odd about this photo?

What makes it odd?

Do you find it strange that a bear would snuggle up with another species? Doesn't seem normal, does it?

The sad thing is that we feel the same way about people.

We automatically choose to love those who are like us, sentencing those we consider different to a lower level of relationship. It can be outside our comfort zone to embrace people who are not in our social, economic, spiritual, or racial realm.

We may give lip service to "loving everyone, regardless" but how often do we really practice it?

  • When was the last time you went out of your way to show true love to someone very different from you?
  • When was the last time you learned something valuable from someone you initially thought inferior to yourself?
  • What about your speech. Do you use derogatory terms for other races or cultures? What about seemingly harmless phrases like "those people?"
The first thing we notice about the above photo is the obvious difference. Our eyes quickly scan the two animals and our brains sound a warning: Incompatible! Separate species! Not right!

But notice how much more the two have in common than they differ: fur, color, region, appetite, and the fact that they are both cold.

We are all human beings. We are all created by God for his purpose and pleasure. We have the same basic needs for love, security, self-worth, and significance. Let's learn to snuggle up a little closer and love each other.

If they can do it in the animal kingdom, then surely we can too.

Atheism Defined

What if I were to swear to you that this is an untouched photo!
That I took this picture while at the beach
and I am as amazed as you are?

Would you believe me?

No? You sure? Why not?

Think about your answer for a minute.

You may have thought something like, "That's impossible because cows don't swim in the ocean and they certainly don't leap like dolphins. They never have. Never will."

Yet that is exactly what atheists and Darwinists expect us to believe. Their theories insist that we suspend logic and reality and accept pictures like the one above as undisputed fact. Any reasonable question is met with the same unprovable answer:
If you don't understand it, just add a few billion years. That will explain it all.

Every time I watch a baby calf run to his mother in a field of identical cows...

Every time I look at my own hand and consider the thousands of things it can do...

Every time I see a wild flower, perfectly painted in imaginative color...

Every time I hear a debate of abstract ideas and consider human thought...

Every time I am thankful for the gift of sight and how amazing it is...

Every time I consider the vastness and complexity of the universe
and how impossible the idea
that it spontaneously erupted all by itself...

I think: Atheism is really stupid.

Free Will-y

I will.

We say it when we marry.

We say it when we agree to something we don't particularly want to do.

We say it when we swear in court to tell the whole truth.

I will is a powerful statement. It is a declaration of intent, an indicator that a person has himself under enough control that he can direct his future actions.

Lucifer was probably the first created being to use the phrase when he said, "I will be like the Most High God. I will set my throne above His."

Even after that revolt in Heaven, God still embedded in the human heart a free will. Lucifer's betrayal did not deter God from His purpose: to create man in His own image with the freedom to choose right or wrong.

You have a will. Every moment of every day you are exercising that will. Even though you may feel trapped by your circumstances, chained to a dead-end job, or drowning in children who had seemed a good idea at the time, you still have a choice.

Remaining chained is a choice. Whether or not to cave in to your emotions is a choice. How you choose to deal with your particular circumstances is up to you.

But God has a will too. It is His will that every one of his human creations come to love and honor Him. He desires that every one of us choose His will over our own.

But He won't force it.

Isn't it interesting that the God who created the universe sets aside His own desire to give us what we demand? If we demand our own way, if we insist on trying to meet our own needs in our own way, he won't tie us down.

He allows what he hates because He is completely just. He won't violate His own laws for the sake of His heart.
  • What if you took your will--as though it was an object you could detach--and handed it to God?
  • What if you made it your goal to forfeit your will in favor or God's, just as He has done for you?
  • What would your life look like then?
Is that a scary thought?

Lucifer became Satan when God hurled him from Heaven and he lives for the dark thrill of scaring us to death. Where do you think you got the idea that total surrender to God will involve heartache and disaster? Whose twisted mind produced the thought that God only wants to hurt and destroy you? It wasn't yours.

Ever since the evil one uttered those first defiant words, I will, he has made it his goal to get us to do the same.

What if you stopped listening to him and made it your goal to have no will of your own?

What if God's will became yours?

What if you tried that today?

What if in answer to God's call on your life, you answered,

"I Will!"

Ask First

"Um, Dad? I think I'm lost."

The cell connection was weak and crackly. His heart sank. His little Princess was out there somewhere in the dark, alone in her car, on some treacherous highway filled with bandits and serial killers. Or at least that's what it feels like to a father when his teenage daughter calls at midnight.

"Why didn't you call me earlier?" He tried to check the irritation in his voice, but fear drove it an octave higher.

"Um...I dunno. I thought...I thought I knew what I was doing..." Crackle. "Oh, and my phone battery is almost dead."

Anger battled with fear. Once more her impulsiveness and overconfidence had become his problem.

God completely understands that father's frustration. In Joshua chapter 9, we read of a little incident when Mighty Joshua, who had just earned enough military medals to sink a ship, got a little overconfident and "did not inquire of the Lord" before making a disastrous decision.

The sworn enemies of Israel sent some spies, disguised as travelers from afar, and tricked the leaders into making a covenant not to destroy them--in direct disobedience to God's stated command. As a result, these enemies were allowed to live and became a deep thorn in Israel's side for generations to come. All because they "neglected to inquire of the Lord."

How much trouble would we save ourselves if we made it a habit
to run everything past God before making a decision?

God loves to be consulted. He loves having an active place in our lives, directing our steps, and blessing our obedience.

But how many times are we like the overconfident daughter who only calls when she's in desperate trouble?

We use God like 9-1-1. We want him to be there in an emergency, but the rest of the time, He's not even on speed dial.

It doesn't work. Joshua and the Israelite leaders could tell you that.

Take a look around your life right now. Got a choice facing you? A decision? A fork in the road?

Be sure you "inquire of the Lord" first.

You get peace and an "ever present help in trouble," and He takes care of the results.