Merry Christmas! Happy Resurrection!

It may seem odd talking about Christmas just a few months into the new year, but I was thinking about attempts in recent years to banish Christ from Christmas. Whether it be governments limiting or outlawing nativity scenes, or the push to change “Merry Christmas” to simply “happy holidays.”

Maybe I missed it, but I haven’t noticed as much of an outcry about using the phrase “Happy Easter.” Perhaps it’s the name of Christ that is offensive to so many?

But why would you want to banish someOne who has been throughout human history the greatest Force for good?

Now before you begin take exception to this statement, I acknowledge that Christians (as well as others purporting to know Him) have made mistakes at times and done more harm than good. Because they are flawed human beings. That’s not my point.

I’m just wondering why you want to banish someone who has contributed so much to our civil society, even if you do not believe in him as the Son of God? Why do we have a law against murder; because it is written “Thou shalt not kill.” Even if you are an atheist, why would you not want a neighbor who believes in serving others over himself?

I will always say “Merry Christmas”, “Happy Easter”, “Happy Resurrection Day”, “Happy day that Christ rose again and conquered death so that my sins, although grievous, could be forgiven and I might enjoy fellowship with my savior forever!”

And I pray that you can say this also. I pray that you have peace in your heart now and forever more. In need of a God like this? Almighty then!

Where’s the Fire?

You’re late.

You have a sense of urgency that is compounded by the multiple loud distractions in the back seat, unexpected road construction, and certain aged people that simply shouldn’t be on the road.  It is only by the grace of God that you have kept some sense of sanity and refrained from letting loose a barrage of profanity that would be instantly implanted in the vocabulary of the young minds sitting the car seats behind you.

Deep breath.

But now on the open road – an opportunity to make up some lost time.  Faster than the limit on the signs that whiz by, but within the “grace period” of miles per hour over the speed limit.  At least, that is what you tell yourself.

But of course, the state trooper hidden over the next hill has a different opinion.

“Where’s the fire?!?”

“Well, Officer……”

You feel an impending sense of guilt.  You are overwhelmed by the reality of God’s grace and forgiveness in this life and the promise of Heaven in the next.  Yet, you know inherently that you have failed in the primary task of the great commission to take the gospel to your neighbors, and beyond.  

Deep breath.

This remorse propels you to act.  You desire to make up for lost time.  You must be bold, unashamed.  An overwhelming sense of love for others, compassion for their souls and their eternal destination without Christ causes you to be persistent, even reckless with sharing your faith.  Praise of Jesus is always on your lips.  You know we are living in a “grace period” before the Lord returns and it will be too late.

The world frowns at this overt Christian “proselytizing” and incessant references to Jesus, the Bible, and especially sin and Hell.

“Woah!  Slow down; put on the brakes with this Christian stuff.  After all what’s the rush?  Where’s the fire?”

The fire is closer than you realize.  It is already whipping at your heels.  In the twinkling of an eye, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.  By then it will be too late.  Today is the day of salvation.  Jesus is watching and waiting…

Poem:


I Should Burn


I can already feel

the embers growing

the oxygen blowing

the flames destroying


I can already taste

the choking smoke

the ashen dust

the pillowing soot


I can already see

the fiery pit

forever lit

human torches

in writhing fits


Now I am running

like an antelope from the flames

to the only

firebreak that remains


And I bow before the

Cross of my beloved Lamb

who smothers the flames to death

and applies the healing balm

to restore life again

Deceptive Coffee Cups

I admit it.  I drink too much coffee.

Now, I might justify it a bit by stating that I don’t navigate into the exotic side of caffeine.  No mocha lattes, no cappuccinos, and heaven forbid I ever partake of something called “iced coffee.”  To me, that’s an oxymoron.

But nevertheless, way too much (even with the occasional decaf).

