Tuesday, December 23, 2014

"God Is" Equals "God Does"

Why did God send his Son into the world? John 3:17 answers that "God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him."  But why did God become

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Mary's Vision, Joseph's Dream

I've been wondering again -- in the wonder of the whole Incarnation story that keeps leaving me with my mouth open in amazement -- about the stories of Mary, in Luke's gospel, and Joseph in Matthew's account.  The idea that God would become one of us is just beyond me. It was beyond Joseph and Mary too. That's why the angel appeared to them. But my question is,

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Mary woke up early, reflecting on her memory of the angel coming to her the day before to announce she would bear the child named Jesus. So what was she to do now? Her family, unbelieving, would reject her, and so would Joseph. But she had heard the angel say "nothing is impossible for God" and she had responded with "Here

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

And He's Coming Back, Too: Advent #2

Advent isn't just about Jesus' first coming. He said over and over in different ways that he is returning. What will that mean for humanity? For each one of us? For the "dead in Christ" and all our relatives who have died in the past? Here's a half-a-thumbnail sketch:

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

We Are His Kids -- Advent #1

Advent is the time the Christian church celebrates the coming of our Savior. The basic story is that the Son of God willingly took our flesh into his own Person, becoming God-and-human, so he could experience our own lives just like us, live without any sin and willingly give himself, out of

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Thoughts on Veteran's Day

In the Western World, November 11 is known as Armistice Day, or Remembrance Day or Veterans' Day. All of those have to do with remembering the devastation of war and our occasional relief that one of them is over. Today was no exception. I honor and appreciate

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Children and Jesus and Welcoming

Jesus was impressed with children. Not because they knew how to do cartwheels, but because they approached the world without pretense, and accepted others at face value. In Matthew 18, Jesus calls a little child to him and says “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.More than that, Jesus said in verse 5, "And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me." Now, that is a big deal -- welcoming Jesus, personally,

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

How Do We Believe?

Do people become Jesus-followers because someone presents an argument, in a series of logical steps designed to convince them? Why do people begin to believe? Some of us are actively praying for others to believe, and some are actively involved in helping others believe, as best we can. So what is our part, if any, that we should be careful to follow?  Let's look.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

"With Appreciation"

The Lovely Joanne just had a birthday, and she received cards from friends and family all over. It's been a blessing to be remembered by so many. She and I make it a practice to remember as many birthdays and anniversaries as we can keep track of, and to say some

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Humility and Trust

To be frank, I don't know if I want to trust you. I've trusted people before, and some of them betrayed me, gossiped, and made fun of me. Some of them abandoned me, just hung me out to dry and walked away. So if I ask you to pray about something, or open up and tell you about my problems, what will you do? Or maybe this is you, asking me

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Gift of Presence

"Your presence is the only present we request" sometimes shows up on an invitation to a birthday or anniversary. The hosts are expressing that it's more important to be there, than to give something to the person being honored. Guess what? Jesus 'showed up' often during his life on earth, and his presence was often simply that, and that alone. Jesus came to

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Safe Place

I really don't feel like talking to God about my latest failing. I've done it before, I'm afraid I'll do it again, and I don't like the way I am when I fail like that. So I think maybe I'll just skip the prayer part and go on, pretending it didn't happen. Surely God understands...Well, yes, actually he does, and I know better. Maybe I need to remember again why God is the safest place, the only really safe place, for me to take all my junk!  There are three

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Love WHO???

Sometimes I don't understand Jesus. He's just a little too 'out there' for me. He's famous for the Sermon on the Mount, but that is a challenging piece! I mean, he takes the old command "don't murder" which is fairly straightforward, and makes it impossible with "don't call anyone else an idiot." Is that fair? (Maybe he only said that because he didn't have to deal with the drivers around here.) Not only that, he tells us we should love, not only our neighbors and friends, but even our enemies. That can't be realistic, can it? Maybe he had something else

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

What Is Jesus Doing?

