Friday, December 30, 2011

the promise keeper

We are not used to living in a world where people keep their least not all the people...all the time.  We don't even keep our promises to ourselves.  As we launch into a New Year this weekend millions will make promises to themselves about losing weight and changing habit patterns but millions will not follow through to keep those promises.  Business deals are based on promises, often formalized by contracts, but they are often broken for a variety of reasons.  Marriages all start with a promise for a lifetime partnership...but many marriages crumble despite the promise.  We don't seem to always have the strength, courage or integrity to keep our promises.  In a sense we are conditioned to this and we build skepticism into our world view.  But there is One who absolutely keeps His promises.  There isn't a promise that God has made that He hasn't fulfilled (or is in the process of fulfilling).  We need a God who can be relied on because we cannot rely on ourselves, or each other, or society as a whole.  It just isn't in our nature to reliably complete what we start...In fact we don't even know what or where to start anyhow.  But God is the one who starts and who finishes.  He has started each of our lives and only He can bring our lives to the proper finish.  So, one daily resolution we might try to make this coming year is to acknowledge that we don't know what promises to keep and we don't know how to keep our we will bow before the One whose promises are always kept.   

Let's look for His promises as we walk with Him and build our actions on the basis of His commitments to us and through us!

1 John 2:24 Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life.

Monday, December 26, 2011

the importance of others

2 Corinthians 1: 13b Now I trust you will understand, even to the end 14 (as also you have understood us in part), that we are your boast as you also are ours, in the day of the Lord Jesus.

In the day when we stand before the Lord Jesus to personally review our lives, I believe that many things we hold dear now will evaporate like mist.  But what will remain is the investment and impact our lives have had on the lives of others who will also stand before the Lord.  It is all the "others" in our lives here that make life incredibly precious.  And it is in the nature of our interaction with others that we find our highest purpose, our greatest calling and our most enduring worth.  As others come to a knowledge of Jesus and find His reflection in our lives they have opportunity to turn to Him and return to him and find that Heaven awaits and eternity beckons.  Our lives matter here and now as we have opportunity to reach out to others for eternity.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas gift

What will I give you, Lord Jesus?
to You who gave all to me...

Heaven declared its love for the world
When you humbly came to the scene.

No longer two; for You have made one
and life is found in your name.

Wandering astray...far far away
You have brought sheep to the fold.

You said you would come and that's what you've done
Now Heaven's forever my home.

What will I give you, Lord Jesus?
As we celebrate Christmas Day.

I'll give you myself, as you did for me
Thank you for coming this way.

John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

only a man...only the Lord

1 Corinthians 15: 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.

We've been walking through the epistle of 1 Corinthians in the Mini Bible College study and recently reviewed the great "resurrection" chapter (Chapter 15).  The heart of the Gospel message is clearly shown in this passage as the apostle Paul answers the concerns of some about whether the dead really are raised to life.  One aspect that grabbed my attention this morning, as I reflected on resurrection, was that only a man needs to be resurrected, because only a man can die.  Ever since Adam, we have all experienced a natural birth followed by a natural death...but God really intended for life to be eternal.  His solution was to become a man, Himself, so that He would be capable of death also.  But only God can raise the dead to life because God is the inventor of life.  Only a man can die...and only God can raise to life again.  Now here's the really interesting part: Only a man can believe that this is possible through faith...and through believing his eternal life begins even before he dies.  God doesn't need faith...the angels don't need faith...Satan has rejected this reality...but fragile, vulnerable, flawed man who is traveling in this temporary bag of bones and flesh has the unique opportunity of experiencing death and resurrection.  Our train got derailed back there with Adam but God placed the wheels back on the tracks when Jesus came, died and was raised to life again.  Over 500 people saw Jesus after he was raised, according to Paul.  

Only a man can die...only a man can be resurrected...only a man can believe that God came as a man to do both for us!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Word

The Word is how it started,
How God created Man.

The power was expressed by Him,
and all we see began.

A Plan came into being,
When spoken from His mouth.

Atomic structure, hills and plains
Rabbits, iron and trees...

His Word made all appear it seems,
We know His Word is truth!

His Word came as a babe one day,
and grew to be a Man.

To walk with those His Word had made,
A rescue of that Plan!

And now we find Him through His Word,
The One who spoke's still giving.

And through that Word we know we're known
Eternal life we're living!

