Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Too Busy to Be Thankful

I can’t believe I’m seeing Christmas trees going up already. I must admit: it gives me a little bit of that humbug feeling. Seeing those trees makes me think of everything I have to do, like make extra purchases for parties and gift exchanges, and be on my best behavior around extended family and people I don’t see very often. The holidays are always a lot of extra work. Sadly, I’ve realized with Thanksgiving coming up this week . . . I’ve forgotten how to be thankful. I’m too busy.

Complaining comes easily. But you need a plan for thankfulness. Being thankful takes intentionality. Included below is encouragement for and examples of biblical gratitude. Read some of these verses to yourself, then pick a few and make time to read them with those you gather with for Thanksgiving.

Exhortations from the Bible to Be Thankful

“And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.“—Deuteronomy 8:10

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!”—Psalm 100:4

“And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!”—Psalm 107:22

“Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”—Colossians 1:12

“Rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”—Colossians 2:7

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” —1 Thessalonians 5:18

Examples of Thankfulness Shown in the Bible

“Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation.”—Psalm 68:19

“At midnight I rise to praise you, because of your righteous rules.”—Psalm 119:62

“To you, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for you have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of you, for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”—Daniel 2:23

“And he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks.”—Luke 17:16

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.“—1 Corinthians 15:58

“Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!”—2 Corinthians 9:15

“I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service . . .”—1 Timothy 1:12

Friday, November 20, 2015

Counterculture Way of Walking

“And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.”—Genesis 5:24 (NKJV)

Genesis 5 is an uninteresting passage of Scripture. So-and-so lived x years and begot What’s-his-name. After he begot What’s-his-name, So-and-so lived y years, had sons and daughters. So all of the days of So-and-so were x + y; and he died. What’s-his-name lived c years and begot You-know-who. After he begot You-know-who, What’s-his-name lived d years, had sons and daughters. So all of the days of What’s-his-name were c + d; and he died. Everybody dies. You get the point.

Buried twenty-four verses deep into this stack of men, all of whom died, is a mysterious character named Enoch—a man whose life is summarized much differently than any other before or after him. The Bible says, “Enoch walked with God” (Genesis 5:24 NKJV). Everyone else lived, had children, and died. Enoch did these things, too. But he didn’t die. God took him.

This isn’t the only time we see a righteous man living for God disappear from the presence of men to go into the presence of God. Something similar happened to Elijah. We have more detail in his case because his story is told as a narrative rather than a genealogical listing. We read, “Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven” 2 Kings 2:11 (NKJV).
Enoch and Elijah were unique in every way. The way they lived their lives was counterculture and the way they were ushered into the presence of God was uncommon.

Your story may not read like Enoch’s or Elijah’s. But that doesn’t mean that what is said about you has to be different from the things the Bible says about these men. The story of your life can be: he/she didn’t go with the flow; he/she walked with God.

This Daily Devotional was originally published at

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Movie Review: Risen

I know I’m not supposed to, but I have to admit it, I love a good fight. The new New Testament era movie Risen starts with a brilliant Roman era battle scene. This is where director Kevin Reynolds set the hook in me. The scene was not over done. It was a simple, believable depiction of a confrontation between rebels and Romans that made the conflict real rather than cinematic. This is how I knew I was in for a good yarn that would have the kind of tension we love to experience in a film done well.

In Risen, Joseph Fiennes plays Clavius, a high-ranking Roman Military Tribune serving directly under Pilate, the Roman governor who, against his better judgment, passed the death sentence on Jesus of Nazareth.

Clavius first comes in contact with Jesus after he is dead on a cross. In fact, it was Clavius, as our story’s narrative goes, that ordered Jesus to be run through with a spear rather than have his legs broken, ignorantly but importantly fulfilling prophecy. He also authorized Jesus’s body to be handed over to Joseph of Arimathea. At that point, Clavius thinks he is done with the man dubbed King of the Jews.