It's morning, and I'm working on some coffee and some of God's words to get steered in the right direction for the day. My goal for today is to know Jesus' will for me and to

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Gospel Is about Race Relations Too

This video clip from Mark DeYmaz, of Mosaic Church, talks more bluntly -- with grace, just more openly than we normally politely do -- about race and injustice in America. No its roots, but its cure, which is our responsibility not the government's. 


Well worth the 11 minutes to watch. May I dare you?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

He Felt Our Sorrows

Is the Gospel relevant? It is as relevant to our lives as the newspaper or its online equivalents. Lately, we've been hit with the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, and the recurring Israel-Gaza conflict, with over 2,000 dead and no proper end in sight -- just to name two out of thousands of conflicts right now. How does the Gospel apply to all these? Here are a few

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Saul the Persecutor

All this recent action by the Islamic militia, the IS, taking over territory and killing anyone who disagrees with them, reminds me of a character in the early church named Saul. He thought he had a corner on the Righteousness market, and wanted to stuff it down everyone's throat on an 'or-else' basis. God had other plans...  Acts 9 tells the story.

 As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”
“Who are you, lord?” Saul asked.
And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

It ain't over till it's over. And there's no ruling out that the persecutors themselves will be converted by seeing a vision or being confronted by Jesus himself. Then what would happen?  We don't know but it's sure worth praying for!

Come quickly, Lord Jesus. (Rev. 22:20).

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Marvel-ing at a True Super-hero

When I was a lot younger, I read the comics and watched TV shows like Superman and Batman (not always with the permission of my parents) and marveled at the strength of these more-than-humans and their ability to stay calm in almost any tough situation. Now I see Marvel(tm) comics or see the ads for movies with Hulk, Thor, Captain America and the others and I realize these fantasies

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What Brings Joy to the Holy Spirit?

Ephesians 4:30 says "And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live." Last Sunday looking at this verse, we asked questions like what brings grief to the Holy Spirit and why that is. The next interesting question was, "What

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Make Up -- by a young girl

An amazing spoken-word poem by a young woman with a ton of insight and a great talent for wordplay. The message:  You are beautiful without the chemicals.
Fathers, let's give that message to our girls. Brothers, be strong in validating our sisters as the daughters of God. Husbands -- we validate our wives every day by the way we give them love and honor as our sisters in Christ, beautiful just as they are.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Relationship First

God says "I am the LORD who brought you out of Egypt, who set you free from slavery" before he tells them anything to do. God says "I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" over and over. He is first of all about relationship, and only secondly about directions, commands and obedience.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

God Doesn't Change the Rules

The summer camp where I volunteered last week got all the young male campers out into the woods for a rousing game of what is loosely called "Capture the Flag." After 45 minutes without anyone capturing anything except scrapes and muddy clothes, our Fearless Leader decided to mix it up a bit by changing some of the rules. After the new rules didn't work out, somebody else had an idea about a different rule change, and off we went again. After another hour of more confusion on the rules, we ended the game, all glad for one thing:

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sons and Daughters, not Slaves

From another blog, a post quoting John Stott's commentary on Galatians: 

Here's the quote:
“The Christian life is the life of sons and daughters; it is not the life of slaves. It is freedom, not bondage. Of course, we are slaves of God, of Christ, and of one another. We belong to God, to Christ, to one another, and we love to serve those to whom we belong. But this kind of service is freedom.
“What the Christian life is not, is a bondage to the law, as if our salvation hung in the balance and depended on our meticulous and slavish obedience to the letter of the law.
“As it is, our salvation rests upon the finished work of Christ, on His sin-bearing, curse-bearing death, embraced by faith.”

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Opposite Of...FHL

Faith, hope and love are three of the major themes of the Bible. Most of us assume that we start out our life with God bringing a little bit of each, and that after struggling through life, doing our best to grow in these, we are supposed to have FAITH, HOPE and LOVE in huge capital letters like the Hollywood sign. Here's the problem: it

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Finding Beauty in the Ordinary

I think maybe I'm too practical. I'm always looking for the best use of something -- whether it's deciding which pocket gadget to buy for camping trips, depending on the number of tools it has and the likelihood of using each one; or just wanting to get the most out of my days and dollars. But last weekend my friend Sheila

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A New Childhood

God calls himself our Father, and he calls us his children. Jesus called little children to himself (Luke 18:15-17 for instance) to explain visually what it means to be God's kids (not just so he could explain humility -- he also took them in his arms and blessed them). The imagery that God accepts us "as his kids" should include our own memories of safety, love, warmth, comfort, care and security. That's how it should be.

