When the Headlines Mention Crematoriums and Mass Graves

You consider yourself a fairly positive person.

You don’t load every text with smiley faces or wish everyone a nice day, but you’ve made it a habit to live by faith, to open your eyes to the good that God may be working through trials, to praise God in the storm.

But, when the evening news rolls footage of those who stagger, displaced, along the Syrian border,

when the headlines contain words like “crematoriums” and “mass graves,”

when weeping mothers appear on screen and you don’t need to hear the translation to understand their agony,

positive fades in the rear-view mirror of your soul.

These are Psalm 120 times. Times of distress, of lying lips and deceiving tongues, when even pew-sitters sense the urge to call upon the Lord. Continue Reading →

Pray Now for the Poets – They May Be Our Last Hope

writing-923882_640We say prayers for the preachers and prayers for the hands of missionaries and teachers in foreign lands. We say prayers for the soldiers who are off at war and prayers for the workers serving food to the poor.

But a time is coming, twisting round like a cloud, when the preaching of truth will be disallowed. When the prince of the air and his kingdom of lies will be embraced by the masses who truth now despise. So I tell you this:

pray now for the artists, the poets, the kings of composition, of stories, and fantastical things. Pray for the hearts of the writers who weave truth into stories a few will believe. Pray for the filmmakers, novelists, and more to be courageous and bold when the world is at war with the beauty of truth, with the scandal of love, with the Lordship of a God who rules from above.

When the preachers are silenced and true teachers banned, the mission will fall to the poets on hand.

Like graffiti on street walls we’ll work in the night to spray paint the gospel with aerosol light. We’ll write Him in novels, in screenplays, in poems.graffiti-225395_640 We’ll paint Him in murals in the square, in our homes. Like an underground railroad we’ll pass Him along in stories, in dances, in sculpture, in song.

There won’t be room then for the spirit of fear so writers and artists should train now to draw near to the heart of the Almighty, to drink from His wine, to feast at His table and ingest the divine so it flows from our fingertips into our art and pours from our spirits fed straight from His heart.

Pray now for the artists, the writers, the scribes, for courage, for commitment to truth above lies.

Creativity is the last bastion of truth when convention is silenced and fear takes root. So pray for the souls striving alone with their art to labor with courage and to live from His heart.

once-upon-a-time-719174_640Pray for boldness, for bravery, for insight, and power – to this work we’ve been called and now is the hour for each artist, and writer, composer, and bard to graffiti the world with the scandal of God.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears bible-879087_640tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” 2 Timothy 4:3-4 NASB

*offered humbly with apologies to true poets everywhere and dedicated to Cathy Baker

I invite you to take a sneak peak at the cover of my next book, Jesus and the Beanstalk (Overcoming Your Giants and Living a Fruitful Life), scheduled to release in September from Abingdon Press. What do you think? Just click on the link.

Samwise Gamgee Can Get Us Through These Days

new-zealand-563759_640I terrified myself this week. Truly experienced long moments of icy panic.

It had been a full day of meeting with families for my day job. After leaving one family’s home, I mentally mapped my route back to my office to pick up some gift cards and then to my next appointment on the other side of the state. (It’s Rhode Island so we’re not talking longer than a 45-minute drive.) I swung my car onto route 1 and shifted my mind into automatic for the trip to my office.

Fifteen minutes into the drive, I didn’t recognize where I was. I knew I should recognize it. I drive route 1 almost every day. I know every inch of route 1. I told myself I was being silly as I searched the landscape for a mental handhold. Nothing. Continue Reading →

