Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Exposure of Our Immodesty

Once upon a time modesty was a virtue.  When a gentleman heroically risked his own life to save his comrades, the "modest" response was "I was just doing my job."  When a woman was blessed with exceptional beauty, she would not flaunt her gifts, but would dress "modestly".  

On Sunday our President exposed his immodesty by proclaiming his "genius" in a tweet.  Now boasting and outrageous claims abound in the the sports arena...immodesty is expected.  But gentleman are cautious to exalt their virtues conscious of the frailty and danger of ego.  A wise man once warned,

Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
someone else, and not your own lips.  
Proverbs 27:2

On the same day at the golden globes, many women, who were attempting to stand up against sexual harassment, dressed to expose their "gifts" for all to see.  Such is the expectation of our immodest society.  The same wise man made this picturesque observation about such women.  

Like a gold ring in a pig's snout
is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.  
Proverbs 11:22

Oh for the day when modesty was a virtue in politics, in entertainment... in our world.  When modesty is cast aside, so go many other virtues which sustain a respectful society, virtues like selflessness, kindness, sacrifice, and love.  In their place, vices including boasting, arrogance, harassment (verbal and sexual), and abuse take their place.  I hope we've had enough of these. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

A Total Eclipse of the Son

Today, millions will step outside to view an unusual phenomenon, the total eclipse of the sun...or at least a partial if you're not in the "path of totality."  Why would people take time from work and play to view something we take for granted-the sun?  Because an eclipse of the sun is so rare.

On the other hand, how rare is an eclipse of the Son?  Many "objects" can come between Jesus and us.  And because of the frequency of these occurrences, most of us don't stop to take notice when we can't see the Son.

Jesus declared He is the Light of the world, and those who follow Him will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (John 8:12).  And this light brings freedom to our lives!  Speaking of the Son, Isaiah prophecies the Light of the world will come...

to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.  (Isaiah 42:7)

I want nothing between me and the One who give light for my path, life for my soul, and freedom from my bondage to darkness!

So what may block my view of the Son?  Here are three obstacles to consider:
  • Money 
    • In Matthew 6:21-24 the Son himself warns of the blinding effect of money.
      • Matt 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!  24"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. 
  • Religion
    • Jesus had some harsh words for the Pharisees who were so blinded by their religiosity they could not recognize the Son of God.  In Matthew 23 Jesus repeatedly condemns these religious leaders as "blind guides", "hypocrites", and "blind fools."  Their outward religion kept them from dealing with the heart issues the Son was shining His light upon.

  •  A Lukewarm Life
    • Although the Son loves His people, lives that are neither hot nor cold make Him sick and result in blindness to this reality on our part. 
      • Revelation 3:15-18 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm — neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 
Although looking at the sun blinds us and makes our journey in this world difficult, looking at the Son opens our eyes and brings us great joy and freedom on our journey.
    •  Hebrews 12:2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Join me and take some time from work and play to view Someone we should not take for granted, the Son who shines light, joy, and freedom into our lives.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Surfing and Suffering

I almost drowned once.  It was a beautiful afternoon for playing on the beach.  The water was warm and inviting.  But I got in over my head, and, before I knew it, panic set in.  The same waters which produced exhilaration generated exhaustion...just to survive.  I'm thankful God brought me through the waters, literally.

Oswald Chambers explains,  "The surf that distresses the ordinary swimmer produces in the surf-rider the super-joy of going clean through it.  Apply that to our own circumstances, these very things-tribulation, distress, persecution, produce in us the super-joy; they are not things to fight.  We are more than conquerors through Him in all these things, not in spite of them, but in the midst of them."

I'm reminded of what God says to his children in Isaiah 43:1-2

But now, this is what the Lord says — 
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 
2 When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.

Do we approach the turbulent waters of life like a surfer or survivor?  The difference may determine the extent of our joy.  Surfs-up!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Pain and Paradox of God's Preservation

Life is filled with paradox.  A paradox is a statement of truth which appears contradictory, yet is true.

God is a paradox to us.  His thoughts are not our thoughts.  His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).  We should not be surprised if we find ourselves scratching our heads sometimes.  Most Christians would feel more comfortable with "God in a box".  We like a God who is simple to understand and predictable.  The God of scripture is neither, but He is dependable and faithful and good.

