Thursday, September 6, 2018


I’m tired. This past week I’ve just weezed my way through running every morning. I’m supposedly in great shape. I was doing speed work 8 days ago--no problem. I was running 10 miles in heat. No problem. Now getting through 6 miles is tough. My legs feel weak. And I’m feeling fatigued early in the day. Jan told me, “So take a nap if you're fatigued,” which I did…at 8:00 am! I’m tired.

I’ve been studying Psalm 62 which is on rest. At first this little obtuse hymn sung by Jewish people in their worship service meant very little to me. I only studied it after a younger staff member suggested we work on it together, and then write a sermon. It was a training opportunity, so I sort of went along with it all and was incredibly surprised. In the Psalm, the writer David, is in the middle of something dreadfully wrong. He’s not come through it, but he’s in the middle of it. And he begins by saying, “My soul finds rest in God alone…” NIV. Other translations use the phrase “waits in silence” and there in is the intrigue. The Hebrew word means “wait” as in rest so it's actually describing a spectrum. There are times when “rest” means you’ve done everything possible to deal with an issue so you stop, wait, and do so in silence. And in doing so you leave the results up to God alone. You’re in a place of rest. At other times, you are working at a frenetic pace but still doing so from a place of absolute rest. Again, the results you leave to God alone. But you are working from a place of rest, and not just resting from your work. The writer of the Psalm actually moves closer to a place of rest while writing the Psalm. He’s experiencing this “rest” at a deeper and deeper level while penning those words of hope. “I find my rest in God alone….”

This whole idea of rest has come home to roost with me this week. After an intense weekend at a church in another part of the country, I find myself deeply fatigued. Is it the heat? Is it the possibility that I’ll be that church’s next pastor and it's a tough assignment and I’m fearful? Is it just ordinary emotional fatique from a year of transition (everything is changing: where we live, Jan’s retiring, our ministry is moving away from the parent organization, our finances are not the same, etc.)? Is it physical and I need to see a doctor to counteract some medical issue? Is it chronic fatigue syndrome, which a friend currently has, and now its my turn to experience that lovely condition? I don’t know.

But this I do know…..

The God who redeems my soul through the work (hard work at that) of Christ on the cross also invites me to a place of rest. The God who reigns over my life because he’s the real king, also invites me to a state of repose as I submit to his will for my life…even if this is the start of the end of my life! That God says through the writer of Psalm 62, “Find your rest in me alone. I am your hope and your salvation.”

In that, I gain a great deal of strength. Because in spite of the incivility of our national dialogue, and in spite of the hand wringing over the way our modern cultures have destroyed planet earth, and despite of the reality that sin devastates people, and families, and marriages (I just had lunch with a friend whose marriage is falling apart and he’s contributed and admits it), and in spite of the difficulty of pastoring churches in transition or crisis, that God promises a salvation--and a place of rest--that’s real and not humanly contrived. Down throughout the ages, says philosopher Luc Ferry, salvation has been the goal of every culture. Something will save us. This is our hope, even for those who don’t believe in God. Something will save us! But in Christianity, that savior doesn’t just promise it, he becomes it. He is our “hope and our salvation.” Jesus is our rest. Christianity isn’t a set of moral principles to believe, but a person to trust. I’m banking on it. And in that, I’ll rest.

Time for a nap.


I’ve been pondering romance since last Valentines day. This year, Valentines day and Lent fell on the exact same date. It made me think. What’s godly, sacrificial romance actually look like?

Romance in our culture is tied into the feelings one has, usually at a young age, of love and attraction towards another person. It’s the feelings that are emphasized. And with it, those crazy things that occur out of romantic love. People will go to great lengths to prove their romantic love towards another. It reminds me of the Disney movies where guy meets girl, rescues girl, and they fall deeply in love and then the movie ends. What happens after the “romance” wears off is what concerns me. It’s obvious that the most beautiful and intelligent people in the world seem to have a hard time making romance work over the long haul. I read another news article today about a Hollywood celebrity who’d become violent towards her younger significant other; a person she was supposedly in love with. So here’s what I’d like to suggest.

Romance isn’t a feeling. And it’s not simply actions tied to the emotional (and dare I say sexual) response we have towards another person. Romance, true romance, is cultivated. It’s pursued not for its sake but for the others sake. Romance is planned. It’s paying attention to little things over the long haul. Anyone can open a car door for a beautiful woman. But to do it for that same woman 40-50 years later, that's romance! Romance is conniving in a godly way. It’s musing on how you can love other other more perfectly. And to be frank, much of the romance we have  today isn’t other oriented, its “me” oriented. It’s objectifying the other; loving the other because of how “they make me feel” or “because she’s so pretty.” In that case what we love isn’t the other, but ourselves and how the other makes us feel. It feels good to feel good. Romance feels good.

