Archive for the ‘Acts’ Category



January 25, 2015

“You have neither art nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God” Acts 8:21

I have done it to myself. training bible

At the beginning of the year, I laid out my annual training plan.(Training Plan)  I have been following the plan very consistently. It has been helpful to have a purposeful plan for both my physical and spiritual training. My January has been more productive than any in recent memory and I believe that is due to these plans.

For me, the advantage of a training plan is that it allows you to schedule, as a self-coach or personal trainer, the activities that you know are necessary for continued improvement. I rarely feel like doing hard things. Therefore, the hard workouts don’t seem to come up on my playlist when I am making my selection on what I feel like doing.

I have just such an activity schedule for next week. I placed this activity on my calendar in the comfort of my Christmas vacation. It is an activity that I know I should do, but I never get done; I am scheduled to fast next week.

Fast! What have I done to myself?

My earlier coaching-self knows the importance of fasting. The Coach knows the scripture references on fasting. The Coach spouts his most convincing passage to fast:

Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them and then they will fast.” (Matt 9:14-15)

However, my present training-self immediately resorted to the typical response, when he realized what was scheduled for him. My trainee-self rebelled against my coaching-self and tried to get out of it.

I had double scheduled this week and was planning on going to my son’s NCFCA speech and debate tournament. I could not possibly fast through that week.

This excuse normally works.  Fasting is never convenient.  I usually can come up with some reason as to why I can’t go without eating.

But then, my work scheduled changed. I have several critical projects that will not let me take next week off…suddenly I can fast again.

“Fine; I’ll do it,” my trainee-self conceded to my coaching-self.

My training-self then began to re-hash all the old reservations about fasting. I have not done well in past fasts. I don’t feel very spiritual when I fast. I actually feel the opposite. All sorts of nastiness comes out of me when I fast. Fasting seems to be counter-productive. The trainee-self made a convincing argument that the Coach doesn’t know what he is talking about by inserting an activity that is clearly not going to develop continued improvement. Fasting is not for me. What is he thinking?

This excuse has always been the closing argument to get out of fasting.  Fasting makes me feel bad and very un-spiritual.  Therefore, I should not do it.

And then, I listened to this video by John Piper:

One of the purposes of fasting is to actually expose all the nastiness that I normally can keep hidden under a full belly. Fasting allows us the opportunity to deal with our nasty inner selves through prayer as they are revealed.

“Alright, alright, alright; I’ll do it,” was the capitulation of my training conscious.

I resolved to the fact that I am going to fast this coming week when the Trainee took one last attempt to get out of the maniacal scheduling of the Coach.  My nephew did a month-long juice fast about a year ago. I was amazed at the amount of weight he lost. I have been trying to lose weight. The Trainee began to wonder how much weight he might be able to lose in a week-long fast. It would be awesome if I break my metabolism loose and drop a substantial amount of weight. I began to focus more on the athletic benefits of a fast rather than the spiritual.
However, the Trainee immediately recognized that his heart was not right regarding the purpose of fasting. “It will be useless,” the trainee reasoned. I do not want to be like Simon the Magician who tried to buy spiritual gifts for all the wrong reasons. I should not fast with a heart that is not right before God.

This is a particularly sweet excuse.  The “my heart is not right” excuse has gotten me out of a lot of things that I did not want to do.

And then, I read verse 22:

Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you.  (Acts 8:22)

I suddenly had the first nasty heart condition to repent before the Lord as part of my fasting period.

“I give up. I’ll do it,” the humbled Trainee whispered.

All the debate within my own head, reveals why the Spirit has consistently laid fasting upon the heart of my coaching-self. As all of my excuses have fallen, I have come to an even firmer resolution that I need to do this hard thing. I need to fast. My rebellious training-self has a lot of hidden nastiness that needs to be dealt with.

I realize that this resolution would probably never have happened if my coaching-self had not placed it into the training schedule. That is the power of a plan. Therefore, I am going to fast. As ugly as it may be, I am confident that my future self will be grateful to the obedience, even though it has been reluctant, of the present me in following the Spirit’s call to obedience.

PRAYER: Father, forgive me for being so reluctant to give up my food.  Forgive me for all the excuses that I have come up with not to do what I believe you have been drawing me to do.  Help in the coming week.  Lord, enable this period of fasting be a blessing to my soul and bring glory to you.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen



October 8, 2014

“For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said ‘Do not be afraid Paul, you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.” Acts 27:23-25

DSC_0846There is a mysteriously special spot in the US Capital Hall of Statues. We stood upon this spot as our guide crossed the crowded Hall. Tourists meandered about the Hall producing a din of assorted languages that made even close conversations difficult to hear. As our guide stood facing us from across the Hall, we could see the mouth of our guide moving but only the reverberating sound of indistinguishable voices came to our ears. Our guide moved slightly and we could see him speaking but did not hear his voice. He moved yet again and suddenly a quiet, single voice became perceptible above all the noise in our immediate vicinity.

