Wednesday, August 27, 2014


                Several times, in the last month or so, I have driven to work, in the morning, in the fog. The high humidity and relatively cooler temperature shrouds the morning in a thin gray blanket of moisture, which hangs in the air until the sun can burn it away. Often it disappears rather quickly, but sometimes it hangs on, well into the day.

                Fog does strange things to our world. Fog has a way of distorting the familiar. It can hide our world in a thick blanket of damp coldness. Or it can make the countryside appear as if we are seeing it through an improperly focused lens.

                Fog can also be dangerous. If it is too thick,  it can blind us to what is ahead. Several years ago a young woman rear ended a stopped school bus on country road, because she didn’t see it in the fog.  If nothing else, fog makes our world dark and dreary. By obscuring the sun, fog robs us of both light and warmth. It can seep even into our souls, wrapping our spirit in its clammy blanket.

                There are many times in life when we feel like we are living in a fog. It is not a physical fog that we know will soon disappear. It is an emotional and spiritual fog that can hang on for extended periods of time. This fog can distort our world just like its tangible cousin. When we live in a fog, we can’t see things  as they really are. Instead, we begin to see distorted shapes that take on an air of foreboding. Living in a fog is dangerous, because we become blind to real dangers, while we are running from imaginary ones. We are more likely to slip and fall emotionally, spiritually, or morally when we live in a fog. So what can we do to pierce the fog? To pierce the fog, we need light, the light of the Son.

                When we are engulfed in a fog, we need to hold onto the truth that the light is there. When our physical world is blanketed by fog, we know that the sun was still there, even if we can’t see it. If we are going to pierce the spiritual fog, we need to hold onto the reality that the Son is always with us, even though we cannot see Him. When our world looks distorted, we need to hang onto what we know to be solid and true. Jesus promised that He would never abandon us.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20b (NIV)

                When we are engulfed in a fog,  we need to actively seek the light. During the winter months, when light is at its minimum, many people feel discouraged and lack energy, because there is less sunlight. This is known as seasonal affective disorder. Some people find relief from this disorder through the use of a special full-spectrum lamp. This lamp simulates the light of the sun. When we are living in an emotional/spiritual fog, we can find relief by going to God’s Word. The Bible is a genuine source of the light of Christ. It is available to us at any time. The Psalmist reminds us that when life looks dark, God’s Word can guide us. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105 (NIV)
                When we are living in a fog, we need to look ahead and visualize a positive future. At the beginning of the summer we went through a very long stretch of overcast, dreary weather. As each overcast morning dawned, it got easier to slip into the negative idea that we will never see the sun again. Of course the rain stopped and the sun did come out. The fog and clouds cannot last forever. Eventually the sun breaks through and dispels the gloom. The same is true emotionally and spiritually. Although our dark days may hang on, we can look ahead to a different reality. The day is coming when the light of Christ will break through and allow us to see things clearly again. He will not leave us in the fog forever. If we will reach out to him he will pierce our fog and flood us with his light.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’
John 8:12 (NIV)



                Our world seems to be violently ripping itself apart. Each day the news is filled with the latest conflict. ISIS continues to terrorize parts of Syria and Iraq. Hamas insists on launching rockets into Israel and then cries foul when Israel responds in kind. Russia continues to sow the seeds of revolution in Ukraine, seeking to disrupt and destabilize that nation. Extremists in Nigeria kidnap women and children. Christians are being singled and attacked for their faith.

                In our own country, morality has been made subservient to legality. Rather than have the courage to take a moral stand, we pass laws to protect those who choose the path of immorality. People are being taken to court for exercising their constitutional and moral right to live according to their religious convictions.

                The Bible warns us that we can expect the arrogance of sinful people to take center stage. Paul warned Timothy to be on his guard against this moral, tidal change. 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 (NIV)

                The Apostle Peter also sounded the warning about what was coming. He called for believers to stand firm in the face of growing opposition. Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.  As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do--living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.  They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.  For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit. 1 Peter 4:1-6 (NIV)

                In the face of the almost daily decay of our world, it is easy to get discouraged and lose heart. It seems like Satan and evil are winning and that we are powerless to stop it. But all is not lost!

                Today, in my devotions, I read Psalm 2. It is extremely relevant to our day. As I read these verses, I couldn’t help but think of what is going on in our world today. The arrogance of humanity continues to grow. We continue to throw off restraint and move toward anarchy. But God is not threatened by this tempest in a teacup. He shakes His head at those who shake their fist at Him. He is still firmly in control, and His plan and purpose will prevail. Psalm 2 is a resounding word of hope for all who put their trust in Christ.

                Psalm 2:1-12 (NIV)
                Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One. "Let us break their chains," they say, "and throw off their fetters."
                The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, "I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill."
                I will proclaim the decree of the Lord: He said to me, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery."
                Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
                Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

                God laughs at the arrogance of humanity. For all of our perceived power, we are no match for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Jesus has already won the ultimate victory over sin and death. Satan is whipping up the world in violent protest against Christ’s rule and reign. But he cannot prevail. He is already a defeated enemy.  Jesus is building His church, and the gates of Hell cannot prevail against it.