The Christian life is a life of paradox as well.  Jesus said the first must be last, and to live we must die.  And surprisingly to grow up we must become like children.  The Christian life is not for the simpleton!

Paradox often leads to great pain.  Those we love the most, often cause the greatest hurt.  When our daughter was only a couple years old, she was a attacked by a masked man who shoved a needle in her arm while another masked man shoved a tube down her throat.  These men were part of a well known gang called doctors, and they were inflicting pain to save her life from an infection which was swelling her throat shut.  You could say she was rescued by a "para-docs."  This paradoxical intervention saved her life while causing great confusion and pain for our young daughter.  As we handed her off to these strangers, we could see the confusion in her eyes.  "Why are you abandoning me?" she appeared to say.   "Don't you love me?" her eyes cried out.

At times God has to do the same with us.  I've heard it said, God allows what He hates to accomplish what He loves.  God takes us through trials and pain and sorrow which make no sense to us and seem to contradict His love for us.  "Why are you abandoning me to cancer?" we cry.  "Don't you love us enough to protect us from losing those we love?" we sob.

Jesus lived this painful paradox Himself.  Hebrews 2:10 reminded us the Perfect One was perfected through suffering.  Christ cried out to the Father, "Why have you abandoned me?" (Matthew 27:46).  And yet, God, the rescuer, delivered Him.

We live paradox and sometimes it hurts. As I read Psalm  66 I find myself confused.  On the one hand the psalmist says in verse 9
[God] has preserved our lives
and kept our feet from slipping. 

I like this description because it sound like the sheltered life of a nice easy walk through a green well groomed meadow.  But he immediately continues with a paradox...

10 For you, O God, tested us;
you refined us like silver. 
11 You brought us into prison
and laid burdens on our backs. 
12 You let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water,

That does not sound like preservation to me!  That sounds like God abandoning His people.  The problem here is with my definition of preservation in the Christian life.  For me preservation is synonymous with painless.  I don't see letting "men ride over our heads" as a means of preservation.  And yet I think of the "preservation process" which fruit "preserves" must go through.  Often high heat, mixing and mangling are used to preserve something sweat. 

The paradox of pain and preservation is magnified by my expectations and my human preferences.  Yes God does some really bizarre things like letting men ride over our heads figuratively or literally. No pithy, sugary explanation can remove the pain.   Life hurts, however God promises to preserve us in and through the hurts, not to preserve us from hurts.  That's a paradox because it seems so contradictory. 

Psalm 66 continues with another surprise....

...but you brought us to a place of abundance. 

Why didn't God just skip directly to this part?  Why not go straight to abundance?  That's the path I have laid out and the path I expect.  Paradoxically the path to His abundant plan often requires the abandonment of my plan.  And I don't abandon my plan without a painful path.  That's the paradox.  My prayer, "Lord lead me to abundance, but on the easy path," is not happening in this world.  This sin-stained world is filled with pain, the very tool our Master uses to remake us and mold us.  And God's definition of abundance may contradict ours...a paradox again...

Luke 12:15 Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." 

My Prayer
Lord protect me and provide for me and use the pain of this world to redefine the abundant life for me.  Open my eyes to see your blessings when they come...even as men ride over my head.  Make me a "preserve" which is sweet... even if it takes mangling and mixing me under high heat to do so....I think.  Oh the paradox!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

God Gave You Spurs, Now Use Them!

I'm not much for boots or riding, but that doesn't exempt me from using my spurs.    Spurs "motivate" to action.  Usually a cowboy straps on his spurs before mounting his steed, to help direct and motivate his trusted companion to move forward.

In Hebrews 10:24, 25 we are all fitted with spurs and encouraged to use them regularly.  This is the imagery that comes to my mind as I read...

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching. 

When I think of spurs I think of the old westerns where real cowboys strolled into town to the unmistakable tune of their clanging spurs.  I wonder what people hear when they see me coming?  If I am using the gifts God has given me well, they should hear the "clink, clink" of my "spurs" and smile.  I have a couple friends who spur me on ,and I love to see them strolling my way!  I know I will be better off for having spent time with them.

