Tuesday, December 15, 2015


                There is something about the Christmas season that stirs up my emotions. I find myself getting teary eyed over relatively insignificant things. Every time I hear “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” I get choked up. A beautiful light display can bring tears to my eyes. On Sunday, as we were singing some familiar Christmas songs, I had to stop several times to catch my breath and regain my composure. There is something very powerful about this season of the year.

                Although having my emotions stirred up makes me uncomfortable, I am thankful for it as well. It demonstrates the power of the Christmas story to get behind our defenses and touch our heart. One of the big problems with Christmas is not the commercialism, but the familiarity. It is a story known around the world. People who have nothing to do with the church can tell you the Christmas story. Because this story is so familiar, it can lose its significance. For many people, the Christmas story is a nice fairy tale to tell to children, but not something to be taken seriously. The message of Christmas has been diluted to peace and love, with no mention of a need for a Savior.

                The amazing thing about Christmas is that God won’t allow it to fade into the shadows. He continues to work around people’s defenses to reach callused hearts. Christmas makes people think. It catches them off guard at times. It stirs a long forgotten emotion within them. The truth about Jesus won’t go away.

                Matthew and Luke give us the details of the story. They are the framework upon which Christmas hangs. But it is John who goes behind the story to give us the heart of God’s message to us. This was no ordinary baby born in a stable. This was the very Creator of the world, taking his place within His creation. This was no sight-seeing trip for God’s amusement. This was a spiritual invasion, with the purpose of recapturing the hearts of humanity. This is not a nice children’s story, but an escalation of the struggle between good and evil; between God and Satan.

                In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. John 1:1-5

                He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.
                The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:10-14

                The central message of Christmas is not peace on earth. It is “unto you today, in the City of David, a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord.” 

Thursday, December 3, 2015


                We live in a world filled with noise. All around us is a cacophony of sound. We are bombarded with many conflicting messages. We live with constant information overload. As a response to this attack on our ears, we have developed several defense mechanisms.

                One of the most common defense mechanisms is selective hearing. We develop a sophisticated set of filters that only allows certain things to penetrate. The rest is filtered out. This is very common in the political arena, as well as common discourse. Paul warned us about this in 2 Timothy 4:3 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.

                Another defense mechanism is to just shut out all of the noise. We see people doing this in a very tangible way. We have all seen someone walking down the street, ear buds in place, oblivious to what is going on around them. Bose has developed noise cancelling head phones that will allow a person to sit in virtual silence, even while surrounded by noise. In a spiritual sense, many people have done this very thing. The writer of Hebrews warns us against following this course of action. See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. As has just been said: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion." Hebrews 3:12-15

                The third common defense mechanism is to fight noise with noise. It is common today to just shout louder than the other guy. Instead of meaningful dialog, whoever can broadcast their message the loudest wins; or so they believe. At the end of Paul’s summary of our world’s spiritual condition, he hits on this tactic. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. Romans 1:32  It has rightly been stated that a lie repeated enough times is taken as the truth.

                The counterpoint to all of these approaches is to learn to truly listen. Listening is far more than hearing. It is taking in the information, processing it, and responding in appropriate ways.

                The place where we need to start is tuning our ears to the voice of God. The Psalmist understood this clearly.  "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." Psalm 46:10 Until we take the time to listen to God’s voice, we cannot put anything into its proper order.

                God reinforced our need to listen on the Mount of Transfiguration.  After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
    Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters--one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah."
    While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!" Matthew 17:1-5

                Peter and the other disciples with him were overwhelmed by what they saw. They didn’t really know how to act. So in true form, Peter decided to take matters into his own hands. God stepped in and stopped Peter in his tracks. You can almost hear God says, “Peter, stop talking and listen!”

                Our need to genuinely listen must be transferred to our relationships with others as well. We most often get into trouble when we fail to listen. James challenged us to listen first and act later. My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. James 1:19-20

                It is easy to hear, but hard to listen. We all need to develop a listening ear so that we can hear the Master’s voice when He speaks.  "I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice." John 10:1-5


Wednesday, December 2, 2015


My wife and I just returned from some vacation time. We visited our son and daughter-in-law and got to meet our first grandchild, Levi Spencer. It was awesome. As a part of our trip, we visited another close friend in Cincinnati, Ohio. We went to church with him and heard a challenging message about responding to the Holy Spirit. As I have reflected upon that talk, I thought about how important it is that we keep our head in the game, spiritually. So hear are just a few thoughts along that line.


                We are rapidly coming to the end of the college football season. A sad time for some of us. Most teams are already looking ahead to next season. Some are looking ahead to next week. One of the dangers for every player in college football at this time of the year is to get distracted. They may get distracted by the possibility of going to a Bowl Game. They may get distracted by the disappointment of a less than great season. Whatever the cause, a distracted player makes mistakes that often cost his team.

                This time of the year, it is very easy for us to get distracted by all the busyness and demands of the season. The Christmas season is amazing; it holds many delights for us. It is a time when people are more open to spiritual things. It is also, at times, overwhelming.  We can get so caught up in the season that we lose our perspective. We can lose our opportunity to shine the light of Christ into our world.

                I think it is great that Thanksgiving precedes Christmas. It gives us a reason to stop and reflect upon our lives before we rush into “The Holidays.” Thanksgiving can help us adjust our perspective on life. It can help us keep our head in the game.

                In 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul challenges his readers to keep their head in the game. Look at what he has to say.

                Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
                Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.
                May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

                As Paul concludes this letter, he uses a number of short, pithy statements to help his readers stay focused spiritually. In these statements are words of encouragement, challenge and instruction. They are the final words of a coach before he sends his team onto the field. You can almost hear Paul saying, “People, keep your head in the game.”

                With all that is going on in our world today, it is imperative that we keep our head in the game. We need to counter discouragement with the joy and hope we have in Christ. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to light a spiritual fire within us that will move us from paralyzing fear to bold encounter with our world. We need to yield to the sanctifying work of God in our lives, as He reshapes our lives for His glory.   

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


                The recent attacks on Paris have rekindled much of the anxiety, confusion and anger we all felt after 9/11. Our first response is one of retaliation and retribution. France has responded in just such a fashion. God has placed the sword in the hand of the State to exercise justice. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. (Romans 13:4)
                But as followers of Christ, how are we to respond? Should we be taking matters into our own hands to protect ourselves from these threats? The answer we get from the Bible is a resounding no! There are several key principles that need to guide us in times like this.

                First, remember that we are in a spiritual battle that is acted out in our temporal world. Paul tells us, in Ephesians 6, that our enemy is not other people, but evil forces that are directing them. 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. (Ephesians 6:12) These terrorists have been deceived by Satan. They are blind to the truth and are following a destructive lie. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4) They are responsible for their actions, but they are also victims of  Satan’s deceit.

                As followers of Christ, we need to take a radically different path from the world. We need to leave justice in God’s hands and seek to “capture” as many of Satan’s troops as possible.  Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21) It is our responsibility to demonstrate, in tangible ways, the truth of the Gospel; the only truly effective weapon against all forms of terrorism.  

                We cannot change the course of nations or terrorist movements on our own. But we can change the course of individual lives. Every person that we rescue from the Kingdom of Darkness is one less terrorist in the world. Our greatest and most powerful weapon is God’s truth.  For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5) We cannot change people with force from the outside. Genuine change comes only through a transformed heart and mind.

                The major tactic of terrorists is to control through fear. If we give in to fear, Satan wins. The major tactic of Christ is to conquer through love. If we will reach out in love, to one person at a time, Christ will win. The global situation is complicated and will continue to involve military power. The local situation is simple: Love your neighbor as yourself.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


                I have multiple pairs of inexpensive reading glasses that I have scattered throughout my office and my home. There is a pair next to my computer and next to my Bible and devotional books in my office. There is a pair on my night stand and on the end table next to the recliner in my living room. In addition, I have extra pairs stashed in a couple of draws and my briefcase. Whenever I want to read, there is a pair close at hand.

                Because these reading glasses remain undisturbed for periods of time, they tend to get dusty, and (somehow) develop smudges. Often, when I put on a pair to read, things are a little fuzzy. At that point I realize that I have to clean the lenses so that I can see clearly again. It is amazing what a difference a clean lens can make.

                Our world view is like the lenses in my reading glasses.  The purpose of our worldview is to help us to see life clearly. It is to help us to interpret what we are experiencing and make sense out of it. But, our worldview often sits around unexamined for periods of time. Like the lenses on my reading glasses, our worldview can become obscured. Instead of seeing life clearly, our perspective becomes fuzzy. It is important that we clean the lens of our worldview  on a regular basis.

                Everyone has a worldview. Most people do not give much thought to it. Therefore, their worldview is controlled and often distorted by the prevailing culture. Our worldview is based on a set of presuppositions that become the filter through which we interpret life. These presuppositions operate in the background of our mind. It is not that we are unaware of them, but we often do not consciously think them through. Most people’s presuppositions have never been truly tested. They have been handed down from generation to generation, without much careful scrutiny.

                As followers of Christ, it is essential that we not only know the foundations of our worldview, but that we are regularly cleaning our lenses and sharpening our focus. There are at least three major presuppositions that we need to keep before us, if we are going to be secure in our worldview. They are that God exists, that God is for us, and that God is in control. These are foundational to our understanding of life and the world around us.

                Hebrews stresses the first two of these foundational pillars. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6) The starting place for our worldview is the reality that God is real and that He is the author of all we know. “In the beginning, God…” But God is not some distant, uncaring entity that has lost interest in the world He created. He is actively interacting with our world because He cares about us. "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)

                It is also important that we remember that God has always been, and still is, in control. Nothing happens in this world that God is unaware of. Nothing happens in this world that God has not either directed or allowed. Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21)

                There are many other things that go into making up our worldview, but these three are pivotal. Even as we affirm these foundational truths, it is possible for our worldview to get smudged and cloudy. The realities of life constantly challenge our faith and cloud our perspective. So we need to regularly clean the lens of our heart to be able to stay focused.

                There are at least two things we can do the accomplish this. First, we need to stay focused on Christ and not circumstances. It is a little like crossing one of those hanging bridges over a deep ravine. In order to get to the other side, you have to stay focused on the end of the bridge. Don’t look down!  In the same way, we need to keep our eyes on Jesus and not the circumstances around us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:2-3)

                The second thing we can do to keep our lens clean is be wise about what we allow into our hearts and minds. The things we allow to dominate our thinking shape us more than we realize. By focusing on the negative things of this world, our spiritual lens becomes dull and cloudy. We yield to the discouragement and despair of the world. Instead, we should constantly be filling our minds with the things that will lift us above the circumstances of life. Paul makes this clear in Philippians 4:4-8.
    Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
    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.