The Holy Silence of the Lambs

You may not like what I have to say today.
That’s okay.
I’m thinking this out aloud.
And one thing I think is that
we’re going to have to be very careful in the coming days.
Do you sense that, too?
As the world spins closer to the end,
we will be best served and will best serve one another
by listening closely to the voice of the Holy Spirit.
And we’ll need to be sure that when we give “Biblical” advice
that it’s based on the entire Bible.
For instance, Solomon wrote that there’s a time to speak –
we love that verse,
we’re a speak out generation
most of us don’t harbor a single unexpressed thought
in fact, a majority of us don’t know what we think until we hear ourselves say it out loud
or tweet it
or update our status on Facebook.
But Solomon also wrote that there’s a time to be silent
and that’s a particularly scary act of restraint for modern believers.
We associate silence with inaction, cowardice, indecision, and fear
so we applaud anyone who speaks up
and chastise those who keep their thoughts to themselves
but God says, there’s a time for everything.
So if we judge the brother or sister who remains silent in faith,
we contradict our Lord.
There’s been a post going around social media about a member of the Air Force being persecuted, in fact, risking court martial, for speaking out against gay marriage to his superior officer, a lesbian.
Believers, on-line, are rallying around the airman and I have no objection to that.
But the story is a sobering one and it’s made me think what  hill I’ll be called to die on in the coming days.
I write bold
but that’s not a hard thing for me to do so.
Writing bold posts costs me nothing.
But what if my boss told me that writing publicly about my views regarding abortion or gay marriage or divorce would cost me my job?
I need my job.
My family needs me to keep my job.
There are lots of other things to write about that glorify God.
Right at this moment, I don’t know what I would do except that I know I’d be on my knees seeking God’s guidance.
Is this a time to speak or a time to be silent?
Right now, I don’t know the answer because I don’t need to know the answer – my boss has issued no such threat and I can write what I want and keep our medical coverage.
But, that day may come and only God knows what time it will be.
One airman may have faith to trust God to care for his family should he be court-martialed for expressing his views
while another airman, one who loves Jesus just as much, may not have the same faith or may feel led to be silent while he or she looks for opportunities to share the love of Christ with his or her superior officer
and both may be acting within the will of God.
As the enemy roars and rails,
knowing his end is near,
the toxic smoke from his blazing nostrils filling the air with the confusing sulfur of deception,
we need to make every effort not to turn on one another.
Paul cautions us like this: Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” Romans 14:4 ESV
Cowardice is bad and God will judge the coward in the end.
Restraint is good and God will reward restraint and self-control, it’s a fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Silence can stem from either cowardice or restraint and only the One who sees the heart can know which.
And sometimes people speak out, not inspired by courage, but by a lack of self-control, an uninformed impulsivity, a misguided desire to pick a fight
like the disciple in the garden who drew his sword to defend Jesus and was reprimanded by our Lord –
it was not the time for swords
it was time to suffer and die.
Each of us should be preparing
when we’re alone with God,
learning to hear His voice,
shoring up our understanding of what we believe is the truth,
and cultivating the fruits of the spirit.
And we should also be practicing the discipline of withholding judgment
against our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Boot camp for the end times, baby.
Not a time for cut-and-paste understanding of scripture-
a time to pull it all together and draw from the entirety of the revelation
there’s a time to speak
and a time to be silent
a time for war
and a time for peace
a time to be born
and time to face the end of our days
Some will go out fighting
others will go out like lambs led to slaughter
but let all go in the power of the Holy Spirit
for in the Spirit – we are one.

Can You Pass This Fitness Test?

I am overweight and not in my best shape.
I haven’t made fitness a priority this past year and it shows up in my mirror.
If I suddenly had to run for miles or hike up a steep mountain carrying a pack or swim to save a life, it wouldn’t happen without miraculous intervention.
And it all comes down to the choices I’ve made every day with what I take in, what I put out, and how I spend my time.
What if we could look into a mirror that reflected our spiritual fitness?
What if the flab and bloat of years of consuming self-indulgent, easily palatable, religious platitudes and focusing not on a sacrificial life but on one that asks Jesus to find me a good parking space
what if that showed up in the mirror – a soul with a muffin top and flabby thighs?
And what if suddenly the world changed and that soul had to stand up for Christ under duress, under unimaginable social pressures, under threat of financial ruin, separation from kin, and possibly death?
Can you imagine this soul could make the climb?
Again, it all comes down to the choices we make every day about what we take in, what we put out, and how we spend our time.
Do you know where your Bible is right now?
What was the last passage of scripture you really thought about and tried to apply to your life?
Does fifteen minutes of prayer time weary you? Are you distracted after five? How often do you stop in the midst of your day to talk with God?
How about serving someone else? When was the last time you set aside an hour out of your schedule to serve someone in a way in which you will never see reward or get “credit?”
What about obedience? Are you letting yourself slide a little in the area of gossip? of a critical spirit?  of porn? of lying? of giving? of vanity? of pride?

