Saturday, December 31, 2016

Weekend Wanderings

This is the weekend we say goodbye (farewell, good riddance) to 2016 and hello to 2017. A lot of individuals departed from this life during the past year but, contrary to what seems to be public opinion, the year didn't kill anyone. There are any number of theories as to the number of people who have died. You are welcome to pick whichever one suits you. We'll see what comes to pass in 2017.

On to the good stuff:

See if you agree with this list of top ten films of 2016.
Be careful with those Christmas cards.
Dominick Santore on the new year.
Evidently, this almost didn't happen.
Christmas shipwreck.

In case you go to a lot of meetings.
The myth of self control.
Another 2016 list.
Finding freedom.
Getting better?

Here is something I never noticed.
Yet another 2016 list.
Good post from Chaplain Mike.
About time!
Karl Vaters asks a good question.

Witness to the powers.
The long goodbye.
The Babylon Bee gives us their list.
Zack Hunt on 2016.

Have a blessed week!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Just Jesus and Me?

 When I was growing up, we used to sing a song about how it was "Jesus and me" traveling the road of life together. This went right along with the idea that salvation was an individual thing and that Jesus was "my personal Savior." While there is a sense in which God redeems us as individuals, I believe that there is much more to the work of Christ than just Jesus and me.

I no longer believe that following Jesus is just about making him your personal Savior or that the Christian life is lived individually. As I have studied Scripture I have come to believe that when God calls us and makes us his children, he is making us members of a family, a body. The word for church means a called out assembly, not a collection of separate individuals.

The idea that salvation and the Christian life is an individual thing has done damage to the body of Christ. If you look around at the Church in the United States you see the results of an individualistic faith. In many places there is a lack of commitment to the larger body. People move from church to church for various reasons. Many times folks leave because of problems in relationships. Someone has done something against them and it's easier to simply find another church than do the hard work of repenting, forgiving, and reconciling. It seems as if many look for a place where they can be served and "fed" (whatever that means) by a weekly concert and inspirational talk. They aren't looking for community, or they don't understand what community entails.

We are redeemed to be part of one another. We are a body and each part of the body needs each other part. I believe the day may come when those who claim Christ will have to come together and live as one body. We will no longer have the luxury of dividing over things that are not worth dividing over. We will be forced to live in harmony, forgiving each other no matter how many times they sin against us and loving each other with a selfless love, just as Jesus loved us. Maybe we ought to start doing that now so it won't be such a shock.

May God help us to live together as fellow children of the Father who are members of one body.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Challenges and Opportunities

As this year draws to a close, and we enter a new year that promises to be very different, Christians in America will be faced with many challenges. Along with the challenges, there will be plenty of opportunities.

This year has been hard on the church as a whole. Deep divisions have been revealed. Along with that, there is a growing distrust of Christianity. While some of these problems are a part of the way the world naturally views followers of Jesus, others are of our own making. One challenge is to be agents of healing where there is division. For too long, we have worried more about the things that make us different rather than the things we share. I know that there are issues that are important that must be dealt with and may be cause for separation. That is not what I am talking about. Much of the time, the things we divide over have more to do with preference and style than substance.

Another challenge we face is the way we are perceived. Jesus said that we would be hated and persecuted. That is true, and I think it could very well be worse than it is now. We need to make sure that we are really being persecuted, and then if we are, that it is because we belong to Jesus and not because we are arrogant jerks. We should be known more by our love and grace than by the size of our protests or the condemnation we speak. We should be known for our allegiance to the King of Kings, and not who we voted for.

I believe that our faith itself is going to be challenged. The days of Christendom are gone. I really don't think the incoming president will keep his promises to make Christians influential again. If he does, I think it will end up hurting the church. We can no longer expect to have government enforce our beliefs. We can probably expect to be looking more and more at a society that is indifferent to us at best, or hostile at worst. The time may be coming when we will be forced to consider whether our faith is worth all of the stuff that will be happening.

The future may be quite challenging, but it will also present the church with opportunities. As we face more hostility, we will have the opportunity to examine ourselves for the reason behind it. If it is truly because of Christ, then we can rejoice that we have been counted worthy to suffer for the gospel. If the hostility comes as a reaction to our own hostility, then we will have the opportunity to repent and become the disciples we can be. We will have the opportunity to show the truth, goodness, and beauty of Jesus. As the face of the church changes and those who are not committed to following Jesus fall away, we will have have the opportunity to show who we belong to, not by our stands on issues, or our style of worship, our our doctrinal statement, but by our love to our brothers and sisters in Christ and to our neighbors. As our influence wanes, we will have the opportunity to affect culture by speaking and living the gospel.

May God give us the grace to be people who love, who are willing to live as a spiritual family which puts others first, and who show the world that the gospel is indeed Good News.

Monday, December 5, 2016


I'm thankful for the season of the church calendar called Advent. To me, it is a good antidote to the sometimes crazy Christmas season. This year the message of longing, hope, and anticipation resonates with me more than it has in previous years.
This has been a tough year. Ten people that I know have died this year, including my father-in-law, a dear friend, and some of my bus passengers, among others. Add to that the craziness of the political scene and other things, and I pray, "Even so, come Lord Jesus," with more longing. As the people of Israel longed for their Messiah to come and deliver them, so I long for the King to return and set all things to right. I long for the day when all will be restored, when everything sad will become untrue.

Fortunately, along with the longing there is hope. Simeon and Anna lived with hope that the Messiah would come and their hope was rewarded. We can have hope that our Savior will return as he promised and that all our longing will be fulfilled. Because we know our Father loves us, we can live in expectancy that he will do as he has promised.

Embrace the longing, the unmet desires of the heart. Trust that all of the promises of a new creation will be kept. Celebrate the season as one who waits and hopes for the fulfillment of what our Christmas celebrations are but a dream.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Weekend Wanderings

It's getting a bit chilly here in the sunny South. We're finally getting some rain and the mountain wildfires are being contained after devastating a large chunk of real estate. The college football season is winding down and the debate over how many teams should be included in the playoffs begins anew. The roads are getting more crowded as folks are getting their Christmas shopping in.

