Trembling at the Thought

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

One of my favorite Holy week songs is called Were You There. In addition to being a Good Friday staple, the song has been popularized by many recording artists throughout the years. No doubt many of us will be humming the melody of the song in our heads as we think of it.

I have always believed that the song was intended to get me thinking about my own sin. This was the cause of Jesus’ suffering after all. I imagined myself standing there as they “nailed him to the cross”, recognizing that he was taking on a penalty that I myself deserved. This is certainly reasonable to consider, but there is more to the story.

Were You Therewas likely written by African people who were enslaved in America in the 1800’s, which gives an entirely new dimension to the song. The perspective would have been standing in awe at the fact that the savior of the world would join with them in their own suffering. In the midst of their own oppression they remembered that Jesus was also oppressed. While later versions of the song inserted the idea of the empty tomb into the final verse, the original conclusion was that the “sun refused to shine”. The final thought is the darkness that often accompanies suffering.

If we really want to consider what it would be like, had we been there, this is probably the right place to conclude the song. Darkness. Sadness. Oppression. Suffering. On Friday night when Jesus was crucified, there was no empty tomb in view.

In a few days, we’ll remember the crucifixion at our Good Friday service by considering this “cup” that Jesus was given to drink. As you prepare your heart this week, don’t gloss over the darkness of that moment. Don’t miss that God himself had to share so deeply in our suffering that it would cause even the oppressed to tremble! tremble! tremble!

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

One Calling

Ephesians 4:1-3As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 

Paul said that the Ephesians needed to live in light of their calling. Paul is talking about the call to live in Christ and to do good works. Paul lists some of the traits that come when we walk in Christ. When we live with humility, gentleness, patience, and helping others, we walk in Christ.

Ephesians 4:4-7, 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.

Paul mentions a number of “ones” that unite us. He says we have one: body, Spirit, hope, Lord, faith, baptism, God and Father. Paul emphasized “one” because that is what we are supposed to be. We are to be united as one as we walk in Christ, helping and serving one another.

God has given us the ability to be the people that go into the world and share what we’ve been given. Even when our natural tendency is to do nothing. Doing nothing is the easiest thing in the world. We are champions of ignoring problems and convincing ourselves that it’s not really that big of a deal. Thankfully, we have a God that’s interested in that.

God saw a world that needed saving and he sent Jesus. Through Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection we have been given a second chance. We have been given a gift. It is not something anyone could earn. It’s not something any of us deserve. 

Think of the big moves or sacrifices we are willing to make for the people that we love. 

John 3:16-17, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

You are loved by the God of the universe. Your life has value. You must fight the voice that calls you to be lazy or to be apathetic. This should energize us to go out and do great things for God, even if that great thing is simply encouraging your neighbor.

Two Are Better

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.

Last week Wednesday was a cold day on the Outer Banks, and we were looking for something to do. So, I became a card-carrying member of the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island. When we showed up at the aquarium, we did some quick math and realized it was cheaper for the Mulder family to get a family membership to the aquarium than it was to pay for each individual person. Now we can all go back as many times as we want this year free of charge. It’s only an 8 hour drive each way, and if anyone wants to join us, guests get a 10% discount on admission with a member. All in all, it was a pretty good day.

Then I read last week’s Restore devotional. On the same day that I was having a good day, Chris was having a bad day. As soon as I read it, it hit me…I was supposed to send Chris a devotional for last week’s email before I left, and I completely forgot. I hoped that wasn’t the reason for his bad day (he assured me it was not).

I immediately thought of the passage from Ecclesiastes that two are better than one. The author gives a couple of reasons for that statement, but one of them is that when you fall down you have someone to help you up again. You could expand on that “falling down” to include dropping the ball on an assignment, messing up a task at work, forgetting an appointment, not to mention literally tripping and falling on your face. Two is better than one because you need someone to have your back–and it would be a pity if you didn’t have anyone there to help.

