Thursday, January 29, 2009

Live in the Light...

God shows us, through Paul’s words, how good living in the light is. He tells us what those who live in the light do. He explains how they – how we – put off the old and put on the new.

“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. ‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:25-32, NIV)

Can you think of a better lifestyle?

People who obey these instructions are the kind of people you want to be around. They’re honest. You can trust them. They’re not angry. You don’t have to fear them. They don’t steal. You can share your stuff with them and know it will come back. They control their tongue. You won’t be hurt by them, but encouraged. They aren’t bitter. You can enjoy their company. They don’t quarrel. You can talk with them about your differences. They don’t slander. Your reputation is safe in their hands. They are kind and compassionate. Your needs will be met by them. They’ll actually notice. They forgive. That’s good news, isn’t it? You know you’re going to mess up. They’ll forgive.

Pretty cool, huh? That is the way people who live in the light act. That is the way you live, isn’t it? Oh, you mess up. You get tired and cranky once in awhile, but most of the time you show love. You get selfish from time to time, but most of the time you think of others. You sin against your brother on occasion, but most of the time God gives you the power to say NO! to the dark deeds and yes to the light actions.

Hear God’s Word to you today.

“We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:5-11, NIV)

Live in the light today…and always!

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The requirements for worship...

Bob, Bill, Doug and I sat around Bill's dining room table last night and talked about Leviticus 8-10. (Yes, I said Leviticus - the same book that derailed your last two attempts at reading through the Bible in a year. Don't feel bad. It's done me in too.) We were together because the icy roads had kept us from traveling 50 plus miles together to join dozens of others for Bible Study Fellowship in Wichita. Rather than skip a week, the four of us met to discuss our lesson.

So we're talking, answering the questions laid out for us, sipping coffee and munching on homemade cookies and God jumps into the middle of our conversation and speaks to us about worship.

We were examining the requirements for Israel's worship. We talked about how clear the instructions for worship were in Leviticus. Aaron and his sons, the priests, were told exactly how to handle all things religious. There were rules for sacrifices and priestly conduct. Moses got specific instructions from the Lord and passed them on to his brother and his nephews. "This is what the Lord requires. This is how to do it. Put the blood of the bull here. Eat the meat there."

Something - I think it was a comment from Doug - got us talking about what God requires of us in worship today. Jesus' words to the Samaritan woman whom he met at Jacob's well came to mind. He'd been asked by this outcast among outcasts where the right place to worship was - on "this mountain" or in Jerusalem.

Our Master's reply: "Believe me woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem...a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." (John 4:21; 23-24)

What is required for worship today? What is the one obligation God places on us? Jesus says we must worship God in spirit and in truth. What does that mean? It means setting our heart on God. We're not just going through the motions of religion once a week - sing three songs, take an offering, sing another couple of songs, listen to a sermon. Any pagan can do that and go home unchanged. We're giving God more than Joe Blow can offer. We're giving him us - who we are, our dreams, our failures, our sins, our triumphs, our weaknesses. True worship is giving whole-hearted, whole-souled, whole-minded, whole-strengthed love to our Maker every moment of every day. It's denying ourselves on any given morning. It's exalting and honoring and obeying God every hour, every minute, every second of our lives. That's worship in spirit and in truth.

Are you worshiping God in spirit and in truth? It's what's required of true worshipers today. Every other kind of worshiper is fakey, false, failing. Many are the false worshipers. That's why God is seeking true worshipers.

Why don't you be one he can find?

"God is spirit, and his worshipers MUST worship in spirit and in truth."

No more darkness!

Darkness is not nice. It is, well, dark. So Paul says, put that behind you and come into the light.

“You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:20-24, NIV)

What do you do with that old, icky, dark life of yours? You put off your old self. You shed it like a winter coat when you come in out of the cold. You slough it off like so much dirt washed away in the shower.

“No more darkness!”

You have to come to the place you can say that or you’re not going to be free. You have to hate the darkness and love the light or the darkness will remain.

Darkness flees the moment you believe on Jesus for your salvation. You are made righteous when you believe. You put off darkness and are made new. You put on the light. I guess more accurately, God does all this in you, but it’s done when you believe.

Darkness, then, from the day of your salvation, is held at bay as you morning after morning after morning put off the old self. It is overwhelmed by the light as you consistently, every afternoon, submit your will to God’s. It is sent packing as you follow Jesus every night.

What we talked about last week. Repenting. Submitting to God’s rule. Obeying his commands. All that applies again this week.

When darkness threatens to creep back in, turn around. When you sin, turn away from it. Turn to God for help. The Father will lovingly run to you. He will embrace you and celebrate your return.

Darkness is not better than light. Light is good. In the light is the best place to be. It’s there that you find what you’re really looking for.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Manly candles...

I saw this video posted on a friend's Facebook account and had to pass it along to my blog readers. Hope it makes you laugh. (It's only slightly crude in a couple of places.) "Mandles" are the greatest thing since grilled steak!

Stuck in 1,191st Place...

Every day I click on over to the Where I've Been application on Facebook and answer the trivia question. I've answered 170 geography questions correctly over the past few months. Missed 121. I looked up a few answers early on, but haven't looked them up in ages. I like to see what I know or can logically deduce. I do alright even on stuff I've never heard of before. But - and this bugs me - I got into 1,191st place awhile back and I've stayed there. No matter how many questions I get right, I don't move up in the rankings. 1,191st! I guess there are worse things in the world. I'll keep trying. (I have no idea why I'm posting this.)


In Ephesians 4, Paul first describes the life of those who love darkness and then offers us a glimpse into light-living.

Here’s what he says about the dark-lovers.

“So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.” (Ephesians 4:17-19, NIV)

Let’s look quickly at the words, the phrases that the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to use in describing these folks.

The first he tells us that those who are not believers – he calls them Gentiles – have futile thoughts. They don’t have their heads screwed on straight. They believe nonsense. Fall for anything that points them away from the reality of God’s existence or standards. They give no thought to their responsibility to others. They think only of themselves.

Now, we all think of ourselves. It’s natural and not all bad. If you don’t think of yourself ever, you get used up by others.

These folks, though, take self-thought to extremes. They obsess over themselves. What they want. What they need. What they like. What they don’t like. Futile!

Next Paul says they’re darkened in their understanding. They don’t get it. They don’t understand how good God’s gift of salvation is. Here’s what Paul wrote to another church.

“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (1 Corinthians 4:4, NIV)

You talk to a “Gentile” about Jesus and they say, “Huh?” The devil keeps them from seeing their desperate situation. He convinces them that sin is no big deal that there’s no need for a savior.

Ephesians 4:18 goes on: they’re “separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” Unbelievers don’t have eternal life. That’s a fact. You have to believe to have eternal life.

Why don’t they believe? Because they’re ignorant. Because they’re hard-hearted. Won’t listen. Won’t turn around. Won’t follow.