So, as you might imagine – I have assembled a decent collection of coffee mugs.  Gifts from family and co-workers, trips to the beach and other places, etc…

I find that most of the mugs I have are either black (or very dark navy) or white. Anyone who drinks coffee day in and day out knows that the white cups quickly become enstained (I just made that word up) with coffee [or tea – I sometimes switch to tea later in the day] residue.  Especially if:

  • the daily washing of the cup is a quick 2-second rinse of water [“after all, next time I pour coffee in it, the hot water will kill any germs”]
  • the half-empty/half-full cup of coffee sits overnight on your desk and you get a nice ring in the middle of the mug
  • You go on vacation for 1-2 weeks and come back to a science project in your coffee mug [yuck]

I have no doubt been guilty of all of the above at one time or another, but at least I try to wash my cups with detergent, and keep the white cups as clean as possible.

Interesting enough, the dark cups are a different story.  With a black or dark blue interior, you can’t see the coffee residue!  Works well!  In fact, for practical reasons, I think all coffee mugs should be dark on the inside.

But that’s the rub…or lack thereof [lack of rubbing out the stains lol].  Forgive the bad pun.

I’m serious from here to the end, which you will be glad to know is soon.  Sin ~ especially “secret sins” [actually no such thing – see Hebrews 4:13], are like those hidden coffee stains in the black mug.  They are not visible to the human eye, but are there just the same – and God sees them with vivid clarity.  Chew on that for a while.

In the case of the mug, unless the coffee is cleaned thoroughly – the stain will persist.  Just as it is with us and sin.  Unless we are cleaned, thorough forgiveness of our sins made possible by the blood of Jesus, we can look very Christian on the outside but rotten where it counts.

Woe to you…you are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.  [Mat 23:27]

Spoiled!!

Looking back at another Christmas season, one thing that concerns me a bit is how much in the way of material gifts our grandkids received.  Some of this is to be expected; the little munchkins received items from their parents, two sets of grandparents, a great grandparent, aunts and uncles, etc.  Most of these loving relatives are blessed to be fairly affluent, and want to shower the kids with presents.  It adds up quickly.  

I know a grandparent’s job it to spoil, but I do try to reign in our spending.  Yet it seems to eventually add up to a lot, in fact way too much.  I try to instill into my grandchildren the fact that many children in America, and especially elsewhere in the world, have little to nothing in the way of gifts – much less the basics of life.  But I’m afraid that teaching gets lost among the stacks of gifts, piles of torn wrapping paper, and toys that require scissors, screwdrivers, pocket knives, and lots of effort to extricate from their package.

My grandchildren are spoiled.  They just are.  Even before considering the excess of gifts.  I truly pray that they will not grow up to be ungrateful spoiled brats.  And I will do my part to that end!

But in fact, many of us are spoiled by the necessities we take for granted.  Safe housing, clean water, electricity, heat, adequate and accessible food, and down the line.  I know I am saying the obvious.  But it’s also obvious that I take most of these things for granted.

Lord, I just want to thank You for providing me a job in order to take care of my family, and to pay for necessities.  Thank You for the roof over my head.  Thank You for all of the everyday blessings that I usually overlook.  In Your Name, Amen.

But it goes beyond physical blessings.  Way beyond…

We are unbelievably spoiled spiritually.  First, Almighty God provides an offer of eternal life through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ.  Sin problem/Hell problem? Simply repent and accept His forgiveness.

And if all that God did in respect to us was provide the sacrifice on our behalf to ensure that we had access to Heaven…that would be a gift in itself beyond comprehension or calculation.

But of course, our Heavenly Father’s spoiling of us goes way beyond forgiving our sin and taking away our sin penalty.  His blessings are more than the grains of sand on the beach.  His protection and provision are daily and diverse.  His love, grace, and mercy – especially when we stumble and fail – are incredible.  