Now, normally we don't think of spurs as comfortable, but they are necessary to motivate movement.  The author of Hebrews calls us cowboys to use our spurs to encourage toward love and good deeds.  On a rare occasion we need to cause a little discomfort to motivate, but always with true love.  Without love spurs become weapons.  But speaking with kindness and care helps others move forward and overcome the spiritual sluggishness which settles into all our hearts.  

Heb 3:13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. 

Today someone is struggling and needs to feel your spur of love.  The sin of faithlessness or ingratitude may be settling upon their heart, and they need a trusted companion to come alongside and spur them on to trust God more.  You may be that cowboy!  As the Holy Spirit prompts your heart to make a phone call or drop in on someone or send a text, He may be spurring you on to be an unimaginable encouragement or even to save a life.  You've got spurs, now use them!  

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Fighting Despair

  "The idea that this world is a playground instead of a battleground has now been accepted in practice by the vast majority of Christians."  A.W. Tozer

We are in a battle, and one of our greatest fights is against despair in this sin stained world.  Sickness, sadness, sorrow, and circumstances surround us and attack us with despair.  Yet, we are not alone in the fight.

Even the Apostle Paul struggled at times to practice what he preached.  On the one hand he said, "Rejoice always!" (Philippians 4:4),   But other times he despaired even of life (2 Corinthians 1:8).  When we read about all the pain and problems Paul battled in this world (2 Corinthians 11:23-29) we understand his fight to overcome despair was very intense.  For many of us the battle fields are different, but the war is no less intense. Is there a weapon which can help us win this battle?  I wish there were a nuclear bomb to obliterate despair, but there isn't.  Thankfully God has given us weaponry to use for the hand to hand combat with despair-scales and scopes.  Let me explain.

In 2 Corinthians 4 Paul describes himself as "perplexed but not in despair."  

8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 

Like Paul, I am perplexed and at times feel on the verge of despair.  Yet, I should not be surprised about my own perplexities.  I live in a sin stained world.  I am on a pilgrimage, not a vacation in this world.  I am in a battle and have an enemy whose greatest tool is despair.  AND God's way's are not my ways, they are higher than mine (Isaiah 55:8,9).  No wonder I am perplexed about life!  Right now I am without a full time ministry position after 21 years of fairly successful ministry by some accounts.  I've been seeking the Lord and His provision for an opportunity to serve for over a year.  And yet, nothing...which leaves me perplexed and drives me to despair.

A couple weeks ago while studying 2 Corinthians 4, I was writing down the word "despair" when the line "When Satan tempts me to despair..." came on in a song from the other room.  No coincidence in my mind.  I am tempted to despair, but thankfully God has provided two  weapons to keep me from going over the edge if I choose to use them.

First, Paul used a different set of scales than everyone else, and so must we if we are to win the battle.  His scales for weighing life were counterbalanced by eternity.  He did not compare his burdens with comfort or a pain free life.  No, he placed eternity on his scales. No burden in life could outweigh a burden-free eternity.  So he fought on.

His scales of time were different as well.  For Paul to be able to call his years of intense suffering "momentary," Paul obviously used a different calendar than most of us who only live in the moment.  What is even a lifetime of suffering in comparison to an eternity of peace and joy?  We are like children scraping our knees who can't see beyond the pain of the moment and cry like our lives are ending.  OUR lives are eternal; so what we are going through now is truly momentary, yes painful and very real, but momentary.

Second, Paul used a different set of scopes as well.  The Greek word for "fixing our eyes" is the word from which we get "scope."  Paul focused his eyes on the unseen world.  Like a doctor who uses a microscope to see the unseen world of cells and bacteria, Paul used an eternal scope to look beyond his pain to see the unseen world of God and eternity.  He did not deny reality, but saw the greater reality which most of us can't see because our scopes are focused on the here and now.  Looking at life through a scope which is out of focus leaves life blurry.  But the right scope correctly focused reveals a whole new world which enables us along with Paul to fight the enemy of despair with clear vision.

