For Jesus Christ, the Son of God, does not waver between “Yes” and “No.” He is the one whom Silas, Timothy, and I preached to you, and as God’s ultimate “Yes,” he always does what he says.  For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory.  It is God who enables us, along with you, to stand firm for Christ. He has commissioned us,  and he has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything he has promised us. – 2 Corinthians 1:19-22 (NLT)

Commitment.  It is not, by definition,  just a legal procedure by which someone is involuntarily placed into a mental institution.  The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary’s second definition for the word commitment says:

 a : an agreement or pledge to do something in the future;especially : an engagement to assume a financial obligation at a future date b : something pledged c : the state or an instance of being obligated or emotionally impelled <a commitment to a cause>

We live in a society and culture where words like “integrity” and “character” and “promise” and “pledge” are made to seem old-fashioned and outmoded.  I remember hearing the story of a friend of mine who made and agreement to buy a parcel of land from an old fellow, on which he wanted to build a home for his family.  When they came to agreement on the price, my friend asked the old man if he’d like to have a legal document drawn up to seal the deal.  The old man’s response was, “My word’s my bond.”  And, it was!

Today, it seems that all too often there is not much bonding to our word.  Pledges are made, only until it no longer suits us, for whatever reason, to keep them.  We legislate laws in this country that are binding unless some loophole can be found to circumvent them.  We pay big bucks to lawyers everyday to enable us to get out of contracts and agreements.  We establish our families in a church and so long as the church does to suit us we stay, but if another one offers something more enticing or entertaining, or convenient to our own self-established needs and desires, we depart for greener pastures.  And the most glaring of all evidences of our waning attitude toward promise keeping and commitment is the staggering statistic of more than a 50% failure rate in marriages.  Perhaps even worse than the divorce rate, is the number of  young couples who never enter into a marriage, preferring to live together and thus avoid any legal or moral commitment at all.  I could go on ad infinitum as to the examples of modern society’s diminishing willingness to let their “yes” be yes and their “no” be no (James 5:12), but I think you get the idea.

In God’s economy, there is no “maybe.”  There is either yes or no.  God’s attitude towards His promises do not imply or express that the promise is good until something better comes along, or until He changes His mind.  The promises of God…that to which He commits Himself to…are harder than diamonds and as lasting as all eternity.  God’s commitment to keep His promises have been proven in the sending of His Son to put on flesh and dwell among us and to suffer the Cross and shed His blood for us to be free from the results of sin and death.  The resurrection of Christ is a symbol of the promise of God for eternal life to all who will place their trust in Jesus as their one and only Savior and Lord.  The indwelling presence of His Holy Spirit within every believer is a guarantee…a pledge that seals His promises, which will be eternally kept.  When we may ask God if He will be true to His promises, He simply points to Jesus and allows Him to be His “YES.”

What promises have we made that we have not kept?  What promises might we lightly make today, that in our minds will be kept unless it becomes a matter of inconvenience or discomfort?  Will we promise to serve without having an actual servant’s heart?  Should we vow to stay, “for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part,” only to find that we are unwilling to stay through the “worst,”, the “poorest,” or the “unhealthiest” of circumstances?  Is there true faith apart from faithfulness?  Will we choose to be “promise makers” without also being “promise keepers?”  Integrity… Character… Commitment… Dedication… Resolve… Trust… Loyalty… Truth.

Lord, let these not be simply words that describe what we ought to do, but define us as what only You can make us to be!


Christmas Spirit = Christ-like Attitude


You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

 Though he was God,
      he did not think of equality with God
      as something to cling to.
 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
      he took the humble position of a slave
      and was born as a human being.
   When he appeared in human form,
  he humbled himself in obedience to God
      and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
      and gave him the name above all other names,
 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
      in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
      to the glory of God the Father.  – Philippians 2:5-11 (NLT)

This passage of Scripture is not usually thought of in terms of Christmas, but to me it perfectly epitomizes, not only the reason for celebrating the season, but also describes what our attitude should be at Christmas and everyday of the year.  When we speak of “getting into the Christmas spirit,” it seems to me that as Christians, the attitude should be defined by the attitude of our Savior.  The Apostle Paul perfectly communicates this to us by telling us, not only how, but why Jesus came into the world (John 1:10), and plainly says that this should be the standard and model for the way we live.

