Thursday, April 25, 2013


There are a lot of good people serving in our churches that are struggling.  They are just ground down.  I want to be someone to encourage them--a lifter of leaders!

We need to be people who are putting courage into people, rather than sucking it out!  AND I WANT TO PRACTICE WHAT I PREACH!  All of us get weary in the work, but let us not grow weary of the work.  We may not always get it perfect, but we can surely make progress!  Remember, that the bottom line is about loving God and loving people.  Let us ask ourselves, “Am I applying 1 Cor.13 prayerfully and persistently?”  

Thanks for your efforts and may each of us embrace our responsibility to be a load lifter today--and especially of those in leadership who are on the front lines and under the hottest fire!  For our church volunteers, may we inspire rather than tire, so they don’t just retire. J  With that in mind, here is a neat link if you haven’t had a chance to read it.

Please let me know what you think of these ideas.

"Out in the highways and byways of life,
  Many are weary and sad;
Carry the sunshine where darkness is rife,
  Making the sorrowing glad.
Make me a blessing, make me a blessing,
Out of my life may Jesus shine;
Make me a blessing, O Savior, I pray,
  Make me a blessing to someone today."

Great song!  Do you know it?  That’s what I want to be.

Grace and Peace,

Monday, April 22, 2013


[This is a re-post from last year.  On a Monday morning, it may be a special encouragement to you!]

"It is good to praise Yahweh, to sing praise to Your name, Most High, to declare Your faithful love in the morning and Your faithfulness at night..." (Psalm 92:1, 2 HCSB)

Some will start their day by saying, "Good morning, Lord!" Others will say, "Good Lord--morning!" The former hear the clock alarm as the dinner bell summoning them to come and feast on heavenly manna, while the latter hear it as a church bell summoning them to trudge to a funeral. We can throw off the blankets, seize the day and secure our opportunity, or pull the covers over our heads, let the day grip us around the throat and shun the responsibility.

It's a choice.

We may not have a choice about all that happens to us as our week unfolds, but we do have a choice about the attitude we have as our week begins. Psalm 92 tells us how to get our week off to a great start.


The psalm begins,

"It is good to praise Yahweh, to sing praise to Your name, Most High, to declare Your faithful love in the morning and Your faithfulness at night, with a ten-stringed harp and the music of a lyre." (Psalm 92:1-3 HCSB)

I can't think of a better way to begin the week! The alarm awakens us and our eyes open--look up! Transform your bedroom into a tabernacle and begin to praise the Lord. I would caution you that if others are asleep in the house, you might want to make melody in your heart, rather than sing in the shower! God knows our thoughts and delights when those first thoughts are directed toward Him.

It is hard to restrain the song. It wells up in our soul, and the next thing we know, it overflows from our lips. God is so good! He faithfully watched over us as we slept--our eyes closed, but His were ever open toward us. He will be faithful to lavish his love on us as the new day dawns. No circumstance we face can change that! Listen to Paul's song of praise:

"Who can separate us from the love of Christ?
Can affliction or anguish or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

As it is written:

Because of You we are being put to death all day long; we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered.

No, in all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us.

For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, [hostile] powers, height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!" (Romans 8:35-39 HCSB)


If you want to get your week off to a great start look up and worship! Then, LOOK BACK AND WONDER!

"For You have made me rejoice, Lord, by what You have done; I will shout for joy
because of the works of Your hands.

How magnificent are Your works, Lord, how profound Your thoughts!

A stupid person does not know, a fool does not understand this: though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they will be eternally destroyed.

But You, Lord, are exalted forever.

For indeed, Lord, Your enemies--indeed, Your enemies will perish; all evildoers will be scattered.

You have lifted up my horn like that of a wild ox; I have been anointed with oil.

My eyes look down on my enemies; my ears hear evildoers when they attack me." (Psalm 92:4-11 HCSB)

The inspired author cannot contain his gratitude over the goodness of God! As he looks back at what the Lord has done, he finds his vocabulary strained to encompass the majesty of God's glory and multiplicity of His grace. These verses call to mind the Messianic title Isaiah expressed, "Wonderful Counselor," when the psalmist shouts joyfully, "how profound Your thoughts!"

