Monday, December 26, 2016



[Photo of the score of the Hallelujah Chorus]

“Hallelujah! For the Lord God Omnipotent
reigneth. The kingdom of this world is
become the Kingdom of our Lord and of
His Christ, and He shall reign forever
and ever. King of kings and Lord of lords,
and He shall reign forever and ever.”
—Revelation 19:6; 11:15

Most people will recognize those words as the text of the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah. It has become a custom to stand during the singing of this chorus. King George II, attending the first performance of this work in 1741 was so moved by the glorious music that he stood. The audience followed his example and since that time, kings and commoners have stood in honor of the Lord God Omnipotent.

Whether we stand in honor of the King of Kings, or kneel before Him, God spoke these words through the Apostle Paul, echoing words of the Prophet Isaiah, found in Philippians 2:9-11:

Therefore God exalted him [Jesus] to the highest place and gave him the name that is above very name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Humans find bowing to anyone difficult. But, kings and world leaders seems especially troubling because of their exalted place among men and, more often than not, their lack the kind of humility God will some day require from all of His creation. For an amazing story of a king whom God turned around, study the story of King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2 - 4.

Nebuchadnezzar, the king of the very large kingdom of Babylon, thought so much of his own power that he had a 90-foot-tall statue of himself erected for all to worship. He boasted of his greatness and flew into a murderous rage at anyone refusing to bow before him. But, God took Nebuchadnezzar through some phenomenal experiences and brought him to a place of genuine humility. Read the testimony of this king from Daniel 4:37:

Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

We should pray for world leaders that they, too, may recognize the true King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And, like King George II, honor Him by standing, or kneeling before Him.

hen you listen carefully to the famous “Hallelujah Chorus” this Christmas, get a sense of the greatness of Christ’s power, the awesomeness of His loving reign, and the honor truly due Him from us all!


(Note: Your browser must support Adobe Flash in order to view this video)



Monday, December 19, 2016

Naughty or Nice?


[Graphic of Santa holding a blank Naughty or Nice List]

For in the gospel the righteousness of God is
revealed—a righteousness that is by faith
from first to last, just as it is written:
“The righteous will live by faith.”
—Romans 1:17

I imagine you recognize these song lyrics:

You better watch out, you better not cry,
Better not pout, I’m telling you why:
Santa Claus is comin’ to town.

He’s making a list and checking it twice,
Gonna find out who’s naughty or nice,
Santa Claus is comin’ to town.

He sees you when you’re sleepin’,
He knows when you’re awake,
He knows if you’ve been bad or good,
So be good for goodness sake.1

With stories like the one in this song, and the use of the well-worn “Elf on the Shelf,” we try to persuade our children to “be good,” so that Santa will bring them the gifts they want for Christmas. While it all seems harmless enough, I wonder if our tales of Santa have somehow crept into our theology of God at Christmas and the rest of the year, as well.

The culture in which we live seems to hold that God, if He is even real, somehow acts toward us as a “Santa.” He knows everything and sees everything about us. He makes judgments as to our fitness for His Kingdom based on some kind of “naughty or nice” quotient.

Now, it should not surprise anyone who truly believes in God that He is omnipresent—always present in all places at all times—and omniscient—possessing a complete knowledge of all things. However, the theological concept of “grace dispensed according to merit” raises a completely different point.

Ephesians 2:8-9 makes it clear that we can do nothing to gain God’s favor:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is a gift of God—not of works, so that no one can boast.

But what about punishment—the “lump of coal” so to speak? The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8:1-2:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

We see that neither our good deeds, nor our transgressions of God’s law, have any effect on our salvation or our place in God’s Kingdom. Jesus, and He alone, took care of that. If we acknowledge His gift of grace through faith, we do not stand condemned. Instead, we have all the gifts that He paid with His lifeblood to give us.

So, let’s rejoice in a perfectly just, all-seeing, Sovereign God, whose gifts come to us without anything we can give to Him. Rather, He freely and lovingly provides us with all things solely through the Gift of that Baby born so long ago. That kind of favor should cause great gratitude to well up within us and result in lives of grace and compassion to others.

Our expectation to see our Savior, bringing incorruptible gifts to us, should energize us to do good deeds far beyond the supposed eyesight of one “Jolly Old Elf”!


1 Coots, J. Fred, and Haven Gillespie, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town. New York: Leo Feist, Inc., 1934.



Monday, December 12, 2016

Christmas Outfits


[Photo of three young children dressed in their Christmas clothing]

“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.”
—Jude 1:24

How many mothers and grandmothers take pride in dressing their children in matching, festive, adorable Christmas outfits? Most, I would say. They want to show the world, through their holiday greeting cards and long-kept family albums, the pride of their lives—their children.

Never have I seen such pictures of children showing their runny noses, dirty or torn shirts, or their sagging dirty diapers, or with them squirming and crying for the camera. Even though, from time to time, these same adorable children can look this very un-adorable way, moms always work to put their little ones in the right light for others to see.

Our God does this with us! He brags on us, dresses us in spiritual finery, and speaks of us in glowing terms, even while He knows, all to well, our defects and ugly secrets.

Even at creation, we find that God dressed us in the image of His very own spectacular splendor. Psalm 8:5 says of Jesus:

You made him a little lower than the angels and crowned him with glory and honor.

Now that outfit comes complete with a tiara! Since we follow in the footsteps of Jesus, we, too, become dressed in His glory by our loving Father.

Jesus wants us to look perfect, so He provided a way through His death. Colossians 1:22 tells us:

Now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.

He presents us to the Father as perfect in Him.

Not only did He wash and cleanse us, dress us in His glorious righteousness, but He has seated us for our portrait in the heavenly realms to show off His riches that we now wear! Ephesians 2:6-7 reveals:

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in the kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

Our enemy, Satan, may accuse us day and night (Revelation 12:10), but our Savior and God, the Lord Jesus Christ, claims us as His own. Having put our faith in His work, He showcases us like a proud parent and presents us to all of heaven and earth as His beautiful children.

May the knowledge of this kind of marvelous grace cause us great joy as we dress for this Christmas season!



Monday, December 5, 2016

Gross Darkness


[Graphic of Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer]

“For, behold, the darkness shall cover the
earth, and gross darkness the people: but
the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his
glory shall be seen upon thee.”
—Isaiah 60:2 KJV

Back in 1939, Robert L. May wrote the story, Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. This story was first published by the department store, Montgomery Ward. Little did Robert May know how popular and longstanding this Christmas classic would become.

Everyone knows Rudolph saved Christmas by guiding Santa and his sleigh through a “pea-soup” fog on Christmas Eve. Rudolf used his brilliant red nose to lead the way. Yet, among Christmas stories, this one pales in comparison to the story of the birth of the Light of the World, the Messiah, Jesus, the Son of God.

The term “gross darkness” or “thick darkness” describes the fact that the world—morally and spiritually—had sunk into a lost condition out of which it could not find its way. Some 700 years before Jesus came as a babe to Bethlehem, the Prophet Isaiah predicted the dawn of a new day of light. This radiance would shine truth and love, healing and righteousness, into our sinful world and into the hearts and minds of each one whom God would call to this Light.