And another thing: they have lost all sensitivity. I think this mostly has to do with their sensitivity to God’s Spirit, but it could mean a loss of sensitivity to others too. They don’t give a rip about God and his laws. They don’t give a rip about you or your feelings or your rights or your life. They’re focused on themselves and their lusts.

They rape. They murder. They steal. They lie. They manipulate. They threaten. They use. They abuse. They sin every chance they get. No sense of responsibility for the other guy. People are resources to be used. They are tools for meeting “my” needs.

Darkness is nasty. Those who live in the dark are not nice. They need to put their evil deeds behind them and come into the light. We’ll talk about that more next time.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Didn't like him...

A lovely couple in our church, Argus and Melva Joy Pearce, will be celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary next Wednesday. Their family is honoring them with a come-and-go reception at the church on the following Saturday afternoon. Lots of well-wishers will be coming.

I went over to their house today and, because I was pretty sure both of them had grown up in our church, asked a question I'd been dying to have answered.

"Why did you get married in Rose Hill?"

Melva blushed a bit as she answered. "Well, we didn't really like the pastor here at the time," she explained. I laughed. She went on to say that the minister at Rose Hill was a former Argonia Friends pastor whom both of them loved and respected.

So there you have it. That's why two lifelong residents of Argonia and regular attenders at Argonia Friends went to Rose Hill to get married 70 years ago. Pretty funny if you ask me.

Works-based acceptance...

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV)

The National Honor Society knows nothing about grace. They are entirely works-based in their acceptance of students. If you show yourself to be a leader in academics, co-curricular activities and work, they might let you in. Even then, it's a bit iffy. If your writing isn't neat or you use a pencil rather than a pen on your application, they can exclude you. My daughter, a straight-A student, was turned down for that very offense last year.

Acceptance by the National Honor Society is on my mind this morning after helping my daughter finish filling out her second application last night. It was a time-consuming ordeal. We spent several hours on it, trying to make sure everything was in order. We still have one blank to fill in before printing everything off and handing it over to the powers-that-be. We're all a bit nervous. Will it be enough?

This whole process has renewed a sense of gratitude in my heart toward God. He is not like the National Honor Society faculty council at all. He doesn't look at the way we come to him and say, "Not neat enough." He doesn't turn us away because we haven't done enough good to outweigh the bad. He welcomes us when we come to him with our never-quite-mature faith and offer him our lives. When we believe on Jesus, he says, "Approved! Accepted! Forgiven! Welcome!"


Since we purchased our new van, a Toyota Sienna, about a year ago, our eldest has been using our old van, the maroon Villager, to drive to and from school. (I know. It’s only three blocks and you had to walk three miles to school, uphill both ways in the cold when you were a kid. I did to – with a heavy trombone case and an armload of textbooks. I’m just telling you the facts about the vehicle’s general use, not commenting on the wisdom of the decision to allow such use.)

So somewhere along the line, it was decided that this to-school-and-back transport needed a name. Don’t know why or when for sure. Just know that the poor, old thing was christened Ichabod.

Had nothing to do with a certain fellow with the surname Crane from Sleepy Hollow. It was the name Eli’s daughter-in-law gave her newborn son when she heard of her husband’s and father-in-law’s untimely deaths and the capture of the Ark of the Covenant by the Philistines. (1 Samuel 4:21) In Hebrew, the name means, “The glory has departed.”

I’m telling you, it’s an apt moniker for this minivan. The glory has definitely departed after 246,000+ miles. About the only things that work perfectly are the radio tuner and cassette tape player. Everything else has gone to pot.

If the driver’s side door isn’t slammed sharply into place, it remains open slightly, about a half inch, and the open door warning indicator lights up. The seals around the windows on both front doors do not stay in place, allowing the howl of the wind to fill the cabin on blustery days. The high beam headlights, with their yellowed plastic lenses, insufficiently light up the highway on dark nights, making driving a bit scary. The bothersome rattles and loud creaks that we were accustomed to before we started driving the Toyota regularly are quite annoying now. The upholstery is spotted with years-old pop and food stains, in places it has frayed, small holes keep appearing. And last, but not least, the dome light switch on the doors has given up the ghost so you can’t see a thing when you open the door at night.

It’s this last quirk that bugs me the most. Almost everything I carry with me when I drive Ichabod is black. I have a black emergency radio, a black datebook, a black camera bag, a black cell phone. With no bright overhead lights it’s nearly impossible to find these things when I pull into the driveway on a starless night. Fishing around I can usually locate my stuff, but it takes some time and I’m never 100% sure I’ve recovered everything. I have taken to using the map lights, but they’re pretty dim and not as much help as you might think.

I have, I must confess, growled at Ichabod a time or two. Poor thing. Did I mention that the van’s radio tuner and tape player work?

You know, having trouble locating a black camera case isn’t the worst difficulty I’ve encountered while in the dark. I’ve experienced pain and fear when the lights go out. I’ll bet you have too.

Nearly all of us have been afraid in the blackness of night at least once in our lives. And I’ll bet there isn’t a person reading this who hasn’t stubbed their toe on a table leg or a doorjamb after midnight. Ouch!

Can you imagine living in perpetual darkness? Not me. I like the light.

There are people in this world who live in total darkness day in and day out. They’re always fishing around for things, though they aren’t sure exactly what those things are. They’re often afraid and in pain. Their frustration is incredible.

Here’s what Jesus said about these folks.

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” (John 3:19-20, NIV)

Does that describe anyone you know? “I’m not giving my life to Jesus. I’d have to give up my evil friends. I couldn’t have any evil fun. I’m not ready. Maybe later.”

A young ruler with a love-of-darkness problem came to Jesus with a question one day. He asked, sincerely enough I suppose, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”

“Which ones?” the man inquired.

Jesus replied, “‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

“When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.” (Matthew 19:16-22, NIV)

The love of the darkness of greed kept this man from following Jesus. The love of other kinds of darkness keeps others – your friends – from following. Is the love of some kind of evil causing you to keep the world’s only savior at arm’s length?

It’s time to leave the darkness and come into the light. Believe on Jesus. Follow him.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Relatively cold...

It's 30 degrees (F) out right now. Wind chill of 19. Since I got something about cold from a friend with Iowa connections today, I thought I'd post it. It certainly applies to Kansas and her residents too.


65 above zero:
Floridians turn on the heat.
People in Iowa plant gardens.

60 above zero:
Californians shiver uncontrollably.
People in Iowa sunbathe.

50 above zero:
Italian & English cars won't start.
People in Iowa drive with the windowsdown.

40 above zero:
Georgians don coats, thermal underwear, gloves,wool hats.
People in Iowa throw on a flannel shirt.

35 above zero:
New York landlords finally turn up the heat.
People in Iowa have the last cookoutbefore it gets cold.

20 above Zero:
People in Miami all die.
Iowans close the windows.