On to the good stuff:

Death and the gospel.
Sending them away.
Keeping a soft heart.
Now you know why.

I guess it's still a question.
History lesson.
Good idea.
Never a waste.
Where all the pictures are taken.

Good post from Bob Edwards.
Thoughtful Advent post.
Good post from Christopher Smith.
Tim Suttle asks a good question.
Finding freedom.

An historic birthday.
Why is this a thing?
Interesting post.
Good post from Dan Edelen.

Have a blessed week!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Blast From the Past: Thanksgiving

This was first posted on November 24, 2009. I have edited it to bring it more up to date.

This is the time of year that we remember the Pilgrims who held a feast to give thanks to God and invited the local Indian tribe, who brought the sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. We continue the tradition our forefathers began of eating far too much, and falling asleep on the couch while watching football games on TV. The celebration continues as we get up way too early in the morning to fight for parking spaces and all the bargains presented by our friendly local merchants.

It is easy for the above scenario to actually be true in our lives. We can get caught up in all the hype that has come to surround us this time of year. In the midst of the feasting with family, television watching, and shopping, we can forget what is really important. We can forget to be grateful for all that God has given us.

As I look back on this past year, there are many reasons to be thankful. The first, and most important, thing is the grace of God. I am thankful that God has adopted me into his family and that he loves me no matter what. I am thankful for the work of Jesus which makes me a child of God. I am thankful for the Spirit's guidance and work in me to make me more and more like Jesus.

I am thankful for a wonderful wife who loves me and is patient with my quirks and idiosyncrasies. Jan's love and support has been a truly amazing thing. I am thankful for a son and a daughter who have grown into responsible adults who love God. I am thankful for their spouses. I am thankful for my sister and her family and for the times we are able to get together, and for my sisters-in-law and their families.

I am thankful for friends who make me think, and challenge me to turn knowledge into action. I am thankful for the community of faith God has given us, a group of people learning together what it means to follow Jesus in the day-to-day of our lives. I am thankful for the things that God has taught me and the ways he has changed me.

I am thankful for the chance to serve some of the ones who are sometimes forgotten by others. I am thankful for life, health and all the things that we take for granted.

What are you thankful for?

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Weekend Wanderings

Well, the election is over and one candidate came out on top. There are strong feelings on both sides and there are folks on each side that are taking advantage of things and do some pretty terrible things. Hopefully, things will calm down in the next few months. On a brighter note, the Chicago Cubs are World Series champs! It took over a century, but they did it. Fall has finally arrived here in the sunny South and the leaves and temperatures are falling.

On to the links:

Death of a monster.
It's okay to not be perfect.
Don't be confused.
Kayla Zilch picks a bone.
No, it's not easy.

Interesting article.
A few suggestions.
Funny article.
No buts.
Birth year and the flu.

This is kind of sad.
This will make you wonder.
Which color pill are we supposed to take?
From anger to joy.
This might not be such a good thing.

What is fellowship?
A look at the future.
Bob Edwards on the broken heart.
Mike Erich on subtle idols.
Counter-cultural God.

Have a blessed week!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Thoughts on the Election

The 2016 campaign is over and I think it is safe to say that the result is not quite what a lot of folks expected. Full disclosure: I didn't vote for either of the major party candidates. So, I think I can speak on the result with somewhat of a neutral view.

I believe the last few months have uncovered some things about our country that most of us either didn't see, or simply refused to see. Throughout the primaries and on into the general election there were things said and done that should never be said about or done to another person. I know that there have been some pretty nasty campaigns in our nation's history, but that is no excuse for what came out of this election. That is one thing that saddens me.

Another thing that makes me sad is what I saw in the church. I saw people who claim to be followers of Jesus demean others who are made in the image of God, all because they supported another candidate. Questioning the faith of someone just because they don't wear the same political jersey is not what Jesus had in mind when he told to us love our brothers and sisters. Many seemed to forget that our first allegiance is to the King of Kings and not to a person or party. I have said it before and I'll say it again; some have sacrificed the gospel on the altars of political influence and prosperity.

I am also saddened by some of what I have seen in the days after the election. People on both sides are doing and saying things that they would condemn and have condemned in the folks on the other side. Folks on the winning side are decrying those who are chanting, "Not my president," while forgetting that some on their side said the same thing not very long ago. Others are committing acts of harassment and violence against those on the "other side."

 Americans have forgotten that we are all part of the same nation. We have divided along many lines and made it quite easy for power hungry demagogues to gain power by preying on our fears and convincing us that some of our fellow citizens are bent on destroying us. Even worse, those of us who claim to follow Jesus have forgotten that not only are we fellow Americans, but most importantly we are part of one body. Instead of hurting because one part of the body is in pain, we are telling other parts of the body Christ that they are useless and we don't need them. As the Apostle Paul said, that is ridiculous! How can we expect the world to listen to us when we are not showing love to those in our spiritual family!

Judging from the past year, we have a great opportunity to show those who are watching the truth, goodness, and beauty of Jesus by the way we treat each other and by the way we treat the least of these in our society. The problem is that we have not been doing a very good job of that lately. May God change our hearts and help us to live like who we say we are.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Fourteen Days and Then???

In 14 days, the most brutal campaign season we have known will be over. It seems as if this country is more divided than ever before. The divide extends into the church. Regardless of who wins, things are likely to change in our nation.  I am encouraged by the fact that there are groups of Christians who are able to discuss current events without rancor. Jan and I are part of such a group.That is evidence of the Spirit working in us.

 Remember that no matter who is president, Jesus is still the King. We are citizens of the United States, but we are first and foremost citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven and our first allegiance is there. Things may well get difficult for followers of Jesus in the days to come, but we have a Father who is in control of all things and who is always with us, no matter what. Don't listen to the prophets of gloom and doom. 

Our influence doesn't come from laws and statutes. It comes from living out the gospel in such a way that people will want to know why we have such hope in the middle of the mess. It comes from showing the world that we belong to Jesus by our love for each other. 

Lift up your hearts! The kingdoms of this world have been unable to stop the Kingdom, and they sure aren't going to start now.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Weekend Wanderings

Fall has come on us here in the sunny South. The weather is cooler and the leaves are beginning to change color. The campaign ad season is almost over. Someone will be elected President. But, Jesus is still King. I think it would be good if his followers kept that in mind.

On to the good stuff:

Bonnie Petroschuk on fear.
Good post from Daniel Darling.
Listening to Dylan.
Good article on a controversial subject.

Good question.
Faithful and fit.
Good ideas for post-election healing.
Good post from John Frye.
Election revelations.

Life is more.
Good post from Bob Edwards.
Steve Brown on freedom.
Fred Smith asks a question.
Jared Wilson on loving our neighbor.

Letter to Jesus.
Political Christianity.
Provocative post from Keith Giles.
No disclaimers.

Have a blessed week!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Blast From the Past: Dreaming Again. Or Not

This was first posted on July 23, 2008. Nothing has changed.

Most of my life I've heard that God wants us to "dream big", "attempt great things for God, expect great things from God", and desire to be "greatly used". Well, I've dreamed big dreams and I've asked God to let me do great things for him. And, guess what? *crickets chirping*

That's right. Nothing has come of those dreams. In fact, most of them have crashed and burned. The dreams have ranged from competing in the Olympics (or at least getting to the Trials), to coaching college basketball and building a program that would be among the best in the country and having a ministry that would deeply impact the campus. I've even dreamed of of helping plant a church that would touch my community and advance the community. I've followed the advice of Christian motivational speakers and asked God to give me his dream for me, and I really believed he had done this.

I have come to the point in my life where I am done with dreaming. I believe that God does give some big dreams and big things to do for the Kingdom. I don't believe that I'm one of those people. Through my reading (Bible, blogs, and books), praying, and thinking, I've come to believe that God has called me to simply be a follower of Jesus. He is telling me to not worry about where the road is going to go, or what I am going to do along the journey. When I ask, he just says, "You'll find out". There were a lot of followers of Jesus in the 1st century that didn't make it into the New Testament or any of the writings of the time, but they were faithful to what God called them to do. That's what the Father is calling me to be. And, I'm okay with that.

I've often described my walk with God as a journey on the back roads. One of the things about the back roads is that they are away from the crowds, away from the spotlight. Back roads are not the places to do great things or become famous. They are places where a traveler can slow down and get to know their companions, where those you encounter are more likely to give and accept anything that is needed.

So, I'll continue following my Teacher and Friend down the back roads (and sometimes along narrow trails). There's a lot to see along the way and many interesting people to meet. And at the end, I look forward to the Father saying, "Welcome home".

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Weekend Wanderings

Today is a good day to stay indoors. It's rainy and windy as we deal with the weather on the very fringes of Hurricane Matthew. We don't have the issues that the folks on the coast do. They will have a lot of cleaning up to do and a lot of recovering. Pray for those who have lost property or loved ones. In other news, there are thirty one days till the political ads end.

On to the links:

Steve Brown on living missional.
Matt Johnson is encouraging.
Fred Smith has some wise words.
Jordan Harrell on being a friend.
Evidently, we've been had.

Dangers of over parenting.
Losing control.
Kindness and lending.
Idol of suffering.
Thought provoking post.

This is pretty cool.
These are interesting.
This is a shame.
Good post from Jared Wilson.
This seems right to me.

This could change a lot!
Great story!
Matt Tebbe on leadership.
This looks like fun!
Frank Viola asks a question.

Have a blessed week!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness

This is the fifth post in the series.

 Kindness is a term that describes how God has looked on us and treated us in Titus 3:4-5. He had compassion on us and showed us kindness through Jesus.

The Hebrew word "chesed" describes a kindness that is loyal and loving in the book of Ruth. It is more than just a feeling of love. It is a term of action, of doing good to those who don't necessarily have any claim on us. It is the way people treat little children, with compassion and tenderness.

As the Spirit grows kindness in us, we become people who are loving in our actions toward others. We become more compassionate, not just in our hearts, but also in our hands. Kindness can take many forms. It can mean giving a gift, making a meal, spending time with one who is grieving, listening to someone who is going through a hard time. It can mean forgiving someone and restoring a relationship. It can be simply being available. Any thing we can do to show love to another.

May the Spirit produce an increasing crop of kindness in us.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Friday, September 30, 2016

Ten Years Ago, Part 2

It was a beautiful early Fall day, and my dad and I had travelled down to the Charleston, SC area to watch his grandson, my nephew, play soccer. My mom had passed away thirty-three days earlier. I didn't really want to be gone from home that day but drove him down because he really wanted to go.

I'm glad I went, because that day would be the last time I would see my father in this life. During halftime of the soccer game, while my niece and I were coming back from the concession stand, my dad suffered a massive heart attack and died. Paramedics tried to revive him, but he was gone and suddenly I was without both of my parents. I truly believe that Dad died of a broken heart.

Here it is, ten years later, and so much of that day and the ones immediately following are still pretty fresh in my memory. I had lost my hero, the one I looked up to even when I was angry with him. Even though there were things we didn't see eye-to-eye on, I still loved him and knew that he loved me. I see a great deal of my dad in me and even though I didn't get the handyman gene,(that skipped me and went straight to Josh) I did inherit enough stubbornness to at least try. Sometimes I'm successful!

Over the past ten years, I've become more and more comfortable in my own skin, as my father was comfortable in his. I look back with satisfaction at the ways I am like him. It's in those ways, now that I understand better, that I saw Jesus in my dad. Hopefully the same is true with me.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Fruit of the Spirit: Patience

This is the fourth in the series.

The fourth fruit of the Spirit is patience. Depending on the translation, it is rendered patience, forbearance, or long suffering. I think any of those work, depending on our situation.

Patience is the idea of bearing up under some type of load, whether it's waiting for something, bearing with another person, or staying strong in the midst of trials. As we live in community with others, there are plenty of opportunities to show forbearance in our dealings with one another.

We also need patience as we wait for something we are praying for. As hard as it may be we must remember that God's timing is not like ours. As Aslan told Lucy, "I call all times soon." When we take the long view, we can see that our Father is never late.

As we walk in step with the Spirit, we become more patient with others, with ourselves, and with God.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Weekend Wanderings

Today we commemorate a day of tragedy. Fifteen years ago, our country came under attack as planes flew into the twin towers in NY, the Pentagon in DC, and a field in PA. Where were you when you heard the news?

Here are the links of the week:

One of those days we've all had.
An epidemic we don't often think about.
Something for the introverts.
Ten tastiest fast foods.

Good question.
A free bowl of oatmeal.
This is a great story.
This is not surprising.
This looks like a great idea!

Bob Edwards on justice.
Ten observations.
It's okay to be wrong.
Scot McKnight on charity.
The life God is in.

Frank Viola on faith.
Letters from the front.
5 smartphone myths.
Good post from Tiffany Childs.

Have a blessed week!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Sad, Angry, and Hopeful

Today, I lied to one of my bus passengers. She told me she had been diagnosed with ALS and asked me if I knew anything about it. After stating a couple of generalities, I told her that I couldn't think of anything else because I didn't want to be the one to tell her that the disease is fatal. Two days ago, our next door neighbor died from pancreatic cancer, just a few days after coming home from the hospital. A week and a half ago, friends of ours lost their twenty one year old only son in a tragic accident. I see and hear of families and friendships being torn asunder because of pride and selfishness.

I am saddened by all these things. It is heartbreaking to see parents grieving a son that is supposed to outlive them. It grieves me to know that I will no longer speak to my neighbor across the fence between our houses. I am sad to hear of someone contracting a deadly disease. My heart aches to see relationships broken and people I know in pain.

I am angry because none of these things are the way it is supposed to be, the way creation was made to be. I am angry at evil, at sin, at the things that happen to us, and at the things we do to each other. I am angry because I feel helpless much of the time, knowing that so much is out of my control.

I am sad and I am angry. Yet, at the same time I am hopeful. I believe that the Creator of the universe has stepped into this world, taking on humanity. Entering death, on the cross, the King came through the other side and defeated death. His kingdom was inaugurated through this death and has been coming to fruition in small ways ever since. This King will return and set all things to right. I don't understand everything that happens in this life and there are many things I don't like. But, I do believe that one day there will be no cancer, no ALS, no death. I believe that all broken relationships will be reconciled and there will be wholeness and peace.

Even so come, Lord Jesus!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Fruit of the Spirit: Peace

This is the third post in a series.

Another part of the fruit that the Spirit produces in us is peace. Peace is usually thought of as the absence of conflict or hostility. That is true. Christ brought peace and reconciliation between us and the Father and we are called to be peacemakers and agents of reconciliation. I think in this case it goes deeper.

The Hebrew word Shalom, which is usually translated peace, carries the idea of wholeness and flourishing. We can have an absence of conflict or hostility and still not have wholeness. The culture around us tells us that the way to flourish is to drive this, wear that. Drink this, use this toothpaste. Accumulate things and buy a bigger house to put them in, get that perfect job. Marry that person.

Those things are not wrong in themselves. They become an issue when we think that those things will make our lives complete and bring us wholeness. Nothing in or of this world will ever bring us real peace. True peace only comes when the beauty of Jesus captivates us and our love for him grows and makes all other loves and all other narratives of flourishing fade. As that happens, the peace that the Spirit produces fills us whether we have much or have little. Then we can say with Paul that we have learned to be content in all circumstances.

May the beauty of Jesus become the all-surpassing story of our lives and may his peace fill us to overflowing.

Part 1
Part 2

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Fruit of the Spirit: Joy

This is the second post in a series:
Part 1 is here.

Joy is defined as a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. I think that's a good definition because the words translated "Joy" in Scripture can be defined that way. I also believe that joy, at least for the child of Abba, goes much deeper.

We can find joy in many things. For instance, I feel great joy in serving with friends at a local men's shelter. I find joy in being with Jan, more so than with anyone else. I also find joy in simply spending time with my brothers and sisters.

What about when the shtuff of life hits the fan? That's when we have to find our joy in what Abba has done for us in Christ. Jesus endured the sufferings on the cross because of the joy in knowing what that suffering would do. If our suffering somehow complete's the suffering of Jesus and works for the Kingdom, then we can have joy even the midst of the most horrendous pain.

Abba, give us the joy in you that can lift us up and carry us through all things, even suffering.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Weekend Wanderings

Summer is winding down, most of the schools are back in session, and the tropics are heating up. Remember when Labor Day was the start of the campaign season? Wouldn't it be great if we only had to listen to the candidates for two months, instead of a year?

Off the soapbox and on to the links:

Millennial whoop.
Updated classics.
Pep talks and the gospel.
More classics.

Encouragement from Steve Brown.
Funny and challenging.
Documenting highways.
I don't think I could do this.
100 years old.

Rachel Miller on the subordination controversy.
Controversy in Vancouver.
Excellent article!
A bit of sanity.
Flying pizza!

Heart of a shepherd.
Good post from Scot McKnight.
Being right?

Have a blessed week!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Ten Years Ago

It was on this date, ten years ago, that my mom left this life and entered the next. Today we went to the memorial service for the wife of a friend of my father-in-law. As family members spoke of their wife and mother, my mind went back to that day when we said goodbye to the one who had given me birth.

It was a bit hard to hear others speak of their mother on the tenth anniversary of my mom's passing. I thought back, as I heard the sons speak lovingly of their mom. While the last couple of years of my mom's life were spent dealing with the devastating effects of Alzheimer's, I can look back beyond that time to the person she was before the disease so cruelly took her away.

The thing that stands out most in my mind was the quiet, solid faith of my mother. She was not a theologian or one who taught great numbers of people. But, her life had an impact on me, my sister, our children, and many others. She was what C. S. Lewis would have called a mere Christian.

Jesus said that one of the defining characteristics of his followers would be their love. That was certainly true of my mother. She was known as one who loved. Her love for her husband and for her children was evident to all. Her love for others outside of her family was obvious to all who knew her.

Mom was kind and hospitable to all, and was generosity was well known. She was the epitome of grace and love to all who knew her. I pray that some of that was passed down to me. While the last years of her life were hard on her, and on us, I am thankful for the memories of a mother who kept the greatest commandments, who truly loved God and loved others.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Fruit of the Spirit: Love

I want to take some time the next few posts and look at the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 and ask ourselves how much the Spirit has been producing in us.

The first fruit is love. Love is more than just a warm, fuzzy feeling that you can just as easily get from swallowing a caterpillar. It is an inward feeling, true, but it is one that manifests itself in outward actions for the good of another. Jesus tells us that we are to love others as he loved us. That love is a sacrificial love that is concerned with the well-being of others. Jesus said that the greatest love is to lay down our lives for others.

It is good to ask ourselves from time to time, "Do I put others first?" "Do I work for the good of others?" "Am I willing to lay down my desires, my wishes, my agenda?" "Am I willing to compromise (without sinning) for the good of another? In short, "Am I willing to give my life for the well-being of others, regardless?"

I know that this is something that I sometimes struggle with, at least as far as motivation goes. That's why community is vital. We need the encouragement and examples of others. I am thankful for what I see in so many of my brothers and sisters.

Let us continue to encourage each other to follow Jesus more closely.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Weekend Wanderings

Jan and I spent the last two weekends visiting our son and daughter-in-law in Seattle. Our daughter came up from California for part of the time, and we were able to spend a couple days with Jan's sister. We had a wonderful time. It definitely was cooler there than here in the sunny South.

Where have all the Christian intellectuals gone?
Jeremy Myers on Biblical illiteracy.
Good article from Michelle Van Loon.
Having good discussions.
Good essay on nostalgia.

In defense of play.
Funny article from McSweeney's.
How to be happy at work.

Boasting in weakness.
Being a peacemaker.
Knowing we are Christians by...
Surviving a crisis.

Good article from iMonk.
Scot McKnight on Kingdom mission.
Good post from Jonathan Merritt.
Daniel Wells on church refugees.

Have a blessed week!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Refreshing Streams

A couple of weeks ago, I took a Saturday and went up to a mountain area not too far from here. After dealing with a bit of anxiety that had caused me to end up in the hospital with what I thought might be a heart attack (thankfully, it wasn't), I realized that some old hurts still needed healing and were causing me to be anxious about certain things because I was afraid of being hurt again. A lot of things had been happening in my life the past couple months and I succumbed to the temptation to worry about some of them.

As I was hiking through this area, the air was hot and humid, and the trail was dry. I drank enough water before I started walking, so I wasn't in danger of dehydration, but I did start to get thirsty. After about a mile or so, I came to an area that had a stream flowing through, with a bench for sitting. As I journaled and prayed, one of the thoughts that came to me was the Psalmist saying that he panted after God like a deer pants after water. Even though the stream next to me wasn't fit to drink, I was still reminded of the many times God has refreshed me when I was dry and thirsty.

My Abba Father has always been there for me, even during those times when it didn't seem like it; those times when I felt as if I were wandering in the desert with no water in sight. I can go on these mini retreats because I do have a source of living water from which to drink my fill. I realize there will be times when I will be panting and thirsty, but God will always be there with living water, even if it takes a while to get there.

I know that there will be times ahead that could cause anxiety and that I will be hurt. It goes with hanging around people. But I am also realizing that I am only called to show God's love to folks. I am not responsible for the results. I am learning again to trust my Father's love and goodness, and let him take care of me and those I care about.

The dry, thirsty trails are still there to wander down. But, there is cool, refreshing water along the way.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Weekend Wanderings

Here in the United States, we are now living in a reality show. Both major parties have had their conventions and the race is on. There are candidates from other parties, but it remains to be seen how much noise they will be able to make. It's a bit cooler here in the sunny South, but the highs are still expected to be in the nineties.

On to the good stuff:

Habits to drop.
A lost art.
Good post from Matt Johnson.
Interesting article from Kyle Chayka.
Challenging article from Bonnie Petroschuk.

New swimwear for men.
Can beauty save the world?
Pic and poem for the week.
Good article from Daniel Bush and Noel Due.

Good reminder.
A book review.
Faith, hope, and love.
Another good post from Jared C. Wilson.
Knowing and believing.

Keith Giles on love.
The Rock.
Speech analysis.
Excellent post from Zack Hunt.
An apology.

Have a blessed week!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Weekend Wanderings

It looks like most of the US is sweltering under very hot temperatures. In some places they are at dangerous levels. If you know any folks who don't have air conditioning, please check in on them. The GOP act of the circus ended and now it's the Democrats turn. Then three months of folks telling us why the opponent is evil incarnate and how their candidate will save us all. Hopefully it will pass quickly.

On to the links:

This is interesting.
Good one from The Babylon Bee.
The man behind the curtain.
Learning from grief.

Last gasp?
World's steepest street.
Cool story.
Provocative article from Eric D. Weitz.
Some things haven't changed in England.

Interesting post from Keith Giles.
Empires and insecurity.
Chaplain Mike disagrees.
Allan Bevere on politics.

The cost of listening.
Good study on James 1:12-27.
Restoring dignity.
Good post from Sammy Rhodes.
John Frye on a game changing book . It's been influential for me too.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Blast From the Past: Encouragement

This was first posted on July 22, 2010.

While reading Jesus Manifesto yesterday morning, I came across this quote from Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022):

We awaken in Christ's body
as Christ awakens our bodies...
and everything that is hurt, everything
that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful
maimed, ugly, irreparably
damaged, is in him transformed,
recognized as whole, as lovely,
and radiant in his light.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Weekend Wanderings

The world is a rather dangerous place to be lately. Between shootings in the US to an attack on a crowd with a truck in France to a failed coup attempt in Turkey, there are plenty examples of man's inhumanity to man. Tomorrow the circus starts in Cleveland, at least the part of the circus managed by the Republicans.

Enough political talk. Here are the links:

Marci Preheim on grace.
A mega-problem.
Interesting article.
Eric Dorman on play.

Abandoning tough love.
Keith Giles on being in Christ.
Medieval wisdom.
An obituary.
Todd Pruitt on the subordination controversy.

Scruffy hospitality.
Just us.
Scot McKnight on heresy.
Missing the gospel.
From cathedrals to movie theaters.

Good post from Dan Edelen.
Good post from Jared C. Wilson.

Have a blessed week!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Lessons From Meatloaf

The singer, not the food. I know what you all are thinking. "Fred's really lost his mind!" Now that may be true, but bear with me.

In the song, "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad," there is a line that says, "I want you, I need you, but there ain't no way I'm ever gonna love you." I wonder if this might be descriptive of many in the church in the 21st century.

One thing I do believe is true is that many in the American evangelical church have a hard time being in community with other believers. I'm not talking about gathering in a worship setting once a week, although that is a vital part of community. I'm talking about spending time with other believers, gathering in homes and other places and digging beneath the surface to build up and challenge each other in following Jesus. That is community, and it can be messy at times.

I think many are saying, "I want you, I need you, but there ain't no way I'm ever gonna love you." In other words, they crave community, being known and loved for who they are. They want to be loved and accepted. They recognize their need for community. But.

But, when it comes down to the hard stuff, the hard work of loving as Jesus loves us, the messiness of sacrificially loving others with all their warts and blemishes, that's a different story. Then it becomes, "ain't no way!" Some hang out on the periphery, never quite throwing their lot in fully. Others find a church that only asks that they show up once a week and put their money in the offering plate.

Although we do want and need to be part of a fellowship that accepts and loves us, and that challenges us, it is not really about our wants and needs. It is about obeying what our King told us to do, to love one another and to lay down our lives for each other. That is how the world will know we belong to Jesus, not by how we vote or what position we take on social issues. The first Christians, with all their flaws, learned to live with and love folks from all kinds of backgrounds and with all sorts of issues. Even though they were far from perfect, they were known throughout the world for their love for each other and for those outside. And, they turned the world upside down.

May God help us to say, "I want you, I need you, and I will love you no matter what it takes."

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Weekend Wanderings

It's been an interesting week here in the sunny South. I woke up very early Wednesday morning with a feeling like a heavy weight was sitting on my chest. After a few rounds of tests, the cardiologist determined that I have a couple of arteries partially blocked. Not enough for a stent or anything like that, but enough so that I will be on some medicine and will have to tweak a few things in my diet and lifestyle. Fortunately I found out without going through a major heart episode.

On to the good stuff:

This is cool.
Christianity is not for everyone.
An open letter.
The paradox of pretty.
The end of reflection.

Are you outraged?
A guide to religious affiliations you never knew existed.
Samson reflection.
Are things getting too smart?
We could all use some perspective.

Bad faith.
Alternate endings to Great Expectations.
Encouragement. Or not.
Brexit and beer.
Questions Jesus never asked.

Gospel and Kingdom.
Geoff Holsclaw on Trinity.
World's 50 best restaurants.
Good post from Joe James.
Instead of the sinner's prayer.

Have a blessed week!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Sticks, Stones, and Words

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me." So goes the schoolyard chant. I beg to differ. While it may be true that sticks and stones may break bones, it is equally true that words can hurt, often in ways far worse than physical damage.

Now I don't agree with the current way of thinking that wants "trigger warnings," "safe places," and other means of shielding people from speech and ideas that might challenge their own thinking. The desire to only see and hear what agrees with your presuppositions is a fast track to fear and ignorance. The lack of civil discourse is a growing problem in our society, even in the church.

I would agree that there is a point where we can become too careful with our words, walking on verbal eggshells in order to avoid making anyone feel bad. At the same time, I believe that those of us who follow Jesus are called to be careful with our speech. While we are to speak truth, we are called to do so in love. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says that using terms of contempt is equal to murder. Ephesians 4:29 tells us we are to not let any corrupting or unwholesome talk come out of our mouths but only say things that build one another up. I believe this goes beyond just an admonition to avoid cussing and dirty jokes.

In his letter, James tells us that our tongues should be instruments of blessing rather than cursing. Paul says that our words should be gracious and add "flavor" to others. All through Scripture we are commanded to guard our speech, to say things that build others up rather than tearing them down.

Most of can remember times when the words of another cut us to the quick and caused long lasting damage. If we're honest, we can also remember times when we have done the same. Churches have split over things that have been said, as have whole denominations. Hateful, evil speech is not just a problem outside the church.

Jesus said that the world would know we are his by our love to one another. May we follow our Master and King by being careful and gracious with our words, and also being gracious and forgiving toward those who blow it, because we all will.
Let us grow more and more into the likeness of Christ Jesus in everything, including how we use our tongues.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Weekend Wanderings

It's getting hot here in the sunny South. The high Sunday is supposed to reach triple digits. And, along with the heat comes the humidity. The NBA finals are moving along and it looks like it could go seven games.

On to the good stuff:

Are you a stressed out millennial?
The death of self.
Good article from Tim Suttle.
A picture.
Faking it.

Funny post from the Babylon Bee.
Jared Wilson on pastoral ministry.
fresh approach to education.
Good post from Trudy Smith.
Good post from Cara Joyner.

As it turns out, you can grow your brain.
Just in case you've wondered what Rob Bell is up to.
Dealing with discouragement.
Good post from Ed Cyzewski.
Creative sentencing.

New theory on PTSD.
Bob Edwards on Gandhi's seven social sins.
Standing desks.
Good words from Chaplain Mike.
Jonathan Merritt on the Gospel Coalition and blocking.

Have a blessed week!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Five Year Plans and Wondering

Last night, I was asked where I saw myself in five years. I had a hard time answering that question for two reasons. First, I'm sixty years old and don't know how a five year plan fits in. The second reason is the simple fact that I have done all the daily, weekly, yearly, etc., goals throughout my life, including thinking five and ten years down the road, and very few of my long term plans have come to fruition.

I used to be one of those who bought the concept of setting all those goals in order to have success in career and life. I had all sorts of plans. Plans to coach at the college level, eventually being part of a national championship program. Plans to have a great impact in the lives of young people through my coaching.
Before that, I had plans to be an Olympic class sprinter.

Anyone want to take a guess at how those goals turned out? If you have followed college basketball or international track and field with even the smallest interest, you will know that I never reached those heights. While I was an assistant coach of a women's basketball team for one year at a small college, and I did spend one year running for a nationally recognized track club, those were quite a bit below where I wanted to be.

I used to be somewhat envious of those I knew who had their career track in mind at an early age and were doing exactly what they had envisioned. They had no deviations from the straight and narrow on their career path, while mine looked more like a drunken sailor on his way back to the ship. Not only did the path take some back roads, it sometimes ran along trails that seemed to go nowhere.

I have come to realize that my journey has not been of my planning or of my doing. I know, some of you may be saying, "Here we go. All of the excuses for why he's not successful." And, you may be right. I beg to differ. I believe long ago, God decided that I was not to do this whole planning, accomplishing, and succeeding thing on my own. I tried. I went to school, earned degrees, did internships, sent out resumes, all those things I was supposed to do. I watched folks less qualified get positions I was wanting. I spent time in jobs that didn't come close to fitting my plans. I never did grab the brass ring.

But, you know what? As I look back on my life, I realize that I wouldn't change a thing. Well maybe a couple of things here and there, but overall not a thing. I have had the opportunity to travel as a part of jobs I had. I have had the opportunity to work with some fantastic people and coach some amazing young folks, whether they were star athletes or not. I have had opportunities to learn some lessons that were life changing. Most importantly, I have had a wonderful wife by my side and the privilege of being a father to two wonderful children, both of whom I had the opportunity to coach. And, I have experienced the love and grace of fellow followers of Jesus that I am grateful to own as my brothers and sisters.

To quote the philosopher, Jerry Garcia, "What a long strange trip it's been." I am thankful for the way my Father has led me through all the twisting and turning. I am grateful for all those who have helped me along the way. I guess it's turned out pretty well. I think I'm looking forward to where the road takes me over the years to come. Should be fun.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Weekend Wanderings

The first day of hurricane season came last Wednesday, and we already had two named storms prior to that. Could be a harbinger of a busy season. The NBA finals have begun. Can the Warriors repeat? It's warming up here in the sunny South and we have a chance of thunderstorms each afternoon.

Enough small talk. On to the good stuff:

Ten worst U.S. airports.
Funny post from Babylon Bee
Christian pop.
Ayn Rand's Mary Poppins.

Daniel Bush on doubt.
Feeding the beast.
Time and space.
Steve Brown on forgiveness.
David George Moore has questions for James K. A. Smith.

This is pretty cool.
Keith Giles on preemptive love.
Five myths about gentrification.
Jared Wilson on play.
Challenging post from Scot McKnight.

Keep your heart safe.
Good post by Chaplain Mike.
Another look.
Carl Trueman on the public square.

Have a blessed week!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Weekend Wanderings

Finally, the weekly links post is back where it belongs. There has been a whole lot of stuff going on in the last few weeks.

But enough about me. On to the good stuff:

Good post from Bruce Hillman.
Good post from Martin Luther. Really.
Funny post from Babylon Bee.
Funny post from the Toast.

No kicker.
This could be a good thing.
Cooking questions.
Garrison Keillor and Christian branding.
This is interesting.

Good post from Michelle Van Loon.
Mike Erich on encouraging one another.
Bob Edwards on dignity.
Church of the Organ Grinder's Monkey.

Good question from Keith Giles.
Power or cross?
7 worst snacks.
Road trip!
Scot McKnight on church architecture.

Have a blessed week!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

How Long?

This is a poem I wrote recently.

How long?
How long must parents mourn the death of children
Disease, hunger, war, or their own hand?
How long must children watch parents waste away?
Disease, dementia, or simply age

How long must families, friendships, communities be torn apart?
Selfishness and sin
How long must people and nations be destroyed?
Hatred and war

How long must the land be devastated?
Floods, tornadoes, hurricanes
How long must the earth groan?
Belching fire and tearing violently asunder

Creation is broken. It is not supposed to be this way

How long?
How long must we wait
Reunion with loved ones?
How long must we wait
Relationships set right?

How long must we wait?
Creation set right
How long must we wait?
Disease, pain, death ended

How long must we wait?
Anticipating your return
How long must we wait?
Resurrection and the death of death

We long for the way it is supposed to be

Monday, May 16, 2016

A Passing Generation

This past Friday, my father-in-law passed from this life into the next. He had been in an assisted living facility for a year and a half after falling and breaking his hip. A little over a month ago, he celebrated his 95th birthday and it became increasingly clear that his life on this earth was nearing its end. He became unresponsive on Thursday, and on Friday took his final breath.

There has been grieving, as is normal when a loved one is no longer there, but there is also a sense of relief and a knowledge that his suffering is over and he is now completely whole and at peace. There is also a sense that things are now different, as the last of our parents has passed from the scene. This generation has been called the "greatest generation," and there is a sense in which this is true. They defeated the greatest threat to the world up to that time, and came back to build a country that became the most influential on earth.