                As I write these word, I realize that there is a smudge on my glasses. It is time to clean my lenses again. I keep a small, cleaning kit in my desk drawer for that specific purpose. Learning to daily clean our spiritual lenses is a discipline that will pay benefits both now and for all of eternity. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015


                As a part of my daily devotions, I have been reading J. Mark Bertrand’s book (Re)Thinking Worldview and Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. Throughout the years I have been amazed at how God aligns my reading to guide me in a certain direction. So today, the chapter I read in Bertrand dealt with understanding wisdom from a biblical point of view. When I picked up Grudem, and turned to my bookmark, the topic was the wisdom of God! I think this is not a coincidence.

                Bertrand introduces the idea of understanding wisdom with the story of Solomon. When Solomon became the king of Israel, replacing his father David, God came to him in a vision. God offered Solomon whatever he wanted; virtually a blank check. What Solomon asked for was wisdom to rule God’s people well. Here is Solomon’s request, as recorded in 1 Kings 3:6-9.

                Solomon answered, "You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.
                "Now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?"

                In Solomon’s request, we see the biblical definition of wisdom. Wisdom means having a discerning heart to know what to do and when to do it, and having the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. These two concepts go hand in hand. They clearly define what true wisdom looks like. True wisdom is practical. It is not being able to spout clever or profound statements. It is knowing what the right thing is to do and doing it. This practical side is governed by an ultimate, moral standard. That standard is not created by humanity, but is determined by God as an outworking of His character.

                We live in a world that has lost its grasp of wisdom because we have lost our grasp of right and wrong, good and evil. Without an ultimate standard of good and evil there can be no morality. Without an ultimate standard of right and wrong there can be no wisdom. What we are left with is what is pragmatic or pleasurable. In our world today we start with the action and work backwards. Because this works or because this makes me feel good, then this is right. That is faulty logic. We have been set adrift in a sea of competing pleasures and pragmatic purposes that war with one another.

                All genuine wisdom must begin with truth; not relative truth, ultimate truth. Ultimate truth must come from outside of us, not from our own imaginations. Therefore ultimate truth sends us back to the source of life itself. Jesus is the ultimate source of life and all that it holds. Only in Jesus can we discover genuine wisdom. Jesus made it very clear in John 14:6 when he said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

                Genuine wisdom is knowing right from wrong and knowing how to apply that knowledge in practical ways in our everyday lives. The ultimate standard for right and wrong comes from God, the creator of all that is. If we want to be truly wise, we need to submit to God’s ultimate standard. Everything else is thinly veiled foolishness.


 I highly recommend J. Mark Bertrand's book (RE)THINKING WORLDVIEW published by Crossway Press.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


                The computer I am using to write this article is running the Windows 10 operating system. The purpose of an operating system is to unify the functions of a computer in order to minimize internal conflicts. (At least that is the idea.) The operating system runs in the background, but it controls how the computer works. It will allow me to do certain things and it will not allow me to do other things. When I purchase a new program, I need to be sure that it is Windows 10 compatible.

                Our faith is like the operating system of a computer. It should always be running in the background of our life. Our faith is intended to unify the operations of our life around the new life we have in Christ. It becomes the filter through which we evaluate the “programs” we allow to be installed in our life. As we face the various choices placed before us, we should always ask the question, is this compatible with my faith in Christ?

                Too often today, faith is divorced from everyday life. Many people have compartmentalized their faith, so that it does not intersect with their day to day living. We are constantly being told that faith is a private matter; that it has no place in the public forum. This is a fatal error of thinking. If our faith is not integrated into everything that we do, then our faith is meaningless. We cannot have a private, intellectual faith in Christ, and then live by the values and standards of the world. That would be like trying to run Apple programs on a Windows system. They are just not compatible.

                Jesus made it clear that we must choose which operating system we are going to follow. We cannot live with one foot in the world and one in the Kingdom of God. "No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." (Luke 16:13)

                Once we have chosen to put our faith in Jesus, then the way we live our lives should reflect that faith. My favorite book in the Bible is James. I like James, because he is straight forward; he pulls no punches. James challenges us to live out a practical faith that matters in our everyday lives. He gives no quarter to a private faith that is hidden from view.  Faith, if it is genuine, needs to be practical, not just theoretical. What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:14-17)

                Christ wants our faith in Him to shape every aspect of our lives. It should be evident in how we treat one another, how we do business, how we conduct our daily work. Paul saw faith in Christ as the operating system behind everything that we do. 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. (Colossians 3:17)

                The message of the Bible is clear; faith in Christ is to be lived out in a public, practical way for all to see. It should be evident in our attitudes and our actions, not just in our words.  "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

                How is your operating system working? A faith that really matters influences every aspect of life. We all have some incompatible programs running in our lives. It may be time to clean up our spiritual hard drive and realign everything with our faith in Christ. Because, how we live our lives matters. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


                When I was growing up, as for many of you, Halloween was just a fun event for children. We did not think ghouls and goblins were real, so it was all make-believe fun. In fact our church often had a Halloween party in the basement of the church with games and food and candy.

                Today, Halloween has taken on a much more sinister and evil persona. Although many children see it still as a fun night to dress up and go door to door gathering candy, adults have co-opted the evening for less innocent activities. The emphasis on evil spirits and witches has lent a satanic bent on the event. Secular people who laugh at the idea of a real spirit world, use the night for uninhibited revelry, often with negative consequences.