Some practical tools to keep life in focus.  1. Listen to music which focuses our minds on eternity and God's working in our lives here on earth.  2. Memorize scriptures which help us look beyond our circumstances (Phlippians 4:4-9, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, Psalm 37:1-9, 1 Peter 1:3-7).  3. Hang around friends who help us keep an eternal focus.  4.  Participate in God focused worship services which will refocus our hearts after spending a week living in this sin stained world.  5.Read books by or about those who have fought the battles and have won.  (e.g. Max Lucado, You'll Get Through This)  Here is a video link by the group Shane and Shane and John Piper which will encourage you as well..(

Which scales are you using to weigh the circumstances of your life and to determine the duration of your trial?   Are you using the right set of scopes, and are they focused on eternity?  Don't get me wrong. I'm ready for the battle of  my ministry search to be over, but not until eternity becomes more weighty to me and my eyes are refocused from the seen world to the incredible unseen world.  The battle with despair can be won if we use the weapons God has provided.  Fight on!

Friday, March 21, 2014

God's Spring Fashions-Show Stopping!

I've never been one to be fashionable.  Unlike my fashionable friends Tim and Tom, I'm usually a bit behind the fashions or ahead of the fashions as they come back around.  My wife at times reminds me of my corduroy mistake in the 80's.  Fashion is in the eye of the beholder.  And God's eyes see differently than man's eyes.  Now if we want to be fashionable in the eyes of our admiring crowd of friends, pick up a GQ or the latest fashion mag.  But if we want to be fashionable in God's eyes, our Creator, the Design Master Himself, we pick up 1 Peter 5:5 where the true Fashion Guru prescribes our Spring fashion...

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility...

Warning!  This Spring fashion is a bit tight fitting over our button-busting pride.  You won't find these fashions on the runways, but in the slumways.  The buzz will be about the absence of glitter and glam.  And this year chic will turn the other cheek.  God wants us to be show stopping...or stop showing (off) may be the better way to put it.
Our ensemble includes two parts.  Peter describes the first piece of clothing...

Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another.  

This is a rare find even in the Christian retail stores and churches of today.  We Christians take pride in our spirituality, maturity, wisdom, superior political position, moral tradition, or of all things humility.  

So how do we become fashion savvy?  The best way to fit into the Spring fashion of humility is by serving others.  In Philippians 3, Paul reminds us of our Super Model, Christ, who you may remember wore the servants towel as his banquet attire and dressed down to look like us as He lived among us. 

Rarely are those dressed in humility toward others critical of other's attire.  When we find ourselves becoming critical and judging others, we can be assured our Pharisaical fashion is out of fashion with God.  In my years serving Christ's Bride, the Church, I've discovered many of the greatest spiritual fashion critics rarely take time to ask how they can serve.  Check your fashion sense here...what is your attitude toward those around you today?

I find the second piece of the Peter's ensemble found in verse 6 to be only slightly easier to put on.  

 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand...

When I recognize the greatness of my Creator and Sovereign Designer, I find it easier to bow down in humility.   Yet this it is not automatic.  The Israelites of the Old Testament saw God's Mighty Hand first hand, but instead of humbling themselves, they became more demanding.  Expressing my thanksgiving toward my Sovereign Designer and his mighty hand in my life is a practical way I humble myself.  

It's always better to humble ourselves than for God to have to humble us.  And we have plenty of help in keeping us humble.  Living in a sin-stained world where we experience pain-physical and emotional is humbling.  Living with sin-stained people who hurt us, use us, and abuse us is also humbling.  But on a positive note, where are some areas where you have seen God's mighty hand in your life? Humbling, isn't it. 

So we find the two piece ensemble of humility with people and humility with God in vogue on Heaven's golden runway.

Lest you think Peter is the only fashion critic encouraging the attire of humility this Spring, the apostle Paul praises the same ensemble for our wardrobe. 

Colossians 3:12 Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Our greatest fashion critic, Christ himself, praised the attire of humility when he set the world a buzz with a radical fashion statement... 

Matthew 11:29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

So what are you wearing this Spring?  As you look back over the past week, what did you put on?  Were you in fashion or out according to our Designer?  Better yet, what will you wear this coming week?  Whether the weather says Winter or Spring, the same outfit works according to God-humility is beautiful!