1 Thessalonians 2:13 For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Three wonders

Little did I know, when I fell for a pretty farm girl in Southwestern Michigan that the joy of knowing her would lead to the three wonders we have had as children.  The first wonder was expected when I was still in the Navy and represented the pride of having a child for the first time...quickly followed by the amazing realization that my wife seemed to know everything about how to take care of this vulnerable infant when I knew virtually nothing.  The second wonder showed up about two years later and we wondered if we'd have a boy to go with the girl and found our second girl to be equally beautiful while amazingly different even from the outset than her sister.  The third wonder took a little longer to make her appearance and this turned out to be her tendency in later years, when she'd take a little longer to get out of bed and down for school.  Well the story unfolded and the wonder of a family played out and now these three girls are just about through the hurdles of school and finding a job and finding their own partners to walk through the wonders together.  

Now we get to experience the wonders of children having children and the greater joy of seeing our adult children walk with Jesus on a daily basis...trusting Him, leaning on Him, sharing Him with their children and friends.  I guess it's all wrapped up in the Wonder of His wonderful is that?!

Psalm 107:8 Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness,
         And for His wonderful works to the children of men! 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

deep country

This morning I went for a drive through some back roads.   You wonder, as you follow the curves of these narrow roads, about why the roads have so many bends and twists and then you realize that today's roads were built on yesterday's paths, which wound around farms and family property and negotiated hills and ravines.  These country roads are a truer picture of our lives than the interstate highway, which can stretch for miles with barely a change in elevation or turn.  Life is like a country road, with hidden twists and sudden drops and you are always close to the woods and to the lives of others on the road and by the embracing roadside.  As I rounded a bend in the road today I found an old church nestled in the angle of the road's curve.  It was a simple frame building, and there was no sign proclaiming a denomination.  But you could tell it was a church from the windows, which were stained in translucent color and each window had triangular panes pointing up at the top.  You could also tell it was a church from the gravestones out back, with family clusters of parents and children who have lived and died in this church family for the past century and a half.  There was no parking lot for this church so folks must still walk here from nearby places, or line the narrow road for parking.  Deep in the country there is no need to impress...there is only the basic need to connect with one another and with almighty God.  He meets folks on their windy roads in a simple and sincere greeting and speaks truth from His house.  They find comfort with Him and with His children and, one day, they are content to lay down at His feet in the ground outside His doors, confident that they will wake up next to Him.  We find ourselves as we travel down deep country roads.

Judges 5:5 The mountains quaked in the presence of the Lord,
      the God of Mount Sinai—
   in the presence of the Lord,
      the God of Israel.
 6 "In the days of Shamgar son of Anath,
      and in the days of Jael,
   people avoided the main roads,
      and travelers stayed on winding pathways. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

unconditional love

A parent just naturally loves his child without condition.  The very idea that God would permit the privilege of bringing new life into the world, through your own life, shows how much God loves us.  But, along the way, we often come to think that we must earn love from others and if we don't get it we are not only unloved by them...we are unable to love ourselves.  I believe this is the basis for much unhappiness and insecurity.  All of life and life's experience is a wonder...a mystery...a miraculous event that we neither asked for, nor can explain.  We can try to fill our days with self-made purpose but we cannot address the wonder, solve the mystery or explain the miracle of life without coming back to the Source of all life.  And we hesitate to do that because we feel unworthy, unholy and unloved.  The good news of the Gospel is that our Maker loves us just because we are His.  His love comes to us with only one condition.  That condition is that we accept the unconditional love and sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf.  It is true that we are unworthy and unholy but it is untrue that we are unloved.  You are greatly loved and highly prized.  The whole Bible story was crafted to reach you with this message of heavenly embrace.  One word of caution: just as you cannot earn this love from the Lord, so you cannot lose it by failure.  You are just going to have to get used to the fact that you are loved...just are His!

