Tuesday, November 26, 2019


Psalm 107:1-3
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say this--
  those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,
those he gathered from the lands,
from east and west, from north and south.

                Is there a difference between saying thank you and being genuinely grateful? When we were children, we were taught to say thank you when we were given a gift. At first, we had to be reminded to say thank you. After a while, it became an automatic response. We know longer even thought about it, we just said it, because it was the expected thing to do.

                There is a huge difference between a person saying thank you when someone holds the door for them and when a person says thank you because they were just rescued from a burning building. In the first case the person is being polite. In the second case the person is expressing gratitude.

                As we approach Thanksgiving, it is a good time for us to stop and examine our own attitude. Has our thanks to God become just a polite response or is it genuine gratitude for all that He has done for us? The level of our gratitude is a measure of our understanding of just how much Jesus has done for us. Did Jesus just hold open the door to heaven or did he rescue us from sin and death?

                When the Psalmist encourages us to give thanks to God, he always points us to the reasons for doing so. In the opening lines of Psalm 103, David calls us to a depth of gratitude that we often fail to appreciate.

Psalm 103:1-5
Of David.

Praise the Lord, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits--
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

                David calls us to remember what God has done for us. And the things that he focuses upon are not the things we usually focus upon. Our thankfulness is most often focused on the material blessings of life. David redirects out attention to something far more important, the spiritual blessings that come from God.
                David calls for a depth of expression of gratitude. Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul. There is nothing superficial about the gratitude that David is espousing. He calls us to express our gratitude from the very depths of our being and with all of our being.

                Then David turns our attention on the thing above all things that we are to be grateful for. God forgives our sins, heals our lives, and redeems us for our life of sin. In essence, God transforms us and makes us new. Paul expressed it this way. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17) From being trapped in the pit of sin, God raises us up into His love and compassion. Our relationship with Him is restored. In contrast to the things of this world that do damage to our lives, God fulfills our desires with good things. Instead of being constantly torn down by the weight of sin, our strength is renewed so that we can soar.

                It is possible for us to say thank you mindlessly, without much thought about it. But genuine gratitude can never be mindless. Genuine gratitude looks beyond the gift to the giver. Genuine gratitude expands the breadth of the gift. Genuine gratitude acknowledges the generosity of the given and the unworthiness of the recipient. None of us are worthy of God’s grace and yet He gives it to us freely.

                We have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. We have been so materially blessed by God that we have taken those gifts for granted. We enjoy on a daily basis what much of the world only longs for. But the greatest reason for us to be thankful is wrapped up in an all too familiar verse. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) The thing that we should be the most thankful for is that God gave us Himself.

                We live in a world that constantly focuses on what we do not have. We are constantly told to be discontent and to want more and more of the things the world has to offer. As followers of Christ, we are called to focus on what we do have. Not only to be content with the blessings that we have, but to be genuinely grateful. God has blessed us beyond measure.

                This Thanksgiving let us genuinely give thanks to God for all of the material blessing we enjoy. But above all else, let us thank God for His love, which He has lavished on us, and the new life we have in Christ.

Romans 5:8
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

1 John 3:1a
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!


Tuesday, November 19, 2019


1 John 3:2
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

                As we go through our lives, we go through different stages of knowledge and incite. When we are young children everything is new and exciting. We are like sponges absorbing all of this new information. For us, life is very black and white. What is, is. Then we hit adolescence and life becomes full of gray. Certainty is replaced by doubt. Acceptance is replaced by questioning. At some point in our adolescent journey we think we have it all figured out. We enter into a sophomoric state. The word sophomore literally means wise fool. To be sophomoric means to be conceited and overconfident of knowledge but poorly informed and immature. Unfortunately, some people never quite graduate from this stage of life. But for those who intentionally continue on to maturity, we enter the stage where we begin to know what we do not know. We come to grips with the reality that the mysteries of life are beyond our total comprehension. It is not that we know nothing. On the contrary, we realize that what we know has only scratched the surface of what there is to know. The mature person doesn’t stop learning and exploring, but they are comfortable with open-ended questions and unresolved issues.

                Just as it is in our normal intellectual development, so it is in our spiritual development. When I was a child growing up in church, I received what I was being taught as the truth. Everything was very black and white for me. When I hit my early teens, I began to struggle with doubts and questions. In one way my faith became more real, yet it also became cloudier. My first year at college, I was challenged to really examine my faith and make it my own, which I did. At that point I thought I had arrived at a mature faith. I was being sophomoric. When I entered Seminary, I discovered how far I really was from a truly mature faith. At that point I began a journey of discovering and exploring what I don’t know. Even now after almost 40 years of ministry, I still am amazed at how much I do not know.

                At the end of what has been dubbed the love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, Paul introduces us to an image of a truly maturing faith.

    Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:8-12

                We can all fall into the trap of thinking that we have it all together spiritually. That was the problem with the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. It wasn’t that they were ungodly or unspiritual. It was that they were spiritually sophomoric. They thought that they had it all figured out. I know how they felt, because I have been there.

                Jesus challenged the rigid, “we have it all figured out”, attitude of the Pharisees. He does the same to us. When we become convinced that we have the final word on some issue, Jesus steps in to unset our apple cart. It is not that He doesn’t want us to have confidence in what we believe. It is that He doesn’t want us to have confidence in our confidence about what we believe.

                We all begin our spiritual journey as little children. Our faith is real but unexamined. As we mature in our faith, we have to struggle with the questions that inevitably arise. If we believe that we have to have all of the answers nailed down, we will stymie our spiritual growth. We need to come to grips with the reality that there are mysteries that we will not figure out until we stand face to face with Jesus. Until that time, we need to be okay with knowing what we don’t know.

