Culture Shock Is Happening to YOU, and You Don’t Even Know It

There is a conflict going on all around you, and you may not have even noticed. “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7, NIV) If you’ve ever lived in another country where English is not spoken you may have gone through culture shock, which is NOT being shocked by stuff we see in another culture– it’s the emotional impact of assimilating into a foreign society.

Culture is related (obviously) to cult, which makes sense if you think about it. In any local environment, we all listen to the same news, wear the same fashions, and somewhat slavishly follow the same celebrities and customs. When we travel to another country and are plunked down into a different set of customs and especially language, something starts to happen…

Culture Shock

After a brief honeymoon period where everything is exciting and new, you begin to experience frustration and alienation, particularly over your inability to express yourself and to have meaningful dialog with those around you. Culture shock is like hitting an identity wall because you feel stunted and dense; you can’t explain some of the most elemental things you feel or think, and you can’t share your opinions, your humor, or your feelings as effectively as you are used to doing. Your self-worth is challenged because almost all of the things you value about yourself are locked inside, hidden away unexpressed. Peter called believers sojourners and pilgrims on this earth (1 Peter 2:11), because we are aliens in a foreign land.

Jesus said “that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit”, and because of that irreconcilable tension, Christians are forced to live as spiritual beings in a culture driven by flesh and the values of the world. The world adores celebrities, the kind of people who project themselves out there by any means available, who say “Don’t you know who I am?” You receive literally thousands of messages a day celebrating the shallow and the temporary, calling your attention away from things that are actually important. But Jesus called his followers to be sanctified, to be “as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves”, and to somehow live “IN the world without being OF the world”.

In or OF?

And at this we fail. Early and often. We compromise. We withdraw into holy huddles, and reduce the amazing Christian life wherein we are forgiven and reborn to a bunch of lame “do’s” and “don’ts”. We justify ourselves, we rationalize our mistakes, we criticize all those OTHER sinners and we struggle at articulating what we really feel about being a follower of Christ in a world that doesn’t always care about that. Have you ever had spiritual culture shock? Found yourself frustrated over being unable to express love the way you know Jesus wants you to? Ever used the usual excuses: “I’m not a speaker/evangelist/professional, I don’t like being up front, that’s not my gift, I’d rather work behind the scenes, or I’m really nobody special, God will use gifted folks for that kind of stuff…”?

culture

Ever felt like the love of Christ within you is an amazing treasure locked inside of you, but you’re just not sure how to express it? Then there is GREAT NEWS! God never intended for YOU to be accountable for that. In fact, Paul says the opposite is true. God has placed His amazing love within you so that people see it and recognize that it’s not yours, but HIS. We are only “earthen vessels”, but Paul says there is more to us than that!

In a TMZ world that celebrates looks, money, achievement, power, and external things, that rewards those who push their way to the front of the culture, Paul says that it is not the obvious outer stuff that makes us amazing. It is the hidden inner treasure. While we place tremendous value in what we can SEE, the Lord apparently says there is also great value in what is NOT seen. There is a spiritual dimension to us that enables the very Spirit of God to uplift us, inspire us, and motivate us to be different than the world. It is not so much a matter of who we are. It is more a matter of WHOSE we are…

 
Whose Are You?

You don't have to tweet a lot, or drive a fancy car;
You don't have to get tattoos or try to be bizarre;
You don't have to play guitar, or have your name on a candy bar,
Or get too far in politics, or be a senator or a czar!
You don't have to be too rich, or be a movie star;
You don't have to get high and impress friends at the bar:
It's not just who you know that counts, but more in WHOSE you ARE.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Hearts Getting Harder Have Nothing to do With Arteries

When you work with your hands, your skin can get toughened so much that you form callouses. Then it becomes tougher, harder, and less sensitive. The writer of Hebrews suggests that the same thing can happen to our hearts.

“See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.” (Hebrews 3:12-14, NIV)

Having faith in Jesus and being his follower does not make anyone perfect. Even after becoming Christians, it is possible to turn away from the living God and to be subject to a sinful, unbelieving heart. Anyone who has experienced genuine saving faith can never lose their salvation; however, it is possible to turn away from walking with God and to go our own direction. As Christians we do it all the time.