As followers of Christ we believe that the entrance of God as Emmanuel (God with us) into the world as a tiny infant, born to a virgin, as Messiah and Savior, is the greatest gift in all of history and indeed in all of eternity.  It follows that the greatest gift we can give to others, is the same…JESUS!  As for Christmas spirit?  The second greatest gift we can give to others this season can’t be purchased from Wal-Mart or the mall.  It is the gift of ourselves, and when we give that gift it should be expressed as being the image of our Lord.



Old Dog

Old Dog

‘In the last days,’ God says,
      ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
   Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
      Your young men will see visions,
      and your old men will dream dreams.'” – Acts 2:17 (NLT)

I’m 57 years old. Hold on to that for a minute…. I’m not young or even “middle aged” anymore. If I were middle aged that would mean I was about to live to 114! I guess that makes me what people call an “old dog” and you know what they say about old dogs…you can’t teach ’em new tricks. Thank God, I am finding out lately that old adage isn’t necessarily true.

In my 57 years, 41 of which have been as a believer of the Lord Jesus Christ, I have no way of counting how many times I have read in and through the Bible. It seemingly doesn’t matter, because each time I pick it up and read, the Holy Spirit seems to reveal something to me, just as though I had never seen it before and even as though it had only recently been inserted there, just for me to read. Similarly, this old dog is being taught some new tricks that are useful to me and thus to others in ministry.

I serve on a church staff at Lifepoint Church that is manned by folks, some of whom are more than half my age.  In fact I am older than some of their parents!  I watch them go about their jobs, their ministries, their lives and with their families, and honestly sometimes I think to myself, “Why couldn’t I have been more like them when I was their age?”  To restate the previous sentence more clearly and more purpose, I deeply admire them.  I admire their integrity and  character and I want to learn from them.  I see their hearts for Jesus and His Church and others, and I find I want to be more like them.  Each day I am around them, I am able to see and to catch the vision and passionate desire God has given them to “Love God, Love Others and Serve the World,” and I learn from them.  Their love and devotion to the Lord and to their callings is contagious and it affects me profoundly and it makes me desire to be more like them, because each day I see them following hard after and becoming more like Jesus.  I am grateful that God is using these young pups to teach this old dog new tricks and re-teach him some old lessons that he needs to relearn.

Most of all, by teaching me these lessons even as I grow older, the Lord assures me that He is not yet done with me.  I am not too old… I am not too weak… I am not unusable as long as I continue to be teachable and only He can enable me to do and be all of those things.  Maybe… just maybe this “old dog’ still has a few tricks left and if God will allow it, still use him to teach His way to some “new dogs” along the way toward Home.


The Way Home

“So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” – Luke 15:20

Many of us are compelled and moved by the story of the “Prodigal Son” in Luke 15.  If you’re not familiar with it I’ll simply ask and allow you to go and read for yourselves.  But, it is the story of a young man who became dissatisfied with living in his father’s home and doing things his father’s way.  He thought his own way was better and would probably be a lot more fun.  So, he asked his father for his share of his inheritance (which normally could only be received after the father’s death) and he went out to find his own way in the world.  The young dude lived it up and had a high ol’ time for a while, until the cash dried up and all his so-called friends took off.  The end result finds him homeless, and grubbing in the mire, competing with pigs for just a scrap of food.  It finally occurs to the son that maybe it wasn’t so bad living in his father’s house after all.  I mean even the field hands and servants on his dad’s ranch fared better than where he currently found himself.  So, he devises a plan and rehearses a speech and sets out (with his tail between his legs) to ask his father’s permission to return home, even if it means he’ll have to live there as one of the hired hands.

Now, that is when we come to the verse in the story (V.20) that is most intriguing to me.  It says that while the young man is “still a long way off” his father sees him.  How!?  I mean, it is very likely that quite a time has passed and it’s also very likely that the son’s appearance was probably very different from when he left so even from a not so great distance he could have been hard to recognize.  Could it be that day after day since his boy’s departure, the father may have stood out by the road waiting and staring off into the distance, watching and hoping and praying for his son’s return?  And then, as he sees him in the distance, the father does an even more dramatic thing.  He takes off sprinting up the road to meet him and when does he throws his arms around him and embraces him joyfully.  Somehow, we might imagine he could have had the attitude of, “He made his own bed, let him lie in it.”  And when he saw him coming back the thought might have occurred to him, “Yep.  I knew it!  Just as I thought.  Here he comes.  Let’s see what kind of excuses he’s got to offer now.”  Some of us in the father’s position may have stood there drumming our fingers on the fence post, tapping our foot, with a raised eye-brow and waited for the boy to come walking with his head bowed, so we could say, “I told you so.”  And frankly, I feel sure this was what the young prodigal expected, because that was what he deserved.  Instead, the father expressed in his actions and in his attitude, everything other than what was expected.  What he did from the this point in the story on was precisely why Jesus felt the need to tell it.  What the father showed was the model of the mercy, the grace and the love of our heavenly Father… the Perfect Father!