We can face the week ahead with delight rather than dread, if we will look back with discernment at the week that is past. As the old song exhorts:

"Count your blessings,
Name them one by one;
Count your many blessings,
See what God hath done."

That isn't to say that we may not have faced gut-wrenching problems and heart-breaking pain. The psalmist acknowledges he has enemies that have attacked him and that he lives in world filled with evil. Life can be tough. Many weeks may be hard. What did you go through last week? I dare not minimize the difficulty as though it is trivial. But, the wonder is, whatever we went through--we got through last week! The Lord brought us through it.

You get your week off to a great start when you look up and worship, look back and wonder, plus LOOK AROUND AND WITNESS!

"The righteous thrive like a palm tree and grow like a cedar tree in Lebanon. Planted in the house of the Lord, they thrive in the courts of our God.

They will still bear fruit in old age, healthy and green, to declare: 'The Lord is just; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.' " (Psalm 92:12-15 HCSB)

There is a permanency about the child of God. The palm and the cedar are evergreen; they are particularly impervious to the attack of the elements and insects. The righteous are that way. This is in contrast to the wicked, who "sprout like grass" (v.7) but are soon cut down.

This permanency is connected to the believer's planting--their roots are in the powerful presence of God. This gives stability in the storms that howl around us. Battered, buffeted, bent, but not broken because our roots have wrapped around solid rock--the Rock of Ages!

Our permanency and planting lead to our productivity--even in old age, still bearing fruit! I will confess that the older one gets, the greater the challenge is to rise from the bed. Joints creak and pop, bones are stiff and pain can plague every step across the bedroom floor as we stumble toward the bathroom. But, what recharges the batteries and rekindles the fire is the decision to declare, "The Lord is just; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him."

The secret to fruitfulness is abiding in Christ (read John 15). Today we can bear witness to Him and have an opportunity to make an eternal difference in somebody. That's exciting! Not all the difficulties of humanity, nor even the demons of hell can stop us, if we decide to do this.

Have a great week!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


After the events of yesterday, the haunting words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow emerged from the shadows of my thoughts.  Longfellow had settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the greater Boston area, not far from the scene of the Marathon carnage. The Civil War was still raging, and the poet had received word that his son, serving in the Union Army, was gravely wounded.  His mind was plagued by the horror of explosions, shrapnel, smoke, screams and death—even as Americans faced yesterday.  Those morbid musings were invaded by the peals of church bells ringing for Christmas.  It was a time to celebrate, but it felt more like a time to cry.  How quickly the tide can turn!  You may have runners crossing a finish line to cheers and then a flash—fire and fury—and chaos reigns.  Families frantically search for missing loved ones, victims see missing limbs, and even one so young as eight will be missing from the table for the rest of his parents’ days as a casket and funeral will mark a young bud killed by an unexpected frost.

Where is God in this? 

Longfellow wondered the same thing.  Though the season is different, the lyrics penned in such close proximity to that Boston brutality ring just as clear.

“Christmas Bells”

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and mild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."

Indeed, God is alive and at work despite what we see about us, and in the end death will be swallowed up by life.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


I posted this exactly one year ago.  After the suicide of a fellow pastor, I re-post it in hope it might help someone who is in the darkness of a cave experience, perhaps contemplating this irreversible act. 

"Free me from prison so that I can praise Your name. The righteous will gather around me because You deal generously with me." (Psalm 142:7 HCSB)

Perhaps you have begun reading this, expecting a story about knuckle-dragging Neanderthals, grunting as they kill a mammoth. Maybe you are anticipating a diatribe against evolution or an announcement that I have accepted Darwinism. You would be wrong on all counts. This is actually a story about you and me. All of us are cave men and cave women!

David was a cave man. The superscription, which sets the context, for understanding Psalm 142 reads, "A Davidic Maskil. When he was in the cave. A prayer." David was a man on the run, like some desperado hiding out in the wild West, holed up in a cave. That was how King Saul was treating him, although David had done no wrong. That was what made his experience almost unbearable. The worst part was that in the darkness of that dungeon-like dwelling, it felt at times as if God had abandoned him.

