Tuesday, April 28, 2020


Hebrews 11:13-16
    All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country--a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

                The little icon on my phone alerted me that the security camera on our new home had detected movement in the back yard. I clicked on the icon to reveal a real time picture of our deck, with green grass stretching down to the creek that runs through our property. A light fog hangs in the air. I can hear the sound of running water and birds singing. I long to be there.

                Our original plan was to wrap up our interim ministry in North Dakota in mid-April and make the move to Michigan on April 19. Due to travel restrictions related to the current pandemic, those plans have been moved back a month. I understand the need for these precautions, and I am grateful that the spread of the coronavirus has been slowed, but it leaves me with an intense longing for my new home.

                The longing that I am experiencing is only a taste of a far greater and more profound longing for my heavenly home. The book of Hebrews zeros in on this far more significant longing. Hebrews 11 is a Cliff Notes account of many of those who have traveled this journey of faith before us. In the midst of recounting their faith journey, the writer reminds us that their longing was not fulfilled on this earth.

                God implanted in their hearts a longing for something that went beyond the tangible world in which they lived. Throughout their lives they continued to look forward to the fulfillment of God’s promises. Recognizing the spiritual nature of these promises, they lived as travelers through the world instead of residents of the world. They chose not to “settle down’ but continued to follow God wherever He led them. By faith, they kept their eyes on their heavenly home.

                At the end of chapter 11, the writer summarizes the journey of those he has chronicled. He transitioned from those in the past to those of us in the present. He intentionally included us in his story. The promise that these saints longed for could only be fulfilled through the next chapter of the story.

Hebrews 11:39-40
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

                Longing is a part of life. We all experience it. It is what drives us forward, pulling us toward an unknown future. Often our longing gets sidetracked by the enticements of the world. We begin to believe that the tangible things of this world will satisfy our longing, only to discover that they disappoint instead. For a moment it feels like they really do quench our longing, but that experience is short lived. Soon the thrill of the moment evaporates and the longing returns. It becomes an insatiable thirst.

                Satan tries to convince us that we can quench our thirst through what he has to offer. He makes grand promises that pleasure, power, and possessions will satisfy us. But in the end, they only increase our longing. Like drinking salt water, we become more and more thirsty, and more and more spiritually dehydrated.

                On the other hand, God also taps into that longing; a longing that He placed there. But instead of offering us trinkets that cannot satisfy, He offers us Himself. Our true longing in to be connected with God. We long to be welcomed into our heavenly home; the home God designed for us before the creation of the world. As C.S. Lewis tells us, we were not created to live in time, but in eternity. We are always surprised by time, because time is not our natural environment. As long as we live within the confines of time, we will long for something more, something better, something that will last. That longing can only be fulfilled through Christ.

                God wants to use the longing within our heart to move us forward toward the ultimate goal, being united with Him in His presence. When we focus our longing on that eternal goal, we can embrace the joys of this life, not as an end in themselves, but as a means of moving us closer to our real goal. Even the challenges of this life can serve to sharpen our focus and increase our longing for our eventual home. It is those who have their hearts set on heaven that can fully appreciate this journey through life. This journey is not pointless or meaningless. It is preparation for something far better.

                One day fairly soon, I will be settled into my new home. When that day comes, my longing will be satisfied, for a time. That is the way it is with our longings in life. Once they are fulfilled their intensity is extinguished, and they are soon replaced by a new longing. But one day we will enter our eternal home and the intensity and delight in achieving the goal of our longing will never diminish.

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.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020


Psalm 139:7-10
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

                For many people social distancing is wearing then, very thin. Just this morning I saw a news article about another protest calling for the government to open up the country and allow people to get back to normal. Unfortunately, normal has changed. Social distancing has had a positive effect on the spread of the virus, but a negative effect on the economy. Yesterday oil actually went below zero. Refiners are paying suppliers to take their stockpile off of their hands. I read another article that talked about ten major companies that will probably not survive the economic shut down. That doesn’t even touch on the multitude of small businesses that will close. We are experiencing a very difficult time.

                Most people are doing their best to cope with the demands of social distancing. Yet, we are all feeling the strain. We will all be impacted by the larger issues involved. The way we used to interact with one another has changed, and every indication is that those changes will continue on into the foreseeable future.

