Pages Left Over

More than 30 years ago my wife worked in her college print shop.  As a gift to me she made a custom pad of paper that I could use for when I did some side jobs in tree work.  It was awesome to have something with my name and “company” information on it that I could give to people.  It was a way for me to communicate with customers with something far better than chicken scratch on a napkin.  Once we were married and I had taken a city job, the days of weekend tree work dwindled and so did the use of that special pad of paper.

The other day, when going through some old boxes of stuff, the last remaining remnants of that special pad of paper resurfaced.  My wife showed it to me and once again, so many tktree paper imagememories of jobs that I had done during those years came rushing back.  I remember the long days spent dragging sticky pine branches with my wife, hauling logs to the dump, splitting hardwood for firewood, and smelling like a combination of pine tree, wood chips, and gasoline.  I remember just how utterly exhausted I would be but also how satisfying it was to put my hands to a task with passion, determination, and great care.  Those memories are powerful, fresh in my mind, and lasting.

But there are pages of the pad left over…pages that have not yet been used.

For some reason that fact bothered me for a time and it made me wonder if there were more jobs that I could have done, jobs that I missed or turned down, that would have used up all the pages of my special pad.  I know that at this point in my life I am not going to be climbing up any 100′ trees or splitting a cord of wood any day soon.  So I am left with the memories and a longing.

As I thought about that I started to reflect on the work that I have done for God.  I remember days of hard labor for Him.  I remember nights in long meetings working with determination and care on the things that have eternal meaning.  I have memories of preparing to teach a class, preach a sermon, or build the stage for a VBS program.  I remember having sore “spiritual muscles” for days or weeks all from working hard for Him to teach and to learn from His word.  It is good to be doing that kind of work…it is the best kind of work.

gloves and stuff.jpgBut just like that special pad of paper for my tree business, there are still pages left on the spiritual pad of paper of my life.  God put my name in His book, on His special pad, and he wrote Jesus’ name on my life.  Every day He wants me to reflect Him to others.  He wants me to be getting dirty doing the work He has called me to.  That is something to be excited about.  That is the kind of work to put my heart, mind, and soul into.

There are still pages on the pad of my life to be lived for Jesus and for the glory of God and until His pen stops writing it is my job to keep my life’s pad out of storage and ready to be written on!

How about your life pad…is God busy writing all over it or is it packed away in a box somewhere?


Return to Sender

We have all probably gotten some mail back at some point in our lives that has a stamp on it saying “RETURN TO SENDER”.   Perhaps the person doesn’t live their anymore, or perhaps we just wrote down the wrong address.  One way or another the destination was wrong and the delivery couldn’t be made.

As believers we have a sender in fact, we have the entire Trinity involved in our earthly destinations.  The apostle Paul wrote about it in the first few verses of his letter to the Galatians when he said “Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead…”  A few chapters later he writes “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”  Paul knew exactly who selected the destination and he knew who would be assisting in the delivery.

The Lord doesn’t make mistakes when he chooses the destination address that he has chosen for you.  The only thing that can mess up the delivery is if we resist His leading in our lives (see Jonah).  Let us be yielded to the Lord’s leading and make sure we are delivering His truth and love.  Neither rain, nor snow, nor stubbornness, nor pride, nor unloving attitudes, etc… shall keep us our appointed rounds!

In Christ…

Is your “well done” well done?

Every year a committee at my company gets together and after a great deal of effort and investigation they select an employee to be given a very special recognition.  The award is given to an employee whose performance and behavior is truly exceptional both in their job/role as well as in their personal character.  The award was established many years ago in the memory of a terrific employee who tragically lost his life in a head-on collision with a moose.  There is a similar but separate award that recognizes a noteworthy high performing team each year.  The process of determining who will be selected for the individual award consists of soliciting for nominations, conducting interviews, and many hours of deliberation.  It was a tremendous honor to have served on the individual award committee this year as it was an opportunity to get to know many dedicated, talented, and high performing coworkers.

After many months of work, today I had the privilege of giving the good news to this year’s individual award recipient on behalf of the committee.  It was a pleasure to tell them that they had done an truly incredible job and that many other people were of the same opinion.

Of course God does not waste special “events” like these in our lives.  The whole process reminded me of our lives as children of God and the day we look forward to, when we will stand before our Lord longing to hear him say “Well done good and faithful servant…”  There were several insights that came to mind as I considered this whole experience.