Jesus would reveal Himself as the only antidote for the sin that takes over and darkens the understanding and direction of human beings. 1 Peter 2:9 explains it this way:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

I, for one, am grateful that here, in North America, Christmas comes in the darkest and coldest part of the year. How much more intensely the lights show up. How much more we realize the degree to which we need light for vision and warmth.

From the dawn of creation’s light to the brilliance of a city who needs no other light than the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, in the Book of Revelation, the Bible tells the story of the Light of the World. When we sin, we can know the Light will shine on that disobedience to God’s perfect will for us. When we’re lost, we can know the Light will direct us. When we live in a culture nearly devoid of the true Light, we can know that the Light will reveal itself through us.

Jesus came to bring light, and to be the Light. This Christmas season, as you see the lights on the tree, or light a candle, or even see that popular figure, Rudolph, let those things remind you that we live in darkness and need the only Light that truly can take away the “gross darkness” of our sinful hearts and or our sinful world.



Monday, November 28, 2016



[Photo of an old Sears Chistmas Catalong]

“Come, Thou long expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us;
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.”

Half the fun of Christmas is the anticipation. Perhaps people begin shopping so early because of this phenomenon.

I can remember as a child when we would get the Sears Christmas Catalog in the mail. The glossy, colorful pages, filled with amazing toys, sparkling decorations, and festive clothing only increased the eagerness for my sister and me.

As the years have rolled by, I confess that I anticipate Christmas in different ways than I did as a child. No longer do the gifts matter so much. Quiet reflection while listening to glorious music, get-togethers with family and friends, and remembrances of Christmases past make for a much more satisfying holiday season for a grown-up me.

In Luke 2:25-35 we read the story of a righteous and devout man in Jerusalem who had been waiting for the consolation of Israel. He anticipated the birth of Jesus because the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die before seeing the new-born King. When he entered the temple courts and saw the baby and His parents, Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God. In his short message to the new parents, he said, “Now I can die in peace.”

Can you remember, as a child, the let-down after Christmas? I do. Yes, I had a bunch of new things, but the anticipation was over. What I looked forward to didn’t satisfy me the way I thought it would! The toys broke, or their appeal soon faded. The new clothes only delighted me as I wore them a few times. And, the decorations and Christmas music now seemed old. I actually looked forward to getting back to the “normal” of everyday life.

How different the results of Simeon’s anticipation. The baby didn’t disappoint him. This Gift, expected and hoped for, came to save the people of Israel from their sins and reveal to the Gentiles the glory of Israel’s God.

As you reflect on the Christmas story this year, look past the human experiences of the season, even the story itself, to the One who came to know you, to forgive and redeem you, and to make you His very own. Anticipate the joy of spending more time with Him, to really know Him, and to meditate on His promises of a covenant love that will last forever.

Romans 5:5 tells us that our anticipation of the glory of God in our lives will be fulfilled. It states:

And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

In your anticipation of Christmas this year, above all the other attention-grabbing elements, take the time to settle in, and, with great anticipation, look for the Gift that God has given all humankind. Truly, Jesus is the Gift that will never disappoint!


1 Wesley, Charles. Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus, Public Domain.



Monday, November 21, 2016

Gratitude Energizes Service


[Photo of a nurse helping an elderly woman]

“You will be made rich in every way so that
you can be generous on every occasion, and
through us your generosity will result in
thanksgiving to God. This service that you
perform is not only supplying the needs of
God’s people but is also overflowing
in many expressions of thanks to God.”
—2 Corinthians 9:11-12

Joyous gratitude produces the unselfish, and effective service of God’s people.

The Apostle James reminds us that we display our faith by the good things we do. (James 2:18) If we feel grateful for all God has done for us, we express that gratitude in the same kind of generosity with which God has blessed us. I call this the “Cycle of Grace.”: God gives to us. We gratefully give to others. The others in turn thank God for His goodness.

I like this short and to-the-point story found in Matthew 8:14-15:

When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.

In Acts 28:7-10, Paul tells of the shipwrecked prisoners and soldiers with him on the island of Malta and the chief official of the island, Publius:

His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured. They honored us in many ways and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed.

Their gratitude resulted in the gifts these sailors needed.

When I was growing up in my church youth group, we would sing the little chorus:

After all He’s done for me,
After all He’s done for me,
How can I do less than give Him my best,
And live for Him completely,
After all He’s done for me.1

If we want to be like Christ, we should seek to copy the way He lived. He always thanked God for the food, and often showed His gratitude in prayer for other gifts that God had given Him. Then, out of love for God, and gratitude, Jesus gave in like manner to everyone around Him.

With all that God has given us, He expects gratitude—the kind of gratitude that joyously serves Him in the lives of others.


1 Daasvand, Betsy. After All He’s Done For Me. Carol Stream, IL: Hope Publishing Co., 1940.



Monday, November 14, 2016

Gratitude Erases Fear


[Photo of a woman in a hospital bed]

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and
petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
—Philippians 4:6-7

There it is, right in the middle of the verse above! “With thanksgiving.” Who has time to be thankful in the middle of an anxiety producing crisis? Apparently God expects it of us regardless of the circumstances.

“But what have I to thank Him for when I am in trouble?”

We can begin by thanking God for Who He is. Elsewhere in scripture we read that God has almighty power. Even the devils shudder at that! (James 2:19) That means He is bigger than any trouble we have. We can also look to His omniscience—His “all-knowing wisdom” about us in more detail than we know ourselves and about every situation in which we find ourselves.

Add to that His omnipresence—His “everywhere presence” which He has promised will never leave or forsake us. We can also thank Him that nothing comes our way unless He allows it. He has a good plan for us, and wants to use everything, even our troubles, to accomplish His will in us. Thank Him for it!

What else can we give thanks for in the middle of our prayer-producing crisis? We can remember how God has treated us in the past. How He has answered prayer. How He has spared us worse harm than we had coming to us. How He has revealed His love to us during each situation.

Has He healed you before? Then thank Him, and allow that remembrance to take away your fear. Has He provided for you before when you have needed help? Don’t fear. He will provide for you this time too.

What does our verse from Philippians promise us when we come with gratitude to God with our requests? It promises that we will have “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding.” Too much to get our minds around! That’s the kind of powerful result we will see from praying through our fears with thanksgiving.

I challenge each of us, including myself, to live in the place of thanksgiving during all fearful and impossible situations. Let’s see what God will produce in us to replace that fear!



Monday, November 7, 2016

Gratitude Excites Humility


[Photo of DaVinci's

“Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and
glorify the King of heaven, because everything
he does is right and all his ways are just.
And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”
—Daniel 4:37

Pride seems to erase gratitude. Have you ever thought about that? And the reverse seems true as well. Gratitude erases pride. How does that happen?

Scripture gives us a multitude of examples of people and nations filled with pride that God had to humble. For example in Ezekiel 28:17, God said to the city of Tyre:

Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor.

Even Satan himself, filled with pride heard these words of God recorded in Isaiah 14:13:

You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit.

