Monday, June 29, 2020


Ephesians 5:15
    Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise,

                We don’t often think about the significance of each individual day. We tend to see our lives from the perspective of the big events. As significant as those events are, it is the daily choices that we make that really shape our lives. The jewels in our crown that we will present to Jesus one day are cut from raw material each day.

                Each day is like a rough cut gem stone. The day begins in raw form, without clear definition or shape. As we go through our day, we shape the gem. If we are careful and wise, at the end of the day we have created a beautiful gem stone, worthy to be given to the King. If we are not careful, we mar the stone and end up with costume jewelry at best. Throughout the day we can either perfect our gem or place a flaw in it. Once the day is done, there is nothing we can do to change the outcome. We place that gem in our personal vault and start fresh the next day. At the end of our lives, we will open our vault, take out its contents, and place them at the feet of Jesus.

                The Apostle Paul used a different analogy to make the same point. It is found in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15.

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 way we live our daily lives is creating the treasure we have to take into eternity. If we are unwise in our daily choices, what we will have to take with us will be little. If we are wise in our daily choices, we will have treasure in abundance. It all depends on what we do with the rough-cut gem that God blesses us with each day. Will we let that gem be shaped by the world and its values or by Jesus and His values?

                Jesus drew that line in the sand during the Sermon on the Mount.

    "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

                Our life may seem to revolve around the big events along the way, but in reality, it is shaped by the routine choices we make day by day. How we will respond when the big events come is determined by the character we shape on a daily basis. The good news is that we get to start fresh each day. Each day is a new gem stone, ready to be shaped into something beautiful.

Lamentations 3:22-23
Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.


Tuesday, June 23, 2020


Psalm 27:1
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.

                This has been a season of waiting. We are all waiting for this current pandemic to be over. We are waiting for things to open up so that we can resume more normal life. In a more profound way, there are many who are waiting for significant social change, so that we will not go back to “normal.”

                Waiting is difficult for most of us. It seems like we are wasting time and accomplishing nothing. When I was in college, I had to read a play called Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett. It is the story of two men who are waiting for a third man, Godot, whom neither of them had ever met. Throughout the two-act play, they are encouraged to continue to wait, yet by the end of the play Godot never arrives.

                Many people have debated the identity of Godot. Beckett has contended that Godot is not a symbol for God, yet many people view it that way. The play seems to resonate with the experience that many people have. They are waiting for God to act, yet feel like He never shows up.

                This sentiment is a recurring theme in the Psalms. Asaph expressed his frustration of waiting for God in Psalm 73.

Psalm 73:1-3, 13-14
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.

Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure;
in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.
All day long I have been plagued;
I have been punished every morning.

                Asaph was in despair because it seemed to him that the wrong people were winning. Those who were trusting in God seemed to be getting the wrong end of the stick. God intervened and gave Asaph a glimpse of things from God’s perspective. He came to see that, although it seemed like the wicked were winning, in the end it is the righteous who truly win. So Asaph reaffirmed his willingness to wait for the Lord.

Psalm 73:28
But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.

                There are many reasons why God asks us to wait. Most often, during our time of waiting, it is hard for us to see why we have to wait. We become impatient and want to move on. But waiting is an essential part of God’s plan. Just as it takes time for fruit to ripen, so it takes time for God’s plans to be accomplished. We may not understand the reasons why we must wait, but if we will follow Asaph’s example and look at things from an eternal perspective, we will be able to have a positive attitude as we wait.

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.

Hebrews 12:1
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.


Monday, June 15, 2020


Titus 3:9
But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.

                We have been programmed to be crisis focused. All you have to do is pick up the newspaper or turn on the evening news. Guaranteed, the first thing you will encounter is the latest crisis. It may focus on social unrest, or economic woes, or the latest health scare, or international intrigue. It is presented in such a way as to stir up our emotions and get us either agitated, excited, or fearful.

                The media focuses on these things because they boost ratings and sell newspapers. But there is another group of people who grab the headlines and run wild with them. They are the conspiracy theorists. They can take any bit of information and transform it into a sinister plot to undermine our society and to enslave us all. BEWARE, BEWARE, our world is falling apart!!!!!

                It is hard not to get caught up in this negative spin. Although we may not buy into the latest conspiracy, we too often become focused on the latest crisis. Larry Osborne, in his book Thriving in Babylon, calls this crisis du jour.

