Thursday, November 3, 2016

Blessed Assurance [A Father's Loss] 11/3/2016

"Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thought with me..."  Psalm 23:4


Many of you may know that about a month ago, Michelle and I lost a daughter, our kids lost a sister, my parents lost a granddaughter, my sister lost a niece, her kids lost a cousin, Erik lost a girlfriend, a fine crew at Enterprise Car Share lost a teammate and the world lost Taylor Patrice D'Orsey Lewis.  She was just 26 years old.  We only discovered six months ago that she suffered from bipolar disorder.  This surely was a cause of her untimely and tragic death.

As a minister, I am often the person that ministers to the family, provides words of encouragement, assists with the arrangements and conducts the funeral or memorial service in situations such as this.  This time, it was necessary to do those things for my own and myself.  The experience has been both surreal and heartbreaking.  Only those who have lost a child truly know and understand what it is like to lose a child.  It is an unfortunate and sad fraternity.

I'd like to focus, however, on two things.  First, the overwhelming presence and love of God.  As you will hear later (if you indulge me), His comfort was extended to me immediately upon learning of our loss.  He was and is my "go to" and made a way for me not to panic an entire airplane full of passengers, to breathe and pray through my immediate grief reaction and to have the presence of mind to take care of the things that needed to be done.  All that He has equipped me to do for others was made available to me.  It has not been nor is it presently "easy" but He makes me able and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Secondly, the response from those who love us has been the most humbling thing I've ever experienced.  When I say "those who love us," it is times like these that reveal who some of those folks really are and I do not mind telling you that I did not realize how many, which ones and how deeply they do love.  Many times, others were more emotional than we were and for some of us, that is not an easy thing to accomplish.  People came to our aid from all over.  And those who could not come, sent.  And to tie these two things together, know that God shows up in my day every single day in the form of someone different.  Be it a text, email, phone call, card or visit, someone provides God's comfort and blessed assurance to me every single day.

I have always said, "You never realize how much God is all you need until God is all you have."  These honest and heartfelt words, always believed, have taken on a 3D quality.  It is difficult to understand how such pain can bring one even closer to God (who draws near us when we draw near to Him) but I am a living witness that it is true in my life and in the lives of my family.

Lastly, I'd like to share my testimony with you.  There are those who commented after the memorial that they "admire my strength."  Let me assure you that there is nothing in me to admire except the God who lives in me.  It is in Him that I live and move and have my very being (Acts 17:28).  Rather than subjecting you to more reading, I invite you to listen to a father's farewell to his daughter.  It is my prayer that you will find encouragement from these words for whatever trials life may bring to your door.  The God that strengthens and comforts me will strengthen and comfort you come what may.

On behalf of Michelle and our entire family, thank you for your kind support, love and prayers.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Handling Adversity 9/8/2016

Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour." John 12:27

Soon after Jesus' triumphant and final entry into the city of Jerusalem, he shares yet another prediction of his own death with his apostles.  He begins by saying, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified," John 12:23.  This statement is loaded with meaning.  What caused it to be said was a request by Greek proselytes relayed to Jesus by Philip and Andrew, to see him.  Referencing his coming passion, not only does it mean that the Lord, having completed his mission, would regain his heavenly home, but that having done so, these same Greeks (and the whole world) would have access to him that was not available at the moment.

At the same time, Jesus in his humanity was conflicted about the ordeal through which he was about  to go.  Most of us are familiar with his plea to "let this cup pass from me" plea in the Garden of Gethsemane.  The foreknowledge of such a painful death and more importantly, the taking on of the sin of the whole world must have caused unimaginable agony that exceeded even that of the suffering of the cross.  Yet, we are also familiar with his faithful and committed, "Yet not as I will, but as you will."

Beloved, each of us is faced with a variety of monumental situations and decisions throughout our lives.  Though none of them carry the weight and implication of Jesus' sacrifice, there is much that can be learned from how he responded to the most difficult circumstance in history.  Of course this is not an exhaustive list but consider the following:

  • He stayed on mission-Jesus knew who he was, whose he was, what he came to do and accomplished the task to the benefit of all mankind our of love for and obedience to the Father.
  • He persevered under dire stress-Jesus clearly agonized but remained focused.
  • He understood the importance of succeeding-It was so much more about us than it was him.  Not only was the defeat of Satan, the fulfilment of prophecy and our deliverance at stake but so was the example that millions would follow.
  • He understood sacrifice-Nothing can be achieved without sacrifice.  Had he not been willing to be that sacrifice, nothing would have been achieved.
  • He held close the ultimate faith-Being willing to die, he placed himself in the hands of God, trusting that all things would work together for good and launched himself into the unknown territory of death.
Let us think on these things when we enter diverse trials and tribulations, when we are attacked, when we are temporarily overtaken by sins, when we are delivered from our afflictions and when our eyes are opened to the need of our family, friends, neighbors and co-workers to hear this vital story of love.