The prodigal son is a picture of each and every one of us.  We think our way is better than The Way.  We believe our truth is better than The Truth.  We struggle to discover a way of life that is better, easier and more fulfilling than The Life.  And our good, Father allows us to explore the boundaries of our will and our plans, patiently waiting until each of us discovers that our own hearts have lied to us.  Each of us in our own way find ourselves eventually scrapping with the hogs for a morsel of happiness and self-fulfillment.  Oh!  That all us could inevitably come to a place, like the prodigal son, when we finally “come to our senses,” (v. 17) but sadly many of us never do.  Too many of us though, filled with pride, and thinking that God is waiting to rub our faces in it and say, “I told you so,” stubbornly refuse to get up and turn our faces toward home.

Our Father is waiting by the fence post at the end of the road down which we originally departed.  He is not waiting to give you a butt whoopin’.  He is not waiting to say, “I told you so,” or to say, “Sorry, you had your chance and you blew it!”   He is patiently waiting…watching intently…looking expectantly, with a pail of clean water and a towel to wash away the grime of this world from our feet and faces.  He has the ring and the robes of sonship waiting for us to come home.  If only we would pick our heads up from our shame long enough to look down the road toward where Jesus is, we’d see Him running to meet us with His arms out-stretched.  Do we deserve such a reception?  Could we possibly earn our way back into our Father’s kingdom?  No!  But, that is what makes His grace so everlastingly amazing.  That is what makes His love so infinitely immeasurable.

The road home is not so long as we may think.  Perhaps it is only so far as it might take to turn around and take that first step.  Maybe you think you’re so lost you don’t know the way home.  Or maybe your waiting for a special invitation.  Well here it is…

 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” -Jesus (John 14:6-7)


While We’re Waiting…

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.  Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.  For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.  And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. – Colossians 3:1-4 (NLT)

It’s NFL football on a Sunday afternoon in the Fall.  The two-minute warning for the game to end has been given.  With the game tied at 24-24, the huddle breaks and both teams come to the line.  As the center places his hands on the ball, what do you think might be going through his mind?  Is he thinking that they have plenty of time left?  Might he be wondering what’s for dinner tonight or about his tee-time at the golf course tomorrow?  Doubtful.  He could possibly have taken a pretty decent beating that day from the nose-tackle in front of him and he might be thinking about the lick he’s about to take, but other than that, he’d better be thinking about getting the next snap cleanly into the hands of his quarterback first and then completing his blocking assignment.  If his mind is working the way a professional athlete’s mind should work, there should nothing other than that in his thoughts….period!  The game is not endless and each player has only a specified amount of time to accomplish their individual tasks and if anything distracts them from concentrating on that they will not perform with excellence, and that can effect their team and the resulting score at the end of the game.

The Apostle Paul, in the third chapter of Colossians, begins by reminding us that we are now on Team Jesus and since we are we need to stay focused on what and how we are to perform.  There was a time when we played sandlot ball, but not now.  Just as an NFL player is to play at a different level, we are to perform at an even higher, heavenly level.  This is not the pee-wee league anymore.  This is the real deal, and the clock is ticking down!  How easily we might be distracted from the realities of who we are in Christ, and how we are to perform and where we are going.  Each day…each moment our perspective and our focus must be fixed like a laser beam on the Truth of Christ and who He has called us to be.  We cannot afford to allow the distractions of this world… our money… our circumstances… our troubles… our temptations… to cause us to concentrate on anything other than a heavenly reality and perspective.

The illustration of an NFL game not withstanding, this is not a game.  This is reality!  This world is not your home.  We are only temporarily passing through and our time here is limited.  While we are here…. while we’re waiting…. let’s keep our minds and our eyes fixed on our destination and (to return to the illustration), until the gun sounds to end this present game, perform with the excellence we have been called to by our Lord.  Oh, and by the way…don’t bother to glance at the scoreboard.  WE WIN!