We all have those things for which we are tempted to take pride. Whether it’s “my” body of work, “my” family, “my” home, “my” beauty, “my” talent, “my” personality. When we take personal credit, gloat over others, or try to impress others, we have taken those things that God has given us and turned them into objects of pride, forgetting that He is the source of every good and perfect thing in our lives.

Even countries, cities, and churches can get prideful about the wonderful things that have come their way through God’s grace. When I hear people talk about American Exceptionalism, I agree in part. But, I wish those who speak so pridefully of it would also recognize that God has “shed His grace” on us. As a nation, we have been extraordinarily blessed by Him. We simply cannot take sole credit for anything we have.

Can we feel pleasure in the things God has uniquely given us? Certainly. But, when that pleasure erupts into praise of self, we have crossed a line. When sinful pride creeps into our thinking, we should step back, realize all God has done for us in creating us with gifts and abilities, and gratefully bow in worship before our great God. He gives us gifts of all sorts. And, He wants us to joyfully use them to glorify Him.

In our example of Nebuchadnezzar with which we started this blog post, we see a pagan king, who experienced the humbling of God, pausing to reflect on this powerful, righteous One.

How much more should we daily acknowledge God’s work in us. We should take no credit. Instead, we should bow in grateful praise. Everything we have should be on display for God’s glory—not ours!



Monday, October 31, 2016



[Photo of a woman sitting at her desk]

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority
in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
—Matthew 28:18

Within our school system, she had authority. “She” was the Assistant Superintendent and she served at our elementary school as principal for a year during the search for a new principal.

We enjoyed having her as much as she seemed to relish being with us. And, if we needed something—a new piece of equipment or a change in schedule, or a quick response to a question—all we needed to do was prove our need to her and she made it happen! Under her authority, we knew we had special favor.

But, this Assistant Superintendant had an authority over her, who had an authority over him, who had authority over them, and so on.

What would you say about someone who declared that He had authority over everything? Well, Jesus made just such a claim. And, He proved it to those who watched Him and followed Him.

If Jesus spoke peace to a storm, it happened. If He touched a sick man for healing, it happened. If demons tormented a little boy and Jesus cast them out, they were gone!

According to Scripture, Jesus wants all of us who claim His name to know “His incomparably great power to us who believe.” Here’s what Paul said about that powerful authority, as recorded in Ephesians 1:19-21:

That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.

The Greek word for the English word authority,—exousia—means “privilege, force, capacity, competence, freedom, liberty, jurisdiction, right, or strength.” God gives that kind of authority to us, in Christ, when we come into the covenant of His love.

How do we use that authority? By praying in Jesus’ name and claiming His “all authority.”

Such responsibility should give us great care when we pray and keep us from asking Him for wrong things. When we come to God in prayer and ask that He help us in our prayers, we can be assured that we will ask Him, in accordance to His word and nature, for only those things which we believe He would will to happen.

Even in Gethsemane, Jesus prayed for God’s will, as recorded in Mark 14:36:

“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Jesus rested in God’s will, and under God’s authority. Let us pray, therefore, and live as those who have the authority of Christ in our lives, so that we can go out as His ambassadors to a world dying in sin that needs the Savior.



Monday, October 24, 2016



[Photo of a tired woman]

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for
you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
—2 Corinthians 12:9a

Have you ever felt so weak in the face of trouble— physically, emotionally, spiritually—that you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt you couldn’t handle the situation in front of you? I have. And, I think God brings through such times, maybe frequently, all whom He intends to sanctify for His purposes He brings through such times.

Young and inexperienced believers often think of themselves as up to anything the Lord asks of them. Confident in their own physical strength and capabilities, they sometimes look trouble in the eye with presumption and think they are exercising faith. “I presume my parents will get me out of any financial jam I can’t deal with.” “I presume the medicine will take care of the problem.” “I presume my talents and gifts will get me through tight spots at work.”

It usually only takes a few times when these presumptions are proven wrong, that we begin to realize how insufficient we are to handle things. And, what does God hope to accomplish by allowing us to swim without a life preserver, or to get sick with a deadly disease? The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:9b, after He made the statement in the Scripture at the beginning of this blog post:

Therefore, [because God’s grace is sufficient] I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

He’s saying with a chuckle, “Bring it on! I can’t handle this but You can!” Here’s what beloved preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon said about this verse:

Our weakness should be prized as making room for divine strength. We might never have known the power of grace if we had not felt the weakness of nature…God’s grace enough for me! I should think it is. Is not the sky enough for the bird, and the ocean enough for the fish? The All-Sufficient is sufficient for my largest want.1

Similarly, Joni Eareckson Tada points out that God becomes what we need.

In Isaiah 54 he becomes the Husband to the divorced woman. In Psalm 10 he becomes the Father of the orphaned. In Zechariah 2 he becomes the Wall of Fire to those who need protection. In Isaiah 62 he becomes the Bridegroom to the woman who grieves that she’ll never marry. In Exodus 15 he becomes the Healer to the sick. In Isaiah 9 he is the Wonderful Counselor to the confused and depressed. In John 4 he becomes the Living Water to the thirst. In John 6 he’s the Bread of Life to those who are hungry for more than this world can give.2

I suspect most of us will have the experience of weakness and insufficiency when facing trials of all sorts. God wants to show in us His strength and His sufficiency. Do we willingly face our troubles with a trust that allows Him to work His power through us?

Though we often learn slowly and painfully, He will patiently bring us to a place where He can trust us with such pain. Let us rejoice in His over-abiding presence and His over-abiding love, and His ability to prove His sufficiency through us.


1 Spurgeon, Charles Haddon, Faith’s Checkbook. Chicago: Moody Press, 1980. Entry for November 8th.
2 Tada, Joni Eareckson, More Precious Than Silver. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998. Entry for August 30th.



Monday, October 17, 2016

Unwise Exchange


[Photo of a very discouraged teacher]

“Now you are the body of Christ
and each one of you is a part of it.”
—1 Corinthians 12:27

The principal of our school had an idea. She said, “How about if all the teachers in the building exchanged places with someone else for a day? Wouldn’t that spice up our lives at the end of the school year?”

I don’t remember how the exchanges were assigned, but I do remember “playing” kindergarten teacher all day.

I think we all learned to appreciate each other’s lot in life. And, we also had the opportunity to understand what substitute teachers deal with, as well. In addition, I learned that God had a place where the gifts He had given me worked a lot better than with that Kindergarten classroom of untied-shoelace wearers!

The Scripture found in 1 Corinthians 12:27 above, likens us to members of Christ’s body. We all have a calling and gifting. Once we hear that call, we should not try to exchange it for something that may appear as a better place.

I like what the Puritan writer, William Gurnall, wrote on this subject:

We need to stand in the way God has directed us to walk… God will not thank you for doing that which he did not ask you to do… If we love to walk in God’s company, we must abide in our place and calling. Every step from that is a departure from God… We are judged for our own stewardship, and not that of another. God only requires faithfulness in our place. We do not find fault with an apple tree if it is laden with apples and not figs. It is an erratic spirit that carries men out of their place and calling… Man always prospers better in his own soil.1

As you go about your life, as toilsome as it may appear at times and less appealing than that of another, stay focused. Ask God to show you the rewards that you alone, and in your own place, can enjoy. Ask Him to show you how He blesses and uses you with the work He has given you. Then, praise Him for His sovereign wisdom.