Practically speaking,


Thursday, July 28, 2016

When God is All You Have 7/28/2016

"Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction." Exo 16:4

There are times in each of our lives that we feel we have reached the end of our rope.  Our own ideas, knowledge, skills and abilities have taken us as far as we can go.  The people of Israel, having just been liberated from 430 years of slavery and having benefited by the miracle of crossing a parted Red Sea on dry land while their enemies perished, found themselves in such a position.  They were in the wilderness and all the food they brought with them had been consumed.  They had neither the time or the ability to plant crops in an infertile desert that could feed them.  They had most certainly exhausted all that they could do for themselves.

Beloved, what do we do in such situations?  To whom do we turn?  When our health fails and the doctors have no answers, when relationships deteriorate and the counselor throws up his hands, when a loved one passes and the grief is insurmountable and when sin has overcome us and we can no longer see the Light, what do we do?  Reach out to the Master of the universe.  Reach out to the Creator of all things.  Reach out to the One who does all things well.  Go to the Father.

God knew the plight of the Hebrews, not just because He knows all things but because He had been with them the whole time.  There would have been no need to free them from bondage only to allow them to perish in the wilderness.  Hundreds of years earlier, He made known to Abraham that He had a plan for His people.  Though they experienced trials and tribulations along their journey, they were never without the saving grace and provision of the Almighty.  He literally fed them from His own hand when they could do nothing for themselves.  Further, He not only fed the estimated 2 million men, women and children plus livestock day and night, but He did so for 40 years until such time they entered the Promised Land, a place described as being filled with milk and honey, a place that He prepared for them.

As God cared for our progenitors in the faith, He most surely does for us.  Know that even when we are at our lowest, we are never alone and that God has a plan for us.  Sometimes, we have to be in a position where God is all we have in order to fully know, understand and believe that God is all we need.  That same God has a place prepared for you and me.

Practically speaking,


Friday, July 22, 2016

Seeking Forgiveness for Self 7/22/2016

"Then they kept crossing the ford to bring over the king’s household, and to do what was good in his sight. And Shimei the son of Gera fell down before the king as he was about to cross the Jordan.  So he said to the king, 'Let not my lord consider me guilty, nor remember what your servant did wrong on the day when my lord the king came out from Jerusalem, so that the king would take it to heart.  For your servant knows that I have sinned; therefore behold, I have come today, the first of all the house of Joseph to go down to meet my lord the king.'  But Abishai the son of Zeruiah said, 'Should not Shimei be put to death for this, because he cursed the Lord’s anointed?'”  2 Samuel 19:18-21

David once famously packed up his household and many of his followers and left his home base of Jerusalem in an effort to avoid a war with his son who sought to supplant him by force as the new king.  During one of the lowest times of his life, a man by the name of Shimei came along and began to verbally abuse the king with words that were shocking for a commoner to use against his monarch.  He accused him of being a murderer and a wicked person and said that he deserved all he was suffering.  To add insult to injury, he threw rocks and dirt at the king and all of his company.

As it would happen, the fortunes of David would reverse.  Having put down the insurrection, the king and his cohort began to make his way back into Jerusalem to retake the throne and restore order.  As this was occurring, Shimei appeared and was contrite, humble and repentant as he confessed and asked for forgiveness.

Beloved, how often have we played the role of Shimei in our sinful behaviors?  We can all look back on times when we have done wrong to relatives, friends, acquaintances, co-workers and even members of the church.  In so doing, we shake the fist of rebellion at God by not obeying his command to love him with all we've got and to love others as we love ourselves.  Our behavior can be abhorrent when we are angry and hurt.  Fortunately for us, God is as patient with us as David was with Shimei.  Though well within his right, David did not take Shimei's life when he sinned against him, but let him go.  This gave him an opportunity to come to his senses and he eventually did.

The lesson here is that we must all come to our senses, recognize the wrong we have committed against God and beg for forgiveness with more vigor than that with which we sinned against him.  And we must not be afraid to approach him and ask.  1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."  So often we are immobilized by our guilt and shame and decide that we are unforgiveable.  This in and of itself is sinful in that we are not to put ourselves in the place of God.  It is he who has directed us to seek him and his righteousness.  It is up to us to obey.

We do not have a license to sin but we do have a remedy.  If you are overtaken in a fault, go to the only one who can fix it, then accept what he provides, or as Jesus said, "Go and sin no more," John 8:11.

Practically speaking,


Thursday, July 7, 2016

Listen For the Cross-examination 7/7/2016

"In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right, until someone comes forward and cross-examines." Proverbs 18:17 (NIV)

Imagine the conversation between Eve and the Serpent in the Garden of Eden. He was clearly very skilled in making the argument that the things God told her could be otherwise interpreted. In fact, he told her that she would "not surely die" if she partook of the forbidden fruit. One of the things that made his words so effective at introducing doubt was her own desire. We are told that the fruit appealed to Eve's eye, looked delicious for eating and according to the Serpent, had the additional benefit of giving her at least one attribute of God. She therefore ate and introduced disastrous consequences that all of humanity still experiences today. It is submitted for your consideration that we are predisposed to entertain assertions such as those offered by the Serpent because of our own desires. It is written that, "each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust" James 1:17.

