Tuesday, September 27, 2016


                I have been reading God in the Dock, a collection of C.S. Lewis’ essays. The other day I read “Meditation in a Toolshed.” Lewis described being in the semidarkness of a small shed and seeing a beam of light streaming through a crack at the top of the door. As he looked at the sunbeam, he saw particles of dust floating through the air. But when he looked along the sunbeam, he could see the sky and the leaves of a tree swaying in the breeze. His point was that there is a difference between observing something from the outside and experiencing something from within it. He goes on to make the case that we can become objective observers of life and of faith and miss the experience of living life and experiencing our faith.

                The Bible likens our faith to living in the light. Outside of Christ, we are living in darkness, but when we come to faith in Christ, we step into the light. As it says in Ephesians 5:8. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light… The Apostle John picks up on this same theme in 1 John 1:5-7. This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

                Here is my point. There is a difference between observing the light of the gospel from outside of it and living immersed in the light of the gospel. Unfortunately, there are many theologians in our world who are very good at examining the light of the gospel from the outside, but are not walking in the light. They apply the tools of sociology, psychology, philosophy and textual criticism to dissect, analyze and “demythologize” the gospel. They insist on making the gospel conform to society’s current politically correct set of values. They know much about the light, but they continue to walk in darkness.

                Walking in the light is very different. It is allowing the light of God’s word to make sense of the world around us. It is seeing our world through the light, allowing it to clarify and enlighten our understanding of the world. As it says in Psalm 119:105, Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. Instead of looking at the light of the gospel from the perspective of an outside observer, we are to look at our world through the light of the gospel.

                The Gospel is never threatened by close examination. We are encouraged to study and explore God’s word with vigor. But we must be careful not to let knowledge of God’s word sidetrack us from living in God’s word. Paul addressed this in his argument about food sacrificed to idols. Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God. 1 Corinthians 8:1-3

                It is important that we know and understand our faith. Nowhere in scripture are we commanded to have a mindless faith. But, it is more important that we live in the light of our faith, in the real world, even when we don’t fully understand. We should never stop seeking for answers, but we should never let not having all of the answers stop us from living immersed in the light of Christ. 

Friday, September 23, 2016


                A little boy and his father go for a walk in the woods. Before they begin their adventure, the father leans down to the little boy and says, “Son, walk with me.” Setting off down the path, the father begins to point out some of the wonders of the forest. “There is an oak tree. That one is a maple tree. Look at the squirrel running across that branch.”

                At first the little boy stays close to his father, holding his hand. Soon he becomes overwhelmed by the wonderful things he sees. Letting go of his father’s hand, he rushes off the path to retrieve a huge pine cone. With a big smile on his face, he brings it back to show to his father. “That’s nice son. But you need to walk with me.”

                As the two turn a corner on the path, something up ahead catches the boys attention. Again, letting go of his father’s hand, he rushes forward to see what it is. When he gets to the object, he discovers a snake coiled up in the path. At first, he is curious about the snake, but then the snake hisses and strikes the air. The little boy becomes frozen with fear. He flinches as he feels his father’s strong hand rest on his shoulder. The father gently moves the boy out of harm’s way, picks up a long stick and scoops the snake off into the weeds. “Son, you need to walk with me. You don’t know what might be ahead.

                After a while the little boy begins to get tired. He starts lagging behind his father; his little legs unable to match the long stride of his dad. Looking back, the father says, “Come on son. Catch up. You need to walk with me.” The little boy stops in the middle of the path. “I’m tired. I can’t go any farther. Carry me!” Lovingly the father scoops up the boy and puts him on his shoulders. Together they continue their afternoon adventure.

                As this little story illustrates, there is a difference between having Jesus walk with us and having us walk with Jesus. At the end of the Great Commission, Jesus made a promise to us. “And I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.” Jesus is faithful in walking with us, but we are not always faithful in walking with Him. If we are going to walk with Jesus, there are a few things that we need to do.

                If we are going to walk with Jesus, we need to adjust our pace to His pace. Like the little boy, we sometimes get impatient and want to run ahead of Jesus. On other occasions we get weary and lag behind. Jesus is constantly calling us to stay close to Him. As Paul says in Galatians 5:25, Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

                If we are going to walk with Jesus, we need to go in the same direction as Jesus. Too often, we want to take our own path and not follow Jesus’ lead. We rush here and there, looking for some treasure, some delight, some new experience. Patently Jesus waits for us, then calls us back onto the right path. When Jesus called His first disciples, he issued a simple invitation. “Follow me.” He says the same thing to us. "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

                If we are going to walk with Jesus, we need to keep our eyes on Jesus. Children get separated from their parents and get lost because they get distracted and wander away. We often get distracted and wander away from Jesus. We need to learn to keep Jesus in sight at all times. 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

                There is no doubt that Jesus is walking with us. The question is, are we walking with Him? 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


                It is amazing to me how I can go through life and miss so much. I get caught up in my routine, focus on the task before me, and the rest of the world becomes a blur. It is a like the people I see working out at the gym. They are surrounded by activity, but with their ear buds in place and their music playing, they are oblivious to it. They just go about their routine, barely acknowledging those around them.

                I tend to be what might be called an office rat. Some pastors spend more time at coffee shops than they spend in their office. Not me. In order for me to get my work done, I have to have a controlled environment, with few distractions. I am also a creature of habit. I have a particular routine that I follow pretty much every week. When my routine gets unexpectedly altered, I feel out of rhythm. Therefore I tend to zone into my routine, and zone out other things.

                A week ago, I challenged everyone, at the end of our worship service, to put feet to their faith in some practical way. Being a task oriented person, I had in mind how I was going to personally meet that challenge. Developing a more robust ministry to international students is one of my goals for this year. So I arranged to meet with two international students to get to know them better and to ask for their input. But God had a totally different plan for me.