1 Gurnall, William, in Voices from the Past. Richard Rushing, editor. Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009. p. 352.



Monday, October 10, 2016

Perfect Practice Makes Perfect


[Photo of a woman's hands on a piano]

“Have nothing to do with godless myths and old
wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.”
—1 Timothy 4:7 NIV

You’ve heard the expression, “Practice Makes Perfect.” From painful personal experience, I’ve learned that more accurately, “Perfect Practice Makes Perfect.”

As a life-long pianist—having studied in my youth for nearly 20 years with professional teachers and having taught piano to young students myself—I know, all too well, the results of bad practice. My first teacher, a nurturing, patient woman who forever placed in me the love for playing, knowing her own inadequacies, nevertheless did her best to give me a good foundation.

However, I developed habits of poor technique that followed me into my college years. For example, my pinkies had to learn to stand up and I had to help them develop strength and usefulness as “leads” in the making of sonorous melodies. My college professor gave me humiliatingly boring exercises to break many of my bad habits. But, oh, the results I achieved!

Christians develop wrong habits too. Many of them come with us from our lives as unbelievers: selfish and even unaware of God’s higher standards. We may not have spread “godless myths and old wives’ tales,” as the people in Timothy’s churches. But, we may have learned, for example, to run to friends with juicy tidbits of gossip we hear.

Paul warns the believers in Colossians 3:9:

Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

The practice of lying, or stretching the truth, or deceiving another with a skewed report, can be a habit especially hard to break.

I found in playing piano, that often in practice time, my mind would go on “automatic pilot.” My mind would not pay attention what I was playing. So, to break old habits and form new ones, we must first engage our focus. Secondly, we must determine to obey God through His word. Then, the long slow process of practice will need perseverance and patience.

How long before a new habit takes hold? Note this report from an on-line article by Signe Dean:

…according to a 2009 study, the time it takes to form a habit really isn’t that clear-cut. Researchers from University College London examined the new habits of 96 people over the space of 12 weeks, and found that the average time it takes for a new habit to stick is actually 66 days; furthermore, individual times varied from 18 to a whopping 254 days.1

Progress in making a change in our spiritual lives will sometimes go slowly. Mistakes will occur. Yet, to attain a mature Christian life, the practice and re-practice will yield great results.

In speaking about Christian maturity, the author of Hebrews writes about the need for believers to grow up from drinking only milk to eating solid food. In Hebrews 5:14, we read:

But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

God expects us as mature, or “perfect,” disciples to give up the old ways and practice the holy disciplines and habits that will result in greater glory for Him through our lives.


1 Dean, Signe. Here’s How Long it Takes to Break a Habit, According to Science., September 24, 2015.



Monday, October 3, 2016

Fruit or Decoration?


[Photo of autumn foliage reflected in a pond]

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the
vinegrower. He removes every branch in me
that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears
fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.”
—John 15:1-3 RSV

I love the autumn for its crisp and sunny days and its beautiful golden, orange, purple colors. I love the red “burning bush” shrubs and the rich variety of leaves on Maple trees. I need to be reminded that the plants produce these colors as a byproduct of more important purposes the Creator had in mind when He made them.

As Christians, do we spend more time trying to produce an attractive “plant” from our prayers, worship attendance, or service? Do we hope to appear beautiful to others, or even to God?

Jesus warned us in Matthew 6:5 of doing “Christian things” to be seen by men. He knew our temptation to appear religious, or pious, or upstanding.

Some parents appear to enroll their children in youth activities, or confirmation classes, or any number of churchy offerings in order to produce a “well-rounded” young person—as though such experiences rated alongside Boy Scouts, or dance class, or sports teams in achieving that goal.

All of us know adults who join churches merely to have a place to “marry, carry (babies) and bury.” Politicians join organizations because the membership looks good on their résumé. But, Jesus had a different reason for His purposes in us.

In Isaiah 5:1-7, we read about the efforts of a vinegrower. He finds a fertile hillside, digs it, cleans it, and plants it with choice vines. He builds a watchtower, puts a hedge and a wall around it, and then prunes and cultivates it. According to verse 2:

…he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit.

Our John 15 passage at the beginning of this blog post agrees. God wants to produce healthy, fruit-producing branches. And, God isn’t afraid to cut and prune in order to achieve that goal. Attractiveness may come as a byproduct, but God has a higher plan.

Eugene Peterson writes:

Jesus is not a decorative shrub, useful for giving an aesthetic religious touch to life. He is not available to be arranged in a bouquet to delight us. He is life itself, its very center—the vine.1

Once in awhile, we need to take inventory of our own lives and see the activities we do in order to appear attractive or holy. How much better for us to examine ourselves and repent of our wrong-headed activities.

The gardener looks us over too, and will create experiences that will prune and cultivate us, if we fail to do it on our own. Only then will the glory of God’s attractiveness show in our lives.


1 Peterson, Eugene H. A Year with Jesus. San Francisco:HarperSanFrancisco, 2006. p. 342



Monday, September 26, 2016

God’s Joy


[Photo of a bronze statue]

“The Lord your God is with you, he is
mighty to save. He will take great delight
in you, he will quiet you with his love, he
will rejoice over you with singing.”
—Zephaniah 3:17

My husband, having spent his entire professional career in the field of fire protection, was given this statue of a child held by her rescuer.1 Can you imagine the deep joy in the heart of that firefighter? This must resemble in a small way the joy our Lord has in us.

First off, we are told in Scripture that, in and of ourselves, we have no good in us. What joy would that ever give to God? No, instead, God’s joy comes from what His Son, Jesus, has done for us and what He has made us as new creatures in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

In fact, even as Jesus went to the cross, He saw joy ahead. Hebrews 12:2 tells us:

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

God’s joy in us comes rather in His joy for what He has accomplished and is accomplishing through us. Joni Eareckson Tada writes:

God’s joy and delight over you finds its best expression at the cross… And He watched His Son’s murder because He loves you. This means His joy and deep emotion for you is rugged, hard-won, and victorious. He is the admiral flying colors of victory over you. He’s the hero who has carried you to safety from hell’s burn. He is the joy-filled warrior who has brought you home.2

God’s joy isn’t about us. His joy in us comes from what He has done for us. He looks at us as wonderful trophies of His mercy, grace, and love. We should be grateful and share in His joy for all that He did, and all He plans to do in and for us.

May His heart and ours be filled with that joy “unspeakable and full of glory!”


1 Garman, Michael, Fireman with Child Statue. Colorado Springs, CO, 1986. A gift presented to Dean K. Wilson by Robert and Marlene Anderson.
2 Tada, Joni Eareckson. More Precious Than Silver. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Corporation, 1998. Devotional for September 22nd.



