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Preview: RICK'S REMARKS~~~Devotional thoughts from my heart


Devotional thoughts From My Heart

Updated: 2018-02-07T14:23:59.494-08:00




There is a woman in our church in Montrose, California who has gone through some difficult times.  One Sunday after worship I asked her how she was doing.  She replied, "I'm sticking to God like glue."  Her answer connected with me and I've been thinking about it.Sometimes life hits so hard that a person is left reeling in anguish and frustration and deep emotional pain.  The hits keep coming and the wounds get deeper and the solutions seem light years away.What kind of faith does it take to stick to God like glue when it seems that everything in the world is working to get a wedge in so that the bond breaks?  Everyday the sun rises, the alarm clock rings, and life goes, pain or no pain, frustration or no frustration, solutions or no solutions.  In the midst of the stories choices need to be made.  Will we crash and burn?  Will we face down the realities?  Will we run from God or to God?  Will we fret and fume or commit and trust?  There is a story about King David in the Old Testament that speaks of how the love of God can embrace a person when they are in the throws of pain, suffering, and even death.  He found himself in a very difficult situation, complicated by the failure of a broken relationship with his Son, prince Absalom, who had instigated a revolt against him. King David fled Jerusalem and headed east through the Judean Desert (2 Sam. 16:1). He escaped to the Levitical city of Mahanaim, in the region of Gilead to the east of the Jordan River (2 Sam. 17:24).  Needless to say, David was in a world of hurt, and there in the world of hurt, he gives us Psalm 63.  This Psalm is a prayer for all of us broken and human types who do desperately need to stay near God in the ebb and flow of our lives. David prays, "My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me" (Ps. 63:8). Perhaps this is David's way of saying that his soul was sticking to God like glue.  "My soul clings to You."What is this amazing glue of which my friend spoke and of which David hints?  In Psalm 63:3 David revealed his heart for God.  He prayed, "Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise you."  And there we have it.  God's love is the glue.  My friend spoke of sticking to God like glue.  Maybe it is actually God sticking to us like glue.  Maybe it's both.  I think my friend is on to something.  She got me to thinking about how it might be good to think about God's love as Velcro, even more secure than Velcro; maybe something like a bond created by Sovereign and amazing grace, Sovereign and astonishing love, Sovereign and uncompromising acceptance.  The love of God is an amazing reality, a reality that wraps the arms of God around us and refuses to let us go.  When you don't have the strength to stick to God like glue remember God is holding on to you with the love that led Jesus to the cross.  As you cling to God take a close look and you will see that He is hanging on to you, too.  And, remember, like David you, too, can pray, "My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me…You are my God; I shall seek you earnestly" (Psalm 63:8, 1).  [...]



Today's devotional thought from My Daily Meditation by John Henry Jowett spoke into my heart.  I thought I would share it. It was written over a hundred years ago, but it called me into a deeper walk with Jesus, and I just can't let it go.  It's yours today if you need it; if not, that's okay.  Just thought I would share it.I've taken the liberty to update some of the language and replaced the King James Version of the Bible with the New American Standard.God bless you all today.RickJULY The Twenty-ninthNAMES AND NATURESRomans 8:1-10People will recognize my Christianity by the sign of the Spirit of Christ. And they will accept no other witness.  I saw a plant-pot the other day, full of soil, bearing no flower, but flaunting a stick on which was printed the word “Mignonette.” “You have a name that you are alive, but you are dead” (Revelation 3:1, NASB) The world will take no notice of our labels and our badges: it is only arrested by the flower and the perfume. "if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him" (Romans 8:9, NASB)And in the Spirit of Christ I shall best deal with “the things of the flesh.” There are some things which are best overcome by neglecting them. To give them attention is to give them nourishment. Withdraw the attention, and they sicken and die. And so I must seek the fellowship of the Spirit. That friendship will destroy the other. “You cannot serve God and wealth" (Matthew 6:24).”  If I am in communion with the Holy One the other will pine away, and cease to trouble me. Lord, make my spirit a kinsman of Thine! Let the intimacy be ever deeper and dearer. “Draw me nearer, blessed Lord,” until in nearness to Thee I find my peace, my joy, and my crown. [...]



Some thoughts from C. S. Lewis and Mere Christianity.  I offer his words as an injection into the society wide conversation going on in our country at this time. -- Rick  One of the most unpopular of the Christian virtues is laid down in the Christian rule, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.’ Because in Christian morals ‘thy neighbour’ includes ‘thy enemy’, and so we come up against this terrible duty of forgiving our enemies. Every one says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive, as we had during the war. And then, to mention the subject at all is to be greeted with howls of anger. It is not that people think this too high and difficult a virtue: it is that they think it hateful and contemptible. ‘That sort of talk makes them sick,’ they say. And half of you already want to ask me, ‘I wonder how you’d feel about forgiving the Gestapo if you were a Pole or a Jew?’ So do I. I wonder very much. Just as when Christianity tells me that I must not deny my religion even to save myself from death by torture, I wonder very much what I should do when it came to the point. I am not trying to tell you in this book what I could do—I can do precious little—I am telling you what Christianity is. I did not invent it. And there, right in the middle of it, I find ‘Forgive us our sins as we forgive those that sin against us.’ There is no slightest suggestion that we are offered forgiveness on any other terms.  [...]



