Showing posts from 2017
The Vastness of God

You can't really experience the beauty of something until you are in it. A picture may speak a thousand words but it doesn't blow your hair, tingle your sense of smell, or cause your eyes to squint. This picture of Wachusett reservoir in Massachusetts may bring up feelings of bitter cold, but unless you've been there in the cold snow like I was this morning, your face isn't any colder and you didn't just start seeing your breath. 

After seeing the immensity of this reservoir, I can't help but say to God, how vast you are. Spending time on the edge of this great body of water gives me a taste of the greatness of God. I might even go as far as to say, I'm experiencing him, who he is, at least in part. 

We can read the bible, understand its words, comprehend its meaning. And that is a doorway, an entrance into knowing him. We read, God loves you. But have we experienced his love? Have we known his comfort in times of trial? Scripture tells us …
Probably one of the greatest gifts that God has given us is the ability to appreciate. He not only gives us beauty, he also gives us the ability to admire that beauty. What a good God.

Gratitude is a gift as well; to be able to see the value in something while setting aside the obvious negative. Gratitude is an awareness of beauty expressing itself through a smile, a word of simple thanks, or lifted hands. Gratitude runs in short supply these days. But it doesn't have to; for we have a choice. Being grateful is a choice.

Consider this, God provides food for our bodies; sustenance that is necessary to our survival. And yet, because he is good and kind, he causes food to be enjoyable. Could you imagine having to painfully devour a juicy steak with a side of fries? Think of the misery of life if each meal required bite after sorrowful bite to supply our bodies with necessary daily fuel. Food is not a practical necessity, it is a joyous part of life. Grateful? 

Consider the survival of t…
When I was younger, I dreamed of being a superhero, being able to run at super fast speeds and fly over fields. I think many of us are intrigued by the thought of being able to cast aside the laws of nature. The thought of being untouchable, unconquerable, is appealing. Some of our most popular TV shows and movies portray men and women who can fight off and survive almost any sort of attack. Have you been run through and thrown off a cliff? Not a problem. There is a way back. Lost someone you love? Solve that by running back in time and changing the past. Our  heroes seem almost immortal, god-like. And some of them are gods.

But almost inevitably, they all have their flaws, their weaknesses, their kryptonite. And many have a dark side, a moral flaw. We desire superhero status, but understand that we are all weak.

I believe this superhero status is something that is set in our hearts. Call it immortality, the desire to be untouchable. Most would embrace the thought that there could be a …
But the one who boasts should boast in this: that he understands and knows me — that I am the Lord, showing faithful love, justice, and righteousness on the earth, for I delight in these things. This is the Lord’s declaration.
‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭9:24‬ 
Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
‭‭James‬ ‭1:27‬ 

Therefore, you should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, your name be honored as holy. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:9-10‬

Your name be honored as holy.
We honor His name as holy when we walk in a manner that reflects who he is. If we bear the name of Christ, then our lives must bear his ways and our living his character. How else can his kingdom come and his will be done?

We are views, portals into the eternal, into his kingdom. We must live in a way that displays his faithful love, justice, and righteousness and be vessels th…
When They Leave

My wife and go to my eye appointments together. That's what we do. We've always done things together. I think we actually enjoy spending time together. So, we go to my eye appointment together in Boston and then head to Charles street after that to catch a good Italian dinner. Call it a medical date night. Is this what people start to do at our age? Is this getting older? Well, it's not as painful as I thought it would be when I was a younger man.

As we were checking out of the doctor's office in Boston, bantering between ourselves and the receptionist, the receptionist made a comment that made me think for a few days. In fact, it made me think enough to take the time to write this blog about it. She said, You guys seem like you have a good time together. That's not something you can fake. Miserable couples, or couples going through it, can't give the impression that they have fun together. 

My wife and I have children. They've been a joy. They…
Sometimes we forget. 

We develop an amnesia of the spirit - who God has been in our lives; what he has said, what he has done. And when we forget, we make poor decisions - foolish choices. We take paths that lead us to soul ache.

Amnesia is the loss of memory, the forgetting of facts, information, and experiences. One symptom of amnesia is memory loss, but it can also make it difficult to learn new information. There are many things that can cause the damage that causes amnesia such as stroke, disease, and the one often portrayed in movies - blunt force head injury. But amnesia can also be caused by shock or trauma. This is called "dissociative amnesia" and can cause a loss of self identity. You forget who you are.

Blows to the head. Shock and trauma. Life can come at us like this. 

Maybe you've felt the blow of the loss of a loved one, a job, or a relationship. Maybe you've experienced the criticisms and judgments of a church. What about disappointment? Not just one dis…
Sometimes God asks us to do something that doesn't make sense. Like praying for our enemies or praying for those that have hurt us. His ways are far above our ways. But to our natural minds, praying for God to help someone who has hurt us or those we love can challenge the very core of our thinking.

