Thursday, March 31, 2016


If the people around Jesus, including His family, thought He was crazy; and if Paul understood that others would think him a fool for Christ – why are we reluctant to identify with the foolish Paul and the crazy Jesus? The Gospel is foolishness to men (1Cor 1:20ff); yet we want the Gospel to be respectable so that we will be respectable. So we clean the Gospel up and remove sin and repentance from it so as not to give offense. It is only as we love others enough to appear foolish in their eyes that we will be broken enough to allow the light of the Gospel to shine through our earthen vessels (2 Cor. 5). When we seek to preserve ourselves we cannot save others. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Who Are We Kidding?

When I was young it was generally understood that faithful Christian witness would, at times, lead to rejection and difficulty. Now our thinking seems to be that we do everything possible to avoid rejection. We say it’s because we don’t want to be misunderstood – but it’s really because we don’t want to suffer – who are we kidding?

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Who Can I Ask Today?

Easter season brings me back to the spring of 1966. Early that year an older coworker, Howard Wall, asked me if I was a Christian, to which I replied something like, “Of course.” After all, I was an American and had been christened in a church – to me Christianity and America were inseparable.

Howard’s question motivated me to read the Bible; in reading the Bible and talking to Howard and others I came to know Jesus Christ. I asked my mother to please give me a pocket New Testament for Easter, which she did. I carried that New Testament and Psalms with me every day, reading it at school whenever I could.

If Howard hadn’t asked me about Jesus I wouldn’t have known. I thought I knew but I didn’t. If he hadn’t had asked, I wouldn’t have known. Who can I ask today? Who can you ask? 

Here's an old post I did about Howard Wall:

Monday, March 28, 2016

Questions and Answers

“Is Easter real?” I asked a coworker. “Did Jesus really rise from the dead?”

“Of course,” he replied.

“How does that affect your life?”

“It makes me want to be a better dad.”

I asked another coworker the same question. He replied, “Of course.”

“Why do you believe Jesus rose from the dead?” I asked.

“I guess faith.”

“What does that mean? What is the object of your faith?” I continued.

“Well, don’t people believe in different things and they all have a point. I’m not sure what you mean by an object of faith.”

We then had a discussion about the object of faith – I used my dislike of flying as an example. I don’t have a great measure of faith in flying, but since I know the object of my little faith is reliable, I remind myself of that when the plane I’m on encounters turbulence. On the other hand I may have a great measure of faith that I can fly like Superman, but all I need do is jump off a tall building to demonstrate that a great measure of faith in an unreliable object leads to problems.

Faith without an object corresponding to reality is uninformed faith; uninformed faith is not the faith of the Bible – yet our society abounds in uninformed beliefs and faith and sees no inconsistency when these beliefs contradict each other. Nor do we question what the result of our faith ought to be – being a good father is commendable but that is not the primary way the resurrection of Jesus Christ ought to affect our lives.

If we don’t ask questions we’ll not understand the people around us. If we don’t understand them how can we communicate the amazing Good News of Jesus to them?