                Even as we feel isolated and disconnected from our friends and families, we can also begin to feel disconnected from God. I have always marveled at an almost universal bent toward blaming God for bad things that happen, regardless of a person’s belief or lack of belief in God. Whenever a major crisis like this happens, God becomes the culprit. Satan loves to throw God under the bus.

                The good news is that even though we are experiencing social distancing, we don’t have to experience spiritual distancing. In fact, it is as when times are difficult that many people seek God more diligently. In Psalm 139, David reminds us that there is nowhere that we can go where God is not present. Paul reminds us in Romans 8 that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God, and that includes Covid-19 and social distancing.

                This morning, my devotional guide led me to Psalm 121. It is another reminder that God is not distant from us, even when we don’t feel His presence.

Psalm 121:1-8
I lift up my eyes to the hills--
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip--
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you--
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm--
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

                This Psalm reminds us that during difficult times we are not alone. It gives us a strategy for staying connected to God, even as we feel disconnected from others.

                During difficult times, look to God for your strength. Times like this remind of really how weak and vulnerable we are. Over the past century, we have bought into the idea that we are the masters of our world. We are in control of our lives. Yet a small, microscopic virus can shut down the world in a heartbeat. Where do we turn when our vulnerability is exposed? The best place to turn is to the one who created this world. As believers in Christ, now more than ever, we need to fix our eyes on Jesus. He is our help and strength.

                During difficult times, trust that God is still with us. God is not passive during the crisis. God is not distant either. He continues to watch over us. When Paul was faced with his “thorn in the flesh” he turned to God for relief. What he discovered is that God’s grace is more then sufficient to overcome his weakness. God’s grace still is. We all want this virus to just go away, but God has a different plan. His primary goal is not to take away our suffering, but to draw us closer to Himself.

                During difficult times, trust that God is seeking what is best for you. We don’t always know what is best for us. Sometimes the thing that we think is best, upon closer examination, turns out to be negative. Part of human nature is to tell God what should happen and to expect Him to do things the way we think they should be done. When the Psalmist promises that God will keep you from all harm, he is not referring to physical harm. He is referring to ultimate harm, spiritual harm. God cares most about your soul. Our physical lives on earth, although important, are temporary. Our soul is eternal. God often uses difficult times to strip away the superficial and temporary to help us see the truly significant and eternal.

                Social distancing does not have to result in spiritual distancing. Instead, let us allow God to use this “thorn in the flesh” to draw us closer to Himself.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020


Psalm 46:1-3
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

                This past weekend was an odd experience for me. It was the first time in my life that I did not attend a corporate worship service on Easter Sunday. There was a definite void; a tangible sense of loss. I think many people are feeling a similar sense of loss, although for different reasons.

                Almost everyone I talk to is talking about the new normal. What will life be like after the Covid-19 pandemic has run its course? Will we go back to the way things were, or will we move in an entirely new direction? Everyone senses that life as we know it is changing, but no one knows what the future will be. We are experiencing a low-level anxiety that is hard to define.

                Next Sunday was supposed to be my last Sunday at Cavalier Baptist Church. We had arranged to pick up a moving truck on Saturday, pack our belongings, and hit the road on Sunday. Now, due to the travel restrictions that have been imposed, that has changed. We have pushed our move back a month, in hopes that by the end of May we may be able to safely make the trip. Yet over the weekend, I found myself struggling with the “what if” question. I actually began to wonder if we would be able to make the transition at all. I know that it was irrational, but it was also real. When everything that you have known as normal is stripped away, it is replaced by uncertainty, anxiety, and fear.

                This morning I opened my devotional guide and turned in my Bible to the Psalm for the week, Psalm 46. The first three verses struck me as a very real message from God. In just a few words, the Psalmist reminded me that I have a solid place to stand, even in these uncertain times. I continue to be amazed how often God directs me to just the right passage of scripture at just the right time. I was not intentionally looking for Psalm 46, but God knew that I needed it.

                God is my refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. My hope, my security, my sense of well-being is not to be found in the circumstances that surround me. My strength is to be found in the Lord. As Paul reminds us in Romans 8, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. The idea of a refuge is a place of security that we can go to when life becomes insecure. God is that place of security. As He promised several times in the Bible, I will never leave you or forsake you. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

                One of the things that causes us to be anxious is that many of the things we have either depended upon or have taken for granted have either been suspended or radically changed. For many people it seems like their world is crumbling. The Psalmist reminds us that even if our world crumbles, we don’t have to be afraid, because God is our refuge.