First, being the one that got to meet with this individual and recognize their efforts, I was reminded of how God delights in us when we have done the best job we can in obedience to Him.  It was a true delight and privilege for me to tell someone that they had done an excellent and amazing job and I thought of how I long for my Lord to be delighted.  I want to stand before Him and have Him say with great delight “Well done good and faithful servant.”  I want Him to be delighted but not for my benefit or self-promotion, but because in His delight He is glorified, honored, and blessed.

Another insight came to mind as I considered the response of this year’s winner when given the news.  In keeping with their character, they asked, “Are you sure this isn’t for the team award?  There are a lot of other folks on this team that help make all these results happen!”  They didn’t want it to be about themselves, rather they wanted others to be recognized for their efforts as well.  Now I realize that we are going to stand before the Lord alone and be evaluated based on what we have done for Him, but consider this…what if we earnestly sought out opportunities to encourage others to live, serve, and grow in the life that God wants while we are serving here together, so that when they stand before the Lord there will be immeasurable delight for the Lord for what they have done as well?  What if you and I were more interested and excited about each other and not primarily in our own recognition when we stand before the Lord?   In Hebrews 10:24-25 it says “…let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”  In Philippians 2:3-4 it says “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  I have every confidence to believe that if were we to be busy with that kind of encouragement and concern for each others interests, that the Lord would be abundantly delighted, and His name glorified!

One other thing grabbed my attention when I shared the news with this individual.  Initially, the individual was speechless when they heard the news.  There was this look of shock and surprise as they were processing the recognition and honor that they had been given.  I later wondered how I might react to that kind of news in the workplace.  Would I be humble?  Proud?  Puzzled?  This individual clearly didn’t expect to be recognized for this award and I expect it was probably the furthest thing from their mind when they came to the office today.  When we stand before the Lord and are given praise from the Lord himself saying “well done good and faithful servant…“, how will we respond?  The only proper response will be to do as the Elders will do as recorded in Revelation 4:11 and we will take any praise or recognition given to us, any crowns or rewards, and give them right back to Him for He alone is deserving of all glory and praise.

With all of that in my mind I was once again reminded of a verse that hangs over my desk.  The verse is Colossians 3:23-24 and it reads “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

Our King deserves our very best each and every moment of every day.  May he delight in all that we do both now and forever more.


I Should Be Committed

This month I celebrate 30 years of working for the same company.  Later this year my wife and I will celebrate 30 years of marriage.  In the fall my folks will celebrate 72 years of marriage!  Except for a couple of brief times away, I have been attending the same church for more than 54 years!  I’m not writing those things to boast.  I will say though that it is not the norm in our society these days to see long term commitments in the workplace, the home, or the church.

I understand fully that there are valid reasons for ending relationships but today, let me focus on the reasons for long term commitments because I want to try to be an advocate to change the pattern. I want to skew the averages and change the status quo!

So let me share a few verses that reflect God’s character and his desire for us regarding loyalty, faithfulness, and commitment…

Proverbs 3:3-4  “Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.  So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.

2 Timothy 2:13  “…if we are faithless, he remains faithful for he cannot deny himself.”

Romans 8:38-39  “For I am sure that 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 us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

1 John 3:24  “Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.”

Hebrews 10:24-25  “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

God is faithful.  It is his character.  It is the foundation of so many great hymns…Blessed Assurance and Great is Thy Faithfulness are just a couple that come to mind.  Perhaps the most explicit and powerful verse about God’s enduring, eternal faithfulness and loyalty to us is found in Hebrews 13:5 “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  It is a restatement of a promise made by the Lord through Moses found in Deuteronomy 31:6-8 as Israel prepared to cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land.  What a promise…what blessed assurance.  What confidence it gives us to know that God will never leave us…never forsake us.

Like i said in the title of this post…I should be committed!  Each day is a new opportunity to commit to, and invest ourselves into our relationships with our family, our friends, our coworkers, the family of God, and most importantly our relationship with God himself. Let’s start each day with an eternal mindset; with a commitment to being faithful.


Keeping It Unstained

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ”  1 Timothy 6:12-14

Fight the good fight of the faith.”  We know that it is a daily battle that requires our prayer and study, our preparation and equipping, our abiding in Him, and our dependence on the power and wisdom from God.  It mandates we put on the armor of God in order to stand.  But there is a manner of fighting that good fight that Paul wants to share with Timothy and we need to pay close attention to his charge as we engage in this faith battle ourselves.

Paul says to “Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses…”  Some translations render the words “take hold of” as “lay hold of”  He is not saying that we are to work to grasp or obtain our eternal life.  Rather, we are to fight and battle to keep intact our good testimony of the eternal life that we have been called to by God himself.  We are to take hold of it, to fight to defend it like the treasured, precious gift that it is.

Paul later says that we are to “…keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach…”   What commandment is he referring to here?  It is the Gospel of love.  It is the gift of salvation, the gift of eternal life that we have been given…that is the Gospel message.  That is the commandment.  It is the truth of our “good confession” that we share with “many witnesses“.  In 1 Timothy 1:5 Paul wrote to Timothy saying “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”  Our testimony day and in and day out as we fight the good fight of the faith needs to be grasped, taken hold of, and kept unstained and free from reproach.  We need to all that we can to keep our testimony pure.  We need to focus on the things that Paul wrote about in verse 11 just prior to his encouragement to Timothy when he said “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.”  These are the things that help us in our fight to keep our testimony unstained.

Lastly, in the midst of these two exhortations, Paul gives us the burden of cause, the purpose and model behind striving for Gospel purity in our lives.  In verse 13 Paul told Timothy “I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession…” God is the author of life and Christ is the perfect example of the Gospel lived out.  In the light of those truths, Paul charges Timothy to keep the commandment…to preserve intact the perfect, precious gift of salvation until the day of Christ’s return.

May we all be encouraged to preserve intact our own precious testimony and may we live a life spent pursuing and sharing the love of God that has been so richly shown to us.

In Christ

χαρίζομαι – graciously given

When we think about the amazing, loving, and merciful gifts that God has graciously given to us as believers, we often think about our salvation, eternity with him, his love, and so on.  But there is another place in scripture that this word and idea of gracious giving is used and it may surprise you.

Philippians 1:29 says “For to you it has been granted (χαρίζομαι) on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake…”  The Greek here indicates that on behalf of Christ, God graciously gives us our faith and belief in Jesus but he also gives us the blessing and privilege of suffering.  Have you ever looked at your suffering that way?  Have you ever considered that the trials and persecution, the sufferings that you and I go through, are a gracious gift from God?  Not an easy thing to wrap our minds around or accept perhaps.

The truth is we need to trust God and his unfathomable ways.  We need to believe and trust that he cares for us and loves us all the time.  A few short verses later in Philippians 2:13 Paul writes “ for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”  God is at work in us, and working through us for His glory.  Just consider Christ’s suffering on the cross and how in complete obedience and humility he trusted his heavenly father completely.

As we humbly submit, in obedience, to the Lord as our savior and king, we too demonstrate a trust in God and we come to a deeper understanding of the truth about the gracious gift of suffering.  We will come to expect a life that is marked by joy and suffering, thanksgiving and pain, delight and distress .  I have known very good friends that have demonstrated perhaps the most brilliant light of testimony in and through the midst of some of the most extreme suffering imaginable.  How can that be possible?  Simple…they have come to understand the accept the truth of the gracious gift of suffering for Christ’s sake.

Be of good courage.  Pray to God in the midst of the suffering in your life.  Without a doubt our suffering can be incredibly hard and intensely painful at times.  May we be like Christ, obedient to God understanding that God will never leave us or forsake us…that he has plans to prosper us…that he has us in the palm of his hand…and that his grace is sufficient…both his grace in his gift of the suffering, and his grace in his never ending love and mercy as the power of Christ is poured out on us during those times of suffering.

I want to close with this verse from Paul.  It is a verse that has encouraged me immensely when I have felt those private burdens of suffering that sometimes fill my life…

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10


“Sunday-Go-To-Meeting” State of Mind

When many of us were growing up there was a set of clothes, two if you were lucky, that were set aside as your “Sunday-go-to-meeting” clothes.  They were special, set apart, in other words…you didn’t horse around in those things.  I can’t remember how many times I got grass stains on the knees of my Sunday-go-to-meeting pants but I know it was more than a few.  The fact of the matter is that it was a state of mind…there were some things that were set aside for church.  The clothes.  A special bible.  Even Sunday morning itself was set aside as Sunday-go-to-meeting time.  You just didn’t mess with that day and you didn’t mess with the clothes.  The last thing I wanted to have happen was to have my momma find those clothes with dirt and grass stains ground into the very fibers of those britches.