The question is, “who has your back?” And the quick follow-up, “whose back do YOU have?” If you aren’t sure of the answer, it might be something to start working on now, before you need someone to lend you a helping hand.

Perfectly Weak

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.– 2 Corinthians 12:9

I’ll be honest with you, I’m having kind of a bad day. It’s something that can be hard for us to admit to one another. Too often, in Christian circles, we feel guilty if we don’t say everything is fine. At times there’s this weird pressure we feel to make sure everyone knows that we have it all together. I don’t know where it comes from, but I think we’ve all been there.

Paul’s main theme throughout all of 2 Corinthians is strength in weakness. Paul takes our natural expectations on how life should go and flips them all around. In our modern world, and especially here in America, we long for strength, power, and control. It is so rampant in our society that I don’t even need to give you an example of people who would do anything to get a little bit more authority.

Paul doesn’t mind sharing his weakness. In verses 7 and 8 he talks about a “thorn in his flesh,” a messenger meant to keep him from becoming conceited. It’s a mystery to us what this thorn may have been, however we know that it is something Paul saw as a burden. He didn’t just pray for it to go away he “pleaded with the Lord.” And this is where expectations get flipped around, instead of having the thorn removed Paul is reminded that God’s grace, His lovingkindness, His mercy is enough.

In the Church, a life centered around Christ is sometimes falsely portrayed as pain-free happiness. The truth is that Christians face the same troubles that any other human on planet Earth faces. We just have the grace of God to lean into. If you’re having a bad day, that’s okay because you have a God that loves you and wants to hear about it.

When we face troubles, when there are thorns in our flesh, we can remind ourselves that God wants us to fulfill our purpose. If you feel strong, run hard after God. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. No matter what, boast in the great work He has done even through our weakness.


Spring is officially here! The flowers aren’t really blooming yet and the birds aren’t really singing, and it’s still a little chilly, but despite that spring starts today. Around here I think we have an extra appreciation for spring because it closes the door and says winter is officially over, warmer weather is coming, and, if you choose, it might be 8 months before you need to pick up another shovel.

Spring is an expectant time. We expect the weather to get warmer. We expect the plants to grow greener. Some of us expect breathing to become an issue as our allergies awaken. After a season of cabin fever and trying to stay warm we are ready to be unleashed on the world. We are freed from the prison of winter.

During the winter we long to be free of those things that drag us down. We are meant to be free. It’s like what Paul says in Galatians 5, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Through Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection we can let go and be unburdened. Many times, we hold on too tightly to the things we know we should release. This can be the pain of loss, anger after a disagreement, or any number of other things that hold us back from true freedom. 

There’s a story that describes our spiritual life being like a house. We do our best to maintain it, keeping it tidy and clean. From the street it looks almost perfect, if you enter the front door everything seems to be in order. We want to share this house. Well, we want to share most of it. There’s that one closet that we keep tucked away, we know it should be cleaned it out, but the idea of dealing with it is almost as scary as what’s inside. 

This is where Jesus comes in and tells you that he wants you to be freed from the fear. He wants to know what’s happening and he wants you to know that no matter what you are loved and can find your rest in Him. He tells us in Matthew 11:28-30,  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

As the seasons change, what burden can you release?


During this season we keep an eye to the future. Soon spring will start, the snow will melt, and the flowers will grow. Soon it will be Easter and we will mourn the crucifixion and then celebrate the resurrection. This eager anticipation helps form the rhythm of our year. As the seasons change, we are reminded of the renewing of the world.

It is far too easy to get lost in the routine of life: we drive the same car, work the same job, and see the same people day after day. It’s like when little kids want to watch the same show over and over; they don’t do it because of the riveting cinematography or superb storytelling. Their little brains are still learning to how to deal with expectations. So, when Nemo gets scooped up by the diver they have learned, “this is the part where I act shocked,” and when he gets reunited with his dad, “this is the part where I celebrate.” 

We think we grow out of this at some point. We don’t. Our routines just become more complex than is contained in the 100 minutes of Finding Nemo. We like the routine, it makes us feel safe when we know what to expect throughout our day. 

