Saturday, June 28, 2014


                As I was driving to my office this morning, I heard an interview with a young musician named Lindsey Stirling. They played one of her songs titled Shatter Me. Something about the song struck me, but I wasn’t sure what it was. The interviewer asked Lindsey about her inspiration for the song. She said that it was inspired by her struggle to break free from unrealistic expectations imposed on her by society, others and even herself. She wanted to shatter the false self she had become and release the real Lindsey. At that point I knew why the song had touched me. It wasn’t a song about defeat, but true victory.

                In one way or another, we are all trapped in a false self, created and maintained by our sinful nature. This false self is built of lies. We come to believe that we will be happy, if we live up to other people’s expectations of us. We believe we will be happy, if we accumulate more things. We believe we will be happy, if we live for the moment, without regard for consequences or the future. We believe we will be happy, if there are no rules or restraints in our lives. All of these false beliefs build a shell around us that imprisons us in an unhappy, frustrated, unfulfilled life. Instead of freedom, we live in fear. Instead of joy, we live with disappointment and discouragement.

                Jesus talked about this trap in John 8:34-36.  Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

                We were created in the image of God to bring glory to God. We were created to live in relationship with God. We were created to live in relationship with one another. Sin has marred all of these things. It has dimmed the image of God within us. It has put a barrier between us and God. It has twisted and distorted our relationships with one another. Instead of living in the joy and freedom that God intended for us, we are trapped in a confining, restricting world that eats away at our true selves.

                Jesus came into the world to shatter the false self that confines us. He came to give us life and freedom. At first, it feels like Jesus is taking away our life, as He strips away the layers of deception that hold us captive. But as the light of truth penetrates into our soul, we realize that He is really releasing the true person within. If Jesus sets us free, we are free indeed!

                The process of shattering our old self begins by letting Jesus into our lives. He will not force His way in. He waits patiently for us to open the door. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20

                Once we let Jesus in, we must learn to trust Him completely. One of the casualties of our sinful life is trust. We have learned to protect ourselves by not letting anyone get to close. As scary as it seems, in order to experience the transforming power of Christ, we must trust Him completely. The Bible puts this in terms of believing in Jesus. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

                As we learn to trust Jesus, then we must give him complete control of our lives. This is the scariest thing of all. Most of us have been hurt by others that we trusted. Most of us have been disappointed by institutions that we trusted. Satan will continually remind us of these hurts. Jesus has come to heal those hurts. He invites us to let Him take the lead in our lives. It is only in letting go of control of our lives that we can fully experience our true personhood.  Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? Matthew 16:24-26

                The more and more we let Jesus control the course of our lives, the more free we become. Instead of being trapped by sin, we are free to experience life in the way God intended for us to experience it. We now have a real choice. We can choose things that will give us temporary pleasure, but hurt us. Or we can choose things that will give us real joy that will last. Each time we choose God’s way, we shatter another false promise that can only burden us.

                In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. Romans 6:11-14

                We do not have to live our lives trapped in sin. We do not have to live our lives seeking the illusive approval of society and those around us. Through Christ, we are set free. We are free to live life to the fullest. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10


Thursday, June 26, 2014


                We have been presenting Vacation Bible School this week. The theme this year is Wilderness Escape Adventure. It is based on the journey of the people of Israel through the wilderness to the Promised Land. I was asked to play the role of Moses. So all this week I have been walking in Moses’ sandals, telling the children of some of the significant events in Israel’s wilderness wandering.

                Last night, I had to tell the children about the Passover. As I read through my script and reviewed what I was to do, I became apprehensive. How could I tell this to children, in a way they could understand, without unduly frightening them? I struggled right up to the time the first group arrived.

                Then something happened that surprised me. It should not have, but it did. God showed up in a powerful way. I met the children at the door to my room and explained that our talk would be more serious tonight. I asked them to come in and sit quietly, and they did. In fact, they were extremely attentive. As I began to tell the story, I was overcome with emotion. I deeply felt the sadness, the struggle, the uncertainty of that night. I struggled to control my emotions as I told of how Pharaoh defied God, and how God killed the first-born son of every Egyptian family, while protecting the people of Israel from the Death Angel. It was a profound experience.