Are you regularly exercising joy? mercy? patience? lovingkindness? faith?

Author Dan Walsh wrote an intriguing blog post this week about the times in which we may be living. You can read it here: http://3menwalkintoablog.com/its-time-to-git-yer-guns
I am keenly aware that every time I supersize my portion or sit when I should stand or pass up an opportunity to eat a vegetable or take a walk, I’m compromising my fitness goals.
And I know that if I had to call on my body to do extraordinary feats of endurance and strength right now, it would take a miracle.
How aware are we that the spiritual choices we make every day have similar ramifications?
God is not subtle. He’s sending His people plenty of warning that times are about to change.
The airwaves and Internet are full of voices crying out in the spiritual wilderness that we are on the brink of
something.
Are you ready to go the distance? Are you ready for spiritual heavy lifting?
Look into the mirror of God’s Word and ask Him.
Lord, what steps do I need to take today to be ready for the tomorrow that is to come.

Blowhard for God or Voice in the Wind

Wind is making big headlines these days.
Hurricane forces, tornado touchdowns, wind-driven snow, gale-force battery.
And we strive, don’t we?, to predict the behavior of the wind.
 Entire channels, websites, news stations  dedicated to the weather and still
when the wind blows, we are at its mercy.
Storms arise that defy prediction.
Winds change direction.
Meteors fall from the sky that with all our technology we didn’t see coming and people lose faith in the predictors who watch the skies crying out that it’s the end, it’s the end, it’s the end.
Is it?
I don’t know. If God isn’t sharing that info with Jesus, He surely isn’t whispering it to me.
But these are windy days full of pop-up storms and gusts of good news followed by windfalls of terror and trial
and the church seems just as prone to up and down drafts, unable or unwilling to provide reliable shelter for those who seek it
for those who rush in from one storm often only encounter another of a different sort blowing hard from the pulpit or spiraling up from the pews
and everyone without an anchor is tossed about until they decide the only course is to ride the prevailing wind and hope for the best.
These days I read again and again, chapter 27 of the book of Acts. It is a chapter about a ship full of men who were at the mercy of the wind.
winds that were against them
winds that would allow them to go no farther
gentle winds from the south, favorable winds that gave them hope
followed quickly by tempestuous wind from the northeast
winds that drove them along, battered their ship, sank their hopes
storm winds that prevailed to the point that they despaired of survival
resorted to plans of desertion, mutiny, murder
On the ship, was Paul, God’s man.
Under arrest, he was there, not by choice but by calling.
He faced the same winds as the captain and crew who had ignored his counsel not to sail.
He was battered by the same storm.
Starved along with them. Rode the same waves. Looked into the same dark, starless night knowing how perilous was their situation.
Knowing God did not keep him off the ill-fated ship nor did it protect him from the misery of the journey, the lack of food, the darkness of the hour, the smell of men fearing for their lives, Paul allowed the wind to drive him, not to fear, but to God.
His was not the voice of panic in the wind.
He did not stand on the bridge yelling, “See, I told you not to sail.”
He did not pronounce condemnation on the men who had ignored his warning.
He did find himself immune from cold, wet, hunger, or pain.
He spoke words of truth into the windy night.
He listened for God’s voice that can penetrate the wind and He heard from God and proclaimed what he heard to the men without hope.
He most likely interceded for the men despite their poor choices and ignorance of God.
Paul did not succeed in saving the ship but God did spare the lives of all aboard and even used the shipwreck to witness to the power of God to the natives of the island on which they landed.
In the beginning of the chapter, the captain sought shelter from the defiant winds by utilizing the lee of the islands, the sides that were sheltered from the wind.
Out at sea, though, there was no lee side visible to faithless men.
But Paul knew God is a shelter. He sailed the lee of Jesus Christ and his faith and wisdom brought them all safely to shore.
How are you responding to the winds?
What voice do you raise in the storm?
Have you sought and heard from God? Do you speak what you hear from Him?
Or are you a blowhard for God, adding nothing but more hot air to the storm?
These are the questions I’m asking myself as the wind rips at the sails on my ship.
Will the knowledge that I am at the mercy of Christ alone inform my response to the storm? I pray that it will. How about you, loved ones?