Californians fly away to Mexico.
People in Iowa get out their winter coats.

10 below zero:
Hollywood disintegrates.
The Girl Scouts in Iowa are selling cookies door to door.

20 below zero:
Washington DC runs out of hot air.
People in Iowa let the dogs sleep indoors.

30 below zero:
Santa Claus abandons the North Pole.
Iowans get upset because they can't start the Snow-mobile.

40 below zero:
ALL atomic motion stops.
People in Iowa start saying...'Cold enough fer ya?'

50 below zero:
Hell freezes over.
Iowa public schools will open 2 hours late

Obedience is best...

And believing kids – that includes everyone still under their parent’s roof – God calls you to repentance too. I know you, especially you older teens, hate the word obey, but it’s God command to you. He commands obedience to His commands and to your parents.

Ephesians 6:1-3 makes that clear. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ – which is the first commandment with a promise – ‘that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’” (NIV)

You see. Following God’s ONE WAY for you benefits you. It is for your good that God says, “Obey your parents.”

So if you’re feeling wildly rebellious, don’t act on that. Act in the power of the Holy Spirit within you like God’s children. Honor your parents with obedience. If you will do this, your Heavenly Father, God Himself, will teach you wisdom and build your character. He will equip you to follow in his ONE WAY for all your days. You will be courageous, bold, confident, holy, pure, free.

God’s way is best. Trust me on this. Sin will destroy you.

Be one of Jesus’ obedient followers. Show your parents how to obey God. Be one of those whom God blesses for their honoring of parents. Lead the way for your friends. Be one who lives a good, long and God-glorifying life.

Do you remember Samuel? He was a young boy when he came to work in the temple. He was faithful to the Lord. He obeyed those who had authority over him and God blessed him. God took Samuel’s willingness to obey and made a great man out of the boy. The boy who heard God’s voice as a child became one of the greatest leaders of Israel ever. He choose the best way.

“Obedience” is not the bad thing your friends and the world tell you it is.

“Repent and believe the good news!”

Following God is good. It protects you from heartache. It keeps you from harm.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

No more excuses...

Anyone who writes with any regularity is going to experience what is commonly called writer's block. I do. Sometimes words just won't come when I sit down to pound out a new message. It's extremely frustrating when the block lifts Friday afternoon when I wanted it out of the way Thursday morning.

I ran across this essay on writer's block - I'm only posting part of it - when I followed a link on a friend's Facebook profile today. If you're a writer, maybe it will help you.

Writing is easy, it’s quality that’s hard. Any idiot who knows 5 words can write a sentence (e.g. “Dufus big much Scott is”). It might be grammarless, broken, or inaccurate but it is writing. This means that when people can’t start they’re imagining the precision of the end, all polished and brilliant, a vision that makes the ugly clumsy junkyard that all beginnings are, impossible to accept. Good voice, tone, rhythm, ideas and grammar are essential to good writing, but they’re never introduced all at once. I promise you, the first draft of Strunk and White didn’t follow Strunk and White. The secret, if you can’t start, is to begin without constraints. Deliberately write badly, but write.

For this reason writer’s block is a sham. Anyone who wrote yesterday can write today, it’s just a question of if they can do it to their own satisfaction. It’s not the fear of writing that blocks people, it’s fear of not writing well; something quite different. Certainly every writer has moments of paralysis, but the way out is to properly frame what’s going on, and writer’s block, as commonly misunderstood, is a red herring.

Consider this: Have you ever been blocked while playing Frisbee? Eating doughnuts? Dancing naked in your living room? Those are joyful things and there’s nothing at stake: if you fail, who cares? Nobody. If there are no rules, and no judgment, psychological blocks are impossible. And remember writers like making names and overthinking things: there is no term for architect-block, painter-block, juggler-block or composer-block. Every creative pursuit faces similar pressures, but they don’t obsess about it the way writers seem to do.

So play. Loosen up. Smile. Break the framework that’s making it impossible to start. Forget the deadline and the assignment and just be an open mind with a pen. Remember that until you say you’re finished, you can break all the rules. If you can’t get started, your psychology is making the challenge bigger than you can handle. Thinking of the book, the chapter, the page, the paragraph, is all too big if while you’re thinking, the page remains blank. Like a weightlifter out of his class, a writer with a blank page needs to lighten the load.

Well, I'd better get started on my sermon. If you want to know how to overcome writer's block, read the rest of the essay. Here's the link:!

A word on enemies...

Who’s your enemy? Someone who mistreats you. A family member who criticizes your every move. A coworker who drive you nuts. A classmate who slanders you. Got someone in mind?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” (Matthew 5:43-47, NIV)

Take a moment right now and obey your Master. Love your enemy. Pray for him. Bless her.

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Why not for gender selection?

If you want to get pro-choicers wound up, just bring up gender-selection abortions. I recommend doing this right about the time that they accuse you of being anti-women. Just turn the tables and ask them how they feel about that type of abortion.

They'll typically go in to squirm or ballistic mode, because they know that any answer will expose their inconsistency. If they say that gender selection abortions are acceptable, then they have blessed the ultimate misogyny. Virtually all of them destroy innocent female human beings. If they say that gender selection abortions are not acceptable, then they have to explain why it is OK to destroy the unborn for other reasons but not for gender selection. They'll have to acknowledge the humanity of the unborn, which will undermine virtually all of their arguments. And they hate doing that.

If it is morally neutral to destroy a human being for being unwanted, too expensive, potentially gay, having Down Syndrome, or whatever, why would it be even 1% immoral if the motive were her "wrong" gender?

So go ahead and try this reasoning. If nothing else, you've annihilated their "you're anti-women" argument, because you would support bans on gender selection abortions.

You can also point that well over 90% of workers and volunteers at Crisis Pregnancy Centers are women and that the most pro-abortion sub-group is young, single men. (Go figure!).

Guest Blogger, Neil

Perfect submission...

Women, hear God’s word to you.

“Submit” is considered a dirty word by most today. It conjures up the abuses of evil men. It recalls days of inequality and repression. It does not fit the 21st century or so you’ve been told.

In reality, there is nothing more womanly than submitting yourself to your Lover King’s oversight and direction. There is no loss to fear. Jesus loves you deeply. He has your best interest in mind. He wants to keep you from harm, to protect you, to rescue you, to save you. Submitting it is the right, noble, good, godly thing to do.

For your own sake, turn from evil. For the good of your husband, submit to Jesus. For the benefit of your daughters, believe and be saved.

Listen. “Submit yourselves…to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:7-10, NIV)

Be one of those Jesus lifts up, gently and without condemnation as he did the woman caught in adultery. Show your children how to submit to God’s rule. Be one of those to whom God draws near. Draw your friends to God. Be one who purifies her heart.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8, NIV)

“Submit” is not a dirty word. Esther submitted and saved a nation. Mary submitted and became the mother of our Savior. Lydia submitted and her whole household believed.

