Tuesday, January 30, 2018


Colossians 3:12
Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

                The other night, my wife and I watched the 2013 movie “The Butler.” It is the story of the life of a White House butler who served there for 34 years. It was a sobering experience. It brought back some painful memories of the struggles we, as a nation, have gone through. Those struggles continue today. As I went to bed, I asked for God’s forgiveness for whatever ways I have contributed to the racial discord in our nation.

                We live in a world that is filled with anger, hate, frustration, and violence. All of this is a product of sin, yet our world, in the main, refuses to recognize it. Until we deal with the sin problem, we will never be able to solve the significant social problems that confront us. But, we, as followers of Christ, can lead the way toward genuine reconciliation.  

                In Colossians 3, Paul gives us a template for changing the climate of our world. It begins by recognizing who we are, in Christ. God has chosen to receive all who will accept His free gift of salvation. When we open our hearts to Him, He sets us apart for Himself; He claims us as His own. We cease to be slaves to sin, but become His dearly loved children. We take on a new identity. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! This is our new reality, but we need to actively embrace it.

                Paul tells us that we need to actively clothe ourselves with the character of Christ. We need to replace antagonism with compassion, hatred with kindness, arrogance with humility, roughness with gentleness, and a demanding spirit with patience. This can only happen as we submit our will to the will of Christ. We have the responsibility to cultivate these qualities, empowered by the Holy Spirit.

                As I watched “The Butler”, my heart went out to those people. I was ashamed of the way White Americans treated Black Americans. I saw the situation through their eyes, not for the first time, but in a profound way. I think that is the beginning of compassion. The enemy of compassion is the failure to understand and validate the feelings and emotions of the other person. Compassion seeks to see the situation through the other person’s eyes. But it is more than that. It is actively reaching out to that person in genuine kindness.

                Genuine compassion is never condescending or patronizing. Genuine compassion meets the other person face to face, on even footing. Genuine compassion is an honest effort to enter the other person’s life, even when we can do it only incompletely. I think Paul sums it up best in Philippians 2:3-4.  
    Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

                As we interact with one another, no matter who that other person may be, let us be guided by compassion; the compassion of Jesus Christ.     



Tuesday, January 23, 2018


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.

                When you look in the mirror, what do you see? What is your image of yourself? Do you see yourself as God’s masterpiece, or a carefully crafted self-portrait, or as a cheap poster print?

                Throughout much of my life growing up, I had a negative image of myself. There were many things I did not like about myself. I didn’t like having red hair and the complexion that goes along with that. I didn’t like that I was skinny (what was I thinking!!!). I saw myself as athletically challenged. Over all I viewed myself as mediocre at best. Praise God that others saw what I could not see and helped me to understand who God created me to be.

                Paul’s statement in Ephesians 2:10 is a corrective to our often-skewed image of ourselves. He makes three amazing statements about who we are in God’s eyes.

                We have been created with care. Paul says that we are God’s workmanship. The word “workmanship” can be translated “masterpiece.” We do not often view ourselves as masterpieces, at least I do not. When I look in the mirror, I see all of the flaws. It is hard for me, at times, to see beyond them. Yet, Paul tells us that when God looks at us He sees something very different. King David expressed this in Psalm 8:3-6.
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet:

                Then in Psalm 139, David adds to the awe he felt, when he looked at himself from God’s point of view.
Psalm 139:13-14
For you created my inmost being;
   you knit me together in my mother's womb.
   I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

                When we devalue ourselves, we devalue what God has created. We dishonor God, by implying that God somehow made a mistake, or failed to do His best in our lives. When I worked in the hospital, I saw many newborn babies.  In many ways, all newborns look alike, and they all are a little distorted, yet in the eyes of the parents, they are the most beautiful thing in the world. So it is with God. Others may look at us as less than beautiful, but God sees us as the most beautiful thing in His world.