Beloved, we ought to praise God for the advocate He has given us in Jesus (1 John 2:1). We can think of him not just as a lawyer who argues our case before God against the accusations of Satan, but one who has also already served our sentence and paid our debt, thereby releasing us from condemnation. You see Satan tried the same thing with Jesus that he did with Eve, however, he completely and utterly failed when the Lord refused him and answered him with the Word of God. He was unwilling to turn rocks into bread after a 40 day fast because it is the Word that sustains. He refused to throw himself toward the ground from dizzying heights to prove God would save him because he was unwilling to put God to the test. And he refused to accept the keys to the world from Satan for the "small" price of bowing down to him because he was only willing to worship God. Jesus knew better and did better because he sought the will of God and not his own.

Today there are many alternative views of what is good, bad, right and wrong. There are many who will tell you of different ways to achieve enlightenment, receive salvation, gain "heaven" and even reincarnate. To some these things are convincing as evidenced by the tremendous number of adherents to these different philosophies. Let us, however, wait for the cross examination. There is more to know than what they say. May the Lord help us to overcome our own desires and seek His.

Practically speaking,


Thursday, June 30, 2016

Believeing in God vs. Believing God 6/30/2016

"Then Barak said to her, 'If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go.'”  Judg 3:8

The context of this admittedly obscure passage of scripture is that a man by the name of Barak was told by God to take ten thousand men to a pre appointed place where He would deliver the enemy of Israel into his hand.  This information was delivered by Deborah, a prophetess and judge of Israel.  God was setting him up for success.

Beloved, it is easy to say that we believe in God.  In fact, if you ask most people in this country whether they believe in the one true God, the answer would be a resounding yes.  Unfortunately, that is where it usually stops.  Believing in God is easy because it is conceptual.  It requires no effort whatsoever to believe in an idea, a perceived fact or even an individual.  Believing God, however, is an entirely different matter.  Believing God means not only accepting as true His existence but conducting your life in accordance with this fact.  It means accepting that if He can create the universe then He can most certainly take on flesh, walk on water, still storms, feed five thousand with a few fish and pieces of bread, call the dead to life, forgive our sins and save our very souls.  It means having confidence that He can and will do what He says and it means conducting our lives in a manner reflective of that. 

It is recorded in scripture, "You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.  But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?" James 2:19.  Essentially, believing in God is something even the devil can claim but do we believe Him enough to do what he says?

It is clear that Barak believed in God.  He was of the house of Israel and he gave credence to the words of the one who God placed in a leadership position over them.  It is just as clear that Barak did not believe God would deliver the enemy into his hand, opting instead to only obey God if she accompanied him as if He was more likely to keep His promise where she was concerned than to himself whom God actually called.  This, in effect, allowed Deborah to have the preeminence in the situation.  She believed God would do what He said and told Barak, "'I will surely go with you; nevertheless, the honor shall not be yours on the journey that you are about to take, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hands of a woman.' Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh" Judg 3:9.  The enemy was in fact delivered into the hands of a woman.  Believe God.

Practically speaking,


Friday, June 10, 2016

Death & Faith 6/10/2016


Many of you faithful readers are aware that my wife Michelle's mother was recently called home to be with the Lord.  In my capacity as a minister, it is part of my calling to deal with death and help others find understanding, meaning and hopefully a strengthened faith in the loss of a loved one.  This is the first time, however, it has struck so closely to home.  I have eulogized many but never a relative.

There may be some of you that have endured such a loss or perhaps are dealing with it even now.  If neither of these are the case, there will surely come a time when a knock on the door of your heart will come.  The following preciously written devotional is offered for us all.


"Then the Lord struck the child that Uriah's widow bore to David, so that he was very sick.  David therefore inquired of God for the child; and David fasted and went and lay all night on the ground.  The elders of his household stood beside him in order to raise him up from the ground, but he was unwilling and would not eat food with them. Then it happened on the seventh day that the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they said, 'Behold, while the child was still alive, we spoke to him and he did not listen to our voice. How then can we tell him that the child is dead, since he might do himself harm!'  But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David perceived that the child was dead; so David said to his servants, 'Is the child dead?' And they said, 'He is dead.'  So David arose from the ground, washed, anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he came into the house of the Lord and worshiped." 2 Sam 12:15-20

Despite being "a man after God's own heart," David was very human with all of the flaws and weaknesses that can be found in any human being.  He famously sinned with Bathsheba, impregnated her and had her husband killed when he refused to go into her during a weekend pass designed to cover David's tracks.  Despite his contrition and repentance and God's forgiveness, there were consequences for his actions.  One of the consequences unfortunately involved the death of the child. David then experienced a depth of sorrow that every parent dreads.  The illness and expected passing of his baby made him inconsolable.

Beloved, I pray that you will never know such loss, particularly as a result of your own sin. Nevertheless, we all, at some point in our lives, have known or will know despair.  If we haven't yet, we will someday experience pain that is unimaginable.  Despite the best efforts of others to comfort us, there seems to be no word that can be spoken, no medicine that can be taken and no prayer that can be prayed that will deliver us from our sorrow.  This is a normal part of our human existence.  The key is to remain faithful despite these trials and tribulations.