                When Paul wrote to the believers in Philippi, he shared with them his desire to know Christ to the fullest. He stated that there was nothing more important than reaching that goal. Then in verse 12, he acknowledged that he did not yet know all that he needed to know.
    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.
    All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. (Philippians 3:12-16)

                Paul assures us that we all have a great deal of learning to do. Instead of being held back by what we don’t know, it should be a catalyst for us to press on toward the goal. On my spiritual journey I have learned many things about many things, but I have not learned everything about everything. How about you?

Wednesday, November 13, 2019


Matthew 5:14a
“You are the light of the world.”

                As I walked into the office this morning, the full moon hung in the western sky. It was large and distinct, but its light was obscured by a gray haze. I have been out at night when there was a full moon and it has been so bright that it cast shadows on the lawn. This morning the moon was clearly visible, but its light was dimmed by the wispy clouds of a fall sky.

                In many ways, we are to be like the moon. The moon does not have any light of its own. Its light is a reflection of the light of the sun. In a similar way, we do not have any light of our own. We are instead to reflect the light of Christ into our world. Jesus is the source of our reflected light.

                When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12)

                Jesus came into this world to shine the light of God into our lives. That light has the power to transform us. It frees us from the dominion of spiritual darkness. It opens our eyes to the reality of who we are and who God is. Not everyone likes what they see, so they retreat into the darkness. But those who embrace the light of Christ are transformed by it.

                When we put our faith in Christ, we become a kind of spiritual moon to His sun. Jesus gives us His light so we can shine in our world. “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)

                Most often, we are like the moon this morning. The light of Christ within us is obscured by the gray haze of sin in our lives. Although our heart’s desire is to shine the light of Christ into our immediate world, our sin clouds the picture. There are times when the haze clears and we shine brightly. There are times when the dark clouds of sin completely obscure the light of Christ. But most of the time we live somewhere in between.

                Although I do not believe that the haze of sin will even be completely eliminated from our lives until we stand complete before God in heaven, I do know that we can decrease its intensity. As we become aware of our sin and deal with it before God, our light shines brighter. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

                God continues to shine His light into our hearts, which in turn brightens our entire being. But we are still imperfect vessels containing His light.

    For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
    But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:6-7)

                The good news is that the longer that we walk with Christ, and the more we yield to the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit, the more our lives will shine for God in our world. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

                This morning the moon was large and full and shining, even though there was a haze in the air. God wants us to be His full moons reflecting the light of Christ in our world, even if, for now, we shine dimly.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019


John 17:15
My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.

1 Timothy 6:17
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

                What does it mean for us to live in the world, not for the world? When God created the world, it was perfect in His sight. He placed humanity into this perfect world and invited them to fully enjoy all that He created. The physical world was God’s gift to humanity; a tangible expression of God’s love. When sin came into the world, the tangible world became corrupted. The relationship between God and humanity was damaged, and consequently the relationship between humanity and God’s tangible gift was damaged.

                As Paul tells us in Romans 1, humanity substituted created things for the Creator and therefore put themselves at odds with God. The created world took a place in people’s lives that it was not intended to have. Not only was God excluded from the picture, the very things that God created for humanity’s enjoyment were corrupted.

                Jesus came into the world to restore a right relationship with God and with the world that God created. Through Jesus death on the cross and His resurrection He has redeemed not only humanity, but creation itself. When a person puts their faith in Jesus, they are recreated. (2 Corinthians 5:17) As redeemed people, we now relate to God and His world differently. The gift of life on earth is restored to us, as well as the promise of life eternal with Christ for all of eternity.

                There is a struggle that we face as believers. Are we to completely deny this world and live only for eternity, or are we too fully embrace this life on earth as well as our hope in eternity? For me the latter is the correct answer. We are to live fully in this world without living for this world. Everything that we have and enjoy is a gift from God. If we constantly acknowledge that and give thanks to God for it, we can fully engage in this world. Knowing that God wants us to make the most of our journey through life, we can celebrate its joys and endure its hardships. As Paul says in Romans 8:28, And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

                God does not want us to live our lives with the attitude that we have too endure life until we get to heaven. He wants us to embrace the journey through life, which will make our experience in heaven that much richer. If our focus is only on getting to heaven, we will miss all of the blessings that God intends for us now.

                I once knew a family whose idea of a vacation was to see how many miles they could drive in a week. They would stop only briefly along the way to possibly take a picture, then it was back in the car to get moving. Most of us would say, what a waste. What is the point of a journey if you don’t experience what is along the way? Yet, we can live our entire lives that way, if we are not careful. We can be in such a hurry to get to heaven that we miss the journey. The journey is important, otherwise why did God make us take it. If the only goal in life is making it to heaven, why doesn’t God just take us home as soon as we become believers? I know I am pressing the point, but it is possible for us to be so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good.

                God has placed us on this earth for a reason. It was part of His original plan that we would delight in all that He created. We who are believers in Christ should enjoy this life more than anyone else. How we live this life matters to us and to God. It matters for now and for eternity. How tragic would it be if when we stand before God, He shows us all the gifts that He wanted to give to us, but that we missed because we were in a hurry to get to heaven.  

                There is truth in the phrase, stop and smell the roses. God created a beautiful, amazing world for us to enjoy. Each part of this amazing world points us to Him. Let’s not miss the gifts He offers to us every day.

Psalm 19:1-4
The heavens declare the glory of God;
  the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.