Monday, June 15, 2020

Grace and Race

Fear, in the negative sense, causes many to react in various ways. Some of us lace up the boxing gloves and fight. Others will lace up the sneakers and run. Finally, some will simply freeze and not know what to do.

If you are like me (and I hope there is at least one reading this who identifies), you can probably agree that we live in interesting times where perhaps one or all three of those responses to fear have gripped you recently.

Technically, we are all one race in the eyes of the Lord (Acts 17:26, Ephesians 2:8-22) and therefore what has been happening in our country; whether black against white or white against black (pick any ethnicity really) is particularly grievous to the Lord as we are ALL image bearers of Him (Genesis 1:27). Let me clearly and loudly say (as loud as this keyboard will punch out my righteous anger) injustice and mistreatment of our black brothers and sisters is heinous and deeply saddens me. Equally, the responses where violence is flipped and peddled as a legitimate tool against those who volunteer to keep law and order is senselessly void of logic and (more importantly) completely lacking the Love of Jesus; which is the true solution here.

So what is a way forward? How do CHRISTIANS run with the LIGHT and HOPE of the Gospel of Jesus Christ into that particular darkness? I called a friend of mine, Pastor Samuel Duren, to have a conversation. Truly Christ unifies and in that spirit we entered into a dialogue that I hope will prove helpful for anyone who desires to engage.

That video is posted here:

Let's be crystal clear... Ephesians 2:8-10 levels the playing field and means I cannot boast. Why? Because Jesus did (and does) the work that matters. It is His spirit that changes a heart, comforts the afflicted, heals the hurting and frees the captive. Now, Do you really believe those words?  Jesus has never been about your comfort or ease. Actually, He does really well at removing those to see if, in fact, He is your everything.

Let's start a CIVIL dialogue with the clear understanding that ONLY the Gospel solves what we are all facing because it is rooted in the sin nature.

Comment below if you'd like...

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Fear (part 2)


The rhetoric we often hear is that the media is leveraging fear on the unsuspecting or those who lack discernment in order to gain: clicks, money, and/or a following. In reality, the Bible tells us that the "fear of God is the beginning of wisdom..." (Proverbs 1:7, 9:10). Is it reasonable to expect that God has designed fear to serve His children both in the spiritual AND the physical sense? I believe so! This video interview begins to look at fear and the physical realm.

I have not sought to make this comprehensive, but simply a basic introduction. We will explore fear and faith in next week's blog. For now, watch, comment, share, and hopefully be encouraged!

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Fear (Reader Requested post)

When I was a Youth Pastor I used to tell my students that there were certain stories they just couldn't hear about my college years. I would give them a taste of the exploits my roomies and I engaged in. However, that was about all I would offer. The students, especially the guys, wanted to hear more.

Already, some of you are wondering, "What in the world could be so shrouded in secrecy? And why?" I'll give you a taste. Once, friends and I hiked across a state park, ignored clear signage to avoid the approaching cliffs, and launched ourselves 80ft to the deep and cold water below (We took every precaution of course, in case there are any moms reading this).

I didn't share stories like these because in the late 90s and early 2000s there was no social media and my anonymity was a security for some reason. A fact I am more than thankful for at the moment - because with it, I am certain I would not be employed nor married, or lacking in arrest records.

What strikes me the funniest of all is that many of those things I did may have been labeled fearless. With the advantage of maturity (still debatable) and wisdom I can say it was much closer to stupidity OR fear of man (wanting to be liked) that I: jumped off cliffs, "borrowed" campus security golf carts in order to go to a drive-thru for a late nite snack, or allowed my roommate to drive my car from the backseat with his feet (that looks a lot worse typed out).

It all, however, begs the question, "What is fear? Is it sin? Is it purely psychologically driven, are there physiological elements, and how should the Christian engage it?" You see we find ourselves in a society that preys on fears; advertising, insurance, financial planning, and now an invisible virus, to name just a few. What is one to do?

I want to start by saying, this will not be exhaustive coverage of the topic and will take more than one post to address.

Fear (n) - "an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat."

Fear (v) - "be afraid of (someone or something) as likely to be dangerous, painful, or threatening."
Fear, in some sense, is a word that has fallen on hard times. Reading the above definitions seem to speak little or not at all of reverence, awe, or amazement. All common responses to God. You see, if Proverbs 1:7 holds true, then we must have a more broad and accommodating understanding of FEAR. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.