1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

rich sound

The Christmas concert at the Chapel has been glorious with the range of music from children's voices sweetly singing of the sincere simplicity of the Savior to the grandeur of God and His great plan for redemption and restoration that would be fulfilled through Emmanuel.  One favorite song for me was the spiritual, "Sweet Little Jesus Boy".  It featured a solo by Kaare Loftheim, accompanied by the choir and violinist, Carolyn Kluge.  I have known Kaare for some time and he has much experience in Colonial Williamsburg as a skilled woodworker.  He has a rich and warm baritone voice and the tones that came as he sang were mellow, like the sound you might imagine coming from a fine recording being played through a hand crafted music box fashioned meticulously by a woodworker and crafted in a blend of soft and hardwood.   The song is really about all of us who have found somewhere down life's road that we didn't recognize Jesus properly at first.  We had mistakenly thought He was a baby in a manger scene in a far off place and now we know that He is the Lord come down from Heaven to save us and to know us personally.  Kaare's voice, at once strong and rich while also measured and soft, was an apt picture of the grace and strength and patience of Jesus.  He came as a babe because He came to share our experience and we are reminded that we also need a fresh birth to see Him... as He was... and as He is.

"Sweet little Jesus boy,
Born long time ago,
Sweet little Holy Child,
We didn't know who You was."

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Silent Light

My new friend, Paul Copeland, is almost totally deaf and has been his entire life.  But he has amazing skills at lip reading and the intelligence of an engineer.  He has effectively "solved" many of the problems of communication and as long as you are facing him as you speak there is no problem with conversation.  Paul is also gifted in the area of creative lighting for dramatic productions.  He has done this for church and dramatic presentations at his previous church in Ohio and this year he is serving our church for our Christmas concert series (Paul and Cindy now attend the Chapel).  Paul and the team of  technology people at church spent hours setting up lights and the sophisticated systems to program and "cue" them and the results have been stunning.  Shades of color from every hue are coordinated to match the mood and spirit of each song as the lights wash the background and focus on the choirs and center-stage speakers.   Cf course Paul cannot hear the music and so he watches for other signals, such as director Ted Cornell's hands, to indicate the next song or stage of the program.  Paul explained to me that, because he cannot hear the music of the concerts, the lights represent much of the beauty of a Christmas program.  It is in the subtle variations of light the Paul finds the worship experience.  He multiplies the importance of vision to replace the absent sound.  He finds the Lord in the silent light.

Acts 12:7 Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, "Arise quickly!" And his chains fell off his hands.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

vertical alignment

It occurred to me on a recent walk that when it comes to spiritual exercise we do not need a "well rounded" workout.  If we're talking about physical exercise we probably should work all the muscle groups, including that most important muscle- the heart.  We may tend to repeat the same kinds of exercise because they are the most enjoyable or the most convenient but we need discipline to balance out the effort.  But when it comes to spiritual exercise we need a different kind of discipline...the discipline to keep looking and listening in the vertical dimension.   I think we need to "overwork" the vertical through prayer, praise, meditation on the Word and thoughts of God because the horizontal dimension of living our our days tends to sweep us away.  The stronger our pillar of relationship with God...and the more vital and real He has become...the less we are drawn astray, aside and away from abundant living.  That's one of the reminders I get each morning as I walk the forest trail near my home because virtually all the trees surrounding me are faithful to point upward, as they align to the sun.  As my thoughts align with those trees and I point vertically also, I am realigned with the One who can keep me from all the sideways forces that seek to knock me off the trail.

Philippians 3:13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

across the table

Sometimes it enhances the worship experience to visit a different church than your home church.  We attended church with Courtney and Ben this past Sunday and enjoyed a lovely Communion Service with them.  As we participated I listened to the familiar words from scripture that relayed Christ's intention for us to remember Him through the bread and wine.  Suddenly my thoughts transferred from the wonderful meaning of the broken body and shed blood represented by the elements to Christ, Himself, and I realized that I was sitting across the table from Him and He was distributing the bread and wine to me.  I thought about the truth that I now sit daily at the same table as my Savior.  We share meals...we share the daily walk of living...we share all of life in this personal way.  Because I have received Christ as my Savior, I have received the body and blood just like a person receives food to eat and the result is that the Savior and I are united.  He is in me and I am in Him...
And Jesus is always across the table from me, passing the bread and wine each and every day.  I am glad to share this table and my Savior with you.

Luke 22: 27 For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves. 
28 "But you are those who have continued with Me in My trials.29 And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, 30 that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel."