                We have been created with a purpose. Paul goes on the state that we have been created in Christ Jesus to do good works. Often as we watch a child grow up into an adolescent, and then into a young adult, we see great potential in them. We see certain qualities coming to the forefront that suggest success in certain areas of life. All of this reflects God’s guiding hand. Each of us was created with purpose and for a purpose. We were created to honor and glorify God by the way we live out our lives. We were created with unique skills and abilities that allow us to excel in different areas. As we understand more and more about how God has created and gifted us, we are drawn to the good works for which we were made.

                Much of God’s creation is passive. It does what it does routinely, over and over again. Humanity is different. We do not live passive lives, but are actively involved in shaping and molding our world. We have been created in God’s image, and one of the ways that we demonstrate that is through our creativity. God made us for this purpose. As we actively engage in our world in good and positive ways, we reflect God’s glory into our world and we praise and honor Him.

Colossians 3:17
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.

                We have been created with a plan. Finally, Paul states that God has already prepared a plan for us. It is not that our lives are scripted and we have no choice in the matter. That is fatalism. It does mean that God has set out a course of action for our lives. He has given each of us a meaningful assignment in His world. Many people never discover or fulfill that assignment. When we come to faith in Christ, God opens our eyes to begin to see His plan. As we learn to cooperate with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we start living out His plan.

                One of the things that everyone wants in life is a sense of purpose. No one really wants to live an aimless life, yet many people do. God has given each of us a purpose. In general, we all have the same purpose; to glorify God. But, God has given each of us different ways to accomplish that. God knows us intimately, inside and out. He already laid out a plan for our lives. He invites us to discover and develop that plan. It is a cooperative effort.

Philippians 2:12-13
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence--continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

                Satan loves to discourage us. He wants us to feel worthless, aimless, and insignificant. But God sees us in a very different way. God sees us as His treasured possession; the object of His amazing love. When you look in the mirror, which image will you embrace?

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018


Luke 12:15
 Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

                Most of us would not say that we were greedy people. In fact, we probably see ourselves as pretty generous; and in some ways we are. But there is a side of greed that is too easy for us to overlook; that is uncontrolled accumulation. Most of us have been caught up in the pursuit of things. We don’t recognize it at first, because it takes place gradually. We become aware of it when we run out of space to put things.

                I discovered some interesting facts on a website called becomingminimalist. The average American home contains 300,000 items. The size of the American home has tripled in the last 50 years, yet 1 out of 10 Americans rent offsite storage to contain their stuff. The average American woman owns 30 outfits. In 1930, that number was nine. The average American family spends $1,700 on clothes annually and throws away 65 pounds of clothes per year. It looks like we have a problem. Jesus addressed the issue of uncontrolled accumulation in a parable, found in Luke 12:13-21.   

                Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me."
                Jesus replied, "Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?" Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."
                And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.'
    "Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." '
    "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'
    "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God."

                It is all too easy for us to get caught up in accumulating the things of this world and be poor toward God. That which is tangible seems all too real and that which is intangible does not. Yet it is the intangible that is of greatest value. There is nothing wrong with having things, as long as they don’t dominate your life.

                One day a rich, young man came to Jesus, sincerely seeking spiritual guidance. Jesus saw right away that the main issue in his life was stuff. When Jesus confronted him in this area, the man went away sad, because he had a lot of stuff.     

                Our stuff can get in the way of our walk with Christ. It can weigh us down and hold us back. One of the main goals of the classic spiritual disciples is to free us from the control of our stuff. The more loosely we can hold onto things, the less control they have in our lives. Paul expressed this in 1 Timothy 6:6-10. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

                We can choose to declutter our lives just for the sake of getting rid of stuff. When we do that, it is a little like dieting. In a short time we fill our lives again with more stuff. Or we can choose to declutter our lives so that we can get closer to Christ and serve Him better. When we do that, we will learn how to use and enjoy the things of this world, without being slaves to them.

Philippians 4:12-13
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.



Tuesday, January 9, 2018

PERSEVERANCE (when you feel like giving up)

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

                I have been sick for over two weeks. It began with a nasty case of the stomach flu. Then it transitioned into a deep chest cold; complete with a runny nose and a hacking cough that keeps me up at night. To be honest, I feel drained. I would prefer to just curl up in bed for a week and shut out the world, but life doesn’t stop because of a chest cold. So I persevere as best as I can.

