Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Advent #3: God Invites Us into Love

As I've been writing and preaching, God's purpose in Creation was to invite us into his love: his intimate circle of sharing, adoration and eternal peace. Humans, having the power of choice, decided to choose the unhealthy and destructive attitude of self-will. Instead of

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

We Have Seen God!

God is immaterial -- he's not made out of anything. We physical ones can't grasp immaterial things with our five senses, so we have no hope of seeing God as he is. Except for one supremely important matter:

Advent #2: God Shows Us His Love

Last time I wrote that "God Is Love," that he is one God in three eternal Persons, and he desires to share his love with us. His plan, from the beginning, was to create a physical universe with physical, relational people who would be invited into his eternal embrace of love. But how would an immaterial God invite these physical, material people, into his love in real terms of intimacy, since he is so different from his creation? 'Houston, we have a problem!" But with God, there are no insurmountable problems -- just incredibly beautiful solutions. Here's this one:

The Son of God would become flesh:  truly one of us, with our weaknesses and our needs, suffering as a human from hunger, thirst, fatigue, and temptation; and even subject to death like we are. That's what religious scholars call "incarnation" -- becoming flesh. But because the Son is God, he didn't become non-God; he added humanity to his divinity, without weakening himself but also still fully and completely becoming human. This is a wonder, and one of the most breathtakingly daring and beautiful actions we could imagine.

The Son of God descended from heaven to become human, so that humans could ascend to heaven and live eternally with God. Eugene Peterson's The Message translation says "The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood" in John 1:14.  He came and was fully united with us; he ate our food, drank our water, had to make a living and pay bills, and everything else, just like us. He didn't keep himself back from us because he was King of the Universe; he showed us his love by becoming one of us.

Jesus showed us the love of the Father by his teaching, his kindness and mercy and gentleness, forgiving even those who were torturing him on the Cross (Luke 23:34). And in fact, his self-giving on the Cross, as a sacrifice for us, to take death away and join us instead to his resurrection, is the central example of the love of God.

Because of Jesus, there can be no doubt God loves us extravagantly. He laid down everything for us, including comfort and safety and peace and position, in order to join us and show us love. Jesus, our Savior, is indeed our supreme example of love; and his love in us is what makes it possible for us to love others as he loved.

Can you love someone extravagantly, this Christmas season?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Advent, #1 of 3: God Is Love

Christians celebrate this pre-Christmas season looking back to Jesus' first coming in Bethlehem, looking forward to his promised return in power and glory to bring peace on earth (Yes, really!) and soaking in his daily coming into our lives and thoughts by his Spirit. These three

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

He's My King!

I'm continuing to read in various media reports online about protests against the newly-elected President of the United States, Mr. Donald Trump. Individuals and groups are using the slogan "Not My President" in their anger against our new leader. But I'm not here to talk politics -- I'm here to lift our eyes to a higher plane, to who our real Leader is. Hint: we're getting ready to celebrate his birth soon!

Jesus -- his name means "one who saves" -- was born in a little backwater

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Don't Miss the Party

Q:  I've heard that eternity is supposed to be wonderful and never-ending joy. So why would God only invite "the chosen" and not everybody? Isn't everybody invited?
A:  So glad you asked!  Yes, everybody -- without exception -- is invited. God created people to be invited into his love and life forever. Everybody is "chosen" through the chosen one, Jesus Christ (Heb 5:5). Jesus has already paid the painful price for our wandering and rebellion, and has already brought us, with him, into the Father's embrace. Now, sometimes we

Monday, November 7, 2016

Forgiven and Free

From my friend Bill Winn, who writes so clearly about these things.

There's no way you can 'be good enough' to repay God for forgiving you. You can't repay a gift and you can't repay forgiveness. It's free, and it sets you free!



Wednesday, October 26, 2016

He's Even Better than That

Who does the work of making you into a new person -- you, or the Almighty? And if we say he does it all, then are we just trying to avoid our own responsibility? That's been a long debate in church circles, taking many forms with many different twists and turns, and with many five-

Friday, October 21, 2016

Is It All God's Fault?