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

the river

We visited our daughter, Courtney, and her husband, Ben, this past weekend.  They live in the western suburbs of Philadelphia.  While there I expressed an interest in going for a walk for exercise and they suggested that I walk part of an old river trail.  I found myself walking for a few miles beside a powerful river, called the Schuylkill.  This odd name is Dutch and apparently means something like "hidden river".  As I walked beside the water it seemed anything but hidden to me.  It looked to be about 3 or 4 football fields in width and had an impressive current of several miles per hour.  All this water was rushing towards Philadelphia where it would ultimately pour into the Delaware River and on into the ocean. It averages about 5,000 cubic feet of water per second as it empties into the Delaware.  Day in and day out the water flows.  Where does it come from?  The river is 135 miles long and is fed by many mountain streams and other sources along the way.  Over its recent lifetime, the river was the site of revolutionary war battles, the industrial revolution and transportation by canal and train.  But...all that water!  I thought about all the source of the water...the raindrops that dripped off rocks and rooftops and rain off to streams to feed into smaller rivers and eventually fuel this huge river.  The river seemed like a living thing, with its rush and its sound, as it broke over rows of rock here and there.  I thought about the river of life that is the Lord living in you and me.  His power and presence are coursing through our lives with a vitality like the "hidden river".  He is not standing still and His power starts with raindrops of faith that build to streams of trust and ultimately become an ongoing river flow that courses through and also carries us.  This powerful river of God will ultimately empty into Heaven's eternity and we are riding this river carried safely in a boat named "Jesus" and a river guide we know as "Holy Spirit".

Revelation 22:1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city.

Monday, November 28, 2011

angels and shepherds

Luke 2:8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.

17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.

We are very much like the shepherds.  We stand on our hillsides tending the sheep in our lives as we move from day to day.  At a certain point the Lord breaks into our reality with an amazing announcement that He has brought His Son into the world and we can see Him and know Him.  Like the shepherds we leave our hillside and find that Jesus has indeed come, just as promised.  We see faith grow into trust and then we are changed.  We tell others of this great truth and when we return to our hillsides and our sheep we have a new song of praise, for now we know that God keeps His promises to men and that God loves all of us as we stand on remote hills.  We will never be alone and we will never be apart from Him again.

Friday, November 25, 2011

pond soup

I eased my kayak into the local pond this morning as the night mist still lingered over the surface and the water was still, apart from my noisy invasion.  As I pushed away from the sandy edge, with a muffled scraping sound I found the kayak gliding almost as if the pond were coated with Teflon....smooth and easy.  All was still, except for a few chirping birds in the surrounding woods and the oars became like spoons that dipped into pond soup to savor a meal of peace on the water.   A great blue heron allowed me to come fairly close and watch as he speared a fish for breakfast.  Then he lifted off and gracefully crossed the pond to a more private spot, never flying more than five feet above the water.  I was glad to have a time without a set purpose or deadline or responsibility.   It was time just to blend into the handiwork of God and join His creatures and creation on the pond of peace.

Genesis 1:21 So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that scurries and swarms in the water, and every sort of bird—each producing offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Ezra 3:11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD: 
      "For He is good, 
      For His mercy endures forever toward Israel."
   Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.

I found 108 references to "thanks" in the Bible (including "thanksgiving").  There is something so healthy and right about pausing, reflecting, and then forming and expressing thanks to God.  Just consider the list of things to be thankful for: (1) life, itself (2) new life in Christ, (3) wives-husbands-mothers-fathers-sisters-brothers-children, (4) friends, (5) physical needs met, (6) spiritual needs met, (7) purpose for living, (8) trials to grow through, (9) trials that have been delivered from, (10) Heaven awaiting, (11) Heaven arriving, (12) Father-Son-Holy Spirit oversight, indwelling, guiding, revealing, (13) a legacy of hard won freedom, (14) those who guard freedom today.

The more I think about it, being thankful touches just about every aspect of living because God has a master plan that He is working out for good.  I am especially thankful that He has included and involved and inspired us as He unfolds that great plan.

Thanks to all who receive this and to everyone, everywhere.  Every life has inestimable worth!

It's a good day for Thanks-giving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

the other place with pews...