Friday, March 25, 2016

John Donne (1572-1631) Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward

Let man's soul be a sphere, and then, in this,
Th' intelligence that moves, devotion is;
And as the other spheres, by being grown
Subject to foreign motion, lose their own,
And being by others hurried every day,
Scarce in a year their natural form obey;
Pleasure or business, so, our souls admit
For their first mover, and are whirl'd by it.
Hence is't, that I am carried towards the west,
This day, when my soul's form bends to the East.
There I should see a Sun by rising set,
And by that setting endless day beget.
But that Christ on His cross did rise and fall,
Sin had eternally benighted all.
Yet dare I almost be glad, I do not see
That spectacle of too much weight for me.
Who sees God's face, that is self-life, must die;
What a death were it then to see God die?
It made His own lieutenant, Nature, shrink,
It made His footstool crack, and the sun wink.
Could I behold those hands, which span the poles
And tune all spheres at once, pierced with those holes?
Could I behold that endless height, which is
Zenith to us and our antipodes,
Humbled below us? or that blood, which is
The seat of all our souls, if not of His,
Made dirt of dust, or that flesh which was worn
By God for His apparel, ragg'd and torn?
If on these things I durst not look, durst I
On His distressed Mother cast mine eye,
Who was God's partner here, and furnish'd thus
Half of that sacrifice which ransom'd us?
Though these things as I ride be from mine eye,
They're present yet unto my memory,
For that looks towards them; and Thou look'st towards me,
O Saviour, as Thou hang'st upon the tree.
I turn my back to Thee but to receive
Corrections till Thy mercies bid Thee leave.
O think me worth Thine anger, punish me,
Burn off my rust, and my deformity;
Restore Thine image, so much, by Thy grace,
That Thou mayst know me, and I'll turn my face.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

How Can A Day Seem Like An Eternity?

               How can a minute seem like an hour?  How can a day seem like an eternity?  The shadow of the sundial in Jerusalem moves slowly…slowly…ever so slowly…

            The doors of the Governor’s building open…Roman soldiers lead the grim procession…two thieves sentenced for execution appear…then a third figure is pushed over the threshold…the cross beam lashed to the back of His shoulders…His back is lacerated from beating…His eyelids crusted with blood drawn from a crown of thorns…His hair matted with blood…His body swollen…black and blue…from torture…

            The crowds are there…the same crowds…the same voices…but where are the palms?  Where are the cloaks being laid before Him?  Where is the red carpet?  Oh, oh, there it is…ah…but not a carpet of celebration…not a red carpet of welcome…but a red carpet of death…for the blood of Jesus dripping from His body marks the way…the way…outside the city walls…and up another hill…a hill named Calvary…a place called Golgotha…

            How can a day seem like an eternity?

            As the shadow of the sundial inches forward…the nails piece His wrists…up He is lifted…up…up…the vertical beam is centered on the hole…and the Cross is dropped into the ground…the body jarred…and the shadow moves…it is 9:00 AM.   How can a day seem like an eternity?

            The first three hours is party time. “If you’re so great…come down from the Cross.  Come down, come down and save yourself!”  Trying to outdo each other in insults…the crowd works itself into a frenzy…and the religious leaders stand with smug satisfaction…admiring their work…

            The shadow of the sundial advances…10 o’clock, 11 o’clock…”Soon it will be noon…maybe we’ll break for lunch and then come back and see the end of the show. ”

11:30, 11:45, 11:50, 11:59…”Now it’s about lunch time…white, rye, wheat or sourdough?  Mayo or mustard?  What’s your pleasure?”

            But the shadow will never mark noon of this day on this sundial…for Jesus is drinking a cup…Jesus is drinking a cup that only He can drink…and as that cup is turned up over His lips…the wrath of God is poured out on Him…the holy, pure, spotless, sinless Lamb of God…and darkness envelopes the land…from noon until 3:00…and there is no light to mark time on the sundial…for this is no longer time…this is eternity…

this is that beyond which man and woman cannot pass…this is where we cannot go…not go and return…this is the abyss of the judgment of God…the canyon with no bottom…with no turning back…the bottomless pit filled with our sins…our iniquities…our death…our pride…our self-righteousness…our egos…our selfishness…our agendas…our obsession with control…our obsession with ourselves…

            How can a day seem like an eternity?

            And then the cry…the cry…the cry that pierces the ages…the universes…that causes angels to tremble and the earth to quake…the cry rising up from the pit…rising up from the abyss…”Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?  My God, My God, WHY have you forsaken me?”

            Forsaken by the crowds, forsaken by His friends, forsaken by those closest to Him, and finally…could it be…is it true…forsaken by His Father?  “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani!”

            How is it that an hour, three hours, from noon until 3:00 can seem like eternity?  Because it is eternity, it is that place where time, space and eternity intersect in the person of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

            Who is this…this Man…to utter such a cry?