Baby Steps…

Here’s a familiar list for those of us who sin: We dabble in sin, we even do things over and over because we repeat favorite sins, we rationalize the impact of sin, and we do things “just this once” or “just a little bit”. Maybe it’s fun, maybe it feels good, or maybe it’s what we have always done; but our sinful nature will never truly give in to our Spiritual nature. All the while our hearts grow a little more calloused and our sinful nature hangs around, being opportunistic. Like Jason from the Halloween movies it keeps rising up to try to inflict death and destruction. I’ll grant that not every sin is progressive, but when we dabble in sin, our hearts can fall victim to evil. When it comes to sin, can you predict which one will lead to others?

hard hearts

The Imperfect Hypocrite

The presence of our carnal nature insures that Christians will never be perfect in this life. The biggest mistakes I have ever made, I have made as a Christian. Repeat that: the biggest mistakes I have ever made, I have made as a Christian. I know, right? But this passage isn’t just talking about mistakes, it is describing selfish repetition of sin without repentance… It refers to daily stuff that weaves its way into our hearts and minds and won’t let go.

Sin can be the covetousness inspired by Pinterest, the lure of porn, the hateful thoughts about some of those idiots out there, or even the smug self-righteousness of feeling more spiritual than others. Those things and more are woven into our lives every day, and if you think about it, the world actually offers us a continual bombardment of sin pelting our hearts with little barbs or subtle temptations.

As a result, our hearts can be hardened to sin, and we end up in places we never thought we’d go. We become calloused to sin, or (like the frog in the pot of tepid water on its way to boiling) comfortable with it a little at a time, taking small steps deeper into darkness… Generally, we don’t go straight from church to the evil empire, but sin has a cumulative effect, moving us away from the Truth one step at a time. How do we keep from believing those lies and taking those steps?

What Friends are For

One of the answers is as close as your best Christian friend. The writer of Hebrews tells us to “encourage one another daily.” Who is it that encourages you? Who do you encourage? Someone you know is struggling with something in their life, and could use some kind words. Maybe they’ve wandered into sin, or accepted some of the enemy’s lies about their true value. Encourage them. You may just keep them from ending up with calloused hearts.

Sinful Hearts, Sinful Thoughts

Sin bombards us every day as we are trying to make our way–
It sneaks up, breaks up, speaks up! Offers temptation, carnal relations,
Uses multi-media to offer sensations, holding the carrot of gratifications;
Sin calls us in a step at a time:
You’re thinking of sin while you’re reading this rhyme!
Watch that Pinterest, could be a sin test,
Calling you to look at something of interest,
When you know you love it so that it can make you covet, though.
You’d never admit that it made you kinda lit,
But your heart gets hit, and you sin a little bit…
That’s how it starts to harden your heart,
All those little malice’s building up callouses,
Whether that sin is New York or Dallas’s.
Fight against sin. Don’t let it win,
I’m telling you again don’t even let it in.
Encourage one another to do what’s right,
Gotta help a brother continue in the fight!
Give a little love with the message that you send,
And it might help someone get through to the end.
It’s not fiction, it may cause friction,
But take ahold of Christ and keep your conviction.
There. I said it. So don’t you forget it;
Sin will try to win, but don’t. You. Let it.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Prayer the Way It Should Be: How to Change Your Life Through Prayer

Prayer is something which probably all of us have done with different feelings and results. Is there a right way to pray? Jesus was asked that question by his disciples, and here’s what he said: “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name; your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9-10, NIV)

In the Lord’s Prayer (or the “Our Father” prayer), Jesus encouraged us to pray for God’s will to be done “on earth as it is in heaven”. What would that look like? How would your daily life be different if God’s will were fully accomplished here on earth? What is God’s will for YOUR life, and how do you know what it is? Here are a couple of references that provide some insight: “The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:17, NIV)

A Bold Request

John says that God’s will is different than what the world desires. How do material things stack up against abundant, eternal life? I think it’s safe to safe that anyone who equates God’s will with wealth, comfort, fame, or material things is trying to compare apples with oranges. Where God’s will is done, John says, there is eternal life.

prayer

Praying in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus “fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39, NIV). Doing God’s will does not guarantee comfort or safety. It does involve achieving what God wants and receiving what He promised. “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” (Hebrews 10:36, NIV).