                I have never entered into that story in the same way before. I have always read it from a safe distance. It was just a story. Last night, I was there. I keenly felt the struggle and the sadness and the fear. That is how Moses must have felt. Moses was not a cold, hard man. He understood the price that would be paid to free Israel from slavery. I am sure that he did not rejoice at the death of so many. I believe he wept for the senseless loss of life because of arrogant unbelief and rebellion. For sure, there was joy in Israel, as they realized that God had kept His promise, and they were being set free. But that joy had to have been tempered by the grief all around them.

                Sometimes we get the impression, from the Old Testament, that God somehow found pleasure in punishing those who rebelled against Him. That is far from the truth. I believe God’s heart breaks for every soul lost because of unbelief and rebellion. Say to them, 'As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?' (Ezekiel 33:11) This theme is carried into the New Testament. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

                Last night, I walked in Moses’ sandals. I felt the weight of a grumbling, complaining people who quickly forgot all that God had done for them. I felt the spiritual struggle between rebellion and obedience. I felt the sadness of the cost that had to be paid. And, I was overwhelmed by the sacrifice that Jesus made for me on the cross of Calvary.

                In the past, I have identified with Moses in his struggle to be obedient to God. When God called me into ministry, I made many of the excuses Moses did for why I wasn’t qualified. Like Moses, I have, in many ways, been a reluctant leader, even though I know that God has prepared me for this very role. Last night, I identified with Moses in a whole new way. I felt the weight on his shoulders and the burden in his heart. I sensed his struggle to lead his people and his frustration with their resistance to being led. I sensed the conflict between doing what God called him to do and a heart of compassion for those who would pay the price. I identified with Moses in a whole new way.

                Last night, I walked in Moses’ sandals.

Friday, June 20, 2014


                I was mowing my lawn on Monday (between rain storms) and listening to NPR on my headset. An interview came on with Arianna Huffington. She has just released a book titled Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder. I have not read the book, so I cannot comment on its contents, but the conversation intrigued me. Arianna was talking about the need for rest. We are an exhausted, over-extended society. We are not performing up to our potential because we have depleted our internal resources. This concept was presented as some new, break-through discovery.

                As I was listening, I thought that what was being said comes right out of the Bible. God designed humanity to need regular periods of rest and relaxation in order to function properly. He called it Sabbath. The idea of Sabbath has all but disappeared in our world. Today we run on a 24/7 schedule. There was a time when businesses routinely closed on Sunday to allow people to worship and rest. Today Sunday is just another day. In fact, Sunday has become the day to hold all manner of events that directly interfere with the call to worship and rest.

                We all want to thrive in life, not just survive. Here are few suggestions from scripture to help us bring order back into the chaos of life.

1. Rediscover Sabbath
                Rest is a very important part of staying healthy. Without proper rest, our bodies wear down and become susceptible to all manner of disease. God commanded that we take a Sabbath, because He knew that we would push ourselves beyond our limits. He felt it was so important that He included it in the Ten Commandments.
                "Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do. Deuteronomy 5:12-14

                There are two main purposes for Sabbath; worship and rest. God calls us to set apart a regular time when we stop the normal routine activities of life and focus our thoughts on God. God also calls us to set aside the regular activities of life so that we can rest. Both are essential if we are going to thrive in life.

                One of the dangers with Sabbath is that it can become legalistic. This is what happened with the Pharisees. They become so focused on observing the Sabbath, that they missed the point. Sabbath became a restrictive, burdensome thing. Jesus challenged this approach to the Sabbath. He restored God’s original purpose in Mark 2:27. Then he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

2. Readjust your perspective
                We have lost our perspective in life. We have made the acquisition of material things the goal. Prosperity and abundance have become our god. We run ourselves ragged chasing these illusive targets. Because of this, our lives are filled with anxiety and stress. The book of Ecclesiastes clearly summarizes the trap that so many people have fallen into. Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless. Eccles. 5:10

                Jesus challenged this blind pursuit of prosperity. He reminds us that life is more than material possessions.  Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." Luke 12:15

                Jesus gives us the antidote to the stress of chasing material gain.  "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
    "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:25-34

3. Regain trust
                Trust has almost disappeared from our world. We no longer trust our government. Recent revelations about government surveillance of phone records has only worsened the problem. We have become spectacle about almost everything, from car sales, to newspaper reports, to product claims. Because of a growing, undefined sense of fear, we don’t even trust the people who live next door to us. A lack of basic trust replaces our sense of security and well-being with fear and anxiety.