                So how did this whole thing get started. Why is there a Halloween? The answer may surprise you. Halloween actually has its roots in the Church. Halloween falls on the evening before the Christian holy days of All Hallows' Day, also known as All Saints' Day, on 1 November and All Souls' Day on 2 November, thus giving the holiday on 31 October the full name of All Hallows' Eve (meaning the evening before All Hallows' Day). Since the time of the primitive Churchmajor feasts in the Christian Church had vigils which began the night before, as did the feast of All Hallows'. 

                These three days are collectively referred to as Allhallowtide and are a time for honoring the saints and praying for the recently departed souls who have yet to reach Heaven. All Saints was introduced in the year 609, but was originally celebrated on 13 May. In 835, it was switched to 1 November at the behest of Pope Gregory IV.  On All Hallows' Eve, Christians in some parts of the world visit graveyards to pray and place flowers and candles on the graves of their loved ones.

                By the end of the 12th century these three days had become holy days of obligation across Europe and involved such traditions as ringing church bells for the souls in purgatory. In addition, "it was customary for criers dressed in black to parade the streets, ringing a bell of mournful sound and calling on all good Christians to remember the poor souls."

                 "Souling", the custom of baking and sharing soul cakes for all christened souls, has been suggested as the origin of trick-or-treating. The custom dates back at least as far as the 15th century and was found in parts of England, Belgium, Germany, Austria and Italy. Groups of poor people, often children, would go door-to-door during Allhallowtide, collecting soul cakes, in exchange for praying for the dead, especially the souls of the givers' friends and relatives. Shakespeare mentions the practice in his comedy The Two Gentlemen of Verona .

                 The custom of wearing costumes has been explained by Prince Sorie Conteh, who wrote: "It was traditionally believed that the souls of the departed wandered the earth until All Saints' Day, and All Hallows' Eve provided one last chance for the dead to gain vengeance on their enemies before moving to the next world. In order to avoid being recognized by any soul that might be seeking such vengeance, people would don masks or costumes to disguise their identities".

                 In the Middle Ages, churches displayed the relics of martyred saints and those parishes that were too poor to have relics let parishioners dress up as the saints instead, a practice that some Christians continue in Halloween celebrations today.
                 Folklorist Kingsley Palmer has suggested that the carved jack-o'-lantern, a popular symbol of Halloween, originally represented the souls of the dead. On Halloween, in medieval Europe, "fires were lit to guide these souls on their way and deflect them from haunting honest Christian folk." In addition, households in Austria, England, and Ireland often had "candles burning in every room to guide the souls back to visit their earthly homes". These were known as "soul lights". 

                Many Christians in continental Europe, especially in France, acknowledged "a belief that once a year, on Hallowe'en, the dead of the churchyards rose for one wild, hideous carnival," known as the danse macabre, which has been commonly depicted in church decoration, especially on the walls of cathedrals, monasteries, and cemeteries.  The danse macabre urged people not to forget the end of all earthly things." This danse macabre, which was enacted by "Christian village children who celebrated the vigil of All Saints" in the 16th Century, has been suggested as the predecessor of modern-day costume parties on this same day.

                In parts of Britain, these customs came under attack during the Reformation as some Protestants berated purgatory as a "popish" doctrine incompatible with the notion of predestination. Thus, for some Nonconformist Protestants, the theology of All Hallows’ Eve was redefined; without the doctrine of purgatory, "the returning souls cannot be journeying from Purgatory on their way to Heaven, as Catholics frequently believe and assert. Instead, the so-called ghosts are thought to be in actuality evil spirits. As such they are threatening." Other Protestants maintained belief in an intermediate state, known as Hades and continued to observe the original customs, especially souling, candlelit processions and the ringing of church bells in memory of the dead.

                 With regard to the evil spirits, on Halloween, "barns and homes were blessed to protect people and livestock from the effect of witches, who were believed to accompany the malignant spirits as they traveled the earth." In the 19th century, in some rural parts of England, families gathered on hills on the night of All Hallows' Eve. One held a bunch of burning straw on a pitchfork while the rest knelt around him in a circle, praying for the souls of relatives and friends until the flames went out.

                Many Evangelicals today want to distance themselves from Halloween, for many different reasons. I am not advocating for Halloween, but I think it can serve as a reminder to us of some truths we so easily forget.

                All of us have come to faith on the shoulders of those saints who have gone before us. The Bible is clear that every believer is a saint. The term saint refers to anyone who has responded to God’s offer of salvation and by God’s grace has been set apart for His service. It is all too common today for church members to be ignorant of church history in general and denominational history specifically. The danger of this is that we cut ourselves loose from the spiritual foundation upon which our faith is built. We begin to believe that our generation is the only one who understands the truth and that history has nothing to teach us. In that we are sadly mistaken. Many churches are in danger of giving up certain fundamental practices and beliefs because they don’t understand how and why they came to be.

                The writer of Hebrews stressed the importance of remaining connected with those who have run the race before us. In Hebrews 11, he goes to great lengths to remind us of our spiritual heritage. Then he begins chapter 12 with these words. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1

                Another thing that we have lost as a society is our connection to family. Not just our immediate family, but to our historical family. We tend to live such isolated, independent lives that we give little thought to our personal history. Understanding where we have come from and what influences have shaped our lives is essential for being a whole person. None of us was born into a vacuum; we were all born into a family, warts and all. Many families today are seeking to rediscover their roots.