                Satan is going to do whatever he can to make things uncomfortable for us. As we draw closer and closer to the return of Christ, we can expect Satan to continue to disrupt our world. In the face of this, we can stand firm in the confidence we have in Christ. We can continue to fight the battles that are before us, knowing that no matter what happens, we will prevail in the end.

                As we stand shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters in Christ, we can still make a significant difference for all of eternity. Therefore…
                    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, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
                 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:8-11 (NIV)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


                There were two significant deaths yesterday. One made the headlines and the other will not. One was a tragic end to a turbulent life. The other was a peaceful end to a triumphant life. For the one, all people can do is look back. For the other we can look forward.

                No matter how it comes or when it comes, death is always a difficult, painful experience. When a person dies outside of faith in Christ, their death brings remorse and leaves us without hope. When a person dies in Christ, we can celebrate both their life and the hope we have that one day we will be reunited with them in heaven.

                Paul reminds us that, for the believer, death is not the end of the story. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
    Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.

                For the believer, death is the gateway to the full experience of eternal life. John 14:1-3
    "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.

                For the believer, death is truly the birth process into our glorious hope in Christ. We will be transformed to be like Christ. We will no longer struggle with sin or pain. We will be truly free.
                Philip. 3:20-21
    But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

                Rev. 21:1-4
    Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

                There were two significant deaths yesterday. We should grieve them both. But one leads us down the path of mourning without hope. A life story that ended with a definitive period. The other invites us to celebrate a life that will continue in the presence of Christ forever. For betty’s life on earth didn’t end with a period, but with a comma. For the story goes on.

Thursday, August 7, 2014


                I can be impatient at times. I don’t like to wait for things to develop. Instead, I want them to come together quickly, seamlessly and effortlessly. My desire is far from reality. All of life is a process, which we cannot rush or sidestep. Often the process is slow, even though certain aspects of the process happen rapidly. A strategic decision is made, then the process of implementation takes over. We can see where we want to be, but it is often much farther away than we realize.

                Back in 1991 a movie was released titled “What About Bob?” starring Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss. Bob (Bill Murray) is an overly dependent, manipulative, obsessive/compulsive who comes to a well-known psychotherapist (Dreyfuss). In an attempt to help Bob make significant progress, Dr. Marvin tells Bob that he needs to take baby steps. This becomes a recurring theme throughout the rest of the movie.

                As I was running the other day, I thought about that idea of baby steps. As I passed each ½ mile mark on my run, I checked my time. It gave me a sense of how I was doing. I also reminded me that, in order to reach my goal, I had to cover every inch of the distance. It is impossible to leap from mile 0 to mile 6 in one fell swoop.

                We are moving through some significant changes at our church. I know where we are and I can see where we want to be. The problem is that there is a massive gulf between the two. I want to quickly make the leap, but that is not going to happen. Instead, we need to take many baby steps that will move us incrementally toward our goal.

                On our recent family vacation, we visited the H.H. Bennett museum in Wisconsin Dells. Bennett is reputed to be the first, true photojournalist. He chronicled the life of the Ho Chunk Indians. He is also credited with turning the Dells into a popular vacation place through his amazing photos. One of his most famous photos is a picture of his son leaping from one rock to another over a wide gap. It is called Leaping the Chasm at Stand Rock. In the museum, there is a place where the gap at Stand Rock is depicted on the floor. Visitors are encouraged to take the leap. I leapt, and I perished.

                Often, that is the way it is in real life. When we try to rush forward and make things happen quickly, we crash. Instead, we need to learn to take baby steps toward the goal.

                God has His timing, and His timing is perfect. We cannot rush what God is doing, yet we need to be ready to move when the time is right. One of the hardest lessons to learn is waiting on the Lord’s timing. The Psalmist David expressed our need to demonstrate our trust on God by waiting in Psalm 27.    Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27:14)

                As we wait for the Lord, we also must be faithful to do what He has already called us to do. Waiting on the Lord is never passive. It is actively positioning ourselves to be used by God. Jesus talked about this in Matthew 24. Jesus made it clear that we cannot figure out God’s timing. The Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. Therefore, we need to be ready when that day arrives. So Jesus commands us to be busy doing what we know we should do.

                "Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.” Matthew 24:45-47

                This brings me back to baby steps. I can get weary doing the routine things that I know God wants me to do. I would rather have exciting, wow experiences. I would rather run ahead to the end goal. But I will never reach my God given destination by running ahead. Instead I have to be faithful to do what the Master has charged me with doing, even though it seems at time to be cruelly slow progress.

                Our world is all about speed, but our God is not. Our world is all about flashy excitement, but our God is about faithful service. Our world is in a hurry to get to the future even though it does not understand where that path is leading. God takes His time to lead us in the way we should go.

                Right now I want to take a huge leap forward, but I know, in my heart, that I need to keep taking baby steps in the right direction. The huge leap can be exciting at the moment, but it can have less than desirable consequences. Baby steps will get me to the goal, in God’s time.

Let us not become weary in doing good,
for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:9