Romance can be practiced. I read somewhere about a woman who, after being married for a number of years, got super sick. While she was puking her guts out her husband held her hair back so that she could vomit unintruded. She said it was one of the most romantic things she’d ever experienced. So romance isn’t about me, its about the other. Romance isn’t a feeling, but an act that when occurring often enough, can create a feeling. Romance is tender not tough. But then again, real romance, true romance is a marathon not a sprint. Marathons are hard, especially the last six miles. But the finish line? Romantic!! The aha of the end. So what to do:

Ponder--What would it look like if you were to be truly romantic towards your significant other?

Practice--Don’t just be romantic towards the other but be gracious to all. Practice opening the car door for all women, not just the woman you love. Treat people at the check out counter as human beings created in the image of God.

Persevere--Don’t quit when the feelings are gone. Real romance when nurtured, can sneak up on you. Romance isn’t a to-do list. It’s nurtured when we treat the other, over the long haul, as a special person. 

I remember a few years ago, coming back from a game of golf and driving up to my house. I’ve practiced being romantic for a while. Jan was standing out in the front dressed in jeans and fall clothes and covering our grand kids with leaves. I immediately felt a romantic desire for her that I’d not felt in a while. Why? Romance was bearing fruit. Romance was giving me as a by-product, what our secular society mistakingly assumes is the real thing, namely that good feeling. I’ll take the by-product any day!! Ah, amore!

What's Inside Leaks!

My oldest daughter, her husband, and my wife were conversing around the lunch table on Saturday. My daughter had been invited by the leader of an exercise class to demonstrate an exercise that she’d excelled in. Then for some reason my daughter made this comment, “Well, I always knew keeping my weight down was important.” It came out of no where. It seemed disconnected to the conversation and it caught me off guard.

I’m short and slender. I run marathons. I was in the lighter weight classes on the wrestling team. I’ve never had a problem with my weight. Our daughters pretty much fall into the same category. The daughter in question weighs 100 lbs--maybe. Staying slim has never been a problem for her. Even after pregnancy. It’s just not an issue. But for her to tell me that she knew that this was important to me, even as a kid, took me back. “When did I ever say that?” I protested. “Never,” she said. “I just knew it was important to you.”

Somehow I leaked a value that I never intended to. It’s made me think. Several things became clear:

(1) What’s going on inside me is going to leak out, even if I don’t intend it to. So I have to ask, “What’s going on inside me? What am I communicating about myself and others acceptability, based on my own thoughtless comments?” I sometimes make fun of myself in front of others due to my small stature and slender frame. It really doesn’t bother me. I’m not embarrassed by it. It’s fun, and frankly, sometimes funny. But I now wonder if I’ve made heavier people uncomfortable by speaking in such a flippant fashion about a problem many of them have; namely keeping their weight under control.

(2) This value, or reality, effected my daughter. It shaped her life. Without even meaning to, I somehow contributed to the insane body image issue of our western culture; namely that if you’re not thin and beautiful, you’re not that significant. And if you are, well then you’ve got significant currency in this culture. She’s thin and she’s beautiful. She’s got currency. But that’s not the point! What if she wasn’t?

All of this has grabbed my attention while reading Matthew 23 and Jeremiah 9 in the bible. In Matthew 23 the religious leaders had all sorts of inner spiritual issues. They looked great on the outside, but on the inside their lives were on a tragic trajectory; one that came to fruition in the crucifixion of their Messiah. In Jeremiah 9, the nation of Israel had made all kinds of gods out of all kinds of things. Perhaps I’ve made a god out of being physically fit, being in shape, or being slender in a world that values thinness and beauty.

In all of this, I’ve learned that the values of our hearts leak out in ways we are unaware of. And our families, for better or worse, have formed and shaped those values in us. If you are from a family or have a family of your own there will be a legacy! What do our comments, our actions, our thoughts and motives say about what we value? What will they leave as a legacy? If we are unaware of our own family of origin issues, it only means we’re doomed to repeat the same mistakes. Being spiritually healthy means we allow God to make us aware of, and then actually deal with, our family of origins.

I think for me, this is instructive in that I want to be less critical of others imperfections and differences of opinion and more aware of my own. The harsh and often shrill tone of our current political, and cultural, dialogue suggests very few of our countries leaders actually have this kind of self-awareness. We leak. We all leak something! What is it you leak? What does it mean? And when you discover it, will you take the time to ask the hard question, “Why am I thinking, feeling, or acting that way?” Stop. Slow down. Look for the leaks. And when you find them, begin the long process of repair that comes by anchoring those life changes in the sacrificial life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It’s worth it.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

“What’s that mean?” or The Gift of Self-Awareness

The prophet Isaiah notes Israel’s penchant to assume that they have their lives under control. In Isaiah 9:13 we read, “The people did not turn to him who struck them, nor inquire of the Lord of hosts.” That means that there were signs, hints that something was awry. Something was amiss. They weren’t firing on all cylinders spiritually, morally, relationally, and all they did in response was plan to do more of the same (cf. v. 10). “We’ll just try harder,” they thought. But that wasn’t the point! The point is that they were so unaware, so unmindful, so oblivious to things that they missed the signs that something was wrong. And as a result, they experienced the destructive consequences of their lack of understanding. They were profoundly unaware. So are we!

The gift of self-awareness is granted when we take the time and energy to ask, “Why did I do that? Why did I say that? Why do I act the way I act, think the way I think, feel the way I feel?” Then sit there in that. Listen. Be still. Be silent. Wait. Most people crowd out the time it takes to do the hard inner work that leads to self-awareness. We fill the silent spaces in our lives with noise—TV, cell phones, internet, activity, exercise, relationships, busyness, etc. We can’t hear through all the noise. So we aren’t self-aware.

God wants to cut through the static and get our attention. For the nation of Israel, it was a no brainer. They were in covenant relationship with him and he’d told them exactly what would happen if they broke the covenant so it should have been no surprise. Read Deuteronomy 28-29 for a list of “This is what’s going to happen if you do this or don’t do that.” It surprised them anyway! That’s how unaware they were.

So what are some signs that self-awareness is an issue for us? Here are a couple thoughts: constant stress that seems to never end, depression, the inability to get along, a calloused heart to obvious sin, an unwillingness to reconcile with others, the inability to feel, dirty fighting (threats, yelling, giving others the silent treatment, etc.), and things like that. Self-awareness is terrifying. Because once you are aware of something, you are forced to deal with it. In my case, I discovered to my embarrassment, that anxiety had been a controlling issue in my life for years. I was totally unaware of it. It alienated people, particularly my kids. It produced an unhealthy reactivity in my work. And it was exhausting. After years of living with it, I finally faced the fact that I was an anxious person. Knowing that hasn’t solved it. But being aware of it has given me recourse when it rears its ugly head. Awareness is half the battle. In fact, self-awareness is one of the keys to spiritual and emotional health. Sixteenth century reformer John Calvin once wrote, “You’ll never know God unless you know yourself.” That’s on the firsts few pages of his Institutes on the Christian religion, one of the most famous books in Church history.

My hope is that we’ll all take advantage of the gift of self-awareness. And because of the gospel we can do so with joy. There is nothing God doesn’t know about you! Because of Christ work on the cross, if you’ve turned from sin and put your faith in him, there is nothing you can do to make him love you any more, and nothing you’ve done will cause him to love you any less. You can become self-aware, then deal with you stuff, in total confidence that it won’t do anything but make your relationship with him, yourself, and others better. So with that in mind, take the self-awareness challenge.

What Makes You Tremble? An Election Day Thought

People are afraid these days. The politics of fear seem to be running our country. This political season has seen candidates openly criticize each other because he or she will take us some place horrible. People tremble. Years ago I sat in the living room with a family on an election night much like the one we’ll experience tonight. The preferred candidate of one person in the room was going to lose. They were distraught. They went into their bedroom and closed the door. They were overcome by fear. They trembled.

As a follower of Jesus, we need not be overcome by fear of anything! Really!! Nothing!! At the cross sin was defeated, and in the resurrection the death that goes with it. So while there are many things that should disturb us; politics and politicians, war, racism, poverty, injustice, the dismantling of marriage, and unrighteousness at every level, there is only one thing should make us tremble. What is that, you may ask?

God. Tremble at God. Tremble at the awful beauty and holiness and power and majesty and magnificence of God. He should make us tremble. Our knees ought to knock, and our bodies should writhe--the meaning of the Hebrew word for tremble--when we ponder the awful beauty and holiness of almighty God. Jesus said, “But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him” (Luke 12:4-5). The Psalmist puts it this way, “Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord…” (Ps 114:7). “Tremble before him, all the earth” (Ps 96:9) says the Psalmist again [same Hebrew word]. Ironically, where there is godly trembling, there is deep love, deep joy, deep hope, and deep worship (Deut 6:2; Ps 96:9; Ps 147:10-11). God is not trivial. Before Him, we tremble! And in our trembling, we take comfort.

What makes your heart quake? The mismanagement of the government? The presence of unrighteousness? The reality of injustice? The wrong candidate getting into office? “Do not fret because of evil men…” (Ps 37:1-4) says the Psalmist. Instead, trust in the Lord. The government and our country is in his hands (cf Isa 45:1-7). We need not fear evil, evil people, evil policies, or evil actions. While standing for righteousness, we need only fear God. And in that trembling we’ll find real hope, real joy, real peace, and real meaning in life. On this election day, what makes you tremble?

Note: First posted at Moses Lake Alliance Church, November 7, 2016. I decided to post it here on my blog in light of the election in Alabama, December 2017.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

It's Not Funny

Louis CK comedian extraordinaire recently admitted to behaving inappropriately towards women for years. His confession, which can be read in its entirety on the following web site ( admits that the accusations are all true. Honestly, reading what he did is disgusting and disturbing. I wouldn’t want elementary age kids reading this stuff!

Of course, people who have been associated with him have reacted in the politically correct way: contra Hollywood’s usual way of dealing with things like this. While Harvey Weinstein went about his sexual harassment for years, without so much as a peep from Hollywood, everyone is jumping on the “that's disgusting and unacceptable” bandwagon when it comes to Louis C.K. And for the record, this is all happening while Hollywood continues to create movies that actually promote, and mimic, the very thing being disdained and condemned in Louis C.K. and Weinstein.

Louis C.K’s confession rings true, though certainly one suspects he’s doing the politically correct thing. His last sentence is the one that grabbed my attention: “I have spent my long and lucky career talking and saying anything I want. I will now step back and take a long time to listen. Thank you for reading.”

Will he? Who knows! But we know that this posture of listening openly, and with honest personal reflection, is truly the right place to start. Psalm 81:8-13 notes that if we’ll but listen to God, and let Him direct us to the revelation of himself in the person and work of Christ, He’ll satisfy us with the finest of wheat, honey from the rock (v. 16). Maybe Louis C.K., who is anything but a Christian, is beginning the long slow journey of having the empty place in his soul occupied by Someone who can actually fill it. As philosophers have puts it for millennia, “If there is a God who created us, then the deepest chambers of our soul simply cannot be filled up by anything less. That’s how great God is!” Only He can satisfy the thirsty soul.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Living As a Christian in an Anxious Age

With the presidential election results squarely in our review mirror, I’m amazed at people’s reaction. I know Christians who are deeply disturbed by a Trump presidency and others who are gleeful that at last, our left leaning country may stand a chance at tipping more upright. Some people in New York, Christians and otherwise, are afraid to admit they’d voted Trump for fear of recrimination, while others are planning on monitoring his every move. As one of my left leaning friends put it, “We’ll watch him and hang it on his neck when he messes up.” Others are protesting outright and taking to the streets. And then there are the protests of the protests. “What are we protesting?” I heard one person say. “Our democratic process?” One man named Dionne Alexander, a vet, excoriated those who are protesting in a Facebook post gone viral saying, “You’re causing all this destruction because your candidate lost! See that’s the problem with this country. You can’t always get your way…Quit being crybabies.” Whoa! We are one divided country right now. So what can we do to live in an anxious age?

I’m reading a good book right now by John Inazu called Confident Pluralism. It’s political science book and one that offers a way through the maze. I’d recommend it for those who are trying to figure out how we can live a pluralistic culture. The same author co-wrote an article with Tim Keller in Christianity Today, September 16, 2016 entitled, “How Christians Can Bear Gospel Witness in an Anxious Age.” Listen to Inazu and Keller: 

Our engagement in… an anxious age is made possible by our confidence in the gospel in a pluralistic society where people have profoundly different beliefs. We won’t always be able to persuade those around us that our beliefs are right and theirs are wrong.… But recognizing the existence of these disagreements should not prevent us from holding to what is ultimately true. Our beliefs can be true, and we can hold these warranted beliefs confidently even though others reject them. …. [a] confidence in the gospel can encourage us to work to strengthen the social fabric for the good of others.

This kind of posture is what one of us [Inazu] has called “confident pluralism.” As Christians, we can engage with the pluralism around us because our confidence lies elsewhere. We can acknowledge genuine differences in society without suppressing or minimizing our firmly held convictions. We can seek common ground even with those who may not share our view of the common good.

So here’s a thought. Regardless of where you/we stand on the election results, if you are a Christian, lets choose to put our confidence in Christ and what God has done through his work to bring real lasting change to each of our lives, and in our culture. And while we’re at it, lets take the time to listen to those who have a different opinion with respect, grace, and genuine interest. It will go along way to lowering social anxiety, contributing to the common good, and we may even learn something.