But for some of us, childhood

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

His Story, Not Ours

"I love to tell the story..." goes the old hymn. Lots of people do love to tell it, and many others love to talk about telling it. Sometimes we worry that we're not telling the story "of Jesus and his love" often enough or to the right people. But really, whose story is

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Depth of Ocean, Depth of Love

From Jared C. Wilson's blog, a beautiful picture of the love of God.  This is written by Octavius Winslow.  Worth reading slowly with meditation and prayer.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Hungry Birds

I was sitting this morning with The Lovely Joanne on our front porch, quietly talking with God, and heard a chirping a few feet away. The birdseed sock on the other end of the porch was being visited by two yellow finches, male and female, and they were happily pecking away at the seed. That humans were so close, and yet they were willing to keep pecking, meant they were hungry enough to risk an encounter with us.

Oh that we were so hungry for God, that we were willing to pour ourselves out for him, eagerly drinking in whatever he gave us and not shrinking back from whatever he asked of us in return! That we would be so hungry for him to move in our hearts and make his love known through us that we would be willing to give up our illusion of control, our desire for safety and predictability, our wish to manipulate the outcome, and simply let God do in us, for us and through us what he wished! What then would be the outcome? Oh, it might be unfamiliar and even uncomfortable at first, but Lord, what results would you create in our lives and in our churches?

Lord, make us hungry. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Christ in Us: The Holy Spirit

In John 13-17, Jesus still had a lot to tell his followers. John, that wonderful writer of commentary on Jesus' life and ministry, relates to us Jesus' words during and after their Passover meal together. Jesus was departing, but in another way, he really wasn't. There was another way for him to be with them,

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

"Ministry in the Spirit"

Lately I've seen several large churches advertising a "school of supernatural ministry" -- they even seem to have that exact title everywhere. I know people who have attended them, who report good results in their lives. And since this is Pentecost season, I've been studying and praying over the descriptions in the Bible of the Holy Spirit working in peoples' lives to do God's will. But after reading the life of Jesus and the book of Acts, in particular, I have to ask a question

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Grace and Garbage

Since a big explosive event near our home last year, half a dozen homes have been repaired extensively. Tons of rubble have been hauled off in dumpsters, to make room for the new construction. In the same way, the Lord Jesus Christ is in

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Bearing Fruit For a Long Time

A Chinese proverb asks "What's the best time to plant a tree?" The answer is "Twenty years ago!" Trees are symbols of stability and strength (Psa. 92:12), long life and contributing to one's surroundings (Psalm 1). Jesus uses a grapevine in John 15 to

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Rooted to Be Fruited

We moderns think fruit comes out of a can or from a grocery store, so the illustration Jesus used of a vine in John 15 to describe bearing spiritual fruit is less clear than when people had more knowledge of agriculture. We might think it's about us (the branches) making fruit

Monday, May 12, 2014

Before Time, There Was...

Did anything exist before the universe was here? We have a hard time imagining something that could exist before, well, anything existed (if the word "universe" means "space and time and energy and everything"). But if God exists, which I believe he does, he was around before he made

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Ways to Pray

Pray with words, gestures, music, finger-paint, modeling clay, stories, photography, or any other medium that connects you with God. After all, he is the creator, and is infinitely creative; and he put creativity in you too, so he can speak to you through those things. But pray at all times, in every way, about everything!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Burning Bush

Earth is crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees
Takes off his shoes -
The rest sit around it and pluck blackberries.
- Emily Dickinson

