Tuesday, February 27, 2018


1 Corinthians 6:19-20
    Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

                Recently, a commercial has been running on TV for 23 and Me, a genetic research company. It is a well-done, thought provoking presentation. It begins with the narrator asking the question, if you could have only one car for your entire life, what would you do the maintain it? Then he states that you will have many cars, but you will only have one body. That one body has to last for your entire life.

                As a society, we have separated our body from our soul. For most people, their spiritual life, however they define that, is private and mostly intellectual. They do not see that their spiritual life has any real bearing on what they do physically in life. They see their body as a separate and independent entity. The popular mantra of the day is that “I am in control of my body.” This usually means that I am free to do with my body whatever I wish, without regard for any outside set of standards. No one has the right to tell me what I can or cannot do with my body.

                This is not a new concept. The ancient Greeks saw the physical body as a prison for the soul. They viewed whatever they did with their physical body as separate from their spiritual being. Some chose to abuse their body as a means of subduing it. Many others chose to indulge their physical body, because it didn’t really matter. Whatever happened in the body was of no consequence. This duality has been carried on, throughout the ages, in one form or another.

                Many Christians today still struggle with this duality. Because of a misunderstanding of the Scriptures, they believe that the physical body is evil and only the spirit is good. Many view their faith as purely internal and spiritual, without any real connection to their physical body. They may not indulge in immoral activities, but they also fail to see that how they use their body is a reflection of their connection with Christ.

                Paul was constantly fighting this battle with the new Gentile believers. He wanted them (and us) to understand that our body and soul are inseparably connected. What we believe in our heart should be reflected in our physical actions. In the same way, our physical actions will affect and modify what we believe. Paul stressed that what we do with our body in the physical realm matters spiritually.
    In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. (Romans 6:11-14)

                As followers of Christ, we do not have the right to use our bodies in any way that we choose. God has taken up residence within us, through the Holy Spirit. We have become an abiding place for God on earth, therefore, we need to honor God by the way we use our physical body. We belong to Christ and should honor Him in everything that we do. We are not masters of our body, but stewards of it. We will one day have to give an account of how we managed our physical life.
    For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10)

                Our world wants to convince us that our spiritual life is separate and irrelevant to our “normal” physical life. We can be “good Christians” and still indulge in the pleasures of this world. But that is a lie from Satan. If we are going to be genuine followers of Christ, we need to follow Him body and soul. What we believe must shape how we live, and how we live must reflect what we really believe.

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.


Tuesday, February 20, 2018


2 Corinthians 4:18
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.

                Last Thanksgiving, we traveled to North Carolina to celebrate with my family. One day we were visiting with my niece and her family. The boys asked me to read a story to them. They gave me a book to read that was about a family building a house. It was from the perspective of a child. It was a great story about having a vision for something that did not yet exist. The story begins with an empty field and ends with a house.

                When Jesus gave the disciples the Great Commission, He gave them a vision of what would be, but was not yet. The full impact of the Great Commission is realized in Acts 1:8. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." This small group of believers had never traveled outside of Palestine. Yet Jesus painted a global picture for them, in broad brush strokes. The vision that Jesus gave to the disciples began to take shape at Pentecost. From there it spread throughout the known world, until today it has permeated the entire globe.

                Often, as followers of Christ, we get trapped in the “what is” and lose sight of the “what will be.” We get discouraged when we lose sight of the vision and focus on the path before us. Paul tells us, in 2 Corinthians 5:17, that if we are in Christ we are new creations, the old has gone and the new has come. That is our spiritual reality, yet we don’t often believe it or live it. We see our old nature actively exerting its influence in our lives and we become discouraged. We need to change our perspective. God has begun a process within us that He will bring to completion. (Philippians 1:3-6) We are on a spiritual journey. Every step we take moves us closer to the goal of being Christ-like. Each step is important, but these steps are only a means to a greater end. We need to keep our eyes on what will be in Christ.

                Paul gives us a wonderful picture of the journey that we are on, in 2 Corinthians 4:7-10, 16-18.
    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.

    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.

                What we see is our frailty. What we need to focus on is Christ’s power. What we see is decay. What we need to focus on is renewal. What we see is struggle. What we need to focus on is victory. We allow the temporary to dominate our vision, when we should be focused on the eternal.

                God has a vision for His Church, but it is not yet reality. God wants His Church to bear much fruit for His glory. To accomplish that, we will need to put in place the components for grow. We will need to sink our roots deep in God’s word. We will need to invest in the stalk; a strong community centered on Christ. We will need to spread our leaves to receive the work of the Holy Spirit. And we will need to continue to grow toward the Son. 

                God has a vision for our future; a greater vision than we can ever imagine. As God reveals that vision to us, we need to do our part to accomplish that goal. In His wisdom, God reveals His vision to us in bite sized pieces, but He always stretches us beyond where we are comfortable. As Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, the foundation for our faith and life has been laid. Now it is up to us to build upon it.  
    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.

                The real difference between those who really succeed in life and those who do not is where they put their focus. Most people settle for what is. Those who make a difference focus on what could be.  Christ is calling us to take our place with those who refuse to settle for the status quo.

Ephesians 3:20-21
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018


Philippians 4:8
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.

                When I was a boy, I never thought about what I ate. In fact, I ate everything that I could get my hands on. I was always hungry. No matter how much I ate, I never gained weight. (Oh, for those days!) I remember watching “Leave It to Beaver” or “Father Knows Best” and seeing the kids go to the refrigerator and pull out plates of leftover food. I always wondered where that came from, because those plates never showed up in our refrigerator. Watching what I ate meant trying to get seconds before my brothers finished everything off.  Those days are over for good. I no longer have a problem putting on weight. My problem is taking it off.

