Who Are You?

Who Are You?

Sometime this week most of us will meet someone we do not yet know. It may be at school or through work or at the gym. It could be at the mall or the doctor’s office or even in our own neighborhood. And soon after you meet, the conversation will turn to an explanation of who you are or what you do. Interestingly enough, we often equate those two things as being synonymous – who we are and what we do.

That can become a challenge when “what we do” changes. Because what we do is constantly changing. Over my adult life i have been an accountant, a businessman, an administrator, a pastor, a ministry leader, and now i find myself in the unlikely role of becoming an author. But “who i am” in reality did not change with each of those career shifts.

Sometimes we equate who we are in light of our most valued relationships. i am a husband or a dad or a grandpa or a son or a brother or a best friend, etc. But even our most valued relationships can sometimes change due to circumstances way outside of our control. So does that mean that who we are changes?

I believe it was that very core of who we are that Jesus was speaking to when He taught….

Passing the Baton

Passing the Baton

Yesterday i read that two more of my friends had announced their upcoming retirement. That seems to be occurring with greater frequency these days. If i wasn’t in denial, i might think that it has something to do with my season of life. i can still remember when we were the young “up and comers” with fresh ideas and new perspectives. Somehow it doesn’t seem that long ago!

Coupled with the retirement announcements, i am also hearing a lot of pronouncements. A lot of “batons” are being passed in the relay race of life and ministry. Most of the pronouncements being made by the new leaders who are receiving the baton seem to herald the fact that it is a “new day” at the organization, institution, business or church. i can easily recall hearing those very same words come out of my mouth in the not too distant past.

In many respects, hearing that it is a new day brings fresh excitement and anticipation. I mean we’re groomed from a young age to be drawn to the new. Our senses are bombarded daily to the allure of the new – a new car, a new home, the newest electronic gadget, etc. We like new! And who is it that ever wants “old” when we can have “new”?

Are We Turning The World Upside Down?

Are We Turning The World Upside Down?

One day the apostle Paul and his traveling companions arrived in the city of Thessalonica. (You can read about it in the 17th chapter of Acts.) The city was named in honor of the step-sister of Alexander the Great, and was a prominent city of its day. Three rivers flowed from the city into the Aegean Sea which made it a major seaport for trade and transportation. It was declared to be a “free city” by the Roman government – which meant that it had an elected assembly that governed local matters and it had no occupying military force stationed within its walls.  

There was a synagogue in the city. Paul labored at his tentmaking trade through the week, and on three successive Sabbaths, he went to the synagogue. Every day he used the Scriptures (the Old Testament) to share the gospel message of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.

After three weeks of ministry, Paul saw a large number of people believe….

A Wilderness Blessing

A Wilderness Blessing

Journeying through the wilderness is never easy. It takes a lot out of you. When you’re on a journey through the wilderness there is often no place to really call home. Whatever there was, is no more because you’ve left it behind, and whatever is ahead, you have yet to experience. You feel displaced. You tend to feel disconnected from the world around you. (Sometimes that’s why God leads us on a wilderness journey – to disconnect us from those things that would otherwise distract us from Him and what He wants to teach us.) But even knowing that, there can be a disquieting in your spirit. 

When i first wrote a portion of this post, my family and i were nearing the end of the fourth month of a similar journey. At the time it seemed like an eternity. We have been on other journeys since that have lasted much longer. Though we counted the time as precious and were thankful for the Lord’s faithfulness, we were ready for our journey to be over! We never expected the journey to take as long as it did. We expected to arrive in our Land of God’s Promise much sooner. We hungered to put down roots in the new land God had planned for us. As grateful as we were for God’s provision and His protection, we were ready for the journey to be over. We were ready to share the testimony of what God had done through the journey, instead of what He was doing….

Be Thou My Vision

Be Thou My Vision

We live in a day when we have become jaded and critical. Our first reaction is most often to distrust and deride. We often call truth a lie and a lie the truth. That with which we disagree is fake and only that with which we agree is real. There are no longer absolutes, only what I label to be true. It is a time heralded by meanness and callous disregard expressed toward one another. Too often we look upon compassion as weakness and bullying as strength. Instead of blessing we curse. Instead of offering respect, we show contempt. Instead of offering forgiveness, we condemn. Instead of choosing to love, we choose to hate.

For a moment last week social media celebrated a few minutes of captured video when Brandt Jean extended Christ-like compassion and forgiveness to Amber Guyger, convicted of fatally shooting his older brother. Though most chose not to mention Christ as the source and the reason for his compassion, few could ignore the heartfelt sincerity of the one who had extended it.

Even Judge Tammy Kemp who adjudicated the trial, after its conclusion was moved to extend a moment of heartfelt personal compassion to the one upon whom she had just pronounced sentence….