When my son was five years old he announced to Vonnie and me that when he grew up he wanted to be a community. We didn't understand what he meant so we pressed him for clarity.  He said, "You know; somebody who makes people laugh."  Ah! Comedian. Got it. I like his misuse of the word, however.  Community!  That's a dream worth dreaming; not that being a comedian isn't fine and good.  Comedians come and go, though.  Community is forever.  And, the church, when it is being what God called her to be, is a God-called, God-shaped, God-formed, God indwelled, and God-empowered COMMUNITY.  The way of God is the way of community—there are no lone ranger Christians and nobody who can say, “I did it by myself.”The community of Jesus is called to live out their communal faith in the world as a witnessing influence for God.  It is the one fellowship desperately needed by people.  Whenever we think "Church," our minds ought to automatically go to "Community."  Sadly, this connection is not as well practiced as one might think. Charles Swindoll shares this sad but helpful statement he read somewhere:The neighborhood bar is possibly the best counterfeit there is to the fellowship Christ wants to give His church. It’s an imitation, dispensing liquor instead of grace, escape rather than reality, but it is a permissive, accepting, and inclusive fellowship. It is unshockable.  It is democratic. You can tell people secrets and they usually don’t tell others or even want to. The bar flourishes not because most people are alcoholics, but because God has put into the human heart the desire to know and be known, to love and be loved, and so many seek a counterfeit at the price of a few beers.  With all my heart I believe that Christ wants His church to be…a fellowship where people can come in and say, “I’m sunk!” “I beat!”  “I’ve had it!”  (Charles Swindoll, Copyright © 1983 by the author or Christianity Today/Leadership Journal; at 1982 to 1993 NBC aired a sitcom entitled Cheers.  The storyline revolved around a bar called, "Cheers."  The words of the theme song for that show are these, written by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo,Making your way in the world today Takes everything you've got;Taking a break from all your worries Sure would help a lot.Wouldn't you like to get away?Sometimes you want to go Where everybody knows your name,And they're always glad you came;You want to be where you can see, Our troubles are all the same;You want to be where everybody knows your name.You want to go where people know, People are all the same;You want to go where everybody knows your name.(Cheers”  featured on NBC from 1982-1993 )The theme from "Cheers" strikes a cord in all of us, doesn't it? We want a place, a commuity, a safe environment where we are welcomed and received, a place where the folks are glad when we are present, a people where our name is known and we know the names of others, a community where we know we are home. King David wrote, "How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!" (Psalm 133:1, NIV). Unity seems far away and out of reach in a world like ours but, actually, it is in reach; In reach, if we will let the Church be the Church. The Church was born in community and she lives and moves and has her being in that unity which is born of God.In 1975 Broadman Press released a song called, “We are Called to Be God’s People.”  The first verse has captured the heart and spirit of a people when that people lives with Jesus at the center of who they are.We are called to be God's people Showing by our lives His grace One in heart and one in spirit Sign of hope for all the race Let us show how He has changed us And remade us as His own Let us share our life together As we shall around His throneThomas[...]



 For many in God's Church the Sunday immediately before Ash Wednesday is celebrated as "Transfiguration Sunday."  The United Methodist Church has a statement that helps us realize why we do this:      The Book of Common Prayer collect for the Last Sunday after the Epiphany suggests why the Transfiguration of Our Lord is celebrated when it is:       O God, who before the passion of your only-begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer according to the use of the Episcopal Church, 1979, page 217. Book of Common Prayer is public domain material and is used here with gratitude to the Episcopal Church and Church Publishing.)With this prayer a powerful statement is given.  I invite you to take it to heart.     We celebrate the revelation of Christ's glory "before the passion" so that we may "be strengthened to bear our cross and be changed into his likeness." The focus of the Lenten season is renewed discipline in walking in the way of the cross and rediscovery of the baptismal renunciation of evil and sin and our daily adherence to Christ. At Easter, which reveals the fullness of Christ’s glory (foreshadowed in the Transfiguration), Christians give themselves anew to the gospel at the Easter Vigil where they share the dying and rising of Christ.     In the biblical context, the synoptic gospels narrate the Transfiguration as a bridge between Jesus' public ministry and his passion. From the time of the Transfiguration, Jesus sets his face to go to Jerusalem and the cross.As each of us prepare for our Lenten journey, may God help us to get a glimpse into the Biblical story of Jesus – all of it.  May God help us to journey with our hand securely holding onto the hand of Jesus, knowing that He is already holding on to ours.  How the world does need Him these days.  How the Church does need Him these days.  How each of us does need Him these days.On the mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-37) Peter, James, and John watched as Jesus met and spoke with Moses and Elijah.  It was a moment described later by John as "glory," or "splendor." Peter wanted to stay on the mountain after having built "three tabernacles," one for [Jesus], one for Moses, and one for Elijah" (See Luke 9:33).  Tabernacles weren't needed, however.  What was needed was for the disciples to Listento [Jesus], knowing that He was, as the voice from heaven told them, "My beloved Son, My Chosen One" (Matt. 17:5, Luke 9:35). On Transfiguration Sunday and in the days of Lent to come, may we all be about the task of listening to Jesus.  He is God's initiative and response to the human situation in which we find ourselves today. Jesus….Listen to Him.[...]

JANUARY 20, 2017


In the good old USA it is inauguration day.  As I write we have a new president, Donald Trump.  The country could not be more divided than it is concerning this new administration.  Even as I write there are protests throughout the land.  Anger and frustration and bitterness runs very deep in those who did not support Mr. Trump.  Social media is ablaze with harsh rhetoric coming from both sides of the issue, and there is a fear that verbal rhetoric might turn to physical violence. Actually, it already has.  We'll see where it goes but, hopefully, at some point cooler heads will prevail and keep people on a track for good and not for harm.My thoughts today turn to what it means in times like these to be Christian.  And, believe me, this issue is extremely important on this day and in the days to come.  The Church is split on President Trump.  Some "believers" basically hate the man, and view him almost as the devil incarnate.  Others celebrate his victory because they believe that once again America will be great. The chances of the two sides coming together as brothers and sisters in Christ seems almost impossible to imagine.In this world of chaos and bigotry and sexism and name-calling and shock, how should we as Christians live?  Hopefully, like the way we should have been living all along.  The great prayer on the heart of every believer should be, "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.  Your kingdom come.  Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:9-10).  Followers of Jesus can't support or practice anything that violates this call to a full yielding to the will of God.  In this light I'm not sure the best way forward is simply complaining about Donald Trump.  We all know who he is, how he operates, and what he believes.  We're not going to change his mind.  So, instead, lets fall on our knees, search our own hearts, and pray with deep seriousness, "Your kingdom come.  Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."The presidency of one man ought not to influence who we are or how we live.  We should be living the Matthew 25 life anyway, and if we aren't, why aren't we? Works of mercy ought to be a part of our lives no matter who the national leader might be. Today and everyday our creed should be:1.        We must continue to seek justice for people of all races, creeds, gender, and color.2.        We must continue seeking to end oppression and discrimination. 3.        We must continue to speak into and against all matters that reflect man’s inhumanity to man. 4.        We must seek to end poverty, to get fresh water to those who so desperately need it, to find ways to destroy the means by which human trafficking inflicts pain and suffering on women at home and around the world.  5.        We must take care of the sick, treat with decency those who are in prison, feed the hungry, and give our time, talents and treasures to meet the needs of people who live disenfranchised, marginalized, and in many ways, dehumanized.  Whoever the president of the USA might me, has nothing whatsoever to do with our passion, our zeal, our commitment to walk in the footsteps of the One we call Savior and Lord.  In fact, we are citizens of two worlds, this one in which we now find ourselves, and heaven (see Philippians 3:20); and until we get to heaven we are to be about the business of what is "True, honorable, right, pure, lovely, good repute" (Philippians 4:8).  We must "love…without hypocrisy, abhor what is evil; cling to what is good and be devoted to one another in brotherly love" (Romans 12:9-10).    Today I am not pre-occupied with the National Anthem but wi[...]