Haven't you been in that cave before? At some point in life, we all become cave men or cave women. You may be in such a black hole right now.

What do we do? Is there a word from God to light a torch of hope in this dark den? There most assuredly is!


"I cry aloud to the Lord; I plead aloud to the Lord for mercy. I pour out my complaint before Him; I reveal my trouble to Him. Although my spirit is weak within me, You know my way. Along this path I travel they have hidden a trap for me." (Psalm 142:1-3 HCSB)

One of the reasons we find the Psalms so helpful is their blunt portrayal of raw human emotions. They enable us to identify with the heights of joy and depths of feeling in the breadth of life experience. Even, when David is hurt, disappointed--sometimes even angry--his lyrics give voice to our thoughts.

Sometimes we struggle to admit our struggles! We need to vent, but instead put on a happy face, and speak "Christianese" as we reply to the question, "How are you?" with, "I'm doing wonderful, dear brother! God is so good!" Of course He is...but sometimes haven't we wondered just a little? Can we have such thoughts? Dare we admit them? Surely that would be wrong.

Who are we fooling? We may fool others most of the time, we might succeed in fooling ourselves some of the time, but you can never fool God any of the time. If you are discouraged, disappointed, disillusioned and distressed, God knows, and you may as well admit it, for admitting it is a vital step for finding hope and getting help.

Where are you God? Don't you see? Don't you care? I can't handle this! Ever felt like that? David did when he was in a cave. Distress will drive us to seek God intensely. When the cave walls close in on us and we have nowhere to turn, we turn to the Lord--and that turns a bad circumstance to good.

There is not only a struggle to admit, but a SOLITUDE TO ACKNOWLEDGE.

"Look to the right and see: no one stands up for me; there is no refuge for me; no one cares about me." (Psalm 142:4 HCSB)

David may have really been all by himself at the moment that gave rise to this Psalm. His men may have been on patrol or foraging for food while he rested in the cave, alone with his troubling thoughts. It is also possible that there were others with him, but he didn't think they were "with him"--that is, he questioned whether he could count on them to stand by him when the chips were down. David had reason to doubt their loyalty. They were not men of great character. In fact, the Scripture describes these soldiers of fortune as, "desperate, in debt, or discontented" (1 Sam.22:2). They would later turn on him and discuss killing him (see 1 Sam.30:6). These were not the best of people, but the reality is that even the best of people cannot unequivocally be counted on, for they still have this problem--they are still people! We are not always on the top of our game. Even if our intent is to help, we are not omnipotent. Should we desire to stand by a friend, we are not omnipresent. The inadequacy of humanity means that sometimes we will be in a cave--all alone.

Nobody cares. What an awful place to be in! But, when all you have is God then you will discover that God is all you need! How often we hear the still, small whisper of God when we are in the quiet place of seclusion. Jesus frequently went away, alone, to pray and exhorts us, "But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret." (Matt.6:6) Admit your struggle and acknowledge your solitude.

Then we find a SHELTER TO ATTAIN.

"I cry to You, LORD; I say, 'You are my shelter, my portion in the land of the living.' Listen to my cry, for I am very weak. Rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. Free me from prison so that I can praise Your name. The righteous will gather around me because You deal generously with me." (Psalm 142:5-7 HCSB)

The cave that David thought to be a prison actually had been transformed into a refuge. Ultimately, he found that irrespective of circumstances, he was not confined by them for God was his shelter. No matter that he had nothing to lean on or nobody to count on--God was his portion. He might as well have sung, "Little ones to Him belong; They are weak, but He is strong."

He closes with an expression of confidence--a word of faith. God will send people to encourage him. God will supply provision to edify him. A light ignites to dispel the shadows that haunt the dark corners of the cave. The truth comes to drown out the sinister taunt of the demonic Serpent in the cave. It's better to be in a cave with God, than in a castle without Him! It's better to be in a prison in God's will, than in a palace outside His will.