Fruit, Part 1

The two plum trees in our front yard were only saplings when we planted them but now they're nearly ten feet tall, and have blossomed, so we may have some fruit this summer. There's a deep satisfaction in seeing fruit on a tree I've watched over. But how much deeper is

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Jesus' Life, Your Life Made New

How would you like a makeover? A whole new life? You have one in Christ. Paul says, in 2 Cor. 5, that we have new bodies waiting for us at Jesus' return; and the older I get, the more I'm wanting one of those! He goes on to tell us in v. 17 that we are, already, a new creation! But I have to tell you,

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Compassion and Miracles

Jesus was the Son of God. He performed many miracles during his ministry, healing people and driving out demons, even raising the dead on several occasions. Some analyze these stories to discover the kind of faith that was needed, or how well people knew who he was. The detail that strikes me about all of Jesus' miracles is

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Thomas Got a Bad Rap

In John 20, Jesus comes to his disciples after his resurrection and shows them he is alive (more alive, in fact, than he's ever been; and alive like we will be, like the Father always meant us to be; but that's

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Why Mary Magdalene?

Reading and meditating on the gospel accounts of Jesus' resurrection, one striking detail comes clear:  in all four stories, it is the women who see Jesus first! (Yes, they went to the tomb first, but their testimony is pivotal, contrary to the culture of the day, and is a sign of the acceptance of women in the church.) But in all four accounts, Mary Magdalene

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Why Did Jesus Die? A Meditation for Holy Saturday

Some very helpful thoughts from Dr. C. Baxter Kruger on why Jesus died (these are a few excerpts from a longer article, linked below):
"If we are to understand why Jesus Christ died, we must begin with who God is, and therefore we begin with the Holy Trinity and with the abounding and glorious and rich and overflowing fellowship of the Father, Son and Spirit. For this Triune God is the Creator, and this divine life of togetherness and communion is the womb of creation, and this divine fellowship of unbounded joy is the rhyme and reason behind the existence of the human race and of every person within it....
If we must speak in terms of law, then we must say that the law of this universe is the primal decision of the Father, Son and Spirit to give humanity a place in the Trinitarian life through Jesus Christ....
For how do you get from the Fall of Adam to the right hand of God the Father almighty? The only way is through death. The Fall must be undone. Adam must be thoroughly converted to God. Human existence, broken and estranged and perverted, must be radically circumcised and systematically recreated, utterly and thoroughly transformed, and bent back into right relationship with the Father.
...And Jesus died because the only way to get from the Fall of Adam to the right hand of the Father was through the crucifixion of Adamic existence...."

Friday, April 18, 2014

He Took the Blows for Me

In about 30 A.D., more or less (scholars disagree, but the exact year or day doesn't matter) Jesus met his fate. He knew about it long before, but he didn't run away from it. The Son of God already was sent to the world to save humanity, before time began. Jesus, the Son of God in flesh, willingly

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Leader Who Served

Jesus did something the night before his crucifixion that wrecked the disciples. He had told them over and over about serving others, and had served many, many times in their three years together, but they still didn't get it. One last time, he showed them what love is, and

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

He Did it Because He Loves You

We love stories of someone who gives up his or her life for others. A soldier falls on a grenade for his buddies; a mother dies giving birth; the hero holds off the monster all alone so others can escape. We consider them courageous, and so we should! Yet the sacrifice

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Was Jesus a Victim?

Here's a wonderful explanation in detail that contracts Jesus and his personal sacrifice for you with the ancient mythological gods. Well worth reading! It's by my friend Gary Deddo.


What do you think of it?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Lay those Burdens Down!

I read today yet another story of a person finally finding freedom from his past. As a child, he was victimized by more powerful people, abused in terrible ways. He carried the secret for decades, feeling shame for what had been done to him, feeling

Thursday, March 27, 2014


A routine flight from Malaysia to China has gone missing with no explanation since March 8. The search has involved a dozen nations and is featured in news all over the world every day.  Passengers and crew totaled 239, from 14 nations. Their relatives, and many of us with them, have been hoping, praying, and waiting for three weeks now in hope

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

How do you say 'Thanks' for That?