Yesterday I discovered the other place where people sit in pews and have a sense of awe and are drawn to prayer....the courtroom.  There seemed to be several parallels between church and the courtroom.  People were, for the most part, dressed in their Sunday best.  There was a central aisle and a focal point in front...not an altar but an imposing desk, behind a rail.  There was a solemnity in the air before proceedings began and there was a sense of anticipation and concern as folks waited their turn to face the judge.  It was certainly an atmosphere that was conducive to prayer because no one could know how the judge would rule.  It was traffic court and I was there to face a charge of reckless driving because my car had swerved off the road last month when I accelerated through a turn and I went through a fence and ended up next to a gas station (no one hurt thankfully).  My friend, and attorney, Tex and my wife, Shirley, accompanied me and when the judge called my name I joined Tex right in front of the judge, with the state trooper present who had written the citation.  Thankfully the judge listened to all the facts and reduced the charge and I gratefully paid the fine and left the tension of the court.  Those few minutes of waiting in the pew were some of the sincerest moments of worship I have had outside of church.  I suppose it was a good reminder that we do have a Judge and He is to be worshiped.  I am glad that, like Tex, I have a good advocate in Jesus because if I had to face the Judge when He called my name without the Savior by my side...there would be an altogether different outcome!

Revelation 20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

the perfect picture

Ephesians 5:31 As the Scriptures say, "A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one." 32This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.

We have been reviewing the book of 1 Corinthians in the Mini Bible College on Monday nights at the Chapel (come on out...7 pm in Room 206) and last night we talked about chapter 7, also known informally as the "The Marriage Manual".  The apostle Paul provides guidance about marriage and singlehood, marriage and divorce and maximizing the quality of marriage.  We also discussed how marriage is the perfect picture of the relationship we are intended to have with Christ.  One day there will be a "Marriage supper" or marriage celebration in Heaven as believers in Christ are recognized as His bride.  In the Old Testament God says in Hosea 2:19 " I will betroth you to Me forever; 
      Yes, I will betroth you to Me 
      In righteousness and justice, 
      In lovingkindness and mercy; 
       20 I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, 
      And you shall know the LORD. 

In the writings of Jeremiah, God confirms this kind of commitment despite His frustration with His people:(Chapter 3) 14 "Return, O backsliding children," says the LORD; "for I am married to you. I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion. 15 And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.

It is helpful to consider the qualities that make for a healthy marriage: intimacy, honesty, forgiveness, close communications, tenderness and love and realize that these are the qualities that also make for a healthy relationship with our Lord, as He is committed to having that kind of relationship with us.

Monday, November 21, 2011

the choir of Heaven and Earth

Revelation 19:1 After this, I heard what sounded like a vast crowd in heaven shouting,
   "Praise the Lord!
      Salvation and glory and power belong to our God.

There is a way for us to connect with Heaven even while we are still walking on Earth.  There is a Heavenly choir that continually praises God for His power and glory and salvation.  We are not yet directly in God's presence.  Like soldiers who are deployed to the front lines of a great war, we are still in the trenches and the foxholes and the battle lines of a conflict that rages over this Creation.  But we experience all the great qualities and realities of the God of Heaven.  In the midst of trials and stumbling and through the limitations of these natural bodies we have known His presence and His deliverance and His salvation.  And so, like the Heavenly choir, made of saints who have passed to Heaven and of angels who always surround the throne we share the very same song of worship.  How wonderful that we can be one with those who walk directly before God in Heaven as we acknowledge Him now for all He is.  For He is the God who has ruled from the the Now of today and in the future of all tomorrows!  I hope you will join this choir of praise!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

a leaf, a life

Strolling through the crisp November morning air I saw that most of the leaves are gone from the hardwood trees and the woods have a pungent, familiar smell from the new carpet of brown leaves that used to form a green canopy above.  I traced the path of one leaf as it descended from high above, gently circling and then settling on the path just ahead.  The thought I had was, "Every leaf falls just once, just as every leaf has had one unique life, perched on one branch, situated on one tree, for one brief season of living".  We are something like leaves.  The Lord has placed us in a particular spot in time, in a certain family situation, located in a particular geographical place, with certain life giving qualities and gifts.  For a season we are perched in our location and, like the leaf, we can convert the light of a bright Son with the elements of our surroundings to foster life and health.  After the leaf falls to earth and the tree appears bare it may seem that there is no visible life, but the life produced in the leaves during the summer continues in the tree trunk during the winter.  And though the leaf that is our life will fade and fall, the life is not contained solely in the leaf and the tree of life still thrives.

Revelation 22:2 It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

overwhelm me

Overwhelm me Lord with your reality...
Fill my heart with you so all I feel is thee...

Permeate my intellect with thoughts from Jesus' mind...
Stir my curiosity to seek the truth and find...

Deepen my emotion well to feel your heart for all...
Surround me with your presence; remind me how I'm small..

Make me hungry for your words and thirsty for your drink...
Shine your light to make me know; my thoughts on you to think...

And overwhelm me Lord this day in every way you can...
Knowing you is why I live and life comes from your hand... 
Job 19:27 I will see him for myself.
      Yes, I will see him with my own eyes.
      I am overwhelmed at the thought!

Friday, November 18, 2011

warmth and winter

Frost coats the leaves and grass of our yards this morning.  Our furnaces are running and our homes have patches of chill mixed with warmth as the cold season is descending on us.  In Virginia the coming season always shows up first in "previews" before settling in for a three month stay.  We've been enjoying last vestiges of summer, as well, with mild temperatures as the previous season has reluctantly departed.  But there is a special quality to cold weather, frost, ice, snow and frigid blasts of air from arctic areas far away...It draws us to appreciate deep, penetrating warmth.  The hearth and fireplace, a mug of hot chocolate or coffee and the experience of "being warmed" from the outside in and the inside out carry satisfactions only made possible by first being cold.  The frost outside today reminds me that we start from a place of cold. shivering isolation in life.  Even if we have known love from family and others...we start our lives outside the direct warmth of our Creator.  It's as though we stand in the frosty yard of the Lord and peer through windows to behold the lights and hearth of His great palace.  At a certain point, like a doorman of the Lord, Jesus has opened the great door and beckoned us to come in.  We entered and found warmth that embraced us just as He delivered us from the icy isolation of sin.  
The cold of winter finds its antidote in the warm places that draw us near.  The frost of sin and separation quickly thaw in the presence of the Lord of love.

Zechariah 14:8 On that day life-giving waters will flow out from Jerusalem, half toward theDead Sea and half toward the Mediterranean,flowing continuously in both summer and winter.
 9 And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day there will be one Lord—his name alone will be worshiped.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

disaster in a dream

I stayed up a little late last night and knew that getting up this morning might be a little late too...As a result there was no time for a walk in the woods.  Instead I had a long dream about a disaster in my home.   We had a fire in our home and a lot of old friends were staying with us in the dream.  The fire was a different kind of fire because we knew during the day that it would be coming that night.  The many friends in our house tried to get ready for the fire.  We had hoses laid out and ladders placed up against the side of the house and tried to get organized to have a plan for evacuation when the fire came.  Sure enough the disaster struck and, for some reason, we didn't call the fire department...we tried to fight the fire ourselves.  Dreams are very strange, illogical, stories and I don't know how we got the fire stopped but, by morning in the dream the fire was out and we walked around trying to make sure that everyone survived.  Unfortunately I had two friends that were last seen on the roof of the house and I couldn't find them...and then I woke up!  The dream was over and reality returned and I was glad that there was no fire or loss of friends.  I couldn't help but think that one day a different fire is really coming that will test every home and every life.  Then the dream of this life will be over and we will awaken to eternity.  I am grateful that our hope for rescue is sure in Jesus for every storm in this life and the next!

1 Peter 1:6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

singing brook

There is a special spot, a low point on the gravel road I walk these mornings, where a brook passes under the road and feeds a creek beyond.  The creek winds eventually to a larger swamp and then joins Ware Creek which snakes a few miles to feed into the York River.  When I reach the brook each morning I feel like I'm visiting a friend because it is always talking, babbling, singing.  As the water rushes or meanders from one side to the other it seems excited about the trip that it is traveling and constantly happy to tell the world.  I don't think it realizes just how humble it is...a mere trickle of water compared to the great York River that it will eventually join.  Perhaps I identify with the brook.  Individually, we are little creeks and streams passing through woods and under roads and meandering through life.  But we are headed through swamps and we are bound for larger streams and we will eventually join the great river.  We have read about this great water and we are now convinced that we will one day be there.  And so we babble on in joy and anticipation.  Right now much of our view is only of the narrow banks that surround us or of towering trees that close in nearby.  But we have confidence of a future time when the sky will open up and the air will blow freely and the expanse will be grand.  And so, as we meander through this day and the next we are content to be a little creek, passing under a road, and babbling joyfully about things to come.