Certainly there is a difference between that kind of fear and the kind where a physiological response triggers tears, and a real sense that something or someone is closing in on us. If "do not fear" or "fear not" is the most often repeated command in the Bible, then we simply must differentiate between good and bad fear. For if we do not we mock empathy, throw down roadblocks and in a thousand other ways make the reassuring presence of the Holy Spirit a false reality. An apparition that works for others and not for the one who is presently enslaved to an emotion they did not invite and would rather left immediately.

Simply quoting, "Why are you afraid, God says, 'Do not be afraid'?" actually perpetuates and deepens the fear. We will look at fear through the physical perspective of someone in the medical field. How they perceive its helpful and not-so-helpful effects. Then, we will spend some time uncovering what God's word says about it so that our hearts are helped in this fearful time. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Rest... please

Read Matt. 12:25-30

There is an invitation to all of us that Jesus extends with regard to rest. It involves a trip ("come to me") and an exchange ("take my yoke"). Rest is such hard work, it would seem. Why must we go to him (surrender) and give up something (trust) in order to have it?

To be honest, why is it that so many of us become quasi-defensive when asked the question, "Are you resting in the Lord?"

Perhaps this experience equates to a back door insult for some of us. "You must be asking me if I am resting in the Lord precisely because you think I am not. OR WORSE. Maybe I don't even know what it is to rest so I am troubled by my lack of knowledge and experience in the area."

As always, scripture is a familiar, reliable and foundational beacon. Notice some of what Jesus says...

  • "Hidden... revealed... your gracious will..." What was hidden, revealed and part of his gracious will:
    • The overall significance of Jesus' mission required revelation. This was not a journey of self-discovery or anything that could be found in a book. It involved (and still does) an encounter with the Man Jesus Christ. Since that seemed foolish to the wise and understanding God went to the "B" team so to speak. Children. Those who are not young in age necessarily but those who are humble of heart; acknowledging their need of him. Are you a "B" team member? 
  • "Come... take my yoke..." Surrender and trust. 
    • Rest therefore, is first and foremost about knowing God. Not a vacation, not a day off or a cocktail at the end of a long day. A "yoke" in ancient times (and even now) is a device that secured two oxen together for the purpose of plowing a field. Where the strength of the dominant beast goes the other under yoke would be obligated to follow
Rest, in this way, is an invitation to follow after the strength of Jesus through surrender ("You are God and I am not") and trust ("Your plans and purposes for me are better than anything I could conjure up"). It's an invitation to do only what I can. God has prepared these things in advance for me, Ephesians 2:1-10 shows me this. Rest says, "it all depends on you God." Surrender and trust become vital components to rest.
While I would love to give some awesome and practical guidance... perhaps these questions and observations will help you engage the idea of rest.
  1. Do I create space to recognize the divine presence? God is omnipresent (meaning everywhere at once).  How do I make space for you Jesus, to upset the equilibrium of my ordinary world with the holy expectation for you to fulfill something in the future? When you tell me to seek your kingdom first do I realize that I am ordering my present day by future realities?
  2. (Here is a person remark from my journal concerning rest): "When I lack true rest in Christ I find myself lacking creativity and problem-solving, I am resourceless in my spirit to provide godly counsel, and frustrated at the missed opportunities that I have. Really, I seem to be living the life of regret when sloth is at the helm." What about you? What happens when you lack true rest in Christ? 
  3. (Another journal observation): "Having been exposed to an environment that often used comparison for motivation, discipline, or instruction... I am now beginning to see that the limited nature of my spiritual vision is a desperate glance over the shoulder to see if someone is gaining on me. This makes it impossible to rest. Lord help me rest in you." 
    1. If comparison is the thief of JOY, how does that create unrest in your spirit? 
    2. What active good is worship, personal and corporate; the Word, deeply and prayerfully engaged; the mission, living the very priorities of Jesus in making disciples; the Spirit's comfort, simply receiving the comfort that God says is yours because you are HIS CHILD. Not doing anything but passively - hands out - receiving what God wants to give? 
In closing... I encourage you to pick up a copy of the Bible and use it as you read: The Radical Pursuit of Rest. I used this book and God's word for a personal day of oasis if you will some time back. I am still reaping the benefits. 

Friday, May 15, 2020

Church Post COVID-19: Roundtable

We all have unique challenges currently when it comes facing this pandemic and how it has disrupted church life.

However, I am reminded that church is both a local and global PEOPLE of redeemed souls. Meaning, you never have to go where you already are. The church is not a building where ministry happens. We are called to be the church wherever we are!

Today I had a conversation with two very good friends who are doing ministry in Pekin, IL (Peter Lindell) and West Bloomington, IL (Dave Wolfe). Watch this video to see how we engage some of the following questions:

  1. Why is content alone not enough for making disciples? What are the dangers of being "content-heavy?" 
  2. How do we avoid selfishness in this unique time where we are socially distant (I prefer the term physically distant)?
  3. How do you prepare your heart for return to in-person gatherings of worship and "doing life" with people who hold a different opinion from you on this pandemic? 
Please comment at the bottom how you were encouraged, share the blog or this post if you like...

Finally, some of my readers may not know Dave Wolfe or Peter Lindell. Here are some links to stay in touch with what they are doing. 

Peter Lindell (aka Pheaney): 
Support Page (prayer or financial): 

Dave Wolfe: 
Newsletter: Click Here
Support Page (prayer or financial):

Monday, May 11, 2020

What Happens Next - A Discussion about Post-COVID Church w/ Pheaney

(Note: I was discussing these ideas with a good friend and local missionary Peter Lindell - AKA Pheaney (who blogs at and we decided to turn this into a bit of a back and forth. His first post is in black with my response in red)

What happens next?

I think immediately after the quarantine lifts we will see a rush back to church. There will be excitement in meeting again and most gatherings in church buildings will return to their pre-COVID numbers (or maybe even higher!).

My concern is what will happen 6 months after we start gathering.  I'm worried that that the move to online streaming, videos and content during COVID will actually work against the church in the future.

When life "gets back to normal" and we all get really busy again... sports, long work weeks, other commitments... will we still prioritize gathering as believers?  I suppose in large part this depends on how you engaged what your church offered while you were quarantined to your home. Did you simply consume the teaching, worship or prayer time as a blessing to you OR did you seek to interact with the teaching by asking your family questions about its application? Was your heart moved to prayer for the neighbor you haven’t been able to see over the backyard fence for months now? Did your family make it a habit of choosing joy in worship despite the present circumstances? Depending on how you answered these questions, in my view, determines your desire to get back together with other believers again. It is the Blood of the Lamb AND our testimony that overcomes (See Rev. 12:11). In fact, it overcomes because “…they loved not their lives even unto death…” 
A person who loves their own life used this quarantine in self-interest. The church, however, is strengthened on the back side of this and will prove my concerns wrong if they used this time as fuel. Fuel to burn a passion for the Word of God illumined in their hearts by the Spirit of God as it is SHARED with others. 

Or will the average church-goer realize they can get the same experience from their own home, on their own time, and save the hassle of getting to an in-person gathering?

Church was never meant to be a product to be consumed, but a gathering of believers. Did our efforts to feed and care for the church during COVID reinforce a consumer mentality? Or did those efforts help all believers exercise their calling to be a disciple who makes disciples? That would be my concern. My prayer and earnest hope is that we have learned in this quarantine how discipleship is not overly complicated. "I simply LOVE GOD and LOVE OTHERS on repeat." Now that we have had great practice in close quarters with our family (Deut. 6:1-9), gathering with others regularly is a great help to you in the journey of making disciples. Church of God, will we RISE?

I hope I'm wrong with this prediction, but I'm worried I might not be. Revival is personal before it is corporate. The hard, but necessary work of examination (self) over ease is the first step in the process toward corporate, national and worldwide revival of God's Church! May we not go back to "normal." Our God does NEW more than He does "normal." See Isaiah 43. 

Friday, May 8, 2020

How to forgive

I lay in bed with a tossing and a turning that will not relent. I drift to slumber in a moment and find myself sitting bolt upright the next as a dream jostles me awake. Faint memories of the dream's contents dance across my consciousness but I soon fade again. This pattern repeats three or four times until I finally drag my reluctant frame from the bed providing little relief much less, rest.

The sun is just peeking over the horizon and my cup of coffee has been crafted which promises some aid to my weary intellect as I sit with my Bible. Psalm 119:18 flutters off my lips, "Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law," and I crack the Word open. The reading this morning is in II Samuel 13 and 14. I will save gory details and cut to the chase. Amnon (one of King David's sons) develops a desire for his stepsister Tamar that leads to rape (read II Samuel 13 for the whole story). The story itself makes every justice bone in me tweak and cringe. I feel mild rage toward this selfish man.

After the rape, his wicked desire now fulfilled morphs to hate and a family feud is born. Absalom (another of David's sons and Tamar's brother) takes matters into his own hands; luring and killing Amnon. The act ends up estranging him from his father David. Behind the scenes Joab, who was loyal to David, was arranging for some way to reconcile the divided parties. He employs the expertise of a woman from Tekoa known for great wisdom (II Sam. 14:1-13).

She plays out a fictitious scene to gain the heart of King David (a side note: this is the same tact God used by sending Nathan to David after his affair with Bathsheba in I Samuel 11-12). Then, from her lips are likely some of the most instructive words on what gets the ball rolling in order to see forgiveness occur.
All of us must die eventually. Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God does not just sweep life away; instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him. - II Samuel 14:14   
All of the sudden my heart, having been spoken to by the Living God, realizes every time I have ever said, "Its fine" to my wife I have TOTALLY MISSED IT. You see, the dreams that were repeating were ones of conflict unresolved with my wife. The scarlet thread that ran through all of them was how my words and actions were like water spilled out and causing irreparable damage. BUT GOD. He had been orchestrating relationships, circumstances, and slow but steady growth in grace (II Peter 3:18) restoring my union with Him and eventually with her. "How," you ask?

The first step is to realize our sin causes damage we cannot repair without the grace of God through Christ. My first offense when I shout at my wife, discipline my child in anger, wound someone through unspeakable abuse, ignore my friend to teach her a lesson, or any host of other "reasons" is vertical before it is horizontal.

My life (words and actions), as the woman from Tekoa said, is like water spilled out. I simply cannot take back what I said in a moment of sudden forced humility. However, God is incredibly kind and merciful; forgiving the repentant. "So," you say, "when do we get to the stuff? You know, how do I forgive and get forgiven?" I'll offer some insights in bullet format to consider (these bullets are for both sides of forgiveness - extending and receiving) :
  • Recognize that in order to forgive someone you must first be humble. You can remain bitter at someone only as long as you truly believe in your heart that you would never do anything like they have done to you. Chew on that for a little while (credit to Timothy Keller for that general idea). 
  • Whatever was said or done cannot be "taken back." In fact, that is one surefire way to derail the train of empathy before it reaches the station!
  • In your heart and with the help of the Holy Spirit (see the fruit of the Spirit's control in your life in Galatians 5) refuse to make someone "pay." 
    • "I will not give the person the "cold shoulder" but, by God's grace, will move toward them.
    • "I won't talk bad of the person because that paints other people's impression of them without any personal interaction." 
    • "I will seek to serve and bless the individual."
    • "I will not retell the events of what happened in ways that ONLY make me coming out smelling like a rose."
  • Use phrases like, "When I shouted at you, I realize I wanted respect but didn't feel I was getting it    and mistreated you instead. Would you please forgive me?" 
  • Don't use phrases like, "I'm sorry if you were hurt when I yelled at you. I had been having a rough day."  
  • Ephesians 4:15 reminds us to speak the truth in love. Paul adds to the idea of truth and love with the following considerations in Eph. 4:29-32
    • "Grace giving" in relationship means no corrupting talk (the word "corrupting" actually means decaying or damaged). Like a condemned bridge corrupting talk will send you reeling toward the river of destruction. 
    • How I speak about or to someone in the process of forgiveness has the potential to grieve God's Spirit. Just sitting with that reality for a moment should cause me to measure my words.
    • A lack of forgiveness toward others is directly tied to a lack of repentance toward God. Why else would Paul say to forgive others as God has forgiven you?  
Final thoughts:
  1. What do you hear God saying to you through this? 
  2. What must you rest in (righteousness of Christ, forgiveness he offers instead of self-loathing, etc)? 
  3. Through the Holy Spirit, who do you need to seek forgives from
  4. Through the Holy Spirit, who do you need to extend forgiveness to
  5. Is there anyway I can help? (my email is and my phone is 309.208.1851)