                Trust and faith go hand in hand. The greater faith a person has in another person or institution, the greater they will trust them. As followers of Christ, our lives are dependent upon our faith in Jesus. As our faith in Him grows, our trust of him grows as well. As we learn to trust Jesus, we can then extend that trust to others. People and institutions will disappoint us along the way, but our underlying trust in Jesus will keep us from descending back into despair.

                Out trust in Jesus is founded on the reality of His resurrection from the dead. That is the bedrock of our faith. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.  But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 1 Corinthians 15:17-21

                Jesus invites us to completely trust him. When we put our trust in Jesus, our future is secure, no matter what happens.  "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going."
    Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?"
    Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:1-6

4. Rediscover genuine love
                The word love in the English language is a broad, watered down, often confusing word. We use it in so many contexts that it is hard to understand what we mean by love. We say that we love Coke, we love baseball, we love our dog, we love our spouse, we love our children, we love summer.

                When the Bible talks about love, it is most often referring to the kind of love that God has for us. This is unconditional love. God loves us without strings attached. This does not mean that he excuses our sin or overlooks our rebellion. Because of His great love for us, He has taken steps to address the many deficits in our lives. What He asks of us is that we respond wholeheartedly to His love and then extend that love to others.

                God showed the extent of His love when He sent Jesus into the world. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17

                When Jesus was asked what was the most important thing for us to do in life, he responded that we should live a life of love. One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"
    "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." Mark 12:28-31

                When we realize just how much we are loved by God, we are freed to love others, even if they do not respond in kind. God loves us independent of our response to Him. We can love others independent of their response to us.
    Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:7-12

                There is much more the Bible teaches us about how to thrive in life, but these four are foundational. If we will honestly seek to incorporate Sabbath, trust, a godly perspective and love into our lives, we will indeed THRIVE!


Thursday, June 19, 2014


                I am about to enter a mine field. The ground before me is dangerous and can easily explode in my face. I want to address the issue of in-fighting within the Body of Christ. I believe this is one of Satan’s subtle and most powerful weapons against the Church. When unbelievers see us throwing stones at one another, it turns them away from the Gospel and away from Christ.

                I believe in the truth of God’s word. I believe that we should be students of God’s word. There are times when we must challenge and correct one another, in humility and love. Paul challenged Timothy to lead others into the truth of Christ.

                In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction. 2 Timothy 4:1-2

                There is also room for honest disagreement about the meaning and application of God’s word. Paul trusted Christ to sort out the different approaches we take to God’s word.  All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Philippians 3:15-16

                I was recently confronted with the issue of Christians finding fault with other Christians because they don’t see things exactly the same way. I confess that this saddens me. We have been called to encourage and build one another up in the faith. When we choose to find fault with one another, in a public forum, we undercut the bond we have in Christ.

                We often justify our criticism of others because they are not from our group. We look at them as not faithfully representing the cause of Christ, because their approach is different from our own. Jesus and his disciples faced this very situation in Mark 9:38-41. John expected to be praised by Jesus for his defense of their group. Jesus saw it differently.

                "Teacher," said John, "we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us." "Do not stop him," Jesus said. "No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.”

                Jesus refused to criticize this outsider for acting under His authority. If what that person did glorified God, then it advanced the purposes of Christ, even though the man was not part of the “in” group.

                The Bible is clear that our unity is to be around Jesus and our obligation is to encourage and build up one another. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:8-11

                In contrast, the Bible also tells us to stop saying negative things about one another. Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. James 4:11

                We do not have to all agree on every point of theology to be united in Christ. There are certain basic truths that are essential and cannot be compromised; such as the authority of the Bible and salvation by faith through Jesus alone.  There are many areas of understanding and application where we have the freedom to disagree. This does not put us outside to the camp, so to speak. This is where we are called on to treat one another with grace.

                Paul clearly addressed this issue in Romans 14: 1-4. Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

                When we choose to throw stones at one another, because we disagree on some item of theology, we play right into Satan’s hands. Instead of advancing the cause of Christ, we divert energy to unhelpful and often destructive activities. Bottom line, our goal as believers is not to criticize others, but to help each other to grow in our faith. We are to do this with gentleness and restraint, for none of us have the corner on the truth.