DSC_0850We had found the acoustic sweet spot of John Quincy Adams. It is upon the historic spot where John Quincy Adams sat when this Hall was the floor of the House of Representatives that the perfect acoustical conditions have aligned to allow a voice to be heard from across the Hall. It is a fascinating anomaly of coincidence.

I am tempted to compare the voice of God to that quiet voice we heard in the Hall of Statues. I desperately desire to hear God’s voice above the din of everyday life. I am inclined to believe that I might be missing a special message because I am not in that mysteriously special spot to hear Him.

Maybe, I am not spiritual enough.
Maybe, I am not praying enough.
Maybe, I am not obedient enough.
Maybe, I am not where God wants me.

How foolish is it to believe that God’s purpose can be frustrated by our not being in the mysteriously perfect spot where all the circumstances of sanctification align for His voice to be heard?

That belief is not supported by scripture. When God wants to be heard, He will be heard.

He has made His voice heard by the obedient.
The disobedient have heard His voice.

He has made His voice heard by the redeemed.
The lost have heard His voice.

His voice has been in a whisper.
His voice has rolled with the thunder.

He has spoken through a burning bush.
He has spoken through visible angels.

Visions have carried His words.
Dreams have communicated His intent.

Scriptures teach us that God will be heard when He wants to be heard. The God of the Universe does not need the perfect alignment of circumstances or the will of man for His voice to be heard above the competing noise of this world.

Therefore, we can be assured that we are not missing anything when a special word has not come to our awareness. Equally, we can be assured that we have all that He has given us all we need for today in the Word that He has already spoke to us – the Bible..

PRAYER: Father, thank you for your Word.  Thank you for speaking to us perfectly even though we are imperfect.  That you for giving us everything that we need to follow you today.  Help me to glorify you from the place where I am today. Forgive me for thinking that I need a special word from you. Teach me obedience in the everyday. Help me to live upon the nurturiousment of your Word, the Bible.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen




April 29, 2013

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ ” Romans 1:16-17

Conference TableI sit across his desk as I have done a thousand times.  For nearly 2 decades, my colleague and I have sat in these exact positions – working through business strategies, personnel conflicts, project staffing, client losses, and client awards; through times of determining bonuses and times of layoffs.

He is a man who I trust and care about. 

Once again as I sit in this familiar chair, the echoes of my prayers ring in my ears.  We prattle on about the renewing of the company healthcare benefits.  We dissect the advice of attorneys.  We wonder what it all means for the future of our little company.  We cover the mundane and the visionary but it is just Novocain to what I really want to talk about.

The topic that is of most importance in my heart never seems to have a place.  I have prayed for my friend since the day that I first met him.  I have had periods where through neglect he has slipped from my prayer time but he has been one of my most consistent prayers next to my family.

I know that as my faith has become more evident, our friendship has become more business.  I have felt the resistance to anything spiritual.

My friend’s preference is to keep his spiritual life on the basis of knowledge.  He cringes at the hard sell.  I have seen him harden every time a salesman has pushed for an immediate decision.  He is the type of man who takes a month to buy a sofa and a full day to finalize the purchase of a car.  Like all of his decisions, he wants to examine the presentations of the divine and determine truth through the logic of his own trusted mind.

I know this as I listen for any indication of an openness to discuss faith in our conversations.  It is an easy thing for an introverted man of self-control to prevent any such openings.  Therefore, I prayerfully wait for the appropriate time.

I wait and wonder if an opening will ever come.  Do I wait for God to create an opening?  Do I kick a crack open?  Do I lay the awkward question of salvation on the table and let the chips fall as they may?  I wonder if my hesitancy is unduly influenced by thoughts of myself; am I hesitant because I don’t want to be embarrassed?  Am I hesitant from a compassion that doesn’t want to see more walls erected to the truth of the gospel?

I know that the gospel has power.

I know that the Spirit draws and softens heart.

I know that salvation is not based on the perfect handling of the truths of Christ.

I know that my friend needs to believe upon the name of Jesus Christ because it is his only hope for it is the power of God for salvation.

I say that I care about him.  Do I care enough to be rejected?

I say I trust him.  Do I trust him enough to allow me to be heard?

I do not know the right answer. 

What I do know is that our God is gracious and merciful and that He wants all to come to His Son.  He wants my friend to be freed from his slavery to sin and rebellion against the one true God.  What I also know is that I am supposed to live in an unashamed and gentle manner.

For me, this means that I need to be intentional about living only one life.  I have a tendency to filter my conversations so that they won’t be offensive, awkward, or weird.  That usually means avoiding religion and politics.  The reality is that a gospel-oriented worldview will be weird and offensive to those who are lost.  I need to forget myself more completely and be the new creation that I am in Christ in gentleness and compassion.

I need to live an unfiltered life and acknowledge my Lord where I see Him regardless of who I am with; not to offend but to glorify God.  When I am walking in the Spirit, in an unashamed manner, without thoughts for myself, then the Spirit will give my words value beyond my thoughts for the precise moments that He has ordained.  God will faithfully use those who forget themselves and proclaim His good news.