A guest post from my friend and fellow pastor Linda Rex. Worth a careful, thoughtful and prayerful read:


Have a blessed day!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Being Great by Serving First

Serving is almost always hard work, even if you do it for a living (think of your food servers at restaurants -- they work very hard taking care of customers). The one Servant who tops them all, Jesus Christ our Savior, served to the point of pain, giving his body and life to a torturous death on the cross (before his triumphant, world-changing resurrection). But even before

Monday, October 10, 2016

Praying The Alphabet

The story is told of a woman privileged to listen in on the bedtime prayers of her granddaughter. She expected to hear the normal list of requests for blessings and so forth, but instead heard her beloved little angel reciting the alphabet. "Why are you saying the alphabet?" she asked the little one. "Because I don't

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Astonishing Power of the Church

A guest post from Karl Vaters, who writes on the power of small churches for Christianity Today:


This is good material for reading and prayer, whether you're a pastor or the average church member in an average (read "30 people or less") flock.

How does it hit you? Do you see the grace of God in these words, for pastors and for all those looking for hope and God's love in this world? How would you go outside your home with these words? What does this inspire you to pray for?  To do?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Opposite of Sin Is...

Last time I wrote, I speculated that the root cause of sin is selfishness:  putting ourselves and our own self-interest, as we perceive it, before everything else. I could be wrong, of course, and you're free to give me another view of it, but that's how it seems to me. We watch constantly for some threat

Friday, September 16, 2016

Sin Is...

Sin gets a lot of 'air time' in some churches, and sometimes in the debate between church and society. Quite often the subject gets reduced to a few sins that somebody is irritated about or thinks are the worst ones in society right now (and conveniently, sins of which they don't believe they're guilty, so they can feel better about themselves). Preaching about sin is popular with some, but will preaching about it reduce

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

In the Boat with You

The three-hour trip to the other side of the lake started out peacefully enough. The sun was shining and in the warm afternoon sun, several fell asleep including Jesus. Then the wind and waves came up, and the boat took on a lot of water. But Jesus was

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

"End-of-Labor" Day

We've just had another American tradition, the three-day holiday weekend to celebrate (from all appearances) beer, BBQ and boats, along with sunscreen and the end of summer. Actually, Labor Day was first proposed as a tribute to workers of all kinds for their contributions in building up

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

How God as Trinity Defines "All"

Couldn't resist this post from my friend Bill Winn.  Do you ever wonder if you're part of the 'in' group with God? Are you sure you've done enough and have satisfied the requirements? This should answer your questions. (p.s. the answer is "you're already in!").

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

"Let's Be Actively Patient"

My guest blogger this week is Dr. Joseph Tkach, president of Grace Communion International.  He writes about our working with Jesus and being patient while we wait for outcomes. Let's let him explain:
Let's be "actively patient'"

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Loved by the Father

"I've loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love."  (John 15:9, The Message). Our prayer group meditated on that scripture last night, in amazement. Wow! We were all bowled over by the idea that Jesus' love for us is the same as the Father's love for Jesus. But since God is love, (1 John 4:8) why

Saturday, August 20, 2016

"Three Rs" Prayer Pattern

When I think of prayer, I often consider that I have to start out talking to God, as though somehow I have to keep the Lord entertained. But he already knows who I am, and even what my needs are. So perhaps I can use a different approach...if I can think of one. I'm grateful that there are

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Even More than You Can Imagine

I'm sure I'm not the only one around who gets discouraged sometimes. It's a human trait that we allow to get to us, mostly when we don't get something we want in the time we want it. That's perfectly understandable, as long as we only look at what we can understand, or see, or do all by ourselves. But there's more

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Telling and Bringing Good News

The road was dusty and hot, but the crowd of people following Jesus to the next village didn't pay much attention to the environment. They were just excited to be around the rabbi who had been healing people and teaching a strange new thing, that God had sent peace and forgiveness of sins to people.. Some were looking forward to a

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Would You Like Peace with That?