When there was nothing more to be said or done, David cleaned himself up and went to worship. What we learn from him is that despite his sin, punishment and pain, he never lost contact with the God who made Him.  He remained prayerful throughout his ordeal.  Through fasting, he sacrificed to the Lord hoping to find favor.  And when he found that God's judgment was final, he worshiped him.  He never broke faith with God nor lost faith in Him despite having the worst experience of his life.  When his servants asked why he despaired so when the child was still alive but recovered so quickly upon his death, he shared concerning his child, "I will go to him, but he will not return to me," 2 Samuel 12:23. Even this was an amazing display of faith in the Father.  When storms come, let us all be sure to do likewise.

Practically speaking,


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Location, Location, Location 5/12/2016

 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.  Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.  The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”  Matthew 7:24-28

Did you know that sand is a pretty good substance on which to build a house?  In fact, according to the University of Minnesota Extension, "If the subsoil is coarse (sand, loamy sand), water drains through it rapidly (assuming there is no high water table). Coarse-textured soils are easily excavated and quite stable during both dry and wet conditions."  Of course a firm and solid foundation of bedrock is a good place to build too.  Considering this passage, however, there are two things most of us miss.

First, it is the location of the sand.  Whenever we think sand, we think beach.  When we think beach we think ocean.  In reality, those in Israel were more familiar with the desert and something called wadies.  A wadi is a dry riverbed.  Though water does not consistently flow there, when the rare rains come, even if they occur miles away, they are subject to torrential flash flooding.  These flood are responsible for killing more people in the wilderness than heat, thirst and animals combined.  Because of the unpredictable and dangerous nature of the sand lined wadis, they just don't make good places to build homes.  Note the wording of a portion of the passage in the NIV (emphasis mine): "The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Second, we get so caught up in houses, construction and materials, we miss the message that compares the way the houses withstand the sudden onset of potential calamity with hearing and acting on the word of God.

Beloved, it is a sure thing that problems, challenges, threats and storms will come our way.  Nowhere in the bible is it promised that these things will not happen.  It is actually implied that they will.  Rains, winds and floods happen every day to this day.  The difference in wisdom and foolishness and the difference in the outcome of the storms is found in the decision to adhere to the given word of God.  It is important to note that hearing or being aware of what God has to say to us is not enough.  Acting on the word or according to it is the critical piece.  Our parents told us not to put anything into electrical sockets.  We all heard it.  Only those who heeded do not have stories of suffering to share (unless they are relating those of others).

Let us not subject ourselves to a great fall.  We know the difference between good and bad and right and wrong.  We know what God has said.  Even if we do not agree, if our desire is to be contrary or if we are skeptical of the outcome, God is worthy of our trust.  Let us be wise.  Let us not build our lives in areas that are in harms way but let us elevate out of the river bottom and build on the Rock that is Jesus who sits on high where surely there is safety even in the storm.

Practically speaking,


Thursday, April 28, 2016

Just Believing 4/28/2016

"Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, 'Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.'” Luke 8:50 (NIV)

There was once a man named Jairus who the Bible describes as a synagogue leader. His responsibilities would have been to conduct services, select participants and supervise the worship. In Christianity, the equivelant might be a worship leader, deacon or even minister. In any case, Jairus had a daughter who was very near death. Knowing of Jesus and his capabilities and knowing that he was in the area, he ran to him, fell at his feet and begged him to come to his home and save his daughter.

As a parent, I do not have to imagine what Jairus was going through. I remember writing in my daughter's baby book as she lay in my arms just days old that it was my job and my promise to love her and protect her from all threats. I found out as Jairus found out that you can't protect your babies from everything. I found out that there are things for which there is no defense. I found out what it is like to see her lying in bed and praying that God would just let me trade places with her, knowing all the while that it was nothing more than a desparate father's wish and that it could never happen. I know what it is like to be utterly helpless and reduced to wracking sobs. But like Jairus, I also know what it is like to have hope and faith in Jesus.

Beloved, there are so many things that are beyond our power to affect. We wonder why these things happen while struggling to hold on to God with everything we've got. Our faith is stong but it is SO hard and it hurts so much. It is particularly hurtful to have to stand by and watch someone we love struggle in their affliction. Jairus was told that his daughter had died and to stop "bothering" Jesus (Luke 8:49), but praise God, Jesus said to not be afraid and to just believe. Jesus went to his home and healed his daughter.

Only God can control the outcome of such things, but we are called upon to control our level of faith.  I'm reminded of the three Hebrew boys whose lives were threatened by their king.  Their response to his challenge to fall down and worship another god was this: “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” Daniel 3:16-18.  No matter what, we must all rely on Him for we know that ultimately, all things will work together for our good.  Just believe.

Practically speaking,


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Doing Right While Being Done Wrong 4/21/2016

"But Jesus said to him, 'Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?'  When those who were around Him saw what was going to happen, they said, 'Lord, shall we strike with the sword?'  And one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear.  But Jesus answered and said, 'Stop! No more of this.' And He touched his ear and healed him." Luke 22:48-51

Almost without fail, our natural reaction to being offended or wronged is to retaliate. It is practically an automatic response.  The fact is that many parents, Christians among them, teach their children from the earliest age to hit back if someone hits them first, rather than "turn the other cheek."  This and other teaching builds into how we handle conflict as adults.

