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 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.