How Do You Find God’s Will?

The reason for pursuing and doing God’s will is not to find some magic formula for successful living, but to put yourself in right relationship to your Father. “For whoever does the will of God is my brother and my sister and mother.” (Mark 3:35, NKJV) It is really stressful chasing around after God’s will. We should not become enamored with the idea of finding “God’s Will”. We should simply FALL IN LOVE with God.

Sometimes when you think you have God’s will figured out, you get all wrapped around the thing you think He is doing, or where you think He might be taking you. Instead, when you pray, just focus on HIM–walking with Him, enjoying His presence, and immersing yourself in his love. I think the rest will sort itself out.

Prayer should be like that; put aside the petitions every now and then and just spend time with the Father.

God sees all ends and has your best interests at heart, and will ultimately bring all things into alignment with the good pleasure of His will. Paul says, “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” (Ephesians 1:11) What if we prayed every day, “Your will be done today, Father. Not as I will, but as YOU will”? I bet we would “receive what He has promised.” And no matter the circumstances, we’d have a nice day.

Game Changer

Ignore the lies the world instills:
Trade the thrills and pocket-fills,
and cease the petty game of wills.
Take this challenge, if you dare
And step into the world of prayer!
Connect with the Divine and find that your requests will realign:
Jesus in Gethsemane took time to pray for you and me;
But really, what he did was pray
That God the Father have His way.
It's something we can do, today...
Embrace the Father like the Son.
Pray: “Not my will, but Thine be done.”

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Counsel and Wisdom: Better Be Careful with that Bucket!

The Bible has a few things to say about counsel, the act of getting prudent advice before making final decisions: “A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel” (Proverbs 1:5, NKJV) “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise.” (Proverbs 12:15, NKJV) “Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out“. (Proverbs 20:5, NKJV)

counsel deep

Counsel not Council

The word “counsel” is used a number of times in the Old Testament, and it is an interesting term. It sometimes simply means God’s wisdom and direction. It can also refer to resources that provide wisdom or guidance in making decisions, or it is used to describe sage advice. Think for a minute: where do YOU go for wise counsel? Who is it YOU turn to for sage advice?

Here in Proverbs 1:5 and 12:15, it is a noun that means to bind, or to pledge. It comes from the picture of using a rope or a cord on a large animal in order to pull or guide it in the proper direction. Without assistance in steering, an ox could end up plowing crooked rows, or it might wander over into a ditch. So it is with us. Our actions will be more profitable when they are guided by wise counsel.

The Bible says that not only is God a wonderful source of counsel, but so are others who have been blessed with wisdom. There is a godly wisdom that only comes from walking with Him and being invested in His word. But Wisdom can also be practical, attained through life experiences. There is an old saying that “Good decisions come from experience. Experience comes from making bad decisions.” I know I have illustrated the last part of that homily many times. Perhaps you have too.

To Whom Would You Turn?

One way to bypass the trial-and-error process is to seek the counsel of someone who is wise, godly, and experienced. Such a person would not offer a knee-jerk response or fire off an emotional email. The word picture in 20:5 is instructive because it describes a process for obtaining the kind of counsel that is truly beneficial (like water to a thirsty man in a dry land). It maintains that good counsel doesn’t come quickly or easily; it says that there is effort required to pull the heavy bucket of life-giving water up from the cool depths of the well; and that care needs to be taken with the precious contents so that none of it is wasted…

When Proverbs says, “counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out”, WHO do you think of? Chances are that after you have prayed and looked into God’s word for advice, they might be the right person to call when you are making your plans or wrestling with a big decision. Get wise counsel. Make good decisions.

Go to the Well

We all have times we wish for good advice that we could keep.
Proverbs says that counsel is like water, dark and deep;
When facing life decisions, and your heart is full of doubt,
Godly counsel can be there to help you think things out.
Proverbs says a man who thinks he’s right may be a fool,
But in the well, the water’s deep and takes a longer pull:
A man of understanding can provide a bucketful.
Though a fool may see himself as right in his own eyes,
It’s better to seek counsel from a person who is wise;
If you must choose, then I advise you try that on for size.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Action is Always the Result of Faith: If You Have Faith, You Will Take Action

There’s a law of spiritual physics: for every smidgen of faith, there is a corresponding action. “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8, NIV)

Is This a Faith Movie or an Action Movie?