This said, it is not suggested that we should refrain from teaching our children to avoid conflict and/or defend themselves nor that we should not do similarly, however, offered for your consideration is the example of Jesus.  He was under near constant scrutiny, threat, persecution and intent to harm once he began his ministry in earnest.  Nevertheless, he never deviated from his mission to seek and save you and me.  Even as he was betrayed and accosted by soldiers with clubs and swords, he still advocated for peace and would see no one harmed despite what he faced.

Beloved, let us always think twice about how we react.  Let us remember the Christianity that we claim, the God that we serve, the Son who saves us and all of the thinking and behavior that goes with it.  Let us also consider the relative smallness of the things that cause us injury or offense, yet how easily and quickly we respond.  It is easy to talk the Christian talk but quite another thing to walk the Christian walk.  And though we may suffer in the name of the Lord personally, great good can come of it.  Peter wrote, "But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.  Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened" 1 Pet 4:14.  He further states, "So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good." 1 Pet 4:19.  This is what Jesus did.

Practically speaking,


Thursday, April 14, 2016

Handling the Little Things 4/14/2016

"He said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God." Job 1:21-22

Most everyone is familiar with the story of Job. We seek or are referred to his story during times of duress and great tribulation. We are fascinated by the depth and breadth of his calamities. We are also fascinated by the grace and humility with which he faced them. He always kept God at the forefront. These thousands of years later, we still draw strength from his life.

This is presented not to give us inspiration to endure our lowest lows, but to cast in relief our smaller trials. Let us consider the things that send us off the deep end. We are subject to road rage in traffic. We often argue with the ones we love over trivialities. We are ready to feud if someone slights us socially. If the boss has a less than complementary word for us, it turns into a bad day for everyone with whom we come into contact. If our child has a disappointing showing on the field of play, we forget how proud we are to have them as flesh of our flesh.

Beloved, we spend an inordinate amount of our time majoring in minor. Let us not allow the smaller things to be blown out of proportion. To be sure, the significant accidents, diagnoses, employment situations, losses, etc., will come to us personally or to someone with whom we are close. Proportional reactions in those case would be able to be understood by anyone. Remember, however, the grace with which Job handled the worst incidents imaginable. Consider then, how would he have handled the smaller things.

Practically speaking,


Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Best Predictor of Future Performance 3/31/2016

"Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying." Matt 28:5-6

One of the many responsibilities of human resources professionals is to evaluate candidates for potential employment. This is a critical task in every business. The HR professional must evaluate a previously unknown individual to determine whether they would be an asset or a liability to the company. One of the most important tools used to accomplish this is known as behavioral interviewing. The theory behind this practice is, "The best predictor of future performance is past performance."

Beloved, we play the role of HR professional in our lives every day. The only reason we get on planes is because we've seen them take off and more importantly, land safely. We eat at restaurants where we do not actually see our food being prepared, because of the health department rating in every window. We believe in Jesus because he did what he said he would.

Jesus frequently told his disciples that he would give up his life but that he would take it up again. Though they did not fully understand it at the time (and Thomas not believing it all until he saw the ressurected Savior), they continued to follow him. They had seen him heal the sick, feed the hungry, minister to those in need, withstand hypocritical authorities and perform miracles never before seen. His performance lead to the establishment of their faith. They believed him so much that they completely changed their lives and began to live for him.

Jesus has said, "In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also." John 14:2-3. On those rare occasions when your faith may get a little shaky, remember his past performance and look forward to his future performance. Jesus will do just what he said he would just as he always has.

Practically speaking,


Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Claiming vs. The Calling

"A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. "And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. "Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side." Luke 10:30-32

It would be a great speculative exercise to wonder where the priest and the Levite where going as they passed someone in such distress. One should have no trouble determining what a priest is. For those who do not know, however, a Levite was one whose tribe members were responsible for attending to things associated with the temple, the worship that took place there and the needs of the priests. Where could they both be going?

Before that is further pursued, the fact that they "passed by on the other side," away from someone who had been injured is of particular note. Certainly tradition holds that this took place on a road that was frequented by robbers. Perhaps they were both concerned about their own safety and decided to give the situation a wide berth.

Suppose they were just in a hurry. Suppose they were in a hurry because they were late. Suppose they were in a hurry because they were late for a temple worship or class. Suppose they were in a hurry because they were late for a temple worship or class where they were scheduled to discuss how to treat one's fellow man. Just suppose.

Beloved, Christianity is not a claim, it is a calling. It is not for show but for shouldering. It is not just for hearing but for helping. It is not just for believing but being. I wonder how often we pass up the opportunity to do good on the way to "church"...where we are told to do good.

Faith without works is dead.

Practically speaking,


Thursday, March 17, 2016

What About Me? 3/17/2016

"In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets." Matt 7:12

When most people think about the "Golden Rule," they think more about how they want to be treated than how they treat others. In fact, treating others well can be a means to an end rather than a pursuit of virtue. The reason for pursuing this thought is that there are those who become disenfranchised with their local congregations, particularly around the time that they stop attending for one reason or the other. Members get upset if no one comes to check on them and see how they are doing.