I can't believe the number of people who have said to me, "I am so happy that 2016 is over."  It was a strange year, wasn't it?  For many it was a troubling year in terms of relationships, health, job, financial stress, etc., etc. Some lost loved ones in death.  For them Christmas was not all that joyful.  There was terrorism throughout the world, violence on every continent, anger in just about every neighborhood, and deep-seated questions about whether these things are marking what the future will be for all of us. No doubt about it, it is a dangerous world in which we live.Now we have entered into 2017 and many of us are doing so in a spirit of hope.  People of faith don't turn the world over to the forces of evil.  As a follower of Jesus I have a hope born of God and earned through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  For six years I have been in a struggle with cancer, and everyday I am reminded that life comes to us but just as importantly that by the grace of God we are enabled to choose the attitude and spirit by which we live.  So, I say, bring it on.  I don't know what 2017 holds but I know who holds me steady in the midst of whatever this year might look like.  And, in the midst of all the issues barreling down on us, I have peace.  I suspect if you are a follower of Jesus you have peace, too. Why not?  We just celebrated the birth of the Prince of Peace.The key to going forward in life is to take hold of the hand that has already taken hold of us, and to walk with Him day by day.  What does that look like?  It looks like faith.  Some would anoint our lives with fear.  Those of us who are of Jesus, though, are not about fear.  Our Savior says, "Fear not."  Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27).  Years ago the wonderful missionary, E. Stanley Jones said something I first ready some forty years ago.  It still resonates in my heart:I am inwardly fashioned for faith, not for fear. Fear is not my native land; faith is. I am so made that worry and anxiety are sand in the machinery of life; faith is the oil. I live better by faith and confidence than by fear, doubt and anxiety. In anxiety and worry, my being is gasping for breath--these are not my native air. But in faith and confidence, I breathe freely--these are my native air.How shall we live in 2017? I think we live with all the enthusiasm of people who have encountered the living God who daily says to you, "Fear not."  Is the world falling apart?  I'm not sure this is the question we most need to ask.  What we most need to ask is, "Is Jesus Lord?"  The Bible says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8).   2017 isn't catching Jesus off guard.  He is not running to keep up with changing times.  Jesus is Lord.  This is our creed.  So, in 2017 take hold of the hand that has already taken hold of your hand.  Tether your life to Jesus and get ready for what could be a wild and crazy ride, but a ride in the Sovereign embrace of the Lord of lords and King of kings.   [...]



Every year during the Advent season, as we journey toward Christmas and the day chosen to celebrate the birth of God into human history, I love to read a composition by an unknown writer called, One Solitary Life.  It is very popular and you've probably read it, too.  It speaks about Jesus and of his condition in life and of His ultimate influence.  I would like to share it here because one more time, it has touched my heart.  Maybe it will touch your heart, too.  Merry Chistmas!RickOne Solitary Life.He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in still another village, where he worked in a carpenter shop until he was thirty. Then for three years he was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a house. He didn’t go to college. He never traveled 200 miles from the place where he was born. He did none of these things one usually associates with greatness. He had no credentials but himself. He was only 33 when public opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. He was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves.When he was dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing, the only property he had on earth. When he was dead, he was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.Twenty centuries have come and gone, and today he is the central figure of the human race, the leader of mankind’s progress. All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on earth as much as that One Solitary Life. [...]



It is Friday afternoon after Thanksgiving.  The family is relaxed, loving our time together and enjoying a mild Arizona day.  There are twelve of us, including six grandchildren that I adore.  Family! What a great idea. Tomorrow we head back into our post Thanksgiving journey home but we will be filled with memories and stories and laughter.  For our family the journey of Advent begins on Sunday and we will make our way to Bethlehem's manger and, by faith, we will look into the face of Jesus and refresh our imaginations, imaginations rooted in the outrageous grace of God.  We will journey with another family, too; the church to which we belong.  Together we will walk the Advent journey as we seek to draw near to God in openness and transparency and self-examination.  Our journey this year is a journey of paying special attention to what God is doing in our world.  In a sense what we do in Advent is no different than what we do everyday throughout the year.  It's just that Advent slows us down a bit and gives us the opportunity to clear out any cobwebs that might have found their way into our story. It is a time to remember, to look back, to look forward, and to embrace the present.  It is a time to remember that God really is at work in the world, and that the world, as desperate as it is for meaning and purpose and peace, is not out of control.  God is here.  He has not distanced Himself from us but has come up close and personal.  Today, I just want to say thank You to the God of all grace.  Our world is broken but our God is not broken.  He's got the whole world in His hands.  He's got me in His hands, and that amazes me more than anything else.  The world is filled with uncertainty but Jesus helps me to make sense of things in the midst of all the non-sense.  So, even though it is a day late I want to say "Happy Thanksgiving" to all my friends and family.  May His grace embrace you through and through.  May His mercy stun You everyday.  May His comfort encourage you.  May His love hold you steady.  May God guide you and keep you and direct you in the twists and turns of your life.  May the Holy Spirit empower you.  May Jesus touch your life to the core and give you peace.God you bless you all,Rick    [...]