“Repent and believe the good news!”

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

One of the few...

Men, let me ask you this: Is there any shame in submitting to a commanding officer?

Young guys, some of them physically stronger than their generals, do it every day in the armed forces. They aren’t considered less manly by their peers because they say, “Yes sir!” Are they?

Saying, “Yes, sir,” to God isn’t any less manly than serving an officer of a higher rank. “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near,” is an honorable command. Obeying it is the right, noble, good, godly thing to do. For your own sake, turn away from evil. For the good of your wife, choose God’s way. For the benefit of your sons, follow Jesus.

It takes more courage to choose the right than it does to choose the wrong. The flow of traffic in this world is the wrong way down God’s ONE WAY street. It seems safer to go with the flow, but it’s not. In this case, the masses are headed for destruction. Only the few who follow Jesus will be spared.

Men, listen to your King. He says to you, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14, NIV)

Be one of the few who repent. Teach your kids the right way by example. Be one of the few who follow. Show your friends that God’s way is best. Be one of the few who enter eternal life.

Did Peter become less of a man when he repented? Did John when he chose to obey? They were as bold as any man. When they were commanded to shut up, to quit preaching the good news, they spoke with great courage. “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20, NIV)

Men, repent for the kingdom of heaven is near. With God’s help, turn around. Change your thinking. Leave your madness. Follow Jesus.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

'Seven Pounds' of baloney...

I like Will Smith. Really I do. He's a great actor with lots of great titles to his name. He's made me laugh - MIB I and II. He's made me cry - The Pursuit of Happyness. He's scared me spitless - I Am Legend. Now, he's disturbed me.

I went to see Seven Pounds last Saturday. Smith's acting was superb once again. His characterization spot on. I could've done without the smattering of bad language and the casual sex with a woman he hardly knew, but the story was well told, compelling even. The message behind this movie, however, was troubling.

Smith's character, Ben Thomas, teaches us by his actions during the emotional ending sequence of the film that suicide is commendable if the person taking their own life gives their organs to others. We are told with little subtlety that intentional self-murder, if a man has done enough good to make up for his life's worst mistakes beforehand, is good and right.

I do not wish to inflict pain on those who have family members or friends who have committed suicide. I recognize that this is a thorny issue. There are no easy answers, but telling people that ending it all is the best way to escape the pain of this world is false. The best way to redeem your mistakes is to courageously live for God and for the good of others. Faith in God and love for others is much less selfish than suicide, even if good is done as a result of this awful act.

Monday, January 19, 2009


Do you know what Jesus’ message was?

He was baptized by John. He went out to the desert. He was tempted. Then he went public.

On day one of his public ministry, his voice rang out, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Matthew 4:17, NIV) Those are the first words of instruction to come from Jesus’ lips in Matthew’s account of his Master’s life.

Same with Mark’s account. “The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15, NIV)


Can I kind of fill that word out for you a bit?

The word translated repent first means “after understanding.” The sinner is led to understand that the way he has walked in is the way of misery, death, and hell. (Adam Clarke, adapted) He is convinced that the reasonable thing to do, now that he understands his sinful condition, is to turn around.

The word can also mean “after madness.” This intimates that the whole life of a sinner is madness and folly. That he lives in constant opposition to all the dictates of true wisdom. That he wages war with his own best interests in time and eternity. That he provokes and insults the living God and, by habitual sin, prepares himself only for a state of misery. (Adam Clarke, adapted)

“Repentance,” Adam Clarke says,” implies that a measure of Divine wisdom is communicated to the sinner, and that he thereby becomes wise to salvation. That his mind, purposes, opinions, and inclinations, are changed. And that, in consequence, there is a total change in his conduct.”

To put it bluntly – these are my words - repentance is the stupid man refusing ignorance, the foolish woman rejecting folly. Or to put it more positively, repentance is understanding the truth and changing life to match it. Make sense?

So Jesus says, “Repent!” Why? Because “the time has come. The kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of God is near.”

Do you know what that means? It means God’s in charge. He always has been. Jesus isn’t announcing anything new. He’s just stating the truth so the people of his day – and ours – get it. God, the eternal King of kings, the everlasting Lord of lords, is now and forever in charge. His way is the ONE WAY, so change your understanding. Find out what God wants. Learn God’s good ways. Obey His commands. Turn away from your sin. Quit going the wrong way. Choose the right way, the King’s way. He’s in charge.

Here’s the problem: you and I want to be in charge. We rebel against Jesus, argue with his message. “The time has come.” It has? Are you sure? “The kingdom of God is near.” Really? Who says? “Repent and believe the good news!” I don’t want to repent. You can’t make me.

Those are crash and burn words. That attitude, pride, is what leads to so much heartache and pain and sadness and ruin.

“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18, NIV)

I think in our hearts we all know that. We know it, but we choose our own way anyway. We just can’t give up control of our lives. It’s my life! Can’t nobody tell me how to live it!

And so, we fall and are destroyed. Our only hope is in repentance, in changing our way of thinking and acting. Changing from worldly thinking to godly thinking, from sinful action to righteous action.

To receive my once or twice weekly message via email, send a blank email to Past messages are available at

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Good news out of Israel...

You’ll find plenty of information on the news these days about the war that’s raging between the IDF and Hamas in Gaza. But what you won’t find in the news anywhere is anything at all about the annual (this has been going on for 15 years) joint prayer service for Arabs and Jews that took place at The New Covenant Church last evening.

Sixty or so believers gathered to pray for those suffering because of the war in Gaza, each other, the residents of Haifa, Israel, and the world. I heard prayers in Arabic, Hebrew, Russian and English. Even though I only understood the prayers prayed in English and Russian, I sensed the presence of the Holy Spirit and witnessed the sincerity and fervency of all the prayers.

Incidentally, one of the members of our church, a middle-aged woman named Nunu, may have had a heart attack during the service. She was taken from the church by ambulance to the hospital. Please pray for her quick recovery and continue to pray for an end to the violence in Gaza.

Guest Blogger, Patrick

Posted January 16, 2009

One way...

Not too long ago, I pulled out of the north end of the Braum’s parking lot at Pawnee and Emporia in Wichita and headed south. As I neared the intersection of Pawnee, a light blue Crown Victoria turned quickly onto to Emporia headed straight for me. I slammed on the brakes and laid on the horn. I might have yelled. I don’t remember. I do recall giving the crazy woman who barely missed me the evil eye as she swerved around me and continued on her way.

My heart still beating wildly, I pulled up to the intersection and looked left. It was then that I learned the unbearably painful truth. It was me, not the woman, who was crazy. I was the one driving the wrong way down ONE WAY Emporia. It was her quick thinking and excellent driving skills that kept us from colliding.

