Come home, to church

Years ago I worshiped while sitting on a crude wooden bench in a former potato warehouse in rural India, our singing accompanied only by the thump of a single drum! And I have worshiped in great cathedrals offering my heart to God while accompanied by majestic music of a pipe organ, led by people dressed in ornate robes. I am most at home in a contemporary informal worship setting that is common among American evangelicals.

I read from another of God’s preachers today, an ancient named Haggai. After that 70 year long stretch in Jerusalem’s history when God allowed the Assyrians to overrun Jerusalem, the exiles returned from Babylonia to rebuild.  They were enthused about their own homes, but neglected the Temple restoration.

Haggai heard from the Lord and asked a pointed question. “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. …. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the LORD. “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the LORD Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.” (Haggai 1: 3-5, 8-9, NIV)  

The Temple was NOT an accessory, it was of critical importance, God said.

Yes, Christians are God’s temples. You could object that Haggai’s words should not be read about the place of the Church for us. Think again! The New Testament, does teach that we are, individually, the ‘temples’ in which the Spirit lives, that our lives are to be acts of worship. That is just half the story.

Christians are called to gather, to worship, to be the Church.  We are told to “draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:22-25, NIV)

I’m following your reasoning. “OK, Jerry. But the Word does not say anything about the building.” Right you are!  We can come together in someone’s living room, a school gymnasium, a chapel by the roadside, a store-front mission, or a cathedral. But, we are to gather

Have you made gathering with Believers a first priority choice? COVID restrictions created hardship for us over the last year, but the digital age made it possible for us to ‘gather’ virtually. Thankfully, our buildings are open again. Will you re-connect, for Christ’s sake? Few choices have the same impact on the practice of our faith as regular, faithful attendance to worship; with the intention of focusing on His Presence and connecting with His people.

An honest reading of the New Testament convinces us of the importance of being part of the church.  The Greek word translated as ‘church’ is ‘ekklesia’ literally meaning “called-out ones.” It is a word borrowed from Grecian democracy in which the “ekklesia” gathered regularly and often to do the work of the people, the group embodying the value and principles of that society.  We are the ones called out of the world to gather as God’s own people!  When we do, we make the invisible God visible in His Body, preparing as the ones gathered to be His people scattered for the work of Christ in the world.

Here’s a word from the Word. Focus on the word together. “For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:18-22, NIV)

Hope to see you in church soon!  It’s not just about you; it’s about HIS GLORY, experienced and expressed.


By Our Love (listen, pray, learn, commit!)

Brothers let us come together
Walking in the Spirit
There’s much to be done
We will come reaching
Out from our comforts
And they will know us by our love

Sisters we were made for kindness
We can pierce the darkness
As He shines through us
We will come reaching
With a song of healing
And they will know us by our love

The time is now
Come church arise
Love with His hands
See with His eyes
Bind it around you
Let it never leave you
And they will know us by our love

Children you are hope for justice
Stand firm in the Truth now
Set your hearts above
You will be reaching
Long after we’re gone
And they will know you by your love

Christy Nockels © 2009 sixsteps Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

Sweater Weather Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) songs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

Mystery – two become one

Yesterday the world learned that one of the richest couples in the world, Bill and Melinda Gates, decided to call it quits after 27 years of marriage. Hearing the news I was sad for them.  It was a reminder that we live in a broken world. Even with all their resources, with all the advantages in this world that they enjoy, they somehow could not make it work. The public divorce petition did not disclose anything beyond the fact that they considered their marriage “irretrievably broken.” Please understand that my comments pass no judgment on either of them as I obviously do not know them or their situation.  

Marriage is never easy.

Bev and I were married 41 years, a mostly happy union, but marked with times of struggle and disappointment for both of us. The issues that stressed our relationship changed with the seasons of life. Early on it was the exhaustion of a houseful of little ones. Then, it was the pressure of life responsibilities that took my attention from my home as I worked long days leaving little energy for my family.  After our children grew up we wrestled with the common issue of drifting into separate lives, each of us with our own interests. Then, it was the stress of caring for terminally ill parents that brought some challenges.

We did not stay married because we enjoyed a storybook life though blessed in many ways. It certainly was not just discipline, though that was required, too.  Starry-eyed love ebbed and flowed through the decades but even that was not the ultimate glue in our home.  Our marriage was sustained by a shared love for God and a common conviction about the covenant nature of our relationship. We worked and trusted God together; adjusting expectations, speaking honestly, asking and giving forgiveness, and acceptance of the fact that we each lived with a quite ordinary mortal.

The wisdom of the Scripture is so often challenged, explained away, and ignored these days, but the inspired text remains true. “And further, you will submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. You wives will submit to your husbands as you do to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of his body, the church; he gave his life to be her Savior. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives must submit to your husbands in everything. And you husbands must love your wives with the same love Christ showed the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by baptism and God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.

In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man is actually loving himself when he loves his wife. No one hates his own body but lovingly cares for it, just as Christ cares for his body, which is the church. And we are his body. As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:21-33, NLT)

Those words contain wisdom for all of us that will bring blessing to our homes.

The starting point is ‘mutual submission.’ A man and woman who enter into marriage are agreeing to set aside their former ideas about themselves. No longer can they insist on ‘me.’  As they come to Christ together, they choose to think always as ‘we.’  They are ‘one flesh,’ not just a sexual term, but descriptive of their union before God. Marriage, in God’s eyes, is not a contract to form a home or to provide for children.  It is a holy promise to become a reflection of the love of God, in a shared life.