He Who Saves One Life, Saves the World

earth-683436_640There’s something God is asking you to do.
 

But you’re hesitating.

You’re not sure.

Maybe you didn’t hear him correctly.

And certainly, He’s got the wrong person, right?

I mean, there are better Christians than you and He hasn’t asked them to do this.

You know how mixed your motives are. Maybe this isn’t from God. Maybe you’re just looking for attention for yourself.

If it was something that God wants done, certainly others would have seen it, too. Smarter people. People who have known God longer. Braver, more talented people. I mean, who are you, right?

But, there it is again. That little voice. You know that voice. It’s Him.

But this is crazy. People aren’t going to understand this. And it’s not like you to do something based on a quiet urging, a sign, a desire, a call.

Still. There it is, again.

In the days of Marco Polo, Kublai Khan, the great leader of Ancient China, opened the door of his nation to the adventurer’s God. He told Marco that he would like to learn about this God and requested he bring back with him one hundred Christians to teach his people about Jesus Christ.

Two priests answered the call to go.

Two.

But even these two, when they encountered hardship and difficulty crossing the great mountains separating east from west, turned back.

They turned back.

No one but God can know how the world would be different today if Polo could have found one hundred Christians willing to go or if the two he did find had not turned back.

If even ONE had stayed the course.

It was a pretty crazy notion and it would have taken great courage and determination to carry it through

but they had an open door.

There are open doors all over the place right now.

 To borrow a phrase from C.S. Lewis, “Aslan is on the move.” God is at work. Something is afoot.

Is it the beginning of the end? I don’t know the answer to that but I know there are open doors everywhere – opportunities, moments to seize, conversations to start, risks to be taken.

You agree with me or you wouldn’t still be reading.

Jesus said: “See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.” Revelation 3:8

Are you looking at an open door thinking you’re the last person you would choose to walk through it? Are you thinking you don’t even have the strength to think about having the strength? Go back and read that verse again. He’s trying to tell you that none of that matters.

Aren’t you weary of living life with your silencer on? These days call for bold moves. I’m not a bold mover, but there is the seed of boldness gestating deep inside me and it’s ready to bloom.

I’ve read the Bible. I’ve seen Jesus at work. I’ve witnessed men and women changed, transformed by a power that is greater than any other in this world.

Don’t you want to be fully part of it?

The people who followed Jesus in the past and those who follow Him now must walk away from everything they once knew and be willing to move forward no matter the risk.

People thought they were crazy. Loved ones thought they were wrong, misguided, irresponsible, off their rails. You don’t go fishing for men, right? That’s not normal.

But it is. In the kingdom that arrived when Jesus ushered it in, that is normal. And if you’re a citizen of that kingdom, risking everything is something you do before breakfast in the morning.

If not now, when?

You hear Him talking to you. You know you want to respond. You know you’re tired of pushing that urge back down. You know the stakes. You hear Him getting closer every day. So why wait any longer? Why hold back another day?