May He bless the words given to my friend and draw him to Himself.

PRAYER: Father, I pray for my friend.  Draw him to yourself.  Soften his heart to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.  Lord, satisfy all the questions of his mind and give him the gift of faith.  Father, give me the boldness as you need from me.  Keep me from stepping out in my strength due to my impatience.  May the gentleness and compassion of your Spirit be evident in the words I speak with him.  Lord, I know that all things are possible for you; save my friend.   I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.


“CASTING HOPE” – April 26

April 26, 2013

“…since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain.” Acts 28:20

Hope is the state which promotes the confidence in a good outcome related to swirling circumstances in our lives.  Most everything that we do is based on a hope.

I crawl out of bed in the morning based on a hope of the new day.  I drive into work based on a hope of the income that will result from my employment.  I proposed to my beautiful bride based on a hope of spending my life with her.  We adopted children based on a hope of having a family.  I have friendships that are based on hope of enjoyable fellowship.

It is hope that drives all that we do.

I give up when I lose hope.  I have abandoned business strategies when I have lost hope in their effectiveness.  I have fired employees when I have lost hope in their ability to do their job.  I have stopped dieting when I am no longer motivated by a hope in a thinner me.  I have abandoned fitness programs when my hope in their promises has faded.

We can do the incredible when hope is alive and well.

We can fail at the simplest when hope has died.

Fishing at BlenhiemMy problems arise when I draw my hope too close.  My hope begins to die the more I reel it into my selfish world.  I am not willing to endure much of anything when my hope is for a comfortable and pleasurable life.  I can give up on most of the instruction of the Bible when my hope is based on me.  Is that not what most temptation is?  Most temptations are an enticement in the hope of self-love.

The love of self is poison to true sustaining hope.

What sort of hope do you think motivated Paul to wear chains?  Paul had an easy escape from his captivity – deny Christ and he would be free.  If Paul’s hope had been in a comfortable and pleasurable life, then he would never have endured.  He would never have endured.

mist castingI am at my strongest when my hope is the farthest away from me.  It is when I cast my hope into another world that I am on the surest footing.  My desire is to cast my hope onto the promises of God and secure it firmly on the foundation of Christ.

Hope that is embedded in Christ will sustain us as we are reeled to that hope.  We are not reeling Christ in toward us.  He is reeling us through all the temptations, trials, and suffering of this world towards Him.  He is the solid rock.  We are the ones floating in trouble seas.

Is your hope secure?  Is it alive and well or has it be poisoned by the proximity to your troubled heart?

Cast your hope far from you, onto the only One with whom it will thrive.  Set your mind intentionally on the things of the Spirit and the resulting hope in our Lord and Savior will pull you through all trials and suffering of this world.  It is hope in the glories that will be revealed to us that will sustain us through all the incomparable disappointments, temptations, trials, suffering, and persecution of this world.  Hope in Christ will never disappoint.  It is through our hope in Christ that we will endure to the end.

PRAYER: Father, in you alone I place my hope.  You are my light, my strength, my song. You are my cornerstone and solid ground in this troubled world.  Thank you for sustaining me.  Thank you for guiding me.  Thank you for giving me true hope.  There is nothing that can break your hold on me as I cling to the sure foundation of your Son, Jesus Christ. My hope is found in Christ alone.   Thank you for making me yours.  I praise You and pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.



April 21, 2013

“…He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and make for the land, and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land.” Acts 27:43b-44

Ian Holm as Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson's T...My daughter recently bought the DVD of the Hobbit by director Peter Jackson.  We have subsequently watched it a multitude of times in the last couple days so my mind has been flooded with images of Middle Earth.  I love epic tales.  I have been drawn into all of J.R.R Tolkien’s tales of Middle Earth due to their epic scale.

The problem with epic tales is that they can skew our expectations of reality.

We are all part of the most epic plan ever imagined.  The wonderful aspect of this plan is that it does not come from an author’s imagination but it is real.  God’s redemptive plan has been unfolding throughout history.  What story could be greater than the Creator God of the Universe, the Great I AM, saving His fallen and rebellious creation from certain destruction?   It is a plan of unfathomable dimension and limitless depth.

However, this epic plan mostly unfolds in the ordinary.  It is typically carried out in the normal.  Every person plays a role in the greatest story of history when they rise in the morning and either set their minds on the things of the Spirit or the flesh. We are all living in the epic whether we know it or not.

There are the occasional glimpses of the spectacular but the majority of the time we trudge along in the familiar.  I want to participate in  God’s epic plan with grace and courage.  I am reminded of a scene in the Return of the KingLegolas slays an oliphant by effortlessly swinging up its side while agilely dodging his assailants. After killing the beast he then gracefully slides down it’s trunk to land lightly upon his feet.  That is the sort of participant in God’s great unfolding story that I want to be.

Mûmakil in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rin...