Let it first be said that they have a point. Who among us does not want to feel cared for by our brothers and sisters in Christ? It is a fact that the congregation has a responsibility to its members. If we do not care for one another who will? We must love others as we love ourselves and as Christ loves us.

That said, it must also be considered why members forsake the fellowship. To be sure there are a variety of reasons and it exceeds the purpose of this writing to consider them per se. Instead, the question must be asked to some of those who feel wronged, "Do you visit the absent?"

Beloved it is easy to ask oneself, "What about me?" but not as easy to make the sacrifice and show the love for others by visiting them in their need, particularly when they may have, for one reason or the other, lost their way. Much is said about cliques in the church and how only certain people get the attention of the masses. While this can be seen in any organization (let us not forget that we are still humans and still short of perfection despite our calling) this can be defeated by being the friend we wish to have. If everyone focused on building relationships and reaching out to the person normally on the nearby pew that you have not seen in a while, the problem could be virtually eliminated. In so doing, we will likely find ourselves being treated the way we have treated others. Let us think on these things.

Practically speaking,


Thursday, March 3, 2016

Trials and Love 3/3/2016

"Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, 'Abraham, Abraham!' And he said, 'Here I am.' He said, 'Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.'” Genesis 22:10-12

It is well known that God promised Abraham a legitimate son through whom nations would be built long before He delivered on that promise. It is also well known that Abraham was 100 years old when the child was born thereby proving the hand of God in his life. One can only imagine the overwhelming love Abraham must have had for his son Isaac. Contemporary parents are head over heels after nine months. Abraham must have been out of his mind with adoration for his child. Can it be at all imagined what it must have been like to hear God tell him, "Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you,” Genesis 22:2?

Beloved, as was the case with Abraham and many others we read about within the pages of inspiration, God tests us. Through these tests, it is not He who learns things about us (He knows all) but we who learn things about ourselves. More specifically, it is through our trials that we can see where are love truly is. When the night is darkest and our health is failing, a loved one is hurting, our finances are flagging, our relationships in trouble and our hope threatened, to whom do we turn? Do we seek the face of God for our relief or do we become angry with Him for allowing the situation to occur and seek other means of relief and resolution? Could any of us have done what Abraham did in Abraham's circumstance?

As much as he loved his son, Abraham loved God more. If you are anything like me, the words "how," "what" and "why" come to your confused mind when you consider how Abraham could have done such a thing even if he had 26 children. The word of God contains the answer in Hebrews 11:19: "He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type." Abraham loved, trusted and believed God so much that it did not enter his mind that he would not walk back down that mountain without his beloved son (Genesis 22:5). Through our trials, whatever they may be, let us prove to ourselves that God is first in our lives.

As an epilogue, consider the fact that Moriah is likely the place on which Jerusalem was built. That being the case, the same mountain on which Abraham offered his son was the same place God gave His. Like Isaac, Jesus even had to carry the wood. When the scripture mentions that Abraham received Isaac back "as a type," it means that it was a foreshadowing of us all receiving Christ back from the dead through the power of God that we all might live, and that the promises to Abraham (Genesis 12:2-3) would find their delivery. What an amazing display of love.

Practically speaking,


Thursday, February 25, 2016

Worship: Not a Spectator Sport 2/25/2016

"Come, let us worship and bow down,
Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.
Today, if you would hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts,"
Psalm 95:6-8

Last week, I ran into two different people, both former members of congregations that now "worship at home."  Perhaps you know of someone or several someones who fit this description.  Now, rather than going to the assembly on the Lord's day, they listen to the local Christian radio station, or watch one or more of the televangelists on cable, or do nothing at all.  Of course our brothers and sisters say they still love God, still believe in Him and pray regularly but just do not currently "go to church."

There are a variety of reasons why people pursue this avenue.  Some disagree with the way things are done at their local congregation.  Some have suffered hurt associated with someone who attends.  Some have looked into the mirror of their lives and found themselves unfit, lacking the ability to forgive themselves despite believing that they have been forgiven by God.  And some just flat out do not think it is necessary.  There are many other reasons that people give for such a tragic departure.

Beloved, I will be the first to tell you that the work of the church is not primarily done inside the church building but outside.  I would likewise say that worship is not confined to the church building in that we should all be in a constant state of worshiping our God.  But I will say that the assembly is a necessary component of our relationship with God and with each other.  Let me share with you just a few scriptures that bear this out.
  • Acts 2:40-47-From its inception, the church (more accurately phrased "the assembly") has been about the people of God being and doing together
  • Ephesians 4:11-16-We together form one body, made so by divine will for a divine and beneficial purpose
  • John 10:14-16-Being identified as flock whose shepherd is Jesus, our togetherness is implicit
  • 1 Corinthians 12:12-27-Each of us has a role in the body/assembly that we are gifted to fulfill and on which others depend
  • Hebrews 10:24-26-The assembly is as much about others as it is about us and we should not forsake it
This is by no means an exhaustive list.  The word of God consistently speaks of believers as a people, a body, a flock and a church that is designed to be together in word, thought, deed and most certainly in worship.  While some televangelist have their uses, if a person is watching one, they are watching not just the preacher but those who are members of that congregation who have gathered together to worship.  Worship is not about spectating, but participating.  

