Monday, November 21, 2011


“Two men look out through the same bars: One sees the mud and one the stars.”
(Frank Langbridge)

So, what makes the difference? Certainly not their position—for both men are locked up in a prison. They peer beyond the bars—and see something totally different. The difference isn’t in position, but perspective.

Solomon described life viewed without the eternal reference point: “under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:3). Now, he wasn’t a man in a prison, but a palace. The king knew pleasure, power and possessions which would mark him as the richest man in the world. But his soul was completely bankrupt and when he viewed all the “stuff” from a carnal perspective concluded it to all be “vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). It is the recurring discordant note of despair sung in this dirge of Solomon.

Surely it was a similar point of view which washed over Hamlet like a tsunami of disillusionment when he moaned, “To be or not to be: that is the question” (Shakespeare). Essentially he looks out of his prison bars of problems and sees mud. He concludes that life is misery and death is mystery. Life is relentless in its difficulties as waves constantly rolling in—and death might even be worse—particularly if one ends his own life and might face eternal condemnation. Who knows? He is torn between two options and neither one good.

Compare that with the perspective of another man who writes—quite literally—from a prison. He states with incredible confidence—even celebration,

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account…for your progress and joy in the faith.” (Philippians 1:21-25, ESV).

The Apostle Paul concludes that life is ministry and death is majesty. Life is relentless to be sure, but when viewed from an eternal perspective, those same tides that sweep over one and drown him, are seen to also roll out and bear the other man on a voyage of great adventure—ultimately to the most exotic destination! He is torn between two options and both are glorious!

What makes the difference? Perspective—oh yes—but that only leads us to question why the two viewpoints are so radically opposed. The old general of the faith, Paul, joyfully puts his finger on it. (That finger, by the way, is attached to a hand, and the hand to a wrist, and the wrist to a manacle and the manacle to a chain and the chain to a stone wall, yet he is irrepressibly free in his spirit to see the stars and soar to them!) What makes the difference? He tells us in one word—one name—and it is: “Christ.” Because he can state that Jesus is the source, substance and sum of his life, then he can add that death is great gain: “far better.”

Centuries later, C.S. Lewis stated it this way, “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.” That is the difference that makes the difference—all these words to get to the living Word: CHRIST. He is our fixed point of reference by which we can sail safely across turbulent tides and arrive home. Knowing Him as Lord and Savior is the difference that makes all the difference.

(With thanks to Stuart Briscoe who in his memoir, “Flowing Streams” discusses a sermon by Paul Rees on pages 88-89 that was a magnificent message on a Monday morning!)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


There is a Scandinavian fable about a young spider that made his way into a barn one day. From a slender thread he descended from a rafter high aloft. He began to spin his intricate web and as time went on he grew fat and prospered. It was a very productive corner of the barn with an ample supply of juicy flies—as you might imagine. One day, he looked admiringly around his wondrous web, and yet was taken aback when he saw a stray thread—one that reached up into the darkness high above him—disappearing into nothingness. “What use is that?” he thought, and reached out and snipped the thread—and when he did, his entire world collapsed!

That is what happened to Solomon! He was a wise young king who became a foolish old ruler. In his early days, the slender thread that bound him to heaven reached into the sky and the blessings of God flowed down, as Solomon’s worship flowed up. He prospered more than any before him—or since. His wealth was staggering, his power immense, his fame renowned—he had it all! Until the day he forgot about God, severed the connection to heaven and his world caved in.

The bitter, depressing record of that era is found in Ecclesiastes. The tone is set immediately:
1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. 2 Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. 3 What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?
(1:1-3 ESV)

The phrases, “Vanity of vanities” and “under the sun” are sprinkled throughout the book. Life is vain—futile—empty and devoid of meaning when it is viewed merely from a natural perspective. If anyone might have found satisfaction from the things of the world, it should have been Solomon. He had it all! Wine—the best and much of it, women—a harem of a thousand beauties, and song—not a CD, but live performers! He had magnificent estates and much education—lands and libraries. He sought fulfillment in his work and wealth.

But, it was all vanity!

It would not be a stretch to say that he actually considered suicide—what did he have to live for?

What is it that the man that has everything needs? God!

There is a hole in our soul that only God can fill. Nothing else fits—only Jesus satisfies.

But, the old backslider found the way back as he sifted through the rubble of his ruinous rebellion. Among the ashes, he finds the treasure of truth. At the end of Ecclesiastes the light of wisdom breaks through:
13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all. 14 For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil. (12:13-14 NKJV)

Dear reader—do you have Jesus? If not, you need Him—desperately. Don’t wait too late! If you have received Him, then keep the cord of communion intact lest you fall like Solomon! If one who had such encounters with God, had a superb upbringing by a great champion of faith named David, and was blessed with such wisdom could fall, then any of us can! Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God—trust in His grace.

This is what the man who has everything needs!

Saturday, January 22, 2011


This morning I went and stood for an hour on the sidewalk outside the abortion clinic--to keep a vigil on behalf of those tiny ones whose little eyes will never see the light of day. I was there to give voice to the voiceless--whose silent screams will be unheard as the cruel instruments of death invade the sanctuary of their mother's womb. Of course, God hears--and that should put a chill down the spine of us all.

It was a bitterly cold day, in the lower 20's--and matched the icy hearts of those who would butcher a baby for a few bucks. My fingers and toes got so cold, that they began to sting with pain--a pain that persisted for fifteen minutes after departing in the warmth of my car. But, as I rubbed my hands together and patted my feet on the pavement, it led me to think how this pain was nothing compared to the suffering which the unborn go through before their brief sojourn on earth is terminated. The pain in my extremities is nothing compared to the extreme pain in the hearts of mothers as they weigh the harsh reality of their choice in days to come--haunted by the grim specter of doing that which is so contrary to every maternal impulse. Of course, no pain will be like that of eternal torment for unrepentant butchers who brutalize these innocents. Maybe they are desensitized to it. All I know is that the murderer who faces God with blood on their hands and without the blood of Christ on their hearts will have an awakening of the senses beyond anything they have ever known--and wish for endless ages it were not so.

For all involved we offer our pity and our prayers.

We pray for a nation and wonder how much longer God can resist roaring from heaven to answer the cry for vengeance that pleads with Him from a blood-soaked soil. May God have mercy on us all!

If we had more hot tears, more fervent pleas, might it melt the cold hearts that conspire in this tragedy of cosmic proportions?