Prophecy is very popular these days. Looking at Amazon.com, I see about 1200 entries -- even bible studies for children (really?). I stay completely away from prediction of the 'end times' (we've been there for 2,000 years, see Acts 2:16-17)  or speculation on when Christ will return (we can't know, see Matt. 24: 36).  But one of my favorite topics, since childhood, is what's

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Woman Who Risked Everything

She crept into the dining room, hoping to be invisible, trying not to let anyone see her but the one she had come to see. Looking around, the young woman found the one she sought. It wasn't Simon the Pharisee, dressed in religious finery and obviously the host. Her tired eyes found the

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Let Freedom Ring!

One of the most famous icons of America's independence is the Liberty Bell, which became a symbol of our country's annual celebrations, although it wasn't actually rung on July 4, 1776. The words of scripture on it are quoted from Leviticus 25:10, "Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof." And truly, our founding fathers were pursuing the ideal of liberty. But I have to tell you, they missed the point of what real liberty is. What is it?

Liberty from oppressive rule, or freedom to make one's own choices, has

Monday, June 27, 2016

"Made in the USA"

Have you noticed how few consumer products are made in the USA? (For my non-US readers, how about for your country?) The Lovely Joanne's company works with a lot of manufacturers who are working to get more jobs back on American soil, in this modern global economy. And with the Fourth of July coming up, American pride is involved too. But for me, there's something

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

"Renewal Information Enclosed"

I pulled an envelope out of the mailbox the other day, with "Renewal Information Enclosed" in big letters across the front. I opened it excitedly -- maybe it was an offer for a free vacation somewhere, or even better, a retreat where my spiritual energy could be renewed. No such luck, they were just billing me for another year's membership in this organization. Bummer! But the good news is, renewal information is already inside

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

You Won't Want to Miss This!

You may remember the story of Rip Van Winkle, who slept for 20 years and woke to a much different world. Have you ever felt like that? I sometimes think that way about my journey through legalism and the first decades of beginning to understand grace. Oh, how good it would be to see all that again, with what I know now! Some days I still miss the point (I'll get back to that). How is

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Individual or Person?

John Wayne and a lot of other actors personified a myth we see often in American literature, the 'rugged individual' who fights his or her lonely fight, and at some point in the story even turns away from those who offer comfort and shelter. I'm sure you've read books or watched movies along that line. The reality, though, is much different. Not one of us is

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

'To Feel With'

Do other people irritate you? Poor driving, thoughtless comments, and in many other ways, we can feel like others need to 'get their act together' on the parts of them that we don't approve of (we could include 'ending a sentence with a preposition' to the list), or just

Monday, May 9, 2016

To Tame the Monster

Nessie. Bigfoot/Sasquatch. Grendel.  Cancer, AIDS, Zika and many other diseases. Nuclear threats, climate change and the presidential election. A thousand more named and unnamed spooks like vampires and werewolves, that make us

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Spirit-Walk

What if you could live in complete confidence? I don't mean that you would magically know the winning lottery numbers or which British football team will win the championship (it was Leicester City). What I mean is, could you be confident in knowing that your everyday actions and your words toward others would

Monday, April 25, 2016

In Simple Terms

I've been reading the Bible and hearing it taught for about 50 years. It's a very complex book!  But I'm the kind of person who tends to simplify complex concepts into more understandable ideas. So as of today, at least, here's how I see the story of the Bible, in simple terms. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Jesus the Good Shepherd

I’m continually amazed by the number of references in Scripture to the identity of Jesus the Son of God. One that he takes on himself directly in John 10 is The Good Shepherd, There’s a lot wrapped up in this identity, including many details of life in what’s called the Ancient

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

To Do God's Work

Jesus has called you and me to a life filled with his blessings and everlasting joy. We can be completely certain that our sins taken care of, and on top of that, our

Monday, April 4, 2016

Walking with Jesus

That Sunday afternoon, two of Jesus' disciples were walking away from Jerusalem. They had been sure Jesus was the prophet who would restore Israel to greatness, but now that he had died, they were totally discouraged. Numb with the shock of having their hopes taken away so violently, they could only walk home slowly, still in anguish. Suddenly a stranger appeared, perhaps coming up from behind, and overhearing their conversation. "What's

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Who Is He? Who Are You?

