I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign LORD; I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone.  Psalm 71:16


Have you ever heard people talk about religion as being a private matter?  That it’s not something to be discussed openly?  In an era where sexual encounters, annual incomes, delicate health issues, and so many other topics are common fodder for public consumption, do you find it curious that people say religion is private?

Or are we confusing private with personal?  Repeatedly, throughout the Gospels, people approached Jesus with personal matters.  Consider the man who was born blind (John 9:1-12), or the ten lepers (Luke 17:11-16), or the woman with the issue of blood (Luke 8:43-48), the paralytic man (Mark 2:1-12) or the multitudes who came with numerous personal needs.  They certainly weren’t deterred from making their personal needs matters of public notice.  They didn’t hide them under a cloak of privacy.

The man whose eyes were opened shared his personal story unashamedly with neighbors, Pharisees, and his family.  He shared the experience that had forever altered his life with anyone who asked.  Even though it cost his expulsion from the temple, he proclaimed God’s grace.  The ten lepers raced off, happy to be cured while one man even returned to say thanks.  In many instances, Jesus told those who were healed to tell their personal experiences to the priests.  (Perhaps they, too, needed reminders of God’s kindness.) And many other stories are recorded of Jesus’ deep compassion and ministry to each individual who approached him.

Could it be that we don’t recognize God’s intervention in our lives?  Or perhaps we haven’t had a personal experience with God?  Could it be that we are too concerned about political correctness to share God’s grace with those who might desperately be searching for someone to love and heal them?  Could privacy be a manifestation of pride when personal experience might be the very antidote for a hurting soul?


Father, move us out of our self-centered privacy so that we are ready and open to share our personal experience of you whenever you give us occasion.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.


…on this rock[a] I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  Matthew 16:18  (ESV)


The Church is alive and well.  That’s what I continue to discover in my travels to places of dire poverty; in areas of severe persecution; and where governments are highly restrictive.

On my latest visit to see the Church in action, I observed a country that has literally been shut off from the world.  They’ve had few outside resources and have felt themselves isolated.  Even their lines of communication have been filtered coming and going.  So what’s happened to the Church in the meantime?  The people have learned to lean on God and each other.  They have reached inside to develop their God-given creativity and have trusted God rather than organizations and institutions to provide their needs.  And they’ve found God faithful.

In a number of places hurricanes have blown down the buildings we mistakenly call the Church.  Parishioners have continued to meet in shelters, in homes, in any place they could gather to worship and to praise the One who continues to bring salvation.  And the Church has survived even when the buildings were gone.

In another place the pastor was accused of a heinous crime, which was later proved untrue.  The shame was so great, he one day poured fuel over his body, stood in front of the altar, and lit himself afire.  He died singing a hymn.  Twelve young girls surrounded the altar and pledged never to let the Church die.  Then they opened the doors and invited everyone in for a celebration of the pastor’s life and the life of the Church.  More than eighty years later, the few remaining of those “girls” continue to fan the flames of the Church.

In another country where a revolutionary government fought to obliterate the Church, instead of disappearing, the Church went underground.  Bibles were confiscated, believers were tortured and imprisoned, and buildings were demolished.  Today in that same country, Bibles are freely distributed as the Church has come out of hiding, and where people freely worship the One who established the Church.

Jesus’ promise is true.  Hell and all its powers cannot destroy the Church.  Let us pray for all those who trust and who gather secretly today so that his Word does not fail.


Father, how humbled we are to see the faithfulness of your people, our brothers and sisters around the world, who serve you and who follow you whatever the cost.  Encourage and be with them now and forever.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.



Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  Jeremiah 29:12


One of the biggest mistakes we make in crisis is to focus our prayers on the circumstance rather than on God.  The gravity of the situation increases, and we find ourselves what-iffing.  God, what if this happens or she says that or such and such else?  And then the prayer moves into conversations in our heads.  We begin to operate in what Paul calls the flesh and out of God’s presence.

A sure way to avoid all that nonsense is to pray God’s Sovereignty.  This list of verses was given me by a friend years ago.  I modified it so that it’s a direct prayer to our Father.  Try this next time you don’t know how to pray:


God, you are sovereign.  All authority and power is yours.  Matthew 28:18

Nothing takes you by surprise.  All circumstances serve you.  You know the end from the          beginning.  Psalm 119:91, Isaiah 46:9-10

Your word is forever settled in heaven.  Psalm 119:89

You do all things for our good and your glory, to conform us to the image of Jesus.        Romans 8:28-29

The blood of Jesus covers all circumstances, people, places, and times.  You who did not          spare your own Son will freely give us all things.  Romans 8:31-32

