Saturday, March 31, 2012


            This is Holy Week; the most important week of the year. This week marks the climax of the story of Jesus. This week brings all the pieces of the redemption story together in a glorious demonstration of God’s love, grace and mercy. Our salvation hangs on the truth of this week.

            Throughout the centuries people have debated the actual outcome of Jesus death, burial and resurrection. The debate can be boiled down to a simple question. Did Jesus die for the sins of all or just for the sins of the elect?

            On one side of the argument are those who contend that Christ died only for the elect. This is called “limited atonement.” They argue that God has predestined only some to be saved and only the elect are included in Christ’s atoning work. They base their view on passage like Ephesians 1:3-5.
    Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will--

            On the other side of the argument are those who contend that Christ died for all. This is called “unlimited atonement.” They argue that the gospel message is extended freely to everyone who will receive it. It is up to the individual to accept or reject God’s free gift. They base their view on passages like 1 John 2:2.
    He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
            I want to enter the fray by sharing some of my own personal observations on the atonement.

            The Scriptures teach both God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. God is God and He has the right to do whatever He desires. At the same time, God has made it clear that we will be held accountable for our actions and our choices. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. Matthew 12:36 (NIV)

            Just because God, who is outside of time, knows in advance who will believe in Christ does not by necessity mean that he dictates this. Foreknowledge is not automatically pre-determination. If we accept the idea that God has pre-determined our choices then we run the risk of falling into the camp of fatalism. This is clearly not taught in the Bible.

            I believe that God may interact with humanity in different ways and that he is not bound to always act in a prescribed manner. We know that God chose Israel to be his people yet not all in Israel chose to follow him. We know that God chose certain individuals specifically for his purposes such as Paul, Abraham, and Moses. We also know that God continues to extend a call for repentance and the promise of salvation to all people. "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." Romans 10:13

            Salvation may be like the Government amnesty program of several years ago. It was offered to all, it was effective for all, but it applied only to those who responded. The atoning work of Christ is not limited in any way. It is effective for all the sin of the world. Anything less diminishes the glory of God. Yet it takes affect only when it is received. There is no “universal salvation.”

            I believe that God wants us to live in the dynamic tension between His sovereignty and our responsibility. It is at that place that we are most dependent upon God. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


            We live in a fast paced world that seems to always be rushing toward something else. Because of this we often miss the present. Don’t you feel that way when you go to the store? We could be in the middle of winter but the stores will have all of their spring clothes displayed. I have always found it rather strange that next year’s new cars come out in the summer of the current year. How can I buy a new 2013 Ford when I am in the middle of 2012? We are so much in a hurry to get to the next thing that we miss the present thing. Simon and Garfunkel had a song that began with the words, “Slow down you’re moving too fast. You’ve got to make the morning last…” I agree with them. We all need to slow down.
            Easter is a week and a half away. The clock is ticking as we rush to celebrate the resurrection. We feel the pressure to plan services and put everything in place for Easter Sunday. But in our hurry to get to the end of the story we miss the story. Philip Yancey, in his book The Jesus I Never Knew, points out that the four gospels actually slow down as they approach the end of the story. Together they devote a full third of their narrative to the last week of Jesus’ life. For most of us who grew up in church, we are quick to jump from the Hosannas of Palm Sunday to the Hallelujahs of Easter and pass over some of the most profound and critical events in Jesus’ life.
            In preparation for Maundy Thursday I bought a Haggadah, which is a Jewish guide for Passover. It would be like the Advent guides we use at Christmas time. The difference is that it is used all at once on the night of Passover. I have been impressed with the leisurely feel of the text, as it recounts the story of the God’s deliverance from Egypt and the Exodus. A traditional Passover meal will last several hours. Each part of the story is rehearsed and explained. There is no hurry to get to the end of the story. The value is in becoming a part of the story in a personal way.
            The Gospel of John devotes only one chapter to the resurrection and one to the post-resurrection appearances. John devotes eight chapters to the final week of Jesus’ earthly life. Some of Jesus’ most profound and intimate teaching is found in those eight chapters. It is there that we learn about Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. We find out about the role of the Holy Spirit and what it means to abide in Christ, as branches abide in the vine. It is also in those eight chapters that we get to listen in as Jesus prays for himself, his disciples and us! Finally, we find ourselves walking with Jesus through the ordeal of his trial and execution. Those are hard words to read, yet they are an essential part of the redemption story.
            I have struggled for some time with the reality that we (in evangelical circles) devote four plus weeks to preparing for Christmas and give, at best, one week to Easter. Other faith traditions do a far better job of preparing their people for the most important event of the year. In response to my own lack I introduced a Maundy Thursday service to my church a number of years ago. Our tradition today is to observe Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. I have to confess that I still feel like I am rushing toward Easter. I feel the pressure to prepare four services in the span of one week. I don’t feel the freedom to slow down and experience the drama of Holy Week.
            This year we are encouraging our small groups to observe Maundy Thursday in homes. My hope is that we can learn from our Jewish brothers and sisters how to slow down and enter the story for ourselves. But alas, I have to hurry up and prepare a guide to be distributed on Sunday so that people can slow down on Thursday. “Slow down, you’re moving too fast…”