Even Church can become part of our routine. Instead of seeking deeper truth it becomes something we check off our weekly to do list. Nevertheless, if we can pause for a moment and think about all that is to come, all that God wants to do, we can feel the excitement of anticipation wash over us.

Isaiah 40:28-31 says, “The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. 30 Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; 31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

Easter is coming soon, and my hope is always that you take the time to reflect on what that means in your life. Through Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection all our sins are paid, and we can walk in the newness of life. Jesus shook up the routine of the world giving us something to look towards.

What are you looking forward to?

Think Fast

Today, March 6th, is Ash Wednesday the official beginning of the Lenten season. Lent is the traditional name for the forty days (not counting Sundays) leading up to Easter. There is a long-standing tradition in Christianity to use this time to fast and pray and reflect on the sacrifice made by Jesus on the cross. If you’ve grown up in the Protestant church talking about fasting during Lent may hit a little sideways.

The truth is we have numerous examples throughout the Old and New Testament of people fasting as a spiritual discipline, a path to grow closer to God, or to aid in their decision making. When we fast, we intentionally abstain from something that we enjoy which causes us to feel those pangs of desire when we notice it’s missing from our day. And the way we desire that thing we are missing should be a reminder of the desire we should have to be close to God. Fasting isn’t magic, you can’t say, “I didn’t eat chocolate for a month, so now I love Jesus more.” It’s not about proving your faith by enduring pain. Fasting is a determined effort. First, for the self-discipline to actually deprive yourself of something you love, and second to constantly remind yourself why you are doing it.

These days we can have just about anything we want any time we want it. Gone are the days when you couldn’t get some fruit or vegetable because it was out of season. Now, someone will gladly ship it half way across the world for you. But with so many conveniences, we can start thinking about God the same way. We mistakenly see God as a vending machine or an emergency room. We only check in when we need

It doesn’t need to be a show, in Matthew 6:16-18 Jesus says, “16 And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Fasting is between you and God I hope you’ll try it as we move towards

Should you choose to fast you don’t have to go the full forty days (if you’re fasting from food please don’t go longer than is healthy). Maybe you skip lunch on Tuesdays and use that time to pray. The important thing is to pick something that you will notice is missing from your day: food, drink, social media, TV, sports, etc. I once did a week long fast from music, it was awful, but I learned a lot because it made me take time to be silent and

What can you take a break from that could remind you to desire God more?

What is Comfort?

What does comfort mean to you? Sometimes we use the term to define an ideal of some sort. For example, when someone asks how much money is enough and we answer, “enough to be comfortable.” 

Where do you seek comfort when you face tragedy or disappointment? There are many examples throughout the Bible of men and women who have been able to find comfort in the midst of pain and tribulation. These stories can be helpful for us. 

Psalm 13 is probably one of the darker psalms written by King David. It begins, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?” I admit that I have cried these words in my life, I think we all have. David was at a point where he felt God was absent. 

Have you reached the point where you expect comfort to mean God solving your problems rather than walking with you through them? When tragedy befalls you and you don’t see God intervening you wonder where He is. You are not alone. We need to get back to the meaning of comfort in these moments. 

The word comfort is from the Latin and combines com, which means together and fortis, which means strength. So, comfort was originally together strength. This evolved into the word confortarewhich came to mean, “strengthen much.” Then we arrive at the 17thcentury and the word represents physical ease. And today we hear comfort and immediately think of fluffy blankets and junk food. We went from ‘together-strength’ to ‘pain-barrier.’

God will never leave us or forsake us. With God we can be together-strong.Jesus reminds us that we will face tribulation in John 16:33, and these troubles are nothing new. If you find yourself questioning God, answer this question: how are you looking to experience His company? We must not forget the second part of the verse from John. Jesus ends with the encouragement that we can take heart He has overcome the world. 

That should give us real comfort.