Mûmakil in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, this is where the imagination and reality clash.  Reality is more like the Apostle Paul’s experience. Directed by God to return to Rome, he was placed on a ship by his captors.  They were caught in a violent storm for fourteen days where they struggled in vain to hold the ship together.  They had to unload cargo into the raging sea.  Able seamen had to be prevented from abandoning their ship and responsibilities.  They spied an opportunity to run their ship ashore on a beach of a nearby island.  They casted off their anchors, set the sail, and made for the beach only to strike a reef.  The entire party gets washed ashore amid planks and a myriad of ship debris.  They were undoubtedly covered with sand and the grime of the sea, bruised and battered.  It was not a very graceful exit.  It certainly was not an elegant or agile landing.

That is life.

Orlando Bloom as Legolas in Peter Jackson's li...I have never really experienced a “Legolas” type moment.  Most of my moments have been more of the ungraceful and awkward type where I have landed in an inglorious and embarrassing heap.  That does not mean that they were unimportant or not a part of God’s plan.

We need to be careful about seeking out and participating in only “Legolas” like moments.  They may never happen.  I don’t know if I have ever felt like I had the perfect words to say or write.  I can’t remember ever clearly seeing the path before me so that I could effortlessly bound forward without the risk of tripping.  If we wait for the perfect conditions to make our leaps of faith, then we may never jump.

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  Hebrews 11:1

Our eyes are on another world as we walk through this one.  We have placed our conviction in things that cannot be seen.  Our reality is that we move forward by faith.  That means that we may stumble.  That means that we may become part of a group that gets ingloriously washed ashore.  We may pick imperfect words and look foolish.  We may not see the next foothold and appear indecisive.  We may be walking along and trip over the common and fall in an awkward and embarrassing heap.

PESUDA ship wreck, Tlell, BC in HDRHowever, I will risk landing in a clumsy heap over the security of standing on the sideline of God’s wonderful plan of redemption with my dignity intact.  My dignity is not worth much in comparison to God’s plan.  The opinion of others is insignificant in comparison to the glories of God. The blessings of a deep and meaningful relationship with God are found only in the practice of our faith.    God will only be found by those who seek Him through the power of His Spirit.  That happens when we are actually in the epic journey of faith.

Are you ready to trust in the promises of God and take your potentially inglorious next step?  We need to remember that every inglorious step that we take forward leads us to a glory beyond what we can even comprehend at this time.  That glory of our Lord will cause all the struggles and suffering of this time to fade in an insignificant memory.  Every inglorious step, taken in faith, serves a purpose and is transformed by the Spirit into glory for our Lord and Savior.

We must decide which glory we want the most – God’s glory or our own.

PRAYER: Father, forgive me for so often choosing my glory over yours.  Forgive me for seeking out opportunities where my risks of appearing inglorious can be managed.  Forgive me for not trusting you like I know I should.  Father, help me in my unbelief.  Help me to walk by faith and to set my eyes not on what I see in this world.  Help me to set my convictions on the things that I cannot see.  Help me to take the next step of faith, forgetting myself, for your praise and glory.  Amen.



April 16, 2013

“So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.”   Acts 16:5

shoes 001I got new running shoes over the weekend.

My wife has been battling shin-splints and other leg injuries.  All the advice starts with, “get a pair of quality, fitted, running shoes.”  However, the variety of running shoe choices is a little mind-boggling.  We decided that we needed to go to a running store and have a professional fit us for running shoes.

We were both a little apprehensive about going and being fitted.  We were not thrilled with the idea of getting up on a treadmill and running in front of  a real runner.  I thought I could figure out the right shoe for me with a little research.  I did a little research and found that the shoe industry has made the selection of footwear as complicated as flight.  We decided that it would be better to pay someone else to do it.

Over the weekend, my wife and I sucked up our pride and headed into the city to get our fitting over with.  My sister-in-law, who is a runner, recommended a store.  It is a small retail store tucked away in a strip-mall, specializing in running and the associated paraphernalia.  I almost drove away when I saw how small the store front was.  There was not going to be any place to hide in this store.  As we entered the store, my fears were realized.  The store was not abandoned, they had other customers and all the activity was centered around the treadmill.

To my relief, we were welcomed by Holly, who was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt.  I had spied out Brad whose appearance was working overtime to communicate to the world that he was serious about running.  He wore shorts to expose the compression sleeves on his calves.  I was glad that Holly was helping us; too much pressure with Brad.

Holly brought out a variety of shoes for my wife and me to try.  She explained that they were all quality running shoes and that any would be a good base shoe but that we need to find the right fit.  I laced up the racy specimen that she handed me, pulled up my pant legs, and mounted the treadmill.  I was off to no-where; running under the watchful eye of Brad as he leaned against a display at the front of the treadmill.  He commented that I had a very efficient stride but that I pounded my foot-plants.  I was not sure if I should thank him or apologize.

After my little exhibition, I joined Holly and my wife in the viewing of my running video at the end of the treadmill.  To my relief, the video displayed just my ankles.

That was it.  I discovered that I am a neutral runner and proceeded onto selecting a shoe that felt the right.  We went through a variety of shoes and finally settled on the pair that felt the best.  Brad told me that he was not allowed to show a brand bias but since I picked the right one, he could now tell me I had picked the right one.  What a relief.