Monday, September 19, 2016



[Photo of a child sitting in a corner]

“Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the
present, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward
it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness
to those who have been trained by it.”
—Hebrews 12:11 NKJV

No one wants to wait until “afterwards.” When we go through trials of all kinds, we want God to remove the pain and give us the results He has designed for us. Yet, no one would expect a surgeon to allow a person to get up during a surgical procedure and enjoy the results. The child must take the sting of the antiseptic before he can experience the healing.

We have ample illustrations of this point in the lives of biblical characters. In the case of poor Jonah, who ended up in the belly of the fish because of his disobedience, even after he confessed his sin and repented, he had to go through the process of being vomited out upon the beach! Only then did he respond obediently to God’s call.

In John 11, Lazarus went through death and decay in the grave. His family had to go through the associated grieving. Only after this trial did Jesus come and speak those words to his dead friend in the tomb, “Lazarus, come out!”

As recorded in 1 Kings 19, Elijah went through a terrible wind storm, an earthquake, and a fire before he heard the gentle whisper of God. Only then did he hear the words of direction and relief he had waited for from his Lord.

Job experienced unbelievable loss, lived through pain, grief, the misunderstanding of his friends, and his own crisis of faith. Yet, when God finally did speak to Job and bring his trials to an end, Job replied, in Job 42:5:

My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.

We don’t feel blessed while going through the deadly, mysterious, confusing storms of life. Afterward, if we persevere in faith and obedience, we can say with the psalmist, as recorded in Psalm 94:12-13:

Blessed is the man you discipline, O Lord, the man you teach from your law; you grant him relief from days of trouble.

If the trial you experience seems more than you can bear, and if you see no good coming from it, even while you are still in the dark decide before God to trust Him to help you through and bring about the desired harvest in your life. There will be an afterwards. And, it will be joyous, peaceful, and light-filled.



Monday, September 12, 2016

New Mercies


[Photo of a woman raising her arms in praise]

“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are
not consumed, because his compassions
fail not. They are new every morning:
great is thy faithfulness.”
—Lamentations 3:22-23

I have known these verses nearly all my life. I’ve been reminded of them each time I sing the old hymn with the words “Morning by morning new mercies I see.” 1

Recently, in need of so many things and thinking I knew how things for which I prayed would end, the Lord reminded me of that verse. He particularly drew my attention to the word, “new.”

Now I know the opposite of “new” is “old,” but it can also mean “different,” “unique,” even “surprising!” What if we approached each day looking for the “surprising” new mercies of the Lord?

God rarely answers our needs in just the way we think He might. Take the story of the disciples in Luke 5. They had fished all night and caught nothing. In the morning, Jesus told them to let down their nets in deep water. Because they obeyed, they had such a catch of fish that the nets nearly broke. This showed the surprising mercies of Jesus.

Another somewhat similar story at the end of Jesus’ earthly reign, recorded in John 21, had the disciples coming into shore after another whole night of catching nothing. This time, Jesus told them to try the opposite side of the boat. The disciples, who knew Jesus well by now, didn’t respond in mockery, but obeyed. Again, they had a catch they could hardly haul into their boats.

When you look at stories of healing in the Bible, you will see that God healed people with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation (2 Kings 4). He applied mud and spittle to a blind man’s eyes (John 9), and sent a possessed man’s demons into a herd of swine (Mark 5). Often our Lord demonstrates His power in “new” and “surprising” ways.

As you look to God for answers to prayers, come expecting “new” mercies—not ways in which He worked once before, or for another person. If we watch, He will show up to do marvelous things for which we can praise, exalt, and stand in awe of Him.


1 Chisolm, Thomas, Great is Thy Faithfulness. Carol Stream, IL: Hope Publishing Co., 1923.



Monday, September 5, 2016

Occupational Privilege


[Photo of an old sailing vessel]

“Others went out on the sea in ships; they were
merchants on the mighty waters. They saw the
works of the Lord, his wonderful deeds in the deep.”
—Psalm 107:23-24

What parts of your job give you privilege? Maybe you hadn’t considered that before. But, in this passage of Scripture, we read about sea-faring merchants who saw things the average person would never observe about God. Does the work you do afford you special ways of seeing God that others will never know?

Let’s say you stay home to raise children. Almost no one ever sees your hard work and sacrifice, your patience and devotion to those little ones. Yet, you have the privilege of catching the first word from a baby’s mouth, or to observe a funny never-to-be-repeated expression that passed so quickly you couldn’t even get your cell phone camera out! You may hear your child’s first prayer, or notice the pure joy on the little face over some new discovery.

Let’s say you own a thrift store and sort through pounds and pounds of other people’s junky leftovers. You alone discover the old cabinet for which you’ve been looking that will work so nicely as a baby’s changing table. Or have the opportunity to witness how something a struggling person finds in your store will fill a great need they couldn’t afford to satisfy any other way.

In my occupation as a church organist and as a school music teacher, I have often experienced God’s awesome blessing, or privilege. I’ve seen the Holy Spirit come and move a congregation by a hymn, or piece of music, that I accompanied. I’ve experienced the moment, after hours of practicing, where the right interpretation of a piece comes together.

I’ve seen an angry, moody child who came to my music class with a pout and refused to participate later leave my class with a skip in his step and a smile on his face. I’ve heard glorious sounds from children in rehearsals that no one else would ever hear in a performance.

God makes sure He shows up and reveals Himself in the day-to-day experiences of His children. Too often we miss seeing unique experiences. Or, when we do, we fail to acknowledge that our God is the author of such blessings.

Today, no matter what your work, take notice of all the ways in which you see God’s privileges in a different way than any other person, through those things He brings to pass along your very special pathway.



Monday, August 29, 2016

“P.C.” Labels


[Photo of the word

“He calls his own sheep by name.”
—John 10:3

We live in a wild and crazy world that seems overwhelmed by so-called “political correctness.” Our society today demands that we never, ever, offend anyone by the label we might give someone. The culture harshly legislates what we can and cannot call others. And, the “politically correct” terminology changes frequently.

The culture now dictates even what we should call males and females—and it’s certainly not those titles!

For the last 25 years at least, the hard-working people putting together translations of the Bible and hymnal texts have tried to avoid the use of the word “man,” or using male nomenclature in any description about God, for fear of offending women.

We seem to categorize every person and respond judgmentally to those who don’t abide by our chosen categories. It seems that this practice seeks to take away any quality of uniqueness in others by “leveling the playing field” of our verbiage.

Away with blue and pink for babies! Don’t you dare use the gender role images of “housewives” and “businessmen.” Even “Men at Work” signs have been reformatted to read “People Working.”

The latest declaration of war given by those enforcing “political correctness” requires us to eliminate even gender specific bathrooms.

One comforting passage of Scripture that stands in stark contrast with our culture’s insistance on “political correctness” is found in Galatians 3:28:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

And what makes that Scripture passage different from insisting on “politically correct” labels? Jesus knows our names. Isaiah 49:16 tells us that God has engraved us on the palm of His hands. He knows us individually.

We should, of course, always avoid rude or profane labels. But, when we know people, really know them, it doesn’t matter what label we use for them. No! Instead, we call them by name.