                When my parents stayed with us this past summer, they brought with them quite a cache of old family photos. Many of them were from when I was growing up, but a number of them reached farther back. I was, for the first time, able to really hear the story of my Dad’s half brother who was killed in WWII. For the first time I saw a picture of him, which I now have. Delving back into our family history can help us understand ourselves better.

                In the Old Testament, honoring and respecting one’s family and heritage was very important. The Jews kept meticulous records of family connections all the way back to the patriarchs. This was especially true for the priests and Levites. In fact, nestled in the center of the ten commandments is the command to honor your father and mother. This command extended well beyond the nuclear family.

                There is one other truth that Halloween should remind us of; the reality of the spiritual world, both good and evil. There is a whole spiritual realm of angels and demons that are actively involved in our world. We most often live oblivious to this reality. That does not diminish its influence. The Bible speaks often of God sending his angels to guide and protect his people. It also speaks of the evil spirits in the world that seek to do harm to God’s people. Paul reminds us of this in Ephesians 6:12. 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. Paul goes on to tell us to take this seriously by putting on the whole armor of God so we can take our stand against such evil forces.  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 6:13

                We often see ancient times and primitive societies as superstitious and backward. In our scientific age, we tend to discount anything that cannot be tested in some tangible way. But in many ways, those who we view as primitive were and are more in tune with the spiritual realities of this world than we are. We often deny what the Bible clearly teaches is a present reality.

                There are many inappropriate and even evil aspects to Halloween, as it is observed today. There is also still an innocent, playful aspect as well. But behind it there is some spiritual truth. We are not on this journey through life alone. We are connected with our fellow travelers from the past, the present and the future.

    Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3

(Historical data obtained from Wikipedia)     

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


Isaiah 40:31
…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
    They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

                Sunday was a test of endurance for me. I lined up, in the crisp morning air, with several thousand other anxious runners. You could feel the energy as each person mentally prepared themselves for what was ahead. I never heard the gun go off, but suddenly the mass of humanity began to slowly surge forward. As we crossed the starting line, I started my watch and began to jog.

                I had set a goal of finishing the race in 2:15. Because of various health issues, I had been unable to adequately train for this race. It was something I had anticipated all summer, so I was determined to give it my best. I ran with the 2:10 pace runner for the first mile, then gradually pulled ahead. At each mile marker I checked my watch to see how I was doing. For the first five miles my pace increased, so that I was running 9:30 miles. Not bad I thought. Then the pain in my feet started. During miles six through eight my pace slowed to about 10:30 miles. After mile eight, I stopped paying attention. The pain in my feet was pretty bad and I started experiencing pain in my hips. I pushed on, reciting scripture and singing choruses in my head. I didn’t have the energy to do it out loud.

                After mile eight, I started  walking some to relieve the pain. At mile ten, I began pleading (yes pleading) with God to give me the strength to finish the race. I walked through every water stop and up every hill. I used the downhills and the flats to make up some time. When I passed mile twelve, I determined to jog it in the rest of the way, pain or no pain. When the finish line came clearly into view, I gave everything I had left and sprinted across the finish. I crossed the line at 2:19:54.

                The Christian life is like running a marathon; a really long marathon. Most of us begin this spiritual race with much energy and enthusiasm. But soon, the reality of the race sets in. We try to find our pace, but at times it is difficult. We encounter hills that test our stamina. We experience pain, which tests our endurance. And we are tempted to stop short of the goal, which tests our perseverance.

                There are times in this spiritual race when we will soar. We will feel the power of God flowing through us as He uses us in some dynamic way. There are significant stretches when we will run the race. These are what we might see as the normal or routine aspects of our spiritual journey. There is nothing extremely exciting and nothing extremely demanding. We have found our pace and are making steady progress. We may get tired, but we press on. Then there are times when we feel like we cannot go any farther. Our progress slows to a crawl and we struggle just to keep moving. It is at those times when we experience the power of God most vividly. When we think we cannot go on, He gives us the energy to persevere.

                God uses every aspect of our spiritual race to refine us. His goal is to make us whole and holy people who reflect His glory in the world. James reminds us that this refining process is a struggle, but a struggle worth fighting through. 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

                Success in this race of life is not measured by how fast you run, but by running well and finishing strong. There will be times when we get tired and question if it is really worth the effort. But if we will push through those times, we will become stronger and we will be rewarded. During this spiritual marathon there will be times when we soar, times when we run , and times when we walk. The most important thing for us is to finish the race well. 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

                I did not run my best race on Sunday, but I ran the best race I could on that day. Not every day of our spiritual race will be a highlight, but every day deserves the best that we can give on that day. So let us soar and run and walk, for the glory of God, until that day when we cross the final finish line.

Thursday, October 15, 2015


                There is an old saying; opportunity only knocks once. I’m not sure that the statement is true, but there is some wisdom in the unspoken message it carries. When an opportunity presents itself, take action. I have to confess that I am often slow on the uptake. Before I realize that I have been presented with an opportunity, the door has closed.

                God opens the door of opportunity for us multiple times every day. Many of these opportunities seem small at the time, and so it is easy to miss them. They fly by and then, after the fact, we think, I should have said this or done that, but it is too late. I am speaking from personal experience.