The story of Abraham is central to the story of the Bible. It is also, coincidentally, central to your story and mine. We don’t know much about Abram before he encountered God; he was a competent citizen of Ur, and he was descended from Shem. What we do know is that is that he settled with his father Terah in Haran, and that his wife Sarai was barren. (Because that seems so close to a rhyme, I couldn’t make myself write it any other way.) In Genesis 12:1, it says, “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people, and your father’s household, and go to the land I will show you.” The amazing thing is that Abram heard and immediately obeyed God, and went out to start a new life at age 75.

action and faith

He had faith in what God promised, and it motivated him to do what God instructed. I think that one of the consistent hallmarks of faith is obedience. If you believe that God has given you something to do, then you do it. The next logical step is that obedience always results in DOING something!

Dead or Alive?

True faith is never passive, because it obeys; and obedience always results in ACTION. Let me repeat that: true faith ALWAYS results in ACTION. This is basically what James says about faith when he connects it to works; he never says that works produce faith, but that faith always produces works: “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” (James 2:17-18, NIV)

A faithful life is a life of obedience that leads to adventure! Abram’s life and story illustrated that a man of 75 could follow God’s call to new places, new horizons, and new adventures! So, what does the call of a Chaldean nomad from the pages of ancient history have to do with us?

There is a direct connection between the way the God of relationships worked with Abram and the way He still works with us. Every single one of us is called to go out, not knowing our destination or the surety of the outcome. A quick glance through Matthew serves to remind us that Jesus said “Follow me” in 4:19, 8:22, 9:9, 10:38, 16:24, and 19:21. You really can’t explore the Bible very much at all without being confronted by a call from the Lord of the universe, a call that requires you to do something.

God asks every single one of us to leave the earthly things which make us feel secure and to follow where He calls us to go. We have several options: 1) we can refuse to hear that call; 2) we can ignore the call; 3) we have the option to disobey and go our own way; or 4) we can place all of our trust in the Lord’s leadership and travel in obedience with the God of action and adventure.

Based on his decision to obey, Abram’s name ended up of the roll call of the heroes of the faith. If you are wondering, God is still calling, and that list is still being written. Have faith. Obey. Take action.

Doing Faith

Abram, from the land of Ur, was settled down in Haran.
His life was good, and he did what he should,
Though Sarai–his wife– was barren.
But then there was that conversation
When God told him, “Leave your relations!
Obey my command and go find a new land
And I’ll turn you into a great nation.”
Well, Abram believed this command he received;
And though he could have stayed, he went out and obeyed!
He changed his whole life, took his goods and his wife
And achieved satisfaction because he took action.
If you believe God, then get to it,
Since faith isn’t faith ’til you DO it.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Writing YOUR Story: It’s Time for YOU to write ME! Let me Hear From YOU!

Why have I been writing these posts for the last 3 years? Maybe because “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.” (Hebrews 1:1-2, NIV) The Bible is an amazing book, and it makes some powerful claims about Jesus. Those claims are either an incredible lie or they are absolutely true. There’s really no middle ground.

I have been writing these posts because I believe those claims are true.

It has been about three years since I started this daily devotional, and I have a confession to make. Writing these posts every day is hard. It has required a commitment that I honestly didn’t know I had. I am not a “discipline guy”, I am a creative, happy-go-lucky kind of guy. Throughout my life I have been a sporadic Quiet Time guy rather than an every-day-journal kind of guy.

The What of Writing this Blog

From the beginning of this endeavor, I have followed a few simple rules: 1) The first year, I was going to try to produce or edit one every day; 2) I wouldn’t follow anyone else’s menu for Scripture reading or devotionals (which explains why it has been pretty random in terms of what passages it addressed when); 3) during this last year I have gone back through to do some editing and add a poem to every single post; and 4) I would write for an audience of one (Him) and make applications for the reader who needed them the most (me).

The How of Writing this Blog

I have tried my best to keep my posts organic and to allow them to come naturally through my own reading and experiences during the year. While I certainly reflected the good preaching I have heard and authors I have read, the poetry, commentary, errors, reflections and conclusions in my writing have been mine. ( I have tried to be Biblical, not political, and I hope that has been the case in my blog…That has been hard to do in our current political climate.) I wanted to begin every day with the Book that has changed my life in the hope that you, too, could gain a deeper appreciation of its depth and subtlety.