At the end of Schindler’s List, when the war is over, Schindler stands with all of the men and women he managed to save from destruction by the Nazi’s.

But in that moment, rather than feeling pride, it’s as if Schindler suddenly realizes how real the war actually was.

In some ways, he had only been playing a game of “how many  can I save?” But now, when the war is won, the realization of all those dead, the reality of what had happened, comes racing at him.

This was no game. All he can see now is how much more he could have done, how many more he could have saved. He suddenly sees the value of even One More Person.

There is a day like that waiting for all of us.

What if the risk you’re hesitating to take could save just One More Person?

After any great war, children ask those who were there “What did you do during the war?” 

What will be your answer when it’s all over one day and someone asks you, “What did you do during the war?

 
What did you risk in the days of Elijah for One More Person?”

God Unswaddled – Preparing the Way for the Lord at Walmart


You know how when you’ve been married for a long time that there are repeat arguments that feel like déjà vu.

When those begin, don’t you want to say, “Can we just cut to the chase this time?”

The Rhode Island Governor is calling the Christmas tree at the state house, a holiday tree. Spectacular.

He has officially rung in the season for offense.

Bring out the tinsel, the garland, the radio talk show hosts and the tar and feathers, it’s Christmas in America!

What will bother believers this year?

Will it be the commercialism or the way we’re greeted by sales clerks? Will it be the rising attention given to Muslim holidays at the White House and the diminishing integrity of attention to Christmas? Will we be boycotting a business because their commercials are, well, commercial?

It’s stupid to call a Christmas tree a holiday tree. Not because it hurts Jesus, but because it’s Orwellian. Renaming things and saying something doesn’t mean what it’s always meant is straight out of 1984. It’s a tactic from the playbook of every oppressive, secular regime that’s ever staged a quiet coup.

But does it take the Christ out of Christmas? Not at my house, baby.

And have any of these regimes managed to snuff out the spirit of Christ in their land? Not in the long run. Jesus and His followers have outlasted them every time.

So, I propose we break with the most recent trending Christmas tradition and skip being offended this year. Skip the horrified indignation. It’s even Biblical according to Proverbs 19:11 “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”

How about this? Before you lecture that pimple-faced kid in a Walmart apron about the real reason for the season, ask yourself if you’ve ever concerned yourself for five minutes about the state of his soul. Find a way to love him in that moment. Then think about the best message to deliver this season.

For me, it’s this: People should worry less about how we remember His first coming and spend more time preparing for His next arrival.”

That message is a herald to hark with all of our strength but the greeting cards aren’t pretty.

We’ve been a long time waiting for Him to come again but that’s how it felt the first time, too.

By the time Mary received the announcement that she was carrying God’s son, there were popular rabbis teaching that the Messiah referred to in the scriptures was, perhaps, a metaphor calling each of us to save our portion of the world. When Jesus finally arrived the first time, there were many who had grown tired of waiting for Him.

Did you ever notice the preponderance of Mary’s in the New Testament? It was a very popular name for little girls in Israel back then. It means “bitter or bitterness.” It may as well mean “We’re tired of waiting for you to save us God. We’re going to try to save ourselves.”

And there were groups of Jews trying to do that. The Zealots believed in rising up against their oppressors and fighting Rome for freedom. One of the twelve disciples, Simon, was a Zealot. He was probably not popular with his cohorts when he announced that the actual Messiah had come so he was done with swords and conspiracies against Rome.

He had a greater task.

That’s exactly how I feel right now. So, I’m laying down my holiday sword and preparing to love others, even the governor, to speak the truth, and to pray that they get the true message of Christ before their actual offenses land them in a place of judgment.

Forget that you’re offending me, sir. Worry more about the ways you may be an offense to the One who is coming again.

I don’t know exactly when but I do know that every generation is closer to the end than the last.

I also know that the admonition to “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord” wasn’t just about receiving a swaddled baby into the world as the King Eternal. That baby grew up, lived, died, and rose again. That baby ascended and is standing beside the Father awaiting the time when He returns to call His followers home and to judge the inhabitants of earth.