All or Nothing

All or Nothing

To many of us, I Surrender All  (lyrics below) is a familiar song. Perhaps, like me, it is a song you have sung on many occasions. But how many times have we sung it without really thinking about what we are singing? How many times have i sung this and yet lived in a way that looked completely different? What does it really mean to surrender all?

In the eleventh chapter of Hebrews there is a listing of Old Testament saints frequently called the roll call of faith. We read about the great patriarchs and matriarchs of the faith – Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, David and many more. God commends them for their trust and faith in Him by including them in this listing. But if we study what Scripture tells us about many of the folks in this great roll call, we find that most of them did not “surrender all”. There was a part of their life they insisted on holding onto. Abraham was a liar. Noah was a drunkard. Jacob was a deceiver. David was an adulterer and murderer. We’d be somewhat hard-pressed to say that they surrendered “all”. Gratefully that is where God’s grace and mercy come in. Their faith wasn’t borne out of their works; it was borne out of His grace. i, for one, am grateful – because i know that left to my own devices i too am a sinner – saved only by His grace….

Desperate for God

Desperate for God

Just stand where you are and watch the LORD rescue you” (Exodus 14:13). Did anyone ever say to you – “Don’t just stand there, do something”? We are raised with that admonition from childhood – that as long as we keep pressing forward, everything will work out. We’ve even been known to spiritualize it with the statement – “God helps those who help themselves.” (i venture to guess that many of us have grown up believing that is a verse in the Bible – perhaps in the Book of Hezekiah.) And yet, throughout time, God has said to His people, stand still and see the deliverance of the Lord.

Imagine the scene. The Israelites’ backs were against the Red Sea. There was no way for almost two million people to cross that body of water – let alone do it quickly. They just didn’t have the resources. 

Up until Pharaoh’s army had appeared on the horizon, it had been a pretty tranquil and relaxing place. But now, Pharaoh was leading an army of his best charioteers at break-neck speed to destroy the Israelites. In a matter of minutes Pharaoh’s forces would be upon them. That beautiful, peaceful Red Sea had now become an imposing wall standing between them and their escape….

Leave the Crowd, Climb the Mountain

Leave the Crowd, Climb the Mountain

Whether you are leading the crowd, following the crowd or standing in the midst of the crowd, there is comfort in hanging with the crowd. They are our people – and we feel safe and secure in their midst. It may be the crowd at our workplace, our neighborhood, our church, or wherever we hang out. The crowd is familiar with who we are, and we are familiar with who they are. We have history together – perhaps lifelong. It can be a frightening thing to leave the crowd.

But often, God calls us to do just that. He calls us to go on a journey with Him. He leads us to climb a mountain with Him – to a place or a height that we have never been before. And that climb frequently involves leaving the crowd behind – either temporarily or in some instances, permanently.

Jesus repeatedly called people to leave where they were and follow Him. And invariably He told them to climb a little higher, go a little further and draw a little closer. In the Old Testament, we often see God telling Moses to do so….

The Scandal of Grace

The Scandal of Grace

i don’t know about you, but the phrase “the scandal of grace” sounds contradictory and discordant to me. As regular readers of this blog are aware, i often include the lyrics of contemporary worship songs in my posts. i have oft said that i believe worship songs – whether they be traditional or contemporary – are the outpouring of the deep beliefs we hold in our hearts toward the One who alone is worthy of our worship. 

Like the psalmists, the expressions of our hearts in worship are best conveyed through our “heart songs”. They are a reflection of the gripping truth our Lord God Creator has kneaded into our lives. But sometimes the expressions we use in pouring out our heart songs can be jarring. Another example i wrote about several months ago is the idea that God’s love could ever be considered to be reckless (“Reckless Love”). 

We would readily agree that God’s grace is amazing and that His grace is enough. By its definition, grace is the unmerited favor and love that God freely extends to us. And we must quickly add that though His grace is free to us, it cost Him dearly. It cost Him the shed blood of His Son. His grace is precious. His grace is beyond our comprehension. So how can His grace be scandalous?

Unbreakable Love

Unbreakable Love

We have all missed the mark! Each and every one of us has stumbled and made wrong turns. Sometimes we feel like we’re the only one who has failed. Sometimes we have the false notion that everyone else has their act together. But the reality is that nothing could be further from the truth. The apostle Paul reminds us that “all have sinned and fallen short” (Romans 3:23).

The question is not “if” we have stumbled, but rather, what we do when we have stumbled. How do we view ourselves in that moment, as well as in the moments that follow – and more importantly, how do we view God? Are we too ashamed to turn to Him? Have we allowed our guilt and shame to distort our view of Him? Are we allowing our shame to keep us from experiencing His unbreakable grace, mercy and love? 

There is a somewhat obscure reference in the resurrection account of Jesus in the Gospels. If i was to ask you to whom Jesus appeared on the day of His resurrection from the tomb, you would probably respond with a familiar list….