“Audience ratings are the lifeblood of the media, whether Christian or secular. Without listeners and readers there would be no advertising revenue, no product sales, and no donations. So it should come as no surprise that gaining and maintaining significant market share is an underlying consideration in everything the media does.”

“Unfortunately, this creates enormous pressure to keep your audience fully engaged. Thus the constant emphasis on the latest crisis du jour. Panic and fear sell. They’re riveting and keep listeners and readers coming back for more. They don’t want to miss anything.”

“Frankly, the media and most ministry fund-raisers need a crisis to motivate people to watch, listen, and give. If they don’t have one, they’ll create on. And if all they have is a small one, they’ll make it into a big one.”
(Thriving in Babylon, page 111)

                I understand the allure. As a pastor, I have often felt the most energized when there was a crisis to manage, rather than when everything was going along smoothly. A good crisis captures our attention and get our juices flowing.

                There are several dangers of falling into the trap of being crisis centered. First, being crisis centered causes is to live in fear. This kind of fear is one of the ways that Satan keeps Christians off balance. Fear dominates us and often immobilizes us. Panic is never good. That is one reason why we are commanded over and over again in the Bible to not fear. Fear takes our eyes off of God and puts them on the current crisis.

                Joshua was facing his own crisis du jour. He was given the overwhelming task of leading the people of Israel into the Promised Land. He knew that once he crossed the Jordan River, he would be faced by a formidable foe. But God challenged him to take his eyes off of the crisis and put them squarely on God. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

                Another danger we face when we become crisis centered is that we become calloused. Our hearts become hard and we lose our compassion. Sociologists call this compassion fatigue. We just stop caring. We can become cynical and begin to shut out all cries for help. Instead of taking a clear honest look at things, we dismiss them out of hand.

                The greatest danger of buying into the crisis du jour is that it takes our eyes off of Christ. We forget that He is ultimately in control. Our lives are secure in Him, no matter what our current circumstances may be.

                The Apostle Paul was constantly faced with one crisis after another. As he traveled from town to town preaching the Gospel, he faced opposition and hardship at every turn. Although many people came to faith in Christ, many also turned against Paul, sometimes in violent ways. Paul was stoned, beaten, thrown into prison. Yet through it all, Paul kept his eyes firmly fixed on Jesus.

                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. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

                Paul was confident in the truth that through Christ he had already won the victory. And we have as well, if we have placed our faith in Jesus. We can be honest about the various crises that we face, but we don’t have to be overwhelmed by them. We can approach the crisis du jour from an eternal perspective.

                There are significant issues that need our attention. We have an obligation to do our part to foster justice and peace in our world. But ultimately, the crises of today will pass away. What really matters is investing in what will last for all of eternity. If we want to really make a difference in our world, we need to shift our focus from being crisis centered to being Christ centered.

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.

          I highly recommend Larry Osborne's book, Thriving in Babylon. It is essentially timely. 


Saturday, June 13, 2020


Romans 1:22-23
Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

                You can find them at almost any county fair or popular tourist destination. They are usually set up near where the majority of people will pass by. Their set-up is simple; an easel, a small table, a chair, and several examples of their product. They are caricature artists.

                Caricature artists are skilled at capturing the essence of their subject, but with a twist. They can create a very recognizable facsimile of their subject. Often the head is large and out of proportion to the rest of the body. Certain features are exaggerated. A cartoonish scene completes the picture, with the person placed at the center. When the portrait is complete, others can easily recognize the subject. We laugh at these caricatures because we recognize the obvious distortions.

                Many people believe in a caricature of God, except they do not see the distortion. Unwittingly they exaggerate one or two attributes of God and allow the others to fade into the background. The result is an image of God that is vaguely recognizable, but very incomplete. In some cases, the image is so distorted that it has little or nothing to do with the real thing.

                Satan knows that there is a hunger in the heart of all people to know God. So instead of trying to deny God’s existence, he has substituted a caricature. Just like a caricature artist, he emphasizes one aspect of God to the exclusion of the rest. He turns God into a cartoon. A cartoon God is much easier for people to live with. He fills the void, satisfying their need for God, yet he makes no real demands on the person’s life.

                One of Satan’s greatest and most popular caricatures of God in the West is that God is love, exclusively. God’s love has been brought to the forefront of most people’s image of God, but it is a distorted picture of love. It is not the love that is depicted in the Bible. It is love as defined by the current culture. In this caricature, God is a heavenly grandfather who is indulgent and not demanding. His greatest desire is that people would be happy. Whatever makes them happy is fine with Him. Whenever God’s justice or discipline is raised, it is silenced with the phrase, my God is a God of love. He would never do that!