On the first day of the week, Clavius is summoned to Pilate’s quarters. The body of Jesus has disappeared from the guarded tomb and word is starting to spread that he has been seen alive. Clavius is tasked by Pilate to produce the corpse of Jesus to quell any potential uprising that could result from Jews looking for any reason to rally and rebel against the occupying Roman infiltrator. The tribune’s future is entwined with the political destiny of Pilate. Pilate’s future depends on the peace of Jerusalem which continually hangs in the balance.

The story fills in gaps in the New Testament gospels. Reynolds’ interpretation of events is believable when compared to what one reads in the Bible. There are guards paid off by religious leaders who have curried political clout. There are disciples in hiding. There is a repentant, yet well known harlot who has seen and touched the risen Jesus. We’re introduced to a doubting Thomas. We have the first Jesus I’ve ever seen cast that looks like an actual Jew rather than a chiseled, Western European super-model.

As Bible-based movies go, this is the first non-cheesy one worth seeing, in my opinion, since Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ. Hollywood has made the attempt to blow out theaters with big budget, special effects packed block-busters like Noah and Exodus: Gods and Kings and have mostly alienated people who read and believe their Bibles and left those indifferent about the Bible indifferent about these awkward interpretations.

Reynolds went in another direction with Risen. It was refreshingly free of special effects and computer generated landscapes. It relied on narrative and on-site cinematography that was stunning. And while the story is fiction, it honors the Bible by staying true to the textual narrative. It fills the movie-goer with the hope of resurrection and everlasting life. You really need to go see this movie on January 22, 2016, when it comes out. And bring a friend you’d like to see filled with hope.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sugarcoat Something Else

“For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.”—Acts 20:27 (NKJV)

My little girl has some serious health problems that we manage with a variety of medicines she takes several times a day. Some of her meds are liquefied compounds mixed with syrup in a failed attempt to make them taste like a sweet treat. Her other prescriptions are tablets crushed into powder and mixed with applesauce. Truth be told, we’re tricking her into thinking she’s getting something tasty and fun, rather than something that’s healthy and helpful but harder to swallow.

Paul doesn’t sugarcoat the Word of God. He is writing to the church in Ephesus, a community of Christ followers, with whom he spent the most time. As Paul mentored them in the faith, he described the hyper-religious culture he came from and how he’d zealously lead abusive mobs as they jailed and killed Christians. Paul says that despite being an enemy of God, Jesus pursued and found him on the road to Damascus. This traumatizing and beautifully redemptive experience was the beginning of the plan Jesus had for Paul—to partner with Him in bringing the gospel to the world.

Paul, being bound with love to the Ephesian church, explains to them that following Jesus isn’t simply a matter of religion or morality or new doctrines. God has intervened in every aspect of human history—beginning with Abraham’s call, through all of time, and until the final restoration when Jesus will act as Judge and finally put everything right. God has a step-by-step plan that involves a partnership with redeemed humans.

The transparency with which Paul shares the whole counsel of God through a loving relationship is part of the plan. Your own story, dear reader, has a place in the narrative of God’s bigger plan of redemption.

For each one of us, there are parts of the Bible we love and parts we love a little less because they challenge behavior, stretch faith, and provoke life-altering decisions. While tough conversations about God can make us squirm, they’re necessary to execute the piece of God’s plan assigned to each one of us. This requires growth that is healthy but sometimes painful. Don’t give into the temptation to sugarcoat the truths that are hardest to digest.