                On Friday, at about 11:30 AM, a young, homeless man walked into our office looking for help. He had stopped by the church twice before. On the first occasion, I gave him some money to get food. On the second occasion, I had turned him away. To put this in context, we get requests for help on a regular basis. In the majority of cases, we send them to the Salvation Army. When this young man showed up for the third time, something within me said, you need to help this man. I talked with him for a short time, trying to get an idea of his real needs. I gave him some immediate assistance, and promised more help, if he would furnish me with certain information.

                I want to say, at this point, that I believe these encounters were orchestrated by God. Normally, when a young man like this comes, I would send him to talk with our Associate Pastor. On all three occasions, when this young man appeared, I was the only pastor at the church. On the first two occasions, he arrived at unusual times, which limited my access to “normal procedures.” The third time around, God finally captured my heart. I saw a sincere, frightened, helpless young man. I could almost hear Jesus asking me, Dave will you care for this young man?

                We live in a world filled with needs. Most of us feel overwhelmed by the scope of the problems. We feel helpless to really make a difference. Therefore, we tend to steel ourselves against the bombardment of requests. To protect ourselves, we just say no. I understand that, but there are times, maybe many times, when Jesus calls us to drop our defenses and step out in faith.

                We need to ask God to restore a heart of genuine compassion within us. On one particular occasion, Jesus and his disciples were trying to get away from the crowds to get some needed rest. The pressure of the needs of the people were overwhelming them. So they got in a boat and sailed from one side of the lake to the other. But when they arrived, the people had beaten them there. Then Matthew records, When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36) Instead of sending the people away, Jesus sat down and taught them.

                There are two kinds of compassion. There is a pragmatic compassion, which sees a need and gives in order to get rid of the person. This kind of compassion is more about quieting our guilt than meeting a need. On the other hand, there is genuine compassion, which sees a person and gives to embrace them and share life with them. I am often guilty of the first, and need desperately to grow in the second.

                We need to ask God to open our eyes to the opportunities to serve others that are all around us. Because it is easy for us to pull into our own safe, little world, we often miss the chance to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Most of the time these are small acts of kindness, simple words of encouragement, or opportunities to open a spiritual conversation. These are around us daily, but too often we are blind to them. Like the song states, we need God to open the eyes of our hearts.

                Paul challenges us to open our eyes and take advantage of the opportunities God puts in our path. 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) We take advantage of these opportunities by offering God’s grace to those around us in practical ways. At first, this will seem hard, but the more we train ourselves to respond with God’s grace, the more adept we will become at it. With all of the demands on us, this can seem overwhelming. But if we will be intentional and persevere, it will pay off. As Paul says, Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:9-10


Wednesday, September 7, 2016


Ephesians 5:15-20
    Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

                There is a big difference between “living the good life” and living a good life. Pretty much everything we see and hear today is holding out the carrot of living the good life. The poster child for this quest has been “the most interesting man in the world” who promoted Dos Equis beer. On scene, he was portrayed as having everything anyone would want. The problem with this quest is that it is always just beyond our grasp.

                “Living the good life” is a quest for self-indulgence, self-fulfillment, and self-satisfaction. It is based on money, power, and prestige. In many ways, it has become part of the fabric of American society. Our constitution says that we have inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Today, people read this as life, liberty, and guaranteed happiness.

                The Bible gives us a vastly different picture of what it means to live a good life. First, and foremost, a good life is not self-centered, it is God centered. As Jesus said in Matthew 16:24-26, the only way to really gain life is to let go of it for him. When we hold onto the enticements of the world, they pull us down, and we sink further into a very selfish world. When we let go of those enticements, we are free to achieve the purposes for which God created us.

                In Ephesians 5, Paul gives us some specific steps to living a good life. First, we must live intentionally and wisely. There are many pitfalls and sidetracks along the way. We need to be careful about the choices that we make. The wise person doesn’t just look at the choice before him, but looks beyond that choice to the eventual outcomes. We live in evil days. If we live only for today, as the world calls us to do, we will forfeit our future.

                Second, Paul tells us to seek the Lord’s will. This is the point where many Christians get stuck, because they think of God’s will in very specific, individualistic terms. Who should I marry? What school should I attend? What career path should I take? These are not unimportant questions, but they are secondary to seeking God’s will. God has clearly defined His will in scripture. Jesus summarized it for us Mark 12:30-31. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

                The rest of the New Testament fleshes this command out for us in practical terms. For example, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. If you would take the time to look up the “one another” passages in the New Testament, you would comply an extensive list of practical examples of God’s will for you. It is as we strive to obey these things that God makes secondary choices more clear.

                Paul goes on to tell us that living a good life is the opposite of “living the good life” as defined by the world. Instead of being controlled by the value system of the world, we are to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. As followers of Christ, we have become new creations, with a new life within us. That life comes through the presence of the Holy Spirit. We can choose to resist the Holy Spirit and we will live with the internal conflict. Or we can willingly comply with the Holy Spirit and find the peace and joy that God has promised.

                Finally, Paul reminds us that living a good life means living well with others. “Living the good life” is most often about what I can gain. If a particular person adds nothing of value to my life, then I am free to turn away from them to someone who can give me what I want. Living a good life is discovering that we need one another. It is not so much about what I can get from another person as what can I give to them. It is living an others-centered life, just as Christ did. Jesus said that living for others is what will set us apart from the rest of the world. "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:34-35

                I come back to where Paul begins in Ephesians 5:15. Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. How we live each day of our lives is an investment in eternity. We can choose to chase “the good life” and at the end we will discover our bank account is empty. Our we can choose to live a good life in Christ, and when the end comes we will discover the eternal blessings He has stored up for us.