                In other parts of the world, the caricature of God is the exact opposite. God is depicted as a God of wrath and punishment. God is to be feared and appeased. There is no hope of getting close to God. In fact, the idea is to keep God as far away as possible. The less involved God is in a person’s life, the better. There is no love in this caricature, only fear.

                In between these two extremes is a multitude of other caricatures. Each one focusing on one or two real aspects of God, to the exclusion of others. Instead of a well-rounded understanding of God, they give us a distorted image that is something less than the real thing.

                All of us have a slightly distorted image of God. Our image of God has been shaped by our life experiences. That is why it is essential that we regularly check our image against what the Bible says about God. It is like comparing a caricature to a photo. The photo allows us to recognize the distortions in the caricature. In the same way, the Bible helps us recognize the distortions in our image of God. Even here, we must be careful. It is possible to find passages that support our caricature. We need to examine our image against the complete image of God given in His Word.

                The place to begin is with an honest examination of Jesus. Paul tells us in Colossians 1:15 that Jesus is the real deal. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. If we want a genuine, real picture of God, we need to look to Jesus.

                When Jesus was preparing His disciples for what was ahead for them, Philip asked Jesus to give them a glimpse of God. Jesus’ reply was that Philip had already seen God in Jesus.

    Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us."
    Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? (John 14:8-9)

                Satan is the master salesman. He has been selling the world a wide variety of caricatures of God, and the world have been lining up to buy them. People want a God who is safe, a God who is manageable, a God they can control. People want a God in their own image. But none of these are the real thing. They all distort who God really is. They give people a false sense of security. Too many people find out too late that they had placed their faith in a caricature of God and not the real thing.

                The question we all need to ask is, what is my image of God? Is it a caricature or the genuine article?

Hebrews 1:1-4
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.

John 1:14
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020


2 Corinthians 5:16
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.

The aspect in which a subject or its parts are mentally viewed.
Capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance.
(Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary)

                We all come at life from a particular perspective. Our perspective is shaped by our life experiences. Over time we have formed filters, through which we pass information. We use these filters to interpret what we are seeing or hearing. Although we may share similar filters with others, there is a uniquely personal aspect to them. No one’s life experiences are exactly like someone else’s.

                Many years ago, I knew a man who worked as a counselor at a State hospital. His field was chemical dependency. Daily his life was filled with encounters with people who had become trapped in addictions that had ruined their lives. Consequently, he saw every situation through the perspective of chemical dependency.

                Throughout my many years of pastoral ministry, I have often been approached for financial assistance. In the vast majority of these incidents, the person on the other end of the line is a total stranger. Many of these individuals are not looking for help, they are looking for a hand-out. I have been verbally abused on many occasions when I tried to probe deeper or tried to explain why I could not help. These negative experiences have tainted my perspective. I tend to view those kinds of calls with skepticism.

                The Apostle Paul grew up as a devout Jew. By his own testimony, he was a Pharisee of the Pharisees. His perspective in life was shaped by his strong belief system. Because of this, Paul persecuted the followers of Jesus. He felt it was his duty to stamp out this new movement that threatened his position in life. Then, in an amazing encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-19), Paul’s perspective radically changed. Basically, overnight Paul changed from being a persecutor of the Church to a promoter of Jesus. From that point on, Paul interpreted his world through a new set of filters.

                In Haydn Shaw’s book Generational IQ, he makes the point that, in a general sense, each generation has been shaped by the major events of their childhood. These events have produced different perspectives in different generations. Those who grew up during the Great Depression and WWII view life through the perspective of thrift and duty. Those who grew up during the 60’s & 70’s were shaped by both progress and turmoil. It was a time of economic stability and advancement. It was also a time of social change and struggle. These people tend to view life through the perspective of hard work, competition, and individualism. The generations that have followed have been shaped by technology, economic boom and bust, and hyper-individualism. The perspective of each generation has been shaped by their life experiences.

                Recently, I have noticed that I am having more trouble reading under certain conditions. I need the help of reading glasses to be able to see things more clearly. One of the things about perspective is that it is never perfect. There is a flaw in everyone’s perspective. We all need some help to see things more clearly. To do this we need to dialog with each other. We need to listen to different perspectives without jumping to negative conclusions. We need to learn from one another.