Our enemies can be our literal enemies; or we can find ourselves at odds with those we call brother, sister, or family. Praying for those close to us who have hurt us can pose an even greater challenge than praying for the enemy we barely know. 

God will dispense justice. That is his right, his job so to speak; not ours.

And so God calls us to a higher place, to pray for our offenders, to pray for those who do wrong. But what do we pray. Dare we lift up our enemies and ask God to strengthen them? Do we go so far as to ask the Lord of righteousness and justice to refresh the spirit of the one who has hurt us? Do we call down encouragement from heaven on the one who has hurt our heart or th…
I once saw a cartoon of a man sitting alone in a large meeting hall. He was attending a conference for families without dysfunction. This cartoon struck me funny because every family has its dysfunction, even if we are unwilling to admit it! And if dysfunction exists in our families, it certainly exists in our churches. But we sure are good at covering up our dysfunctions, aren't we?

Jesus stands against the art of the cover-up. The truth speaks for itself and is more powerful than a good sell or a carefully woven story. It is not in our nature to be transparent. Our original parents certainly showed this in the story of the garden. We've been taught to cover our issues up, white-wash them, speak a multitude of positive words, and then try to appear as we should appear. 

In one of Paul's letters to the Corinthians, he used the human body as an analogy of the church. Our bodies function well at times, and at times they ache, they slow and they fail. As I grow older, the yard-…
All of us have a longing to belong; to be a part of something. Rejection can be one of the most painful experiences that we face. No man is an island. We were all made for community. On the opposite side of the cry for belonging is the assertion that we don't need anyone. How many lovers' paradises have ended with the words, "I don't need you! I don't need anyone!" Rejection and independence.

When God set up His church, His body, He eradicated those words. He created an organism, not an organization; a living, interconnected being. At the head of this body, this church, is Jesus Christ, the One who said that He would reject no one that came to Him and who voiced His need for His friends in the hour of His darkness at the garden of desperation. 

We need one another and we belong to one another - as the church.

Paul gave instruction to the Corinthian church, a church with many traits similar to the church of today in the United States. Strong thinkers who place gr…
Lord, give me the heart of a child.

Jesus thanked God for those that were children at heart, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children" There is something lacking in the wisdom that years of living bring. I'm not speaking to godly wisdom formed in the gray-haired, I'm referring to the wisdom who's origin is earthly.

As children, we come out of the gate with trust in our hearts; we don't really have a choice, do we? We need to trust those who care for us and raise us. We can't achieve that on our own. As children we are trained to trust, and that trust lingers. For some, the untainted, it may linger for many years, even into the teens. For others, the broken and disillusioned, it fades early on. We learn love by what life hands us; imperfect people dishing out hurt, falling short of what should be. We've all fallen prey to it, and we've all pl…
Ready for Battle

The gospel is a gospel of peace. It is the good news that we are righteous, not because of our own inherent goodness or deeds, but because of His righteousness.

Christ died for sins; once for all. The scripture says we are the righteousness of God in Christ. And the righteous are as bold as a lion. Our faith is not in how righteous we are within ourselves; that is, at best, inconsistent. We have good days and we have not so good days. We have seasons of immense victory and we have times of intense struggle and failure. In the good and in the bad, we must find his grace to be sufficient.

The gospel of peace brings a readiness; a position we live out of where we are ready for action, ready to take on the service God has called us to. And we are able to do this, not because we are bold within our own righteousness, but because we are bold and confident in our righteousness in Him.