                We hear in the news regularly that we have an obesity problem in America. According to the latest statistics 75% of men and 60% of women are overweight or obese. 30% of children are overweight or obese. These numbers have caused many people to start paying attention to what they eat. Someone once quipped, “You are what you eat.” I’m not sure that I completely agree with that statement, but it does raise the issue of being mindful of what we consume.

                Just as what we eat has a great deal to do with our physical health and well-being, so what we listen to and watch has a great deal to do with our spiritual and emotional health. As a society, we have recognized the problems with consuming too much junk food, yet we are unwilling to recognize the problems that come from consuming intellectual junk food.

                The popular media today (movies, TV, music) feeds us a constant diet of distorted sexuality, violence, and disrespect for authority. Then, as a society, we are surprised when these very things manifest themselves in the real world. We vehemently refuse to acknowledge that what people watch and listen to affects the way that they think and act. We see no correlation between explicit sex in the movies with people engaging in illicit sex or perpetuating sexual abuse in our world. We see no correlation between playing violent video games for hours on end and violence acted out in the schools and playgrounds of our country. It is time for us to take our heads out of the sand and wake up to reality. Those who produce this media contend that it is only entertainment. That art just reflects real life. They refuse to admit that art often shapes real life. Let us be honest: we are what we consume.

                The Bible has been shining the light of God on this issue for a long time. It is very clear, for those who have the eyes to see and the will to listen, that what we allow to take up residence in our minds and hearts will shape our lives. Jesus made it clear that our actions are a reflection of the condition of our heart. No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:43-45

                The world that we live in is constantly trying to feed us intellectual junk food. We must always be on our guard about what we allow to enter into our minds. This is a conscious choice on our behalf. Just like we must adjust what we eat, if we want to be healthy. So, we must adjust what we consume intellectually, if we want to be spiritually and emotionally healthy. Paul reminds us that the battle is for the control of our minds. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

                We cannot indiscriminately consume what the world offers us and not be profoundly affected. Just like learning to eat healthy, we must train ourselves to think healthy. 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 10:5 We must learn to replace the negative messages of the world with the life-giving message of Christ. As the Psalmist has said in Psalm 119:11, I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Paul echoes that idea when he writes, 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. Philippians 4:8 The word Paul chose for think does not mean to give these things a passing thought. It means to ruminate or meditate on these things. Let these things permeate your mind and heart.

                Whether we want to admit it or not, we are what we consume. It is important for us to take care of our physical body, but it is essential for us to take care of our mind and our heart.

1 Timothy 4:8
For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.


Tuesday, February 6, 2018


Matthew 16:24-25
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.

                This past week was, in many ways, an exercise in letting go. To be honest, letting go is not fun. It is most often painful and challenging. Letting go is releasing control of things, which we, as humans, find very difficult.

                On Friday, I performed the funeral for a long-time member of our church. Because of her age and her health, she had not been active for several years. I tried to visit her periodically, but schedules and demands often got in the way. As I led her family and friends in a time of reflection, I was struck by my own loss. I will never again have the privilege of ministering to this lady. As often happens at funerals, I was struck with regret over not having done more for her in her last years. I not only had to let go of her, but I had to let go of my relationship with her.

                On Saturday, I gathered with a small group of colleagues at the hospital to bring to an end our time there as Associate Chaplains. Because of system-wide restructuring, we had all been let go by the hospital. I thought I had dealt with this loss pretty well, until I shared that time with my colleagues. All of the emotions of loss came flooding over me. I had lost my role at the hospital. I had to let go of what that role afforded me. In some ways, I felt like I was being shut out. Together, we let go of our role, our grief, and our disappointment. As I listened to the reflections of some of the others, I wished that I had done more while I had the chance.

                We see letting go in a negative light. Letting go feels like losing. Letting go feels like we have somehow failed. Letting go feels like the loss of power and control. But, Jesus says that letting go is the way of life.

                Jesus said that being His disciples means letting go of control of our lives and allowing Him to be in control. For many people, this is the stumbling block that keeps them from accepting the gift of salvation that Jesus offers. They would rather be in control of their lives than to turn that control over the Jesus. Ironically, when we fight to maintain control of our lives, we end up losing the very thing we are trying to hold onto.

                True freedom is only found in letting go of control and submitting to the leadership Of Jesus. As long as we refuse to let go, we are in a constant battle. We must constantly work to maintain our control and to fend off any threat to that control. Instead of being free, we become boxed in. Our world becomes small and confining. But, when we let go and submit to Jesus’ control, we discover that we have gained true freedom.

                In John 8:34-36, Jesus explains that our passion for control is really bondage to sin. Sin always offers us what it cannot and will not provide. It promises pleasure and fulfillment and autonomy, but it gives us pain, dissatisfaction, and slavery. Jesus, on the other hand, offers us true freedom.
    Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:34-36

                Jesus didn’t come into this world to rob us of our fun and our freedom. He came to give us life. The things of this world are really thieves that steal our life from us. Jesus, the very source of life, has come to give us life, both now and for all eternity.
    The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

                The path to true freedom is letting go of control and allowing Jesus to be the Lord of our lives. We do not have to live with unhealthy regrets. We can rest in Christ’s love for us. We can be assured of Christ’s forgiveness for us. We can trust Christ to take our efforts and transform them into something glorious. The weight of the world is not on our shoulders, it is on His. So, we can let go, knowing that He has things perfectly under control.