Cleared for Landing

Are you fighting a cold? Have you encountered the flu? Whether it has hit your household this year or in the past, cold and flu season is miserable. Equally miserable is worrying about it. You take every precaution—getting a flu shot, constantly washing your hands, upping your vitamins—but ultimately, we have little control over what we catch. If you’re like me, you don’t put yourself in danger, but you also don’t let a preoccupation with sickness cloud your thoughts. However, it is not always easy.

Anxiety is a real affliction these days, and the frequency with which we hear about it seems to be increasing. Jesus calls us to not be anxious about anything (Matt. 6:25). Paul echoes this sentiment in his letter to the church in Philippi (Philippians 4:6). The arguments are sound but are often easier said than done.

I recently read a great analogy for anxious thoughts. Max Lucado wrote a book titled, Anxious for Nothing. (He also created a five-day devotion and reading plan you can find in the YouVersion Bible app) ( The illustration is that of airplanes. If you can picture your thoughts as airplanes and yourself as the air traffic controller you can, with work, decide which thoughts land and which ones fly away. Our real challenge ends up being how we think about the trials that we face. So much of our life is out of our control. The thing that we can learn to control is how we respond when difficulties arise.

The anxiety in our lives plants seeds of lies and creates well-worn paths in our thinking. If we’re not careful, it influences the way we perceive our struggles. Anxiety wants to master our thinking. We need to remember that anxiety is not the master of our minds. We need to remember that we have the power of the Holy Spirit alive inside us. Romans 8:38-39 says, “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.”

When that anxiety threatens to crush you simply call on God, “cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Pet 5:7) This is how you can deny your struggles the platform and influence over your mind. Cling to Christ and abide in Him. When you do, you bear fruit and you disarm your enemy. Remember that as the air traffic controller YOU decide which thoughts are cleared for landing.

How do you spell ‘Love’?

Think about when you were a kid. What was one of the ways you felt loved by the people that raised you? One common answer is, “They always provided for me.” Most of what we do as parents is trying to provide for our families. We do this because we love them.

I was recently asked to speak at a high school chapel. The theme of the year was ‘Names of God.’ My particular talk was to be on 1 John 4:16 ESV which reads, so we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.God is love. Sounds can sound cliché. However, it is true and one of the ways we know this is that God provides.

When I was in youth group, we sang a song, ‘Jehovah Jireh.’ The lyrics were: Jehovah Jireh, my provider, His grace is sufficient for me. My God shall provide all my needs according to His riches in glory…Jehovah Jireh cares for me. This song by Don Moen is referring to a name given to God in Genesis chapter 22. Here we find the story of Abraham being asked by God to take his son, Isaac, to be sacrificed on the altar. Abraham obeys and just as he is about to plunge the knife into his son, the angel of the Lord stops him. When Abraham looks up, he sees in the bushes a ram. God provided a substitute for Isaac.

I want to go back, however, as this is not the first time God has provided for Abraham. In Genesis 15 one of the most fascinating examples of provision is found. God has promised Abraham that he will possess the entire land that God has shown him. Abraham wants a contract. 

God asks for Abraham to bring five sacrificial animals, cut the animals in half and sets up what is known as a blood path covenant. In this covenant each party would walk through the middle of the slaughtered animals wearing a white robe and splashing the blood up onto their clothes. The whole point is both parties agreeing that if they did not hold up their end of the bargain, that they would be killed just like the animals.

After Abraham sets this up, he would be the one to walk through first as the lesser party. But he doesn’t. God has Abraham fall into a deep sleep and God walks through the path twice. God knew Abraham couldn’t possible hold up his end of the bargain, so God did. God knows that we couldn’t save ourselves. He provided for us in the person of his only Son, Jesus. We deserve to be Isaac on the altar or the slaughtered animals, yet we are in right standing because God provided a savior for us. 

If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

Best Day Ever

Psalm 18:1-3“I love you, O Lord, my strength. 2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.3 I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.”

