Monday, December 28, 2015

Late in Time


[Photo of Big Ben]

“But now he has appeared once for
all at the end of the ages to do away
with sin by the sacrifice of himself.”
—Hebrews 9:26

Many will recognize the phrase, “Late in time, behold Him come” from the popular carol, Hark the Herald Angels Sing. 1 It reveals the sigh of “at long last” that comes after people wait for something for a very long time.

The scripture passage from Hebrews 9:26-28 tell us that just as He (the Christ) has appeared once for all:

He will appear a second time…to those who are waiting for Him.

In many verses of Scripture, we see another expression of “late in time”—the term, “last days.” This refers to the period begun by the coming of Christ and in which we now live. It reminds us that “soon” He will bring to pass all that the New Testament promises, as well as those ancient Old Testament prophecies relating to His second coming.

We also read of this “late in time” occurrence in Galatians 4:4-5:

“But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.

Quite appropriately, these verses speak of a late pregnancy in which the mother waits longingly for the birth.

We have been reminded throughout Advent of the urgency of waiting in a prepared manner for Christ’s second coming. But, I see another application of the principle of waiting until “late in time” He comes.

If you have ever prayed and waited over months and years, even decades for a promise that God has given you to be fulfilled, receive encouragement that God will reward your faith and perseverance. He never gives us a prayer that He doesn’t intend to answer.

However, we must also realize that our times are in God’s hands. Just as the nation Israel waited without knowing when the fulfillment of His promises for the first coming of the Messiah would happen—and we wait, not knowing when He will come again—we also can expect a “coming” in response to our God-breathed prayers at a time and in a way that we can’t know in advance.

Be encouraged that God acts in regard to His children just as He does in regard to nations and His own Kingdom. We can expect that “late in time”—or “in the fullness of time”—He will come in response to our prayers. Praise be to God!


1 Wesley, Charles, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. Public domain.



Monday, December 21, 2015



[Photo of Simeon]

“He had no beauty or majesty to
attract us to him, nothing in his
appearance that we should desire him.”
—Isaiah 53:2b

“He was in the world, and though
the world was made through him,
the world did not recognize him.”
—John 1:10

If you have seen the television show, “Undercover Boss,” you know that a corporate CEO arrives at various places within the company as a trainee, so that he or she can meet various employees without being known and to also find problems existing within the business. These undercover bosses wear hair pieces, glasses, and unlikely clothing. Poor employees get “found out” and good employees get rewarded at the end of the hour long program.

Did you ever think about the fact that God came to earth incognito, too. According to scripture, He had no outstanding qualities that would speak of His royal position as Lord of All. Therefore, even religious leaders missed identifying Him as the promised Messiah. Even John the Baptist, who God sent as the forerunner of Jesus seemed to confess that he did not recognize Him as the Son of God. In fact, John the Baptist said in the story recorded in John 1:29-34, that he would not have known Him except for the Holy Spirit’s identification by the dove lighting on Him.

Which leads to the Biblical truth that no one can possibly know Jesus unless the Spirit reveals Him to us. In 1 Corinthians 2:7-8 Paul writes:

We speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

We remember the story from Luke 24:13-35 of the disciples walking along the road to Emmaus after the Resurrection and how the resurrected Christ joined them. For several hours these disciples talked with Him. But, they didn’t recognize Him. Only after Jesus broke bread did the Holy Spirit open the travelers eyes to see that they had been speaking with Jesus.

In this Advent season, when we admonish each other to watch for the second coming of the Messiah, I wonder how many of us will recognize Him when He comes. The words of Jesus, recorded in Matthew 24:10-13 warn us of such blindness:

At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.

I am comforted by the presence of two very dear saints, Simeon and Anna, in the Christmas story. Unlike most of the religious leaders, who never recognized the Messiah at His first coming, these two godly people prayed and waited, watched and worshiped. The moment that Mary and Joseph appeared at the temple to present their Baby, these two ran to Him in acknowledgement. The Spirit of God revealed to them that the promised Messiah had arrived. It seems that the true identity of Jesus was hidden from natural eyes. That He had arrived incognito and incarnate.

Those who wait and watch, pray and worship day after day, can expect that God will reveal the Christ at His second coming. Let us anticipate His arrival, made known to a watching Church!



Monday, December 14, 2015

Wake Up!


[Photo of office workers sleeping on a conference table]

“Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is
about to die, for I have not found your
deeds complete in the sight of my God.”
—Revelation 3:2

One of the classical pieces for the Season of Advent, we know as the Bach Cantata, “Wachet Auf.” The words refer to the call of the Bridegroom in the Parable of the Virgins that Jesus told. The theme speaks of arising from gloom to glorious light, to hear the angels round the throne of God when our Lord returns to earth to take His Bride, the Church, away with Him.

When we look at the churches across our world today, we often hear about vibrant places across the globe. Many we would look at in our own land, unfortunately, may appear awake, but merely sleep walk. Surely, Jesus, our Bridegroom, would say to us, “Wake up!”

Even one of the churches in the Apostle John’s time had fallen into the sleep-walking pattern. When he wrote letters to seven of the congregations in his time, he told the church in Sardis that their heavy-eyed, lethargic patterns would lead to death—unless they would repent and wake up.

We know from scripture that sleep in a Christian, and a Christian church, can lead to death. As Puritan writer William Gurnall writes:

Samson was asleep and Delilah cut his locks. Saul was asleep, and his spear was taken from his side. Noah was asleep, and his graceless son had opportunity to discover his father’s nakedness. Eutychus was asleep, and fell from the third loft…Sleep creeps upon the soul as it does on the body. 1

We need to awaken to sin in our life, silently creeping into our lives and our churches. We need to awaken to the needs God wants us to see in the world around us, and we need to awaken to the ways God wants to use us. When we sleep, our enemy Satan can come in unawares and take advantage of us. We can be near spiritual death and not know it.

Will He find us awake when He comes back? If He visited us today, would He find us sleepy or wide awake?


Lord, your church appears asleep, or at best, very drowsy. We have allowed our eyelids to get heavy, rather than stood to move at your command. Send us watchmen to warn us. Sound “Reveille” and reawaken your church. Alert us to dangers that have intruded our bed chambers and wait to kill us in our sleep. Stir us up. As you awoke our churches in times past, come again, and reawaken your people for your glory. Amen. 2


1 From “The Christian in Complete Armour” by William Gurnall, as quoted in Rushing, Richard, editor. Voices from the Past. Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009. p. 358.
2 From Wilson, Shirley W. “Re”wording Our Prayers for Spiritual Change. Erie, PA: Wilson Publishing, 2011. p. 7.



Monday, December 7, 2015

Anticipating With Fear or Joy?


[Photo of flames]

“But who may abide the day of His coming
and who shall stand when He appeareth,
for He is like a refiner’s fire. And He shall
purify the sons of Levi, that they may offer
unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.”
—Malachi 3:2-3

Most musicians will recognize these famous verses as the source for the words from the Christmas section of Handel’s Messiah. The alto begins with an air, followed by the chorus. The words portray not a joyful expectation of the coming of the Redeemer, but one of fear. Who can stand the scrutiny of His coming?

Anticipating the first advent of Christ meant allowing God to purify sinful hearts, especially those of the priestly tribe of Levi who served night and day in the temple. It seems rather backwards that God would especially put His own temple servants through the hard process of refining until they were able to reveal the glowing image of their Lord and offer to Him offerings acceptable to such a King.