There is a sacred responsibility given to each partner in marriage covenant that involves great love and shared devotion. It strikes me that the passage speaks in extended terms to the husband. He is called to learn to love, to act in the same way that Christ acted. It is tragic that this text has been abused as an excuse for domination, for selfishness.  The leadership of the home is not based in power, nor does God confer a place of privilege on the husband. He calls him to ‘give up his life’ to serve his wife.  It not a wonder to me that this text is rejected by so many.  When God’s word is used to carve out a place privileged power, to justify selfish behavior, the whole of the marital relationship breaks down.

A wife’s willingness to respect her husband rests on twin foundations:  deep faith in Christ to be her ultimate security and the assurance that her husband will choose a pathway in life that seeks the will of God over his own desires. These are not idealistic expressions unattainable in this world. They are the wisdom of God, received by faith, and made reality by the Spirit of God who works in each of us who love and serve Him faithfully.

Christians are tempted to abandon the inspired wisdom of God choosing instead the ‘wisdom’ of our culture. This choice will make a challenging thing – building a solid, loving, and fulfilling marriage – even more difficult. If we interpret these principles as law, we rob ourselves of the joy of discovering the life in them. If we read them through a lens of antiquated ideas about masculinity and femininity we will surely miss God’s best for us. However, if we will come to this text with an open mind, with a heart-felt invitation for God lead us, we will find them a place of life-sustaining truth.

The words of Jesus are the word from the Word today. May He give us grace to receive them. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Mark 10:6-9, NIV)


How Do I Love Her?

Well You know it’s not the first time
And it will not be the last
When You find me here on my knees
Praying for the storm to pass
But what I am really needing
Is much more than just relief
I am crying out for wisdom
Only You can give to me
‘Cause it’s such a mystery
I’m a clueless man
When it comes to knowing how to love a woman

How do I
I love her
How do I
I let her know
She means more than anything to me
How do I love her
How do I love her love her

Out of all the gifts You’ve given
Besides the very gift of life
There is none as precious to me
As the treasure of my wife
And still all the love in my heart
Is like a raindrop to the sea
When compared to Your love for her
And that’s why I’m asking please
Will You teach me what she needs
I’m an earnest man when it comes
To learning how to love this woman

Well I know it’s gonna take a lifetime
To answer this prayer I pray
But that’s okay
‘Cause I’ve given You and her my lifetime

How do I love her love her
Tell me please
How do I love her how do I love her
Won’t You tell me tell me please
How do I love her
Tell me please
Tell me tell me tell me
How do I love her how do I love her
How do I love her
Love her love her love her

Steven Curtis Chapman © 2003 Primary Wave Brian (Chapman Sp Acct) (Admin. by BMG Rights Management (US) LLC)

Sparrow Song (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

Soul Serenity

After I finished a task, I stepped back to evaluate the outcome, happy for the effort. Unlike the farmer who plants in the Springtime, tends the field through the Summer, and gathers the harvest in the Autumn, many of us work in ways in which our efforts are removed from an actual visible result.  Our farmer grandparents surely grew exhausted, but it was a different kind of tired than many of us experience.  They had to stop working at dark, were not ‘plugged in’  24/7 like many of us. There ‘down’ times built into their seasonal lives. Not so with us. What happens? One of the most common complaints in our time is ‘I am worn out.’ 

Christian, are you weary?
Has your life fatigue flowed over into your faith experience, dulling your soul to the experience of God’s Presence?
Have you abandoned regular times of worship, prayer, and meditation because you are just ‘too tired?’ 

God offers His people rest.  

It is one of those benefits we leave untouched, failing to recognize the amazing renewal of heart and mind, even body, that can be found in Him!

When we worship, as Jesus taught, in ‘Spirit and in Truth,’ we learn a new way to live, a purposeful and meaningful life, that can protect us from the fatigue of endless stress. We work at the same job, but with a different heart. We feel the same pressures to produce results but with an inner strength that comes from His care. We deal with the same frustrations, but are able to commit them to God, to invite Him to work on our behalf.

God asks us to make the choice to prioritize Him, by faith entering a place of peace, even in difficult of circumstances. There is a phrase in Psalm 23 that captivates my imagination. David sings of His God – “You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies!”   Imagine armies drawn up for battle and a table set with candles, fine tablecloth, and the best china right in the middle of it all.  Absurd, you say?  But that is what God offers;  the renewal of the kind that can be experienced in an intimate dinner meal shared with friends or family.  He says, “Let’s step away from life’s battles to sit down together!  I have a table ready!”

Interestingly, our idea of recreation usually involves leaving work behind. Jesus presents us with a different thought. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29, NIV)  “Join Me,” He says. “Be a part of my team (take my yoke). I will not beat you emotionally or treat you like an object.”   And, the life we find in Him, His ways, will lead us to a soul-rest.

The letter to the Hebrews speaks of the ‘Sabbath rest’ available to the people of God. It’s not able a day off from work. It is an invitation to live with our souls settled by our trust and obedience to the covenant promises of the Lord. “Since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.” (Hebrews 4:1-2, NIV)

Are you troubled that you might not be ‘good enough for God?’ The Good News is that He invites us to enjoy the gift of reconciliation with our Father, not because we are ‘good enough,’ but because He has finished the work of salvation on our behalf. Through Christ Jesus we are made whole, saved completely, and at peace with God.