I hope that you’re having the best day ever. All your traffic lights are green, your work day is easy, your family is all getting along, and you got to pet that cute dog. I hope you ate delicious food and spent time with the ones you love. When you’re having an awesome day it is easy to praise God. It’s easy to agree with these words from Psalm 18 when it feels like the warmth of the sun is shining on every aspect of your life. When you have a day like this remember it, mark it down, because we know that the other kind of days are going to happen too.

We have those days when all the lights are red, your boss is mad, and the kids won’t stop bickering. David knows how that feels all too well. He continues in verses 4-6, “4 The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction assailed me; 5 the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me. 6 In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.”

David, like most of us, had a complex life. He was far from perfect. Even though he was remembered as one of the great heroes of the faith much of the story that we see in the Bible is on his bad days, and he had a LOT of bad days. However, no matter how hard and no matter how far he fell God was always there when David was looking for Him.

I hope you have many good days. Nevertheless, when you do have a bad one, I hope you know that there is a God that loves you and is always there for you. I hope we can thank him for the good days and remember him on the bad ones.

Self Reflection

Romans 8:15For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

Does the name Stuart Smalley mean anything to you? If you are…of a certain age…it likely rings a bell. Stuart Smalley was the name of a satirical character on Saturday Night Live who had overemphasized confidence in the power of positive thinking. He would look at himself in the mirror and repeat to himself his famous catchphrase: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”

The joke in the sketches (in addition to poking fun at the self-esteem movement) was that Stuart had some deep-seeded doubt, despite his attempts at convincing himself otherwise. So too did his guests, who were in reality successful (like NBA player Michael Jordan) but came on the show to learn about Stuart’s self-motivation technique. Good satire always opens our eyes to a truth about reality that may be difficult to expose in any other way.

Stuart and his personal affirmation came to mind recently as I considered my own life. I was doing some self-reflection and realized that in some ways the spirit of fear is more present in my life today than it was twenty years ago, despite the fact that twenty years ago I really had nothing to show for my own confidence. I was probably confident for the same reason that Stuart was: I looked in a mirror and told myself I should be. Twenty years later, after wins, losses, and everything in between, maybe I’m just a bit more realistic. Or maybe I’ve just been using the wrong metric.

The metric Paul gives us in Romans 8 has nothing to do with our own successes, failures, or whether we can convince ourselves that we have what it takes. Our reason for confidence and courage and self-esteem is that the God of the universe has adopted us and allowed us to call him Dad.

If we find ourselves slipping back into a spirit of fear, we don’t need to tell ourselves how great we are. We need to remind ourselves how great God is, and that he has allowed us to be his children. It’s not something that needs to be repeated; instead, it’s a truth statement that remains with us, no matter what we think, feel, or accomplish. And, doggone it, that’s really good news.

Is It Me?

Colossians 3:4(ESV): When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

I’ve been reading about the Enneagram lately. If you’re unfamiliar with it, it’s one of many resources to help a person discover their personality typing, similarly to the Myers-Briggs. One of the key differences of the Enneagram is that it isn’t purely a psychological metric but is also used for spiritual growth and discernment as well. The goal is to help a person discover their motivations, why they do what they do, and what their temptations are as a result.

It reminded me of one of my favorite scenes from Seinfeld. Jerry has just come home with an expensive suede jacket. Kramer bursts into his apartment, as you’d expect, to find Jerry modeling the new coat in his PJ’s. Kramer notices the new jacket immediately, and comments on its beauty. “Is it me?” Jerry asks. “That’s definitely you!” Kramer responds. “Are you sure?” Jerry asks again.

“That’s more you than you’ve ever been.” Kramer says. And then he sees the pink lining of the jacket, striped like the uniform of a barbershop quartet.

That line has always stuck out to me, though. That’s more you than you’ve ever been.

Interestingly, the Enneagram would posit that there is a point in our early adulthood (think early-20’s) where we are our purest self, personality wise. We are old enough to have developed a unique way of thinking and responding to the world, but not so old as to have our behaviors and responses molded, shaped, and in some cases confused by life experience. There is a fundamental, core way of seeing the world that is at its truest during that time period. We are, in that sense, “more us than we have ever been.