Revelation 19:11-16 says this: “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.”He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”

That’s no swaddled baby in a manger. That’s the Jesus who is coming again – just as He promised.

Don’t worry about whether or not you’re prepared for this Christmas season – worry whether or not you’re prepared for the season to come – the End of the Age and the return of Jesus Christ.

Prepare for the season of the white horse. He won’t be wrapped in garland.

Put THAT message on your Christmas card and mail it, loved ones. Are you ready for God unswaddled?

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Today’s image comes from http://greisv.blogspot.com/2010/02/undefeated-conquering-warrior.html

God Unswaddled – Preparing for the Season of the White Horse

You know how when you’ve been married for a long time, there are some arguments that feel like déjà vu.

When those arguments begin, you want to just say “Haven’t we had this one before? Can we just cut to the chase on this one this time?”

That’s how I feel about the Christmas season this year.

‘Tis the season for offense.

What will bother believers this year? Will it be the commercialism or the way we’re greeted by sales clerks? Will it be the rising attention given to Muslim holidays at the White House and the diminishing integrity of attention to Christmas?

I say lets skip it this year.

Skip the debates. Skip the offenses. Let everyone greet you any way they want. Before you lecture that pimple faced kid in a Walmart apron about the real reason for the season, ask yourself if you’ve ever concerned yourself for five minutes about the state of his soul.

Let’s choose a real message to deliver this Christmas season.

Here’s the one I’m choosing “You should worry less about how we remember His first coming and spend more time preparing for His next arrival.”

 That one’s going to be a doozy and the cards will not be pretty.

In October, TV comedians John Stewart and Stephen Colbert held their Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. It was amusing to hear many of the speeches and I listened good-naturedly until John Stewart made this proclamation “We live in hard times, not End Times!” This pronouncement received a riotous cheer of support.

It didn’t offend me – it frightened me for those who took his words to heart. And it reminded me how important it is for us to deliver the whole message of Jesus Christ.

I know it’s been a long time waiting for Him to come again but I bet that’s how it was the first time, too.

You have to imagine that by the time Mary received the announcement that she was carrying God’s son, there were popular rabbis teaching that the Messiah referred to in the scriptures was, perhaps, a metaphor calling each of us to save our portion of the world. There were many who were tired of waiting when Jesus finally arrived the first time.

Did you ever notice the preponderance of Mary’s in the New Testament? It was a very popular name for little girls in Israel back then. It means “bitter or bitterness”. It may as well mean “We’re tired of waiting for you to save us God. Maybe we should try to save ourselves.”

And there were groups of Jews trying to do that. The Zealots believed in rising up against their oppressors and fighting Rome for freedom. One of the twelve disciples, Simon, was a Zealot. He was probably not popular with his cohorts when he announced that the actual Messiah had come so he was done with swords and conspiracies against Rome.

He had a greater task.

But that’s exactly how I feel right now. So, I’ve decided to spend my devotional time this season studying the scriptures that speak, not of His first coming, but of His second – His return.

I don’t know when He’s coming again. I don’t know if we are in THE end times. But I do know that every generation is closer to the end than the last.

I also know that the admonition to “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord” was not just about receiving a swaddled baby into the world as the King Eternal. That baby grew up, lived, died, and rose again. That baby is all grown up now, ascended and standing beside the Father awaiting the time when He returns to call His followers home and to judge the inhabitants of earth.

Revelation 19:11-16 says this: “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.”He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”

That’s no swaddled baby in a manger. That’s the Jesus who is coming again – just as He promised.

Don’t worry about whether or not you’re prepared for this Christmas season – worry whether or not you’re prepared for the season to come – the End of the Age and the return of Jesus Christ.


Put THAT message on your Christmas card and mail it, loved ones. Are you ready for God unswaddled?

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This video can be found at http://www.youtube.com/