Wouldn't it be great if the two people who ran for the presidency of the United States would take to a platform somewhere today, stand side by side and say to America,  "The two of us disagree on just about every issue facing our country today.  This will not change.  We will daily take our stand and fight for what we believe to be the good fight.  Today, however, we stand in solidarity as Americans.  We confess our country is not perfect.  We acknowledge that we are not perfect.  Yet, we love this country, and today we are calling for a new way of being in America.  Don't let your convictions go.  Fight the good fight but remember we are Americans all. We are a people of law.  We have a constitution.  We don't have to agree with each other but we have a constitution."There is a great line from the 1995 movie, "The American President," where president Andrew Shepherd (played by Michael Douglas) addresses the American people.  He says to them, to us,America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. American is in a world of hurt and if ever there were a time for her leaders to step up and lead it is now.  Israelmore Ayivor said,“Contrary to popular opinion, leadership is not a reserved position for a particular group of people who were elected or appointed, ordained or enthroned. Leadership is self-made, self-retained, self-inculcated and then exposed through a faithful, sincere and exemplary life.” I love this country, warts and all, and I hope, even pray, that somehow, someway, we will stand strong in the face of adversity and exercise "advanced citizenship."[...]



Wouldn't it be great if the two people who ran for the presidency of the United States would take to a platform somewhere today, stand side by side and say to America,  "The two of us disagree on just about every issue facing our country today.  This will not change.  We will daily take our stand and fight for what we believe to be the good fight.  Today, however, we stand in solidarity as Americans.  We confess our country is not perfect.  We acknowledge that we are not perfect.  Yet, we love this country, and today we are calling for a new way of being in America.  Don't let your convictions go.  Fight the good fight but remember we are Americans all. We are a people of law.  We have a constitution.  We don't have to agree with each other but we have a constitution."There is a great line from the 1995 movie, "The American President," where president Andrew Shepherd (played by Michael Douglas) addresses the American people.  He says to them, to us,America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. American is in a world of hurt and if ever there were a time for her leaders to step up and lead it is now.  Israelmore Ayivor said,“Contrary to popular opinion, leadership is not a reserved position for a particular group of people who were elected or appointed, ordained or enthroned. Leadership is self-made, self-retained, self-inculcated and then exposed through a faithful, sincere and exemplary life.” I love this country, warts and all, and I hope, even pray, that somehow, someway, we will stand strong in the face of adversity and exercise "advanced citizenship."[...]



The U.S. elections are less than a week away but before that important Tuesday there is another contest to resolve—which team will be the winner of Baseball's 2016 world series!  In the series, each team has three wins and three losses, and tonight, game seven will decide it all.  Tomorrow, life goes on but tonight the thought on the hearts of many Americans is focused on one ball game and it's outcome.  Will it be Chicago or Cleveland, the Indians or the Cubs, my team or their team?  Oh, the drama.  All that being said, let the record show that I will be in front of my TV tonight watching the spectacle.  The truth is, however, I have no invested interest in the outcome of the game, the series, or even Baseball for that matter. I'm just a fan and I enjoy the trip every year even though my team (who for the purpose of this article shall remain nameless) hasn't made an appearance in the World Series for a while.  Still, I love it when a season comes down to one game, winner take all.What does all this?  Probably nothing.  It's just got me to thinking about life in our world.  Life seems always to come down to winners and losers.  And, most of the time, outcomes seem to be out of the control of we ordinary folks.  Late next Tuesday night (unless this election has hanging chads issues to be resolved) the result of our opinions will be given, and on Wednesday November 9, we'll all get back in the saddle and do whatever it is we do.As a follower of Jesus I will vote my conscience and proudly wear my "I Voted" sticker but still won't put my hope in the ways and means of people.  I seek to live faithfully and truthfully in the world as one created in the image of God.  The prayer of my life isn't, "Give me your best, Hillary or Donald."  My prayer is, "Our Father, hallowed be Your name.  Your kingdom come.  Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:9-10).  Jesus convinces me that God is at work in the human story in ways I could never conceive, that He has the best interest of the world in mind, and that God has spoken into the deepest needs of the human heart in Jesus.  So, no matter who wins the World Series or the presidency or the senate or the house, Jesus is Lord of all.  I refuse to get caught up in the political and often times, extremely harsh, rhetoric of the past several months.  I think today I will be child-like and let Annie speak for me.The sun'll come out tomorrow Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow There'll be sun!Tomorrow! Tomorrow! I love ya! Tomorrow! You're always A day A way!Whatever tomorrow looks like those of us who are followers of Jesus will need simply to get back to work, living a life that is shaped and formed by the Lord of history, the Savior of the world, and the one who continually calls us to Himself that we and our world might know the rest of God. Okay, that's all I've got today.  Now it is off to Pasadena and channel 11 on my TV, and a game that holds the future of the known world in his grasp.  [...]



There is a poem written in 1855 by Joseph M Scriven that has resonated with me since I first discovered it as a child.What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry Everything to God in prayer.These words still speak to my heart and leave me with some questions:  Do I really see Jesus as "Friend?"  Do I really believe He bears all my "sins and griefs?"  Do I live awestruck at the privilege of carrying "everything to God in prayer?" I know the Biblically correct answer is "Yes."  However, I live in the real world where I see a lot of people who claim the name of Jesus but who seem to live in a void of uncertainty when it comes to God, to the redemptive processes of Jesus, and to prayer. I desperately do not want to be one of those persons.Truth is, I wonder if we Christians, myself included, speak a better word than we actually live.  We almost have an obligation to say the "right" words but, still, I sometimes wonder if we fall short of living out the meaning of "right."  The potential to fall short is troublesome, and I take the potential seriously.  In my case, I want to be a Christlike man.  I want to be authentic.  I don't want to look better than I really am.  I don't believe in show-and-tell Christianity.  Jesus really does call us to Himself and in that calling to take up our cross and follow Him.  He words are stunning: "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me"(Mathew 16:24).Dietrich Bonhoeffer gave us the now famous line, "When Christ calls a man He bids him come and die" (The Cost of Discipleship, London: SCM Press, 1948/2001, p. 44).  For decades now people have talked about that phrase, myself included.  When I first used the phrase it was because of the drama in the wording.  It was just so powerful it needed to be shared.  More recently I have come to see it as a simple statement of Christian faith.  This is a word that every follower of Jesus should assimilate into their story, not for drama, but simply because of who Jesus is and what He has provided in this world.  When a man or woman has a friend the likes of Jesus, to die to all else pales in comparison to the gift Jesus brings to their life.  I don't think this is an overstatement in light of what Jesus said in John 15:14-15, "You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you."  I have called you "Friends."  Is that possible?  Can this be true?  Is this the way Jesus sees those who have denied themselves, taken up their cross, and are following Him?  He sees us as friends, not slaves.  The apostle Paul writes a lot about us being slaves.  Jesus talks about us being friends.  Are the two compatible?  I think so.  We are slaves in the sense that we are committed to do everything Jesus asks of us, no matter what.  We are friends in the sense that we would do anything friendship might require of us.   I think about this often as I seek to grow in my faith.  We believers are not in a business arrangement with God.  It's not even an employer/employee contract.  It is a relationship, a relationship of covenant love. It is not a matter of crossing T's and dotting I's. It is a matter of the heart.  Jesus loves us so much that all He has heard from the Father He shares with us.  He loves us so much that He always speaks the truth to us.  He loves us so much [...]