This Daily Devotional was originally published at

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Thoughts on turning 50

  • I only feel like I'm a day older than 49.
  • I used to pray that I'd be able to work in web and ministry and here I am. I'm grateful for that. 
  • I'm reminded of the episode of Friends where Joey turns 30 and cries out, "Why, God? Why?"
  • I remember watching "All in the Family" when I was a kid and Archie turned 50. I thought he was so old that he must have been close to death's door.
  • I remember watching the Cosby Show as a twenty-something where Dr. Huxtable's kids said things like, "You know what's older than Dad? Rocks!" and "You know what's older than Dad? Dirt!" I remember when I thought that was funny.
  • I've been married more than half of my life. Almost 60% of my life! I'm thankful for that. I've been a father for more than 28 of those years.
  •  I got no serious birthday cards this year. No deep sentiments or expressions of affection. 50 is the year everyone has a good laugh on your account. 
  • The young people treat you like you're old but tell you "you look good for you age," or "you're young at heart–you're a lot cooler than MY dad."  
  • The ones who are older treat you like 50 is some kind of "rite of passage" so just get over your self when I'm not even ON my self.
  • I'd rather be ignored on my birthday since I'm too old to get cards with money in them.
  • I'd rather be ignored on my birthday since all anybody wants to do all day is talk about the BIG 5-OH.
  • I'm grateful for Facebook. I heard from people from all stages of my life today. I've had many, many friends from all walks of life.
  • I have some cool birthday twins. One is being born today. One from Nairobi. At least three at work. One living in New England. I think all of my birthday twins are female.
  • I'm younger than Brad Pitt or Trent Reznor. But they have more hair. 
  • I don't know about you. But I'm feeling 22.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

How You Hear Your Calling

“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.”—Colossians 3:15 (NKJV)

I had the best quiet time this morning. Believe it or not, it began when I read a Facebook post from a woman preparing to celebrate her fifty-first wedding anniversary. Her post was full of thankfulness and praise for her husband, their family, and their life together.

I was moved to read more of her posts on her Facebook page. I know what you’re thinking: What a stalker! Well, maybe so. But let me tell you what I know about this lady.

First, whenever she sees me, without fail, she asks about my little girl with special needs. And she never lets me exit the conversation without praying for me.

Second, this woman and her husband have spent their lives serving others. In the first half of their lives, they cared for many children who were in the foster care system. In the second half of their lives, when their kids were grown, they became missionaries who served and trained church planters.

Third, this woman is a cancer survivor. Yet, she never complains. And when I tell you she never complains, believe it. She only has words of thanks and praise on her lips. That’s why people are drawn to her and love to have her around.

In today’s Bible verse, the encouragement to live peacefully and thankfully was written by an imprisoned pastor. The Book of Colossians is known as one of the apostle Paul’s “prison letters.”
Paul was a religious zealot before he met Christ and a servant of God after meeting Christ. Through all his experiences, he learned that living thankfully puts things in perspective. Complaining, envying, and constantly competing with your brothers and sisters causes distraction, confusion, and anxiety. And none of those things produce peace.

On the other hand, living thankfully brings clarity. It unclogs the obstructions in the conduit that connects you, the created, to the Creator. It quiets the constant ambient noise that keeps you, the called, from hearing the Caller.

Thankful living is the result of living connected to Christ. When you live this way, people who observe your life know you live this way because you worship Jesus. Churched or unchurched, they’re intrigued. Your life becomes a tool of evangelism.

This Daily Devotional was originally published at

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Bankrolled by God

“Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”—Exodus 19:5–6 (NKJV)

“I can’t believe you’re driving Dad’s truck!” my little brother said. “I know it,” I said, smugly, like I’d been driving my whole life instead of only six months.

The first time my dad entrusted me with his brand new truck for my first solo drive, I took my younger brother and sister for a ride to see friends in our old neighborhood. It was a surreal experience. My brother and sister looked at me in a whole new light. I was sixteen and, for the first time ever, they finally treated me like I was somebody.

There is something to be said about being entrusted with something valuable. It says something about you and about the person who entrusted you with something. There’s a level of trust that is the result of relationship, and there’s also a level of risk for the owner of the something being entrusted. My father took a huge risk entrusting his new truck to me. All I was risking was my non-existent reputation as a sixteen-year-old driver. I had no track record. All I had was status as my father’s son. That’s what gave me access to a truck I could never dream of owning all on my own.

God has done something similar with us. Because of His relationship with us, He entrusts us with goods and responsibilities we could never acquire on our own. He has bankrolled us so that we can be His mediators. That’s how the word priest functions in God’s economy. We represent God to man and man to God. And we are to bring God’s Word, requirements, and plan of redemption to men.

He hasn’t saved us to be good and moral (although we need to be). He’s saved us to be His people, and to bring as many people as we possibly can to heaven with us. He has also made us holy, not to separate us from the others, but to teach others how to be holy (separated) to God.

This Daily Devotional was originally published at