I’m excited about my new of shoes.  They just make me want to go for a run.

Church DoorsFinding the right fit in a pair of running shoes was not as bad as I thought.  I wish finding the right fit in a church was just as easy.  The variety of church options can be mind boggling.  The early Christians had an advantage in there being only one church option.  I wish you could just walk through the doors of a church, know exactly the quality of the teaching and doctrine, check out the specific support that is available for your special needs, and then be done.  You have found the perfect fit of a church.

That has not been my experience and I don’t think it is the experience of most.  About a year ago, we decided to stop the church plant that my family and I had participated in.  We then had the difficult task of finding a new church to join.  The church plant that we left just felt right and we very much wanted to find that same sort of place.

There is a lot of very good advice on how to find a good church.  I don’t have anything new to add.  However, I will share some of what I have learned from our church selection in the context of my shoe buying experience.

Get a Recommendation – don’t flip open the telephone directory, close your eyes, and let the Spirit direct your finger.  You might end up at a hardware store.  It is worthwhile to ask some mature believers who you trust for advice.  They probably can narrow the list down for you

Don’t be Scared away by a Small Store Front – the tendency is to seek out the large church bodies so that you can just blend in without being noticed.  If you are serious about getting involved in a local church, the smaller church bodies will be much easier and efficient to get to know them.  Just because they are small does not mean that they don’t know what they are doing.

Don’t be Scared away by Brad – every church has a Brad.  Some have more Brads than others.  This is the guy (it usually is a guy) who works very hard to get the word “eschatology” into a conversation.  He has very strong opinions about theology and wants you know that he is a theologian.  Ignore the Brads and seek out the Hollys; the Hollys are the individuals who are not there to impress you but are there to help.  They are mature believers who have been part of the church for a long time and want to try and help you decide if their church is a good fit.

Start with Quality – make sure the core of the church is solid.  Just like there is a lot variety in the quality of running shoes, there is a lot of variety in the quality churches.  You need to know how to determine whether you are dealing with a Saucony type of church that is Biblically solid and will not injure you or whether you are dealing with a knock-off, no-name, brand, that looks good from the outside, but is going to cause you all sorts of pain.  You have to start with Biblical quality.

 Test the Fit –  make sure that the church can meet your special needs if you have them.  I know that some will argue that we should not treat the church as a consumer.  I agree with that.  However, I think that it is fine to evaluate a church body’s gifting and decide if one is a better fit to you and your family.  If you have a passel of young kids and the church that you have visited doesn’t have anyone under the age of 60, then it probably is going to be more difficult for a young mother to fit-in and feel support in that sort of body.  If you have a background of addiction and one church has a dynamic addiction program, then that church might be a very good fit for your gifting and background.  If you are struggling and really need to be discipled and one church has an active small group program, then that body might be the best place to provide you the support that you need.  If you are pretty neutral, then you probably can fit into most any church body and you should be looking for a place where you can readily serve.

Does it Feel Right –  the right fit will just feel right.  I believe that the Spirit will confirm that a church body is right by settling our spirit.  It just feels right.  Now, that does not mean that a place is wrong if it does not feel right.  There may be a lot of other facts that are associated with unsettled feelings.  However, the best fit is the one that just feels right and makes you want to join in whole heartedly.  That is the best of all fits.

Buy Them – you have to commit.  I had to make a significant investment for my new shoes.  Likewise, we all need to commit to our local church body.  The Church was given to us for a purpose.  It was not intended to sit on the shelf of our lives.  The Church was intended to be a place of growth and encouragement but those are activities that we have to be a part of.  You will never be a part of your church’s purpose until you commit.

I really like my new shoes.  I doubt if they are the perfect shoe.  I don’t know if the perfect shoe exists.

Marahon shoes

Marahon shoes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I like my new church.  I know that the perfect church does not exist.  I like the quote by C.H. Spurgeon, “If I had never joined a church till I had found one that was perfect, I should never have joined one at all; and the moment I did join it, if I had found one, I should have spoiled it, for it would not have been a perfect church after I had become a member of it. Still, imperfect as it is, it is the dearest place on earth to us.”

We need to stop looking for the perfect church but find the one that is the best fit, commit, and get back in the race..

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for your Church.  Thank you for my freedom to openly gather in your name and worship You with my brothers and sisters in Christ.  Forgive me for my own imperfections and unrighteous attitudes that bring I into it.  Forgive me from holding back from your people.  Help me to commit to the local body where you have drawn me.  Father, make it feel right in my heart.  Give me a joy in my local church that motivates me to run hard in the race that You have laid before us.  Amen.



April 9, 2013

“I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am going to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, especially because you are familiar with all the customs and controversies of the Jews.  Therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently.”  Acts 26:2-3

Pro se is the legal term for advocating one’s own behalf before a court.  My experience with the legal system has been limited and mostly unpleasant.  I would not ever consider going pro se before a court if I had any other recourse.