May this be an encouragement to you and may you share it with those who you know that have forsaken the assembly.

Practically speaking,


Thursday, February 18, 2016

When You Are Converted 2/18/2014 (rp)

"And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." Luke 22:31-32 (KJV)

Are you in need of a conversion?  You might be thinking, "No.  I'm already a Christian.  I already believe."  First, we must uncouple the thought that if one believes (in God, Jesus and their relationship to each other and us) that it makes you a Christian.  "You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder," James 2:19.  Are demons Christian?  Of course not.

Secondly, let us consider the case of Simon (Peter), considered by some to be the foremost apostle.   Though he was often the "go to" guy, one who was part of Jesus' inner circle, who had faith enough to walk on water and issued the God inspired confession that Jesus is in fact the son of God (Matthew 16:16-17), he was also one who denied Christ three times when the Lord, arguably, needed him most.  The context of the Scripture indicates that Satan had requested permission to attack him and weaken his faith.  This may seem odd, but one only need think back to Job to see that this was not a unique occurrence.

Beloved, we are all at different places in our spiritual walk.  We likewise are all under a constant barrage of temptation both from Satan and our own lusts (James 1:14).  This can have the effect of us failing in our faith.  That can manifest itself in many different ways in many different people.  It may cause us to "play church," wearing a mask of piety to cover a life of sin induced inner conflict and despair.  Some are married to their positions, responsibilities or reputation in the congregation and community and hang on to them even though their hearts may not be right. Some fall out of fellowship altogether due to their inner struggles.

Whatever the effect may be, rest assured that Jesus knows and understands our trials (Hebrews 4:15) and prays that we will be delivered from them, or more to the point, that we will be converted.  This is not to say that we are not Christians or never were, but that he is praying for a return to righteousness and triumph over trials.  And he prays this not just for our own sake, but for the sake of those who we can help who may go through similar seasons.

Challenges to our faith will surely come.  Let us do all we can to remain steadfast and never have a reason to return to that which we should never have departed.  "Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you," James 4:7

Practically speaking,


Friday, February 12, 2016

Well Done Christianity 2/12/2014

"Ephraim mixes himself with the nations;Ephraim has become a cake not turned." Hosea 7:8

You may be aware that the House of Israel was separated into two kingdoms after the death of David's son, Solomon. The northern kingdom, sometimes referred to as Ephraim was exceedingly wicked. The distance they had traveled away from God and the activities and other gods was both tragic and profound. Despite this, God sent his servant Hosea to make one last appeal to the adulterous nation. In so doing, he referred to them as "a cake not turned." In their refusal to heed, they were taken into captivity and to this day, never brought together again as a nation.

Most of know what it is like to make pancakes. We mix up the batter, pour it on the griddle, wait until it begins to bubble and then flip it over, keeping it there until done. Can you imagine what it would be like to pour the batter and remove it in order to serve it once it starts to bubble without cooking the other side? I doubt you would get many takers.

Beloved, most of us know enough about God to understand the basics, to know right from wrong, to know that there is a glorious eternity available and that the cost has been paid for it through the sacrifice of Jesus. This is our cooked side. This is the part of us that has significant value and usefulness. There is, however, another side, a side not turned. This is the side that, like Ephraim (who knew God but was wildly unfaithful), pursues other gods, be they job, home, relationships, money, leisure pursuits, ego, etc. This is the side that is away from God. And like a half done pancake, it is ultimately of no use, no value, fails to achieve its purpose or bring pleasure and is a waste to be discarded. In the end, the cooked side will go into the garbage with the uncooked side.

Let us not be "half-baked" in our Christianity, but let us pursue well done good and faithful servants.

Practically speaking,


Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Mission Field

"Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." Matthew 28:19-20

Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest indeed is plenteous, but the laborers are few. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he send forth laborers into his harvest. Matthew 9:37-38

Good morning beloved!  Today I am in Haiti at an orphanage with the International American Medical Mission (  We are here to provide medical care to the desperately poor folks  here. By the time it is all said and done, we will have provided access to doctors, nurses and pharmacists to over 500 patience.   It is incredibly fulfilling to "talk the talk" through preaching and teaching but even more so to "walk the walk" by doing the will of the Father.

I solicit your prayers on behalf of my fellow mission workers, the patients to whom we are ministering and this whole country. Some may say that there is more need in the world than we can possibly meet but the difference that is made in the lives of those we meet means the world to them.

Practically speaking,


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Be Strong 1/28/2016

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might." Eph 6:10

It is a true statement that we humans are weak creatures. We are easily given over to the whims of that which makes us feel good in mind and body or that which eases pain. These things are readily apparent when we consider all the addictions to which we fall. Perhaps more insidious, however, are the smaller and quieter things within our own thought processes as we make choices throughout the day. This involves everything from failing to give as we have prospered when the plate passes on Sunday morning, to eating that donut we know we do not need.