I went back to the same restaurant a short time later. I did not make the same mistake. I exited the parking lot onto westbound Pawnee from the south end of the parking lot, avoiding Emporia altogether.

Not sure how I missed the block-print, bold-lettered, black and white warning signs before. They were there – at the intersection and at the north exit of Braum’s. ONE WAY! No left turn.

You’ve made the same mistake and driven the wrong way down a ONE WAY street, haven’t you? Maybe you didn’t have a dramatic, near miss experience, but you’ve done it, right? Not purposefully. It just happened.

What did you do when you discovered your error? Did you drive head on screaming at the top of your lungs into an oncoming eighteen wheeler? No! Did you stop your car in the middle of the road and cry? I hope not.

You corrected yourself. You exited onto the first available side street, thankful it wasn’t ONE WAY the wrong way. You flipped a U-y, squealing your tires as you rapidly reversed direction. You jerked your wheel hard right and drove up over the curb onto the sidewalk. (I’m kidding.) You did something to avoid high-speed contact with the vehicles headed your way. That’s what sensible people do when they discover they’re headed east on a westbound ONE WAY street. Reasonable folks don’t honk and glare and cuss and rant and rave at the dozens of law-abiding drivers going the right way.

So why don’t we do the same reasonable thing when we find ourselves going the wrong way in life?

We’re sitting in church and the preacher says something about the sin of gossip. We squirm a bit. We know we should stop. The message is clear. We swallow the lump in our throat as God gently urges us to give up backbiting. But right after church we find ourselves picking up the phone, sharing totally confidential “prayer concerns” with a friend.

We hear Jesus say lust in the heart and physical adultery are equally sinful, but we keep viewing porn on the web. We know our habit isn’t right. We know we’re lusting as we visit illicit sites, but we do it anyway. We don’t walk away. We don’t ask for assistance from God or from a brother.

We know our anger is ruining our family, but we proudly refuse to pray for help to overcome our rage. We know man’s anger does not bring about the righteousness life God desires. We see the mess we’re making of everything, but we keep yelling and screaming at our kids, hitting them, throwing things.

We hate our next door neighbor. They did us wrong years ago. We know forgiveness is the right way. We don’t let God deal with issues of vengeance. We hold a bitter grudge.

Shall I go on? For every sin the Bible lists, there are a thousand people who, on any given day, refuse to accept the truth. They keep doing the wrong thing, ignoring God’s warnings and they self-destruct. Maybe for awhile things are okay as far as they’re concerned, but then they crash and burn. The wrong they’ve done, the wrong they’ve kept doing, comes back to bite them. Their family leaves. Their friends write them off. Their marriage crumbles. Their boss fires them.

God’s message to them – to you if you’re one of them – is simple enough. Turn away from your evil ways and follow God’s ONE WAY. Or, as Jesus put it, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Matthew 4:17, NIV)

To receive my once or twice weekly message via email, send a blank email to Past messages are available at

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Darth Vader's management secrets...

Today we offer you a special treat by a very special guest contributor. Darth Vader is a modern-day success story, having risen from humble orphan roots to the second-highest position in the largest corporate body this galaxy has ever seen. Although better-known for his visionary work in the realm of law enforcement, he is also responsible for the day-to-day operation of many of his organization’s most crucial assets. Here, he shares with us some of the lessons he’s picked up along the way as he rose to Galactic prominence. Join us as we welcome Lord Darth Vader to our humble website.

Also, feel free to leave any positive responses in our comment section. Negative views are also welcome, of course, and will be individually… responded to.

Operating a truly effective organization can be daunting. It requires skill, dedication, a willingness and ability to rebound from failure, bloodlust, and a notable absence of mercy. Mastery of the Dark Side of the Force is also useful. You’re probably asking “how did the empire become The Galactic Empire?”

This article gives you a few of my favorite management secrets, some of which I have passed on to my brother, Chad, who manages the Day Shift at Empire Market. In the spirit of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, here are what we might call “Nine Habits of Highly Sith-cessful People.”
  • Use Fear. Yoda once said that “fear is the path to the Dark Side.” He couldn’t have been more right; however, his conclusions were wildly off base. Fear can be a great motivator, both for you and for those around you. Fear can help you overcome moral ambiguities by clouding them with the need for action, now. Also, fear is the way to motivate people. You may find their lack of faith disturbing, so you may need to demonstrate your superiority. If someone disagrees with you, Force-choke them until they see things your way.

  • Don’t Tolerate Dissent. Destroy it. Make sure everyone knows that your word is the last word. Demand unwavering faith in your abilities from your inferiors, and if they display a disturbing lack of faith, choke them.

  • Punish Incompetence. Many of your subordinates will be as clumsy as they are stupid. If someone has failed you for the last time, Force-choke them to death and promote someone who knows what they are doing. Keep Force-choking people until someone finally learns his or her lesson.

  • Deal Exclusively On Your Terms. Periodically, you will have to make deals. Alter them at your discretion, and don’t worry about any consequences. I recently had to do this with a mining entrepreneur in the Cloud City of Bespin, who expected to be treated with equanimity. Needless to say, I got what I wanted.

  • Use Loyalty Judiciously. Only submit to a stronger hand, and then try to destroy it once you are powerful enough. Stop at nothing to get to the top.

  • Always Look for Talent. Periodically, you will come across a real gem like my wayward son, Luke. Realize that they can be your key to double-crossing your superiors. If they don’t play along, kill them.

  • Know that Power is what matters. Your ability to assert yourself in a difficult situation depends on your power. If you have power, you can have anything you want. Stop at nothing to get it.

  • Get Out There and Lead. While Grand Moff Tarkin was prematurely celebrating victory over the Rebel Alliance, I was out there shooting at X-wings. Which one of us survived the Death Star attack? That’s right, me.

  • Finally, always remember that an elaborate, far-reaching plan, which relies on people reacting exactly how you plan for them to react, is always better than a simple plan. Nothing illustrates your genius quite like a meticulous, detailed, super-plan which will go horribly awry if people don’t react exactly the way you think they will. Just know who to blame when things don’t go the way you expect them to.

Those are a few brief pointers that I have used to make my climb, from defeated Jedi pulling his mangled corpse out of a volcano to Dark Lord of the Sith overseeing the construction of the ultimate power in the universe. With the right effort, you can, too.

Darth Vader is a Dark Lord of the Sith and second-in-command in the Galactic Empire, where he is the pupil of Emperor Palpatine. He studied the Jedi arts under Obi-Wan Kenobi and serves a Sith apprenticeship with Darth Sidious. Darth’s brother, Chad, is the Day-Shift Manager at Empire Market. This article was co-authored with Mike Hammock. (Originally posted on


It is cold today, though it is warming a bit. 6.4 degrees is better than the 6.0 I woke up to or the 5 degree low for the day. And, hey, it's supposed to reach 20 degrees later this afternoon. Glad the forcasters are predicting temps near 60 next week. Can't wait. This is just cold for biking or walking or anything. Stay inside people!