So many of the stories in the New Testament tell about people and refer to them as “the man born blind,” or “the woman with an issue of blood,” or “the Samaritan woman.” Do you think Jesus knew their names? Of course He did. But, the writers of the Gospels, like us, forget names and can only remember them by these labels. They meant no offense in using the labels. They simply used them to describe something noteworthy about them.

When you come to God, remember that He not only knows your name, He calls you by it. He knows that you are a unique and special person whom He created with beautiful qualities that He admires. Take comfort in His knowledge of you.

And, make it a point, in learning about others, to remember their names. Each one is a special workmanship of God, created in His image, and certainly represents someone worth knowing!



Monday, August 22, 2016



[Photo of two smiling girls]

“I remember the devotion of your youth, how
as a bride you loved me and followed me
through the desert, through a land not sown. ”
—Jeremiah 2:2

As a teacher, I always looked forward to the first day of a new school year. Summer came to school on the children’s faces and gradually faded into fall. I remember those pink cheekbones, and glowing tanned arms and legs. Yet, without a notice in another month, the sun’s influence on their complexions faded, just as their first intentions to behave and please the adults around them did.

God notices the glorious joy of new Christians. Luke 15:7 speaks of the rejoicing in heaven when a sinner repents. The parables of Jesus in Luke 15 speak of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Son. In each case, the “finding” of these brings great celebration.

God also notices when the attitude of that one who once took great joy in the early relationship with Him drops off to a routine, or to a forgotten “experience” at summer camp, or to a no-longer-remembered particularly blessed time of the Spirit’s movement in a congregation.

In the Book of Revelation, Jesus speaks through the exiled John on the island of Patmos to the Seven Churches of Asia Minor (the land now occupied by Turkey). In each instance, He commends them for various aspects of their faith. Then, He also speaks bluntly about those things that distress Him.

In Revelation 2:2, 4-5, He speaks to the church in Ephesus with these words:

“I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance…Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.”

I often wonder, if John wrote to report Christ’s pronouncements to our current churches, what would he write? Perhaps Jesus would say:

“You share your love with the less fortunate, and I like that. But, some of you work out of obligation, rather than from your hearts.”


“I enjoy the fellowship and worship in this place. But, I don’t see you sharing with others the gospel of Christ.”


“You have endured great suffering. But, You don’t pray like I’d wish you to pray.”

Now, translate this from a church setting to your personal relationship with the Savior. Has the personal bond you once had with Him faded?

What does Jesus, through John, offer as a remedy for this lost first love? He says:

“Remember the height from which you have fallen and repent. Do the things you first did.”

Remember… Repent… Do…

Has your love for Christ and His church faded from the glowing beginning that you once experienced when first you came to a saving knowledge of Him? I urge you to prayerfully remember when You first experienced the glorious awareness of His deep love for you. Repent of your “backsliding” and begin again to do those things that pleased Him so much and gave you so much joy. Don’t let the “Son”-shine fade!



Monday, August 15, 2016

Being, Doing, Having


[Photo of a mother comforting her baby]

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,
he is a new creation; the old has
gone, the new has come!... God
made him who had no sin to be
sin for us, so that in him we might
become the righteousness of God.”
—2 Corinthians 5:17, 21

Many years ago now, I heard my friend and founder of Celebrate Kids!, Kathy Koch, Ph.D., speak to an audience consisting of the members of a Christian organization. She reminded us that God made us “human beings,” not “human doings.” I like that. So often other people conclude that God will only accept them on the merits of what they do. It’s all too easy for us to slip into that mode of thinking, too.

In the famous Love Chapter of 1 Corinthians 13, the Apostle Paul reminds us that even if we give all we possess to the poor and surrender our bodies to flames, without the love that comes from our being in Christ, what we do is vanity—of no import.

Recently, I read a chapter by Dr. John Claypool in which he expressed the cultural pressure of having that bears on us as Christians. He used the ancient story of Hannah from 1 Samuel 1. Like the culture surrounding her, Hannah felt that, until she could have a child, her life amounted to nothing. She actually made a bargain with God that if He would give her a child (so she could have one) she would give his whole life back to the Lord. God used this means to raise up the great prophet Samuel.

Dr. Claypool writes:

When the God’s gift of “being” is seen as primal and foundational, then creative “doing” and responsible “having” grow naturally from such a base. But when we turn reality upside down and make “doing” or “having” the basis of “being,” we produce anxiety and distortion of the worst kind. Having to produce or else is frightening! 1

After considering this, it seems to me that we fall into the trap of “having” for our fulfillment, nearly as easily as we do into “doing.” Jesus’ story of the rich young ruler from Matthew 19 expresses this truth. Thinking eternal life had to do with “doing,” the rich young ruler asked Jesus what he needed to do. Jesus told him to sell his possessions and give to the poor. Verse 22 states:

When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

This man’s “having” and “doing” had gotten in the way of his “being.”

How easily we fall into the same thinking. If I have the right kind of status, or money, or education, or do kind deeds and all the “churchy” things required of someone living a holy life, God and my Christian society will accept me. We want to belong, and our society screams at us that these doings are the way of becoming acceptable.

Instead, God wants all our having and doing to spring from our being in Christ. It may seem like a thin line at times, but taking stock of our thought processes, and reviewing why we act as we do, will help us to live out the real truth of who God has made us to be!


1 Claypool, John, Glad Reunion. Waco: Word Books, 1985. p. 73.



Monday, August 8, 2016

It Isn’t Fair!


[Photo of a pounting girl]

“[God] did not bring upon them [the people
of Ninevah] the destruction he had threatened.
But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry.”
—Jonah 3:10 - 4:1

Children often learn the story of Jonah and the “whale.” Much of teaching on this story revolves around the way God protected and rescued Jonah. Amid the lessons in this small, but potent, book of the Bible, we find the one about Jonah’s responses to God.

If we consider children and how they react to the circumstances of life, one of their strongest reactions occurs when they think someone, especially themselves, has been treated unfairly. They have fierce opinions about justice. These opinions often stem from an innate selfishness.

Jonah had served God as a prophet. He believed that nothing would ruin his reputation for accurate forth-telling as much as something he warned of not coming to pass.

On the other hand in this story, God cared deeply for the people of Nineveh. These Ninevites had an evil society known for its prostitution, witchcraft, and violence. So, God called Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach to the people there in hopes of restoring this large city to righteousness.

Once Jonah had his experience with the whale and had been “coughed up” onto land, he obeyed and went to Nineveh. Once there, he preached repentance to the people. To his chagrin, the people did repent and God spared their lives.

Jonah’s response to God came out of his mouth like an “It’s not fair!” comment from a child. He sat pouting for days.

Another story in the Bible, with a similar kind of reaction to seeming injustice, comes from the elder brother of the Lost Son, as recorded in Luke 15. The father forgave and welcomed home his younger, prodigal son with a great feast. The elder, “faithful” son, who always did the right thing, quickly responded to his father, “But, it’s not fair!”

How do we respond when we hear of people who have done wicked things all of their lives and then come to Christ when they’re near death’s door? Or, what reaction do we feel when we observe a change of heart in someone we hoped would eventually get their “just desserts?”