We must realize that as we have the ability to choose wrong, we also have the ability to chose right. Yes we are subject to the weakness of our own flesh (minds), but we have an amazing power source to assist us when we are willing to access it.

Beloved, we need not rely on our own limited strength. We are encouraged to be strong, not through our own means, but through the might of almighty God. He has promised us access to all that we need to live successful spiritual lives. He has given us His full armor that wholly protects us from those things that are arrayed against us. We can be covered from head to toe.

It is important to know though, that neither the power nor the armor will be forced upon us. We must be willing to take it in and put it on. Only then will the power of God see its manifestation in our lives. Only then can we stand firm against those things that attack us. Only then can we fight. Be strong. Put it on.

Practically speaking,


Thursday, January 14, 2016

You Know and You Know You Know It 1/14/2016

"Why do you complain to him
    that he responds to no one’s words?
 For God does speak—now one way, now another
    though no one perceives it.
In a dream, in a vision of the night,
    when deep sleep falls on people
    as they slumber in their beds,
 he may speak in their ears
    and terrify them with warnings,
to turn them from wrongdoing
    and keep them from pride,
to preserve them from the pit,
    their lives from perishing by the sword."

Job 33:14-18 (NIV)

When Job famously experienced some of the worst tragedies known to man, he eventually began to question God.  He justified himself, wondered aloud to his friends why God was punishing him and most importantly complained about God's lack of response (Job 33:8-13).

So often we find ourselves in Job's frame of mind.  We think more of ourselves than we ought.  While in the moment we think our circumstance is worse than it really is.  And when our faith fails, we somehow think that God is not only absent but unaware.

Beloved, what we must know and believe is that God is all present, all knowing and all powerful.  There is nothing that escapes His eye (Matthew 10:29-31).  Not only does He know your situation and hear your cries, He answers!  Have you ever come to the crossroads of a decision to do right or wrong and hear that voice in your head saying, "Now you know what you should do don't you?"  Have you ever gone to bed with a dilemma and arisen the next morning with a decision about what you will do?  Have you ever gone to a friend with a problem, hoping that they would tell you what you wanted to hear only to have them tell you what you actually needed to hear?

You see, God speaks to us in many ways.  If we do not know it consciously, we most certainly know it subconsciously.  In fact many of us refer to this phenomenon as our conscience, typically depicted by an angel on our shoulder arguing against the devil on the other one.  My mom always taught me to do what I know is right.  It turns out that she received that advice from God (James 4:17).  The fact is that we know right from wrong and good from bad and we make our own choices.  The more spiritually mature among us know that God is present with us and offers us guidance every day of our lives.  Though we may fail to realize it, or worse, claim to the contrary, God knows, hears and answers.  We know it.  We know we know it.  We just need to listen attentively and stop giving ourselves excuses to do other than what we know is right as we accuse Him of not being present.  He is.

Practically speaking,


Friday, January 8, 2016

Go Fish 1/8/2016

“Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen.  And He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’  Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.”  Matthew 4:18-20

Almost immediately after Jesus formally began his ministry, he called his first followers into service.  There was already an existing acquaintance between them (John 1:35-42) but at that time the work of the Lord had not yet begun in earnest.  There was a period of time when the opportunity was given to get to know him and to begin to understand who he is.  When the time came to execute on his purpose for coming to earth, a precedent worthy of note was set.

The first four of the called were employed in the fishing trade.  As Jesus would go on to do almost exclusively, he communicated a heavenly message to them in earthly terms with which they could easily identify.  The first item was an invitation to follow him.  In the rabbinical tradition, the master teacher took on students (disciples if you will) who lived with him and learned by both direct instruction and direct observation.  You will note that in the Gospels, there was rarely a time when at least some of the apostles were not with him.  Secondly, Jesus informed them that there was work for them to do and he analogized it in a way that resonated deeply with them.  The message was that as you catch fish for a living, you will now capture souls for life.

Beloved, it is both a simple and common thing to claim acquaintance with Jesus.  We all have stories of how and where we met him, who introduced us to him and what the circumstances were at the time.  Some of us may even claim to be followers in that we attend worship on Sundays, attend bible study mid-week and Sunday morning and generally try to observe his commands.  The issue most of us have is that we come just short of being actual disciples.  This is seen in that we do not do the very first thing we were called to do as his followers and follow one of the very last instructions that he gave, which he himself demonstrated throughout his ministry.  We are not actively engaged in seeking and saving the lost.

Imagine being a doctor who studied under a research physician who discovered the cure for cancer.  Imagine that research physician instructing his charge to offer it to all mankind that the disease may once and for all be eradicated.  Imagine the teacher and mentor further wisely advising his student that there would be plenty who would be skeptical and would not accept the cure, perhaps even going so far as to become antagonistic and accusatory about what they believe to be false hope.  Now imagine the student taking the cure for himself and storing the formula away in a safe where it stays.  Finally, imagine people all over the world continuing to die from cancer.

We have been given both a great gift and a great responsibility.  Jesus has saved us from the ultimate death and he has commanded us to do all we can to save others (Matthew 18:19-20).  We know something about fishing.  Let us apply that skill in a way that benefits those in critical need as it was once applied to us.

Practically speaking,