Recently, I participated in a mediation process to resolve a dispute between my company and a former client.  The process went exceedingly well.  We agreed to accept less than what we thought that we were due but received more than we dared to hope for.  I think the resolution equally displeased both parties, which probably makes it a good compromise.  The best result was that we stayed out of the courtroom.

However, we were both represented by our legal advisors in the mediation.  My legal team was very instrumental in resolving the complaint and keeping it from getting larger and more expensive.  I am afraid if I had gone pro se that my ignorance of the legal system would have caused a more unsatisfactory result.

I have never faced a court when life has been on the line.  I would be terrified to be pro se when the potential sentence is death.   Yet, that was exactly what Paul had to do in front of the courts in Caesarea.  Paul stood before Porcuis Festus, the Roman Governor, King Agrippa and Bernice, military tribunes, and all the prominent men of the city to make a defense of his actions.

I wonder if Paul had longed for legal representation.  I don’t know if that was even an option or if he had decided to go pro se.  What I do know is that Paul presented a wonderful defense of the gospel:

He told of his life before he came to Christ (vs. 4-11);

He told of his conversion (vs. 12-16);

He spoke about the reality that all men are in darkness and under the power of Satan and must turn to the light and God (vs. 18);

He referred to the scriptures, the prophets and Moses, and how they taught that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he proclaimed light (vs. 23);

He spoke the truth in a rational manner (vs. 25);

He spoke with boldness (vs. 26);

He appealed to all those who heard him to change and become like him – a follower of Christ  (vs. 29);

In many ways, all followers of Christ are advocates.  We are all in a pro se defense of our beliefs in which the goal is not to convince others that we are right but to appeal to them to become like us.  We do not have the option to hire someone to make our own personal appeal.  We must advocate on our own behalf in the court of other people’s opinion because we want them to be like us – children of God.

How much time have you spent on the preparation of your defense?

I can attest to the fact that my company spent a lot of time and money in preparing our case in our recent dispute.  Money was all that swung in the balance in that case.   In the case of the gospel, the eternal lives of those who have not come to Christ are in the balance.

How much time and preparation is that worth?

I wrote a very similar post as this one awhile back, about the need to be prepared to present the good news of Jesus Christ.  GREAT INTENTIONS – March 5 .  Sherry, a fellow blogger at He Hath Said , made the following comment to that post:

I believe those Christians with blogs, no matter the subject, should have a page that introduces their unregenerated readers to Christ Jesus and the reason they need Him as their Lord and Savior. We must look for opportunities to share the Gospel in any godly way possible. But, let there be prayers by all for the raising up of laborers to bring in the harvest as well as the preparing of an unsaved soul by God’s Holy Spirit to receive the salvation upon hearing the Word of God presented.

I heartily agreed with Sherry and promptly did … nothing.

The Apostle Paul and Sherry have encouraged me to do something.  Therefore, I am going to take the next day or two to prepare my defense.  My next post, Lord willing, will be my own personal defense that will find a home on a new page of my website, as Sherry suggested.

Therefore, I beg that you will, at that time, read patiently the appeal of my heart.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for giving me your Spirit.  Thank you for giving us your Spirit to bear witness with our spirit that we are children of God.  Lord, fill me to the brim with your Spirit.  Make me overflow with the goodness that comes only from You.  Help me set my mind on You and the things of your Spirit.  May I glorify and enjoy You in all that I do for all of my days. . . Amen.



April 8, 2013

“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” Acts 13:52

I have a tendency of forgetfulness.  I don’t think it is a dementia type of forgetfulness, at least I hope not.  I think it is a preoccupation type of forgetfulness.  I have had to rush from my office on more than one occasion, breaking free from the after-hours cocoon of solitude, to pick up my kids.  I have been lost in conversation to discover that hours have slipped past.  I have been entranced by the promise of the next page and lost afternoons in books.

There is some forgetfulness that is good and there is some that is very bad.  However, there is a forgetfulness that I wish was permanent and that I don’t experience as often as I would like.

I am rarely forgetful about myself.  How about you?

When given a picture that you are in, where do your eyes go? 

If you see someone in new clothes, do you wonder what you would look like in them?

How often do you tickle a conversation back to your life and experience?

Are you insulted when your opinion is not requested or you are not included?

Is it your expectation to receive complimentary comments on your new haircut?

When you see a great relationship, are you inclined to question your own?

Do you feel bad when “how is it going” is not asked?

Do your feelings preoccupy your mind?

Do you want your children to behave well because it reflects upon you and your parenting?

Do the opinions of others weigh heavy upon you?

Do the good estimations of friends cause you to change your behavior?

Are compliments a condition of your service?

We are told that our old self was crucified with Christ and has been set free from sin.  We are no longer bound to our old sinful ways.  Through Christ, we have put off our old selves and those associated practices and put on our new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of our Creator.  This on-going renewal is a work of God in our minds.  Our knowledge, how we think, must be renewed after the image of our Creator.  The renewal of our new self is not measured by our level of obedience.  Self-control is not mastery over a rebellious body.  True self-control comes from a mind that does not think about self.   Sin is the manifestation of a self-indulgent mind.  A mind preoccupied with one’s self is a mind that is prone to seek itself first.