I consider the Bible to be (as Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:16) inspired by God, profitable for doctrine, reproof, for correction, and instruction in righteousness. If you have been keeping up, during the past year we have had a chance to look more closely at Easter and the Passion week; we followed Jesus and his disciples chronologically in “real-time” over His last week on earth.

We were able to start in Genesis and go through every book in the Bible, discovering some great stuff about God in the Minor Prophets along the way. We dove into Christ’s genealogy, looked at historical and political underpinnings of His birth, and explored the revolutionary way He broke down social and religious barriers in a world full of them. We looked at some of His teachings, and I know I came away more impressed than ever at His wisdom and insight. I have reflected on travels in Israel and been exposed to the land of the Bible. I have tried to compare the teachings of Jesus to our culture and to my own behavior.

Who Wrote this Blog

Trust me, ya’ll, I am not writing as an expert or someone who has it all figured out. I have made tremendous mistakes in my life and committed egregious sins. I have literally blown my life up a couple of times by making bad choices or pursuing sinful behavior, and I have deserved to have that happen a couple more times, only to be surprised that my failures did not become public knowledge. And to be clear, I made these mistakes and committed sins AS A CHRISTIAN, not as some pagan who had rejected God and His values. The one constant (besides my own failures) in life has been the relentless application of grace and forgiveness by the good Lord, as seen through the lens of the Bible and personified in the person of Jesus Christ.

writing about Jesus

If Jesus was who He said he was, then He is a man worth studying, a leader worth emulating, and a God worthy of worship. It is my prayer that you would take an honest look at Him and see those conclusions as evident and logical. If you have read along for any length of time this year, I would LOVE to hear your story, and would really appreciate it if you either:

1) share one of your own insights or applications in the comments (which is easy, come on just jot something down!), or

2) PM me with your story or comment as you feel appropriate. I would really REALLY like to hear from you, so take a minute NOW and reply or respond. I honestly don’t expect to get many replies, but it would be really cool if a bunch of you would surprise me and tell me a little bit of YOUR story, how you met Christ or something you have learned lately… If you want to tell me you disagree with everything I’ve written, that would be OK too! If you are too busy to write a long story, then please respond with a short sentence or a one-word comment.

writing

I have taken comments and feedback to heart, and a couple of people whose opinions I respect encouraged me to invest more time in writing poetry with each of my posts. So I’ve done that over the last year, and started closing every blog with a poem. I’d love to hear if you have a favorite poem or if any of the verse has meant something to you. (My secret dream is that somewhere unbeknownst to me, some pastor uses one of my poems in a sermon because it captures something of the message he preached that day!)
I’ll close with one of my favorite poems of mine, one that reflects on John and the impact his writing has had on me:

The Writer
Youngest disciple, did you know where all the twists and turns would go,
And did you have the line of sight to what would come from what you’d write?
Jesus’ loved one, did you think, when struggling with your pen and ink,
That History hung on every word you wrote of what you’d seen and heard?
Out to a thoughtless, careless world, your personal account was hurled:
The words of a crazy, exiled Jew, who claimed that what he’d seen was true!
Could you have known? Could you have seen the phrasing there, in three sixteen,
And you could somehow sense, or see, down corridors of History,
That someday it would come to me, affecting what my life would be?
Some might say you were misled, or somehow addled in your head,
And some with proud disdain despise your testament, and call it lies…
But some would say you have a friend, whose kingdom’s come, and will not end,
Who showed you love as meant to be, by being who He was sent to be!
Jesus’ Beloved, Apostle John, your words live now, and will live on
For us, from what you saw and heard, and captured in your timeless word:
For all the world—for everyone—God gave his only precious son,
That all who seek Him, and believe, will each eternal life receive.
The perfect love that fell on Thee has fallen, too, on me…

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Meekness is Not Weakness. It Could Even Win the Preakness.