When Jesus was raised from the dead the reality didn't immediately impact the disciples.  For ten of the eleven it took an appearance of Jesus on Sunday evening to shock them into a new normal of reality.  For the eleventh, Thomas, who wasn't present at the first gathering; it took another week, another appearance, and a visible manifestation of Jesus' wounds.I've always thought that a resurrection would so shake the disciples that change would be immediate.  Not so, however.  I suppose the shock of it all could so overwhelm them that it would take time to process.  On the surface resurrection from the dead is hard to believe after all; absurd might be the best word.  Perhaps that is why Jesus called His Church into a process of being His witnesses in the world. Perhaps we ought to be patient with people if they don't believe our witness as quickly as we might like.  To be a witness requires that we be among people, living out the ramifications of our own life-changing encounter with Jesus.  Hopefully, then, as we live with them, Jesus will shine through us and they will be drawn to Christ as the Holy Spirit works in their lives.  It may happen quickly.  It may take time.  Only God knows the ways of the human heart.As Christians live in their world, seeking to be salt and light, the most important prayer of our hearts ought to be, "Your kingdom come; Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven"(Matt. 6:10). Our role, then, is to live like we so fully embrace the ways of God's kingdom that our influence, energized by the Holy Spirit, will intrigue people and perhaps help them come to Christ.  Regardless of what they do or not do concerning Christ Jesus, our role is to offer people love, hospitality, and forgiveness.This is a particularly important truth these days as our world turns to violence more and more often.  How does the Church make Jesus known in this violent age?  How do we Christians engage in the discussion and live as faithful followers of the Prince of peace?   What difference does it even make for there to be Christians throughout the world?On Thursday July 14, 2016 the attention of the world turned to Nice France, where a man purposefully drove a truck into a crowded street killing 84 people and injuring many others.  Many people, one more time, are seeking to name the event.  Was it terrorism?  Was it the act of a mad man?  Was it ideologically based?  Was it simply the act of a man with pint-up anger issues? Name it what we will, it was murder.  It was one more act of man's inhumanity to man.  One more time death won and life lost.  We'll go on, mind you.  We always do; but at what cost?  How does the sanctity of life become a mindset in the human condition? What will it take to end the violence and usher in a true day of peace?  I don't think the leaders of the world know what to do.  They know how to give wonderful talks after horrific events but they don't seem to know how to lead the world forward into a true civilization where violence is rare or extinct. We ought not to be too hard on them, however, because violence exists in our own neighborhoods and cities and homes.  What needs to happen so that peace can be realized throughout the world?  Where do we begin?  Is it even worth the effort to try, knowing the broken condition of the human heart?  Knowing the current disdain for Christians through North America, will our voice be welcomed?  What can we do so as to reveal to the world the life of Jesus Christ and His great love for the world?  I am only one voice, with very little in[...]



Whether it is Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, Canada, the Middle East or Middle America, violence dominants the world today, and good people of power in many places throughout the world seem to have no answers as to how to stop the killing and destroying. Caring people speak wonderful words after violent events, tears are shed at funerals around the globe, and innocent men, women, and children are left grieving the loss of loved ones and fellow countrymen, even as they wonder how in the world man's inhumanity to man will ever cease.Sadly, I turn again to counsel I wish were unnecessary, "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it" (Jeremiah 17:9).  Jesus took it a sobering step further when He said, That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man.  For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit,  sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.  All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man (Mark 7:20-23).It seems that the human being has a heart sickness that desperately needs to be healed.  I'm not sure our biggest threat in the United States, at least, is Islamic terrorists.  Sure they want to take us down, and we need to be on guard every day, but it seems we really don't need them to help us be taken down.  Give us enough time and we'll take ourselves down.   We're pretty good at that all ready.  Death and destruction are all around us.  It might come from an unprincipled police officer, a violent sniper hiding behind "Black Lives Matter."   It might come from an angry man who in his rage kills a four-year-old girl in Altadena, California.  Pick your poison.  It is everywhere to be found.  I speak as a middle class white male, which immediately calls my credentials into question.  However, I am close enough to many black males in our culture to get a sense of the stress under which they live.  In fact, I am privy to many people in the black community, male and female. I've heard their stories and tried to process the questions they carry and the uneasiness they feel.  I'm not sure I am capable of feeling their pain, but I have looked into their eyes and have had no doubt whatsoever that they live under a dark shadow in a culture in which all people are said to be created equal.  I don't know how to stop the violence exploding from within the human heart.  I do know that there are enough issues of brokenness in my own life that I ought not to judge people too harshly.  I also know that in the "land of the free and the home of the brave" there is a lot of dying and death at our own hands.  This planet has issues that need to be dealt with, and I am seeing no evidence of progress out of violence into peace.  I only know that when someone dies, be it here or abroad, it involves all of us because, as John Donne wrote back in 1624, "Each man's death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind."  Truly, none of us escapes the ripple effect of violence, dying, and death.  Like it or not, we are in this thing called life, together.  My heart ached a few days ago when a former teaching colleague of my wife's wrote a Face Book post.  She is an African American young woman responding to contemporary conditions of our culture.  Hear her words,I just want to cuddle my baby and not worry about how I will have to explain to him someday that he must be careful when riding through La Canada or walking in the affluent neigh[...]