                Paul understood the importance of keeping our eyes open to the opportunities we have to be ambassadors for Jesus. He mentions this concept in both Ephesians and Colossians.
                Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:15-16
                Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:5-6
                Paul highlights three aspects of what it means to take advantage of the opportunities we encounter.

                Be wise in the way we live our lives. It is not trite to remind ourselves that our actions speak so much louder than our words. Whether we realize it or not, people are watching us. They are watching how we conduct ourselves at work, in the community and at home. Their opinion of us is formed long before we get the chance to engage them in conversation.

                Be wise in the way we interact with unbelievers. Paul says that our conversation needs to be filled with grace and seasoned with salt. Christians today are characterized as stiff, joyless and contrary. We can change that image by being people of grace. We can show grace by being quick to help others, quick to encourage others, and quick to forgive others. When we treat other people with respect and compassion, we can make a positive impression.
                In addition, we need to engage unbelievers in such a way that they become thirsty for what we have. The idea of seasoning our conversation with salt carries at least two important concepts. Salt makes food taste better. Our conversation should make the Gospel attractive, not repulsive. Salt also makes us thirsty. That is why the popcorn at movie theaters is usually over-salted. Our lives need to make others thirsty to know what makes us tick. 

                Be ready to act. This is the place where we often fail. The thing that holds us back is fear. Fear of being misunderstood. Fear of being rejected. Fear of offending. Fear of being dismissed or laughed at. Fear is a powerful de-motivator. We need the courage to live counter-cultural lives; to stand out in a crowd in a good way. If we take the risk to speak and act in God-honoring ways, there will be those who respond negatively, but there will also be those who respond positively. In these evil days, more than ever, we need to courageously stand for the cause of Christ.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015


                He sat before the blank canvas for just a moment, staring at its emptiness. Then, with a twinkle in his eye, he picked up his brush and dipped it into the paint. He began with bold strokes that at first glance looked like nothing more than chaotic lines marring the clean surface of the canvas. Surveying what he had done, he laid done his brush and picked up another. This one was smaller and created finer lines. With it he began to transform the chaos into more meaningful shapes.

                The formless chaos was transformed into a beautiful landscape. Skillfully he added definition the canvas. A blue patch was transformed into a body of water. A brown line became a beach. The blotches of green became rolling hills. What had been independent strokes of the brush were blended into a unified whole. To the original bold colors, the artist added variation and new shades, blending shapes together and redefining each image. He paused for a moment to gaze at his work. Smiling he dipped his brush in paint thinner and meticulously cleaned its fine bristles.

                Picking up another brush, the artist starting adding more detail. Trees adorned the rolling hills. Open spaces were transformed into waving fields of grass. Flowers of various colors emerged with the skillful stroke of his brush. Soon the canvas was alive with color and texture. Each new object was purposefully put in place. Each object was adorned with meticulous detail, as if it was the most important part of the painting. Leaning back on his stool, the artist examined his work with a critical eye.

                The artist took a deep breath and reached for a clean brush. He looked carefully at the landscape before him, and then, dipping his brush in paint, he leaned forward. Gently, he added the form of a deer, just emerging from the edge of the wood. At the edge of the water, he placed a wolf, leaning forward to lap up the cool water. He placed a majestic eagle soaring effortlessly in the sky above.  Out in the lake, he included a trout, just breaking the surface of the water with its back. On a tree in the field, he added a family of tiny sparrows. And, in the corner, he added an owl, almost invisible on the branch of an old oak tree.

                Again the artist leaned back and looked intently at his painting. He stood up and stretch his back. He took several steps away from the canvas and took in the whole scene. The canvas was full, but not crowded. There was form and symmetry, but it was not stiff and linear. There was life in the artist’s work. A smile of pleasure flowed across his face.

                After a few moments of contemplation, the artist seated himself before the canvas. Taking his brush in hand, he placed the figure of a man working out in the field. Near the edge of the water, he placed a woman washing clothes. Under a tree, he placed two small children playing with a puppy. He paused to take in all that he had painted. Then, with great intentionality, he added one last figure are the very center of the painting; at the very focal point. It was figure of a man, and the face was the face of the artist.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. John 1:1-2

 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


                For the past couple of months, I have been hearing the sounds of construction outside of my office window. I’m not sure what they are doing across the street, but they are busy digging holes, moving dirt and leveling the ground. By the amount of time and energy that has been expended, I must assume that this is a major project.

                Given all of the negative things going on in our world, it is easy for us to become discouraged and disheartened. It is painful to pick up the newspaper or listen to the news. It seems like Satan is having his way in the world. He is on a demolition course; tearing down morals, values and society. As Christians, we can be tempted to throw up our hands and say, what’s the use of trying?

                It is at times like this that we need to stop and take a look at the big picture. As followers of Christ, we are part of building something that will last forever. The outcome of our efforts is assured, even when it looks like the opposite. Sometimes you have to tear some things down in order to move forward. God is allowing some things to be torn down to awaken people to their need for Him. Many of the systems that the world has looked to for guidance and security are crumbling. Superficial faith is being challenged. People are looking for something more solid, more secure to hold onto. We can lead them in the right direction.

                When Peter gave his inspired confession of faith, in Matthew 16, Jesus responded with an amazing promise. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (Matthew 16:18) Jesus was not saying, as some have asserted, that he was going to build His church on Peter. He was saying that He was going to build His church on Peter’s confession of faith. Peter was part of the foundation of the church, but Jesus, and faith in Him, is the cornerstone that holds the church together. The foundation has been laid, and Hell itself cannot prevail against it. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22

                We are part of this amazing building project.  We are living stones in a living temple for God. As you come to him, the living Stone--rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him-- you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4-5) As this living temple, we have the job of connecting people to the Living God through faith in Christ. This temple is under siege, but it will prevail. 