Do we resent God’s goodness to others? What drives this reaction in us?

Let us examine our responses to God’s ways, renew our pledge to humbly obey Him in those things He has asked of us, and thank Him for His gracious mercy in behalf of anyone—no matter whether it appears fair or not.



Monday, August 1, 2016

Not My Boss!


[Photo of two children sticking out their tongues at each other]

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy
the devil prowls around like a roaring
lion looking for someone to devour.
Resist him, standing firm in the faith.”
—1 Peter 5:8

I heard them arguing. This five-year-old and his three-year-old sister had a dust up about something. Giving it all she had, she stretched her little chest out and faced him with the words, “You’re not the boss of me!”

Sometimes we grown-up Christians forget the authority with which God has equipped us in this world, where Satan roams about seeking to devour us. God, by His Holy Spirit, has given us His power through which we can resist evil and stand against the foe.

William Gurnall, the 17th Century theologian, wrote an entire book about the verses in Ephesians 6, which goes into great detail how we should prepare to engage our enemy. Of the phrase in Ephesians 6:10, “in his mighty power,” Gurnall writes:

The apostle’s drift is so to encourage the Christian to make use of God’s almighty power, as freely as if it were his own, whenever assaulted by Satan in any kind. 1

1 John 4:4 reminds us of this power to which we have free access:

Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

God gives us the Holy Spirit, and all the mighty power that belongs to Him. We have no power in ourselves to withstand the awful violence and deceit of the Enemy. But we, through faith, have the power of God on our side.

When we step out in faith, accept the pieces of armor God provides us, and pray for His power to fill us, we have an authority few of us may realize.

The next time you engage in a battle over temptation, or experience the subtle attempts to take you down emotionally, physically, or spiritually, puff your chest out and say with the authority you have been given in Christ, “You’re not the boss of me!”


1 Gurnall, William, The Christian in Complete Armour. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1979 (reprinted). p. 25.



Monday, July 25, 2016

Return to Your Rest


[Photo of a woman thinking]

“Return to your rest, O my soul, for
the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.”
—Psalm 116:7 NKJV

What does the Bible say about the Christian’s customary position? Hebrews 4:9 says:

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God.

I believe that Scripture teaches that Christians should normally live in a “resting” position. This place of rest shows reliance on God, joy and divine peace, and trust in God’s care.

I like the King James Version of Psalm 116:7 because it uses the word “return.” God’s peace and rest remain our normal relation and position.

In Psalm 116, the Psalmist had been overcome by trouble and sorrow. (His words). He apparently had come close to death and God had spared him. In response, he speaks to himself and says, “Return to your rest.”

What kinds of things can you recall that have taken you out of your resting position? Maybe it was a deadly disease, a close call, a period of great stress, or the multitude of times when you just don’t know how a problem will turn out. Sometimes these “tempests in teapots” can cause great strife in our lives.

When we turn to God in these times, more often than not, He hears our prayers and answers us, and “tends and spares us” as the hymn “Praise My Soul, the King of Heaven” teaches us:

Father-like, he tends and spares us;
   well our feeble frame he knows;
In his hands he gently bears us,
   rescues us from all our foes.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Widely as his mercy goes. 1

So, as you experience the turmoil and terrors of daily life and after praying see God do some wonderful things, remember to praise Him. Meditate on the many times He has answered prayer. Journal about those times in your life, so you can return and remind yourself of them in the future.

Then, rejoice in His goodness. He will allow your soul to return to its natural position of rest in Him.


1 Henry F. Lyte, Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven. Public Domain.

—Posted: Monday, July 25, 2016



Monday, July 18, 2016



[Photo of a person carving wood on a lathe]

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and
the firmament sheweth his handywork.”
—Psalm 19:1 KJV

I so much appreciate “handiwork.” From her youth on, my grandmother had the reputation as a particularly fine seamstress. I own a dress she made for a toddler with the tiniest hand made button holes. I admire her talent a hundred years after she produced it.

My nephew has a business carving and painting all kinds of colorful wooden lures for salt water anglers. No one would doubt his talented handiwork.

My late sister hand painted large murals, crafted thousands of words of pen and ink calligraphy, and, with a dainty hand in the tradition of our grandmother, sewed many pillows and articles of clothing decorated with buttons and ribbons.

In the Early Church, a woman named Dorcas, a disciple of Jesus, became sick and died. Acts 9:39 records this sentence:

All the widows stood around him [Peter], crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them.

All of this demonstrates to me that, just as God reveals His handiwork through the creation, everywhere and at all times, He has created humankind in His image with the same abilities to create for themselves. Creation, and all kinds of art, did not just happen for the utilitarian needs of humans. God gave humans this ability so that they could create beauty.

Just as God looked at His creation and exclaimed that what He had made was good (Genesis 1), He has allowed us the joy of creating, too. Besides that, He enables us to feel pleasure in the handiwork of others. In so doing, we derive pleasure and can offer praise in the revelation of Himself that we see in human creativity.

Psalm 8 tells us that God has set His glory above the heavens. God reveals His inherent glory. A few verses later, the Psalmist writes that God has crowned man with glory. Our glory derives from His glory. Every creature shows the glory of the Creator in some way. The more we know this great Creator-God, the more beautiful and glorious we become as His image bearers.

Thank God today for the ways in which His glory, His creative beauty, and His magnificent design, shows forth in your life and in the lives of those you know. All of this handiwork should prompt us to offer our praise and worship to such a breathtakingly glorious God.



Monday, July 11, 2016

The Nobles of Tekoa


[Drawing of Nehemiah supervising the building of the wall around Jerusalem]

“ The next section [of the wall] was repaired
by the men of Tekoa, but their nobles would not put
their shoulders to the work under their supervisors. ”
—Nehemiah 3:5

What an exciting time it must have been in the days of Nehemiah. God had moved this man to travel back to his homeland and begin the process of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. He had never seen Jerusalem. But, he had heard of the destruction of this city and its walls. The news of this disaster moved Nehemiah to seek permission from King Artaxerxes, his master, to return and give aid to the fallen city.

Nehemiah motivated cooperation and a collegial work ethic among the people. Chapter three of the Book of Nehemiah lists the names of all those who helped on each section of the great wall. Goldsmiths, joined by perfumers, priests, merchants, and temple servants—and even a few women—got busy and zealously worked on the repairs.

However, this curious verse five from the third chapter tells us that the nobles of Tekoa refused to work alongside their fellow Jewish brothers. Fortunately, not all men in positions of importance acted that way. As we read through the chapter, we see that a number of rulers, men of authority, enjoyed the camaraderie, and did what they could to join the work.

Amy Carmichael, referring to this story writes:

In the list of honorable names in chapter 3, there is a little sentence that I am sure the men in question would like to take out of the Bible. But they cannot. They are for ever held up to derision and shame. They lost their chance, the great chance of their lives; it never came again… How glad all the other builders must have been when the wall was joined together; each set of people had done their bit faithfully… And how astonished they would be to hear that their names were written in a Book that would be treasured to the end of time. 1

Do we have our own nobles of Tekoa? I don’t think we would need to look too far to see people with this attitude in our churches today.