How did Jesus perform all those miracles in his ministry? How did he manage to keep his cool when so many were accusing him of evil? How could he persist in his calling, when so many events in his life could have discouraged him completely? How did he defeat Satan's temptations and drive the enemy away? I believe a large share of Jesus' steadfastness throughout

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Luke 24:1-2 "very early on Sunday morning[a] the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance."

1 Cor 15:3-8 -- "I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said.He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter[c] and then by the Twelve.After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him." 

Christ the Lord has risen from the dead! He has conquered death and assured us life with him forever. Come and enjoy the light of his presence as he shines on all. 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

A Quiet Day

It was a quiet day. The turmoil of the last few days was finally past. Jesus, the Galileean teacher who had stirred up so much trouble, had finally been trapped and put to death before he could create even more unrest. His execution had been a most unusual one, not only from the

Friday, March 25, 2016


At about this time of day (3 PM) on a Friday outside Jerusalem, a dying man uttered one of his last words. "Tetellestai" is a Greek word meaning, "it is finished" or "the debt is paid." The word was used in accounting, written at the bottom of a page to note that the lender had received full payment for a debt and the borrower was now free. My Lord, the

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Pharaoh and the Pharisees

Long ago in Egypt, the Pharaoh of the nation held the people of Israel captive as slaves, building whatever public works were going up at the time (exactly which Pharaoh and which buildings, is not the point here). He had a captive labor force and he wasn't about to give them up. Moses showed up and said "My God is telling you and your pitiful

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Your Bootstraps Just Broke (reprise from 2014)

When I was a boy, people used the expression "pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps" -- referring to the loops at the top of some boots that helped get them on your feet. It meant something like "trying to succeed all by yourself, and failing" because physically, it's an impossible stunt! Studying Colossians 1:28-29, it strikes me

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Staying Focused

Something I read this morning in Luke's gospel made me stop and ask a bunch of questions. In chapter 4, Jesus has begun his ministry, and been rejected at Nazareth (verses 16-30). He goes to Capernaum, and there people listen to him, and are impressed

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Lent, Discomfort and Grace

A stagecoach was a very uncomfortable way to travel. Six or more people were crowded inside a small box that swayed, bounced and rattled over a dusty road, and sometimes got attacked by Indians or bandits. This would not be our idea of a good time! Our Savior gladly gave up comforts to travel with us -- all the comforts of heaven (Phil. 2:3-11) and during his

Friday, February 12, 2016

Jesus Alone

Super Bowl 50 is now over, and in case you didn't know by now, the Denver Broncos are the national champions. Even as little as I know about football, it was inspiring to see such fine athletes in action, and I certainly enjoyed Denver's win! The Super Bowl has an inherent negative message, though: that only

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

I Have All I Need

The list of things I wish I had is very, very long. More time to golf. More money saved for retirement. A pickup for camping trips. Time to fish. Time to read the rest of my books. And on it goes! Besides being dissatisfied by my wants, I can get bothered by

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Jesus and Bungee-Jumping

A friend of mine posted on Facebook this morning, "If you want to be anxious today, pretend you're in control" quoting Michael Reeves. Pretending, of course, we never were in control and we never will be -- but we'll be miserable if we try. This reminds me of one of the points underneath the scripture I read this morning, Luke 4:9-12.  In this small segment, the devil takes Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem, and tempts him to throw himself off, knowing that God must and will rescue him. Jesus responds rightly, "The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’" So what's behind this?  Is Jesus outlawing bungee-jumping,

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Making Rough Places Smooth

Just about everybody has heard about John the Baptizer, the one who showed up out of the wilderness to start baptizing people in the Jordan river. John announced the

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

More Epiphanies

The season of Epiphany stretches, officially, from January 6 to February 7 this year. It celebrates the "appearing" or "presentation" of Jesus to the public in different ways in his early life. One is at the Temple in Jerusalem (Luke 2), another to the Gentile wise men, or Magi (Matthew 2), still another at his baptism (covered in all four gospels in different ways) and the

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Epiphany and Risk

Today, January 6, is the celebration of "Epiphany" on the Christian calendar, and it's celebrating something awesome: the first 'public appearance' of the baby Jesus, the Son of God now in human form. What's that about? And what