Archive for October, 2015

Parade of Glory

New Day, October 29, 2015

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water,     that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

We are in an in-between time, when fall has peaked out from the shadows and winter will boldly make its forces known. Lessons and encouragement abound. With a slight coolness setting in, I stood in my back yard for a few minutes before sunset last night, while courageous breezes swirled, sunbeams pierced through thinning trees, and burnt orange, blushing red, and vivid yellow leaves competed for position in a floating parade of glory.

The cloudy sky this morning cannot take away from the soul-invigorating experience of last evening. The leaves, especially, called me to Jeremiah, where he wrote to a rebellious people to be like leaves that are always green. The prophet used creation to provide a simple map for navigating difficult times and gray mornings: Trust God for our days and future. What does faith look like (Jeremiah said it twice)? Don’t be anxious and cultivate the garden God appointed for us now.

Father, cause me to not forget yesterday’s exquisite sunset or the prophet’s counsel today.

A New Prescription

New Day, October 26, 2015

“Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place, that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it?”    Job 38:12-13

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see,” noted Henry David Thoreau. This morning I looked outside for the dawn only to find gray and rain. Happy Fall?

But God commanded this exact morning and caused this precise dawn.

Father, help me to see what the Apostle Paul did, what he wanted the Philippians to see in his absence, and what is not easy to realize in the gray and rain: “…for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Lord, I don’t want to be unknowing and unseeing like the wicked. I need You to help me to be wise to Your ways and presence.

Now that I’ve said it, Father, Thank You very much for the dawn.


“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” Hebrews 11:13

What do you say when someone asks: Where are you from? This week’s column is dedicated to all those who look forward to going home.

Please forgive me: I didn’t grow up here. By “here” I mean where I live and write from—Tennessee. When asked, I make a joke that I’ve lived in many places and I am a gypsy. Why ‘gypsy’? In a series of unforeseen moves I was hatched in Washington, D.C., went to first grade in Maryland, lived in Florida twice, paid lots of taxes in Oregon, and now live in Tennessee. I could include military time in Texas and North Carolina while in the military. Cheryl keeps a bag packed.

I recently went to the Tennessee Titans vs. Miami Dolphins football game in Nashville—and had a sunburn to prove it. The game powerfully illustrated the principle: Nothing on earth is really home—my home is really where Jesus is. At first, I wasn’t sure who to cheer for. Miami was where I grew up, met my bride, and we had our first child. I cherished the Everglades. But then, Tennessee has been home for fifteen years. I prayed (really) that I could live here someday. We have wonderful friends, a good church, the Tennessee River I love, and we are near family.

Listen in to some hometown talk in Hebrews 11:13-16: “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.”

There so many vital, strategic principles in our passage: God’s heroes are sustained by “faith,” God has “promised” a better place, God lets us “desire” this better place and time, God approves of us and “is not ashamed” of us as we walk by faith, and, God has “prepared” for us an even better place than Tennessee. Earth life is centered on me; heaven-bound life is about God.

Jeff Gordon, the NASCAR champion, is retiring this year. He has said, “I am proud of my accomplishments but looking forward to the future.” He is focused on what’s ahead, not the past.

Yes, I was confused who I should cheer for last week in Nashville. But an immeasurable reality and joy surfaced by the end of the game: Miami is past; Tennessee is home now.

For a while.

Goodbye Jericho

“Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who have pleasure in them” Psalm 111:2

This column is dedicated to all who love animals but love Christ more.

Jericho died last week. Darn. The majority of his life he lived with our daughter but he made a deep imprint on all our family. In his memory, I am submitting the following column (revised) I wrote years ago.

He’s only been in trouble once. That was the time he devoured my wife’s holiday slippers. Turned into a slobbery colander, those warm respites from winter’s cold no longer supported vegetables or feet.

Jericho is our first dog, and was a present for our daughter’s nineteenth birthday. We are a little slow at our house. Do consider getting a dog if you don’t have one—and don’t worry too much about the carpet or slippers.

Jericho has smitten all our in-house and extended family. One excursion into the den of iniquity hasn’t diminished his acceptance. Systematically, one after another, we have embraced our canine kin. Even the owner of the slippers has been caught slipping food to him at inappropriate times…

His black, wet nose presses into our lap and begs for affection (and treats). He snuggles with us on the floor. Like helicopter blades at full throttle, Jericho dangerously wags his tail when we come home as if we’ve returned from war. He scores high as the companion dogs are supposed to be.

Of course, loyalty is supposed to be a gift from man’s best friend but this may be in question, since Jericho seems to gravitate to the one who fed him last. The fact that he listens well and never talks back helps our family to overlook this one character flaw.

I am enamored with a dog and can’t imagine my world without him. Is our dog an appropriate delight? What does God think about animals?

Many animals serve creation’s purposes as we appropriately use them and have dominion over them. Animals often illustrate powerful truths, e.g., sheep (salvation) and goats (judgment). Interestingly, Jesus elevates them in importance, saying they remind us of God’s care (“Look at the birds of the air…”). And we dare not forget that Jesus Himself is the “Lion of Judah” and “Lamb of God.” Remember the household dog in Mark 7:27-28? Here the canine family companion is used illustratively in the healing of a daughter and the mother’s faith journey.

Of course, animals aren’t nearly as valuable as God’s highest creation—you—me! Here’s what strikes me the most: In light of these positive biblical purposes, animals are extraordinary gifts and reminders of the one Lamb of God! “All creation is made by Him and is for Him,” notes Colossians, and “Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who have pleasure in them.” Wonderfully, all creation and creatures point us to Jesus Christ our Creator and Savior.

These days, the slobbery slippers and vet bills are worth it!

The Herald-News, October 21, 2015

Stay in School

I am catching up on posting columns published by the Rhea Herald-News. Hopefully, they will each stand alone. But there may be some sequence issues.

“Walk in a manner pleasing to him.” Colossians 1:10

Last week I introduced the prayer in Colossians 1:9-14, saying: “As Paul prays, he gives wonderful pictures of a life that is pleasing to God and the gifts of God to encourage and motivate us as we walk with Christ.”

Paul prays for the Colossians to fully grow in the will of God. Such a life is walking with God—a life that is “fully pleasing to him,” showing itself to have four manifestations. That’s today’s emphasis—and there’s a surprising twist.

First, Paul prays they would be “bearing fruit in every good work” (1:10). So, what are the good works God is leading you to walk in (Cf. Ephesians 2:10)? To answer, insert what Scripture says about the importance of the church in our lives, spiritual gifting, making disciples, and living out the gospel every day right where you are.

Second, he prays for active growth in intimacy with Christ (1:10). A favorite commentary on this for me is Philippians 3:7-10, where Paul emphatically states everything is nothing—“dung”—to the stellar value of knowing Christ. Like a great marriage, closeness grows as the relationship is cherished. Cheryl and I, for instance, have Friday night dates. What if the value of intimacy with Christ were measured by the time we set aside with Him?

The third demonstration of walking in the will of God is God’s power at work in us. Paul seems to have in mind the tests of faith—suffering, etc. The “glorious might” of God in us causes us to be strengthened, to be patient, and brings us joy (1:11). I don’t prefer it, but the hard things and hard times are a primary way God grows us up. Still.

The last result of the will of God at work in us is we worship—“giving thanks to the Father.” Like the first three, this is an ongoing experience. Have you noticed how often Scripture calls us to a lifestyle of gratefulness to God?

Here’s the twist: Good works and continual thanksgiving are active action words (verbs)—we are directly engaged in them. But the growth in intimacy with Christ and the power of God at work in us are passive action words, i.e., we participate in what God initiates. How great it is that God desires to partner with us to make us more like Christ.

What circumstance is God’s will for you right now—where you can grow, “walk” with Christ, and please Him? These things take intentionality. Like my grandson…

I am still recovering from lunch with four hundred fourth graders last Friday for Grandparent’s Day. My grandson has an amazing teacher in a fine school. Yet each night Wilder prepares for school the next day, each morning he gets on the bus, and daily he goes to a school and a very packed room of fourth graders. I couldn’t be prouder.

May we stay in the Colossae school of walking in the will of God.

The Herald-News, September 16, 2015

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