Psalm 46:10 (NIV)
"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

Saturday, March 24, 2012


            Do you ever feel fuzzy-headed? You just can’t seem to think clearly. Your ability to focus is impaired. That is the way I have felt for the past two weeks. I have been battling the flu, which drained me both physically and emotionally. Yesterday afternoon, as I struggled to pull my sermon together for Sunday, I just couldn’t concentrate. I desperately needed to clear my head. So I went home and took a run. It was great! As I was running several points that I had been stuck on with my sermon came together. My focus was sharpened and my head cleared.
            We all need to clear our heads from time to time. It is like rebooting our computer. Things get all jumbled up and we need to clear the cache and start over. The same is true with our brains. From time to time we need to step away for awhile and let things settle.  
            Jesus needed times to clear his head. Before Jesus was about to choose the twelve disciples he got away from the crowd by himself to pray and think. After Jesus fed the 5000, there was much pressure put on him to give in to the will of the crowd. John records Jesus’ response.  Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. (John 6:15)  We don’t often think of Jesus struggling to sort things out. We assume that he always knew exactly what was going on and what to do. Yet the scripture at least hint at the reality that Jesus needed regular times to clear his head and get back in touch with the Father.
            The Apostle Paul is also an example of needing time to clear his head. After his amazing conversion experience Paul took three years to sort things out. He wrote about it in his letter to the Galatians.
            For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased  to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man,  nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus. Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days. Galatians 1:13-18
            We all need times to pull away from the demands of life and clear our heads. With all of the pressure to conform to the values of our world we can lose our focus. Like Jesus, we need to regularly pull away and reconnect with the Father. Like with our computers, we need to make sure that we are putting the right input in. We need the time to clear out the junk and replace it with that which is of greatest value.
            In Philippians 4:8 Paul challenges us to fill our minds with godly thoughts. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. The word Paul uses for think about means to ruminate or meditate on something. For most of us this means disengaging from the demands of normal life long enough to clear our heads and refocus.
            So why don’t you take a run or a walk and invite God to clear your head and reboot your mind.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