                This season that we are going through is a real test of our faith. Will we trust God in the midst of this? Will we hold onto the truth that God is our refuge?

Psalm 46:10-11
"Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth."

The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020


                We have entered what has become known as Holy Week. It is the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. It commemorates Jesus’ last week of life before his death and resurrection. For many years there has been a debate about the authenticity of the events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday. There are those who have contended that what we call the passion of Christ is really a fantasy; a story made up by the early church to validate their beliefs. So, is the resurrection of Jesus fact or fiction?

                We do not have to accept the death and resurrection of Jesus on blind faith. God has given us enough solid evidence to be confident in its truth. Our faith is based on the foundation of the truth of the resurrection. Before we look at the direct evidence for the resurrection, we need to examine the authenticity of the biblical accounts.

                The reality of the resurrection is specifically stated in the four Gospels and permeates the rest of the New Testament. To put the Gospels in context, Matthew, Mark, and Luke were written around AD 58-60. While John was written between AD 85-95. The events of Jesus’ death and resurrection took place at about AD 35. Three of the Gospel accounts were written within 25 years of the actual event. The significance of this is that there would have been many people alive who actually witnessed these events who could have contested the Gospel accounts if they were not accurate. All four Gospels give genuine eyewitness accounts of these events.

                Probably the most compelling evidence for the validity of the resurrection is found in 1 Corinthians 15. The book of 1 Corinthians was written about AD 55, just 20 years after the events. We will examine this more closely later, but Paul challenged his readers to talk to the many eyewitnesses to the resurrection who were still alive at the time of his letter.

                In addition, there are extra-biblical records that affirm that Jesus was tried and crucified. The Jewish historian Josephus records not only the reality of the crucifixion, but records that it was reported that Jesus raised from the dead. Let us examine the evidence for the truth of the resurrection.

                First, we must explore the idea that Jesus never really died on the cross. There are some who suggest that Jesus was never crucified or that he just swooned on the cross and was later revived by his disciples.

                The historical fact that Jesus was crucified by order of Pontius Pilate is recorded in Matthew 27:11-26, Mark 15:1-15, Luke 22:66-23:25, John 18:28-19:16, as well as by Josephus.

                Before Jesus was crucified, he was flogged and cruelly mistreated. This would have substantially weakened him. (Matthew 27:27-31, Mark 15:16-20, John 19:1-5)

                Crucifixion was one of the cruelest forms of capital punishment. A man would be nailed to a cross, with the nails going through his wrists just below the palm of the hand and a single nail through his feet. Before his feet were nailed, his knees would be slightly bent. Once the cross was in place, the whole weight of the man’s body would be on his wrists. His chest would be constricted, restricting his breathing. He could push up with his legs to get a breath, but the pain would be excruciating. In addition, prisoners were routinely flogged before they were crucified causing them to bleed profusely. As the man became weaker and weaker, he would die of blood loss and asphyxiation.

                After Jesus died, the truth of this was confirmed when a soldier thrust his spear into Jesus’ side. Blood and water flowed out, indicating that the serum and red blood cells had already separated in Jesus’ body; a sure sign of death. (John 19:31-37)

                Jesus was placed in a tomb carved out of the rock. A large stone was rolled in front of the entrance that would have taken several men to remove. It would be impossible to move the stone from the inside. Given the extent of Jesus’ wounds and the weakness caused by his crucifixion, even if he was still barely alive when he was placed in the tomb, he would have quickly died in the cold, airless tomb. (Matthew 27:57-61, Mark 15:42-47, Luke 23:50-56, John 19:38-42)

                Directly after the resurrection, the Jewish religious leaders circulated a rumor that Jesus’ disciples had taken his body and then claimed he has risen from the dead. There are several pieces of evidence that counter this claim.

                The tomb was sealed and a guard of soldiers was placed at the tomb to keep anyone from removing the body of Jesus. This would have prohibited the disciples from taking the body. (Matthew 27:62-66)

                The women were the first to discover the empty tomb. In those days, the testimony of women was not considered valid. This points to the accuracy of the story. If the church was going to make up a story about the empty tomb, they would not have had the women be the first to discover it. (Matthew 28:1-7, Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-11, John 20:1-2)

                Upon examination by the disciples, it was discovered that the tomb was empty, but the grave clothes were still there. If someone was going to take the body, they would not leave the grave clothes. (Luke 24:12, John 20:3-9)

                The guards that had been posted reported all that had happened to the chief priests. The chief priests paid them money to spread a false story. (Matthew 28:11-15) The story does not hold water on a number of accounts. First, Roman guards would never fall asleep at their post. Second, if they had fallen asleep, how would they have known it was the disciples who took the body. Third, if the disciples tried to move the large stone with the guards there they would have surely been detected.