I'm going to Winter Jam next month. Toby Mac, Barlow Girl, Brandon Heath, Newsong, Francesca Battistelli and more all together at Charles Koch Arena on the WSU campus in Wichita. And here's the's only $10 to get in. Yippee!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Paid in full...

Christ paid in full every moral and legal debt you’ve rung up. You can list your most heinous crimes or sins – real and imagined, past, present, and future – and then stamp them all ‘PAID IN FULL.’

Cruelty and abuse…PAID IN FULL
Religious intolerance and hypocrisy…PAID IN FULL
Hatred and murder…PAID IN FULL
Adultery and fornication…PAID IN FULL
Lying and treachery…PAID IN FULL
Pride and arrogance…PAID IN FULL
Crossing sexual boundaries…PAID IN FULL
Gossip and slander…PAID IN FULL

Every failure, sin, evil, and hypocrisy of my Inner Mess...PAID IN FULL.

From How to Keep Your Inner Mess from Trashing Your Outer World, by Bill Giovannetti

For loving and setting me free...

Dennis Jernigan, a Christian singer and songwriter, a worship leader who knows how to help the church express its love to God, spoke these words at the beginning of his album, You Are My All in All, Volume 2.

“In this day and age the world around us is falling apart. Financial problems, social upheaval, abortion, murder, child abuse, homosexuality, the rise of the occult and Satanic worship, chaos, utter hopeless and this list goes on and on. Is there any hope for healing and restoration? Is there any hope at all?

“How about something as devastating and hopeless as homosexuality. Can God heal that? Yes he can. How do I know?

“Well as you listen to these songs you’ll hear the heart cry of one whom God has delivered. And you will hear one who has received hope. You will hear songs born out of the gratitude and brokenness that comes from intimately knowing almighty God, who loves us more than we can possibly comprehend. And because of what he has done for me, I know there is nothing too big for God. He is almighty God.”

A few songs into the album he sings his thanks to the God who paid his debt and set him free from the grip of homosexual sin.

“For all that you’ve done I will thank you. For all that you’re going to do. For all that you’ve promised and all that you are is all that has carried me through. Jesus I thank you.

“And I thank you, thank you, Lord. Thank you, thank you, Lord. And I thank you, thank you, Lord.

“Thank you for loving and setting me free. Thank you for giving your life just for me. How I thank you. Jesus I thank you. Gratefully thank you. Thank you.”

We could all, those of us who have believed on Jesus, sing that song. Think about your sin. It’s been forgiven. Think about the habits that bound you for so long. You’ve been set free. Think of the relationships that were falling apart. They’ve been made whole.

“Thank you for loving and setting me free. Thank you for giving your life just for me. How I thank you. Jesus I thank you. Gratefully thank you. Thank you.”

To receive my once or twice weekly message via email, send a blank email to Past messages are available at

Monday, January 12, 2009

Eric Liddell's story...

I remember watching “Chariots of Fire” as a young teen. This film about runner Eric Liddell was so powerful I found myself in tears as he stood up for what he believed to be right. My eyes still get drippy when I hear the music from the movie's soundtrack.

Mission Frontiers magazine recently ran an article about Eric Liddell and his story. Here are some of the details they recounted...

  • Liddell was born in China in 1902. His parents were Presbyterian missionaries there.
  • He went to the U.K. at age six to go to school and later became a runner.
  • Liddell struggled with whether or not his running interfered with his ministry.
  • He once declined to participate in a heat that took place on a Sunday, because it went against his convictions about the Sabbath.
  • The 1981 movie, Chariots of Fire, which introduced the world to Liddell, won four Academy Awards and is famous all around the world.
  • Liddell set a world record time for the 400-yard dash. About this feat he said simply, "The secret of my success in the 400m is that I run the first 200m as fast as I can. Then, for the last 200m, with God’s help, I run faster."
  • He was a 1924 Olympic champion.
  • After the 1924 Olympics, he announced that he would return to China, following the footsteps of his father and older brother.
  • Liddell decided to stay in China even after all foreign nationals were advised to leave during the Japanese Invasion. He sent his pregnant wife and two daughters to China. He never saw them again.
  • He ended up in an internment camp where he continued his faithful ministry, teaching fellow prisoners not to hate their captors, but to love them and pray for them.
  • An opportunity came for Liddell to be released in a POW exchange negotiated by Winston Churchill, but he refused to be exchanged, giving up his place to a pregnant woman.
  • He died in the camp of a brain tumor, exhaustion and malnourishment on February 21, 1945, just five months before liberation.
  • At his death, he was greatly honored and mourned both in the camp and in Scotland.

Liddell’s story is to be portrayed in a major motion picture again soon. The Flying Man is scheduled for release in late 2009 or early 2010. I will be in line to see it soon after its release.

Thank you...

Thank you. That’s what you say when you receive a gift, right? After Christmas is past and the mess is cleaned up, you sit down and write out your thank yous. Same thing shortly after your birthday or anniversary or graduation or retirement party.

“Thanks for your generosity. Thanks for thinking of me. Thanks for your friendship.”

What you don’t do when you receive a present, unless you’re really dumb, is ask, “How much do I owe you for this?”

You don’t owe anything for a gift. It’s done. It’s been paid for. It’s yours if you receive it. No strings attached unless it’s a kite or a yo-yo.

The gift Jesus offers is infinitely greater than a yo-yo. He holds out complete cancellation of the debt owed God by every sin-tainted man, woman and child on planet Earth. That’s what our Savior paid for on the cross. Complete cancellation of the debt owed.

Not a big deal if you only owe something like five bucks. “Here’s your money, God. Let’s be friends.”

But you and I owed way more than a five-spot. We owed our lives. Don’t miss this. It’s important that you understand this. The only acceptable payment for sin – for your rebellion against a holy, eternal, always-existent God – is eternal death.

“The wages of sin is death,” is not a cute little for-kids-only memory verse phrase. It’s a smack-you-in-the-head-so-you’ll-wake-up-before-it’s-forever-too-late warning from God.

“…the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23, NIV)

There’s that word gift again. What do you do when you receive a gift? You say, “Thank you.” When the gift is as great as eternal life and you realize that eternal death was your destiny before Jesus bought the gift for you, you say it from the depths of your heart. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

Have you thanked God recently for the gift of eternal life? Your debt, your guilt, your sin is completely taken care of forever. You are forgiven. You are set free. God is satisfied.

To receive my once or twice weekly message via email, send a blank email to Past messages are available at

Thursday, January 8, 2009

You make everything glorious...

You make everything glorious
You make everything glorious
You make everything glorious
And I am Yours
What does that make me?

Glorious! That's what it makes me. These words from the David Crowder Band song, Everything Glorious, are such an encouragement. Even more so when I realize that God's Word, the Bible, backs up this truth.