                We are the vessels of God’s glory in the world. He is using us to demonstrate His power in the world.  But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. 2 Corinthians 4:7-12

                It may seem like Satan is winning today, but his efforts are futile. We are part of building something that will last for eternity. There is nothing Satan can do to stop that. So, even when the pressure is on, we can remain confident and secure. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
(2 Corinthians 4:16-18)





Thursday, October 1, 2015


John 10:14-16
 "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me--  just as the Father knows me and I know the Father--and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.

                When we had the ground breaking for our last addition onto our building, I referred to this passage. I talked about how God has placed us in this location to gather His sheep into the fold. We were expanding our building so that we had a larger sheep pen in which to bring the sheep. After my remarks, the architect commented that this was the first time he had ever designed a sheep pen.

                Over the years we have seen God honor our commitment to reach out, not just to our community, but to the world. I was reminded of this blessing on Sunday, as I looked out over a diverse congregation. Our involvement with the International Student Office has allowed us to touch the lives of students from around the world. This has been a great blessing.

                As the Church has grown in the world, there is one distinct group of people who have, for the most part, remained outside of the Church. That group is the Jews; God’s chosen people. There have been Jews who have come to faith in Christ, but not in large numbers. Even those Jews who have recognized Jesus as the Promised Messiah, have retained their distinctiveness within the Church as Messianic Jews.

                In John 10, Jesus promised that His “sheep” would recognize His voice and follow Him. He also promised that He would incorporate all of His sheep into one flock. Paul reminded us, in Ephesians 2, that the barriers of ethnicity, class and gender are removed in the Church. Although these distinctions do not disappear, their power is diminished, as Christ recreates us into one new humanity.

                Something truly amazing has been happening over the past year. Jesus has been awakening Jews to His call. On Sept. 22, Joel C. Rosenberg posted some amazing information on his blog. Here is part of what he had to say.

“Since last Yom Kippur, millions of Jews have begun a quest to find the Messiah. For reasons I cannot fully explain, Jews are suddenly searching for answers to the deepest and most important questions concerning life and death and God and atonement and eternity, in numbers unprecedented in history. Some are searching through the Hebrew Scriptures for answers. A stunning number are actually reading the New Testament, most for the first time. They are searching on Google for information about the Messiah. They are even watching a new series of videos by Jews who claim to have found the answers. The videos — some of which have gone viral — were produced and posted on a new website called www.imetmessiah.com. To me, these are fascinating developments. They certainly aren’t being reported by the media. But they are worth examining.”

                After sharing some insightful comments on Yom Kippur, Joel tells his personal story of coming to faith in Christ. Then he shares the amazing news of what God is doing among the Jewish people.

“When my father, who was raised an Orthodox Jew in Brooklyn, discovered in 1973 — after a careful study of the Gospel According to Luke — that Jesus of Nazareth is the long-awaited Jewish Messiah, and received the Messiah by faith, my father thought he was one of the first Jews in history who believed this. He had never met a Jewish believer in Jesus. He had never heard of such a person. And in 1973, there were fewer than 2,000 Jewish people on the planet who were followers of Jesus.”

“But today, some 300,000 Jews around the world are followers of Jesus. And millions of Jews are searching for the Messiah and thus reading the Hebrew prophecies, and comparing them with the writings of the New Testament, and trying to decide whether Jesus really is the Messiah we have desperately longed for over so many centuries.”

“Today, on Yom Kippur, you can watch short videos of Jewish people explaining how they met the Messiah. More than 10 million people have watched these videos just in the past few months. Remarkably, more than 900,000 Hebrew speakers have watched the Hebrew-language versions of these videos in just the past four months. Given that there are only about 7 million Hebrew speakers in the world today, this means that nearly 1 in 7 of them have recently watched videos by Israeli Jews explaining how they came to discover that Yeshua is our Messiah.”

                It looks like Jesus is calling His sheep and they are responding. Together with us they are becoming a part of God’s new humanity. This is truly an amazing time to be alive and to witness God’s plans being fulfilled before our eyes. 

Saturday, September 26, 2015


   I recently read an editorial in our local newspaper that was talking about the trend in America to elevate personal happiness above everything else. The author summarized her point by saying that we are chasing the pursuit of happiness on steroids.

   Recently in my devotional reading I came across a proverb that seems to speak directly to our age. Proverbs 23:29-35
    Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
        Who has strife? Who has complaints?
        Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? 
    Those who linger over wine,
        who go to sample bowls of mixed wine. 
    Do not gaze at wine when it is red,
        when it sparkles in the cup,
        when it goes down smoothly! 
    In the end it bites like a snake
        and poisons like a viper. 
    Your eyes will see strange sights
        and your mind imagine confusing things. 
    You will be like one sleeping on the high seas,
        lying on top of the rigging. 
    "They hit me," you will say, "but I'm not hurt!
        They beat me, but I don't feel it!
    When will I wake up
        so I can find another drink?"

   This proverb led me to another that addresses the same perspective.
Proverbs 14:12
    There is a way that seems right to a man,
        but in the end it leads to death.