The first murder ever recorded is in Genesis 4:8. Cain, feeling envy and jealousy toward his brother, killed Abel in an act of violence that pales in comparison to the violence at work in our word today.  When God confronted Cain about this evil He simply asked him, "What have you done?"(Gen. 4:10).             This is the question I would ask of Omar Mateen, who, on September 12, 2016, gunned down forty-nine fellow human beings, and injured another fifty-three, "What have you done?" I would add, "Who do you think you are?  Who went away and left you in charge of who should live and who should die?  What have you done, Cain?"            Jeremiah the prophet of God spoke of people "who have eyes but do not see; who have ears but do not hear" (Jer. 5:21).  Then he added, "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jer. 17:9).  What have you done Omar-Cain?            My heart hurts as I look at the world of violence in which we all live now.  Our Wisdom literature reminds us, "There is nothing new under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 4:9).  Solomon had concluded, "That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done"(Ecc. 4:9).  To a great degree he was right.  The human race doesn't seem to catch on.  Generation after generation we just keep on killing each other.  Countless numbers of people seem to live to get what they want when they want it, and if they don't get it, they will kill you.  Every race, creed, and color has fallen victim to the ways and means of death.  One would think that at this late date in human history we would catch on; but we don't.              However, the tragedy at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, calls me to some personal soul searching.  I am reminded of Paul's counsel to the Corinthian church when, in reminding them of how the ancients had taken their eyes off God and turned to their own devices, said "Let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall" (I Cor. 10:12). It is very easy for me to condemn Mateen's actions, a condemnation that is rightly deserved; however, as a follower of Christ mine is not to condemn or condone.  Mine is to be shaped and formed into the image of Jesus, to lift Him up in the mist of the messiness, and to live out the implications of being in relationship with the God of all grace (I Peter 5:10).            What might those implications look like?  One pastor spoke of how he wished more people in Orlando had died.  This pastor now has death threats on his own life.  So, the cycle of violence continues, with each side believing their viewpoint is morally superior, and we are getting no where.            It is a dangerous and toxic age in which we live.  At this late date in history it seems we're still struggling to find our way.  I wonder if that might be one of the reasons Jesus referred to Himself as "the Way" (John 14:6).  It seems the human race is lost, even the best among us.  The planet is in trouble.  No matter what the issue might be opinions about it come down to about 50/50 or 51/49.  As a planet, we've never been as divided as we are now, and that "now" is post WW1, WW2, the Korean police action, t[...]



It is hot, by Pasadena standards at least, and I am looking for ways to stay cool.  Ice water, AC's and shade trees are high on my agenda today.  I love cold and have often wondered how cold it would have to be for me to cry out, "Enough."  Other people want to go to Hawaii and I want to go to the North Pole.  Vonnie says I can go if I don't mind going alone.  I have been thinking about what makes a person happy.  Is that the right word, happy?  Maybe satisfiedis a better word.  Happy is such a chameleon of a word.  But satisfied has about it a sense of peace, and peace always has a wonderful ring to it.  So, satisfied it is.  What makes a person satisfied? Weather?  Stability?  Money?  Power?  Sex?  Affirmation? Accomplishments?  Family?  Conquest?  Self-giving?  Love?  Forgiveness?  Doing good deeds?  Justice?  Mercy?  What if being satisfied was not even the right word?  Suppose, the pursuit of anything for its own sake fell short of what it means to really be who we are?  What if being satisfied was a bi-product that came with the pursuit of something greater than being satisfied?  I love the word serendipity.  It means to discover something accidentally, while in pursuit of something entirely different.  Suppose being satisfied is a gift of serendipity.  In pursuit of living an excellent life one finds a deep-seated inner satisfaction.  It wasn't the reason for the pursuit but it was a gift given in the pursuit.  Suppose Jesus knew what He was talking about when He told His followers to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33).  Suppose it is in the seeking we find the abundant life He also promised (John 10:10).  Suppose that life really is meant to be lived in response to the grace and mercy of God?   Once upon a time I thought that one of these days my ship was really going to come in, and when it did, I was going to do great things for God.  Then I recognized the ship was already in.  Waiting for the ship became a hindrance to embracing the ship that was already there.  That was the day life really became alive for me.  The one-of-these-days insanity died that day and the grace and mercy of God became the awesome arena in which life began to be lived.  Pursuit gave way to a Person.  The Person, Jesus, embraced my life and life itself became the gift because He, Himself, is Life. Life became imbued with His life, and ever since then I have sung with John Newton, "…Amazing grace…I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see."[...]



I don't have a theology of "answered prayer," but with all my heart I believe Scripture calls us to empty ourselves of ourselves and to draw near to God, laying on His altar everything it means for us to be who we are.  In the simple act of prayer human beings express the deep need to turn to God in all things.In Genesis 4:26 we learn of the time people began to pray and call upon the name of the Lord.  Cain had killed his brother, Abel, and a man named, Lamech, confessed that he had killed a man for wounding him in some way and had killed a boy who had struck him (Genesis 4:23). The murderous ways of the human heart were underway.  Then, though we are not given the reason, except for the context in which it is explained, people began to pray.  It was a dangerous world and some folks had the wisdom to call out to God.    It is still a dangerous world.  We still need men and women who call upon God.  In 1913 E. M. Bounds released a book called, Power Through Prayer, in which he says,What the Church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men and women whom the Holy Spirit can use – men and women of prayer, men and women mighty in prayer. The Holy Spirit does not flow through methods, but through people. He does not come on machinery, but on people. He does not anoint plans, but people – people of prayer. In Matthew 21:13  Jesus said “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer…" (NASB).  In 1 Corinthians 10:31 the apostle Paul calls the church to live for the glory of God and he summarized it this way, "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (NASB).  The apostle Peter said to the Church, "You…as living stones are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood … You are … a royal Priesthood …a people for God's own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light … you are the people of God …" (I Peter 2:5, 9-10).As people of Jesus we are present in the world to live and move and have our being in God.  The Church is the living Temple of the Living God.  Stephen, using the prophet Isaiah as his source, reminded the people, "The Most High does not dwell in housesmade by human hands; as the prophet says: "Heaven is My throne, And earth is the footstool of My feet; What kind of house will you build for Me?" says the Lord.  Or what place is there for My repose? ‘Was it not My hand which made all these things?" (Acts 7:48-50. Isa. 66:1).Being the living Temple of God, which is a house of prayer, it is crucial in this house of prayer that we glorify the name of God.  Our passion is to praise the name of God.  Our craving is to live for the glory of God.  Our aim is to obey God for God's glory.  Our pursuit is the will of God for His glory.  In short, we are a people of prayer.The Bible says, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God" (Philippians 4:6, NASB). Jesus went so far as to say, "Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it"  John 14:13-14 (NASB)EVERYTHING IS FOR THE GLORY OF GOD ~~ EVERYTHING!When we pray may our prayers be God-centered and God-glorifying. Psalm 19:14 says, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O [...]