We say that those who are members of the armed forces are in the service. They are taught and t…
Once Separated
Have you seen the movie, Oh God? It’s about a grocery store manager who has an encounter with God. The Almighty (played by the 90 year old, cigar smoking George Burns) appears to Jerry (played by John Denver) many times throughout the movie; in a car, in the shower, over the radio. The experience is rather unnerving for Jerry and the reactions of others to his run in with God are varied, as expected.
I have conversations with God in my car. I haven’t seen Him, I haven’t heard an audible voice, and I haven’t smelled cigar smoke, but I know it is God speaking to me, because what He has said, what He has spoken to my heart, has come to pass.
I believe God wants to speak to each of us today.
Several weeks ago I was on my way to work and God spoke to me in the form of a question. And the question came with the answer embedded in it, like the music on the radio is embedded in the radio signal. His question was, “Do your sins cause a separation between you and God?” How would you…
Debt Free
There’s a comical variation of the song “Heigh Ho” from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs that some of us have sung (as we’ve headed off to that dreaded job). It goes, “I owe, I owe, it’s off to work I go.” We sure do owe, don’t we? We owe the electric company, the gas company, the bank, and some of us, the credit cards. Oh the dreaded credit cards. Why aren’t they called debt cards, or better yet slavery identification cards?
Debt is a burden, a heavy chain, all of us know in one form or another.
The bible says that love keeps no record of wrongs. It is speaking to the list of debts owed you by an offender. We’ve all been offended and it’s hard not to keep a record of that offense. The neighbor’s dog that does his business in your flower bed. The boss at work that makes it difficult to enjoy any time off. The unfaithful spouse. We’ve all suffered resentment.
The heart is hurt, the heart breaks, the list is added to. Be careful! Look at the list and check it twice before you ente…
The Great Opportunity
We have opportunity every day to show love to someone. Each day we have the opportunity to forgive a wrong done, or show kindness to someone having a bad day. Throughout our day we find occasion to extend patience in traffic or at work. We will have the chance, if we dare see it, to show humility and lay aside any high opinions we have of ourselves.
Our lives are filled with chances to lay aside our selfish ambitions and consider others before ourselves; to display serenity when provoked, confronted, or challenged. With strangers, with family, day in and day out, in the amazing and in the mundane, love is what matters most.
Impressive church buildings filled with well marketed programs and motivational rhetoric that stirs emotions wildly do not define or exalt Christ and who He is. Love in action brings the reality of the kingdom of God to this earth. You may never travel to another country as a missionary, but you can show kindness to a family member. You may neve…
Words that Cut
In his play, The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare pens, “If you prick us, do we not bleed?” These words scripted for Shylock, a Jew, were spoken by him to bring a point. We all suffer when inflicted by pain. None of us are immune; all of us suffer in like manner. And nothing can cause more pain than words.

Words spoken carelessly. Words spoken in anger. Words spoken in fear, in revenge. Words form a weapon each of us carry. They can build up, they can tear down. They can start wars and they can start love. No license is required to carry this weapon, yet it can be one of the most deadly in the human arsenal. Their effect can be lifelong and devastating.
Words can cut deep.
All of us are made in the image of God. We are not God, we are not perfect. But we’ve all been created after His image. When God condemns murder, the shedding of blood (even before the ten commandments), the reason He gives is that the victim has been created in His image. All of us bear His likene…
Tipping the Scales
How much good must a man do to tip the scales in his favor? Is heaven a reward for those who labor or for those who believe? Maybe it’s a combination of both? Believe a little, do some good, and you’re in. Or is it automatic? Is admission to heaven unqualified? Or maybe it’s based on what you don’t do. Don’t murder, don’t swear, and you’re there.
One thing I can assure you of, Scripture doesn’t want us doubting as to where we are going to spend forever. God has made it purposefully clear in the bible; if we’ll take the time to look.
There is a story of a young man, a rich ruler, who came to Jesus asking the very question that I’m asking here, what shall I do to get into heaven? This young man already had a pretty solid idea (at least in his opinion) of how he would achieve eternal life. Jesus’ interaction with this young man shows us what will not get us past the so called pearly gates. Stature and deeds will never be enough.
Are you saying I’m not good enough? Jesus s…
What is Your Default?
Most of us have a comfort zone, that place where our life feels safe, in balance, in control. This is the place where we come to rest and feel most normal. Even in physics a comfort zone of sorts is referred to; as Newton observed, an object at rest stays at rest. We can be like that. We all have our go to’s. I like my spot on the couch; and I don’t like when I’m ready to kick back for the evening and someone is sitting there!
In life we have our go to’s as well. I’m talking about the things that go beyond a favorite pair of slippers or the meal we always order at our favorite restaurant. I’m speaking about the defaults we tend to in our life when we are faced with things like speaking in front of people, going on that missions trip, pursuing an education at night school, or making that financial investment. These are the things that require us to move out of what is comfortable to us and move into what we see as risk.
Interestingly, Newton’s first law of motion a…
I just returned from a trip to Haiti where I led a team of short term missionaries on a one week missions trip to one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere. I had my ideas and plans of how this trip would play out, but I held on to them loosely, knowing God would do the unexpected. Sometimes the hardest thing for us can be to go off script; to deviate from our best laid plans. In Haiti it is not uncommon for plans to fall through and things to change.

But God moves powerfully in the unexpected.
I had strategies and formulated notions in place for what I was going to do in this country that shares an island with the Dominican Republic. And I was prepared accordingly. There is nothing wrong with being ready; with being a prepared person. But the investment we make in our readiness, in our preparation, must never take front seat to what God has planned behind the scenes. If our plans become more important than His moving and direction then we're in danger of idol…