                It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
                Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:11-16

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


                I just returned from a three day, men’s backpacking trip on the Superior Hiking Trail in northern Minnesota. It was a challenging, exhilarating, and rewarding experience. We set out on the trail at about 1:00 PM on Friday afternoon, under clear blue skies and mild temperatures. It was a perfect day for backpacking. We faced our most challenging climbs that afternoon, as we made our way from the Temperance River to the top of the ridgeline. We were all ready to drop our packs when we arrived at our campsite on the Cross River, just above some shallow falls. The setting was beautiful, making for a wonderful first evening in the wilderness. Then things changed.

                Sometime in the night, it began to rain. It was light at first, then became steady and heavy. At 6:00 AM we awoke to a very different world than we had begun in. Because of the persistent rain, we packed up as quickly as we could and hit the trail. We didn’t even try to make breakfast. For the next five hours we slogged through the wet trails. The pants I had chosen to wear acted like a wick, soaking up the rain instead of shedding it. By the time the rain stopped, and we took a break at another campsite, I was soaking wet from head to toe. I changed into my dry clothes, ate some much needed food, and felt much better.

                The sun came out in the afternoon, which raised all of our spirits. Because of our early start, we covered more distance than we had planned, so we pressed on to a secondary campsite before stopping for the night. It was perfect! High on the ridge, open enough for the sun to warm and dry us, with a gentle breeze coming off of Lake Superior. The view was majestic. We had a delightful evening, even though we could not keep a campfire going, because of the wet wood. It turned cold that night, but we slept dry and relatively warm in our tents. The next morning was a short hike to the trailhead where we are to meet our ride home. We were not disappointed when we came to the end of the trail.

                As we were waiting for our ride to come, I thought of how our experience was a microcosm of life. Everyone begins life with optimism and positive expectations. We face some early challenges, but easily conquer them with the fresh vigor of youth. Then life throws us a curve. Something happens that is not easily overcome. It seems to last for a long time, and we begin to wonder if we are going to make it. Then the situation changes again, and we are back on a positive track. We follow this pattern throughout our life, with varying degrees of challenge, excitement, discouragement and delight.

                A passage of scripture came to my mind as we were waiting for our ride. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:1-5

                There are three parallels in this passage to my backpacking experience. First, Paul tells Timothy to be prepared in season and out of season. Before we went on our trip, I gathered the men together and gave them some instructions about preparing for the trip. I told them that we had to be prepared for variable trail conditions. I could not guarantee a sunny, three-day hike. We had to take with us everything that we would need on the trail, while being careful not to weigh ourselves down with unnecessary items. One of our members chose to leave behind extra clothes in favor of a lighter pack. After the rain stopped, he wished he had put them in his pack, weight or no weight.

                In life, we need to be spiritually prepared for whatever might come. We cannot always predict the conditions that we will find ourselves facing. Therefore, it is important to equip ourselves with the right spiritual gear to face the challenges. At the same time, we have to resist the temptation to load ourselves down with unnecessary things that really only hinder our ability to effectively live out our faith. In Hebrews 12:1, we are instructed to throw off everything that hinders us. Just like in backpacking, there are essential things to carry and there are non-essential. We need to learn the difference. We can only carry a certain amount of things in our spiritual backpack. Choosing wisely which things to carry is an important part of being prepared.

                The second parallel is that we will face challenges along the way. Before we settled on the stretch of trail we would hike on, I studied the trail maps. I paid close attention to the terrain. The Superior Hiking Trail follows the ridgeline of the Sawtooth Mountains. By their name, you can guess their shape. The trail undulates up and down throughout its length. No matter where you start, you will encounter some challenging climbs. I warned the guys in advance that they would have to be ready for some strenuous uphill battles. I wasn’t wrong.

                Sometimes in life, we come to believe that, if we put our faith in Christ, the path ahead of us will always be smooth, level and barrier free. Not so. Instead, as Paul reminded Timothy, we should expect to face many challenges along the way. Satan doesn’t want us to have an easy go of it. He will do his best to discourage us, disillusion us, and defeat us. Knowing that the challenges are coming helps us to be prepared to meet them. One of the things we brought on our trip was walking sticks. They were valuable tools for helping us to maneuver up and down some steep spots on the trail. Jesus has given us resources to lean on during the tough uphill climbs of life. Most important is himself. Jesus warned us that the path before us would be rocky, but that we could lean on Him. "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33

                The last parallel is that, when you are on the trail, you have to keep pressing forward. When we awoke to rain on Saturday morning, we could have hunkered down in our tents and tried to wait out the rain, in wet misery. That strategy would have gotten us no closer to our goal. Instead, the best thing we could do was to press on through the rain. We got wet, but when the day ended we had arrived at a sun-drenched campsite, with an amazing view and a chance to really dry out.