The Seventh and last Sunday of Easter in 2016 is Mother's Day, May 8, in American culture.  The next Sunday after that is Pentecost, a day in history that rocked the world, the day God poured out His Holy Spirit on His Church.  Resurrection … Mothers … Holy Spirit.  Quite a combination, don't you think? But then, the story of Jesus' earthly days begins with His mother giving birth to Him in the little town of Bethlehem.  It was a supernatural conception, a very natural delivery, and a bewildering and staggering event, gone unnoticed in a world that didn't yet have social media.  Did I say "staggering?"  Martin Luther said, "The mystery of the humanity of Christ, that He sunk Himself into our flesh, is beyond all human understanding."  Maybe "staggering" isn't a strong enough word.  Yet, this is our story.  God came into His world and initiated a journey that would lead to the death of the child whose birth we celebrate at Christmas.  But babies don't stay babies, and little boys grow up.  Thirty years later Jesus takes His place in the world of the Middle East, and inundates the life of God into the very fiber of humanity.As the Church moves through the Easter season on Her way to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, we do well to remind ourselves that what God does He does in our very real world, and of His own initiative.  He was born in a very real manger, to a very real mom.  He suffered on a very real cross.  He was placed into a very real tomb.  A very real rock was moved away on the morning of His resurrection.  He revealed himself to a very real and bewildered woman at the tomb.  He drew near His very real disciples and showed them His very real wounds.  When He ascended back to heaven He poured out His very real, and Holy, Spirit.Now we are called to live in our world, filled with Holy Spirit.  We take what has been given us in our times and we yield it all back to God.  The life of God takes up residence in us, and forever after this indwelling begins, we live and move and have our being in God.  The natural stuff of our lives is baptized in the Holy Spirit, and we offer up our lives to live in light of the magnificent and life changing grace of God.  The world is still real, life is still dangerous, and suffering still finds ways to raise its ugly head in a thousand ways.  Yet, God's lavished grace comes into our stories and establishes a stronghold in our lives, a stronghold built upon the cross and resurrection of Jesus.  A thousand times the mountains may slip into the heart of the sea, a thousand times the waters of the sea may roar and foam, and a thousand times the devastation may be so real that it can be said, "the mountains quake."  Still they do not destroy us because, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (see Psalm 46:1-3).  How safe a refuge?  How strong a strength?  The kind of refuge and strength revealed when Jesus was raised up from the dead, and then shares that resurrection power with His people, in the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. He is risen and He is Lord of all.[...]



On this fifth Sunday of Easter I am wondering if the full meaning of Jesus' resurrection has dawned in on us yet.  I am wondering if the full meaning of the resurrection can even be realized by our minds in a broken and splintered world.  Talk about a mind-bender, ""He suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures" (Nicene Creed).  The apostle Peter said it this way, "Jesus…you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.  But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power" (Acts 2:2-4).  The apostle's Creed reads this way, "Jesus Christ…suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hades; the third day He rose again from the dead…"How does one truly get one's mind around all this?  That Jesus suffered, died, and was raised again is a mammoth size declaration.  It's a game-changer.  If it is true then every other truth in the world is subjugated to this one truth.   If it isn't true then, with the apostle Paul, we must say, "Our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain…your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins" (I Corinthians 15:14, 17).  If it is true then, with Thomas, We must bow before Him and declare, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28)Many of us have chosen the way of Thomas.  We've seen the risen Jesus at work in our world, at work in our lives, and everyday the words that roll off our lips are, "My Lord and my God."  The anthem of our lives is,I serve a risen Savior He’s in the world today.I know that He is living, whatever men may say.I see His hand of mercy; I hear His voice of cheer;And just the time I need Him He’s always near.He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.("He Lives," by Alfred H. Ackley, 1933)In the early 1920s Communist leader Nikolai Bukharin was sent from Moscow to Kiev to address an anti-God rally. For an hour he abused and ridiculed the Christian faith until it seemed as if the whole structure of belief was in ruins. Then questions were invited. An old Orthodox Church priest rose and asked to speak. He turned, faced the people, and gave the Easter greeting, "He is risen!" Instantly the assembly rose to its feet and the reply came back loud and clear, "He is risen indeed!"  (Today in the Word, September, 1989, p. 8.) [...]



At this late date in my life I have a confession.  To all you who are super saints and figured this out long ago, I apologize.  For those of you who might daily wrestle with what it means to be a follower of Jesus, and how to actually live at that level, maybe you will relate.  Here is the confession: Living in Jesus so that He actually holds authority in my life is a tricky business for me.  Actually being the person Jesus is calling me to be is a great mystery to this heart of mine. Getting out of the way so that Jesus can be theWay is easier for me to talk about than to do.John the Baptist said of Jesus and himself, "He must increase; I must decrease." Paul wrote, "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind." A thousand times I have confessed that the "want to" is there.  I just have a weakness in knowing how to get it from "want to" to really doing it.The apostle Paul said, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus," and, again, I say the "want to" is there but the doing it falls short.  Often I have prayed,God help me.  How shall I actually live the life to which you have called me?  How do I let the Holy Spirit help me to set apart Christ as Lord in me?  How do I take what it means to be me and let "me" go to God?  What does it mean and how do I do it, take up my cross and follow Jesus to wherever it means to follow Him?When Paul was wrestling with his own sin, brokenness, and humanity he said, "O wretched man that I am who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"  Then he said, 'Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord."The truth is that I have decided to follow Jesus because of His extended grace and mercy to me, and I have absolutely no desire to turn back, turn away, or let go of the awesome thing God is doing in my life.  However, I refuse to admit to something that might make me appear to be more than I am.  To that end I confess my weakness and admit to my humanity.  I don't know how to pray except to say, "God, be God in me."  Your will be in me as it is in heaven."  This is all I know to pray, "Jesus be the Lord of all matters that pertain to me."A wonderful thing about following Jesus is that there is never a need to beat up on your self.   In Jesus we see that God is not a "beating up" God. Rather, He is the God who, in great compassion and tenderness calls out to us, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give your rest" (Matt. 11:28).  A thousand times or more God has reached out into my life with these powerful and almost irresistible words, and every time I have found that God is my Advocate not my opponent.  Thomas Merton has a wonderful prayer for folks like me, who are probably harder on ourselves than God is  “My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my p[...]