The pursuit of today’s self-esteem is the seed of tomorrow’s anguished confession.

A mind that does not think upon itself is a mind that is freed to seek God first and wholly.  The fallen condition of every person enslaved them in a mind that binds them to seeking first the kingdom of self; a mind that is set upon the things of themselves.  Every person has a kingdom of self that resides between their ears.  The ruler of this old kingdom is our old minds.

We do not want to subjugate that ruler.  The old ruler of our mind can mask himself into following religion because in even the most selfless appearing sacrifice his appetite for praise and adoration is still fed.  That old ruler cannot coexist with our new mind that is being renewed in knowledge after the image of our Creator.  The old ruler of the kingdom of self must be put to death and the kingdom of self must be allowed to fall and crumble away.

The renewal of our minds allows us to forget about ourselves.  There is a forgetfulness that is good.  It is a forgetfulness that comes from a preoccupation of God.  It is a forgetfulness that comes from a mind that is intentionally set upon the things of the Spirit.

A mind that is forgetful of itself is a mind that will experience the most liberating of self-control.  It is a self-control of freedom rather than a self-control of excessive personal discipline.  Self-control is the natural result of a mind that is not thinking about itself.

Effortless self-control comes from a mind that wholly loves God in all ways with a mind that has forgotten itself.

PRAYER: Lord, I am so prone to think upon how things affect me.  Forgive me for falling into the great temptation of contemplation that swirls around my own feelings rather than upon You and You alone.  Lord, teach me how to forget myself; it is impossible for me to do on my own.  I need the work of your Spirit in my life to free me from my thought on myself.  Lord, I want the effortless self-control that comes only from You.  The self-control that brings you all the glory for it is your work.  Father, please continue your work of renewing my mind for your glory and praise.  Amen.



April 7, 2013

“And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 13:52

I have a large, brown coffee mug.  It is my favorite.  It comes straight from Yosemite National Park and has a big white bear on the side.  I don’t think the creators of this mug realize the level of perfection that they achieved in their creation.

My Coffee Mug 002I think that it might be the perfect coffee mug.

It has the perfect volume.  It is large enough without being too large.  My study is in our basement.  The coffee pot is not.  A mug that is too small will result in excessive trips to the unholy, pre-dawn surface.  A mug that is too large will waste coffee because the coffee at the bottom of the mug will lose its wonderful warmth before I get to it.  My coffee mug is the perfect balance between volume and heat loss.

It has the perfectly sized handle.  I can get a full, four-finger grip on this mug.  This is not a dainty, two-finger tea cup.  I always feel like I lose a couple credits on my man-card every time I have to sip from an undersized sissy cup.  This is no sissy cup.  My mug has some heft to it; I get a little bit of an arm workout when I undertake my morning brew and my masculinity is intact for at least a couple more hours.

My coffee mug is the perfect color.  The interior of my mug is white, which is the perfect color for the art of coffee alchemy; that mixing of pure white cream and deep black coffee into the exquisite blend of milk-chocolate colored goodness.  A white interior is essential so as not to interfere with the science of a true blend master.

My mug’s exterior is a dark brown, which is also the perfect color.  Dark brown is ideal because it masks unpleasant residues.  The transfer of coffee from mug to mouth relies upon the sip.  The sip relies upon the delicate seal between lips and rim.  This is not a consistently perfect seal.  The unfortunate result of periodic seal imperfections is a slight loss of wonderful coffee infused fluid down the exterior of the mug.  This can be very unappealing on a white mug.  A dark brown mug is perfect at hiding the unsightly indicators of uncleanness.  I know that is a little gross but it is the truth.

As you can plainly see, I have the perfect coffee mug.

However, my affections for this coffee mug will be dashed if it fails in one vital aspect.  If my coffee mug were not to retain coffee then I would not love it.  This mug’s greatest value is realized when it is doing what it was made for; brimming with coffee.  A coffee mug that does not hold coffee is something other than a mug.  Some mugs are more ornamental so they might have another lesser use if they could not hold coffee.  My mug is large and brown, with a white silhouette of  a bear.  My wife has not pinned my mug as a decorating idea on Pinterest.

My mug’s value is associated with the fact that it can be filled.

God has made mankind with a unique capacity.  It is a capacity to be filled.  There is no other creature in God’s creation that was designed with this capacity.  God created us in a way that allows us to be filled by His own Spirit.  It is an amazing function when you consider it.  We were designed to be filled by the Spirit of God.

It is only when man is filled by the Spirit that he is able to reach his greatest purpose.  Man’s chief purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  That is only possible when he is filled with the Spirit.  Paul tells us in Romans 8 that we cannot please God if we are in the flesh and not in the Spirit.  The Spirit of God must dwell in us for us to live by the Spirit and please Him.  We must be filled with the Spirit of Christ.  It is only then that we can fulfill our greatest purpose.