I have heard the phrase “gentle Jesus, meek and mild” many times, and I have always wondered about Jesus’ meekness. Was he just some sort of milk-toast or doormat? Was Jesus a weakling? Then I did some research about meekness, and found out there was more to it than being a wimp:

meekness not weakness

“And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in meekness correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26, NKJV)

Strength in Being Gentle

Paul’s letter to Timothy contains practical advice about relationships and sharing the truth as well as a startling cosmic reminder about the state of mankind. He admonishes Timothy to avoid fruitless arguments, and to be gentle and patient when facing opposition. This is pretty good advice about all relationships, and there are some valuable insights that can be gained from what Paul says here.

He tells Timothy to teach with humility. The Greek word he uses (praus) is usually translated as mildness or meekness. Jesus uses it in Matthew 11:29-30, when he says “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Remember, this is the same Jesus who overthrew the moneychangers’ tables in the temple. He who blazed with glory on the Mount of transfiguration. He endured the cross. The Greek idea for meekness is not being a doormat. It is one of controlled power. Think of a gentled horse. They don’t lose all of their power, but they are trained and therefore disciplined enough to channel their power; they are still strong enough to throw you but they don’t.

meekness

Gentleness is also the eighth fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5. The quality of meekness is not abject weakness, it’s like a horse that could win the Preakness. (Ha, try to forget THAT!) Emulate Jesus and be filled with the Spirit.

Which Kind of Person are YOU?

The other thing Paul points out in this passage is that there are only two kinds of people in this world: there are those who know the truth, and those who have been taken captive by the snare of the devil. Seems kind of radical, doesn’t it? I mean, taken captive by the devil, come on! Surely my friends, my neighbors, those other people on the highway are not captured by the devil!

Ask yourself this, though: If someone is not living for Christ, who are they living for? Never forget that you reside in occupied territory behind enemy lines. Everyone who has not found the truth is captive to something else, something they may not even acknowledge or be aware of. It may be that you are uniquely positioned to share the Truth with someone so that they can escape the devil’s trap. Be powerful. Be gentle.

The Strongest Meekness You Ever Saw

This world is hard. This world is wild, and ever since I was a child
I’ve heard the Lord described as “gentle Jesus, meek and mild”.
I know that he was good and right; I know that Jesus didn’t fight,
But there were things about him that would indicate a hidden might:
He entered the Temple with a shout and threw the money changers out.
He took the beating and the cross, defeated Satan like a Boss,
And conquered evil, sin and death as all eternity held its breath.
See, “meekness” in the Greek has more of a meaning if you seek it,
And it doesn’t always come across the way we usually speak it.
In Greek it’s like a harnessed force, something like a gentled horse,
Very strong and yet controlled in all the power that it holds.
Greek meekness is not weakness, it’s enough to win the Preakness.
Meek Jesus really should be styled as “Powerful Savior, strong and Wild”! Don’t be beguiled. If you get riled, stay strong! You are the Savior’s child.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Is Life About Merriment or Moments? And What Difference Does it Make?

Why are we here? It is a question asked by every generation, and one of the most common answers is, we are put on this earth merely to “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die.” So ask yourself, is merriment the main purpose of our existence? What are we supposed to get out of life, anyway? Consider this:

“I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord”. (Psalm 118:17, NIV) David actually says a lot in this short comment from the Psalms about the celebration of life. To me, it echoes Christ’s statement in John 10:10, “I am come that they might have life, and have it abundantly” To start from the end and go backwards, David proclaims that he is alive to “declare the works of the Lord”. He looks to a Being greater than himself to find a purpose greater than himself.

Like David, your life has a purpose greater than what you see. If you play the game, “Six Degrees of Separation” where you know somebody who knows somebody else who knows the President or Kevin Bacon, you realize how interconnected and small the world is, and just how large your life is. It will touch corners of the globe where you have never been, and all kinds of people you have not seen. Because of that your life has a purpose much greater than simply living for yourself, and yet that is what many of us do.

The Mystery of History

As Rick Warren’s book “The Purpose Driven Life” says, we are here for God’s pleasure, not just our own. That’s why it is called His-story, and not My-story! Do you ever stop to realize that you are casual and short-sighted about life, even though you only get one chance at it? Life is not a dress rehearsal! The first part of this verse says, “I shall not die but live”, reminding us that our life will not end, and has a purpose far greater than its earthly span. I think we forget sometimes that life is far greater than an earthly sojourn—it is an eternal adventure.

merriment

C S Lewis said, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”

Are you serious about eternity? Do you enjoy merriment of the merriest kind?