"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. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified." (Romans 8:28-29)

God has made us glorious! Praise His name!

(Everything Glorious is on DCB's September 2007 release, Remedy.)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The order matters...

I can't get past the way Jesus redeemed the woman caught in adultery. His two statements are crucial, not only for their content, but also for their order.

The goal of sanctification is obedience to Christ's command, 'Go and sin no more.'

However, my I suggest that 'Go and sin no more' remains impossible until 'Neither do I condemn you' has first been instilled in our souls.

Most Christians reverse the order, with disastrous consequences. 'Why you stop sinning, God will stop condemning.' The cross frees us from condemnation first, and only then will Christ enable us to go and sin no more. God always works in that order.

From How to Keep Your Inner Mess from Trashing Your Outer World, by Bill Giovannetti

Making the cross personal...

How do I make the cross personal instead of just theological? That is the question. If Jesus, by his cross, accomplished so much for me, how do I make it all mine?

The answer is so simple that most people reject it. Your Inner Mess will object: 'It's too good to be true. It's too easy. It makes us morally lax.'

The way to make Jesus personal is just to say Yes. God is offering you a gift. He's waiting for you to say 'Yes'. Yes to grace, the cross, forgiveness, acceptance, adoption, a new start in life. Yes to resting on the finished work of Christ. And, most of all, yes to Jesus.

Saying yes is another way of expressing to God that you have placed your faith in Jesus.

If that sounds too easy, it is only because Jesus did all the heavy lifting.

From How to Keep Your Inner Mess from Trashing Your Outer World, by Bill Giovannetti

Satisfying God...

QUESTION: What will it take for me to satisfy God?
ANSWER 1: More than I could ever do.
ANSWER 2: But not more than Jesus could do.

From How to Keep Your Inner Mess from Trashing Your Outer World, by Bill Giovannetti

Penn and a Bible...

Apparently, a man gave Penn Jillette, of Penn & Teller fame, a Bible and it really moved Penn.

No, he is not a believer. He is an atheist. But the kindness which the man showed towards Penn was enough to make him stop and think. Penn points out that if Christians really believe in heaven and hell the way that we say we do, then it is not very loving to not tell others about Christ. In other words, since we do believe those things, then we need to tell others of Christ.

Realize, this is coming from an atheist. This should stir our hearts into action.

Guest Blogger, Pastor Timothy

Who picks up the bill?

The orange flame shot toward the ceiling as happy people around the table yelled, 'Opaa!' We had ordered saganaki, a melted cheese served hot and ignited tableside. One of my friends, Tony, speaks fluent Greek and knows Greek food. I rarely skipped an invitation to accompany him to our favorite Greek restaurant. One day I got more than great food, I also got a theology lesson.

After plates overflowing with saganaki, salads topped with feta and gyros, Tony asked for the check, in Greek. Something he said made my seminary-afflicted ears perk up. I don't speak Greek, but one word jumped out at me. Tony asked for ton logariazmon - 'the check, please.' I had heard that word before and didn't expect to hear it in a restaurant.

It's part of a family of financial terms in the Bible. While the exact word for 'the check' (logariazmos) isn't found in the Bible, its cousins are. The words refer to an accounting or to the reckoning of a debit or credit.

Paul uses a similar word: 'Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute (logizomai) sin' (Romans 4:8). How can God not impute sin to our account? God can't simply make my sins vanish; that would mean he lowered his standards. And that would land us right back in the lenient, nightmarish cosmos, which both logic and Scripture deny. If my sins are not imputed to my account, then who picked up the check?

Jesus did. When Jesus hung on the cross, God imputed our sins to him. All the sin of all humankind was credited to Christ's account. Actually it was a gigantic debit. He became the Lamb of God who 'takes away the sin of the world' (John 1:29).

You might have heard that Jesus died 'for your sins'. Have you ever thought about what the really means? It means he took delivery of each and every sin of yours and died for them. Jesus picked up your check as if he'd rung up the debt.

What can you say about that kind of love?

You can say only, 'Thank you.'

All my life, my Inner Mess had labored to atone for sins that had been already imputed to Christ.

No wonder God says he has cast our sins into the depth of the sea, put them behind his back, forgotten them and made them white as snow. Not because he is lenient, but becuase he is righteous and has imputed them to Christ's account instated of ours.

From How to Keep Your Inner Mess from Trashing Your Outer World, by Bill Giovannetti

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Go and be reconciled...

So you’ve offended someone. Someone has something against you. You’ve hurt your brother, your sister, your wife, your child, your boss, your teacher, your husband, your friend, your pastor, your mother, your father, your neighbor by some really dumb thing you’ve said or done. Intentionally or unintentionally. Doesn’t matter. Your relationship is damaged. You are not at peace.

What does it mean to seek reconciliation? What is your responsibility before God? What does obedience to Jesus’ words look like?

Reconciliation starts with humble confession, with a frank admission of wrongdoing, an acknowledgement of hurt done. You’re coming with the proverbial hat in hand. Head bowed. Repentant.

“I was wrong. What I did was really dumb. I’m sorry I said those hurtful things. I sinned against you and damaged our relationship.”

Such confession does not come naturally to our lips. We’d much rather pass the buck. Adam sins against God. It’s Eve’s fault. Eve sins against God. It’s the snake’s fault.

We don’t want to admit we’ve sinned, but we must. Peace does not come without confession. Acknowledgement of sin, recognition of hurt done, is where the pursuit of reconciliation starts.

Next step: ask forgiveness.

This flows out of our confession.

“I was wrong. What I did was really dumb. I’m sorry I said those hurtful things. I sinned against you and damaged our relationship. Would you please forgive me?”

Now the ball’s in their court, right? Yes, but it’s still in yours too. Remember, you’re the one who sinned. Reconciliation is still your responsibility. If they choose not to forgive, they’re in trouble with God. Jesus said as much.

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15, NIV)

That’s a message for another day.

You’re still on the hook. Friendly relations have not been restored. Love is not reigning supreme in this relationship. Your brother has something against you. You’ve got to keep chasing after peace.

Listen to God’s word.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18, NIV)

“Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.” (1 Peter 3:10-11, NIV)

So what do you do if your brother or sister or mother or father or friend or neighbor refuses to forgive? How do you continue your quest for peace? What more can you do? Is reconciliation still possible?

First things first. Pray for your offended brother. Not out loud while he’s standing there in front of you.

“Lord, my brother will not forgive me. Remind him that his unforgiving spirit is sinful. Convict him so he will do what’s right.”

That would be really dumb.

But pray for him. Pray that God would heal his heart. Pray that God would bring him to the place where he wants peace. Pray that God would restore your brother to you.

Actually, you know what? You should be praying throughout this process. For God’s wisdom. For God’s courage. For God’s help in bringing about reconciliation. Reconciliation is not likely to happen without the Holy Spirit’s intervention, is it? So pray first. Pray second. Pray without ceasing.