Needless to say our society, culture, and attitude has changed over the past few decades.  Good, bad, or otherwise, no matter how you look at it, there is a new normal.

dress-clothesIsaiah 61:10 reads this way “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” 

Our salvation changes us.  It creates in us a new heart.  By it the Lord dresses us in His righteousness. How much more precious, priceless, and costly is my salvation than any pair of pants that I ever wore to church.

Perhaps we have allowed those things that were set apart for the Lord to be pushed aside at times.  Perhaps we have horsed around a bit too much while dressed in our Sunday-go-to-meeting salvation best. Perhaps we have allowed the dirt of this world to be ground deep into to the very fibers of our christian lives so that we no longer look like so much like that precious garment of salvation.

I certainly didn’t want my momma to find my Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes stained.   But one thing I fear more than that…and that is to have my Lord find me with stains of this world all over those precious, righteous garments of my salvation that he paid such a high price for.  My salvation, our salvation, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, isn’t just for Sunday; we wear those righteous garments every day of our lives. Perhaps it is time to put on that Sunday-go-to-meeting state of mind once again and remember the precious price that was paid for you to be dressed in garments of His righteousness.

Church Speak

In his book Between Two Worlds, author John Stott wrote in 1982 about the future of the computer chip and the impact it would have on human relationships and the Word of God.  He wrote the following:

It is difficult to image the world in the year A. D. 2000, by which time versatile micro-processors are likely to be as common as simple calculators are today.  We should certainly welcome the fact that the silicon chip will transcend human brain-power, as the machine has transcended human muscle-power.

Little did he know how true those words would be.  The positive impact of technology in our lives cannot be overstated.  But it has come at a cost to our human relations in ways that we are still discovering and learning how to cope with.  Stott went on to write this corollary statement…

Much less welcome will be the probable reduction of human contact as the new electronic network renders personal relationships ever less necessary.

This statement has a lot of truth to it and you must admit that today, more than 30 years after Stott wrote that statement, we see the impact of our “smart” phones and “i”-everythings invade our lives at every turn, often hindering us from speaking with each other face-to-face or at least person-to-person.  We hardly ever use our voices, hands, and expressions to convey the depth of our feelings, ideas, thoughts, and dreams. Instead we use emoticons, acronyms, and abbreviations to convey the depth of our love, our frustration, and our laughter.

What is perhaps the most significant remark that Stott makes is that he relates the impact of technology on the church, specifically on preaching and teaching the Word of God.  He writes:

In such a dehumanized society the fellowship of the local church will become increasingly important, whose members meet one another, and talk and listen to one another in person rather than on screen.  In this human context of mutual love the speaking and hearing of the Word of God is also likely to become more necessary for the preservation of our humanness, not less.



God is not silent…in fact He spoke all of creation into existence!  “And God said…” is what Genesis 1 says…not “And God text…”   God is a god that speaks to us.  He wants to communicate to us through his Word.


How wonderful a privilege to gather together with others to hear the Word of God proclaimed. If you are not regularly attending a church where the Word of God is being shared, I would encourage you to get out there and find one.  Find a church family where the Word of God, the Bible, is taught verse by verse, and people long to dig into the truth of what God has said.

Get out there so that we all can preserve that Godly character trait of real, true, loving personal communication with God and with each other.

Between Two Worlds The Challenge of Preaching Today, John Stott, 1982 p.69

Help for the Helpless…

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”  Romans 5:6

My wife and I had the wonderful opportunity to help my son and his wife move recently.  It involved the usual bunch of boxes, furniture, food stuff, etc.  We rented a U-Haul set about the task of packing it up.  Getting all the “stuff” packed was not that hard but we were up against the clock because a winter storm was approaching and we needed to get on the road early the next day.  I thought we were in pretty good shape. However, in the morning when we were getting the final things in the truck I felt a slight twinge in my back.  I was being reminded of the fact that I really cannot do any lifting and in the 20 degree weather I was pushing my luck.  So I backed off and relied on others to do the heavy lifting.

Finally with all the stuff loaded we hit the road…the journey to our final destination was pretty normal, a few slow downs here and there but in the back of my mind I was wondering how I was going to get everything unloaded from the car, pickup truck and U-Haul before the snow and rain set in. I felt utterly helpless knowing that what lied ahead I could not do on my own.  Fear of suffering with back pain again was not an option.