Press On!

If the word “fan” is just a shortened version of fanatic, then I would categorize myself as a life-long baseball fanatic!  Last night, game 6 of the World Series was one of the best and most exciting I have ever seen!  Now I have always pulled for the American League and I am pulling for the Texas Rangers to win it all this year, but there can be no doubt that the St. Louis Cardinals are in this to win this.  This team is the quintessential  come from behind underdogs of the year.  Last night was no different from the rest of their year.  They came from behind to win the National League as a last day Wild Card addition to the play-offs.  They were trailing the Ranger last night 3 games to 2 and were behind right up until the last strike of the ninth inning.  The Cards ended up tying the game twice in extra innings and ultimately emerged with the win, sending the series to game seven.  These guys just refuse to go away!  They will not lie down!  Whether or not they emerge as MLB World Champs, no one can doubt their determination, their resolve to see it through to the end or their refusal to give up, even to the very last strike!
I’ve been spending some time revisiting the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians.  This morning I could not help but think of the game last night as I read the following words:

“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.  No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,  I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” – Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT)

Paul was writing this from a dark, wet, cold Roman jail cell.  He was charged with being an enemy of the Empire and that carried a sentence of death.  The Apostle was potentially down to the bottom of the ninth….down to his last strike….game over!  Still, he was able to say he was “looking forward to what lies ahead!”  Despite the odds against him his faith made him determined to “press on.”

As I write to you this morning, I’m thinking of some of you that I know are facing some seemingly insurmountable odds, and I am sure there are more of you in those circumstances than I know of.  You may be thinking that you’re down to your last strike and the bat in your hands seems way too heavy to swing.   Maybe for you it’s been a long hard game and you’re about out of gas…bone tired!  Here’s something that Paul knew that even the St. Louis Cardinals last evening did not.  We’re on Team Jesus and Team Jesus has already won!

Don’t think about the innings that have already happened.  Think about that fence in the deepest part of the ballpark,  keep your eye on the ball, and even when our Adversary throws his best curve-ball, take your best swing.  As that great baseball philosopher, Yogi Berra put it, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over!”  Well, our Lord Jesus has already declared the game “finished” from the Cross!  All we have to do is “press on” until we cross home-plate, because the game is already won!  Don’t give up my brothers and sisters!  PRESS ON!

UPDATE:  Since this post was written, the St. Louis Cardinals went on to become Major League Baseball’s World Champions in 7 games over the Texas Rangers.  More evidence that it pays to “Press on!”


Not Quite Yet…

“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.  No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,  I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” – Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT)

As we endeavor to live our lives as examples of how a “Christian” should look, not only do we fall under the scrutiny of a world looking closely for our flaws, we also often tend to examine ourselves with the same magnifyng glass of unreasonable expectations.  How often when our faith in Christ is known, and we fail in some way to stand up to such intense scrutiny might we hear, “See!  You’re no better than I am, and you’re supposed to be such a perfect Christian!”?  Worse, when we ourselves fail to fulfill the full measure of Christ we may say to ourselves, “I’m such a failure.  I always disappoint God and let Jesus down.”  This might even become such an intense emotion that we may even begin to feel that it’s no good even trying anymore… “I might as well act like the rest of my friends.  I always end up dropping the ball anyway.”  Not only do those apart from Christ have a skewed impression of what a follower of Jesus is, too often we do too!

There is a memorable moment in the movie “Batman Begins” when Bruce Wayne (Batman) is convinced that he has failed and has ultimately let Gotham City down.  His faithful butler Alfred Pennyworth gently reminds him of something Wayne’s father had said when he was still a child, “Why do we fall sir? So we might learn to pick ourselves up.”  I hear that in the Apostle Paul in Philippians 3:12-14…”I press on…”   In other words, “I keep pushing forward to achieve the goal of perfection, but I’m not there yet.  I may stumble, and I might even fall, but in Christ I find the strength to keep getting back on my feet and moving forward.”

A quote from the great reformer Martin Luther describes in a wonderful manner what the Chirstian life really looks like while we are still presently living in this imperfect world:

“The life, therefore, is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness, not health but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise.  We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it; the process is not yet finished but it is going on; this is not the end of the road.  All does not yet gleam in glory but all is being purified.” 

If ever I let you down as you closely watch me grow into a perfect follower of Jesus, please forgive me.  I’ll eventually get there, but not quite yet!

June 2019
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