How Long Do We Have?

As eternal beings, we have the opportunity to reflect the character and works of our creator. Do you think most people live as if their actions today mattered forever? Do you? Would your world be a better place if you interacted with others as though your conversation was an eternal transaction? As C. S. Lewis points out, it adds weight to things, even to our merriment. I’m not against parties (I love to party!), but I am not too impressed with purely frivolous parties. I mean, we all partied like it was 1999, but I’m not sure it added anything meaningful to our existence. But a party with people you actually love, celebrating together– why, that’s eternal.

The Psalmist not only speaks of the length of his life, he also proclaims its purpose: to “declare the works of the Lord.” What if you lived today with that in mind? Would anything change? Has God done any work in you, around you, or through you that deserves declaration? Since you are no mere mortal, live as if you matter. Live as if GOD matters. And have some merriment of the merriest kind.

Purpose

Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die!
But do you ever look around, or pause to wonder why?
Why are we put here on earth, and what’s the reason for our birth,
And what could be the purpose that imparts to us eternal worth?
It’s really no great mystery, the way to make some History
Is living for God’s pleasure. That’s the only thing to measure.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Glory Certainly Isn’t Something You See Every Day; Or IS IT?

I would bet that you have seen glory a few times: a majestic view or something magnificent; but I don’t think most of us walk around each day as if we are in the midst of something glorious. It was different for David and the other folks who wrote the Psalms. The Psalmist had only to look up to behold the Glory of God. “Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens.” (Psalm 8:1, NIV) “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1, NIV) “O Lord, I love the habitation of Your house and the place where Your glory dwells.” (Psalm 26:8, NIV)

glory of the heavens

The average ancient man had a far greater insight to astronomy than we do today. After all, they didn’t have electricity so there was no competition with starlight and no corruption of the view. Sailors navigated by the stars, and religions built observation temples to track their pathways in the night skies. Wise men spent hours contemplating the heavens and tracking their movement. Their perception of how the moon and the stars moved through the heavens was far more acute than most of ours is today…

David shared that understanding of the night skies, but he also had a wonderful sense of spiritual perception. It’s not totally surprising, when you think about all of the nights he spent out in the countryside tending sheep, sleeping beneath the canopy of space. There were no city lights, there was no TV and no glowing media to distract him—just the vastness of the universe spread overhead as far as he could see—the infinite richness of light in the darkness, the movement of the constellations in the heavens, and hours of time to reflect on what it must mean.

He apparently came to the conclusion that the universe was amazing, and so was The One who made it. He carried that impression throughout his entire life, whether he was a shepherd, a hero, a fugitive, a king, or a sinner. God was amazing and glorious, and David’s humility and awe before Him set the foundation for a lifetime love affair. The evidence David saw about the Creator’s majesty affected his heart as well, and he lived his life with a profound understanding that God’s glory was not just around him but was also within him. When he said, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made”, he was acknowledging the Creator’s work not just around him, but within him as well.

All of us have had moments like that, when we got a glimpse of God’s majesty and re-calibrated our place in the universe. Maybe it happened to you when you saw an amazing sunset, approached snow-capped mountains rising from the plains, or lay out on a hillside at night and gazed into the dazzling vastness of the Milky Way: God’s presence surrounded and astounded you, and called you to worship the Creator. Perhaps you even felt God’s glory in the midst of a church service, singing a song or lost in worship…Most of us live ordinary lives touched by splashes of glory.

What if we had the chance to live glorious lives touched by God? What if it were possible to see miracles everywhere? When was the last time God was glorious to you? When was the last time you felt the awesomeness of God, and felt humbled and reverent before Him? When was the last time you saw God for who he is and fell in love with Him a little more?

I’ve toured some amazing cathedrals in Europe, and I know they were built on a magnificent scale to try to capture a smidgen of God’s glory. When you enter them you feel a sense of awe and wonder. Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth details the blood, sweat, and effort that went into building some of them, and it’s a good read. The intent behind them was similar to the passion behind the Temple in Jerusalem, to show worshipers a glimpse of glory.