            I have been sick for almost two weeks and I don’t like it. I went to the doctor and was informed that I have influenza. This is probably the first time in my life that I have actually had the real flu. I’ve had my share of the “stomach flu” but that is not influenza. I feel weak all over, my chest hurts and I have a constant headache. Other than that I’m doing great.
            In my current state of less than health I have been reminded of Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12. Paul was struggling with a major affliction. He pleaded with God to heal him, but God had other plans. Here is how Paul summarized his experience.
            To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NIV)
            In no way do I want to equate my temporary situation to Paul’s, but I can say that I have seen the power of God at work in my weakness. Last week I was on the downward slide as I headed into Sunday. Instead of getting stronger I was getting weaker. I wondered if I would have the energy to preach three times over the course of the morning. I took the one precaution that was available to me that morning; I chose to preach sitting on a stool. During the worship time I was keenly aware of my weakness. Each time I got up to preach I felt the power of God flow through me. By the end of the morning my physical strength was spent, but I had experienced God’s strength.
            On Wednesday morning I woke up feeling a little stronger. Our monthly Senior Adult lunch was planned for that day. As the morning progressed my energy flagged. I dragged into the lunch at less than full speed. But when I got up to speak, I again experienced the power of God at work. I was able to lead some singing and give my talk without wavering. When the lunch was over I went home and collapsed.
            There are a couple of observations that I want to make from my “weakness” experience. First, my weakness reminds me of how much I need God. Without his strength I would not have been able to preach or speak. He used me in my weakness to accomplish His purpose.
            I also observed that God’s strength is given for the moment. It is not something I can grab onto and store up for the future. I have to trust Him moment by moment. At the end of Sunday morning I was exhausted (more than normal). At the end of the Senior Lunch I had nothing left. But I had all that I needed for the time I needed it.
            I have also been reminded that God could sideline me at any time. I am not invincible. I am not irreplaceable. My humanity is weak, not just when I have the flu, but all of the time. God could pull the rug out from under me at any time. Instead He continues to choose to use me in spite of my weakness.
            I am not at the place where I can honestly say that I delight in my weakness. I would really rather be back at full strength. I can say that God is present in my weakness. He continues to give me the strength to do what I need to do. Even when I am at my best I am totally dependent upon God. It is His grace that enables me to serve Him in any meaningful way.

Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. 2 Corinthians 3:4-5 (NIV)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Are Faith and Reason Incompatible?

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. Isaiah 1:18a

            I was listening to public radio the other day and heard an interview with Alain De Botton. He is the author of a new book titled Religion for Atheists: A Non-believers’ Guide to the Uses of Religion. His premise is that religion, in all its forms, offers some insights and wisdom that can be beneficial even to those who do not believe in religion. Then he made this statement. “This is religion for reasonable people.” Whether he intended to or not, what Mr. De Botton implied by his statement was that people who are “believers” are not reasonable people. I was immediately struck by the question are faith and reason really incompatible?
            In the former Soviet Union, Christians were looked down on as uneducated, simple-minded people. Recently a similar attitude has been espoused in America. Evangelical Christians have been portrayed as mindlessly following their leaders without any careful thought. They are seen as irrational because they believe what the Bible says is true. After all everyone knows that there is no such thing as a miracle. All of the supernatural things recorded in the Bible are only myth. Anyone who takes them at face value must be unintelligent.
            We live in an amazing world filled with complexity, diversity and mystery. Contrary to common belief, to believe that this all came to be by chance is an unreasonable response. Creation points to intelligent design from an intelligent designer. Doesn’t it seem just a little strange that a world that holds tenaciously to a cause and effect approach to life believes that life itself has no cause?
            Being a follower of Jesus Christ is anything but unreasonable. In fact the Bible challenges us to examine our faith and our world thoroughly. Jesus didn’t let people blindly follow him. He insisted that they count the cost. He was very upfront about what it really means to believe in him.
            It is not unreasonable to believe in God. The Psalmist points us to creation as a reason to believe.
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. Psalm 19:1-4 (NIV)
            Paul was among the elite intellectuals of his day. He was also a man of deep, enduring faith. He agreed with the Psalmist that the evidence for belief in God is overwhelming. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Romans 1:20-23 (NIV)
            In 1 Corinthians 1Paul challenged the “wise” of his day.                                      Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength. 1 Corinthians 1:20-25 (NIV)
            Faith and reason are not incompatible. God invites, even challenges us to use the minds He has given us to question, explore and discover. Reason can take us a long way, but it can only take us so far. Where reason ends faith takes over; not in mindless belief, but in confident assurance of the one who is ultimately in control.

Friday, March 16, 2012


            In 1988 E. D. Hirsch published Cultural Literacy: What Every American needs to Know. The premise of the book is that, with the growing diversity in our country, many Americans are losing touch with the basic knowledge about our culture that is necessary to function in contemporary society. In essence we have forgotten our roots. We are rapidly losing the common language that binds us together as one society. He is not talking about speaking English. He is talking about understanding the many metaphors, similes and allusions that are part of our common fabric. For example, what does it mean to “hit a home run?” Or what is the meaning of a “David and Goliath” story?
            More recently I have acquired two volumes of The Intellectual Devotional. One is on modern culture and the other is on American history. Each volume consists of 365 one page essays on some aspect of modern culture or American history. In many ways these are a condensed refresher course for those of us who have been out of school for a long time. Personally I have found these books both interesting and informative.
            This morning, as I was reading an essay on American Bandstand, I thought about how we as Evangelical Christians can become culturally illiterate. In our effort to separate ourselves from the negative aspects of our world we have also rejected much that is rather neutral. Instead of being avid students of our culture in order to reach our generation for Christ, we have chosen the path of anti-culture. We pride ourselves in living counter-culture lives, without fully understanding the culture around us. Many Christians have sought to escape modern culture and by doing so have become marginalized.
            Jesus prayed in John 17:15 “not that you would take them out of the world, but that you would protect them from the evil one.” As Christians we are called to live in the world but not be shaped by the world’s values. If we are going to reach our world with the good news of Jesus Christ, we need to become students of our culture.
            Let’s look at it from another angle. When a missionary couple is assigned to work in a certain country their first task is to learn the language and the culture. They want to know as much as they can about the culture in order to apply the truths of the scriptures to that culture. They also want to find the most effective ways of presenting the Gospel within the context of that culture. In the same way, we who live in one of the largest mission fields in the world, should seek to learn all we can about our culture to be able to effectively communicate the Gospel to our culture.
            The Apostle Paul was an avid student of culture. As he sought to bring the Gospel to unreached parts of his world, he carefully examined the prevailing culture. The classic example is his encounter in Athens. His experience is recorded in Acts 17. While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. [Acts 17:16-17 (NIV)] Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: "Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. [Acts 17:22-23 (NIV)]
            In 1 Corinthians 9 Paul clearly expounds on his desire to use the prevailing culture to present the Gospel effectively. Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. [1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (NIV)]
            God wants us to be culturally literate in order to reach our culture for Christ. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


            I find myself haunted by failures of the past. Insignificant things seem to trigger feelings of anxiety and regret. This morning I was doing a Sudoku while I was eating my breakfast. I often do this as a kind of mental wakeup call. I sat alone at the kitchen table puzzling over the Sudoku when I began to feel anew the pain of a past failure. During a particularly difficult time I had used the Sudoku as a kind of escape; a way to take my mind off of a painful ordeal. Now, in the quietness of my kitchen, the pain returned.
            I have always had better recall of my failures than my successes. Not that my failures outnumber times of productivity and fruitfulness. Yet, for some reason, those positive experiences tend to blur into a general pool of accomplishments, while the failures remain vivid, individual reminders of my less than perfect life.
            I resonate with the words of King David in Psalm 51:3. “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” I have often joined with David in his cry for God’s forgiveness and the restoration of his relationship with God. Satan is a master at inserting a wedge between me and God and then pounding it in as far as he possibly can.
            Now lest I sound like I am trapped in an unending quagmire of guilt, I do know the reality of God’s forgiveness. David was able to write these words of relief and joy in Psalm 103. “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalms 103:8-12 (NIV) I have experienced the forgiveness and the grace of God; and I seek to live within that every day.
            My point is that negative experiences can have a powerful hold on our minds. It is easy to say, “Forget it.” But our minds were designed not to forget. Like a computer with unlimited storage capacity, our minds store up every experience in a data base unfathomable to even Apple and Microsoft.
            In the Sermon on the Mount, recorded in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus makes this statement. “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15 (NIV) This begins with cultivating the ability to forgive ourselves. If we cannot forgive ourselves, we cannot experience God’s forgiveness. Self-forgiveness is not taking sin lightly and quickly excusing or dismissing it. Self-forgiveness is taking sin seriously and then releasing it to God. Christ has already forgiven us of all of our sin; past, present and future. Yet he invites us to bring our sin and our failures before him on a regular basis so that we can feel the reality of his forgiveness. John said so clearly in 1 John 1:9. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
            We need to understand that sin is not limited to those crass actions so common in our world today. Sin is falling short of the glory of God; sin is failing to live up to our calling in Christ. It doesn’t have to be a blatant act of rebellion; it can take the form of some task left undone. James says that to know what is right to do and not do it that is sin. Sin matters so much that God sent Jesus into the world to die for our sin. We too should take it just as seriously.
            There is a favorite story of mine that puts this situation into proper perspective for me. A young boy was warned over and over again not to run in the house and especially in the living room. There were valuable, breakable things in there. One day, as boys are wont to do, he forgot his parents’ warning and went racing through the house. He turned a corner into the living room and collided with an end table that held a vase, which had belonged to his mother’s grandmother. In horrid he watched as the vase tilted and then crashed to pieces on the floor. He immediately dissolved in uncontrollable sobs on the floor. His parents, hearing his cries, hurried into the living room to see what was wrong. Immediately they understood. His father stooped down and said to his son, “It doesn’t matter,” but the boy refused to be consoled. Then his mother gathered him up in her arms. “Look at me,” she said with a firm but gentle voice. “It does matter, but it’s OK.” He buried his head in her shoulder and his body finally relaxed.
            When I fail to live up to my calling in Christ, being told that it doesn’t matter does nothing for me. Instead I hear the voice of my loving, Heavenly Father say, “Dave, it does matter, but it is OK.” When I am haunted by the memories of past failures I need to stop and give them back to Christ. He has forgiven my, and by His grace I can forgive myself.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


            I like to make things out of wood. Recently I made two sets of coasters and several trivets. The coasters are made out of oak and walnut. The trivets are made out of oak, walnut, cherry and maple. Actually I started out to make a cutting board. After I had finished the first one, I did some research on how to finish a cutting board. I discovered that oak is not used in cutting boards because it is an open grain wood and would collect bacteria. Bummer! So my would-be cutting board, made out of oak, walnut, cherry and maple became a trivet.
            After I finished several pieces I brought them upstairs to show them off to my family. Over the past week or so I have showed my work to a number of people. I always feel just a little awkward doing that, yet I have an overwhelming urge to display my handiwork. So I find myself caught in an uncomfortable spot. I don’t want to seem like I am bragging or showing off. On the other hand, a person makes beautiful things to be seen. An artist paints a painting for the world to look at. A potter makes vessels to be admired and used. An instrument maker produces instruments to be played and admired.
            As I have puzzled over this (minor) dilemma, I have realized that in some ways my desire to show off my creations comes from my father. I’m not talking about my earthly father. I’m referring to my Heavenly Father. The Bible tells us in Genesis that we were created in the image of God. Part of what that means is that we were created to be creative. And part of being creative is showing off what we have created.
            God has not been shy about showing off what he created. In fact in the creation story found in Genesis 1, as God came to the end of each day, he stepped back, took a look at what he had done and boldly declared, “That is good!” King David picked up this theme in Psalm 19. Look at the opening lines of that Psalm.
            The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. Psalms 19:1-4a (NIV)
            It sure looks like God wants us to notice what he has done. The Psalmist uses power words; declare, proclaim, pour forth, display. God is putting his handiwork out there for all to see. Although we cannot look direct at the glory of God, we can see his glory reflected in what he has created. The quality, detail and complexity of his handiwork speak of His character. God does not do shabby work. God doesn’t do the minimum to just get by. God goes beyond excellent to amazing, and He wants everyone to know it. No one is excluded from God’s art show. Everyone is invited to stand in awe of God’s creative handiwork.  
            One of the ways that we can glorify God is by being creative. Creativity is not about being productive or useful. Creativity is about producing something of beauty and delight. Creativity isn’t a job; it can’t be orchestrated or mass produced. Creativity is play at its highest level. What we produce may indeed be useful and productive, but that is not the goal. Creativity is about partnering with God to take something that is “formless and void” and shape it into something that is filled with life.
            Creativity is limited when it is kept in isolation. Creativity is unleashed when it is freely shared with others. This is not an ego trip (although it nurtures our egos). This is delighting in reflecting the image of God that is within us. Creativity is as diverse and unique as we are. What is creative to one person is a bore to another. What is a delight to one person is a burden to another. What is effortless to one person is a chore to another. Yet collectively, as we share our own unique creative contributions, we more clearly reflect the image of our creator God. There are thousands of ways to be creative. Each way exposes another facet of God’s amazing creativity.  
            I like to work in wood. It is my hobby of choice. I continue to learn to do it better. With each piece that I create I experience a measure of joy and delight. With each piece I share with someone else that joy is enhanced. I made a number of trinket boxes, which I had hoped to sell at a craft show. Each box was unique. They were made out of oak and walnut. None of them was perfect; each contained some flaw. Yet each box reflected my creative efforts. On the bottom of each box I put the reference Colossians 3:17. I hoped that those who purchased a box would see the reference, look it up and be encouraged. I didn’t sell a single box. That was OK. At Christmas I gave many of them away. I actually experienced greater delight in giving my work away than I would have received from selling it. I should not be surprised by that. My Father is in the habit of giving away His handiwork as well.

Colossians 3:17 (NIV)
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Friday, March 2, 2012


            I am learning to be more honest with God in prayer. I have always struggled with using the right words. When I was growing up the prayers that I heard in church were all filled with “Thee” and “Thou” and punctuated with “Lord”. Prayer seemed very formal. The people I knew didn’t talk that way most of the time, but when they prayed their language changed. I guess I was programmed to slip into prayer language whenever I prayed.
            I still struggle with this today. I begin to pray and realize that I am talking to God in a formal, impersonal way. When I realize this I stop and apologize to God. Then I start again. I try to be more conversational, and more genuine.
            Our small group has been studying Philip Yancey’s book on prayer. In one of the lessons he challenges us to have the courage to be honest with God. Tell God want you really want or what you really feel. Don’t pray what you think God wants to hear. I am so guilty of that. So I have been trying to be honest with God. I have been asking for exactly what I want (at least to the best of my understanding). I am trusting God to take my honest prayers and answer them according to His will. I understand that He may (and often does) answer “No” to my request. But I also know that He still wants me to bring those requests.
            There is great power in prayer, but it is not magical. There are no magical formulas to use that will guarantee that my request will be answered the way I desire it to be answered. Yet the more honest and open I am in prayer the more I feel the power of God in my life.
            Someone once said that we will always be beginners at prayer. I believe it. I’m still learning.

A Reflection On Prayer

I went to prayer the other day
I traveled along a familiar way
On my knees I began to start
To open to my God my heart

The words began to flow with ease
My Father in heaven I sought to please
Then in my heart I heard a voice
To listen I had no choice

Be still and know that I am God
Be still and know I’ve traveled life’s sod
Be still and know that I’m aware
Of all the things that cause you care

Be still and know my love is pure
Be still and know my grace is sure
Be still and know that I am God
Together let us walk life’s sod

I went to prayer the other day
I returned home another way