From that place near the heart of God, where the Spirit speaks to us about His loving acceptance, we enter the world to do the work of God. Working with God is so much more fulfilling than working for Him. If we are trying to prove to Him that we deserve His blessings our efforts become dutiful, exhausting, and often more about appearance than substance. But, if we are engaged in serving the Lord because of our love for Him and for others, even those things that could be drudgery, take on meaningfulness. The same tasks, yes. But, they are done with a different motive, and are kissed with His favor.

Meditate on Jesus’ words. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV)

This Monday morning, at the beginning of a new week, He will renew your heart. Will you allow Him to do that?

There is a kind of soul rest waiting, not the kind of rest we find in a hammock in the backyard on a Summer afternoon. It is the rest of serenity, fulfillment, and purpose that comes from the realization that we are beloved, cherished children of God.


Rock Of Ages
(Guy Penrod inspires in this hymn)

Rock of Ages cleft for me
Let me hide myself in thee
Let the water and the blood\
From thy wounded side which flowed
Be of sin the double cure
Save from wrath and make me pure

Not the labors of my hands
Can fulfill thy law’s demands
Could my zeal no respite know
Could my tears forever flow
All for sin could not atone
Thou must save and thou alone

While I draw this fleeting breath
When mine eyes shall close in death
When I soar to worlds unknown
See thee on thy judgment throne
Rock of Ages cleft for me
Let me hide myself in thee

Augustus Montague Toplady | Thomas Hastings

© Words: Public Domain

He served God’s Purpose

In my lifetime, I have read dozens of “how to” books, full of advice for finding my best life. A stand-out that is memorable is Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Successful People.  Some were worth the time to read, if not memorable. Despite my best efforts and the good advice of others I know this:  I only live my best life when my will is aligned with the purposes of God.  This week I was struck by a line in the book of Acts – “When David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep.” (Acts 13:36, NIV)

It’s a question I ponder – am I living to serve God’s purposes for my time?  

 We cannot aspire to that lofty goal unless we are transformed by the Spirit. The Christian life is more than a self-help program. It is a Spirit experience, God working in us. When we are loved by God and love Him in return, trusting Christ Jesus with our life and destiny, letting Him be Lord, He promises something amazing: He will “do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power! ” (Ephesians 3:20, NIV) 

Let’s not confuse ‘serving God’s purpose in our generation’ with religiosity or serving on church committees.  It is quite possible to remain a miserable person living far below your God-given potential while sitting through church. God’s Church has an irreplaceable place in the Christian life but true change is personal, starting in the individual’s heart.

Only when we experience, by faith, the Gospel, the daily inner transformation of eternal life, will the purpose of God be revealed. We love God by surrendering ourselves to Him and accepting Christ’s love and mercy by faith, by pondering His mighty works worshipfully, and by allowing the Spirit to move deeply in us. That inner work will surely produce spiritual fruit – love joy, peace – the evidence of His life.

Receiving God’s grace and practicing the disciplines of the Spirit as taught in the Scripture opens the door to maximum living, making us into the best possible person we can be! Because of Christ, we can be forgiving, gentle, and loving. In Him we find that hope that is so critically important to keeping us from becoming bitter, broken, or cynical by life’s disappointments.  The Creator of the Universe points His Spirit in us and inspires us to be creative, part of the answer for the questions of this broken planet.

Are you trying to ‘make a life’ apart from God? Do your efforts come up short of your expectations?  Are you asking questions like that rich young noble asked of Jesus: “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  The answer remains the same today as it was then – receive the kingdom of God by faith, making Jesus Lord of life and accepting His grace for each day.  We walk it out and if we are led by the Spirit, when our race is run, it will be said of us what was said of David: He “served God’s purpose in his own generation.”

Thank God for the potential He’s given you.
Ask Him to inspire you to be the best you can be in His grace.
Never just settle for what is easy, or natural!
Let God make a masterpiece of your life.

Our word from the Word,  is a prayer that Paul offered for those he loved in the church in Ephesus. I pray it for you. Receive it with your amen “I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength— that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love.

Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19, The Message) Amen.


Heartbreak’s a bitter sound
Know it well, it’s ringing in my ears
And I can’t understand
Why I’m not fixed by now,
Begged and I have pleaded
Take this pain, but I’m still bleeding
Heart trusts you for certain
Head says it’s not working
I’m stuck here still hurting

But You tell me
You’re making a masterpiece
You’re shaping the soul in me
You’re moving where I can’t see
And all I am, is in Your hands
You’re taking me all apart
Like it was your plan from the start
To finish your work of art, for all to see
You’re making a masterpiece

Guess I’m Your canvas
Beautiful, black and blue
Painted in mercy’s hue
I don’t see past this
But you see me now, who I’ll be then
There at the end, standing there as
Your Masterpiece

You’re shaping the soul in me
You’re moving where I can’t see
And all I am, is in Your hands
You’re taking me all apart
Like it was your plan from the start
To finish your work of art, for all to see
You’re making a masterpiece

You’re making a masterpiece
Heart trust you for certain
Head says it’s not working
You’re making a masterpiece
You’re shaping the soul in me
You’re moving where I can’t see
And all I am, is in Your hands
You’re taking me all apart
Like it was your plan from the start
To finish your work of art, for all to see
You’re making a masterpiece
You’re making a masterpiece

I’ll be Your masterpiece

Danny Gokey

Sound the Alarm

Somebody said, “The problem with being a prophet is that nobody likes them.” That made me laugh. Prophets, those who hear the Lord’s Word and speak on His behalf, are given an unenviable task of calling for change and pointing out failure. We love the comforting words of the Gospel, the worshipful words of the Psalms, don’t we? But, oh those prophets.  They go on and on about judgment, death, and destruction.  Do you, like me, tend to leave them unread, unheard?  They do have a message for 21st century Christians: hard words, but important words, that make us sit up and take notice of the ways of our Holy God.