In our casual world of flip-flops and coffee in church, I sometimes long for worship where we encounter God in his glory. In our world of busy-ness and distraction, I long for reflection and reverence. If, like me, you struggle sometimes with seeing God in His glory, then remember this: the most important place we encounter God is not in nature, and not even in His house, but in the sanctuary of our hearts. Under His New Covenant, we are the temple where He resides. You are fearfully and wonderfully made–not just physically, but spiritually as well. God’s glory is not limited to what is above you, but is resident within you, and seeks to express itself through you.

Where do you find God’s glory? Look up. Look around. Look within. Re-calibrate. The glory all around you may also be the glory shining through you.

Glory

The heavens display the glory of God! We see his presence there,
Far-flung among the galaxies and painted everywhere.
The palette of the sunsets blazes forth in every hue
As pink and gold are splashed across the heaven’s perfect blue.
The mountains rise majestically beyond us from afar
Reminding us how big God is, and just how small we are.
We all know His glory in the grandest things abides,
But there’s a place much closer where His presence still resides;
To truly see God’s glory, here’s the place where you should start:
Don’t gaze at the horizon, take a look inside your heart.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here:  https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Almost Famous: The Cosmic Guide to Being Known

Our culture loves celebrities. We celebrate people we see on movie screens or concert stages, people who are well known. With the pervasive presence of cell phones and security cameras, many things are recorded for posterity that used to stay unknown. As we have seen many times on social media, what is known can either be an asset or a liability, but most of us would probably say it must be pretty cool to be famous… The Bible has a little bit of a different take about what is really required to be well-known.

“If any man thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet that he ought to know; but if any man loves God, the same is known of him.” (1 Corinthians 8:2-3, NIV). For years I have called this my “Life Verse”, because I think it embodies the gap between what we see as important and what God thinks is important. Knowledge is one of our greatest barriers to learning something new. Thinking we know everything is a sure-fire way to keep from getting to know everything. What is known can keep us from finding the unknown…

How Do You Make the A List?

By celebrating human thought and accomplishment, the world only scratches the surface of what’s important. Think about it: who are these celebrities, and what are the usual requirements for someone to become well-known or TMZ-worthy?

known and famous

As Billy Joel said in “Still Rock and Roll”, “Don’t you know about the new fashion, honey? All it takes are looks and a whole lot of money”. Having money is a great place to start, and projecting a sexy or attractive image certainly helps. Our culture celebrates actors, athletes, fashionistas, law-breakers, skin-flashers, rock stars and self-promoters. You see them on TV. The paparazzi follow them around. The tabloids make up stories about them, and they exhibit their flashy smiles and skimpy bikinis at your grocery checkout stand.

The Other Checkout Stand…

For all of those people, and for all who follow them, hoping for a glimpse of a celebrity: “You know nothing yet that you ought to know”. The tabloids at the check out stands in the Kingdom of heaven will have a whole different set of headlines. What you know is not nearly as important as WHO you know. The world offers its worldly wisdom and fleeting fame. Heaven’s celebrations have a totally different foundation.

Paul says that the person who loves God will be known because THEY LOVE GOD. When people talk about you, what do they say? Do they say “wow, that (Your Name Here) must really love God!” Or do they say something else? What are YOU noteworthy for? If you want to be famous, and if you want to be celebrated, then the Bible’s advice is simple: Love God. It’s a surefire way to accomplish on an eternal scale what so many people hunger for on an earthly one. Love God. Be known.

How to Be Well Known

What things guide us, and what things can aim us
At a way to be celebrated, or even Famous?
Is it looking hot? Wearing all the right fashion?
Or lookin for answers with money and passion?
Being rich always works, if you have lots of money:
Folks will flock to you just like the bees do to honey!
You’ll get some attention by showing some skin,
And finding some trouble that you can be in;
If it’s drugs, sex or cheating that you like to play with,
Or even the bad boys that you like to stay with,
You probably can’t do it all on your own,
So remember these things if you want to be known...

BUT
If the world’s definition seems shallow and lame,
There’s a whole different way to seek fortune and fame. (Not in all of the ways that this world tries to show you, But in knowing the Father, and letting Him know you!)
Stay humble. Love God with your heart and your head,
Disregard worldly things and believe what He said,
And you’ll find you’re inclined to be like Him, instead…
At the end of the day you will find you have grown
Not in fame or the game, but in just being KNOWN.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread