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In step



Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum​

Little Drummer Boy is one of the most recognizable Christmas songs in modern culture. It speaks to the heart of what Christmas is about. The heart of what it really means to be human. I didn’t really give this song its due for a long time. I thought it was about drums. It isn’t.

The video player is currently playing an ad.
When I was a kid, I thought the part that went “pa rum pum pum pum” was some sort of language. I thought it was saying something I did not understand. At some point, I realized it was the sound of the drum. But recently I have gone back to my original interpretation. Those words are more than the sound of the drum. There is a reason the lyrics use words to represent the sound rather than just the noise of a drum beating. The song is not about a drum.

Reason for Season

The song “Little Drummer Boy” is a song about a boy who realizes that although he does not have anything of value, he is valuable. He realizes this in the presence of a baby. Jesus. The Savior of the world wrapped in swaddling clothes. The drummer does his best. But the drum is a metaphor.

The boy is approaching the manger, following the good news, looking for a gift to bring to the newborn Christ. But he has nothing of substance to give.
In the absence of anything that makes sense, he decides to “play his drum”. The Little Drummer Boy plays in tranquility, a step away from silence. The song is slow, contemplative.

Me and my drum.
Almost like a heartbeat.
I think the reason the song resonates with us is because we are all searching for exactly what the Drummer Boy is searching for. We are looking for a gift to share. For something that makes us who we are. Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum.

But we are not our gifts. We are the presence we bring into a room. The greatest gifts brought to Jesus in the manger were not gold, frankincense, or myrrh. It was the presence of witnesses. The people. The heartbeats.
Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum.

The song Little Drummer Boy is about humbly offering all we are, living out of the simple joy of our simple gifts, and understanding that we were meant to play not just for ourselves but for our King.

Finding the Drum

The problem for most of us is we don’t know what our “drum” is.
Here is the fascinating thing: the Drummer Boy doesn’t seem to get it either. He says he has “no gift to bring”. All he can offer is the heartbeat of his instrument: pa rum pum pum pum.

The same is true for us. Our “drum” is not what we are good at. The Drummer Boy does not blow them away with a concerto. He just “plays”, that simply melodic tune. It is gibberish and confusing, yet somehow it is right and true. The way that music is. Mary nods, the animals keep time. It is a subtle magic but nobody is on their feet waving their hands in the air in ecstasy.

Your “drum” is not your intellect or your good looks or the way you throw a curveball. It is not your wit or your writing or the way you make money. It includes all these things. But it is also more. Indescribably more.

Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum.
Mess and all, confusion and all – you are who you are. Your drum is you, the very essence of a unique human. On this earth in search of the right tune. Trying to play your instrument well. Trying to find an audience worth playing for, who will accept and appreciate your playing for the mystery it is.
To what beat do you drum? How do you drum? For whom? These are not idle questions. They are not hypothetical. They are the very reason you are alive.
Pa rum pum pum pum.



3 Prayers For Christmas​

Here are three prayers you can pray for this Christmas or during the Christmas season.

The Greatest Gift​

Oh Father, thank You for sending Your one and only Son to earth as a baby so many years ago. Thank you that He paid the punishment for my sins by dying on the cross. And thank you that He rose again to prove that death was truly defeated. Let the lights of the Christmas season remind me of the Light of the World, Jesus Christ and may the light of your Word penetrate my heart as I are reminded of the gift of eternal life by faith in Jesus Christ and just as the glories of the heavenly hosts are echoed in our church, let all the heavenly hosts rejoice with us with Your second coming. I am so very grateful, Lord Jesus Christ, that your story has become my story, and I celebrate your coming to earth and becoming flesh for my sake and in the King of kings and Lord of lords name, Jesus Christ, I thank You, amen.

The Focus of Christ​

Dear Father in heaven, I am sorry when I have made my never-ending lists of things to do before the holiday season take the place of You. I know that Jesus Christ is the reason for the season in the first place. It is Immanuel, God with us (Isaiah 7; John 1) in Jesus Christ. Please forgive us when our “to-do” lists make us esteem ourselves better than others and makes us “me-first” oriented because we want to get everything done, every gift bought, and every last preparation completed, even if someone’s feelings get hurt. The commercialism just seems to grow worse every year Lord and the significance of You keeps shrinking.

We replace worshiping for shopping. We take temporal things and put our pleasure in them instead of in the eternal things and everlasting joy in You. Things pass…Your joy remains. May we never forget that. With all of the plays, parties, musicals, choir presentations, church services, and family gatherings, no wonder we are exhausted before Christmas even gets here. Restore the joy of Christmas to our hearts Lord and help us take time to relax each day and abide in Your Word. Help us rightly to remember the coming of Jesus Christ as both God and Man, so that we may share in the worship of Jesus, just like the angels, and the gladness of the shepherds, as well as the worship of the wise men, in Jesus’ name I pray, amen.


Darkness to Light​

Great God in heaven, I know you saved me out of the darkness into the light to go back into the darkness again to share the light. That light is Jesus Christ. Help me to remember to share the good news with those in my family as well as my friends and co-workers that Jesus Christ came into the world not just to create a holiday weekend but to rescue the perishing out of an evil world and to take upon Himself the wrath of God that we were due so that we might have our sins taken away. It seems that every year the world grows darker and darker and the more the light of the world hurts their eyes.

God, looking at myself, I know that you chose the lowly, the outcasts, and the poor to receive the greatest news the world has ever known and it was only by Your grace that I was saved (Eph 2:8-9), so let me worship you in meekness, humility, and gratefulness of heart. Also Lord, may I also remember our brothers and sisters who are serving their country in the military and who are separated from their family. Please comfort them in this time of being separated from their loved ones and keep their eyes on You. Finally, for those who are less fortunate than ourselves, let us remember them, like the single people to invite them for dinner and also for those who are homeless, during this season of giving. In Jesus’ great name I pray, amen.


Whether you observe Christmas or not, I hope this can help you pray to God in a specific way but sometimes we all need the help of our Advocate and He is there when we need Him as Paul writes that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Rom 8:26-27).


Irresponsible Worry

[ 1 min read ★ ]

And which of you by being anxious
can add a single hour to his span of life?—Matthew 6:27

Something’s coming. Doesn’t it always feel like that? Maybe it’s something financial . . . maybe work-related . . . maybe health-related . . . definitely bad. And so, we worry. I mean, it almost feels like that’s just a part of being a man, worrying about what’s coming. We worry about all the bad things that could happen, to us and to our loved ones. We scheme about how to get out in front of all those things. Then we worry some more about whether we’re actually men enough to execute our schemes. All this worrying hangs over our lives. It haunts our thoughts and steals important moments—moments that should be joy-filled.

But, it would be irresponsible not to worry, wouldn’t it? We’ve been trained to worry, all our lives. We’ve been trained that men with responsibilities are supposed to worry. It’s part of manhood.

Or is it? Our King, Jesus Christ, teaches us that it’s actually not. You see, he didn’t come so that we’d live lives haunted by fear. He came and died to set us free from such things (Galatians 5:1). He assures us, our Father God will take care of us, whether we worry or not (Matthew 6:26). We must, therefore, adopt a radical, new mindset: "We don’t know what’s coming . . . but our Father God does. So, we’ll leave it to him."

Okay, so what do we do?

Letting go of worry is tough. You must approach it not only intellectually, but practically too. You cannot simply command yourself, "worry less." That, by itself, doesn’t work so well. You must get practical by actually talking about worries with a spouse, a friend, with brothers in community. That does work (2 Corinthians 12:9). Getting your worries out into the open is as powerful as it is counterintuitive. So, brother, defy your instincts.



3 Biblical Strategies To Help You Resist Sin​

How can you fight off lust in a world where there’s so much sexually explicit images?


Jesus said “that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt 5:48), so how can we possibly do that in a world where there’s sexually explicit images just about everywhere you look? It’s in public in the way people dress, on the Internet, TV, magazines, newspapers, and just about any place human eyes can see, so how can we keep our hearts from lusting after the images we see in the world?

Job gave me an idea how to deal with the lusting eye, and for him, it was turn your heard, or don’t look. When we look at something that might make us lust, the best thing to do is to quickly look the other way. For me, it was Job’s covenantal eyes, saying, “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin” (Job 31:1)? Solomon’s wisdom tells us, “Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes; for the price of a prostitute is only a loaf of bread, but a married woman hunts down a precious life” (Prov 6:25-26), so if we don’t want to desire such beauty to the point of lusting, we should choose to look away. It is just not worth the grief it will bring in ruined or destroyed relationships if we allow ourselves to act on that lust.

What enters the eye gate enters the heart. Jesus said, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness” (Matt 6:22-23)! Just as what goes into the mouth, enters the body, whatever enters they eye gate, enters the heart…and often, finds a home.


God’s will is clearly defined in Scripture, where the Apostle Paul writes, “by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:1-2), so “this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor” (1 Thess 4:3-4).

Sometimes that abstaining comes in the form of leaving the place or situation where you’re tempted. That means we should “flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Tim 2:22). Several times the Bible says our response to avoiding sin is to run or to flee. For example, Paul writes that we must “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Cor 6:18). Don’t think you can’t be tempted, because “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.

Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death”
(James 1:14-15). This is partly why the Apostle Peter wrote, “I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (1 Pet 2:11), and sometimes why it’s best to run when you’re tempted.


After a believer has put their trust in Christ, they have just begun the battle…the battle against the flesh. That’s something the Apostle Paul was clearly aware of, writing, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Rom 7:19). Even after conversion, we all still sin (1 John 1:8, 10), so we must “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col 3:5), but what can help us do that, besides run from temptation and turn our eyes away? How can you turn away from or run from your imagination? The psalmist gives us sage advice by writing, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). In effect, the psalmist is saying he memorized Scripture so that he might not sin against God. The seemingly insignificant word “that” in this verse, is the hinge on which the door of the Word of God turns and slams the door on temptation shut. Hiding God’s Word in our hearts gives us ammo for times when we need to resist temptation. For Job, it was turning his eyes away when he looked at a woman. For others, it was running as fast as they can, but the Word of God has power (Isaiah 55:11; Rom 1:16; 1 Cor 1:18), and we need God’s power, which are found in His Spirit and in His Word. That’s because, “all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world” (1 John 2:16).


The best way to avoid lusting and temptation, which can carry us away into sin, is to immediately look away from anything that tempts you; remove yourself from a tempting situation; and hide God’s Word in your heart, because God’s Word has power where we do not (Rom 1:16; 1 Cor 1:18), and we need to tap that power in order to fight the temptation to lust, which could lead to a sin of sexual immorality.



5 Things That Keep Pastors Up At Night​

I’m going to share with you what is probably keeping your pastor up at night. I can’t speak for every pastor but I’m confident there are at least some shared experiences that apply to most pastors. Issues like division in the church and people who can’t get along exist in every church. You can bet these five things are keeping your pastor up at night.
Nik Shuliahin / Unsplash

1) Pastors Can’t Sleep When People Don’t Love Each Other​

The only way to grow spiritually is within the context of community. If we don’t integrate into a local church family, we won’t have the opportunity to bear one another’s burdens. The problem is that church involves a large group of imperfect people. And like any real family, the collection of imperfect people brings disagreements, misunderstandings and immaturity issues. It’s sort of a catch 22. We can’t grow spiritually until we integrate into a community that forces us to grow spiritually.

I often wonder how many times Jesus had to remind the disciples to “love one another” (John 13:34). It’s a simple command, but very hard to live out. Pastors know when people in the church are not getting along and it keeps them up at night. You can support your pastor by encouraging people in the church to forgive each other and work things out.

2) Pastors Can’t Sleep When People Aren’t Aligned With the Vision​

There’s a huge difference between mission and vision in the local church. The mission of the church never changes because it comes from the Lord Jesus Himself: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). These words represent the reason every local church on the planet should exist.

The church vision, on the other hand, is different from the mission because it comes from church leaders (not God) and should change over time. The vision represents elements such as music styles, how kid’s church will function and the carpet color in the worship center. Think of the mission as the engine that drives the church and the vision as the steering wheel that directs the church. It’s for this reason churches are not all the same (thank God for that)!

It’s important to find a local church you can fully support, even if you don’t agree with every little detail. When people (especially staff and volunteers) are not aligned with the vision it keeps pastors up at night. You can support your pastor by learning the vision and modeling it throughout the church.

3) Pastors Can’t Sleep When They Are Constantly Criticized​

Pastors live inside a fishbowl that brings lots of criticism. It’s part of the calling and every leader should be subject to critique. However, there are times when a “spirit of criticism” sweeps through certain pockets of the local church. We don’t want to be among those who bite the hand trying to feed the people. The author of Hebrews said it this way, “To this end, allow them (spiritual leaders) to lead with joy and not with grief, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Hebrews 13:17).
It’s easy to find things wrong with your leader. Just keep in mind that being a source of joy (not grief) will ultimately benefit your spiritual walk. You can support your pastor by speaking up when others engage in unnecessary criticism.

4) Pastors Can’t Sleep When People Are Spiritually Apathetic​

The church is the most exciting living organism on the planet. It’s the Body of Christ designed to work in harmony to make disciples across the earth. There’s nothing better than when the people are fully engaged. Together we can change the world, which is why spiritual apathy is so frustrating to pastors. We want people to grow spiritually and demonstrate genuine faith, excitement and zeal for what God is doing.
It’s not the pastor’s job to make people grow spiritually. Ultimately, we are all responsible for our own attitude and commitment to the things of God. You can support your pastor by taking responsibility for your own personal growth and showing up to worship God.

5) Pastors Can’t Sleep When There’s Division in the Church​

We all know people who think they know better than everybody else. They walk around the church with a haughty spirit and ruin the culture. Such people assume their opinions and presence is more significant than other people in the community. It only takes one person to compromise church unity and such people must be dealt with swiftly. Please don’t be that person in your church, it’s definitely keeping your pastor up at night.
The only remedy for division in the church is through true humility. Paul said, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourself” (Philippians 2:3). You can support your pastor by assuming others in the church are more important than you.


Your Next Chapter

[ 1 min read ★ ]

. . . he is a new creation. The old has passed away;
behold, the new has come—2 Corinthians 5:17

We write with God all the time. Working alongside him, we write the stories of our lives. He creates the settings and the characters. He creates the conflicts—the situations requiring choices. And we get to make those choices as the characters in his stories. God may encourage us, invite us, surprise us, persuade us, challenge us, convict us—but we and we alone decide, for ourselves.

As we move along in our stories, as we live them out, we sometimes try to convince ourselves that some decisions aren’t actually written down or that we can selectively somehow strike decisions from our stories, after we’ve made them. Looking forward, we tell ourselves, "no one will know." Looking back, we think, "no one can ever know." The truth is, every decision is captured: large, small, good, bad. Every decision is written into our stories, immediately, indelibly.

Thankfully, the plot God intends for us involves making some mistakes, some bad decisions, but learning from them and allowing him to redeem them. He can, you know, redeem even the worst decisions (Romans 8:28). What we must do, going forward, is to keep our stories in mind, when we come upon decision points. What we must do is ask ourselves, at those points, "What decisions do we want written, permanently, into our stories?" Asking ourselves that, in those moments, is how we begin to lay aside our old selves and put on our new selves (Ephesians 4:22-24).

Okay, so what do we do?

When you come to a next decision point—today, tomorrow—ask yourself, before you decide, "What do I want written into my story?" Ask yourself, "What do I want the next chapter of my story to be about? Trust or mistrust? Selflessness or selfishness? Love or resentment? Maturity or immaturity? Redemption or sin?"



Why Can’t I Be Friends With My Ex After My Divorce?​

There are many reasons why people strive to be friends with their ex after a breakup or divorce. Certainly one of the main reasons is that they have unfinished business that they hope to resolve. Our they may want to keep the non-intimate part of the relationship going because they have caring feelings toward their former spouse. Finally, some people feel guilty about leaving the relationship.

However, the reality is that it’s usually problematic for ex-spouses to maintain a friendship after divorce. And having expectations that you’ll be friends may set you up for disappointment if this isn’t possible. It’s especially challenging for the person who was left (the dumpee) to maintain a friendship after a split because having regular contact with the person who rejected them can make a person feel confused or give them a sense of false hope.

On the other hand, the dumper would probably admit to feeling guilty upon seeing their ex regularly or worry that they are sending the wrong message. Regular friendly contact could give the dumpee a sense that over time their ex-spouse will return to the marriage.

Alicia, 45, an architect, confides: “I couldn’t understand why two caring adults couldn’t visit with our kids and hang out like friends. But Alex told me it hurt him too much because he was reminded of his grief and sadness every time we hung out.” This experience is a common one for the dumpee who might feel especially hurt if their ex has a new partner and they don’t. It can add salt to an open wound that has not had sufficient time to heal.
Another reason why people want to stay in close contact with a former partner after a breakup, is because they hope for reconciliation but they don’t necessarily want to admit it openly. According to Susan J. Elliott, author of Getting Past Your Breakup, “Examining your quest for contact and being honest about your real intentions will help you stop making excuses to make contact.”

5 Reasons Remaining Friends with Your Ex Might Not Work:
  • It does not give you or your ex time to grieve the loss of the relationship or marriage. Like all losses, the breakup of a long-term relationship or marriage causes people to go through various stages of grief. In order to heal and move through anger, denial, etc. it’s essential that individuals have the emotional and physical space to do this. Trying to maintain a friendship may extend the healing process.
  • You need to forge a new identity: After a breakup, it’s essential to lose your identity as a couple and to return to who you were as an individual, rather than half of a couple.
  • It can cause confusion for your children. It’s normal for most children to experience reconciliation fantasies and seeing their parents spend time together (social events, holidays, etc.) can cause them to long for their intact family. Children benefit from parents who are collaborative but not necessarily friends post-breakup.
  • You need to focus on self-care and forming new relationships. Maintaining a close friendship with an ex (especially if it’s emotionally or physically intimate) can delay this process.
  • Acceptance is the final stage of grieving the loss of a loved one, according to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, and a post-breakup friendship doesn’t facilitate this process.

It’s essential to the process of getting a divorce, to accept the breakup of your marriage and come to a place of “it is what it is.” This involves creating a new chapter in your life and part of this is to form new relationships. While it’s a great idea to be civil and cooperative with your former spouse – especially when you have children – having good boundaries with your ex-spouse will help you both move on and heal. That said, giving yourself time and space to regain independence and a sense of identity will serve you and your children well in the long run.



Is It Okay To Have Secrets In A Relationship?​

Is it okay to have secrets in a relationship? Do you have to tell each other everything?

There is something powerful about secrets. A power that can be dangerous. The worst parts of us fester in secrecy. They burrow a little hole in our souls and tell us we have to hide. That we are not okay. We are failures. Sinners. Ugly and disgusting. And they tell us those lies to keep us from exposing them. When our faults are exposed, they are given the chance to heal and be corrected through accountability. In secrecy, they grow and linger.

On the other hand, there is a part of each of us that is truly unique. It is hard to understand, let alone communicate, the depths of what makes up all of our thoughts, emotions, and ideas. There is so much, and we cannot possibly communicate it all.

Relationship Goals

One of the things we have learned in our few years of marriage is that our relationship is not exactly the same and does not have to play by the exact same rules as other healthy marriages.

For example, a lot of couples have a deal where they tell each other everything. If you tell the husband a story, you assume the wife will hear it too. We don’t have that. We have a deal where we do not intentionally keep something (anything) from one another IF asked. We talk to a lot of people about a lot of confidential things. If the other partner wants to know, we tell. But we are constantly asking ourselves “why do I really want to know? Is it necessary”. It often isn’t.

The point here is that secrets in a marriage can be okay. The key is communication, an agreement on the way your unique relationship needs to operate.
A good rule of thumb is that you should not keep a secret from someone you are in relationship with if knowing the secret either exposes your sin or makes them aware of theirs. The latter is the most tempting time to keep a secret. We tell ourselves we don’t want them to be hurt. But if we cannot trust people with truth, we should not be in relationship with them.

The essential question is this: why am I in relationship with this person? What are we hoping to be together? Sinful secrets often divide us. They set us up to be subtly combative entities of mistrust.
Secrets can tear us apart. They can also, ironically, bring us together.

Relationship Boundaries

The definition of boundaries is setting the marker for where you end and another person begins. The only kinds of secrets appropriate in a marriage are positive ones that are uniquely about one partner’s identity while at the same time not affecting the other partner or the relationship’s unity. These instances are rare. Very, very rare.

Sometimes I think things I don’t tell my wife. It is not because I am trying to protect myself or her from a challenge. It is because I am processing how I think or how I feel. Sometimes I write stories I never show her or tell her about. It is a way of doing something I love just for me. I also show her most of my stories (or tell her about them). I tell her my thoughts as honestly as I can without dragging her through the whole process.
It is important to have both goals and boundaries in your marriage. Celebrating the power of your individuality as a way to equip you to love within a relationship is not the same as lying to your partner to try to protect yourself from embarrassment or shame.



Barometers For Success​

We all want success. One hundred percent of human beings are chasing after success. Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and MLK, Jr. pursued success. As did Napoleon, every American president, musicians, actors, engineers, pastors, and stay-at-home parents.

We cannot help but chase success. It is how we are wired. The question becomes: how do we measure success?
The difference between Gandhi and Atilla the Hun was not about a desire for success but the definition for it.

Various Measures

A few obvious options come to mind.

First, is money. We can count it, measure it, buy things with it. It is a palpable currency. And we receive it for the work we do. So money, in one view, is a measure of success. It is evidence that you are doing something worthwhile.
Another is power. Or, a variation, leaving a legacy. Being remembered. Becoming famous. Notoriety and positions of influence.

I think for most of us, the barometer we use for success is some mix of physical productivity and applause. If we are effective, there will be measurable evidence. Sprockets will be made. People will give us money. Congregants will be baptized. Numbers will grow.

And when numbers grow, we will be recognized for it. Our numbers will be reinforced.
Even Gandhi and Mother Teresa are in some ways, tied to the numbers. They served so many. They made such an impact on this amount of people. And they are recognized for it.

Deeper Measures

The Bible talks about how we will know something by the fruit it bears.
And we often conflate that with our measures of productivity and recognition.
But there is a deeper measure of success. After all, the Bible also tells us what “fruit” of the spirit is: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. Not much about physical productivity in there.

It reminds me of the prophet Jeremiah who told the people what God instructed him to tell… and they ignored him. Or when Jesus tells the disciples to leave a place and shake the dust off their feet if they do not respond.
Here is the thing about those fruits of the spirit: they are all internal. What I mean is, they are character traits. The fruit must be born in your own life.

To be sure, figures like Gandhi show that internal fruit often produces external production. But Jeremiah shows the opposite is also the case. There are a lot of people throughout history, and in the world today, who are loving and serving and living and being but are not experiencing the sort of effectiveness or notoriety we so often couple with success.

I think we put a lot of internal pressure on ourselves to be successful by the traditional standards. Even if you are serving others (maybe especially so), it ought to produce a big response from others. We underestimate that the biggest measure of success is the quiet character we carry with us every single day. The key to victorious living is not notoriety or measurable effectiveness, although those sometimes come. The key is living according to the values and vision instilled within us, to become the kind of people who walk in the fruits of the spirit – whether people measure it as successful or not.


Man, What's the Point?

[ 1 min read ★ ]

For I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked—Psalm 73:3

Do you ever look around, at people who are prosperous and follow God either not much or not at all? Do you ever find yourself envying such people, who embrace the world wholeheartedly and enjoy it’s successes? Do you ever get discouraged? Do you ever wonder, what’s the point? I mean, do you ever just get tired of trying to follow God in the midst of people who aren’t? Are you ever tempted to relent and embrace the world a bit more, too?

A man named Asaph, psalmist in the time of David and Solomon, was tempted to relent. He was surrounded by faithless men who seemed "always at ease" and to continually "increase in riches" (Psalm 73:12). Asaph envied them and his "heart was embittered" (Psalm 73:21). "All in vain," he cried, "have I kept my heart clean . . ." (Psalm 73:13). We may not admit it as boldly as Asaph, but many of us harbor similar thoughts.

When we face that choice, though, to embrace God or embrace the world, we must remember—we’re part of something much larger, much more important than houses or vacations or titles. We’ve been invited into an ancient and remarkable battle. For "we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one" (1 John 5:19). We’re agents of the resistance, behind enemy lines. We cannot allow ourselves, therefore, to be beguiled by our enemy or the world under his power.

Okay, so what do we do?

Are you ever, like Asaph, nagged by this kind of envy? If so, talk about it. Simply talking about it—with God, a spouse, a friend, with brothers in community—undermines its power. It also allows others to keep you "fueled and aflame" for the battle ahead (Romans 12:11 MSG).



Four Things About Faith In God​

The Bible has a lot to say about faith, from Genesis to Revelation, but here are five vital things to know about faith in God.

More than Hope – Hebrews 11​

Why do believers know that faith is more than just hoping for something? They know that faith is the assurance of the things we hope in, but it’s also the conviction of the things we do not yet see (Heb 11:1). When we’re driving over a hill, we have faith that the road will continue…even if we can’t see it. I know from experience from living in Arkansas that some of the roads look as if they’ll head off into thin air, but the sign indicates the road is not curved, and so you drive in faith, straight ahead, knowing the road will be there to greet you when you finally see it. You only have to keep driving, so our faith in Christ is not a hope-so faith…it is a know-so trust. It’s not the way the world thinks of hope. For example, people can hope their team wins the Super Bowl or World Series, but with that kind of hope, you can never have assurance.

Dead without Works – James 2​

James tells us to show our faith by the works we do, not that we’re saved by works, but they show that our faith is real. When we look at a homeless man, it may be Jesus’ in disguise, as He said, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matt 25:40), because the way Jesus sees it, whatever you do to others, you do to Him. He said, when “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me” (Matt 25:35-36).

James gives us a great example by asking, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that” (James 2:15)? That’s like hearing someone ask you for help and you say, “I’m so sorry…I will pray for you,” and then doing nothing. I do not believe you can have any assurance of your salvation if you are doing nothing for Christ as a pattern or lifestyle (Matt 25:41-46). It’s not that you’re saved by these works, but saved for these works that God has long ago determined for us to walk in (Eph 2:10).

Justified by Faith – Genesis 12​

Paul tells us just what the Old Testament stated long ago, and that is we are justified by faith and not by works. Belief or trust in God is not unique to the New Testament. There are many Old Testament saints that will be in the kingdom. Those who die before Christ were saved by their faith in God. They believed God and God accounted that to them as righteousness. The cross of Christ has salvific power enough to go backward in time, to be in the present time, and yet go on into eternity for those not yet saved, or those not yet even born.

Abram (later, changed to Abraham) was justified by his faith in God and we see that faith in action when “the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing” (Gen 12:1-2). There was no discussion or hesitation on Abraham’s part. It simply said, “So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him” (Gen 12:4). He was going to a land he’d never seen and to a land that would be his own, and his children’s children. Even before Jesus Christ came in the flesh to die for sinful flesh, Abraham “believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness” (Gen 15:6).

Living by Faith – Galatians 3​

It’s not hard to please God without faith…its impossible (Heb 11:6), so whoever believes in God and draws near to Him have a great reward for their faith in Him. Not only do they receive the righteousness of Christ (2 Cor 5:21), they believed God and it was accounted to them as righteousness, “just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” (Gal 3:6)? The gospel hasn’t changed in the sense “that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (Gen 3:15), the very reason “gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). If it begins to be about “do this” and “do that,” we’re placing ourselves under the curse of the law, and no one is justified by the law anyway since not one of us could ever keep the law. Besides, “whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it” (James 2:10). We’re not saved by the law but saved from the penalty that the law would incur upon us (Rom 6:23a).


The Apostle Paul writes, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame” (Rom 10:11), and if we are unashamed before others, the Lord Jesus Christ will unashamedly announce us before the Father, however, “whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:26). There is no shame in trusting in Christ. Who else can you trust with your life…and the life to come? Just like I trust that unseen road over the hill, so I trust Christ, even if my eyes tell me otherwise.



Single Christians And Erotic Boundaries​

The previous generation’s sexual revolution left its demise not only in secular western society but also in the portals of the church. Recent statistics suggest that while extramarital affairs and teen sex are slowly becoming less approved by Americans than they were in the 1970’s, premarital sex is becoming more approved. This is not merely a teen problem, but premarital sex tempts an ever-increasing amount of adult Christians who find themselves single because of school, career, divorce, widowhood, lack of social skills, bad looks, or just not being fortunate enough to find the right person.

While it is true that remaining a virgin until marriage does seem to lessen the odds of a later divorce, most adult singles, some Christians included, do not want to wait until the wedding before having sex. More studies need to verify these claims, especially since statistic research does not always give accurate samplings. It may not be an exaggeration, however, to affirm that even though single church-goers engage in premarital sex less than secular singles, a growing number are not virgins.

Contemporary society’s tendency to have its singles delay marriage until well into adulthood only agitates sex problems in the church. Today’s single Christians experience the difficult paradox of a sex-crazed culture telling them not to get married until their late 20’s, 30’s, 40’s or better, while at the same time their churches expect them to remain celibate all those years.

Western culture drives almost everyone to be self-conscious about looking younger, dressing sexier, getting a smaller waist yet larger breasts, or growing bigger muscles and a larger male sex organ. As Stephen Barton perceptively points out about the way western society invests an economic interest in sexual desire, “It is as if the only language we understand is the language of unfulfilled desire, where sexuality is the master symbol and the products of consumer capitalism the means of fulfillment.”[1]

Is the Christian’s struggle with sex really that bad? Seeing is believing – just visit any number of dating services on the Internet that possess a category related to sexual practice and find the perplexing phenomenon of profilers who claim to be “Christian” in the category of religion and yet “Anything Goes” or “Adventurous” in the category of sex. Join almost any progressive Christian small group and hear the stories about sexual temptations for yourself. The paradox is that many believers – Protestant, Catholic, and even conservative Evangelicals – have all heard that sexual intercourse outside of marriage is wrong, but when the opportunity arises for them to engage in it with an attractive partner, many do so. They have an idea that the Bible frowns on sex outside marriage, but this has not stopped many of them from having sex.

What do the biblical scriptures actually say about sex? When the texts refer to sexual misconduct are they referring to adultery, premarital sexual intercourse, certain sexual acts, or something else? More particularly, which sexual activities, if any, would the Bible consider off-limits for Christians in the contemporary western world? This first study will cover the subject of porneia or “fornication” in Scripture, a word that is sometimes watered down in Bible versions with the ambiguous term, “sexual immorality.”
What Kind of Sex is it? Looking at Porneia in the Biblical Scriptures
The Bible often uses the word fornication or sexual immorality to describe sexual misconduct. The Greek text uses porneia, which is often related to the Hebrew znh/zĕnut.

Bruce Malina defines porneia as “unlawful sexual conduct” when prohibited by the oral or written Torah (Law of Moses). He concludes that since there is no law against premarital sex, porneia does not refer to this activity.[2] Joseph Jensen, on the other hand, contests this view and points out that virginity was so highly valued among the Israelites that non-virginity on a wedding night provided grounds for a woman’s defamation (Deut. 22:13-21; cf. Jud. 9:2; Sir. 42:9-11; Lev. 19:29LXX; 21:7-14LXX).[3]
Kathy Gaca emphasizes that porneia in the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) is related to religious rebellion and non-endogamous marriages: it refers to “acts of sexual intercourse and reproduction that deviate from the norm of worshipping God alone”; monotheism is required to comprehend the sexual rule.[4]

In actuality early Jewish literature used variations of porneia to describe harlotry and adultery (Genesis 38:24LXX; Numbers 25:1LXX; Sirach 23:16ff; 41:17; Testament of Joseph 3:8; Josephus Antiquities 5.7ff), homoerotic activities (Jubilees 16:5; 20:5; Testament of Benjamin 9:1; Sibylline Oracles 3.764), incest (Testament of Reuben 1:6; Testament Judah 13:6; [Dead Sea Scrolls] Damascus Document 4:17-20), and marriage to pagans (Jubilees 25:1; cf. 30:7ff).
Sexual deviance in the Bible finds it origin in the Mosaic sexual holiness codes of Leviticus 18-21 and Deuteronomy 22, where a number of sexual practices such as incest, bestiality, and homoeroticism are considered illegitimate. Sex offenders were to be punished either by God or Israel (Gen. 19; Lev. 20:10; Num. 25; Deut. 22:20-24; Judges 19-20; Job 24:15-24; Prov. 7; Wisd. 3:16-19; cf. John 8:1-11).

Gaca maintains that in the New Testament Paul stresses religious endogamy when he tells Christians they are free to marry but only to someone “in the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:39; cf. 2 Cor. 6:14), and that the apostle Paul views porneia “for the most part” as “outside of the institution of marriage in the Lord.”[5] In this view, a Christian commits porneia primarily by marrying someone who is a non-Christian or who leads them away from worshipping the one true God. The New Testament, however, uses porneia and its derivatives for a range of sexually illegitimate activities including incest (1 Cor. 5:1-5), cultic prostitution (1 Cor. 6:13, 18 cf. 10:8; Rev. 2:14, 20-21), and extra-marital sex (1 Cor. 7:1-2; Matt. 5:32; 19:9; cf. 1 Tim. 3:2; Heb. 13:4).

In John’s gospel, Jesus’ opponents considered him a bastard, born from porneia, insinuating that his mother had a sexual relationship out of wedlock (John 8:41). In Hebrews, Esau is labeled as sexual immoral (pornos) because he essentially prostituted himself by selling his birthright (Heb. 12:16).
More typically porneia appears as one vice among many others in various lists related to the practices of the pagan Greco-Romans. The Christians are warned not to engage in these sins; to do so jeopardizes their inheritance in the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 5:9-11; 6:9-11; 10:5-12; 2 Cor. 12:21; Gal. 5:19-21; Col. 3:5; Eph. 5:3-5; 1 Tim. 1:9-10; Mark 7:21; Matt. 15:19; Rev. 9:21; 21:8; 22:15; Didache 3:3; Barnabbas 19:4).

Those who commit porneia and other illegitimate sex acts incur God’s judgment that may happen as a consequence of their own sins, the wrath of Satan, divine calamity, or eternal punishment at the end of time (1 Cor. 5:1-5; Rom. 1:24-32; 10:8; Heb. 13:4; Rev. 2:20-23; 21:8).
Thus the early Christian writers of the New Testament, similar to their Jewish contemporaries, identify porneia as including various kinds of sexual misbehaviors. Since the earliest Christians originally came from early Judaism, they probably considered the same or similar sex acts as illegitimate. Both presupposed to some extent the Old Testament sexual holiness codes: Leviticus 18 seems to be the assumed backdrop behind the early apostolic decree for Gentile believers to abstain from porneia in Acts 15:28-29.

The apostle Paul elaborates on porneia in 1 Corinthians 6-7 and 1 Thessalonians 4. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-20 he warns against sexual immorality, which in this context refers to sexual intercourse with non-believers, more specifically, prostitutes. The Corinthian believers apparently thought much like their fellow Greek pagans: having sexual intercourse with a prostitute was as natural as eating or drinking (cf. 1 Cor. 6:13a). In the now famous words of the Athenian orator Demosthenes, “The hetaerae [prostitutes] we have for our pleasure, the concubines for the daily care of our bodies, and our wives so that we can have legitimate children” (Against Neaera 59.122).[6]

Paul warns the Corinthians to flee from porneia and that the believer who has sex with a prostitute/non-believer sins against his own body (1 Cor. 6:13b, 18; cf. Rom. 1:24). His view of “body” in this context may have a double entendre: it means both the individual body of the believer and the social body of Christ in which all believers are members through God’s spirit. The believer’s body is also considered the temple in which the Holy Spirit dwells (1 Cor. 6:15; 3:16-17; 10:16-17; 12:12-14, 27; cf. Eph. 1:22-23; 5:28-32).

Porneia therefore defiles not only the believer’s holy temple – which is owned and purchased by Christ’s atoning death and will be raised from the dead in the future – but it also dishonors the entire fellowship of believers who are members of the corporate body of Christ (1 Cor. 6:14-16, 19-20).
Paul considers non-believers and prostitutes as members of the fallen world (cosmos), a location and age controlled by Satan and passing away (1 Cor. 5:1-5, 13; 7:31; 2 Cor. 4:4). Hence, when a believer from the body of Christ becomes “one body” by having sex with a prostitute, this represents on a macro-scale the unthinkable sexual union between Christ and the corrupt world belonging to Satan (1 Cor. 6:15-16). With this understanding Paul warns the Corinthians to “flee porneia” (1 Cor. 6:18a).

In 1 Corinthians 7, among other things, Paul tells married couples to satisfy each other sexually in order to avoid porneia, which here would mean all extramarital sex with or without prostitutes (1 Cor. 7:1-5). He then turns his attention to the single/unmarried/virgin believers and suggests they remain celibate like himself, but he recognizes that not everyone has this “gift” and thus permits them to get married if they are burning with sexual passion (1 Cor. 7:7-9, 34, 36-37).

No doubt, this implies that premarital sex would be morally wrong. It is clearly evident here that for Paul, the only legitimate sex is marital sex, and the only options for the believers were marriage or celibacy (1 Cor. 7:7-9, 25-34 cf. 2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:25-27). There was no third alternative to participate in extra-marital sex, though under certain conditions (notably the death of a spouse) remarriage was permitted.
In Part II, we will be covering more specifically what Paul says about porneia in 1 Thessalonians 4. Stay tuned…

[1] Stephen C. Barton, “‘Glorify God in Your Body’ (1 Corinthians 6.20): Thinking Theologically about Sexuality” in Religion and Sexuality (ed. Michael A. Hayes, Wendy Porter and David Tombs; Studies in Theology and Sexuality 2; Roehampton Institute London Papers 4; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998), 370.
[2] Bruce J. Malina, “Does Porneia mean Fornication?” Novum Testamentum 14.1 (1972), 17.

[3] Joseph Jensen, “Does Porneia Mean Fornication? A Critique of Bruce Malina,” Novum Testamentum 20.3 (1978), 165-66.
[4] Kathy L. Gaca, The Making of Fornication: Eros, Ethics, and Political Reform in Greek Philosophy and Early Christianity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003) 19-20, 124.
[5] Gaca, 151.
[6] Translation from H. Reisser in The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (ed. Colin Brown; Grand Rapids: Regency Reference Library/Zondervan, 1986), 1:498.


You're Magnetic

[ 1 min read ★ ]

Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?—Mark 2:16

God loves us—just as we are, right now. Wow. That’s kind of difficult to accept, isn’t it? I mean, it’s hard to feel worthy of that love, with all our mistakes, our imperfections. Don’t we need to be perfect and holy too, just as he is, before he can love us? No, brother, he loves us—just as we are, right now. If we’re ever going to understand God, if we’re ever going to understand ourselves, in relation to God, we’re going to have to bend our minds toward that truth.

He is perfect and holy; we are not. True. What’s not true is that, because of his perfection, he’s drawn only to more perfection. What’s not true is that, because of his holiness, he demands our holiness before he’ll love us, accept us, want anything to do with us.

God knows our mistakes, every imperfection. Nothing is hidden from him (Hebrews 4:13). And, actually, precisely because he knows, he executed the ultimate act of love: he sent his son, Jesus Christ, to be our King and to save us from our mistakes and imperfections (Romans 5:8). So, the truth is—like a doctor to the sick—he’s actually drawn to imperfection and sin (Mark 2:17). Our relationships with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, begin to work when we accept and welcome that love.

Okay, so what do we do?

Throughout this week, take these words as God’s promise, just to you. Meditate upon them. Let them sink in deep.

". . . neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate [me] from the love of God in Christ Jesus . . ." (Romans 8:38-39).



5 Truths That Will Give You Peace in the Storm​

Jesus promised two things that are certain in life. First, you will experience storms while on planet earth. Second, you are promised perfect peace during the storms. The disciples learned these lessons while experiencing a violent and unexpected storm. If you are going through a difficult time, these five truths will give you peace in the storm.

Torsten Dederichs / Unsplash

1) God Allows Storms to Test Your Faith​

Suddenly, as they were crossing the lake, a ferocious storm arose, with violent winds and waves that were crashing into the boat until it was nearly swamped. (Mark 4:37)

You may be living your best life when suddenly everything is turned upside down by a ferocious storm. It’s not easy to stay in peace during these times. However, it’s important to remember that although the storm took you by surprise, it did not take God by surprise. Make no mistake, God allowed the storm for the purpose of testing your faith.
Storms do not feel good in the moment, but God uses them to produce character and strengthen our faith. I hated hearing this when I was struggling with anxiety and depression, but even the most ridiculous storms have enormous value. Don’t ever forget that you will come out better on the other side of the storm.

2) God Is With You During the Storm​

That same day, after it grew dark, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake.” (Mark 4:35)
The disciples were in the boat because Jesus asked them to get into the boat. It was not their idea in the first place, and yet they still found themselves fighting for their lives. There are times when you will face violent storms even after you choose to follow God’s plan. As you raise your children and provide for your family, storms will come. As you embark on the new ministry or decide to get married, storms will come.
God does not send His children into the storm alone. Jesus told the disciples, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake.” God was in the boat with the disciples and He’s in your boat too. He will never leave you or forsake you!

3) God Cares Even When He Doesn’t Stop the Storm​

But Jesus was calmly sleeping in the stern, resting on a cushion. So they shook him awake, saying, “Teacher, don’t you even care that we are all about to die!” (Mark 4:38-39)
The storm was about to swamp the boat and yet Jesus still did nothing to help. He calmly rested on a cushion while the disciples fought for their lives. It’s no wonder the disciples were freaking out and felt perplexed that Jesus wasn’t helping. If we’re being totally honest with ourselves, there are times when we feel the same way.
We know in these moments that God is aware of the storm, but we don’t understand why He allows the waves to keep crashing. Many people struggle to understand why God allows certain things to happen. We will never fully understand why on this side of eternity, but we must learn to trust the character of God when bad things happen.

4) God Cares More About the Second Storm​

Then he turned to his disciples and said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Haven’t you learned to trust yet?” (Mark 4:40)
There were two storms happening when the disciples were in the boat. The first storm was the natural elements that threatened their lives. The second storm was their distressed hearts and minds. Jesus did not spend one moment concerned about the first storm, but He cared deeply about the second.

Jesus showed us that it’s possible to have perfect peace in the middle of the storm. He wants us to receive that same peace. Ask yourself the questions: Why are you so afraid? Haven’t you learned to trust yet? You can walk in divine love, joy and peace, but the gift only comes after we fully trust Him in the storm.

5) What Has You Overwhelmed Will Determine Your Peace​

But they were overwhelmed with fear and awe and said to one another, “Who is this man who has such authority that even the wind and waves obey him?” (Mark 4:41)
The disciples were overwhelmed after the storm was over, but they were no longer overwhelmed by the natural elements. They were overwhelmed with the power and majesty of their Savior. Perhaps this was the point of the storm in the first place. What has you more overwhelmed today, your storm or your Savior? As you keep your eyes stayed on Jesus, He will keep you in perfect peace.



May God Open Our Eyes To The Needy People Who Surround Us​

Recently I shared this story on my Facebook:
I took a road I normally don’t and was stuck at a long red light. A woman called, “Got change for a dollar?” I gave her money and one of my little books about Heaven, which includes the Gospel. She said, “Cool” and thanked me. Had I driven a different street, we wouldn’t have met. This was a divine appointment. I don’t know whether she read the book, or whether it will end up in the hands of one whose life will be changed. But if it does, one day I’ll meet whoever God touched. In His sovereignty,

God arranges unique opportunities for each of us to be generous and point others toward Jesus (Acts 8:26ff). I didn’t sense only God’s sovereignty in that moment; I also sensed His happiness. What a delight it was to have this unexpected encounter that I could never have orchestrated. “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NIV).

Reader Matt Augee replied with a story of his own about a remarkable divine appointment. Matt was one of the original members of our Good Shepherd Community Church high school group. I was one of the pastors when we started the church in 1977. Matt now serves in ministry to military families.
His story is a reminder of the needy people who surround us, and when we asked, he was glad for us to share it. May God open our eyes to those He puts in our paths:
I had an encounter like that a week ago at a veteran’s memorial monument when I was meeting a family to plan the celebration of life for their veteran they had recently lost. I felt God prompted me to go early and I arrived 25 minutes early, just in time to be there when a young woman walked in with her head down and face hidden and sat down at one of the memorial etched bricks in the ground and kept touching it and quietly sobbing and speaking without any sound. I watched her for a little bit and I instinctively felt that I needed to talk to her and that she was suicidal.

My service dog went over to her and sat down next to her and leaned on her. That opened up the opportunity for me to talk to her. She had lost all hope and she came to say goodbye to her grandfather who had raised her and died five years earlier and was a veteran. She came to say goodbye to him and then to take her own life right there. If I had not arrived early I would have come across a dead woman right there at the memorial. I asked her some questions and if she was open to talk about spiritual things and she was. I was able to get her help with our staff and give her hope. I actually referenced 2 of your books to her.
She has texted us to let us know that she’s doing better but she’s going to need a lot of care and follow up. I’m just grateful that I was in the right place at the right time and ready to talk with her and give her hope in Jesus. I deal weekly with military and first responder families in crisis from service and a lot of suicide prevention and intervention. Especially the last 21 months. So many people are hurting so badly. So many have lost hope. We’re losing more spouses and dependent teenagers of military and first responders then we are military or first responder service members. The servicemember issues transfer in the home to the other family members so we have to treat the entire family.
This girl I met was raised by her grandfather who was a Vietnam veteran. She absorbed his service-related issues. I have had countless situations where it was clear that God put me in a certain places at certain times and some of the times I wasn’t ready to do what was needed, but we are reminded in Scripture to always be prepared to give an answer and so we must be ready at any moment to talk with anyone that we encounter. I would appreciate you guys praying for her and that she will bring her burdens and lack of hope to the cross.
Thanks, Randy, for all you do to fuel us and challenge us with rational dialogue on God‘s Word.

I’m a firm believer that many of life’s inconveniences involve divine appointments with people the Lord brings into our lives—if only we open our eyes to see them. God appoints the times and places we live (Acts 17), and is a Master of the exact timing that creates the beauty of divine appointments. I’ve had them in stores and restaurants and on airplanes. (See more I’ve written and shared about divine appointments over the years.)


You're Designed for Extremes

[ 1 min read ★ ]

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot.
Would that you were either cold or hot—Revelation 3:15

There are three approaches to life with God: All In; All Out; and, in the middle, between those, a third approach. This third approach is actually a range—it encompasses every approach between the two extremes. Many of us take the third approach. I mean, we do believe life is better with God—but, our belief is more theoretical than not. We get busy with careers, families, finances, and rarely think about actually applying the life and truth of our King, Jesus Christ, to our own, complicated lives. And so, they become indistinguishable from the lives of men All Out.

Jesus calls takers of the third approach "lukewarm," and is particularly frustrated by us: "because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth" (Revelation 3:16). We third-approachers mistakenly presume we’re doing okay faith-wise—not as well as we could maybe, but okay nonetheless. Therefore, Jesus’ words are startling and challenging—and force us to consider All In.

So, what does All In require? The world tells us, too much. But, that’s wrong. It doesn’t require more than we can give. Brother, we’re designed for All In. Jesus isn’t some out-of-touch "high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses" (Hebrews 4:15). He understands our lives. He knows what he’s asking. All In doesn’t require we be perfect; we couldn’t. It requires a soft heart―a willingness to try, genuinely, to use Jesus’ life as a pattern for our own.

Okay, so what do we do?

Pray the All In prayer: Set aside a couple minutes today. Quiet your surroundings. Shut the door. Turn off music. Quiet your mind. Ask the Holy Spirit to soften your heart. Now, speak directly to Jesus, your King, and say three plain, simple words, "I’m All In." That’s it.



8 Concerns Single Parents Should Have About New Partners​

While it’s normal to desire companionship, excitement, and a sexual relationship after a breakup, it’s important to take it slow so you can assess whether the relationship is casual or long-term when you have children. Ask yourself, “Is my new partner just a fling or does this relationship have lasting potential?” After all, you might have great chemistry with someone, but they might not be suited to become part of your family.

Here are 8 concerns many single parents should have about a new partner:
  1. Is this person interested in a fling, or are they good marriage material?
  2. How do they feel about being in a committed relationship?
  3. Do they have a good relationship with their family of origin?
  4. What is their typical way of dealing with conflict? Do they talk things out when they are upset or go into a shell like a turtle?
  5. Does this person like and enjoy being around children?
  6. What would they consider a good solution to a time when your relationship is rocky?
  7. Do they condone infidelity or is it a deal breaker?
  8. Where do they see themselves in 5-10 years?
I’ve witnessed many new relationships go sour when a partner is introduced to children too quickly. It can cause anguish for everyone, especially children who are probably holding on to the idea that their parents will eventually get back together. It may take them time to accept a new person in their life, so take things slowly.
When you find a person that you are becoming seriously involved with, be sure to prepare your children in advance for the first visit. Keep in mind that the setting and timing of an introduction is vital to your success. Rather than planning a long visit, it’s best to have a brief, casual meeting with few expectations.

Just because you are smitten with your new love, it doesn’t mean that your kids will share your positive feelings. In fact, children of divorce often feel rivalry with their parents’ love interests, especially the first few years after the divorce. Children need time to adjust to their parents’ split, and it can take at least two years for them to get over anger, sadness, and other emotions.
The key to competent parenting post-divorce is healing the whole family, and introducing a new partner too soon might complicate, delay or damage this process. Have realistic expectations about your children’s acceptance of your new partner. Talking to a relationship coach or therapist may help you to make a smooth transition into this next phase of your life and to help you to decide when to tell your children about your new love interest.



The Joseph Principle – You Are Not Just An Ordinary Joe​

Every man is like Joseph in more ways than we can imagine. Ordinary or not, your life is about to change. This is what I call the Joseph Principle. When you come to understand this principle, you willbe required to repent of your sins. But it isn’t only the obvious sins of lying, cheating, and stealing that you need to repent of. Sometimes you need to repent of more subtle sins, things that aren’t obviously bad, things that sometimes seem to be good.

Just an Ordinary Joe​

Once you understand the Joseph Principle you will have to repent of being too convinced that you are just and ordinary man and have no particularly important part to play in God’s plan for creation.

Joseph was an ordinary guy, from an ordinary family, living in an ordinary town, with an ordinary job. And God chose Joseph to be the earthly father to his Son. God chose Joseph to be provider and protector, teacher and guide for Jesus as he was growing up. God chose Joseph for a supporting-cast role that was tremendously important.

Have you ever been convinced that you are too ordinary for God to use in any particularly important purpose? Have you ever doubted the influence that you have on your children or your friends? You never know, your influence might be key in shaping someone for God’s purpose for them. Have you ever reached out to someone in need, someone you didn’t know and you never saw again, and then doubted that it really made any difference in the long run? You never know, that one conversation, that one experience of compassion from a stranger might turn out to be a turning point in that person’s personal journey. Or, it might turn out to be a turning point in yours.

Plan it out​

Once you get the Joseph Principle, you will have to repent of being too convinced that you are just an ordinary man and have no particularly important part to play in God’s plan for creation. And then you will have to repent of having your life too well-planned. Planning is a good thing. Goal-setting is a good thing. But if our own plans begin to stand in the way of God’s plans for us, then we have begun to move from prudence and responsibility to idolatry.

Joseph was in the midst of planning for the future he expected when God confronted him with a future he did not expect. Joseph’s plans had to be laid aside. Long-term planning gave way to living year-by-year, day-by-day according to God’s grace and guidance, never quite knowing what danger to his family might come next.
Yes, sometimes you will have to repent of having your life too well-planned.

We have always done it like this!​

When you understand the Joseph Principle, you will be confronted with the surprising actions of God. And when that happens, you will have to repent of doing things the way they have always been done and thinking that faithfulness to God and family is always obvious.
You see, when Joseph found out that the woman betrothed to him was expecting a child, Joseph knew the right thing to do. He was a righteous man, after all, and a kind one. He knew that the right thing to do was to divorce Mary, and to do it quietly so that he might not add to the attention and shame that she was already experiencing. Joseph knew the law. Surely this was the right thing to do to be faithful to his God and to his family.
Well, in this case, it wasn’t. In this case, Joseph found out that being faithful to God meant doing something entirely different from what at first seemed obviously right.

The Right Thing to Do​

Once you get the Joseph Principle you will have to repent of being too careful in being proper and thinking that gaining the respect of your peers is always a natural consequence of faithfulness to God.

Again, Joseph knew the right thing to do, the proper thing to do, the thing which would maintain his good standing in the eyes of his community. But Joseph was wrong. In this case, it turned out that faithfulness to God required Joseph to violate the customs of his culture. In this case, faithfulness to God required acting against conventional propriety and risking the loss of the respect of his peers.

I Don’t Think So!​

Finally, when you get the Joseph Principle, you will have to repent of having perfectly reasonable expectations that are too low.
Joseph didn’t expect anything particularly out of the ordinary to happen in his life. He was familiar with the circumstances of his life. It was perfectly reasonable for him to expect to get married, settle down, have children, work hard in his craft, and grow old in the same town in which he grew up. It is likely that that is what his father did, and his father before him, and his father before him. Perfectly reasonable.

But God had other plans. Plans which were utterly unimaginable and beyond any reasonable expectation. God had plans that were downright impossible! Plans that called for a small-town carpenter to leave everything he had ever known to care for and protect a newborn baby with an earth-shattering mission.
Sometimes we have to repent of perfectly reasonable expectations that are too low.
Praise to the God who is able to do far more than all we can ask or imagine. Amen.



The Fear Of The Lord Is The Beginning Of Wisdom​

This much-quoted Biblical phrase, from Proverbs 9:10, is often stated to imply that the fear of the Lord is something we should always know, in our dealings with God – that if we lose fear, we are on dangerous ground; that God cannot be resisted or argued with, because of his might; that even when we know the friendship of the Divine, we should step back and remember fear, to keep ourselves balanced.

I’m going to argue a different view – the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but not its end.

What is the fear of the Lord?

The fear of the Lord is a basic acknowledgement of the difference between God and us – he is Almighty, while we are limited in power; he is immortal, but our flesh will die; he is all-knowing, while human perspective is limited. In other words, God is God, and we are not.

This fundamental acknowledgement of the way things are is the beginning of our response to God, who in terms of ability is infinitely above us. The fact of the matter is that God so exceeds us in power, that if he chose to make our lives unbearable, we would have no ability to deny him, or even voice to complain. If God were a cruel, self-important despot, the lives of his creations would be unrelentingly miserable.

It is healthy to dwell on this, from time to time, as a point of context.

Perfect love casts out fear

Believers understand, to varying degrees, that God is Love. Jesus is not just our Lord; he is the very best kind of friend. John 15:15,

‘No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.’

The equality offered to us by God is unfathomably generous, and a privilege of the highest order. To grasp it, and be appropriately grateful for it, we need to see it in context – that God chose to do things this way, and our privilege flows from his essential goodness. The truth would have been otherwise, if God were not Love. It is our revelation of divine love, then, that moves us on from fear.

God chose to elevate us from the start

This is the beginning of wisdom – the acknowledgement that God is God, and we are not. We must recognise our place in the grand scheme of things, before embracing our privilege. That privilege, however, is extraordinary. Psalm 8:3-6,

‘When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honour.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet.’

As this Psalm touches on, God has chosen to honour and elevate us by a crucial choice – to make us in his image. He could have created us to be more like animals, without conscious choice and driven by instinct, or like the angels, lofty beings who are unable to grasp the earthier, divine mysteries of incarnation that humans are privy to.

God chose to put his image in us, to craft us after himself. We are therefore an echo of the Divine, blessed with creativity, high consciousness, a wide array of emotions, and infinite spiritual capabilities. Even in our fallen state, we are impressive.

He elevated us again at the cross

The second great elevation of humanity, which again God chose, was to die for us. The book of Revelation says that Christ was slain before the foundation of the world. What can we take from this? God understood from the outset that by creating us with free will, and a nature shaped after his own, we were always going to fall – an inevitability for which he would provide a way out. Thus God consciously chose the cross at the same moment he decided on the nature of humanity.

I know some who struggle with the need for the cross in salvation, but God is God, and we are not. I accept it. I’m grateful for it. I visit the cross every day. It was the loving choice of a creator God to share something of his nature with his creation. We are his most ambitious plan, his most costly investment, and none of us truly know how deeply he treasures us.

Fear of the Lord, then, is only the beginning of wisdom, because it recognises the might of God without grasping his generosity and mercy. Nor does it perceive his creative ambition.

Jesus reveals the nature of God

It is in Jesus that we truly see the heart of God. John 14:9b-14,

‘Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.’

These heartfelt words of Jesus, spoken just prior to his death, show us first of all the extent of God’s compassion. The loving nature of Jesus, as see throughout his ministry – his refusal to judge, his relieving of suffering, his kindness and acceptance of those whose lives were broken – is the very heart of who the Father is.

The glory of divine ambition!

Secondly, they show us the extent of God’s ambition for you and I. He would have us represent him on Earth, filled with his Spirit, seeing incredible answers to prayer. This was always part of God’s creative design. You and I are included in his grandest plan. After the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, believers became his hands and feet in this world.

I won’t linger on how good or bad a job we’re doing of it, as that’s not the purpose of this post, but in the words of Jesus, we can clearly see the design and intent of God. He has always intended that we not only be saved, but also co-heirs with Christ. Romans 8:17-18,

‘Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory…I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.’

The glory that will be revealed! What wonders has God got planned for us, in eternity? 2 Corinthians 9:9b-10a,

‘No eye has seen,
No ear has heard,
No mid has conceived,
What God has prepared for those who love him.’

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but friendship, partnership and glory are its end. We do not linger in fear, any more than the sprinter waits at the starting line, after the gun has fired. In grasping the extent of his love, we say ‘yes Lord’, to his promises; and ‘thank you’, for his grace. An eternity of joy and wonder beckons.


When You're Just . . . Done

[ 1 min read ★ ]

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding—Proverbs 3:5

Is there any belief you’ve simply gotten tired of believing? Is there any belief you’ve held onto, stubbornly, for too long now? We men are so good at holding onto things, even after they’ve shown themselves to be detrimental. Sometimes these stubborn beliefs are about God. Sometimes they’re about other people. Sometimes they’re about us. And, sometimes, it’s just time to change our minds. We can you know.

It’s not an easy thing to do, of course, changing our minds, changing our beliefs—but we don’t have to do it on our own. God will help, if we ask. All we must do is decide we want to change our minds—like the man who brought his son, the one who couldn’t speak, to Jesus. This man had real doubts about Jesus, and about what Jesus could do, but he decided he wanted to change his mind about those doubts . . . and he asked for help:

"Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’" (Mark 9:24).
Changing our minds—to align our beliefs with those of God—is one way we step out of our old selves and into our new selves. It’s one way we begin to become the men God intends us to become.

Okay, so what do we do?

Are you tired of being a skeptic? Are you tired of being bitter or unforgiving? Are you tired of being too hard on yourself? Something else? The Apostle Paul told us what to do when we identify an old, worn-out belief: "Get rid of it!" (Ephesians 4:20-24 MSG). Get rid of it by naming it and bringing it to God in prayer. Tell him you’re tired of being that man—hard-hearted and unbending. Tell him you’d like his help in becoming a new man.