Our Abba Father loves to spoil His children.  Of course we see it when we are blessed materially, or with good health, or with the inexpressible joy of grandchildren.  But the spoiling is also manifested even when we cannot understand His will and purposes.  Even when we would choose something different in our limited knowledge and understanding.  Even perhaps in pain, suffering, struggles.  One day we may look back and say, “Yes Lord, You were using this hurt in preparing me to be a blessing to others” or “You were protecting me from something I was sure was a blessing but turned out to be a curse.”  Or simply, “You had my back all the way, even though I turned my back on you.”

I just know that my Lord has forgiven me much more than this:

 21Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. [Mat 18 NASB]

Even if I had no material gifts to give to my grandchildren, I would still love them with an unquenchable love.  I want to spoil them with love.  So much that they anticipate it, and know that the love will be there.  I would gladly die to save them.  In this way, I desire to model the Father’s love for us.

May I be a blessing to others, passing on the indulging, extravagant love of Jesus.  Happy 2017!

Shipwrecked

Shipwrecked

Author’s Note:  I will be speaking frankly about the perils of allowing sin a foothold, even to the point of a believer embracing and loving sin more than their calling or ministry to the Kingdom.  I am speaking as a man, but temptation, sin, and destruction of faith can occur in the life of any believer.


1 Timothy 1:19

Keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.


2 Corinthians 11:25

Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep.


The Apostle Paul knew a thing or two [actually three] about shipwrecks.  In carrying out God’s mission to spread the gospel, Paul saw and experienced many hardships.  And a ship is a hard thing to slam into reef or rocks.


And thus, Paul – having experienced shipwreck firsthand three times – saw it as the perfect metaphor to describe what happens to certain believers in Jesus Christ who are sucked into temptation, sin, depravity, greed, pride, the lies of the Devil, perhaps even outright rebellion against God.  Essentially – usurping His rightful place on the throne of their hearts.  And suffering massive damage to their faith in the process.



Recently as last night I was told of a believer who is currently going through divorce.  He has led ministry groups in the church.  But now there is rumor of a long history of infidelity and affairs.  To be fair, I haven’t spoken with the man in question, or even confirmed the rumor.  But it brought to mind the devastation that Satan is wrecking on the church, especially with those in positions of ministry and leadership.  Particularly with men and sexual sin.


Several years ago, a pastor friend of mine recounted the story of a church elder who was widely respected in the community, led ministry and Bible study, started new churches, etc…  My friend relayed the story of an unnamed woman who came to him and described this elder often spending the night and getting up next to her in the morning.  The Elder was unmarried.


Unfortunately, I have other examples of shipwrecked ministry.


Of course, it doesn’t have to be sexual sin; it could be greed. It could be pride and desire for power and control.


I have seen the darkness of the soul, and I have no desire to see it again.  But always it looms, watching and waiting for an opportunity.


Here is the bottom line:  We can never, repeat – NEVER – take a day off from guarding and protecting our hearts and souls from the demonic forces that foment sin.  NEVER.  We can never take off the armor of God, never allow some shallow, worthless pleasure in this life take the place of Jesus Christ the Messiah in our hearts.  NEVER.  Never give in to the siren song of temptation that leads us to steer our ship of faith right into the rocks.  NEVER.


If you are struggling with a sin that is crippling your relationship with God, I am praying for you now.  Father, we say “we are only human”, or “we have needs,” but that is a lie from the devil, because we use it to rationalize and justify sin.  Forgive all of us who have glorified hedonistic pleasure, greed for money or material things, or the desire for power, as idols in place of you.  Cleanse us of all unrighteousness.  Give us a desire for more of You, then to be filled with the Spirit, to spread the gospel to others – who like us – struggle with sin.  Hurl our sin to the bottom of the sea and give us new hearts for You.  Turn our shipwrecks into monuments of lives radically changed; not drowned with sin, but rescued by the Life Preserver, Jesus Christ.  To Him be all honor, glory and praise, forever and ever, and in His mighty name I pray. Amen.