In my Scripture reading this morning, I went to one of those books, the work of Joel. He left us a little book, just 3 chapters, full of thunderous sermons. He lived in Judah about 800 years before Christ. The nation experienced a plague of locusts that stripped fields bare, leaving people and livestock on the brink of starvation. In those locusts, Joel saw a foreshadowing of a far worse plague, the invasion of foreign armies that God would allow.

He saw the decay of faith and, moved by the Spirit, cried out – “Sound the alarm in Jerusalem! Raise the battle cry on my holy mountain! Let everyone tremble in fear because the day of the Lord is upon us. It is a day of darkness and gloom, a day of thick clouds and deep blackness. Suddenly, like dawn spreading across the mountains, a great and mighty army appears. Nothing like it has been seen before or will ever be seen again.” (Joel 2:1-2, NLT)

As much as we may recoil from that type of words, we need them in our time, too. America, much like ancient Judah, hates those who raise their voices to call for a return to the Lord. “Shut up. Go home. Tell someone else your bad news.” But, the truth is, an alarm needs to be raised, a prophetic warning of the destruction that will inevitably follow rejection of the ways of the Lord God. When we are consumed with ourselves, without spiritual vision and values, we need brave souls who know God’s voice and fearlessly sound the alarm.

As I read Joel’s message I saw words of hope, too. He speaks of God’s faithfulness, His desire to save those who will turn to Him, leaving sinful ways. “Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish.” (Joel 2:12-13, NLT)

It is a terrible mistake to take stock of our spiritual poverty and decide that there is no future, that we are headed without remedy for the junk heap of history.  Instead of exclusively railing on the failures ‘out there’  I believe the better choice today is for Christians to return to prayer, to genuine repentance, so that they can lead the way to spiritual renewal.

This nation I love is intoxicated with Self, staggering like a drunk, consumed with pleasure, many of us bent on doing our own thing with no thought to what is ‘right’ or ‘just’ or ‘good.’ Our worst sins are Self-will and disregard of God. Justice is compromised. Corruption is rampant. We are indulgent of ourselves, in most every way imaginable.

Americans who enjoy unparalleled wealth and power have made things their idols, a materialistic people. We are pleasure mad, chasing happiness in ever more diversions. Should anyone even suggest that it might be wise to pause and reflect, that we could benefit from humility, that God waits for us to ‘come home,’ there are only insults and dismissive words for that prophet. 

My prayer is that God, the Spirit, will place the spirit of the prophets in His people, that we will let His words come alive in us, that we will, ourselves, turn to Him, leading the way to repentance. Then, we will be able to turn the corner from judgment to hope. “Rejoice, you people of Jerusalem! Rejoice in the Lord your God! For the rains he sends are an expression of his grace. Once more the autumn rains will come, as well as the rains of spring. The threshing floors will again be piled high with grain, and the presses will overflow with wine and olive oil.” (Joel 2:23-24, NLT)

The words of Joel I love most promise the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Who refreshes us like spring rains renew the earth. 

Here is a word from the Word. May we have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to us.  ““Then after I have poured out my rains again, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams. Your young men will see visions. In those days, I will pour out my Spirit even on servants, men and women alike. “I will cause wonders in the heavens and on the earth—blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon will turn bloodred before that great and terrible day of the Lord arrives.

And anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. There will be people on Mount Zion in Jerusalem who escape, just as the Lord has said. These will be among the survivors whom the Lord has called.” (Joel 2:28-32, NLT)


Send Revival Start With Me

We’re looking to Your promise of old
That if we pray and humble ourselves
You will come and heal our land
You will come
You will come

We’re looking to the promise You made
That if we turn and look to Your face
You will come and heal our land
You will come
You will come to us

Lord send revival start with me
For I am one of unclean lips
And my eyes have seen the King
Your glory I have glimpsed
Send revival start with me

Matt Redman © 1996 Thankyou Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

Jeep Community

Ten years ago I bought my first Jeep Wrangler. When I drove past other Wrangler drivers they raised their left hand from the steering wheel, usually just the fingers, keeping their thumb hooked onto the wheel, and they waved. What was going on? Did I have a light out? Was something wrong with my vehicle? Soon I realized that there is a community among Jeep owners, particularly Wrangler drivers. That left hand wave? It’s a thing, really, called the “Jeep Wave.” (Go ahead, Google it.) Now I do it, too. See a Jeep headed my way?  Yep, I raise my left hand and with a wave I acknowledge my place in the Jeep Community.