I've been feeling bad about my sins lately, because I still have some. Of course, if you don't have any sins, you don't have to feel bad along with me. But here's a question: once we have know we've been forgiven of our sins, should we work hard to reform ourselves, cleansing

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Confession and Grace

We don't like accepting our weaknesses and sins (those we can admit, theoretically, that we might have). And we hope nobody else can see any, so we show up in public with our Public Face on. But God already knows what's wrong with each human, and he gives each one total forgiveness in Christ. And James 5:16 tells the church community, as we work together, "Confess

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

How to Treat One Another

I just saw this post on another blog and it's so good, I want to share it here. This is an 'infographic' which means it's easy to absorb visually but has great information in it.


If you wonder how we should treat each other, this is a good place to start.

What do you think?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Follow Jesus and Die (to Self)

Jesus told his followers something really shocking: "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me." (Luke (9:23). And in Luke 14:27, the saying is in reverse: "And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Your Bootstraps Just Broke

Long ago, when I was a boy, people used the expression "pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps" --those were the loops at the top of some boots that helped you get them on your feet. It meant something like "trying to succeed all by yourself" and usually included "and failing" because

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Living in the Kingdom: The Sermon on the Mount

"Blessed are the poor...You are the salt of the earth...Unless your righteousness is better than the Pharisees...You have heard it said..."  These are familiar words from Jesus. Many times they are said to be "a new Torah" or "the constitution of the Kingdom," and they can be a tad frightening if

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Eternity Is Now

Dallas Willard, in one of his books, says "Eternity is now in process."  Wow, that is encouraging! How do we eternity this way?  Well, we've discussed here that the Kingdom of God is already here, and will fill the whole earth at the return of Christ. In the same way, eternity is

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What I Learned about Discipleship at the Gym

I don't like going to the gym.  Now, I don't mind work, and I get sweaty and tired fairly often, but that's usually from working in the garden or something else productive, as opposed to running in place on a treadmill. Then too, I get intimidated by the people at the gym who look in much better condition than I.  But I've realized that working out looks a lot like being a disciple of Jesus. How's that?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Understanding the Kingdom of God

This week, instead of writing my own post, I'm going to direct you to one written by my friend and boss, Joseph Tkach.  He gives us some good words and a good analogy about the kingdom, based on modern technology: a rocket.  See if you agree:  http://update.gci.org/2014/02/understanding-the-kingdom/

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

An Apprentice of the Carpenter

Preachers talk about "following Jesus" but what does that mean? We could use technical language and give a 100-word definition. But simply, it means to be his apprentice in living. Learning what he does and how he does it, learning to pay attention when he teaches, practicing and getting it sort of right, and practicing some more. Since Jesus was a carpenter, maybe

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Living in the Kingdom

Are you in God's kingdom yet? Or do you hope you may be someday? These questions miss the point:  the kingdom of God is already active on earth, and has been for almost 2,000 years. How so? Because Jesus began his ministry by announcing that the time has come, and the kingdom of God was near (Mark 1:15).  He said it was

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

In Jesus, We See God

It's an axiom of theology that God is what's called "transcendent." That is, he is above and outside of his creation, and he is not part of it. Because of that, we can't see or touch him, we can't know his mind and we can't understand his true nature and glory, even

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Come, Let Us Adore Him

The busyness of Advent and Christmas season is over. We start the new year by putting away the decorations, writing thank-you cards, and focusing on the routine of life. But wait -- we sure don't want to lose out on the lasting lessons of the season, do we?  I think not. One of the main lessons of Christmas, I believe, is

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Advent truths

A newsletter pointed me to this poem by Daniel Berrigan, a Jesuit priest. These statements contrast what we think, or perhaps despair of, with the truth of God's word about the Word of God. The daily concerns of Jesus' day are remarkably similar to the situation today, aren't they? But we can be glad for something: the worries about our doom are seen as less than real in the light of the reality of Christ! He came to set it all straight, and truly he did, even if we don't see it often enough. Let's spend a little more time in Advent before we rush off to the New Year: