Friday, July 29, 2016

Light Has No Shadow

Friday, July 29, 2016
There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.  Proverbs 16:25(NLT) 
If I have heard it once, I’ve heard it countless times, a theology of who God is, based on some wishy-washy figment of somebody’s imagination.  It goes something like this:  The God I know would never send people to Hell, or Jesus never said anything about smoking marijuana being wrong, or, yada, yada, yada….

Then comes the brilliant analysis which reveals WHY the person feels that way; they are trying to construct a god to fit what they think, so they don’t have to live like Scripture’s true God demands.

It’s that simple!

We want what we want, and we don’t want anyone to interfere with how we live. 

And we tend to convince ourselves we’re right.  Every time a Bible verse contradicts the way we want to live, we are willing to listen to any explanation of that verse which gets us off the hook and lets us do what we want.  And the enemy is quite willing to produce a friend or acquaintance who will suggest that explanation from his vast Biblical knowledge gained in a week at VBS 30 years ago.

Fact:  Biblical ignorance, no matter how eloquently stated, and no matter how culturally acceptable, is still ignorance.

Another fact:  For those who would try to say something about who God is, it would behoove them to actually study Scripture objectively, with ethical integrity. 

This is necessary for two reasons:

1.     It saves you from saying a whole lot of stupid things.

2.     You will meet God when you search for him with your whole heart[ii] and your heart will be changed. 

And you will know the truth about God, and it won’t be from a friend who only thinks he’s right, but in fact is heading down the path of destruction.  You’ll be hearing it ring true within, as the Holy Spirit speaks words of strength and encouragement to your soul.

Jesus told his disciples this very thing:

The Spirit alone gives eternal life.  Human effort accomplishes nothing.  And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.  John 6:63(NLT)

For You Today

There’s a lot of stuff being kicked around about life and what’s right and wrong.  Make sure your source is dependable; eternal life is not a trifle kind of thing.

In the nature of God there is no shadow, no darkness at all. 

You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road today…have a blessed day!


[i] Title Image: By Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons
[ii] Jeremiah 29:13

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Tempter Arrives

Thursday, July 28, 2016
The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.  
1 Corinthians 10:13(NLT)
C.S. Lewis may arguably be the 20th century’s greatest defender of the faith.  His works often make complex theological doctrines somewhat clearer.  In The Screwtape Letters Lewis describes the fight we humans face, and the ways the enemy attempts to trip us up.  He tells the story through the eyes of “Screwtape” (a senior demon), who is mentoring his somewhat less-able nephew, "Wormwood”. 

Senior demon, Screwtape, referring to God as the enemy reveals Hell’s intentions for human marriage:  

The Enemy’s demand on humans takes the form of a dilemma; either complete abstinence or unmitigated monogamy.  Ever since our Father’s first great victory, we have rendered the former very difficult to them.  The latter, for the last few centuries, we have been closing up as a way of escape.  We have done this through the poets and novelists by persuading the humans that a curious, and usually shortlived, experience which they call ‘being in love’ is the only respectable ground for marriage; that marriage can, and ought to, render this excitement permanent; and that a marriage which does not do so is no longer binding.

This idea is our parody of an idea that came from the Enemy.  The whole philosophy of Hell rests on recognition of the axiom that one thing is not another thing, and, specially, that one self is not another self.  My good is my good and your good is yours.  What one gains another loses.  Even an inanimate object is what it is by excluding all other objects from the space it occupies; if it expands, it does so by thrusting other objects aside or by absorbing them.  A self does the same.  With beasts the absorption takes the form of eating; for us, it means the sucking of will and freedom out of a weaker self into a stronger.  ‘To be’ means ‘to be in competition’.[ii]

If C.S. Lewis is right, this explains much about how our culture arrived at the idea that the sexual aberrations of fornication, homosexuality, polygamy, adultery and a host of other perversions of God’s will are not only acceptable, but liberating.  If Lewis has nailed it with Screwtape’s explanation of the “enemy’s” plan, these wanderings-away from God’s will are not only not liberating, they are downright enslaving.

In short, we are choking ourselves to death on forbidden fruit!

For You Today

The pictures today’s culture paint of sexual liberation are as appealing as the fruit Eve determined she just had to have.  The problem is that it all appeals to our lower nature, and not that for which we are created.

Don’t let the tempter suck the life out of your free will; that free will is a gift placed within you by God to live a life of true freedom, purity, and grace; it’s a life of obedience to God’s will and God’s Word!

You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road today…have a blessed day!


[i] Title Image: By Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons
[ii] From The Screwtape Letters Compiled in A Year with C.S. Lewis The Screwtape Letters. Copyright © 1942, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright restored © 1996 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. A Year With C.S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works. Copyright © 2003 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A Broken Sense of Ethics

Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.  Ephesians 4:15(NLT)
Sometimes truth is spoken, and there is no love in it.  This 30 year-old cartoon comes to mind:

The truth is, the coach wants a win, big-time!  When he takes his hat off, still foaming at the mouth and invites the team to pray, you wonder whom to believe, Jekyll or Hyde?  Just looking at the players, you know they’re feeling it too; notice how the player on the far right has a complete facial expression change from, Yeah, let’s kill ‘em to HUH?

I’ve seen a lot of that look in this political season; I’ve seen it mostly in the mirror.  That look shows up when I’m listening to the candidates.  That kill ‘em but pray for ‘em see-saw tone used by the wild-eyed candidates overwhelms my ability to believe almost anything they say on the campaign stump.

Duplicity, Fraud, Scammer, Deceiver, Treacherous….these are all synonyms describing people who say things that are meant to sway the listener’s support, but the actions which follow are inconsistent; they say one thing, mean and do another.

Now, please save the cards and letters – I’ve heard all the “reasons” why if you don’t vote for this one, you’re voting for the other. (Mathematically that isn’t true anyway – at most the value of a non-vote could only approach ½ a vote). 

I do intend to vote, but this political cycle has been perhaps the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced to making an ethical choice, consistent with God’s Word on choosing godly leaders.

All of the candidates have ethical compromises.  Each claims to be Christian.  In the case of the Blue Party, a lifelong Methodist and Roman Catholic both support abortion; they’re both either in the wrong church, or consider themselves exempt…or above answering to that point. 

In the Red Party, the candidates are a self-proclaimed Presbyterian, and a born-again Evangelical Roman Catholic.  In the case of the VP candidate, he still places money over faith.  He initially signed a religious freedom law in Indiana permitting people to refuse to do business with anyone on the basis of their faith, but the following week signed a watered-down version replacing it when corporations and celebrities complained.

As for the Presidential candidate, he claims to be a Presbyterian but denies ever apologizing to anyone – mother, father, or God.  As I recall, that little thing about confession of sin to God (apologizing) to confirm our belief is a rather standard requirement.  I do not presume to know his heart, but going to church for a drop of wine and a little cracker so you can feel good afterward….once every ten years, whether you need it or not, is hardly evidence to support a claim of godliness.

Once again – I do not intend to judge another’s heart relationship with God; in fact, I just wish they would all leave that part out of their speeches.

But, no matter what, it is going to be a rocky road to November 8th

For You Today

I invite you to do what I have committed to do…pray hard…every day…for the candidates to speak truth…and to learn to speak it in love.

And then, relax….God’s got this, believe it or not!

You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road today…have a blessed day!


[i] Title Image: By Mrkgrd (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Broken Covenant

Tuesday, July 26, 2016
“O Israel and Judah, what should I do with you?” asks the Lord.  “For your love vanishes like the morning mist and disappears like dew in the sunlight.  I sent my prophets to cut you to pieces—to slaughter you with my words, with judgments as inescapable as light.  I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices.  I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.  But like Adam, you broke my covenant and betrayed my trust.   Hosea 6:4-7(NLT)

This year has been particularly disturbing in the denomination to which I belong.  Officially the church has orthodox (traditional) doctrine and polity.  Recently that has meant nothing to a segment of leaders within the denomination.   Preacher groups on Facebook, as well as watchdog parachurch organizations have just blown-up with outrage over flagrant violations of our Book of Discipline (the rules, bylaws that govern behavior and consequences of members and clergy alike).

Here’s the most recent straw threatening to break the camel’s back:  A few weeks ago the Western Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church elected as a new bishop a clergywoman, Dr. Karen Oliveto, a practicing lesbian, and married for more than two years to another woman.[ii]

Now, the first question many would ask is, why would the church do that?  Well, the reality is the church didn’t do that.  It was a small, tightly-run group of activists engineering an election outcome to push the door open on this Pandora’s Box of legitimizing homosexuality.  The other bishops are largely powerless to address the issue, at least formally. 

Some complaints have already been filed, and it will be up to the denomination’s Judicial Council (the United Methodist version of a Supreme Court) to decide on the validity of this new “bishop’s” election.  That will take some time.

In the meantime a small percentage of UMC clergy have been performing same-sex marriage ceremonies (also strictly forbidden by church policy) and relatively little is being done to remedy this renegade heresy.

Most of those who are participating in this practice have flatly stated they will continue to do so, despite the vows they took to uphold our covenantal relationship of a connection in Christ. 

To say this flaunts the very limits of ethical behavior would be akin to suggesting that the Pope may be slightly Catholic.  It is, as God laments through the prophet Hosea, a breaking of covenant and betrayal of trust.

One UMC Preacher (who recently ran for bishop in that same election process) posted a treatise on how the church needs to stay together; a posted response to that idea was something like this:

Suppose you are married, and your husband cheats?  Then he cheats again.  The two of you go to counselling to see about fixing this rift and he offers no remorse, no apology, and flatly states that he will continue to jump into bed with others at his own discretion.  He doesn’t care what vows you made together when you got married.  This feels right, so he will do it.

That is broken covenant.  It is spiritual adultery.  It is the same kind of thing Israel and Judah did when they ignored their God and did their own thing.  In reading Israel’s history you would have to admit, God was not pleased…and Israel suffered because of God’s judgment.

UMC leaders would do well to go back to seminary and learn this basic lesson of obedience.

For You Today

In light of my airing the dirty laundry of my denomination here, it seems this would be a good day to take a good look at those areas of our own lives that may need a rinse-out!

You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road today…have a blessed day!


[i] Title Image: By Pink Sherbet Photography from Utah, USA, via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, July 25, 2016

When Pain Speaks

Monday, July 25, 2016
Why then does my suffering continue?  Why is my wound so incurable?  Your help seems as uncertain as a seasonal brook, like a spring that has gone dry.”   Jeremiah 15:18(NLT)
A number of years ago I had pain in my right foot – constant pain.  It was the kind of pain that made you wonder if you are descended from Job.  The pain was every minute of every day; it was my companion for every step I took in a day.  For good measure it throbbed all night.  Extra Strength Tylenol by the truckload didn’t help; Cortisone injections didn’t touch it a bit. 

Finally the doctor said the “s” word – surgery!  I’m not a surgery freak, but by that time I would have allowed him to cut off both arms and do a frontal lobotomy if he said it would help.

The surgery itself was uneventful.  My surgeon snipped a nerve or two, shortened a bone here, refashioned a socket there, and I went home to wait for the moment I could walk without pain. 

Somehow it never turns out the way the textbook pictures it. 

Three weeks after surgery I took my first step without the cast; the pin holding my toe together decided to relocate to a different neighborhood.  The next week I was back on the operating table.  This time he used titanium and super-glue!  I behaved myself and the toe has held together quite well since then. 

However, during the recuperation I had to stay off my feet for several weeks, and in that sedentary lounging I managed to allow my blood to clot in all the wrong places. 

Silly me!  

When the clots broke apart (like sparks flying upward, said Job!!!) they headed directly for my lungs.  Now, I’ve never been kicked in the chest by a mule, but if you have, I’d like to compare notes.  The pain was incredible, so Elizabeth came home from work to take the whimpering preacher to the doctor…again! 

The doctor examined me and told me my pain should be in the foot…after all, that’s where the surgical incision was – not in my chest!  It was fortunate for me there was a nurse.  She said she thought I’d thrown a clot.  Well…a quick trip to the hospital for x-rays confirmed the nurse’s diagnosis, and they admitted me on the spot.   

The emergency had passed…and (supposedly) if the clot didn’t kill me on the spot, it was simply a matter of staying calm, spending a week in the hospital with an IV of rat poison dripping into your arm so it can break-up the clot.  Well, frankly, I don’t stay calm when I contemplate receiving a bill from a medical facility for a week’s vacation.  However, I managed to stay semi-calm, and agreed to stick around.

Unfortunately Thomasville Medical Center had had its share of emergencies that day and the only bed available in the whole hospital was in Romona-Land!  You probably don’t know Romona, but I do.  Romona Carver was the nurse-in-charge of Intensive Care at TMC.  Romona was also the organist at the church I served as pastor.  Before the cold sheets of the hospital bed could rob all the warmth from my body, Romona marched through the doorway like a general in charge, and grabbed the IV needle from the nurse who was preparing to invade my blood supply.  Here, she said, I’ll do that.

Now, it was really good to see a familiar face at that moment; it was especially good to see Romona.  As our organist I could look over at her during a worship service and she’d know exactly what song my look called-for.  I began to tell her that the IV really ought to go in my left arm because I was going to send Elizabeth to get my computer, and the right arm….  Before I could get another word out, my organist, dear, sweet quiet-spirited Romona the organist shoved a thermometer into my open mouth and growled… Preacher, you’re in MY house now, just keep your mouth closed.  Nurse Ratchet!

Trouble got my attention!  It got Job’s attention.  I believe that is one of the benefits of trouble and suffering…it gets your attention.  There is value in suffering.

For You Today

If suffering is your lot today, a good question may be what, not why.

You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road today…have a blessed day!


[i] Title Image: By Stacey, via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Peace Formula

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!  Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do.  Remember, the Lord is coming soon.  Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.             Philippians 4:4 - 7(NLT)

Stress is a word much tossed about in our society.  It seems life is more stress-filled today than filled with joy or peace.  I wonder just how many of us in this room today are under some kind of debilitating stress?   

I saw a cartoon that had a man sitting on the exam table.  His doctor was giving him a stress test.  The doc says, It’s called a stress test:  I listen to your heart while you review a copy of your bill.

 About thirty years ago I served a church on Parker Road.  It was there I met Mrs. Juanita Parker.  Granny Parker was a Godly woman who knew how to pray heaven down

Granny was already in her 70's when I met her.  She'd lived all her life on just two farms – her father's, and the one she and her husband worked.  She had given the two acres our church was built upon. 

Like anyone, Granny had her share of joy, sorrows and pain.  If you set a spell on the front porch she would talk with you all day about life, financial doings and the like.  In all, her life had been ordinary and wonderful, hard work and family.  A well-spent 70-odd years…Until that rooster came!  "Granny" Parker always had trouble with that rooster! 

I recall one Wednesday night in particular; Granny had just come into the church for Prayer Meeting.  She was bleeding from her leg and arm.  Blame rooster done it again!  Brother Russell, he's mean as Satan, himself.  That was the first I'd heard about that rooster. 

It seems that this bird had decided that Granny didn't belong in the yard with all his hens.  Whenever Granny ventured too close to the hen house, he'd come flying at her with spurs thrashing and slashing.  He got her a few times. 

Had that bird been a human, he would've been arrested for disturbing the peace on Parker Road.  But, he was a rooster, so one afternoon Granny ventured out the back door toward the hen house, carrying her garden hoe and calling, here chick-chick. Here, chick.  The hens knew what that meant; they all came on the dead run for chow.  That old rooster came too; he was bent on protecting his territory, but he made a slight miscalculation.  You see, over seventy years of handling problems, weather, crop failures, depression and stubborn barnyard animals, made Granny a formidable foe with a hoe.  She watched out of the corner of her eye as that whirling-dervish of a rooster came squawking and flapping his wings, brandishing those spurs like Freddie Krueger.  At the last second, Granny Make-My-Day Parker side-stepped the leaping rooster and swung the hoe like a Ninja sword.  R.I.P., bird!   (I think he was in one of those casserole dishes the following Sunday at dinner on the grounds.)

We all have our rooster events.  We all have those irritating circumstances of life that disturb the peace. 

For some it is a job that just gets under the skin.  It may be a neighbor that won't respect your privacy; it could be a bully who is a grade or two ahead.  Maybe it's traffic at rush hour. 

Now, I do not suggest the Granny Parker rooster method for every circumstance.  However, each problem needs to be confronted.  Otherwise our peace is disturbed, and sometimes taken away altogether.

Paul confronted a problem at Philippi.  Two of the ladies couldn't get along, and it was one of those rooster events in the church.  Paul pleaded for unity and cooperation, but he went further – he gave them a formula for peace that works! 

We live in an age of edgy, worried, peace-less people.  We exist in a pressure cooker of racial tensions, family crises, financial and generational stress.  And there is a whole internet-full of advice on how to have peace.  Most of them haven’t a chance of bringing real peace in your life.

The feel-good approach doesn't work; that’s where you attempt to don’t worry—be happy.  You can do it with positive thinking or substances.  But drugs and simple optimism wear off too quickly. 

The don't feel at all approach is worse.  You can only ignore a problem until it engulfs you and your stoicism.  Then it may be too late to do something!  That's like having an early lead in a football game, and playing defensively for the rest of the time.  You're on the field, but you're not really playing – just holding-on till time ends.

There are plenty of ways to seek for personal peace; only God’s way will provide real and lasting peace.  In our text Paul lays out the great formula for dealing with a rooster event, a disturbance of your peace.  The formula is P + P + P = P.


Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!  Philippians 4:4(NLT)

Praise is such a vital part of the believer's life.  Without praise we are prey to depression.  How can you get to praise from the pits?  Good question!  Praise is a matter of finding God's hand print on everything that happens!  When something happens that is really disturbing – perhaps if the dog bites you, or a financial crisis, or perhaps the death of a loved one, you don’t rejoice because you have suffered a difficult circumstance, you praise the God who walks through the circumstance with you.  He has a purpose, even when we can’t see it.

Paul says, Rejoice...rejoice!  There are no qualifiers in that sentence.  It does not indicate we should rejoice just when things are good -- we must praise the Lord always

Praise, plus:


Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do.  Remember, the Lord is coming soon.  Don’t worry about anything;    Philippians 4:5-6a(NLT)

William Barclay calls this gentleness (which is a fruit of the Holy Spirit) your willingness to meet a man half-way.  Poise is that, and more.  Anxiety is a divided mind.  It is virtually the division that distracts from the main purpose.  James (1:7-8) says that a double-minded (or divided-mind) man is unstable…his prayers are not likely to be answered.  Poise is keeping focused on the reality of God’s care and purpose for your life…not the circumstances and storms that surround you.

I went to a clergy meeting a few years ago.  It was an important meeting, and I had cleared my schedule.  All pastors were to meet for a workshop, lunch and information-sharing.  When I arrived at the retreat center there were only a few cars there; I am usually early anyway, so I wandered over to the large meeting facility.  When I opened the door to the meeting room it was hard to see, as there were no lights on at all. 

Suddenly, I was startled by movement in the semi-darkness.  Can I help you, the disembodied voice offered.  When my eyes located the source of the question, and with my pupils finally dilated sufficiently to make out the smiling face of the woman who runs the place, I asked, isn't the District Clergy meeting here?  She answered, Yes; you're a little early.  I said, OK, I'll just take a little stroll.  The voice continued, You're about 24 hours early, but don’t worry – it's our little secret!

Poise has to do with stability in spite of circumstances.  It is closely related to faith.  Paul here says that the Lord is at hand.  Beloved, if we can ever truly come to the understanding that Jesus is near – closer than the breath in your mouth, we will remember that anything happening in our lives must be approved by Jesus first!  You can have poise when you live like that!  Life’s unexpected and difficult stuff will still happen; bad things may come our way, but there will be a difference.

Praise, plus Poise, plus,


instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Philippians 4:6b(NLT)   

Prayer is the tie that binds.  The word prayer comes from an ancient verb that means to tie or bind to.  In a sense, when you bow before God you are binding yourself to His decisions, His plan.  Of all the models for prayer, the Lord's Gethsemane prayer is the one I take for my example.  Not MY will, but Thine....  A prayer binds us to accept God's decision. 

What a burden that will take off your shoulders.  Have you got some major disturbance of the peace going on in your life?  Pray; bind yourself to God's answer.  Then, you can rest your worry-bone.  It is God who will work it out!

Praise, plus Poise, plus Prayer, equals:


Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.   Philippians 4:7(NLT)

What is meant by the peace that passes understanding?  Literally, it is that which is above our comprehension

God's Peace Doesn’t Make Sense?

Exactly!  In the worst rooster circumstances of life you can have the peace that doesn't make sense.  Jesus promised that His peace isn't like anything else in the world.  It will guard your heart, your mind, your life.  And the world can't take it away!


We have choices.  Stress and a world system that will depress and dissect you, or peace that comes in the form of praise that brings poise through prayer. 

Are you going through a ROOSTER kind of day, week, month – life?  Praise, Poise and Prayer adds up to Peace…from the Prince of Peace.


[i] Title image:  via Wikimedia Commons