My father-in-law was a good example of that generation. Charlie left a small town in Iowa to move to Washington, DC and begin a career with the FBI. He began as a clerk, going to school at night to get a college degree in order to become a special agent. This career was interrupted by war and he joined the navy and served in the Pacific as a signalman on a troop transport. His ship was torpedoed by the Japanese and survived a typhoon. After returning to the US, he was promoted to special agent. He served in that position for twenty four years.

After retiring from government service, Charlie spent a few years as head of security at a local bank. I met him after he retired when I began to date his youngest daughter. From the start, I felt completely accepted. I was made to feel like part of the family. For some reason my father-in-law thought I was pretty special. When he moved into the facility in 2014, I hung some plates on his wall. I have a decent eye so I was able to hang them pretty straight without using a level. Charlie was always telling people who came in to see him that I had done such an amazing job of hanging them straight by just eyeballing them. He continually told me what a good son-in-law I was and how glad he was that I had married his daughter. He was always a huge encouragement to me..

Charlie's sense of humor was a source of amusement for all of us. From him, we learned how a crow lights on a limb. We also learned that if you didn't know where someone was, they were probably on a night train to Memphis, and we also learned the answer to the question, "Think all this rain will hurt the rhubarb?" (Answer: Not if it's in cans) My father-in-law, along with my mother-in-law got along very well with my parents, so it was a joy to be able to get to together with all four of them when we visited, and later when all four moved to be near us.

Charlie Parkis is at rest with his Savior. I am grateful for the way he accepted me as if I was his son and for the encouragement he was to our family. He will be missed, but we know we will see him again some day.  

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Weekend Wanderings

Sorry the posting has been spotty lately. There's a lot going on in our little corner of the world and blogging has had to slide down the priority pole. I am planning to write a post on some of what is part of our lives right now.

In the meantime, here are some links:

A Bible for everyone.
Family-friendly = Christian?
Is it really about the bucket list?
Kierkegaard and the offense of Christianity.
Pam Hogeweide on golden handcuffs.

Self righteousness.
A different perspective on Donald Trump.
Dialing up a random Swede.
Getting better.
I don't know. This seems like a poor substitute.

Classic imonk post.
Pascal's other wagers.
Good article on being hated.
Putting cats to work.
How many of these are you guilty of?

Messy saints.
Good post from Keith Giles.
Good words from Bob Edwards.
Pogo, the Pilgrims, and us.
Scot McKnight on Kingdom and leadership.

Have a blessed week!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Weekend Wanderings

It's the weekend when the college basketball season comes to an end. The NCAA men's champion will be crowned Monday night, while the women's champion will be decided Tuesday. Then the waiting for October begins. Sure, there are other sports, but none that match the excitement of college basketball. You, of course, are entitled to disagree. We'll still be friends.

Enough small talk. On to the links:

Are you street smart?
This is still a problem.
Before the war.
Are you repentant enough?
April Fools' Day poem.

Mr. Rogers the radical?
New political poll. (Note the date)
Easter politics.
Interesting post.

Funny post.
Muscles and aging.
Good post from Chaplain Mike.
Money back guarantee? Really?
Mike Erich on forgiveness.

Bob Edwards' thoughts on Christianese.
Christmas and Easter.
In between.
The season of Easter.
Encouraging post from Dan Edelen.

Have a blessed week!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Jesus the King: Part 3

Jesus is our Shepherd who cares for us, our leader who gave himself for us and fights for us. He is also our absolute ruler. In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus has some pretty strong words for those who would claim to follow him. Jesus is a despot. A benevolent despot, but a despot nonetheless. He expects nothing less than total allegiance to him. It is hard for us to grasp the ramifications of this. We live in a democratic republic where we have a say. We tend too easily to give our allegiance to things of this world, whether it's a person, party, ideology, country, church, or denomination. None of these things can come before our King. They may be good things, but they are still things of this world that will pass away.

Even those who live under dictatorships can possibly overthrow their rulers. Jesus cannot be overthrown. His power is absolute and his word is law. When he commands something, he doesn't put it up for a referendum. His commands are so vital that they carry eternal significance. There is a bit of tension when we talk about following Jesus and then read about obeying his commands. I thought we were saved by grace, not by keeping the law. Why does Jesus give us all these commands? When you look at Jesus' commands, they are actually quite impossible, if we try ton keep them in our own strength. That's what makes the kingship of Jesus so different. His commands are not just a new law, a new list of do's and don'ts. They are what Kingdom people are, how they live. Not only does our King give us commands, he also gives us the power to obey them. As we grow more and more into Kingdom people, we take Jesus' commands more and more seriously, realizing that we can only do what he says through the power of his Spirit in us. That's where grace comes in. Our King knows that we are weak and falter in our walk with him. He doesn't cast us into a dungeon or out of the Kingdom. He pulls us up and reminds us of who we are.

So, what does this mean for us here in the 21st century? First, we must realize that while the Kingdom has been inaugurated, it is not fully realized. In a very real sense, Jesus is a King in exile. We, his subjects, are here to work for his Kingdom. We are citizens of a Kingdom that is not like the kingdoms of this world. Second, we must learn what following the King means. As we look into Scripture, we must do so with the commitment to do what Jesus says. Third, we then are to teach one another, in community, how it all fleshes out in our day-to-day. We show what our King is like by sacrificially loving and serving others. We live out his words that those who belong to him are family.

As we do these things, we must remember that we can not live this way in our own power. We can do so only in the power of the Holy Spirit. We must also remember that we will not do this perfectly in this life, and that our brothers and sisters also will falter in their walk. Patience and grace is vital.

To quote one of my favorite passages from Tales of the Kingdom, "How goes the world?"  "The world goes not well." "But, the Kingdom comes!" Let us be people in whom the Kingdom comes more and more each day.

Part 2
Part 1

Moving On

It's been a while since I've written here. Life has been happening the past few months. I have decided to start fresh, so I'm mo...