If you know me at all you will know that I hate feeling helpless. I think most of us hate that feeling.  Our society tell us that if you set your mind to it you can do anything.  Well…that just isn’t true folks…trust me on that one. Once you bust your back and have to have surgery, the reality of what you can and can’t do become much more clear. So this is where God loves to have us.  It is at this point that God uses people to remind us of what Christ’s love is like.

By the time we got to our final destination, where we were going, there were people just pulling in to help.  Four friends from church came to our rescue…my rescue.  They laid down their lives for a couple of hours to help someone that couldn’t help themselves.  You may think this is a sign of weakness or something, but I began to tear up standing in the back of the U-Haul as I was reminded of the love of Christ for me.  I saw the perfect love of Christ being lived out and demonstrated in the simple act of helping unload cars and trucks full of stuff.

You see, I could not be forgiven of my sins or go to heaven on my own.  I was helpless to get that job done on my own.  I had stuff in my life, sin, and frankly it was more than a few moving vans full.  I needed someone that was qualified and capable to do that job for me.

That is where Christ stepped in.

The passage at the beginning of this post says that “…while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”

I was helpless yesterday, overwhelmed by my inability to do that job myself.  But in my helpless state others stepped in, demonstrating the love of Christ to me and my family, getting us to our final destination with joy, delight, and a few laughs along the way.  All I could do is accept the help with a humble, grateful heart.

We all have stuff.  We all sin.  But Jesus Christ, the one who we celebrate at this time of year, is the only one that can step in and help us.  Jesus Christ is the only way to get to heaven.  He is the only one that can move the sin out of our life.

I pray that as we celebrate this Christmas holiday, that you too are reminded of the precious gift of Jesus Christ.  That he came as a babe, lived a sinless life, died on the cross, was buried, and three days later rose again from the grave.  He reigns in heaven and longs to show you his never ending love.  I pray that you too know that eternal hope and perfect help that comes from Christ alone.  He is more than able to help you.  If you feel helpless this season, trust in Christ, turn to him and give him your stuff, trust him with your eternal salvation.

Irresistible Urge to Chat

I saw a compelling video online the other day about the dangers of using your phone while driving.  It was gut wrenching to watch.  Why is it that so many of us have this compelling urge, an almost irresistible compulsion to read and respond immediately to every chat, text, email, tweet, almost regardless of where we are or what we are doing?  Why is it that, like Pavlov’s dog, when we hear that ringtone or text notification we simply cannot restrain that instinct to reach for our phone?

Perhaps we have been conditioned to think and feel that if we don’t read that text or respond to that message we will be missing out on something.  Or perhaps “Susie” will think we are ignoring her.  Or maybe “Jimmy” will think I don’t like him anymore because I didn’t get right back to him in 3 seconds or less.  Whatever the reasons, real or imagined, it would seem that we may have developed some unhealthy habits.

The video made me think about how I communicate with God.

compelled to chat image

Do I jump up and run across the house if He is “calling”?  How do I respond if I get a “message” from Him?  Do I impatiently look for his responses, hitting “refresh” every 2 seconds to see if he has replied?  Have I reduced my conversations with the Lord to a style that more closely resembles text messages – using emoticons, acronyms, and slang?   Do I start tapping my foot on the floor if he does not answer in 30 seconds?  or perhaps the alternative is the case…do I communicate with him even 1/10th of the amount that I text with friends and family?  

Have I taken today’s expectations for communicating and applied it to my relationship and conversations with God?

When you wake in the morning do you check your phone first or are you excited to start a conversation with God?  Do you rush to check for new Facebook posts, or do you start reading His Word to see what new things he wants to share with you?  Do you have an irresistible urge to communicate with God?  To pray?  To read His Holy Word?  Are you like Samuel when the Lord wanted to talk to him and Samuel replied “Speak. I’m your servant, ready to listen.”  Do you reach out to God asking like the Psalmist did “Incline Your ear to me, hear my speech.

Honestly, I have a bunch of work to do in this area of my own life.  But if I want to have honest, deep, meaningful conversations with my heavenly Father and hear what he has to say to me, that is going to a concerted and deliberate effort…it is going to take time and commitment on my part.  And there is no time like the present to start…