            A good man?  A well intentioned man, but delusional?  A good example?  How could a man’s death 2,000 years ago affect my life?  What meaning could it have? 

            He was forsaken that we might be accepted.

            He was hated that we might be loved.

            Sin was laid on Him that it might be removed from us.

            He died that we might live.

            He was beaten and bruised that we might be healed.

            As Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians, “God made him [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”

            We are well aware that there are hereditary diseases passed on from generation to generation.  Diabetes runs in one family, sickle cell anemia in another, heart disease another…this is why medical histories are of such importance. 

There is one disease that permeates the entire human race, whether of African, Asian, American Indian, Arab, or European descent…it affects the way we think, the way we behave, the way we feel, the decisions we make, the way we think about ourselves, the way we treat each other, and the way we relate to God…and that disease…my friends…is sin…and sin leads to eternal death.

            How can three hours seem like eternity? 

The Lamb of God…the Eternal One…drinks the cup for us…takes our sin upon Himself…takes us upon Himself…and cries out, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?  My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

            Is the answer too much for us to bear?  Is it too heavy for us to contemplate?  Let’s keep it in the abstract…let’s keep it in the realm of high esoteric theology…let’s keep it locked in a closet…who wants to hear God’s answer to Jesus…the answer of Father to Son?  Do I?  Do you?  Do we?

            “Why have you forsaken me?”

            And the answer…from the bowels of eternity…as darkness covers the land…with no shadow falling on the sundial…the answer from the heart of God is….

            “For John and Susan and Cathy and Ryan and you and you and you…for you dear reader…for you Jesus was forsaken.”

            And as the sun breaks through the clouds…and the shadow resumes its march on the sundial…it is 3:00 PM…and Jesus is crying out, “It is finished.  Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”  And Jesus willingly gives up His life.

            The sacrifice is complete…the penalty paid…the reconciliation accomplished…the victory won…His relationship with His Father is restored…for eternity has intersected with time and space…and we have been redeemed!!!!

            The God who created us has come to redeem us…dying for us…rising for us…paying the price that we could not pay…the love story of the ages…the song of eternity…that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Church Websites – More Thoughts

In addition to many churches not stating what they believe on their websites, I was struck how many promoted their pastors over and above Biblical content. Now I realize that in some cases this is a thin line and a judgment call; but promoting pastors often focuses on personality and not substance. Yes, I think it’s good to say something about the pastor and staff, but when I look at bios to try to learn something that matters in a pastor’s background I often come up short on church websites. In the area where we live if you drive down major roads it isn’t unusual to see billboards promoting not churches, but rather the pastors of those churches.

Here is an excerpt from a website that is actually pretty mild, but it caught my attention a while back:

“Not your typical pastor. Pastor Smith is an avid runner and helps coach a local high school basketball team. He and his wife have a daughter in high school and a son in middle school.”

Comparatively speaking, this isn’t too bad in terms of self-promotion, but the reason it caught my attention were the words, “Not your typical pastor.” What does this say about other pastors? Don’t other pastors run or have other interests in addition to preparing sermons and caring for people? Don’t other pastors have spouses? Don’t other pastors have children?

I’ve known a lot of pastors and I’m not sure what a “typical pastor” is – unless the website is invoking a caricature, which it probably is, and in which case this is a pretty sad statement. Why put other pastors down? If I were this particular pastor I’d be embarrassed.

If websites are going to be about image, then let it be about the image of Jesus Christ and of that image in His church. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Bring Your Own Teaching - Experience our Image

While we were recently visiting family in another state I decided to look online for a local church that I could suggest they visit. I was once again struck by the number of churches that do not state what they believe on their websites; I say "once again" because I've found the same thing where we live.
I guess doctrine, belief, and adherence to truth is no longer important within much of the professing church. What does this communicate to the congregation? What does it communicate to the prospective visitor? To the seeker after truth?
This is akin to automobile television commercials that usually have nothing to do with the car but everything to do with image and perception.
Drive the car for the experience of image, drive the car so you can project an image. Come to our church for the experience, associate yourself with our image.
I think the image of God is the only image we should be interested in experiencing - and certainly the only image we should be communicating.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Written on Sunday morning, March 20, 2016

This morning I’d like to gather with God’s people with my tambourine and sing and dance. My heart is bursting with joy in Jesus and the new life I have in Him. I am so thankful for the life Vickie and I have in Him and so thankful for His amazing incomprehensible forgiveness and mercy.

One of these days I think creation may have enough of our low-key and often mute mundane response to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and that the rocks may actually cry out – I’m certain that creation has had enough of our sacrilege and desecration of the image of God and His creation.

Oh for us to be captured by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, captured to the point that we capture others with the glorious message of the Gospel, captured to the point where nothing compares with the beauty of Jesus and His love. Captured to the point where we burst for joy and overflow with grace – that we might be fountains of living water in Jesus Christ for others to partake of – that living waters may flow out from us to a world so desperately in need of eternal life in Jesus Christ. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Reginald Heber (1783-1826) Bread of the World, In Mercy Broken

Bread of the world, in mercy broken,

Wine of the soul, in mercy shed,

By Whom the words of life were spoken,

And in Whose death our sins are dead.

Look on the heart by sorrow broken,

Look on the tears by sinners shed;

And be Thy feast to us the token,

That by Thy grace our souls are fed.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Gregory of Nazianzus (329–390) An Evening Hymn

O Word of Truth! in devious paths
My wayward feet have trod;
I have not kept the day serene
I gave at morn to God.

And now 'tis night, and night within;
O God, the light hath fled!
I have not kept the vow I made
When morn its glories shed.

For clouds of gloom from nether world
Obscured my upward way;
O Christ the Light, Thy light bestow

And turn my night to day!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

George MacDonald (1824–1905) Morning Hymn

O Lord of life, thy quickening voice
Awakes my morning song!
In gladsome words I would rejoice
That I to thee belong.

I see thy light, I feel thy wind;
The world, it is thy word;
Whatever wakes my heart and mind,
Thy presence is, my Lord.

The living soul which I call me
Doth love, and long to know;
It is a thought of living thee,
Nor forth of thee can go.

Therefore I choose my highest part,
And turn my face to thee;
Therefore I stir my inmost heart
To worship fervently.

Lord, let me live and will this day—
Keep rising from the dead;
Lord, make my spirit good and gay—
Give me my daily bread.

Within my heart, speak, Lord, speak on,
My heart alive to keep,
Till comes the night, and, labour done,

In thee I fall asleep.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

An Easter Poem by Jeremiah Denton

"The soldiers stare, then drift away,
Young John finds nothing he can say,
The veil is rent; the deed is done;
And Mary holds her only son.
His limbs grow stiff; the night grows cold,
But naught can loose that mother’s hold.
Her gentle, anguished eyes seem blind,
Who knows what thoughts run through her mind?
Perhaps she thinks of last week’s palms,
With cheering thousands off’ring alms
Or dreams of Cana on the day
She nagged him till she got her way.
Her face shows grief but not despair,
Her head, though bowed, has faith to spare,
For even now she could suppose
His thorns might somehow yield a rose.
Her life with Him was full of signs
That God writes straight with crooked lines.
Dark clouds can hide the rising sun,
And all seem lost, when all is won!"

Jeremiah Denton, Vietnam, Easter 1969

Written as a POW

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Importance of a Carafe

It is better to have the carafe in the coffee maker when you turn the coffee maker on than not to have it there. If, however, the carafe is missing when you turn the coffee maker on it is better to discover your error sooner rather than later. If, however, you discover your error later it is better to discover it before the coffee flows from the kitchen countertop to the floor. It is always good to have paper towels handy.