But Biblically speaking, that’s not true at all. According to what we’re learning in Romans, we’re still waiting for the day when we become fully who God intended us to be. We see the first fruits of it happening now but won’t see the full impact until Christ appears again.

2019 is a good year to do some things differently. It seems like as good a year as any to make some changes; get fit (if we want), discover how we are really wired; so that we can make a difference in the world. Don’t lose heart when you discover that sometimes it’s difficult, and sometimes you can’t figure out who God has truly created you to be. There will be a day when you are more you than you have ever been, on the day when Christ returns in glory.

What Defines You?

Romans 8:38-39For 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.

I haven’t been on social media in a while. It wasn’t a New Year’s resolution or anything. I just stopped at some point last year.

One of the reasons I decided to back away was the seemingly constant barrage of “encouraging” posts that may have served as a quick pick-me-up when scrolling through a news feed, but were at best pretty shallow, and at worst downright false. Posts like the one that said, “You’re better than they think you are”. Or the one that said something to the effect of “Do what you want. Live your truth.” All I could think was, what if you aren’tbetter than everyone else thinks you are? What if doing what you want was something negative like punching your neighbor because yourtruth was that he/she was a jerk–and what if he felt like he was betterthan you thought he was? It gets tricky, shallow, and false pretty quickly.

I get it, though. We all need encouragement, especially as we come into a New Year. Many of us have goals that we want to accomplish or changes that we want to make. Some of us are looking at career changes or big life decisions and we know we could use someone to give us confidence along the way. One of the reasons that we don’t proceed and accomplish more is that we never start. We delay because of the possibility we might fail. What’s the solution? 

It isn’t convincing ourselves that we won’tfail or convincing ourselves that we’re stronger than failure or any other thing that those self-help posts might try to tell you. It’s foolish and dangerous to think that we are above failure. 

The solution is to understand that failure doesn’t define you. It doesn’t have to stop you or classify who you are. You might fail, but it doesn’t matter, because it won’t change your fundamental identity, so long as your fundamental identity is found in Christ. And that’s the key.

Paul’s message to all of us is that when who we are is rooted in who Christ is, then there is nothing that can come in between us and who we really are in Christ. Not even failure!

I don’t know what you’re setting out to do this year, but don’t let the fear of failure be the reason you didn’t try!

Make Their Day a Little Better

Matthew 6:1-4 says, 

“Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding.
When you do something for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself. You’ve seen them in action, I’m sure—‘play-actors’ I call them—treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that’s all they get. When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out.” (MSG) 

Why do you do good deeds? Is it so the people around you can look at you in awe? Is it so you can impress the people you help? Or is it because you saw something wrong and had the time/resources/authority to make it right?

In a perfect world we would always pick option three. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world yet. That is why we must make the choice every day that we are not the center of the universe; that we can help others and not make a big deal about it; that there are people around us with needs, and we can help meet those needs. 

While in our heads we know that a perfect world will never be achieved this side of heaven; we can still follow our hearts in trying to get it here early. We may not always be happy, but we can always be kind. We’ve all had the experience of a rough day being turned around because someone else took a moment out of their day and gave us a compliment, held a door open while our hands were full, or simple smiled and said, “I’m glad you’re here.”

There are plenty of issues and arguments going on that make the world a worse place. I pray that the church can be a legion that wants to give water to the thirsty, food to the hungry, and kindness to the stranger. Jesus says in Matthew 25, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.”

Go love people. Do something to make someone’s day a little bit better.

Say You Want a Resolution

So, this is the New Year, and I don’t feel any different. A few days ago, it was 2018 and now it is 2019, and the hardest part will be remembering to write the date correctly, so I don’t have a scribbly nine written over an eight. For some reason, we as a society have deemed January 1 as the best day to make a big change in your life. New Year, New Me: I’m going to stop doing this. New Year, New Me: I’m going to start doing that. New Year, New Me: I’m going to moderately adjust how I do the other thing.