Far more significantly, I belong to another community, the Church. I became part of that family through faith, at the invitation of Jesus. “So you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have been made like him. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all Christians—you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-28, NLT)  This passage reveals God’s plan for His Church, a unique community in this world. Our affinity is not built around ownership, heritage, or race. We share God’s life in the Spirit, which erase the lines that too often separate people in this world.

We need to hear the voice of the Spirit in this time where so many things are tearing apart the world in which we live.
We are not white or black Christians. We are ‘in Christ.’
We are not rich or poor Christians. We are ‘in Christ.’
We are not male or female Christians. We are ‘in Christ.’ 
We are not politically progressive or conservative Christians. We are ‘in Christ.’ 

Honestly, I’ll admit that those statements are so much easier to write than to live. Deep suspicion about others and their motives is part of life these days. Power is worshipped as the means of gaining equality which makes authentic conversations impossible. If we attempt dialogue we will be viewed as a collaborator with the ‘other side’ no matter the issue. If you agree that black lives matter then you must be anti-police. But, it is equally true that if you say that blue lives matter your good faith in racial matters is suspect. If you say that you are committed to the sanctity of human life then you must hate women. And so it goes …  the greater tragedy being that the Church, God’s family, allows these issues to creep in and divide those who are called to be ‘one’ – people deeply committed to Him and to one another.

Christian community is radically important to our spiritual health. We cannot  be all that God intends without being in communion with His Body, sharing our spiritual gifts, living life together, supporting, strengthening, and living the Gospel of Christ in our world. The calling is just too big for one person to even attempt alone. The truth is that a solitary Christian just cannot be. “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Romans 12:4-5, NIV)  

Post-COVID America has even less place for ‘church’ it seems than it did a year ago.  For reasons I have yet to understand, large numbers of people who claim faith in Jesus are attempting a faith without fellowship. That choice is one of spiritual peril. We do not just enjoy each other’s company, we need to be committed, working at sharing the life of God in our worship and service. Our unity must go beyond a polite nod or a convenient moment that we fit into our schedule.  

Yes, the Church and your church, has issues!  Politics has crept in, an ugly perversion of the mission of Christ. Corruption is too often allowed to go unchallenged. Misfocused missional statements turn Christians inward rather than outward to serve. Dysfunction makes some churches places of ongoing conflict to such an extent that we might wonder why bother at all?

But, for all those problems, there is also a rich fellowship of Believers, real love, and the fulfilling work of redemption that is possible when we become His Body rather than a club or association. My challenge to you today is to renew your commitment to Christ and His Church. Work at it! Make gathering a priority. Begin conversations about BIG IDEAS of service and mission, daring to turn dreams into reality as the Spirit empowers.  Let’s repent for our pride, our desire to be served, our insistence on uniformity of conviction. Instead let us pray that we will learn how to be ‘one’ in Him.

Can you receive the directive of the Word? Will you humbly accept His call? “And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s people, let us go right into the presence of God, with true hearts fully trusting him. For our evil consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:21-25, NLT)

Now that is real community, promising far more than the Jeep Wave!


We Will Stand

(I love this old 1980’s song with a timeless message.
Let Russ Taff’s artistry encourage you to stand together with other Christians.)

Sometimes it’s hard for me to understand
Why we pull away from each other so easily
Even though we’re all walking the same road?
Yet we build dividing walls
Between our brothers and ourselves.

But, I don’t care what label you may wear,
If you believe in Jesus you belong with me!
The bond we share is all I care to see,
And we’ll change the world forever,
If you will join with me,
Join and sing, sing.

You’re my brother, you’re my sister,
So take me by the hand.
Together we will work until He comes.
There’s no foe that can defeat us,
When we’re walking side by side,
As long as there is love,
We will stand!

The day will come when we will be as one
And with a mighty voice
Together we will proclaim that
Jesus, Jesus is King.
It will echo through the earth.
It will shake the nations.
And the world will see, see that;

You’re my brother, you’re my sister,
So take me by the hand.
Together we will work until He comes.
There’s no foe that can defeat us,
When we’re walking side by side,
As long as there is love,
We will stand!

James Hollihan | Russ Taff | Tori Taff © 1983 Word Music, LLC (a div. of Word Music Group, Inc.)

CCLI License # 810055

God’s possibilities

I serve a God of possibilities! He made me in His image, capable of creativity, with abilities to build, to know, to love. In Him I find purpose, meaning, and hope.  He is not my ‘good luck charm.’ It is a tragic misunderstanding of God’s promises that causes some people to of God kind of like a lucky rabbit’s foot. Remember those?  In the past (does anybody do this anymore?) people sometimes carried a preserved rabbit’s foot. Allegedly the charm would bring ‘good luck’ to its owner. Silly? Of course.

Is God your good luck charm, only brought to mind when you need healing, or financial resources, or help with a wayward kid, or an advantage in some effort in life?  That is not faith, that is superstition. Let’s explore that together. Following a discussion about salvation and serving God, the disciples felt overwhelmed, aware of their inability. Jesus told them “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” (Matthew 19:26, NLT)  That phrase finds its way into many a discussion when life is hard, when a new project is proposed. Often it is reset into a context of positive thinking, changed from “with God all things are possible” into “since God is with me, all things are possible…for me.”  The focus shifts from God’s leading to our desires, and HE becomes our good luck charm.