                One of the things that Satan wants to do to us as Christians is to immobilize us. If he can get us to stop moving forward, he can stop us from being effective. When we stop making progress, especially in the face of spiritual challenges, discouragement, bitterness and complaining set in. These things sap our energy and make us unproductive. Christ wants us to press on, even in the spiritual rain. As we keeping pushing forward, we become stronger, more confident and more effective for Christ. As James tells us, it through the trials of life that our faith is refined. Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

                I will be honest. Saturday morning, as the rain soaked into my shorts, I wasn’t sure that I would ever go on another backpacking trip. But, as we rested at the end of the trail, in the bright sun, I knew that there would be another one.

                There are days when we feel like we cannot go on in this journey of faith. But, as the Son shines his warmth and light into our hearts, we know that we will keep going until we reach the goal and win the prize for which Christ has called us.


Thursday, June 5, 2014


                I just returned from a week of vacation. While I was gone, God blessed us with rain and sun, so that, when I returned, my grass was about a foot high. Before I left for vacation, I was careful to apply weed and feed to my yard. When I returned, I discovered that, wherever I had failed to apply the weed and feed, there was an abundance of dandelions.

                Dandelions are prolific and persistent. Every homeowner knows that it is a constant battle to stay on top of these pesky weeds. Left unchecked, they will take over an entire yard in a short amount of time.

                Dandelions are not indigenous to North America. They were brought here, by early colonists from Europe, as a source of food and medicine. They had actually been cultivated for these purposes since Roman times. The name dandelion comes from the French name “dent de lion” which means tooth of the lion. The name refers to the tooth-like leaves of the plant. There is a story that a well-to-do lady from Europe imported dandelions to North America to brighten up her lawn. Whether that is true or not, we all must content with them today.

                As I was mowing the hay field that my yard had become, I thought about how dandelions are like sin in our lives. All that we have to do to introduce sin into our lives is let down our guard. When we leave areas of our lives “untreated” by the word of God, they become prime spots for sin to take root. Once sin has taken root, it is very hard to remove. Like dandelions, sin sends its roots deep into the soil of our lives. We can cut off what is on the surface, but if we do not dig out the root, sin will flower again. Sin also is prolific. It sends its seeds into every unguarded corner of our lives. Within a very short period of time, it can spread, covering large areas of our life.

                The Bible constantly warns us to be on our guard against the invasive weed of sin. Peter reminds us that our enemy is constantly seeking to sow the seeds of sin in our lives. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8) Paul tells us to be careful not to inadvertently open the door for sin to take root. "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:26-27)

                There are many different ways that people deal with the invasion of dandelions in their yard. Some people try to root them out one at a time; a long and tedious process. Some apply weed killer; covering a large area at once. Along with weed killer, enhancing the health of the grass also deters the growth of dandelions. Some people just give in and embrace the bright yellow flowers.

                There are several things we can do to deal with the spiritual dandelions on our lives. First, we need to root out sin. If we deny the presence of sin or ignore its growth, we will soon be overrun. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9)

                We also need to apply spiritual weed killer to our lives. This comes in the form of God’s word. The more we are immersed in God’s word, the less opportunity there is for sin to grow. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

                One of the best ways to counteract sin is to fill our lives with healthy spiritual grass. As we allow positive spiritual qualities to grow, we push out the spiritual weeds. 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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9

                Above all, we can never afford to let down our guard. Controlling the dandelions in the yard one spring does not prevent them from reappearing the next. So it is with sin. The battle is constant and unrelenting. So we must be diligent to in dealing with sin on a regular basis. Satan is always looking for some unguarded area in which to plant his nefarious seeds. Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:10-13

                Dandelions flower in the spring and then seem to disappear in the heat of the summer. A false sense of accomplishment can set in; thinking that the dandelion problem is over. But, unless more is done, they will be back, and in greater numbers. Sin may seem to disappear for a while from our lives. But be sure of this, the seeds are still there, just waiting for the right conditions. We must constantly be on our guard; ready to act when the flower of sin begins to bud in our lives.