Psalm 110:7 But he himself will be refreshed from brooks along the way.
      He will be victorious.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

all for one...

Recently I watched the latest remake of The Three Musketeers movie.  I think I've seen at least three versions of this story and it never gets old to me.  I love the combination of good triumphing over evil, humor and the young learning from the wise veterans (D'Artagnan learning from Athos, Porthos and Aramis).  It's all captured in their motto: "All for one...One for all!"  I've been thinking a lot lately about the great resources we have in the Lord.  We have Father, Son and Holy Spirit in our lives as we face the evil that seeks to knock us off our feet.  In a sense we are each like the young D'Artagnan and we have come to the big city to find fame, fortune and honor.  But the first lesson we learn is that we are too weak to face our enemies in our own strength and our pride only gets in our way.  We need help and we need someone to watch our back and sides and to fight alongside us.  We need companions to walk with, learn from and enjoy life with.  And so, as we walk today into the big city as believers in Jesus Christ we are accompanied by Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  "All for one...One for all"  is our motto too!

1 Corinthians 3:21 Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours: 22whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come—all are yours. 23 And you are Christ's, and Christ is God's.

Monday, November 14, 2011


"All metals get harder when a smith hammers or bends them. This is called 'work-hardening'." (from Wikipedia online reference)

I was thinking about our "will" power.  We can direct our wills many different ways.  I think we often direct them to serve ourselves...we are naturally self-centered.  And I was thinking about the desire we have to see our wills shaped so that we willingly choose to set our minds, our motivations, our hearts on the Lord.  And I realized that an apt analogy for this life is found in the blacksmith's shop.  The Lord is the blacksmith and we are the raw iron.  He picks us up with mighty hands and heats us with fiery trials.  Once we are softened, He hammers with blows that come lovingly and skillfully, though there can be shock and pain and we are shaken.  He does this on the anvil of our days and through our circumstances.  Just as the iron only stays hot enough to be shaped for a short time, so these trials often are intense but brief periods.  But after the hammering and after the cool-down we are shaped a little more into the image of the Son.  He is faithful to continue the project throughout our days and we ultimately will recognize the Savior as we are conformed to Him.  

This morning I thanked the Lord for the free will He has given me but also thanked Him for the hammer, the heat and the anvil to shape this will to willingly choose Him...more and more!
Romans 8:9 But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) 10 And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. 11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


There is a place along the wooded path I visit these days where the roadway has been cut from a small hill.  It has left a cross section of ground where tall pines grow up from the surface and the roots are clearly visible in the excavated side of the hill.  Clearly visible are the roots running down into the clay from the trees above.  That which is normally invisible has been made visible.  The pine trees have large taproots running vertically downward several feet.  These roots are about half the thickness of the tree trunks above the surface.  I thought about the functions of the taproot.  It anchors the visible tree and permits it to grow tall and true despite the winds that blow and bend the trunk.  The tree trunks are flexible but would not be able to stand without an anchor.  Secondly, the taproot becomes a primary source of water and nutrients from the ground to feed the growing tree.  I thought about the Lord in our lives.  You might think of your life as the visible part of the tree...growing up and up above ground.  But we cannot stand against the wind and we cannot grow without the water and nutrition the Lord, Himself, provides.  He is our taproot...normally invisible and beneath the surface of our lives.  If you could see yourself in cross section, you would realize that God is working beneath the surface and He is holding you and He is feeding you and He is anchoring you.

Psalm 80:8 You have brought a vine out of Egypt;
         You have cast out the nations, and planted it.
 9 You prepared room for it,
         And caused it to take deep root, 
         And it filled the land.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


As I strolled the wooded path this brisk Saturday morning I was grateful for the indwelling presence of God.  The past few weeks have been challenging as I have wrestled with a driving accident where no one was hurt but my self image took some hits.  As a result I haven't been sleeping too well...turning thoughts over as I turned over in bed.  Life goes on, however, and with it all the responsibilities of functioning and performing a job.  One challenging morning, as I faced the day ahead, I remembered that the Lord lives within me.  He has said that "we have the mind of Christ" and "we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit".  I decided to rely on Him for all that needed to be done that day and He showed up!  Work was performed, ideas needed bubbled up from within, tasks to be accomplished got done and I realized that God truly is a "spring of life" welling up through our lives, as we allow Him.  The idea of a fountain ran through my mind this morning.  The word "fountain" comes from Latin words that mean "source or spring".  I thought of how, as the Lord pours His live in and through our lives, we become fountains.  Of course, He is the source and we can become the display of that living water as it courses through and jets up and out into a world that desperately needs to see proof that God lives and makes a difference in lives.