More than a few people have told me that their faith has collapsed, that they are giving up on God.  The conversation goes something like this. “Pastor, I have faithfully gone to church, tried to live by the teaching of the Bible, said my prayers, gave in the offering, and did my best to be good, but God let my _____ (fill in the blank with some major disappointment). So, I do not believe anymore.”  I feel their heartbreak, empathize with their disappointment, and wonder how they came to think that they should be exempt from the common human experiences that include things like sickness and death.

The God of possibilities invites you and me to know His will, to seek to be led by Him, to trust Him to create new things out of the rubble of life in which we sometimes find ourselves.

Did Daniel’s faith exempt him from ‘bad luck?’ Not at all. In fact, his faith caused him great difficulty in the short term when his prayer life made him a criminal, breaking the rule of the king!  Serving God led him into the lion’s den! But, he continued to trust and God used that horrible night to increase Daniel’s stature in the Babylonian empire.  

Paul’s faith caused him to become a traveling messenger of the Gospel.  God asked him to endure years of hard travel from one end of the Roman Empire to the other as he built the Church. As he faithfully served God, he also experienced persecution, shipwreck, and imprisonment.  Did he grow disillusioned?  Not at all.  In fact he declares, “we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:1-4, NIV)

God doesn’t exist to be our personal good luck charm. He asks us to make Him our “Lord of life” and promises to walk with us through each day leading us until we are welcomed into our eternal home.  IF we insist that God keep us from all troubling situations, if we attempt to use prayers to ward off every unpleasant thing, that ‘faith’ will fail because it is not really faith in God; it is faith in our ability to use God for our own purposes.   

Here is an amazing fact about true faith – God does do things in us, for us, and around us that are ‘impossible,’ in the words of one my favorite passages – “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.”  (Eph 3:20)  This is the God of possibilities! 

Disciple, don’t allow your faith to be reduced to the status of a silly superstition! Make faith in God the center, that by which all things in your life are measured, from which all decisions flow. There will be moments when it will seem that God is not present, when prayers go unanswered, when nothing makes sense. Remain faithful!

Here’s a word from the Word. Meditate on the revelation of His majesty, praying for faith to let God truly be God.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” (Isaiah 55:8-12, NIV)


Thrive (Casting Crowns reminds us that God is at work!)

Here in this worn and weary land
Where many a dream has died
Like a tree planted by the water
We will never run dry
So living water flowing through
God we thirst for more of You
Fill our hearts and flood our souls
With one desire

Just to know You and to make You known
We lift Your name on high
Shine like the sun make darkness run and hide
We know we were made for so much more
Than ordinary lives
It’s time for us to more than just survive
We were made to thrive

Into Your Word we’re digging deep
To know our Father’s heart
Into the world we’re reaching out
To show them who You are
Joy unspeakable
Faith unsinkable
Love unstoppable
Anything is possible
We were made to thrive

Mark Hall | Matthew West © 2014 Atlas Holdings (Admin. by Atlas Music Publishing)Highly Combustible Music (Admin. by Atlas Music Publishing) House of Story Music Publishing (Admin. by Atlas Music Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

God’s Counsel for Monday morning

As I thought and prayed at the start of this new week,  the Spirit impressed me with the importance of choosing the direction of my thoughts.

Do you know that you can direct your thoughts?  We cannot let our minds meander down the pathways where the World, the Flesh, or the Devil invite us to go. If we let the troubles of the world that we live in set the tone of our thoughts, we will most likely become anxious or angry given the chaotic situations of life. If we listen to the whining of the sinful nature that begs for indulgence, we will become slaves to the appetites of our bodies. If we listen to the whispers of demons, we will be doubtful, insecure, and without hope!  

What’s the option?  Tune into the Spirit of the Living God! 
The Psalm advises us to “Exult in his holy name; O worshipers of the Lord, rejoice! Search for the Lord and for his strength, and keep on searching.” (Psalm 105:3-4, NLT)  Right now, pray a sentence prayer with me:  “Lord, I thank You for the gifts You have prepared for me today. Amen.”

I closed the sermon at church yesterday with a familiar passage. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:4-9, NIV)

First,  determine where you will go to find joy.  “Rejoice IN THE LORD always.”
Will you look for it in success, in a meal of fine food, or in fantasies of another place?  The Word tells us to celebrate our relationship with the Lord!  Remind yourself, “I am God’s kid! He’s a good God.”  Look up, past the problems, beyond the disappointment, higher – and sing a song that extols the wonder of our God.

Second, tame that urge to take control.  “Let your gentleness be evident to all.” 

Another version tells us to be “moderate.”  God’s tells us we should seek to be equitable, fair-minded, not quick to judge others. Conventional wisdom is that we need to ‘kick butts, power up, and make things happen’ when faced with challenges.  My natural response to life’s challenges is too often one that only increases stress when I attempt to force solutions on others or press them to act as I think best.  When I am not gentle, Jerry replaces Jesus and results are never for His glory. 

This is not an appeal to indifference. But, what a difference it makes for us and others if we are gentle like Jesus, if we start a hard conversation with “Tell me about …” rather than “You better do this now!”

Third, let prayer shape your thoughts.  “By prayer present your requests to God.”  

Make your concerns His concern, He cares for YOU. He will give wisdom, He will guide. Best of all, He promises that if we will pray He will  steady our minds and hearts with a gift of peace that guards us from the fear that will rob us of rest.

Fourth, choose to think the best, not the worst“Whatever pure, lovely, admirable, excellent praiseworthy  – think about such things.”

