Spiritual Growth

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….

Eight Twenty-Eight

Eight Twenty-Eight

Today is August 28th, also known as 8-28. For me this day is an annual reminder of the promise of God found in the book of Romans. There Paul writes:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28 ESV).

For me it is one of the most powerful promises that God has given us. It is a promise that is not only true on this day of the year; it is a promise that is true every moment of every day. It was true before time began and it will forever be true. 

It is a promise that remains true even when we don’t recognize it. It remains true in good times and bad. It is true in life and in death. It is true in health and in illness. It is true in prosperity and in poverty. It is true in the sunshine and the storms….

Jesus Will Still Be There

Jesus Will Still Be There

This week has been filled with special memories for our family. Our second grandson was born at 6:09AM Sunday morning. All seven pounds fourteen ounces of him! i can’t think of a better way to start a week than to welcome a new life into your family. 

Kenton was scheduled to arrive on Tuesday. The doctor was scheduled. The delivery room was reserved. Our daughter’s bag was packed. But someone forgot to tell our grandson. But no fear – he didn’t arrive early. He arrived right on time! It was the rest of us that were off on our calendars.

My wife and i received that middle of the night call and quickly made the two hour drive to be here. As we were driving, the song “Jesus Will Still Be There” (lyrics below) by Selah came up on my playlist. 

As i listened to the lyrics of the song, i couldn’t help but be struck by this idea. “Kenton, today is the first day of your life outside the womb. And if there was one word i would tell you and your older brother to hold onto every moment of every day of your life, it would be just that – Jesus will still be there….

What A Beautiful Name

What A Beautiful Name

As we gathered in worship this past Sunday, we sang the song “What a Beautiful Name” by Hillsong (lyrics below). As we sang those words, i was reminded of a glorious confession of truth that we would all do well to embrace.

The lyricists write: 

Death could not hold You, The veil tore before You
You silenced the boast of sin and grave….
Nothing can stand against
What a powerful Name it is
The Name of Jesus

More often than not, we think of those words in light of Christ’s bodily resurrection on Easter morning. And there is no question that should cause us to rejoice. But there was reason for rejoicing even before that occurred. When Jesus declared, “It is finished” (John 19:30 NLT), He also said, “Father, I entrust My spirit into Your hands” (Luke 23:46 NLT). Let us not forget that Jesus was as much man as if He was not God at all. At the moment of His death, His soul and spirit immediately departed from His physical body – which is the exact same thing that will occur for you and me at the moment of our deaths (if Jesus doesn’t return before then). 

We would do well to remember….

Contagious Faith

Contagious Faith

One of my favorite movie scenes is from the 1989 adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “Henry V”. The English noblemen and their outnumbered and less-skilled troops stand in the moments before the bloody Battle of Agincourt. The noblemen are lamenting the overwhelming odds that the French have over them and are maligning the many Englishmen who have chosen to stay at home in their warm beds instead of joining their fellow countrymen on the field of battle. Morale is at a low; the English are all but defeated before the battle has even commenced. Having heard these laments from the shadows, Shakespeare’s King Harry (played in the movie by Kenneth Branagh) steps forth and begins to rally his troops with an impassioned speech. By its conclusion, his troops are celebrating that they are few in number, and are inspired to advance “once more unto the breach”. Though the speech is a work of fiction, it is evocative of the contagious spirit of courage and conviction with which King Harry led.

In Joshua 2, we read about two spies that Joshua sent into the Promised Land. As they surveyed Jericho, they narrowly escaped arrest within the walled city and were given refuge by a prostitute by the name of Rahab….