                Sometimes I feel this way about my spiritual journey. There are times when I feel drained and would prefer to withdraw from the battle. At those times, I would like to close out the world and hide until Jesus comes. But, I know that life does not work that way. I have been called to be an active participant in what God is doing in the world, so I persevere as best as I can.

                When we feel drained and weary, we lose our perspective. The focus quickly shifts to us and away from Christ and His mission. We start to feel sorry for ourselves and wonder if it is really all worth it. The Psalmist Asaph struggled with these feelings. He wrote about it in Psalm 73.

Psalm 73:1-3
A psalm of Asaph.
Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.
For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

                Can you identify with what Asaph wrote? He goes on to talk about all of the ways it looked like the wicked were winning at life. From a human perspective, it was very discouraging. But it was not the end of the story. Asaph went to the Temple and gained new perspective on things.

Psalm 73:16-26
When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me
till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.
 Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin.
How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors!
As a dream when one awakes, so when you arise, O Lord, you will despise them as fantasies.
When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered,
I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.
Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

                The antidote for our soul sickness is to gain a better perspective on life. The more fully we grasp the big picture, the more empowered we will be to persevere.

Hebrews 12:2-3
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.


Wednesday, January 3, 2018


                Every part of a race is important, but beginning and ending well is critical. If a person has a poor start and stumbles over the finish line, it really doesn’t matter how the rest of the race went. This is true of all of life. If a person fails to give their best effort at the beginning, they spend the rest of their time trying to catch up. This often leads to a poor finish.

                We measure our lives by years. Although the beginning of a new year is an arbitrary designation, it does mark a benchmark in life. At the beginning of each new year we get a chance to make a new beginning. We can determine to live a better, more productive life in the year to come. When we string a series of these “best efforts” together, our chances of finishing well increase.

                Another way of looking at this is to think of life as a series of seasons. Sports revolves around set seasons. We are coming to the end of the football season. For many teams, their season is already over. (For the Cleveland Browns, it was over a long time ago.) Every coach is looking ahead to next season and how they can strengthen their team. Every team wants to end their season well and then carry that success into the beginning of the next season. The period in between seasons is a time to evaluate and prepare for the next season.

                Beginning well is all about developing the proper perspective. The more that we understand our purpose and goal, the better we will perform. As followers of Christ, it is important for us to look at our lives through a set of three filters that help us to run the best race that we can.

                We first need to look through the filter of our end goal. Who do we want to be and what do we want to have accomplished by the end of our race. Looking at the end goal can keep us on track and help us to avoid dead ends that can hinder our progress. As Paul looked at his life, he always kept the goal of truly knowing Christ before him. Paul clearly articulated that goal in Philippians 3:7-11.
                But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

                We next need to look at the seasons of our life. What season am I in right now? What are the pluses and minuses of this time of life? How can I best use this season of my life for the cause of Christ? Each season of life comes with challenges to face and opportunities to grasp. Knowing what season you are in can help you to make critical decisions about what is most important right now.  Although in every season of life, there will be times of intense activity and times of less activity, we can never afford to put our life on auto-pilot and just coast. Again, Paul expressed this well in Philippians 3:12-14. 
                Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
                The third filter is the present year before me. What do I need to do this year to move me toward my desired goals as a believer? How can I use this year to grow spiritually and to bear fruit for Christ? It is important, at the beginning of each new year, to set realistic goals that can motivate us to keep striving toward the ultimate goal. Every year counts. The way we live our lives in the present will share who we become and how we will end our race. So Paul challenges us to be intentional about how we live today.
                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. (Ephesians 5:15-17)

                As we launch into a new year, it is important that we begin well. We can set a pace for genuine, spiritual growth in the new year. At the beginning of the new year, it is important to put things into proper perspective. To put it in sports terms; we need to look at the game, the season, and the legacy. Each game (year) builds toward a successful season. Each season builds toward an enduring legacy. What kind of a legacy do you want to build toward this year?