So of that difficult person at work, you can declare him a fool in your thoughts and create an adversary, or you can think of him as person in need of help and pray God’s grace in his life. Which creates the better outcome?  That hard reality that is part of your life right now can be something you whine about to anyone who will listen or you can go to God and ask Him for strength to carry the weight. Which choice will leave you in a better place by this evening?

God’s Spirit reminds us that we have a choice.  We can exercise faith and expect better things, see the best, and seek out the excellent.  Does this mean we cannot be honest in our evaluations? Not at all.  Are we forbidden from speaking truthfully about gaps and flaws? No.   Even then, we can destroy or build. We can help or hinder. We can encourage shared success.

Set the tone for a better life this Monday morning.  “Rejoice in the Lord.”  Sin and evil oppose the good of God, all the time.  Sickness comes. Heartbreak is inevitable. Friends fail us. Businesses take the hit of down economies. Temptation will roar from the shadows of your mind. Satan will prowl on the perimeter, looking for an opening to attack.  But, through Christ Jesus, we are ‘more than conquerors.’

Here is that passage again, this time from The Message, a contemporary paraphrase of the Bible.

“Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute! Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” (Philippians 4:4-9, The Message)

Come on, Christian, let’s do it, for Christ’s sake!


Good God Almighty
(sing along, find joy in this happy praise)

I can’t count the times
I’ve called Your name some broken night
And You showed up and patched me up
Like You do every time
I get amnesia I forget that You keep coming around
Yeah ain’t no way You’ll ever let me down

Good God Almighty
I hope You’ll find me
Praising Your Name no matter what comes
‘Cause I know where I’d be
Without Your mercy
So I keep praising Your name at the top of my lungs

Tell me is He good (He’s good)
Tell me is He God (He’s God)
He is Good God Almighty

You say Your love goes on forever
That Your mercy never stops
So why would I assume
You’d be somebody that You’re not
Like sun in the morning
I know You’re gonna be there every day
So what on earth could make me be afraid

Praise Him in the morning
Praise Him in the noon time
Praise Him when the sun goes down
Love Him in the morning
Love Him in the noon time
Love Him when the sun goes down

Jesus in the morning
Jesus in the noon time
Jesus when the sun goes down
Jesus in the morning
Jesus in the noon time
Jesus when the sun goes down

Ben Glover | David Crowder | Jeff Sojka
© 2021 9t One Songs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

Ariose Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

Capitol CMG Genesis (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

sixsteps Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

Sojka Songs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

Become rich in your thoughts

Someone donated several old Bibles to the church yesterday.  I could see that one of them had notes tucked between the pages. I curiously flipped through the old Bible and in addition to the notes I found three $2 bills. I chuckled as I wondered which most people would value most – the money or the Words in the Book?  

The Bible shaped the world I know. The Word has had a profound effect on America since her founding days. Even Thomas Jefferson, who was a skeptic that rejected the supernatural stories of the Scripture, regularly read from the Gospels every day.

Mark Noll writes that “at least until sometime in the late nineteenth century or early in the twentieth, the Bible existed as the most coherent, the most widely respected, and the most powerful of those means by which American ordered their daily existence and made sense of the universe in which they lived.

Do you know the Scriptures?
Does the revelation of God in those pages shape your life?
Is your life enriched by the Truth of God’s revelation of Himself?

Each morning, I open the Word to read – sometimes only a verse, other times a whole story, or an entire book. These CoffeeBreak reflections generally are expressions of those meditations. My mind returns to what I read through the day and I invite the Word to inform my choices, as I draw on the lessons and principles of the Bible. Some passages yield more treasure than others!  I live with a worldview shaped by the Scripture which forms my thoughts. The Bible is a source of guidance that helps me choose my way when I am faced with two roads.

The Psalmist asks – “How can a young man keep his way pure?”
Then, he answers –
“By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Praise be to you, O LORD; teach me your decrees.” (Psalm 119:9-12, NIV)

The Bible, when properly read and studied, will transform us. When read often and with prayer for understanding from the Holy Spirit the Word will reach deep into our thought processes and speak to our daily conduct.  

Let me caution you about an approach to the Bible that is foolish, superstitious even. Some people open their Bible and find a single verse, drawn out of context, to justify an action or thought. That’s called ‘proof texting!’ It can lead to bizarre conclusions. Some study the Bible with a purely literary point of view. It is true that thoughtful study of the historical context and literary forms of the text can be interesting and enlightening. But, simply knowing the Book as one might study other great literature misses the power of the inspired Word.  

Thankfully, God gives us His Spirit to help us to understand the Bible.  If we open it prayerfully, ready to learn, He will teach us. One does not have to be an intellectual or have a degree in ancient Semitic languages to be enriched by the Word. Yes, there is a necessary place for scholarly study, for comparing our interpretation of passages with the understandings of others.  But we must never allow ourselves to be convinced that the Bible is beyond our ability to read and comprehend especially given the modern language translations that make the text more accessible.

There is a blessing that keeps many Believers from the Scripture. What is it?  There are thousands of Christian books available which cause many to read much about the Bible, without ever reading the Bible itself.  Others are content to hear a Sunday sermon from the Word (Oh, God help us to fill our pulpits with the Word!). Having help to understand what is written in the sacred Text is a blessing, but each of us needs to interact with the Word ourselves when possible.