The eternal value of the work of my life is directly associated with the fact that I am filled by the Spirit of Christ.

Those who seek meaning in this life apart from the indwelling Spirit of God are like a coffee mug that cannot hold coffee.  They cannot know true meaning and fulfillment because they are empty of what they were designed to contain – the Spirit of God.  They may be the perfect blend of form and function; ideal intellect, talent, and physical ability that come together to do one task extraordinarily well.  However, that task will always be secondary and of no eternal meaning because it is absent the essential ingredient of God.

Where are you seeking your meaning in this life?

We will only know true joy and satisfaction when we are brimming with the goodness of God’s wonderful Holy Spirit.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for giving me your Spirit.  Thank you for giving us your Spirit to bear witness with our spirit that we are children of God.  Lord, fill me to the brim with your Spirit.  Make me overflow with the goodness that comes only from You.  Help me set my mind on you and the things of your Spirit.  May I glorify and enjoy You in all that I do for all of my days. . . Amen.


“THE LAW IS THE LAW” – April 4

April 4, 2013

“Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall!  Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?” Acts 23:3

Scales of Justice Brisbane Courts-1=A week ago, I participated in a mediation process on behalf of my company to try and settle a dispute.  Mediation is a strange process.  The adversaries are isolated in separate rooms and the mediator moves back and forth between the rooms in an attempt to resolve the dispute.  However, there is no real resolution.  The core of mediation is an attempt by the mediator to find a compromise at which both parties are willing to let go of the dispute.  There is no determination of right or wrong.  There is no judgment rendered.  There are a variety of issues that come into play; the strength of the case, what can be proven, the cost of litigation, the provable damages, the duration of litigation, etc.  There comes a point in the mediation when you are no longer talking about the issues of the dispute.  You are merely talking about money.  Mediation is the calculation of tangible and intangible costs measured against risk.

Mediation is not justice.

I am not an attorney and I have never pondered very deeply about the law.  However, I have always correlated the law with justice.  I have held that somehow the laws passed by representative governments ensure justice for its citizens.  My latest experience with injustice (from my perspective) and the law has caused me to take a slightly more jaded view of the law.  One of my attorneys told me, after a particularly eloquent rant about the injustice of my whole situation, that I was trying to get the law to be something that it is not.  The law is not justice.

The law is the law.

The law is a tool.  There are some things that the law can be used for.  There are some things that it cannot be used for.  The law can be used with good intentions and it can be used with bad intentions.  The law can be a shield and it can be a sword.

I think that many people have a similar misconception about God’s law.

They think that their justification is in keeping the law.  The law is not justification.

They think that their sanctification is in keeping the law.  The law is not sanctification.

The law is the law.

God’s law is a tool.

“Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary.” (Galatians 3:19)

So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”  (Galatians 3:24-25)

God’s law was given to us as a guardian to train us, pointing out sin and punishing it.  The condemnation that the law was pointing out is now removed from those who are in Christ Jesus.  There is no punishment from the law for those in Christ.  We still have God’s law to help train us.  It still points out sin.  However, the law is the law.  The law does not save.  The law does not remove our condemnation.

“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.  By sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:3-4)

We get into trouble when we start to expect the law to be something that it is not.  We get into more trouble when we use the law in ways that it was never intended.  Paul was struck by a man who was wielding the law like a sword.  Yet, he violated the very same law in his zealous effort to protect the law.  The “whitewashed wall,” as Paul called him, believed that the law was something that it was not.

Obey the Law of God and State

Obey the Law of God and State (Photo credit: Frank DeFreitas)

I wonder how often we are similar whitewashed walls when we live in accordance to our stringent list of “do’s and don’ts.”  Are we living as if our pious performance is achieving something that it can never do?  Many people believe that they will make it to heaven because they hope that their “good deeds” will out-weigh their “bad deeds” on the grand scale of God’s law.  That is a false hope because it is expecting the law to be something that it is not. The law is the law.  It is a tool to point us to the true source of salvation, Christ Jesus.

We need to examine why we are living in obedience to God’s commandments.  Is your obedience coming from a heart that wholly loves your Lord and Savior as a gift or is it coming as an obligation from an unwilling mind that is doing what it must?

Obedience from a grateful heart is an expression of love. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)  Obedience is an expression of love.

Obedience as a duty has an expectation of the law that it can never be.  That sort of obedience leads only to other sins – pride, not loving our neighbor, gossip, hate, coveting, etc.

The law is the law. Jesus Christ fulfilled the law.  Our hope is in Him and Him alone.

What are your expectations of your adherence to the law?

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for freeing us from the law.  Thank you for using it as a tool to show me my sin and my need for a Savior.  Lord, may my obedience be a pleasing fragrance to You.  Examine my heart and my motivation for all that I do.  May my keeping of your commandments be a demonstration of my love for You.  Keep me from sinning in my obedience.  Grant me a heart that is undivided and a willing mind that serves You in gratitude and love.  Amen

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