Does God expect the same of His servants who anticipate His Second Advent? The sobering reality of this great Day comes to us in 1 Peter 4:17:

For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

Yes, just as God’s people looked forward to His first coming with joy and anxious anticipation, we too should watch and wait for His second coming in expectation and with joy. But, we also must remember, that as it was when John the Baptist came shouting, “Prepare” for Jesus’ Galilean ministry, we must also prepare to meet Him with hearts purified by His word and by His work of sanctification. And, as with Anna the prophetess who met Jesus in the temple on the eighth day, we should be faithfully, day after day on watch for His return.

As you hear the strains of Handel’s Messiah this Christmas, along with the joyful tidings and great joy, recall the sobering section about allowing God to refine you so that you can offer to Him that which He deserves—offerings in righteousness.

—Posted: Monday, December 7, 2015



Monday, November 30, 2015

Here He Comes!


[Photo of children hiding under a table]

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not
know on what day your Lord will come.”
—Matthew 24:42

“Shh! Here she comes!”

Most teachers of young children have heard this from time to time when they have had to step out of their classrooms for a couple of minutes. Children take the opportunity for a fun game of “Surprise!” The teacher enters the room to see students popping up from under their desk in an effort to startle her.

What anticipation children enjoy! We, too, should anticipate the wonder and element of surprise that will come at the Second Advent of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Scripture often refers to Him as the “Bridegroom” and we the church as the “Bride.” Jesus spoke in length about His Second Coming in Matthew 24 and 25.

Jesus wanted to make sure that His Bride keeps watch, and does not give up the anticipation of His coming. He does say, however, in Matthew 24:36:

“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, not the Son, but only the Father.”

However, He does give us some clues about the state of world cultures before that day arrives. It would seem from these clues that we are closer than ever to His appearance.

Jesus, as a way of illustrating how He intends His Bride to watch and prepare during a long delay, tells the story of the Ten Virgins in a wedding party in Matthew 25:1-13. Five of the virgins looked ready because they held lamps, but only five of them also carried the oil for the lamps. Lamps took perpetual filling. In the story, at midnight the Bridegroom surprised the virgins with the call, “Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!” Only those with oil had prepared themselves when the Groom arrived.

God looks for faithful followers. He wants us to watch for Him and to “keep our lamps trimmed and burning.”

During this time of Advent, we should pay close attention to the words of Advent hymns. Many not only reflect the anticipation of Jesus’ first coming, but also the anticipation we should feel regarding His second coming.

The hymn, “Rejoice! Rejoice, Believers” paraphrases the story of the Ten Virgins for us:

Rejoice, rejoice, believers!
And let your lights appear;
The evening is advancing,
and darker night is near.
The Bridegroom is arising,
and soon He will draw nigh;
Up, watch and pray, nor slumber;
At midnight comes the cry.

See that your lamps are burning;
Your vessels filled with oil;
Wait calmly your deliverance
from earthly pain and toil;
The watchers on the mountains
proclaim the Bridegroom near;
Go meet Him as He cometh,
with alleluias clear.

Our hope and expectation,
O Jesus, now appear!
Arise, Thou Sun so longed for,
O’er this benighted sphere!
With hearts and hands uplifted,
we plead, O Lord, to see
The day of our redemption,
and ever be with Thee! 1


1 “Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers!” A hymn by Laurentius Laurenti (1700) and translated by Sarah Borthwick Findlater. Public domain.



Monday, November 23, 2015

Perfume Bottles, Jewels, and Loaded Wagons


[Photo of a jewelry display]

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise; give
thanks to him and praise his name.”
—Psalm 100:4

Did you ever try to compile a list of things for which you are grateful? I’ve found that such a list needs consideration for many days, in order that I might begin to realize the vast and quite ridiculous nature of such an endeavor!

Yet, to look at the past, God’s mercies, extended to us from our birth, should bring a humble and heartfelt gratitude to each of us.

  • What dangers has God kept from us or delivered us out of the midst?

  • On how many journeys has God protected us?

  • What people has He brought into our lives to bless us?

  • What kindnesses has He promoted us to receive from past friends and acquaintances—or even strangers?

  • What education and rich experiences has He provided?

  • What earthly goods has He given into our care?

  • What health for body and soul has He generously provided?

Puritan writer, George Swinnock says that we should meditate on God’s former favors to us. He writes:

An empty perfume bottle still smells when the perfume is gone. 1

Indeed! How true this is of the past goodness of God in our lives.

When we look at the present, we need to make a whole new list! What about our homes, abundant food and clothing, family, health, Christian fellowship? What of daily blessings of work and rest? What of worship and the study of God’s Word? So many of these mercies we learn, over time, to take for granted. Yet, it behooves us to consider them all.

Again, George Swinnock writes:

Think of them [our present mercies] particularly. Spread them out like jewels to your view. Meditate on how freely they are bestowed, on their fullness and greatness. 2

When we consider that we entered this world with nothing, we should be amazed and continually grateful for all that God has so freely given to us. Yes—the photograph of a fragrant empty perfume bottle, or, as show above, a table loaded with jewels may well represent to us the abundance God bestows on us.

At this time of Thanksgiving, of harvest and in-gathering, we do well to consider the riches that God has given to us. As Psalm 65:11 reminds us:

You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance.

Yes, in this verse we have yet another picture as an example of God’s goodness to us: loaded wagons!

As we consider this time of Thanksgiving, let’s truly focus on all the many wonderful gifts God has given us and recognize that it is His gifts that sustain us each day of our lives.


1 From “Works” by George Swinnock, as quoted in Rushing, Richard, editor. Voices from the Past. Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009. p. 316.
2 Ibid



Monday, November 16, 2015



[Photo of a grandmas chair]

“How great is your goodness, which you have stored
up for those who fear you, which you bestow in
the sight of men on those who take refuge in you.”
—Psalm 31:19

A mom dreams of giving her child a gift she really wants to give, but can’t afford. She lays down a deposit with the intention of paying a little at a time. And then, just before Christmas, goes back and claims the gift she has the goal of giving.

Just think of our God that way. He holds gifts in store for us and knows the best time to give them. Deuteronomy 28:12-13 speaks of the kind of blessing God stores for those who obey and follow Him:

The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands…The Lord will make you the head, not the tail…you will always be at the top, never at the bottom.

In Proverbs 2:7, we read that:

He holds victory in store for the upright.

In 2 Timothy 4:8, we read that God holds in store for His children a “crown of righteousness.” These are new graces out of God’s abundant new provisions.

Have you ever received a gift that is really old? Let me give you an example.

As a high school girl, my grandmother gave me a beautiful antique settee and chair that she owned. The chair had a big hole in the cushion, and the upholstery lay in tatters. At the time, my mother took the chair, and stored it away in our old farmhouse. Many years later, after I had married and moved away from home, my mother had that old chair recoiled and cushioned so that it, like new, could be useful again.

God does that too. He can “restore” things in our lives we thought would never be useful again. In Joel 2:25, we read God’s words to Israel, even before the exile to Babylon:

“I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten.” (NKJV)

When the destroying swarms of trouble, sickness, or poverty devastate us, God has a way of miraculously restoring those things that we thought had been ruined. He holds them in store for the day when He makes them like new: useful and beautiful again.

God, like the loving parent, knows the gifts that He intends to give to us. He delights to think about us, to plan good things for us, and to rejoice in preparing a time for His special gift-giving. We can delight in waiting on God’s good things. Praise Him for the day of gift-giving ahead, full of surprises and great joy, all to His glory!



Monday, November 9, 2015

But Dad, You Promised!


[Photo of little girl holds her dad's hand]

“But Moses sought the favor of the Lord
his God. ‘O Lord,’ he said, ‘why should
your anger burn against your people,
whom you brought out of Egypt with
great power and a mighty hand?’…
‘Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac
and Israel, to whom you swore by your
own self: ‘I will make your descendants
as numerous as the stars in the sky.’”
—Exodus 32:11, 13

Looking at the photo above, can you just hear the child’s voice, “But Dad, you prommmmised!” Maybe she had waited for that puppy for what seemed like an inordinate amount of time, and heard Dad say, “Not until we move into our new house in the country.” Or, “When you are eight years old and can take care of a puppy.” Chances are, while Dad may have completely forgotten the promise, the child hasn’t, and she stands in very good stead pleading the promise.

God hears prayer from His children too, especially when they remind Him of His promises. For example, during the escape from Egypt, God’s people had so angered Him by forming and worshipping a golden calf, that He could not even refer to them any longer as “My” people. Moses had to remind God in prayer, as recorded in Exodus 33:13:

“Remember that this nation is your people.”

We can plead our relationship with God.

If we act on the promise we’ve read or heard and believe that promise, God also takes note. Remember Noah? In Genesis 6 and 7, we read how God promised Noah to spare his family even though He intended to destroy the world. In order to do that, God asked Noah to build an ark in which his family could survive.

With no sign of rain whatsoever—in fact, at this point in the history of the earth, it had never rained—Noah built this huge ark on dry land according to all the instructions God gave him. God did destroy the world, but spared Noah and his family, just as He promised. However, if by faith Noah had not obeyed and built the ark, he and his family would not have had a chance of survival.

While reading the Scriptures, listen for God’s voice in the promises you find there. If He makes a promise and you know it resonates with you, plead your relationship with Him as His child, and act on that promise in faith.

Like the little girl who took her umbrella to the prayer meeting because she had been told that the adults intended to pray for rain, expect God’s answer to His promises and to your prayers—in His time and in His way.



Monday, November 2, 2015

Godly Ophthalmology




[Photo of a young blind woman walking in the woods]

“The god of this age has blinded the minds
of unbelievers, so that they cannot see
the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.”
—2 Corinthians 4:4

I have cataracts. The cataract clouds the vision of the lens of the eye and can be blamed for the majority of blindness across the world. I am grateful that here in the United States, we have routine cataract surgery, easily done and usually without serious consequences.

What a contrast between blindness and the brilliant glory of Christ. Eugene Peterson defines glory as:

…the open display of God’s good will, his loving salvation, his redeeming purpose. 1

The brilliance of God’s glory as referred to in Exodus 34:29-35 caused Moses’ face to shine so intensely that he had to wear a veil when he spoke to the Israelite people. God’s glory, brilliant and dazzling, lies in contrast to the blindness of the human race, struck sightless by the sin we bear.

Just as a cataract fogs the lens completely if not removed, so sin takes away the sight of all of us until God gives us the ability to see again. All of us know the phrase, “I once…was blind, but now I see” from the hymn Amazing Grace. 2

A graphic picture of this comes to us in the story of St. Paul on the road to Damascus in Acts 9:1-18. He, religious and obedient to his faith in every way, thought persecuting this new sect of “Christians” fell on him, and he went about the country making “murderous threats” and imprisoning them. That day, the glory of Christ Himself shone on Paul, knocking him from his donkey and blinding him. He heard God speak to him from this “glory” and turned to Him in repentance and new faith.

Acts 9:18 tells us that after Paul met Ananias who put his hands on him:

…immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again.

Like the removal of cataracts to restore our physical sight, God miraculously removes the blindness of our hearts caused by the clouding of sin. He comes to us with that kind of life changing encounter with Him. We then begin to see in a new spiritual way things we never could before.

We can see the brilliant colors of God’s truth that once was a drab absurdity. We understand in a new way God’s wonderful love and provision for us. Christ Jesus, who once dwelt so far away that we could not see Him, now is seen up close, with clarity and definition.

Rejoice today, if God has removed your spiritual cataracts so that you see Him and know Him. Pray for those you know who still stumble in the darkness, and ask God for opportunities to share with them the transforming vision you have received from Him. He has made this operation available to them as well through His death and resurrection. The Great Physician waits to heal spiritual eyes and restore sight!


1 Peterson, Eugene. A Year with Jesus. San Francisco: Harper Collins Publisher, 1989. p. 321.

2 Newton, John. Amazing Grace. Public Domain.



Monday, October 26, 2015

Eating an Elephant


[Photo of an elephant perched on a spoon]

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will worry about itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
—Matthew 6:34

You’ve no doubt heard the question: “How do you eat an elephant?” And the answer: “One bite at a time.”

I confess that I am a veteran “planner.” I plan everything in order to stave off unwanted surprises or risky situations. God gave me this innate ability to systematically prepare for every contingency.

Yet, I don’t imagine He had in mind giving me this capability of planning in order that I should use it so in lieu of trusting Him. Much of the time He chooses to keep me in the dark about what comes next just for that very reason.

I’m sure that the Israelites would have liked to have known when God was going to lead them on in the wilderness so that they could have prepared meals “on the go.” Instead, He provided only enough manna for one day at a time. It appeared as dew in the morning and quickly evaporated. The people of Israel had to gather it without dawdling and trust God that He would supply the same food every day.

Corrie ten Boom, a Dutch woman whose family hid Jews from the Nazis in their home and who was subsequently imprisoned at Ravensbruck concentration camp, tells the story about a conversation with her father. Corrie had asked her father why God only seems to give them a clear answer to their prayers at the very last minute.

Her father sat down on the edge of the narrow bed and gently began to ask Corrie a question: “When you and I go to Amsterdam—when do I give you your ticket?”

She sniffed a few times before responding with “Why, just before we get on the train.”

Her father then went on, “Exactly. And our wise Father in Heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need—just in time.” 1

Whether the situation seems as dire as Corrie’s, or has to do with how you will get everything done for the upcoming wedding, or household move, or the months of chemotherapy ahead, God gives us the same answer: “Trust me and take one thing at a time.”

Certainly the patriarchs listed in Hebrews 11 give us plenty of examples of men and women who trusted in God during impossible situations. As Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths.

God comforts us as we begin “eating our elephant” in 1 Peter 5:7:

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.


1 Ten Boom, Corrie, The Hiding Place. Old Tappan, NJ: Spire Books, 1971.



Monday, October 19, 2015

Bread and Water


[Photo of an open Bible with folded hands on top]

“Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity
and the water of affliction, your teachers will be
hidden no more; with your own eyes you will
see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the
left, your ears will hear a voice behind you,
saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”
—Isaiah 30:20-21

A diet of bread and water conjures up images of life in prison, of poverty without funds for anything but the essential elements, and of loss and sadness. Although most of us in twenty-first century America do not directly relate to such a diet like, as the verse at the beginning of the blog post suggests, we sometimes do experience times when God may seem to place us in a spiritual or emotional confinement.

At such times, we not only pray for release from the prison of problems, but we pray for understanding and guidance. We wisely go to God for the meaning of it all because the meaning seems hidden to us. We ask Him where we should go and what we should do. We need His divine guidance.

Some verses of Scripture offer comfort. In Isaiah 30: 19, we read:

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!

Our God wishes to show compassion and justice to us in our adversity and affliction.

As godly Job learned, harder still than the prison of problems God allows, are the deep, nagging questions: the “whys” and “what nows” that accompany them.

As Mary, the sister of Lazarus learned, in John 11, when Jesus finally came to her in her grief and baffled thoughts and called her name, everything changed.

As Peter learned after betraying his Lord and finding himself in a “prison” of shame and fear, in John 21, we see that a few minutes with Jesus changed everything. He heard the voice of God, responded, and nothing was ever the same again.

Being able to see our Teacher, to hear the Voice clear and strong, through His Word and through the indwelling Holy Spirit, becomes our comfort in the prison of problems we face. The God who spoke to Isaiah, Job, Mary, and Peter can speak to us.

Praise Him for His gracious promise to come to us and direct our way. When we lose all else, His voice of loving guidance changes everything!



Monday, October 12, 2015

Trickle Down Blessings


[Photo of a spoonful of salt]

“Through the blessing of the
upright a city is exalted.”
—Proverbs 11:11

Has God blessed you? Consider this. If God has blessed you, He has also blessed those around you.

How many close calls have you experienced on the road? Did you ever stop to think that when God spared you, He spared others as well?

Speaking to His followers in Matthew 5:13, Jesus tells us that:

“You are the salt of the earth.”

As “Christ’s-ones,” we not only help to give flavor and delight to the world, our very presence helps preserve it!

We need go no further than the scriptures to see illustrations of this blessed phenomenon.

In Genesis 37 and chapters following, we read the story of Joseph, the favorite son of the patriarch Jacob. We read about his jealous brothers who sold him to a band of Ishmaelites who took him to Egypt where he became a slave under the Pharaoh’s rule. He assigned Joseph to Potiphar, the captain of the guard, putting him in charge of all he had.

Genesis 39:5 tells us:

From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field.

If we look at the New Testament, we read the story of Paul’s voyage to Rome, and the storm in which they lost the ship on which they sailed. In Acts 27:23-24 we read from Paul’s testimony:

Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’

Like salt prudently used, our presence, and God’s blessing on us, may not call attention to itself. People around us may not even perceive that, because of us, God has included them in His goodness. Yet, when God removes His blessing, the world wonders what went wrong. We as a culture, too often presume things will go well for us, and believe they should. God has favored us. He has ambassadors of His grace all around, including you and me.

We must thank God today that He has called us to operate in our culture as a preserving influence, as a blessing, and as a flavoring agent to scatter His good grace to others around us. When we ask for His blessing, we must also remember to include all of those whom we will influence today.



Monday, October 5, 2015

Gas in Your Tank


[Photo of a woman holding a fuel nozzle ot her head]

“May the God of hope fill you with all
joy and peace as you trust in him, so
that you may overflow with hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
—Romans 15:13

We all need a “fill-up” with hope from time to time. The “Enemy of Despair and Hopelessness” can bring us down and ruin any day, relationship, job, church, or project. Hope keeps us going. Hope fuels our way, even through difficult times.

Joni Eareckson Tada says:

It’s amazing how far we can go on a little bit of hope. Hope means “I know I can make it!” 1

We have a God of hope according to the verse at the beginning of this blog post. We must trust Him to keep us going, to assure us of His presence and His good plan. In the book of Lamentations, chapter three, Jeremiah confesses:

My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord.

Notice the past-tense of this sentence. Just three verses later, he says:

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness…The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him.

When we hope for things from God, He doesn’t always come through as we would desire. But, when we hope in God, He shows up to lift us up.

When Jeremiah looked at his circumstances, he saw nothing promising. Yet, when he looked at his God, he could rejoice.

Take a long look at our God. He has the answers we need and has promised to never leave us or forsake us. Let’s ask Him to refuel our drooping spirits. Then rejoice with the hymn writer:

My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

His oath, his covenant, his blood
support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
he then is all my hope and stay.

On Christ the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.” 2


1 Tada, Joni Eareckson. Pearls of Great Price. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, ©2006, Devotional for September 30th.
2 Mote, Edward, My Hope is Built on Nothing Less. Public Domain.



Monday, September 28, 2015

Music in a Hammer


[Photo of a blacksmith at work]

“Because you are my help I sing
in the shadow of your wings.”
—Psalm 63:7

Maybe you remember the childhood rhyme:

There’s music in a hammer;
There’s music in a nail.
There’s music in a kitty-cat
When you step upon her tail!

How often do we feel struck by a hammer in our lives? What kind of music do we make at such times? Over and over in Scripture we are reminded that, like our Savior suffered, we will suffer for His sake and for His purposes in our lives.

In Acts 14:22 we read what the early Apostles told their followers:

We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.

To be clear, that does not mean that our salvation comes to us because of our own patient endurance. No, our salvation comes to us as a precious gift from God, as we acknowledge our belief in God’s atoning sacrifice of His Son, Jesus, on the cross.

When we enter Heaven at last, all serious Christ-followers will be survivors of many trials, tests, and struggles. It’s all part of the sanctification process God guides us through on our way toward spiritual maturity. The product of our surrender to the “hammer” of God’s work comes alive in the song we sing while we suffer.

The story of Paul and Silas, recorded in Acts 16, tells of their beating, flogging, and imprisonment. We read these words in Acts 16:25:

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God.

They rejoiced in God’s will, not knowing whether they would live or die.

From the pen of a Puritan writer we read:

The greatest temptation out of hell is to live without trials. A pool of standing water will turn stagnant…Grace withers without adversity. You can’t sneak quietly into heaven without a cross. Crosses form us into his image. They cut away the pieces of our corruption. Lord cut, carve, wound; Lord do anything to perfect your image in us and make us fit for glory.” 1

But, what of the hammer? Isaiah 44:12 tells us:

The blacksmith takes a tool and works with it in the coals; he shapes an idol with hammers, he forges it with the might of his arm.

Our God plays the blacksmith to forge us into His shape. Jeremiah 23:9 tells us:

“Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?

Sometimes God’s hammer comes to us through the striking truth of His Word.

Has God ever convicted you of sin so sharply and painfully that you could not rest in your spirit until you confessed and made that right? God still uses the hammer on His people with the hopeful result that, when we arrive to meet Him, we can say with the Puritan:

O what I owe to the file, hammer, and furnace! 2

And not only does He desire us to suffer for His sake, but to sing under the weight of the trials that He might be glorified in us!


1 From “The Loveliness of Christ” by Samuel Rutherford, as quoted in Rushing, Richard, editor. Voices from the Past. Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009. p. 261.
2 Ibid.



Monday, September 21, 2015

A Heavenly Facial


[Photo of a woman examining her face in a mirror]

“When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two
tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that
his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord.”
—Exodus 34:29

One of the largest successful businesses bases itself on a woman’s fascination with her face, and the her desire to make it smooth, ageless, and glowing with health. You can spend a great deal of money on creams, gels, and makeup to cover any imperfections in your skin, along with spot removers, oils, and wrinkle creams. If you doubt this fact, just take a look at the website ads that pop up along the side of your screen at almost every page on Facebook.

Scripture tells of a mysterious phenomenon that happened when Moses met with God on the Mount for 40 days. This glowing of Moses’ face, mentioned by Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:7-18, was nothing, Paul said, compared to what a Christian can experience:

For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory…And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

This passage reminds us of the passages in the Gospels about Jesus’ Transfiguration on Mt. Hermon, as recorded in Matthew 17:1-2:

After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.

What characterizes each of these historic instances? They all happened to people who had spent time in solitude with God. The visible glory of the Divine Presence, in the form of the Holy Spirit, supernaturally illuminated the faces of God’s servants. We read of many times during Jesus’ earthly ministry when He found a quiet place to spend time with God. Matthew 14:23 records one such instance:

After he had dismissed them [the crowd], he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.

This pattern that Jesus set for prayer He expects of us, too. In Matthew 6:6, Jesus taught:

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.”

God wants to “transfigure” you in His Presence that you may know Him and take His Presence with you into the world for others to see.

I don’t know about you, but that kind of facial treatment sounds so much more beneficial and lasting than the one the television advertising offers. We may never see the Glory of Christ when we look at ourselves in the mirror, but others will see it in our lives, as we live a life of perpetual solitude in the presence of our Holy God.



Monday, September 14, 2015

Did You See That?


[Photo of an angry woman driver]

“The eyes of the Lord are everywhere,
keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”
—Proverbs 15:3

How often, while driving in traffic, have you seen a blatant disregard for the law and for safety? Someone passes another car on the right. A car sails by you doing 80 in a 55 mph zone. A driver makes a turn where signs clearly indicate “NO TURNS.” My reaction, is probably like yours: “Where are the police when you need them?”

The “All-Seeing Eye of God”—or, His Omnipresence—sometimes gets forgotten. We fail to remember that even our thoughts do not go unnoticed by God. In other words, God’s ability to see and perceive everything that happens to us or within us can either bring us great fear or great comfort.

From Psalm 139:4, we learn that before a word is even on our tongues, God knows it completely. That should give us pause every time we speak. In Psalm 139:11-12, we read that we can’t hide from Him. He sees in the darkness as well as in the light. It is crazy to think He can’t see us!

Yet, we can gain comfort from the fact that God sees what others do to us or say about us. Jesus taught His disciples when he first sent them out, as recorded in Matthew 10:26:

…that there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.

And, He was talking about people who would abuse and betray the disciples in their ministry.

God wants us to trust Him that He does see. He does hear. He does know our pain when others malign us. Psalm 33:13 tells us that:

…from heaven, the Lord looks down and sees all mankind.

In Psalm 33:18, The Psalmist writes:

The eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love.

We sometimes may lose our patience waiting on God. But, we need to realize that He will resolve all the issues that trouble us.

Abraham responded when God told him that He was about to destroy Sodom because of their great sin. Abraham believed that Lot and his family would be spared because they were “the righteous” members of that terrible society. Abraham’s rhetorical question in Genesis 18:25 reveals his trust in God’s ability to get it right:

Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?

To take a sober look at God’s Omnipresence means that while we need to keep careful watch of our own behaviors, we also must learn to trust God, in His own time, to take care of those things we cannot make right when we say to Him, “Did you see that?”



Monday, September 7, 2015

God’s Flying Buttresses


[Photo of flying_buttresses]

“Bear ye one another's burdens,
and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
—Galatians 6:2

In a time of collapse, we would do well to have someone on whom to lean. We see this principle at work in the flying buttresses of Gothic Cathedrals.

According to Wikipedia:

“…the purpose of any buttress is to resist the lateral forces pushing a wall outwards…” which occurs with the load of heavy stone and glass in the walls of the largest buildings. “Another application of the flying buttress is to prop up a leaning wall in danger of collapse.”

The Apostle Paul was such a support to the early churches which he and other apostles founded in the first century. He not only traveled to stay with these young congregations to encourage and help them, but he wrote long letters of instruction to them so that they would not fail.

In carrying the load of these new churches, the Apostle Paul experienced endangering situations such as ship wrecks, starvation, physical problems, beatings, imprisonments, riots, and sleepless nights. In order for his ministry to continue he knew that he needed the buttressing of fellow servants of Christ to help his ministry. He relied on Titus and Timothy, John Mark, and Luke, as well as such lesser-known men as Tychicus, Epaphroditus, and women such as Nympha and Priscilla.

The Apostle Paul speaks of the Church of Christ as the Body of Christ, in which each member belongs to each other member in order to complete the whole. He admonished the Church in 1 Thessalonians 5:11:

Therefore encourage one another, and build each other up.

This theme occurs often in Paul’s writings. He knew how hard life can become and what spiritual warfare these young Christians would face.

In our present age, you may have days when you don’t feel you can go a step further. Weariness, sickness, emotional pain, along with a too-long waiting for God can beat upon you like heavy rain beats on a cathedral in a violent storm. In prayer, ask God to supply the support you need to keep from collapsing. He has already prepared a group of Christians to buttress you up during your difficult days. When the time of hardship ends, may you have the same grateful spirit as Paul did when he wrote to Philemon in verse 7:

Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.



Monday, August 31, 2015

Don’t Gulp Your Food!


[Photo of a woman looking at a spoon]

“How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
—Psalm 119:103

I can still hear my father’s admonition at the dinner table, “Chew your food!” I suppose I might have felt the urgent need to finish the meal in order to get back to playing with my sister, or riding my bike, or any dozens of other favorite pastimes I enjoyed as a child.

Some forty years later, I heard a pastor, on the verge of retirement, talking about the ways he needed to intensify the taste of God’s Word as he got older. He shared the premise that when our taste buds are young, we have a much more discriminating pallet even for mild flavors. He likened that to a child’s ability to remember new facts, songs, poetry, and Scripture with much more ease than an older person.

When this pastor was young, he told us, he enjoyed just about any flavor of jelly on his toast. But, when he got older, he needed stronger, more intense flavors to satisfy his taste. He said that in order to remember Scriptures like he did as a child, he needed more intense practices in his devotional life as an older Christian.

This pastor particularly enjoyed memorizing scripture. He urged his congregation to learn to appreciate God’s Word by intensifying the enjoyment of it through this practice. Memorizing passages from the Bible does indeed help cement the words of truth in one’s mind and heart.

Not only do we need more intense means to learn and remember Scripture as older adults, but we also need the practice of savoring what we read. Gulping down large portions of Bible books may bring some degree of growth. But, I believe that slowing down, savoring, and delighting in what we read intensifies our experience like nothing else can do.

How can we enjoy the Scriptures in this way? Certainly, we can memorize portions of it. We can also journal verses that God points out to us. We can paraphrase portions of Scripture that God is using to teach us. We can find hymns that capture the idea of certain Scripture readings. We can meditate over the images we read about.

All of these practices should have the effect of helping us say with the Psalmist in Psalm 34:8:

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

Let us determine to learn to enjoy feeding on Scripture one bite at a time.And remember, “Don’t gulp your food!”



Monday, August 24, 2015

God Said, “No”


[Photo of a woman in silhouetter praying]

“He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond
them, knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you
are willing, take this cup from me; yet not
my will, but yours be done.’ An angel from heaven
appeared to him and strengthened him.”
—Luke 22:41-43

God does miracles in response to prayer! He is able! Can I get an “Amen?”

Most of us, if we’ve lived long enough, can say that God has performed miracles in behalf of people we know. He has spared us against impossible odds, has come to our rescue with resources we didn’t have or couldn’t see. He has healed those we love even after doctors did all they could do and results they hoped for didn’t come. Those miracles came with a “Yes!” answer as a result of faithful prayers.

Jesus believed, as we do, that God always heard His prayers. In John 11:41-42, He prayed:

“Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me.”

If God said, “No!” to Jesus in Gethsemane, certainly, we can also expect that sometimes He will say “No!” to us as well.

As we watched my sister die of multiple myeloma, we prayed in faith fully believing that God had the power to heal her. She prayed that prayer too. Yet, when we heard God say “No!” we watched her—patiently resigned, submissive, and full of grace—bow to His will. Did God still perform a miracle? He indeed did!

God, instead of saying “Yes!” to Jesus in Gethsemane, sent angels to minister to Him, gave Him power to face death, and gave Him power to shout victory over it on Resurrection morning, bringing with that victory the way for all of us to know Him and ultimately triumph over death.

As recorded in Luke 1:38, the young virgin, Mary—frightened, alarmed, and perhaps even shamed upon hearing about her one-of-its-kind pregnancy—instead of praying to have this burden removed, said:

“I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”

Instead of saying “Yes!” to my sister and to all of us who prayed for the miracle of healing for her, God sent incredible grace, beauty beyond compare, and a witness to all who knew her of the Resurrection power He has given her, and will give anyone, who trusts in His provision for our sin.

We can have the assurance that when God says, “No!” to our prayers in one sense, He always says, “Yes!” to His power to work His will in ways we could never imagine. From Jude 24 we hear these words:

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior, be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore. Amen.



Monday, August 17, 2015

The Reckless Tongue


[Photo of a woman with her hands on her face]

“The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil
among the parts of the body.
It corrupts the whole person, sets the
whole course of his life on fire,
and is itself set on fire by hell.”
—James 3:6

“Why did I say that? Ugh! Not only did I embarrass myself, but may have hurt the other person with my ill-thought-through statement.”

How easily our words can trip us up, can hurt others, and belie our witness for Christ. Such tiny mistakes sometimes create such a world of trouble.

Our enemy, Satan, waits to set up a conversation wherein we easily fall for temptation to cut down someone else, or share a secret we know, or use words that ought not come from the lips of a child of the King. How easy we fall into the trap and how difficult we find it to apologize!

My poet friend, Clara, penned these words that sums up my thoughts well:

My tongue was a reckless car today
That didn’t recognize or respect the stop signs.
It ran down two people
Without thought or compunction.
It crushed a sister and bruised a brother.
So dangerously exceeding all speed limits,
It careened over the highways
Without control or fear of consequence,
Halted only by the Word of God. 1

If we know that the temptation to speak evil comes careening through our brain and onto our lips, we need to display a healthy amount of self-control, and the foresight before we begin a day, start a conversation, or make a phone call. We need to say the words written by the Psalmist David found in Psalm 141:3:

Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord, keep watch over the door of my lips.

Let us covenant with God to do our part and to rely on Him to keep us from the hurt a runaway tongue can inflict on others!


1 Ruffin, Clara V. He’s Prepared My Heart for Harvest. Hartford, CT: Food for Thought, 1998.



Monday, August 10, 2015

Commands With Blessings
in Their Mouths

by Thomas Watson (c. 1620-1686)


[Photo of a man standing in a light shining down from a cloud]

“Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice.”
—1 Samuel 15:22

“It is not enough just to hear God’s voice, but we must obey it. Obedience is part of the honour we owe God. It is the beauty of a Christian, makes us precious to God, and makes us one of his favourites (Exodus 19:5). What are the ingredients in our obedience that will make it acceptable?

  1. It must be performed freely and cheerfully, or it is penance, not sacrifice. Hypocrites obey God grudgingly, and against their will. Cain brought his sacrifice, but not his heart. [Genesis+4:1-5] Cheerfulness shows that there is love in the duty.

  2. Obedience should be devout and fervent—not as a snail in a dull, slothful manner. As water boils over, so the heart must boil over with hot affections in the service of God. Obedience without fervency is like a sacrifice without fire. Elijah’s prayer brought fire from heaven because it carried fire up to heaven. [2 Kings 1:10]

  3. We must obey all of God’s commands. Hypocrites will obey God in the things which require little effort, and that raise their reputation, but leave other things undone. Herod would listen to John the Baptist, but would not leave his incest. [Mark 6:17-19]

  4. Obedience must be sincere. We must aim at God’s glory in it. The object of our obedience is not just to stop the mouth of conscience, or to gain applause, but that we might grow more like God.

  5. Obedience must be constant. True obedience is like the fire on the altar which was always kept burning. A hypocrite’s obedience is but for a season; it is like whitewash, which is soon washed off. God’s commands are not grievous, and he commands nothing unreasonable. [1 John 5:3]

“To obey God is not so much our duty as our privilege. His commands carry blessings in their mouth. There is love in every command, as if a king bid one of his subjects to dig in a gold mine, and then keep the gold for himself.” 1


1 From “The Ten Commandments,” by Thomas Watson, as quoted in Rushing, Richard, editor. Voices from the Past. Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009. p. 220.



Monday, August 3, 2015

Gifts to Give


[Photo of a boy holding an apple in his outstretched hand]

“Each one should use whatever gift he has
received to serve others, faithfully
administering God’s grace in its various forms.”
—1 Peter 4:10

Benny Jermaine came to my school as a kindergartener. He lived with a foster family in town. This winsome little boy, along with his class of five-year-olds, visited an apple orchard in the fall. The children were given permission to fill their backpacks full of apples. I’ll never forget that day when they all walked out the front door during my bus-duty time, bent over, moaning under the weight of their heavy burdens!

But, Benny didn’t appear “burdened” at all. Instead, with a smile and open pride, he offered his apples to any adult he saw as he walked the long hallway to the front door.

Carrie Lindmore made herself quite a reputation as a third grade trouble maker in the same school. She, too, lived with a foster family, who found her behaviors quite a burden. Carrie spent many hours in the school office!

I watched her one day as a teacher, who had learned of her birthday, bought cupcakes for her to give to her class. She literally skipped down the hall with “Thank you! Thank-you!” and found her fellow classmates in the cafeteria and yelled out, “Guess what! We are going to have a party!” She couldn’t wait to give away her cupcakes to those who knew her rather one-sided reputation.

In ordinary circumstances, both of these children never had enough of this world’s goods that they could freely give to others. Once they received a gift, they used those gifts to make others happy.

I think God wants His children, upon whom He lavishes His great favor and His abundant grace, to give away the gifts He gives us. Of course, these gifts could include material goods, hospitality, or any manner of other blessings. However, God has given each of His children at least one spiritual gift—and, sometimes, several spiritual gifts. He has told us the purpose for which He gives these gifts. And, He expects us to give them away.

Now, some Christians may feel their obligation to offer service to others, but find no joy in it. This cannot please our Heavenly Father. Although the passage speaks about financial gifts, I believe 2 Corinthians 9:7 can likewise refer to any gifts, including spiritual ones when the Apostle Paul says:

God loves a cheerful giver.

Likewise, in Titus 2:14 we read that we are a:

…people that are His very own, eager to do what is good.

Also, when speaking of spiritual gifts, Paul, in Romans 12:11 exhorts believers to:

…never be lacking in zeal, but to keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

God has never given His people gifts for us to hold onto them, to clutch those gifts close to themselves, to enjoy the gifts, but keep them from others. He graciously and lavishly gives us His gifts, so that we might open our heavy backpacks and offer His grace in all its forms to anyone we meet along the “hallway” of our lives.

Thank God, and enjoy the gift-giving!


Please note: The names of the two children mentioned in this blog post have been changed to protect the identity of the real people involved.



Monday, July 27, 2015

God, the Mosaic Artist


[Photo of a jungle mosaic]

“Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now
for a season, if need be, ye are in
heaviness through manifold temptations.”
—1 Peter 1:6 AKJV (emphasis added)

“As every man hath received the gift,
even so minister the same one to
another, as good stewards
of the manifold grace of God.”
—1 Peter 4:10 AKJV (emphasis added)

“O Lord, how manifold are thy works!
in wisdom hast thou made them all:
the earth is full of thy riches.”
—Psalm 104:24 AKJV (emphasis added)

Someone once told me that the word “manifold” in the Bible means “many-colored.” Having never studied Hebrew or Greek, I can only take his word for it. But, it has often made me consider the beautiful way in which God artfully uses His grace to meet the various—or manifold—needs and trials of His people.

Like an artist who chooses exquisite tiny tiles that He can see as He works, He can also envision the full masterpiece and how all those tiles fit together. He chooses the crystalline white stones that glint and shine with the light. He chooses the colorful clays that catch the eye and make us happy: bright turquoise, the brilliant reds, the sparkling purples and rich greens. He also chooses the inky black tiles that set the colors off and lend variety and luxuriant contrast to the whole picture.

He sees the objects created by these various tiles in the picture that we never see, although we may get a hint of them in our lifetimes. But certainly, He envisions the total picture we have no eyesight for, and plans a masterpiece made from the pieces of our lives—manifold graces for the manifold trials. As 1 Corinthians 13:12 tells us:

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

God will sometime allow us to see the intricate work of His loving hands that made something beautiful of our confusing and seemingly helter-skelter experiences of this life. I can’t wait to see the many mosaics of Heaven. Each of us will see the artwork He is creating now, and adore the Artist in the most magnificent gallery ever!



Monday, July 20, 2015

Going Nowhere Fast?


[Photo of a woman riding an exercise bike]

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.”
—Psalm 37:7

Do you sometimes feel like God has you riding a stationary bike? You know—one of those exercise bicycles that sits in the corner of a room and you pedal so many minutes to give yourself a workout?

God places all of us, who He intends to make fit for His service, on a regimen of spiritual exercise. He does so without new sights and sounds, away from the trails we would rather ride, and stuck in a seeming waste of time staring at a wall.

I have often wondered how the Israelites felt. They spend the better part of their lives as slaves in Egypt and now were set free to travel back to their homeland. They anxiously waited to see this promised place—a land “flowing with milk and honey” they had heard of all their lives.

But, instead of taking them directly and quickly to their final destination, God assigned them to a regimen of spiritual, mental, and physical exercise that consisted of waiting to move ahead. In addition, spies that scouted out the land of Palestine, came back, and scared them with stories of possible enemies they had never imagined.

This regimen is recorded in Numbers 9:17-23:

Whenever the cloud lifted from above the tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped. At the Lord’s command the Israelites set out, and at his command they encamped. As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they remained in camp.

When the cloud remained over the tabernacle a long time, the Israelites obeyed the Lord’s order and did not set out.

Sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle only a few days; at the Lord’s command they would encamp, and then at his command they would set out. Sometimes the cloud stayed only from evening till morning, and when it lifted in the morning, they set out. Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out. Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out.

At the Lord’s command they encamped, and at the Lord’s command they set out. They obeyed the Lord’s order, in accordance with his command through Moses.

How frustrating they must have felt. Sometimes it appears they got stuck waiting for a year to move ahead. It must have felt like riding a stationary bike! Yet we know God was working His purposes out in their lives. He wanted to teach them, day-by-day, to trust in His goodness.

In so doing, He showed them wonders never before seen on earth. He taught them that He could protect them from starvation and thirst, from wild animals, from enemy nations. He even kept their clothes from wearing out! And, He did this for forty years. For forty years! (see Deuteronomy 8:4)

If you feel that you get up every day only to ride your very own “stationary bike,” do so thanking God He that has a perfect plan for your life. He has charted a course to move you ahead and to use you for His purposes.

In the meantime, He will surely provide you with the exercise in faith and trust that you will need. He wants to help you get rid of the spiritual flab that will hold you back from running the race before you with the ease of a seasoned spiritual athlete. So, keep trusting God and keep pedaling!



Monday, July 13, 2015

In Spite Of…


[Photo of diseased grape vine]

Though the fig tree does not bud and
there are no grapes on the vines, though
the olive crop fails and the fields produce
no food, though there are no sheep
in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.”
—Habakkuk 3:17-18 (emphasis added)

Faith is belief “in spite of”—the contradiction of sight and reason. In the Gallery of the Faithful recorded in Hebrews 11, we read of many courageous, Spirit-filled saints who lived out faith “in spite of.”

The old hymn reflects this sentiment:

Faith of our fathers, living still,
in spite of dungeon, fire and sword. 1

Faith like this does not come to those who “dabble” in Christian belief. That is, those who call themselves “Christian,” but rarely work it out in powerful prayer or courageous action.

Instead, God calls those who will devote themselves to faithful discipleship to trust Him, and acknowledge His all-powerful hand, which He can use in response to His peoples’ faith.

Puritan writer, Thomas Manton says:

We give up the visible for invisible rewards. We do not look at the things that are seen, but unseen… Faith provides invisible supplies to endure visible dangers… Sense judges only the outside of God’s dispensations, but faith looks within the veil. 2

Even if everything for which we pray does not come to pass in exactly the way we hope, the truly faithful look for God’s hand and trust His ultimate wisdom in every situation.

Psalm 23:4 says:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.

God still works miracles. We may see His power in miraculous reversals of circumstances and health. But, when we trust Him in those “in spite of” times, He gives miraculous grace to sustain us, to give us peace, courage, joy, and a grateful spirit. His grace allows us to see His hand above all the circumstances.

Hymn writer William Cowper wrote the following:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
and rides upon the storm.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
in blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense
but trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
but sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
and scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
and He will make it plain. 3

God reserves His awesome power and grace for those who place their faith in Him, who pray, and, then, who leave the working out of all things to Him.


1 Faber, Frederick. “Faith of Our Fathers!” Public Domain.
2 Manton, Thomas. In Richard Rushing (Ed.) Puritan Sermons in Voices from the Past. Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009. p. 59.
3 Cowper, William. “God Moves in a Mysterious Way.” Public Domain.



Monday, July 6, 2015

Harrowing Predicaments


[Photo of fire department personnel rescuing trapped window washers]

“We do not know what to do,
but our eyes are on you.”
—2 Chronicles 20:12

On November 12, 2014, two window washers became trapped 68 floors up at One World Trade Center in New York City when their scaffolding came loose. We hear of such events because they rarely happen: a person’s parachute doesn’t open, a trapeze artist dies from a fall because he had no net beneath him, a bridge collapses plunging cars to the river below, etc.

We humans try to cover all eventualities, to make sure we are never caught without the help we need in any situation. We live in a country with regulations for every worst case scenario. We use seat belts in our vehicles, have smoke alarms in our homes, receive weather alerts, equip our boats with life preservers, fly on planes with all the technology available, all to keep people safe in an emergency.

Regardless of the lengths to which we go in order to avoid trouble, we can’t avoid it totally. We must deal with scary diseases, horrible accidents, injuries from war, and a host of other maladies outside our control. We need reminding of how many times in Scripture we read the words, “Do not fear” or “Be not afraid.” Nearly every Book in our Bibles has something to say about fear in the face of overwhelming odds.

We can’t get ourselves out of serious trouble any more than those window washers could. We must learn to trust in a God who has promised to care for us and who will show us goodness and mercy every day of our lives. This bare-knuckled kind of faith comes hard, and only through severe adversity. It tests our dependence on God, as well as His ability to help us.

In a book of Puritan devotional readings, I came upon this paragraph by Thomas Lye:

Faith is the antidote and healer of all diseases. It allows a believer to live in the midst of death. God has extraordinary means to bear us up when ordinary ones fail. He can turn poisons into antidotes, hindrances into furtherances, and destructions into deliverances. The ravens give Elijah food. A whale becomes Jonah’s ship, and pilot too. An Almighty God can work without means. God often brings his people into such a condition that they do not know what to do. He does this that they might know what he can do. God is with his people at all times, but he is most sweetly with them in the worst of times. 1

God can speak peace to us in the midst of terrible circumstances. He can bring help from strange places. Quite often, those things we often fear never happen, or come in a different form than we expect so that we are able to bear them.

Hear God say, “Trust me in this. I love you,” and experience His peace that passes all understanding.


1 Lye, Thomas. In Richard Rushing (Ed.) Puritan Sermons in Voices from the Past. Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009. p. 185.



Monday, June 29, 2015

And it Came…to Pass


[Drawing nof a mother reading to a child]

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has
also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can
fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
—Ecclesiastes 3:11

I never stopped to think about the phrase, “And it came to pass.” Because, like the phrase “Once upon a time” that often appears in fairy tales, it repeatedly comes up in Scripture with the regularity of a “Verily, verily” or “Finally, brothers.” But, this time I paused in my reading to realize that, at some point, all the instances of our lives “come to pass.” They may have begun, but they also will end. They have “come to pass.”

As much as we like to hold on to the familiar, we are told in Matthew 24:35 that even:

Heaven and earth will pass away.

Things come…to pass.

Now perhaps that kind of statement shakes your foundation a bit. If we believe that God is the “Blessed Controller of all things,” we can relax in the knowledge of a wise and loving Father God planning out and executing the unfolding of our futures.

In Revelation 21:6 we read the words of Jesus Himself:

“I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.”

We also have the word of God in Psalm 139:16 that:

All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Another way to look at this phrase, “And it came to pass” has to do with troubles in our lives. Sometimes we think they will never end—that God has ordered something and we have to deal with it forever. Not so. We should remember that troubles too have “come to pass.”

The psalmist in Psalm 42 and 43 was downcast because of trouble in his life. But he spoke these words to himself three times:

What are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

In a sermon I heard once, the pastor called this “the eventuality of God’s work.”

We can rest in the knowledge that our wise and loving Father knows just how long our troubles will last. Whether they have their ending at some point down the road on this earth, or at the moment of we die here and live anew in Eternity, they will end.

And, oh yes, if you are a child of God by faith in Jesus Christ, you can know for a certain that not only do things “come to pass”—but that truly, we will live “happily ever after.” How’s that for an end to the story?



Monday, June 22, 2015

Watch This!


[Photo of a little girl on a balance beam]

“I will sing to the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
May my meditation be pleasing
to him, as I rejoice in the Lord.”
—Psalm 104: 33-34

“Watch this!”

If you stay around children long enough, you’ll hear that call. They want to be noticed, to be thought of as funny, or cute, or smart, or adventurous. In my experience, it seems that the children who get very little attention from adults crave it the most.

My sister and I would often put on “shows” for our Grandma. She lived in her own side of our large farm house, so it was easy to call on her to watch our silly dances, or songs, or whatever. She was always the first person—and usually the only one—who bought lemonade at our stand by the road. She noticed us and applauded. She was our go-to audience.

God created us as part of a community. Even as He belongs as a member of the Trinity, and all members of the Holy Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—fellowship and share love between them, we need to feel that we matter to others and to Him. Even Jesus craves our applause. Think of it! In John 17:24, Jesus prayed:

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.”

The Psalmist in Psalm 8:4 asks the question:

What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?

It seems incredulous that such a great God would watch us, and pay attention to little ol’ us!

In the Sacred Romance, John Eldredge writes that God’s intent from the beginning was for intimacy with us:

When we turned our back on him he promised to come for us. He sent personal messengers; he used beauty and affliction to recapture our hearts. After all else failed, he conceived the most daring of plans. Under the cover of night he stole into the enemy’s camp incognito, the Ancient of Days disguised as a newborn…God risked it all to rescue us. 1

God has done more than send us an annual birthday card or a present from time to time. He gave us Himself and planned a grand rescue of us so that He would be in fellowship with us for all eternity. We don’t have to call to Him, “Watch this!” We can be sure that He not only watches us, but cares for us, and wants our fellowship in this life and the next!


1 Curtis, Brent and John Eldridge. The Sacred Romance. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, © 1997. Pp. 87 and 88.



Monday, June 15, 2015

Flying Debris


[Photo of flying debris from a windstorm]

“They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this?
Even the wind and the waves obey him!””
—Mark 4:41

Many of us remember the movie Twister that came out in 1996. Remember the flying cow? The story made for good entertainment. But, it also showed the deadly nature of the debris from such a storm. People became fascinated with tornadoes and I even found a website called “” devoted to facts about such storms.

Did you know that every tornado has its own color, sound, and shape? In 1931, a tornado in Mississippi lifted an 83 ton train and tossed it 80 feet from the track. And, speaking of debris, a tornado destroyed a hotel in Oklahoma and people later found the motel’s sign in Arkansas!

Sometimes life feels like a tornado. We can seem caught in the path of “flying objects” that threaten to kill or maim us and change forever the way of life we’ve known. Often in such a “storm,” we don’t know where to run or hide. Nothing makes sense. And, even the familiar landmarks we had always used to guide our way seem to have disappeared.

The story of Jesus calming the storm, found in Matthew 8:23, tells us that the storm came “without warning.” Meteorologists struggle to predict tornadoes and other such deadly storms. These storms appear suddenly with little time to warn people in their path.

So, what does Scripture tell us about surviving storms, whether we get hit with debris or not? Jesus rebuked His disciples for their lack of faith. He wants us to trust Him and remain at peace—hardly an easy task when we see the terrifying objects swirling around us.

In Matthew 7:24-28, Jesus told His disciples that in order to stay standing when “the winds blow and beat against the house,” we need to build a strong foundation of hearing God’s word and obeying it.

I like the story of Elijah who had fled to Horeb. He was fleeing a “storm” in his own life. But, the Lord had an even bigger lesson for this prophet. In 1 Kings 19:11-12 we read:

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper [still, small voice].

Sometimes it seems that storms come one on top of the other. And, we cannot get our bearings, even enough to hear what God says to us. But, we can be assured that He will stay with us in the boat. He does cover us in the wind and the earthquake and fire. Eventually, we will hear His voice speaking peace to us. “Everything is under my control. Don’t fear the flying debris. My love surrounds you!”