Coffee is good, but if the coffee is on the floor it is generally undrinkable – even assuming the three-second rule. I suppose one may use a clean sponge to sop the coffee up and squeeze it into a mug, but it is not recommended.

I have had a recent occasion to ponder these deep questions. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Calling on Zeus

It seems like all of the presidential candidates like to say, “God bless America.” How can one say those words without context or say them uncritically? Are we dealing with a myth or reality? We call good evil and evil good; light darkness and darkness light. Yet the phrase, “God bless America”, is sure to elicit cheers and applause. It is one thing to engage in repentance in order to seek the blessing of God; it is dangerous to baptize ourselves with self-righteousness and invoke Divine blessing – we might as well call on Jupiter or Zeus, we might be safer – they cannot answer…but the true and living God may decide to answer us in His righteous judgment.  

Thursday, March 10, 2016

No Other Gods

When God says, “You shall have no other gods before me,” that means in His presence, before His face. It doesn’t mean that we make Him number one and then rank other things beneath Him. We don’t bring anything else into His temple – He alone is God, there is no one else or nothing else. Jesus calls His followers to leave things and allegiances and people and the world and to follow Him.  All relationships and interests and priorities can only be sorted out as we worship God alone and love Him with all we have and all we are, and as we love others. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Flag or the Cross?

We are supposed to be a people on mission for Jesus, but how often do we look at ourselves as others might look at us? There used to be a church billboard where we live that had the American flag as a backdrop. I wonder what a citizen of another country might think of that. What does that communicate? Does that mean that a foreigner to America who is interested in the Gospel must embrace America foreign policy? Economic policy? America’s rampant sexual immorality? And what does that communicate to American Christians? What does that do to the idea that we are first and foremost citizens of heaven? (Philippians 3:20). It is lethal to confuse the flag with the Cross. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

American and Therefore Christian?

I grew up thinking that because I was an American that I was a Christian. Had it not been for my coworker, Howard Wall, I might still think that. The phrase “God and Country” may be good for the country, any country, but it is not good for the Gospel; when the Gospel and church cannot be distinguished from the country, any country…then the Gospel cannot be distinguished, in other words, people don’t really know what it is; they can’t identify it apart from society.

Monday, March 7, 2016

School Prayer

I heard a speaker say that young people rebelled in the 1960s and into the 1970s as a result of prayer being taken out of schools. In other words, had they had prayer in school they would not have rebelled. A problem with that observation is that the rebellious youth of the 60s went to schools in the 50s that had prayer in school. 

Friday, March 4, 2016

We Never Know

We never know where the nails will come from, never know who will drive them with the hammer, we never know what circumstances will supply the wood – but we can rest in the knowledge that Jesus says that He will never leave us or forsake us, and we can allow Him to draw us into the sweetness of the fellowship of His sufferings – knowing that Easter is coming. 

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us,” Romans 8:18.

Thursday, March 3, 2016


Isaiah 11:6-9

Their story is worth reading (see link below). What can we learn?!blt/c4kq

The Cross in our Lives

In the wilderness Satan temped Jesus to prove who He is. On the Cross the mob threw the same temptation at Him, “Come down and save yourself.” The mob will always shout that at us, and even our friends, as Peter to Jesus, will seek to spare us from the cross – “Come down” they all say. 

A good friend, a good brother or sister, is the person who will watch with us in our agony – knowing that Easter is coming. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Saving Others

If you are going to save others then you can’t save yourself. If you are saved in the process be saved with thanksgiving and be assured that you had nothing to do with it. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Leadership and Listening

It takes courage for a leader to listen to others – to solicit honest thinking. Leaders who hide behind position and authority are cowards – I’m sure I’ve played the coward before with self-righteous justification – I hope in God’s mercy I don’t do it again. 

Am I enough of a leader to put my ego to death? 

Enough of a leader to allow others to put it to death?