I once heard a woman say, “Oh, I direct choirs, I don’t sing in them!” I also knew a woman who held the position of the children’s ministry team director, who enjoyed chairing meetings, but never actually got to know any of the children of the church.

When we look at Jesus, we see the way that He lived, walking and helping those in need, always serving others. We read His words in Matthew 20:26-28:

Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

When God calls us to serve, He builds us into a team of His people. While we work in whatever capacity He calls us, He makes sure that we, like the builders in the days of Nehemiah, rejoice to see the work completed and to hear His words to us, “Well done!”


1 Carmichael, Amy, Thou Givest…They Gather. Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade for Dohnavur Fellowship, 1958. p. 132.



Monday, July 4, 2016

Watch in the Same


[Photo of a woman standing watch]

“Continue in prayer, and watch
in the same with thanksgiving;”
—Colossians 4:2 (KJV)

God has told us to pray. But additionally, Scripture indicates effective praying includes both the anticipation, the expectation, and the perseverance having to do with faith.

Jesus told a parable of a persistent widow coming to a judge for justice, recorded in Luke 18:1-8. He used the story to teach His disciples that they should always pray and not give up. We read instances in scripture in which people, tired of waiting on God, took matters into their own hands to solve their problem. Disaster often followed such action.

We see others who just gave up asking, thinking God would not grant their requests. While sometimes God does tell us “no,” most often He answers our prayers in His own way and in His own time—which are infinitely better than our own.

We should live like anglers checking their bait, like bakers checking their pies, like lovers standing watch at the door waiting for the other. We should believe with anticipation that the answer will come. We should put our eyes, not on the object of our prayer, but on the One to whom we pray.

I like the way Puritan preacher Richard Sibbes puts it:

Waiting causes us to focus upon [God.] If we are earnest, we will not go away until we speak with him. Faith remains at the door until he comes. All of us fail in this; we do not wait until we obtain. Let us not blame the Savior whose promise is firm without change. If we would learn to wait, we would hear more from him. 1

We have this promise from Jesus Himself in Matthew 7:8:

For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

Don’t you suppose Moses’ mother not only had the little boat created for her baby and cast it in the water with faith mixed with hope? Of course, she did. But, she also continued to watch her little treasure—and set her daughter to watching as well—until

God answered her prayer and safely returned Moses to her.

Sometimes, we need to employ others in the process of our prayers. We may run out of steam when waiting seems interminable. But, God has graciously given to all of us someone, or a small group, or a church, standing ready to help us pray and watch.

Let us be encouraged today to persevere, to hope, to believe, and to watch for the God of the answer. He has promised to come to us.


1 From “Works” by Richard Sibbes, as quoted in Rushing, Richard, editor. Voices from the Past. Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009. p330.



Monday, June 27, 2016

Lily-Livered, Chicken-Hearted


[Photo of soldiers hugging]

“The men of Ephraim, though armed with
bows, turned back on the day of battle.”
—Psalm 78:9

The reference for this particular account seems to have become lost. Some think it refers to a battle with the Philistines. But, the Psalm does indicate that the mighty, and once largest, of the twelve tribes had turned their backs on God and become so weakened that they no longer had the courage to fight.

I, too, have found myself in a position of weakness and distrust in the strength and goodness of God toward me. Maybe you have, too. God has well-equipped us. But, we fail in light of the evidence. He has allowed us to see our very real vulnerabilities in the face of our enemy.

What lies at the root of cowardice? For Ephraim, it seems that they had forgotten the covenant with their God and relied upon their own reputation as warriors. They exhibited a shameful ingratitude to God and, over time, this resulted in unbelief, disobedience, and a rebellious spirit.

According to Matthew Henry, the well-known 18th century theologian:

Weapons of war stand men in little stead without a martial spirit, and that is gone if God be gone. Sin dispirits men and takes away the heart. 1

So, how should we live in face of battles that we know we cannot fight?

Firstly, we must remember that we are equipped. We have the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18). Secondly, we must agree with God about His will and His Word, obeying them in every way, as people who live in covenant with Him.

Thirdly, and this is the most difficult for me, we must believe that God stands with us in the battle. When we trust Him, He in turn gives us courage. He wants to shine through the darkest moments with His light. Acts 4:13 reminds us:

When they [the rulers and elders] saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.

What battles do you face? Do you wobble in the face of chronic illness? Financial need? Relationships gone sour? Loneliness? Fear of any kind?

The Israelites, though they were a multitude led by Moses, had to go on after he died. They quivered. Moses spoke to them, recorded in Deuteronomy 31:7-8:

Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their forefathers to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

So to you, and to me, I say, “Up! Take courage! Stand strong! Prove the weapons you have been given, and reflect the power of your Champion!”


1 Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible. McLean, VA: MacDonald Publishing Company, 1983. Volume 3, p.533.



Monday, June 20, 2016

White Noise


[Photo of a young woman who is daydreaming]

“Be still and know that I am God.”
—Psalm 46:10

You have probably experienced the same thing as I have. I stop at a red light, wrapped in reverie in my mind, when a black car with darkened windows pulls up beside me and my ears are assailed by a very loud, driving beat that fairly bounces off the pavement and makes my car shake. I wonder to myself, “Has this person ever heard the sheer beauty in music?”

We live in such a noisy world. And, like white noise, we hardly notice it. We tend to fill the silence with music in the car, with the TV at home, and sometimes with music while we work. Some people really suffer withdrawal and discomfort when absolute quiet lasts too long.

While I taught music to children for 40 years, I taught listening, as well. A motto I had during those years said, “Beautiful music begins with a beautiful silence.”

Children frequently come to music class singing without listening, which results in making sound without any reference to the pitch of the song the class is singing, to the teacher, or to the piano. These children have to learn to listen in order to match the pitch in the room. For some that seems very difficult.

We Christians have trouble listening in quiet so that we can hear what God wants us to hear. On a purely earthly level, we miss the sounds of nature around us: the birds in the trees, the waves on the beach, or the rustling of the leaves in the breeze. How can we fully appreciate the Creator without listening to the sounds He has created? We simply need more quality time in utter silence.

On a more spiritual level, we must listen, as 1 Kings 19:12 KJV says, for the “still small voice” of God. Not only do we need to have silence from earthly noise, we need stillness in our person and in our thinking, so that we can listen to what God is saying.

A devotional author, Sarah Young, writes:

The curse of this age is overstimulation of the senses, which blocks out awareness of the unseen world… The goal is to be aware of unseen things even as you live out your life in the visible world. 1

2 Corinthians 4:18 talks about the sense of sight:

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

A whole world of the Spirit waits for us to experience without our natural senses: seeing the unseen; hearing the silence; sensing the closeness of God’s precious Presence. In our attachment to Earth, we most comfortably experience everything through our five senses. But, if we would hear what God says to us, we must turn off the sound, so that we hear most clearly with our spiritual ears. In this respect, Silence is golden!


1 Young, Sarah, Jesus Calling. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008. Devotional for June 15th.