                Some have contended that the disciples of Jesus so much wanted Jesus to rise from the dead that they imagined that it really happened. Others contend that the resurrection was spiritual and not physical. There is good evidence that these objections are also not true.

                The first people to see the risen Jesus were women. Again, if a person were making up this story, they would not have even included the women. (Matthew 28:8-10, John 20:10-18)

                The disciples never anticipated the resurrection. They are not depicted as the heroes of this story, but as scared, dejected men, hiding from the authorities. John records that they were congregated in a locked room out of fear of the authorities. Although Jesus had told them several times that he would rise from the dead, they never understood it until after the fact.

                Jesus appeared to the disciples in a locked upper room. He gave them physical evidence that it was really him and not a ghost. He invited them to touch him and he ate some fish. (Luke 24:36-49, John 20:19-23)

                Jesus appeared to two other disciples on the road to Emmaus. At first, they did not recognize him, but when he broke bread and gave thanks, their eyes were opened and they saw that it was Jesus. (Luke 24:13-35)

                Jesus made a second appearance to the disciples in the upper room, this time with Thomas present. (John 20:24-31)

                 Jesus appeared to the disciples in Galilee. (Matthew 28:16-20, John 21:1-14)

                Paul records multiple encounters with Jesus, by various groups during the 40 days before his ascension.
    For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)

                There are many today who want to deny the reality of the resurrection of Jesus. They contend that it is only myth and legend. But there is as much, if not far more, evidence for the truth of the resurrection as for any other ancient historical event. The evidence is before you. Each person must decide how they will respond. Is the resurrection of Jesus just a cleverly crafted myth, of a life changing reality? You must decide.

Friday, April 3, 2020


Proverbs 19:21
Many are the plans in a man's heart,
 but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails.

                The date is April 3. We are officially into spring. On April 1, the streets and lawns were bare, with only a few telltale piles of dirty snow at the corners of driveways. As I look out of my window this morning, I see a blanket of new snow covering everything; at least 6” of snow!

                As a trudged through the snow this morning, on my way to my office, I was reminded that we are not in control of our world. As much as we want to control our environment, there is little we can really do. Two days ago, people were thinking about gassing up their lawnmowers. Today they are gassing up their snowblowers.

                On a global scale, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought the world to its knees. The best that we can do is try to slow down the spread of this virus. But we have no control over it. We don’t even know how to combat it.

                Throughout history, humanity has striven to play God. Through our advances in science, we have convinced ourselves that we are the masters of our world. But we are wrong, dead wrong. I am not trying to suggest that God has intentionally plagued the world with this new virus as some act of divine punishment. What I am suggesting is that this latest pandemic should awaken us to the reality that we are not in control. No matter what our government officials are telling us, they are powerless to change the situation. We can moderate it. We can isolate it. We can monitor it. But we cannot control it.

                Long ago, Solomon penned a simple but profound truth. We can make all of the plans that we want, but in the end, it is God’s plan that will prevail. God’s plan right now is to awaken us to the reality of just how frail and vulnerable we are. Instead of cursing the darkness, we need to turn to the light. God is calling us to come to Him; to place our lives in His hands. It is the only truly safe place to be.

                We are rapidly approaching Holy Week. It will be one of the most unique Holy Weeks in my experience. We will remember Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection as individuals instead of corporately as congregations. But maybe that is not a bad thing. For each one of us must come to the cross of Jesus individually. We don’t come as a crowd, but as a person who Jesus knows by name and loves. When Jesus died on the cross and rose again, he conquered sin and death. He offers that victory to all who will put their faith in him.

                The timing of this pandemic is fortuitous. It serves to remind us that we cannot save ourselves. All of our best efforts fall short. But by going to the cross, Jesus did for us what we cannot do for ourselves. We are not in control, but God is. Through Jesus, we can have the victory over death; we can have life eternal.

John 11:25-26
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"