January seemingly comes out of nowhere, emerging from a haze of quality eating, time with loved ones, and the aftereffects of too much holiday cheer and hits you in the face. After the holiday season, that is Halloween to New Year’s, you hit January. There are no big party holidays, you have to take down decorations, and you’re getting into peak winter grossness where everything is just wet, cold, and dreary.

It is from this haze that we try to make big decisions for how we will live the rest of our year. We call these New Year ideas our resolutions, a firm decision to do or not to do something. We want to stop a bad habit or start a good one. Too often we set ourselves up for failure by setting an unreachable goal as our resolution. We think of an end goal we’d like to reach and feel disappointed when we don’t make it. We want to jump to the top of the mountain or the end of the journey. We want to skip the hard part.

We need to find a path to them rather than just hoping we end up there one day. Psalm 37:23-24 says, “The steps of a man/woman are established by the Lord, when he/she delights in his way; though he/she fall, he/she shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his/her hand.” Sometimes life changes through leaps and bounds, more often it happens by putting one foot in front of the other, getting a little closer every day. We will probably stumble along the way, nevertheless, we will not be cast away because we can lean on the Lord.

As you head into 2019 instead of several lofty goals ask yourself one question: What is the next right thing I can do? 

And then do it!


It’s easy to make Christmas into a marathon event. Instead of celebrating the birth of our Savior you celebrate the completion of “To Do” lists. You didn’t get to enjoy dinner because you were too busy solving an eggnog crisis. You were so worried about whether or not Aunt Suzy likes her Instant Pot™ that you completely miss the thoughtful gift she gave you. You went to bed late because you wanted to get a jump on writing thank you cards. Doing all these things can be good when done in a healthy way. Too often we lose the meaning of Christmas in the activity of Christmas. However, you can slow down take a deep breath and remember.

The birth of Jesus was a turning point for all of humanity. The things he would teach, the people he would lead, and the ultimate sacrifice he would make set the world on a path towards a new creation. The hope is that when we realize what the birth of Jesus means we are all able to sing Mary’s song (The Magnificat) from Luke 1:46-55

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
    to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

Now, It’s the day after Christmas, wrapping paper has been cleaned, dishes have been done, and hopefully you woke this morning refreshed from a day of rest. Then the record scratches, vacation ends, and you’re going straight back to work. And once again you are overwhelmed by To Do lists. But just like you go back to the fridge for one more bite of leftover Christmas dinner you can go back to the story of Christ’s birth to remember that a savior came for you. You don’t have to do this all on your own.

 Merry Christmas!

And Presents On The Tree…

Every year I look forward to when I can play Christmas music at home, in my car, and the office. I particularly love the classics like Bing Crosby, Vince Guaraldi, Bobby Darin, and Perry Como. One holiday standard that has been covered by pretty much every artist is, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and I love every version 

A line that stands out to me says, “and presents onthe tree.” As a child I thought this was simply incorrect as I only ever saw presents under the tree. One theory is that prior to the use of wrapping paper gifts were, in fact, hung on the tree. As often happens, when was researching I fell down an internet rabbit hole learning about various customs and histories from all over the world related to Christmas trees.

For a long time, Christmas trees were banned. This seems crazy today, as the Christmas tree has become the universal symbol of the holiday. Christian missionaries forbade their converts from using trees because it reminded them of some ancient cultures that brought trees indoors and decorating them to honor their gods.

For Christians Martin Luther is widely credited as bringing the Christmas tree to its favorable position today. On a walk in the woods, Luther was struck by the beauty of the snow laden branches of the evergreens. He realized that trees are at the heart of the gospel story. 

What he observed was that a Savior was born and placed in a wooden manger. Before he started his ministry, tradition says, he was a carpenter. He lived his life knowing he would be nailed to a tree outside Jerusalem thirty-three years later. Jesus the Holy one, pure as driven snow, carried our sins and took our punishment so we can be forgiven by God’s grace. 