Psalm 36:8 You feed them from the abundance of your own house,
      letting them drink from your river of delights.
 9 For you are the fountain of life,
      the light by which we see.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

night reflections

We will turn our clocks back this weekend and gain a little more light for the morning.  But today at 6 am it was like night and the skies were further shrouded in clouds.  I tried walking down a local road through the woods but it was too dark to see the road and still muddy.  So I drove down to the local pond and carefully walked to the water's edge where enough light from distant houses bounced off the clouds and formed a night reflection on the pond.  I began talking with the Lord about the problem I was having with "getting past", or "getting over" the car accident I had last week.  It just seemed like I couldn't stop fixating on it and I asked for the Lord's help.  I climbed back into my truck and headed toward home.  Suddenly I saw the headlights of a semi-tractor trailer staring into mine as I approached the intersection with the muddy road I'd tried to walk earlier.  He was stopped and the young driver walked up to my truck.  He he had come down the wrong road and wanted to know if he could proceed ahead and turn around.  I explained that there was no way to turn around by the pond but that I could help guide him back into the small muddy road and turn around.  I was able to stand by the rear of the long trailer and help him with a few backing and turning adjustments and he was able to get out of a very sticky situation.  As he pulled off I realized that the Lord had met me on the road and provided a source of healing for my accident fixation.  Helping someone else was a great morning medicine to take!  Truly He sees, He hears and He is involved in every aspect of our lives!

Psalm 33:13 The LORD looks from heaven;
         He sees all the sons of men.
 14 From the place of His dwelling He looks
         On all the inhabitants of the earth;

Monday, October 31, 2011

looking down, looking up

Life is tough...Last week I had a car accident and, thankfully no one was hurt... but afterwards, and since then, I have replayed the situation many times in my mind to understand what happened.  I found myself looking back and then I realized that there may be some questions that never get answered about why the accident happened.  So I looked up and asked the Lord to help with perspective and then I realized that I needed to look down and bow before the situation, trusting in His sovereign will.  Then I remembered that the Lord weaves character development into all the situations of our lives...even when our circumstances are trying.  Then I looked up and thanked Him for the faithful love that will not rest until we are brought to maturity in Christ.  I see that there are times when I need to look down and bow before His sovereign and loving will (and judgement!) so that I can look up in gratitude and praise!

Romans 8:27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. 
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to beconformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

Friday, October 28, 2011

the secret

Colossians 1:26This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God's people. 27 For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.

The cold air this morning was a shock, at first, and then a refreshing lift.  Some problems and issues that I'd been wrestling with fell away as I lifted my heart and mind to the Lord.  I realized that problems, mistakes and issues will always be part of my life, but that there was a greater reality.  God has rescued me and transferred me to the Kingdom of His Son (verse 13)!  I love how Paul describes this as a mystery and a secret in the book of Colossians.  The incomparable truth that Christ lives in me was a fresh thought, like the brisk air around me, and I realized that the answer to my issues and problems lives in that secret.  Looking up to Him lifts me above to get a better view and see that He is with me in the midst of my problems and focusing on Him is always the solution.  This is a secret that we need to keep sharing!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

confident hope

Colossians 1: 4 For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God's people, 5which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. You have had this expectation ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News.

One of the most remarkable things to me about the new birth in Jesus is captured in the verses above from Colossians.  I hope that you have experienced the reality of placing your complete trust in Jesus and then experienced the "confident hope" that God has reserved your place in Heaven.  It seems important to Paul to begin with this reminder to the Colossians as he starts his letter to them.  So often important truths are repeated or restated to make sure we get the message.  In the very next verse Paul says 6 This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God's wonderful grace.
Notice the past tense of the two key verbs, "heard and understood".  Our lives are forever changed when this happens.
And here it is again, a little farther along in the same chapter: 12 always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. 13 For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, 14 who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.
Notice the past tense of the two verbs "rescued and transferred".  As we "heard and understood", He "rescued and transferred" us to the Kingdom of His "dear Son".

A great way to start a new life and a good reminder to start a new day!