   God must have thought that it was important for us to get this message, because these words are repeated verbatim in Proverbs 16:25.

   We live in a society that wants to throw off restraint and live as if there are no consequences for our actions. The Bible warns us that having that mindset is not a wise course of action.

   Just something to think about!



Ephesians 2:10
For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

                As I was doing my devotions this morning, my mind went back to this verse. The question that came to me was, what are the good works that God prepared for us to do? The first answer that comes to mind relates to spiritual good works; sharing the gospel with others, loving others, teaching others, etc. But is that all that is contained in those words? Could there be a broader application, without violating the original intent of Paul?

                One of the reasons for asking the question is that I believe many people feel inadequate to “do good works”, if we narrowly define them in what we define as spiritual terms. “I can’t preach or teach. I am not an evangelist. Therefore I am a spiritual failure.” I don’t think this was the outcome Paul was looking for. When we define good works only in “spiritual” terms, we eliminate the vast majority of what we do every day. For a person who is serious about living out their faith, this is discouraging and disheartening. Could there be another way to look at this passage that expands our understanding of good works? I think there is.

                Let me see if I can build a credible case. God has had a plan for humanity since before the creation of the world. That plan was that people would live in relationship with Him and would glorify Him by the way they lived their lives. So in the Garden of Eden, before the Fall, God gave Adam and Eve the task of caring for creation. Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." (Genesis 1:26) One of the first specific tasks that God gave to Adam was to care for the garden. The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. (Genesis 2:15) The second specific task that God gave to Adam was to name the animals. Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. (Genesis 2:19) Neither of these specific tasks seem primarily “spiritual” to me, yet they were indeed good works, which God prepared for Adam to do.  By caring for the garden and by naming the animals, Adam was glorifying God.

                If we can fast forward to the building of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, the scriptures tell us that God specifically gave certain people the skill to create designs, to work in wood and metal, and to weave fabric. The purpose for these skills was to create the Tabernacle, but these skills themselves are no exactly what we would identify as spiritual.

                God created humanity in His image to reflect His glory in the world. God has also created each individual to be a unique expression of that glory. We know from personal experience that not all people are the same. We vary in many ways, including our talents and skills, yet we are all image bearers.

                So here is my point. By using my skills and talents well, I am fulfilling God’s eternal plan to do good work for His glory. This does not negate the spiritual dimension, but enhances it. I like to listen to classical music. Many of the great composers dedicated their works to the glory of God. Their music is not necessarily sacred, yet it is an expression of good works. As followers of Christ, we have been given a wide array of gifts, talents and skills. I believe that God wants us to use them, both in the church and in the world, for His glory. It is essential that we share our faith, love one another, and care for the poor. It is also essential that we use the skills and talents God has given to us to the best of our ability and for His glory. God has created a plethora of good works, which He intends for us to engage in, that span the full scope of human experience. This should change the way we view our daily activities. For we are called to do good works, not just when we are engaged in some spiritual activity, but in every aspect of our lives.

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.
Colossians 3:17





Friday, September 25, 2015


                I recently watched a video of a talk by Pastor Tim Keller. He began his talk with the premise that everyone must have a working theory to answer the big questions of life. Everyone needs a foundation upon which to build their life. Without some kind of philosophical or spiritual foundation, life becomes aimless and purposeless. Without a solid foundation, the challenges of life lead to discouragement, hopelessness and despair.
                As followers of Jesus Christ, we have a solid foundation upon which to build. Paul made this clear in Ephesians 2:19-22. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
                Before a builder can build a superstructure, he must assure that the foundation is sound. Recent earthquakes, in several parts of the world, revealed that, although buildings looked substantial from the outside, their foundation was flawed. When the earthquake hit, the building crumbled. In life, the integrity of our personal foundation is tested by the challenges and stresses of real life. Our personal superstructure my look good from the outside, but can it withstand the earthquakes that will inevitably come?
                Many people build their lives on faulty foundations. Some choose to build on the assumption that human beings are basically good, and given the right environment will act appropriately. This foundation is severely threatened by the current events of our day. Some choose to build on the foundation of power and prosperity. But this foundation can easily crumble as well, as political, economic and social tidal waves sweep over our world. Any foundation that leaves God out of the equation is like making concrete without the proper amount of aggregate. It will crumble.
                Paul reminds us that our foundation is solidly based on the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone. Jesus is the ultimate reference point. The Old Testament pointed toward his coming. The New Testament reveals his life, teachings, and impact on our world. The Old and New are held together by Jesus. The foundation of our faith is not static, but dynamic: a living relationship with the Living Lord Jesus.
                Our foundation is so secure, that Jesus confidently asserted that it will withstand the greatest tests of life. "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete." Luke 6:46-49
                Each of us has the responsibility to build our lives upon this foundation. We will not always get it right. Some of our superstructure will be shaky. Hopefully, much of it will be sound. But we can build with confidence, because we know that our foundation is secure.  By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. 1 Corinthians 3:10-15
                There is one important point that we need to consider here. As we build, we are not building on our own. The chief architect of our lives is God himself. He has the ultimate blueprints for the building being constructed. And we are building in cooperation with others. We are being joined together with other believers to build a fitting temple for the very Spirit of God to dwell. This means that our personal plans and designs need to align with the chief architect’s plan.
                We live in a world, filled with many kinds of storms, that daily beat against the foundation of our life and faith. In the midst of these storms, we need to hold onto the solid rock of our faith.

 Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:58