Then ask this really hard question: “Is there anything I need to do to make things right with you?”

Restitution may be necessary to bring about peace. It is often a part of the process of reconciliation. I’ve had really dumb things cost me anywhere from $40 to nearly $400. Peace was and is worth every penny I spent.

And what do you do after you’ve confessed and asked forgiveness and prayed and made restitution and there still isn’t peace? You keep doing all that is within your power to seek peace. As God opens up opportunities, reaffirming your desire for a relationship, praying fervently, actively looking for ways to make restitution.

Peace requires hard work and sacrifice, doesn’t it? Restoration demands humility and love. Reconciliation takes time and effort. In fact, it takes so much time and so much effort that at times, we’re ready to call it quits.

“This is too hard. I can’t stand it any longer. I give up!”

Tempting, isn’t it? But we must follow God’s way rather than our own. We cannot write off our friends with a flippant, “Who needs you anyway?” We must seek peace and pursue it.

Hear Jesus’ word again.

“…if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24, NIV)

Reconciliation is always the goal of the believer set on following God.

So what are you going to do today with the truth you’ve learned? I urge you to obey God. Confess your sin to your brother. Ask forgiveness. Pray for your brother. Make restitution.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18, NIV)

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Monday, January 5, 2009

A little disturbing...

I was snooping around a friend's Facebook profile and found a posted link to "see her house". I clicked and was stunned. When I clicked on the street view on the site, there was her house. I then clicked on the directional arrows and did a 360 looking at her neighbor's houses and down the street. I did my address too. Same thing. Then a search for the church. There it was. Street level pictures.

Big Brother is watching!

New blog...

A friend of mine - Adam - completed a 100-mile run to raise money for a missions scholarship. It was a smashing success. Read about it and his new 'Run for Missions' blog below. (This is the first post on the new blog.)

Dear Run for Missions Supporter,

Thank you so much for your gift in support of the Run for Missions 2008! These funds will be used for scholarships for EFC-MAYM college and graduate students intending to serve on Friends Mission fields. We set out to raise $10,000 and look what has happened because people like you caught the vision! Can you believe exactly $12,772.65 (as of 12/31/2008) has been raised from 129 different individuals and churches since August? Thank God!

Imagine a day when our church can take it to another level in supporting the work of missions, getting behind our missionaries in financial support not only from the time they go to the field until they come home, but from the first day of their calling and throughout their schooling and education process! You have helped make this a possibility.

Thank you!

Allen Smelser and Adam Monaghan
for the EFC-MAYM Mission Mobilizers

Opening that one box...

My buddy, Vic, opened a whole new world to me today. Go to and you'll see what I mean. You can enter a musical artist you like and this site creates a "radio station" that plays that group and similar groups. If you like acoustic guitar, I recommend an artist Vic recommended to me - Andy McKee. Try it. You'll love it. I entered Twila Paris and I've heard her and Jill Phillips and Chris Tomlin. Pretty cool!

Bigger and smaller...

It arrived today: my portable hard drive. Smaller than the wallet I carry, it holds 250G of info. That's more capacity than any of my computers!

So here's to BIG smallness! Can't wait to back everything up and "fix" my computer at home tonight. It needs a major overhaul. It's been getting slower and slower. Hope a complete reinstall takes care of that.

Thanks for caring about the little things in my life. (That is, if you've read this far.)

Back in the saddle...

After three months and two days off, I returned to my bike today. The last time I rode (10/03/08) I ended my ride in pain. My back, injured in on an EMS call, screamed bloody murder. It was not pleasant.

I was taking chiropractic treatments at the time. They continued until about three weeks ago, when my schedule was crazy enough that making an appointment would've been a nightmare. My back did all right. It hasn't felt 100%, but it's been worse. I tested it on an EMS call the other night, lifting with my partner. No problems at all. Maybe a little stiffness the next day, but no more.

So what was it like to get back in the saddle after such a long hiatus? Exhilarating and exhausting. I didn't remember there being many hills near Argonia. The two or three I encountered today must have sprung up during my time off. I had no strength for climbing even the slightest of inclines and I had little stamina. I ended up turning around earlier than I really wanted to. My ride was 10.41 miles at 17mph - to the Milan Road and back. Not bad, but not good either.

I look forward to better rides. Tomorrow, I hope.

Leave your gift...

It’s not always easy to tidy up relational goofs. In fact, it takes so much time and so much effort that at times, let’s admit it, we’re ready to call it quits.

“This is too hard. I can’t stand it any longer. I give up!”

You can’t tell me you haven’t felt like that once or twice. We all have. We’re all sinners. We all want our way rather than God’s.

Jesus was preaching one day on a mountainside. Toward the beginning of his message he said a few things about reconciliation.

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘RacaRaca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:21-24, NIV)

I’m going to let the first part of this passage speak for itself. I’m pretty sure you caught that anger isn’t good and that calling someone a fool is dangerous. You’ve heard that enough times. You never yell “Idiot!” at anyone on the turnpike now. You’ve made that application, right?

So we can move on to the final two sentences, the ones about leaving your gift at the altar and all.

Now, understand that offering a gift at the altar in the temple was an important thing. If it was a sin offering, it was your way back into God’s good graces at the time. No bull. No blood. No forgiveness. No eternal life.

So Jesus says, “As important as getting your sins taken care of is taking care of the stuff your brother has against you is your first order of business. Leave your gift at the altar.”

Don’t seek absolution for your sins first. Don’t worship God first. Don’t pretend all is well when it’s not.

“Go and be reconciled to your brother.”

You know, I never really thought about what that word reconciliation meant until a couple of weeks ago. I’d always thought Jesus meant for us to seek forgiveness, but reconciliation is the word Jesus uses, not forgiveness.

Reconciliation is a big word. Six syllables! Do you know what it means? If you’re like me, your definition may be a little fuzzy around the edges. So let me tell you what reconciliation is.

It’s the ending of conflict between warring parties. It’s the return to friendly relations following a dispute. It’s the renewal of love after an estrangement.

It’s peace, real peace, between you and your brother, you and your sister, you and your wife, you and your child, you and your boss, you and your teacher, you and your husband, you and your friend, you and your pastor, you and your mother, you and your father, you and your neighbor.

That is what you’ve got to go after before you talk to God about taking care of your sins. If you won’t seek peace with the brother you’ve offended, with the sister who has something against you, you won’t find peace with God. When you’ve sinned against another, you must – that’s an imperative, a command, a requirement – you must go and be reconciled to them.

Reconciliation is the sinner’s duty. That’s what Jesus says. Pay attention to his word choice. It’s deliberate.

“…if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” (Emphasis mine)

You see? The one who has sinned is charged with taking action. The offender has to go after reconciliation.

Does someone have something against you? Go and be reconciled. If you don’t know how, I’ll give some suggestions later on this week.

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