During this time of year, we can get so focused on giving and receiving perfect gifts from under the tree that we forget about the greatest gift of all. This year let’s remember that the best gift ever given was not placed undera tree but was hung on one. Paul says 1 Corinthians 2:2, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

Just what I wanted?

Sometimes there is a big gap between what the Christmas the commercials promise and the Christmas we experience. Despite the music and festivities, this can be a difficult season for many. Some folks experience “Christmas blues,” finding the holidays to be a time when they’re particularly vulnerable to depression. And then there’s the “Christmas hangover,” (not the one caused by too much eggnog) it’s the one that hits after the presents are opened, the stockings are empty, the meal is over, and we find ourselves thinking, “Is that it?” We can find it all very anti-climactic.

The Christmas blues and the Christmas hangover come together when expectations meet reality. We build up anticipation to a level that can’t possibly be met. We have plenty of help building these expectations. Social media, TV commercials and department stores paint the picture that our loneliness will be turned into joy when the gifts we want so badly ultimately satisfy us.

The problem is that we can’t possibly meet these unrealistic expectations. Sometimes instead of families coming together and bonding, they just come together and argue. There are times you get everything on your list and still you feel empty. Maybe this season is lonely because you have lost a loved one.

If we can feel this as believers, imagine what it’s like for someone who has yet find the realmeaning of Christmas. Beneath plastic smiles and obligatory “cheer,” these can be dark, difficult times for those who have yet to meet the Savior, the one whom the season is about.

The thing we need to remember is that many people are searching for what Christians already have. The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 3:23-24 that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. 

We give gifts to not only commemorate the gifts brought to baby Jesus, but they also remind us of the gift of God’s Son to save us from our sins. Mild He lays His glory by; born that men no more may die! Let that be the carol you hold on to this Christmas. We have been given the gift of eternal life and ultimate peace.

I Don’t Like That Answer

How many times have you wanted something and just knew that it was yours? You can see it. You can picture that thing as being a part of your life. You think, “God wants me to have the desires of my heart.” And I really really want it, so God obviously wants me to have it. Then you find out that no, that thing, that job, that person, that house is NOT yours.

Writer Lewis Carroll, once said, “I have had prayers answered—most strangely so sometimes—but I think our Heavenly Father's loving-kindness has been even more evident in what He has refused me.” Hearing “no” doesn’t sit well with us. Think about being a kid and being told no. When you’re young you only see the prevention side, “no” is a barrier. As we mature however, “no” can become a gateway to better living. “No, do not touch that electrical outlet.” “No, don’t touch that hot stove.” “No, may not play in the middle of the street,” etc. Too often, we see only the prevention and not the protection.

At the end of King David’s life, he expresses a desire to build a house for the Lord. “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent” (2 Sam. 7:2; 1 Chron. 17:1). A passion arises in David to construct a temple for God—not for David’s renown but for the worship, honor, and glory of the almighty God. It’s a good desire, and the prophet Nathan even confirms his aspirations, saying, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the LORD is with you” (2 Sam. 7:3; 1 Chron. 17:2). 

David desired the good thing of constructing the Lord’s temple, but God had a better plan. God promises David that even though David would not build the temple he would raise up his offspring, Solomon, who would usher in a reign of peace and prosperity in God’s kingdom. 

When our friends receive a “no” we like to throw out the old saying, “When God closes a door, he opens a window.” What if he just wants you to be content in the room you are in?

How do you persist in seasons like this? Pray to be content in the room of quiet faithfulness. Pray to be okay with not knowing everything the future holds. Pray to be okay when you hear no, understanding that His deliverance of you is secure forever by the life of Christ. He might have said “no” to you in one thing, but we can rest in the eternal “yes” of Christ. And that’s the most important yes we need. God doesn’t always open a window after He closes the door, but we can still praise him in the hallway.