Dr. Timothy Johnson in his book, Finding God In The Questions, relates how he was looking for Jesus Christ, even though he had been a Christian Believer for years. He went back to reading the Gospels carefully and found that the Jesus he discovered again in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John was a Man far removed from the pictures and concepts presented in many books and even sermons he had heard in church buildings. He found a new wonder over the “surprising teachings” of Jesus.

Believer, get the Scripture into your mind and heart. Make reading of the Bible text itself a daily practice. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t find a sparkling gem of new understanding on the first day. Don’t try to read too much. Don’t go for the hard passages first. Instead, pray for the Spirit to be at work, and then sit down to read.

If you’re new to Bible reading, start with Luke‘s story of Jesus’ ministry.
Break away some mornings to read a Psalm, aloud, if possible. 
Read the story of the first generation of Christians told in Acts.
Learn the majesty of our faith in Christ Jesus from Paul’s letter to the Romans.

Get a modern translation (or two) of the Scripture: one like the New International Version (NIV) or the New Living Translation (NLT) that will eliminate the road blocks inherent in English that is 4 centuries old.

When you read a passage that defies a ready understanding or application, allow for some ambiguity! After all, the Bible is not a textbook, it is a revelation of the Almighty, Eternal God!

Here’s a word from the Word.   “There’s nothing like the written Word of God for showing you the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another — showing us truth, exposing our rebellion,   correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.”  (2 Timothy 3:15-17, The Message)

By the way, there is a great app that is free for your smartphone or tablet. YouVersion™ will let you access many different translations of the Bible without charge. It will provide daily reading guides. If you’re not a good reader, many of the texts come with a voice option that will read the text to you aloud as you follow along.  I highly recommend it to you for Scripture intake.


Ancient Words

Holy words long preserved
For our walk in this world
They resound with God’s own heart
O let the ancient words impart

Words of life words of hope
Give us strength help us cope
In this world where’er we roam
Ancient words will guide us home

Ancient words ever true
Changing me changing you
We have come with open hearts
O let the ancient words impart

Holy words of our faith
Handed down to this age
Came to us through sacrifice
O heed the faithful words of Christ

Martyr’s blood stains each page
They have died for this faith
Hear them cry through the years
Heed these words and hold them dear

We have come with open hearts
O let the ancient words impart
O let the ancient words impart

Lynn DeShazo © 2001 Integrity’s Hosanna! Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing (Integrity Music, David C Cook))

CCLI License # 810055

Get real!

On my kitchen table there is a bowl of apples. More than once a guest in my home has reached out and picked one up only to realize they are not real. They look authentic, even close up, but they are just decorative. They serve no fruitful purpose!  Let me ask a pointed question – are you a real Christian?  I invite you to think about spiritual reality, becoming a fruitful Believer.

I drove past a local orchard and stopped along the road to look over the trees covered in white blossoms, the promise of fruit to come. The farmer has done his work, pruning, clearing away the underbrush, but it is the LIFE in the trees that will ultimately bring on the apples and pears that are the purpose of that place.  My untrained eye could not discern what kind of trees they are, right now. In a few months the fruit hanging from the branches will be irrefutable evidence if they are pear, peach, or apple trees.

Are you a fruitful Christian?  

Jesus says “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned for greater fruitfulness by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful apart from me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:1-5, NLT)

IF we are intimately connected to Him, by faith, and ‘remain’ (abide) in Him consistently, the life that flows from Him will cause fruit to grow in us. What kind of fruit? “When the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23, NLT)  We need not stress, strain, or just try to ‘act like a Christian.’  Christ makes us alive and life shows, the development of character and faith coming into evidence from the inside out.

Ah friend, we do not grow into the likeness of Jesus with mental gimmicks, by adopting a self-improvement program, or even through working at being religious. Oh, yes we may be morally upright, manage to avoid grosser sins, but the nourishing fruit of the Spirit’s life does not flourish from human efforts.  In ourselves the best we can manage is an imitation, real looking on the surface perhaps, but without the nature of true fruit!  
People can spot the difference between a ‘religious person’ and one who is alive in the Spirit as surely as I am able to determine if an apple is a plastic imitation or the real thing in a moment’s time.  In our present world, with so much chaos and uncertainty, I want, more than anything, to be a person who bears the real evidence of Christ’s life, filled with spiritual fruit.

So I will ‘remain’ in Him, opening my mind and heart to Him, through out the day.  Yes, we will find ourselves pulled from that place near His heart, tempted, tested, and depleted in spirit. But, there is renewal when we recenter ourselves in His loving grace.

Meditate on these words of promise, dear Believer.  “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,” (Colossians 1:9-10, NIV)  That’s reality!


Since Jesus Came Into My Heart

What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought
Since Jesus came into my heart
I have light in my soul for which long I had sought
Since Jesus came into my heart

Since Jesus came into my heart
Since Jesus came into my heart
Floods of joy o’er my soul
Like the sea billows roll
Since Jesus came into my heart

I’m possessed of a hope that is steadfast and sure
Since Jesus came into my heart
And no dark clouds of doubt now my pathway obscure
Since Jesus came into my heart

I shall go there to dwell in that city I know
Since Jesus came into my heart
And I’m happy so happy as onward I go
Since Jesus came into my heart

Rufus H. McDaniel

© Words: Public Domain