                Above all, we need to have a radical change in our perspective like Paul’s; we need an encounter with Jesus. Because of the influence of sin in our lives, our perspective is distorted. We cannot see things as clearly as we should.

                There is a procedure available today that can radically improve a person’s eyesight. It is called Lasik. With the use of laser, a skilled surgeon can correct problems in the eye and restore sight. We all need spiritual Lasik. We need the Holy Spirit to remove the things that distort our perspective and help us to see things from a godly perspective. This does not mean that our perspective will always be perfect, but we will have a better understanding of things as they really are. We will begin to see things through the filter of God’s word and presence.

                One of the reasons we have the social struggles that we have today is that we are using a faulty perspective. We see other people as the problem, just as Paul did. The problem is not other people, it is sin. Sin in our life and in theirs. We need to change our perspective.

                In Ephesians 6:10-13, Paul encourages us to view life from a radically different perspective. Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

                We are in a spiritual battle. There is action that needs to be taken. Wrongs need to be righted. Negative situations need to be minimized. Ultimately, positive change will take place only after we have readjusted our perspective. We need to view others through the eyes of Jesus.

Ephesians 4:32
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.


Monday, June 1, 2020


1 Corinthians 12:26
If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

                One of the discoveries that we made, as we moved into our new home, was that the toilet in the second bathroom leaked. So, the other day I decided to tackle the problem. I went to Menards and bought the needed items to fix the toilet. Then I began the process of dismantling and reassembling the toilet. As has often been my experience with plumbing, things did not go smoothly. First, space is limited, and so it made working on the toilet more difficult. Second, some of the old parts were reluctant to give up their place. For the next couple of hours, I labored in a cramped space, working at odd angles. Finally, I was able to put everything back together without it leaking. A major victory for me.

                After I was finished, I realized that there was a cost to pay for my efforts that had nothing to do with the toilet. In my efforts to work in the cramped conditions of the bathroom, I aggravated an old foot injury. When I stepped down on my right foot, excoriating pain shot out through my toes and up my leg. For the remainder of that day, I felt generally out of sorts. I was hobbled by this for several days, making other normal activities more difficult.

                Over the past several days, our nation has been hobbled by an excruciating pain. The death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police has erupted into full scale riots across the country. In one way or another we are all feeling the pain of that one incident. Many people have tried to peacefully express their pain, while others have used this as an opportunity to unleash pent up anger and frustration in destructive ways. It was encouraging to hear that many people rallied on Sunday morning to help clean up the mess caused by those who chose violence as their response.

                In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he explained that the church is like the human body. It is made up of many parts, which all work together for a common good. But when one part of the body malfunctions, the entire body feels it. What is true of the body of Christ is true of the community in general. Every community is designed to work together for the common good. When one part of the community malfunctions, the entire community pay the price, as we have seen.

                In the human body, when one part of the body malfunctions, the rest of the body works to bring healing and restore wholeness. When the offending part of the body does not respond, we call this disease. Cancer is a prime example of this. The cells in one part of the body begin to aggressively act on their own, causing damage to the surrounding tissue and ultimately to the entire body. This is what we are experiencing as a nation right now.

                There are parts of our community, on both sides of the equation, who have decided to act on their own. Both insensitive, overly aggressive police officers and unrestrained rioters are a cancer within our society that is damaging the whole. Anger, violence, bitterness and rage only foster more of the same. Brutality by some police does not restrain crime, nor does violent rioting change societal problems. Both are destructive and need to be eliminated. There is a better way.

                Paul gives us the only real answer to the issues that inflame our society. It is found in Romans 12.

    Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary:

"If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21)

                What happened to George Floyd and others should never happen. But responding in anger and violence will never change that. There is only one way, to overcome evil with good. Those who went out on Sunday morning to clean up the mess that others caused are good examples of the right response.

                When one part suffers, we all suffer. The Black community is suffering because they feel that they are being targeted and treated unfairly. The police are suffering because they are being vilified and unfairly being painted with a very negative, broad brush. Business owners are suffering because on the heals of the Covid-19 shut-down, their businesses have been damaged and looted. The community is suffering because we all must pay the price for the actions of the few. When one part suffers, we all suffer.

                A healthy body mobilizes to fight disease. A healthy community mobilizes to fight both crime and injustice at all levels. We are in this together.

Philippians 2:4
Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.