There is a benediction-blessing floating around the Internet these days that is worthy of a discussion.  It appears in many forms, brief and expanded.  It is rarely documented, and fairly obscure to the protestant mind.  Nevertheless, it is a blessing worthy to pray. The origin of this Franciscan Blessing is not known. It's not a typical blessing we might expect to hear, but it's a good one.May God bless you with easy answers, hard hearts, half-truths , and superficial relationships.May God bless you so that you may live from deep within your heart where God's Spirit dwells.May God bless you with injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people.May God bless you so that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.May God bless you with tears... to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war.May God bless you so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.  And may God bless you with enough foolishnessto believe that you can make a difference in this world, in your neighborhood, so that you will courageously try what you don't think you can do, but, in Jesus Christ you'll have all the strength necessary.May God bless you to fearlessly speak out about injustice, unjust laws, corrupt politicians, unjust and cruel treatment of prisoners, and senseless wars,genocides, starvations, and poverty that is so pervasive.May God bless you that you remember we are all called to continue God's redemptive workof love and healing in God's place, in and through God's name, in God's Spirit, continually creatingand breathing new life and grace into everything and everyone we touch. Source: "Troubadour: A Missionary Magazine," published by the Franciscan Missionary Society, Liverpool, UK: Spring 2005.[...]



In J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, a young hobbit named, Frodo, is given the burden of bearing the one ring of power. It's a ring that has the potential to put Middle Earth under the suffering and pain of a deep darkness that is already exerting its influence. With a cadre of friends, Frodo determines to make the journey to Mount Doom, to destroy the ring by throwing it into the volcano from which it was constructed.

It would be a fearful journey through enemy territory, and imagining the road ahead of him, Frodo shares with Gandalf the Wise that the burden of the ring should not have been placed with him. In the conversation between Frodo and Gandalf we read,

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.

“So do I,” said Gandalf “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
                                      J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings 
(New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1994), 51.



            Lent is a day-by-day, moment-by-moment, journey with our God to the place of the Skull, and the silence of the day after Jesus' crucifixion.  We are reminded on this journey that the ancient Hebrews journeyed with God for forty years in the wilderness after their exodus from Egypt.  Why did they wander in the desert when it was only an eleven-day journey to the Promised Land? They had trust issues concerning their God.              Israel could not simply let God be God.  They were consumed by their own passions and by their own thinking.  Richard Rohr speaks of how "the primary addiction for all humans is addiction to our own way of thinking" (Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation, November 21, 2015).  It's true, isn't it?  We think what we think and then think that it is always and without exception "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help us God."  Human beings far too easily fall into the trap of our own narcissism.                                   In the desert the Hebrews fell into idolatry, sexual immorality, testing God, and grumbling.  Welcome to the 21stcentury.  Not much has changed.  These sins still haunt the people of God today.  Paul saw it two thousand years ago and warned the church, "these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did" (I Cor. 10:11).  Not us, we might say.  Not us.  Yes, us.  So Paul counsels us, "If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall" (vs. 12).                       Maybe Lent is that time for the church to revisit her own humanity.  None of us is beyond the possibility of sin and failure and weakness and falling victim to our own narcissism.  Truth is, we are all addicted to "our own way of thinking."  In a heartbeat we can take our eyes off God and live in the ways and means of our own flesh.   None off us is beyond the counsel, "Be careful."             Thankfully, in Lent we also learn that "God is faithful" (vs. 13). We are under no obligation to fall victim to sin. God is always present to "provide a way out" (vs.13), as we live with our very real selves. Jesus is with us day by day.  Our times are in the hands of God (see Psalm 31:15).[...]



Election year 2016 is underway in the USA.  Character assassination is front and center.  Name-calling, bloviating, and one up-man-ship will inundate the culture until Election Day, November 8.  That's the way it works in the good old USA.  In the end the people will speak and we'll get whom we get – good, bad, or indifferent.  I'm told that Abraham Lincoln once said, " “Elections belong to the people. It's their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”                         As a follower of Jesus, living in a culture, I feel compelled to take my faith into the arena of life.  I don't, however, feel a need to hijack the political process and try to Christianize it.  My desire is to bring the life of Jesus into the human situation.  God, of course, has already done this.  Yet as an ambassador of an incarnational God, I am compelled to live and move and have my being in the kingdom of God, seeking to influence a broken world for the healing life of Christ.Processing these thoughts is an interesting undertaking for me.  How involved do I become?  How vocal?  How demonstrative?  In one of his psalms King David gives me guidance.  He wrote,Some boast in chariots and some in horses,But we will boast in the name of the Lord, our God.              -- Psalm 20:7There are those among us who trust in the powers that be, the strength of the military, the wisdom of the politician, the counsel of the intelligentsia. As it was in the beginning so it is now.  The problem, however, seems to be that throughout generation after generation of this strength, wisdom and counsel, we have come to the moment in history in which we now find ourselves.  And, where we now find ourselves is not a poster child for national or international health.I contend that we have been boasting and trusting in systems that don't have the ability to do what they promise the people.  I think I believe the want to is there but in a world of people rooted and grounded in their own ideologies, many of which constantly collide, the want to, many times, gets sidelined and promises get jettisoned, and sides are taken, and things get very messy.  Because of the messiness it is a strange world in which we live.  Will Rogers said a couple of things back in the 1930s that, sadly, still ring true.  He said, "I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts."  Then he lamented and said,  "Everything is changing. People are taking the comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke."            All this makes me think that maybe the ancient king was on to something we need to hear in the opening years of the twenty-first century, "We will boast in the name of the Lord, our God."  Not much chance of that happening at the politically driven national or state or even local level.  There are just too many conflicting worldviews, too much money, too many strong personalities, and too many power mongers at work.  There is only one level the declaration might actually work and that is in the churches of[...]