You are for us, and nothing can separate us from your love.  That was settled on the      cross.  Romans 8:35-39

Your loving-kindness never ceases.  Your compassions never fail.  They are new every day.  Great is your faithfulness.  Lamentations 3:22-23

You supply all our needs by your riches in Jesus.  Philippians 4:19

You know, care, and number the hairs of our heads.  Matthew 10:30

You are the God of all comfort, Father of mercies.  II Corinthians 1:3-4

You are able to supply your abundant grace to us, so that in all things, at all times, we    have all of your sufficient grace we need for every good work.  II Corinthians         9:8

You show your perfect power in our weakness.  II Corinthians 12:9-10

We can know with certainty that you are able to guard what we have entrusted to you.  II          Timothy 1:12

You are our strength, our shield, our strong tower, our refuge, our hope, our joy, our     peace, our all.  Psalm 18:1-3, Colossians 3:11b

You renew our strength as we wait on you.  Isaiah 40:31

You will never leave us nor forsake us.  You are with us, a very present help.  Hebrews             13:5-6, Psalm 46:1

You never go back on a promise.  Joshua 21:45

You give gladness instead of sorrow and praise instead of fainting.  Weeping may endure           for a night, but joy comes in the morning.  Isaiah 61:3, Psalm 30:5

When we lift you up continually in a sacrifice of praise, we glorify you here and now.      John 12:28a


Father, in crises we tend to forget your past faithfulness and get sucked into the problem.  Remind us that if we keep our eyes on you, we are strengthened through the trial, and you are glorified.  In Jesus our Lord.  AMEN.


I will not post on Thursday as I will be in a country with sporadic access to Internet.  I would appreciate your prayers for safety, wisdom, and discernment.  Thank you.



For we walk by faith, not by sight…  II Corinthians 5:7  (KJV)


Last week I read about a man who, while flying a small plane, became disoriented.  He called the tower saying that he wasn’t trained to fly with instruments, but they assured him that they could bring him in safely.  All he had to do was follow their directions.

The unseen air traffic controller gave specific, calm instructions, all the while telling the frightened pilot that they had him on their screen, just to keep listening and obeying.  For a minute or two, things went well until the controller’s directions seemed counter intuitive to the rookie pilot’s perceptions.  Ignoring the tower, the pilot soon lost control of his aircraft and plunged to the ground.

There are things in our daily walk that sometimes do not make sense.  We’ve gotten our instructions and are headed on the journey when storms arise and circumstances confuse. And that’s when it’s critical that we get our bearings and our confidence not from ourselves or our perceptions but persist until we hear from our Heavenly Father.

It’s very easy to think we’ve somehow gone amiss when we’re having a “Job” experience—everything seems out of place.  Even Job’s good friends heaped blame on him as they enumerated all the disequilibrium that was his daily experience.  And his wife of many years advised him to just curse God and die.  But Job determined that no matter what happened—though God slay me—he would still trust God.

Our present circumstances may be confusing rather than affirming, and we may not feel trained to fly in this.  But that’s just when we need to be still and know that God is directing.  If there needs to be a course direction, he’ll tell us.  In the meantime, we go by faith, not by sight.


Father, strengthen our trust in you so that no matter what happens in our lives, we rely on you and your sovereignty.  Cause us to persevere knowing that you are faithful and will bring us to a desired end.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.



Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.   Proverbs 11:25


Blessing can be both a verb and a noun.  Just now I’m thinking of blessing as an action that we intentionally do to bring encouragement or joy to someone else.  Too much of the time we are intent on being the recipient of a blessing, but “to whom much is given, much will be required” (Luke 12:48).

Willie, one of our church’s college ministers, joined me for lunch last week.  Willie was telling me how much he enjoys working with young people on campus and said that part of his assignment is to intentionally bless someone every day.  I asked if that would continue with him after he moved to his next assignment.  With a look of astonishment, he replied, “Yes, I’m trying to make that a habit.”

I think blessing was so much a part of Jesus’ nature that he didn’t have to think about it.  His being exuded compassion, kindness, mercy, forgiveness, love, and all the wonderful characteristics to which we aspire.  Jesus didn’t have to think about blessing because he was a blessing.  Goodness flowed from him, and people were changed.

Today during a work session, Susan told us about a teacher who had taken an interest in her father, a first generation American whose father was a coal miner.  Not only did the teacher watch over her father when he was in her class, but she followed his career throughout school, encouraging him to go on to university.  World War II interrupted the young man’s senior year with a draft notice, and he petitioned the university to let him test out of his last semester to receive his diploma.  The school was agreeable with one caveat:  He had pay $16 for the testing fee, a fortune to this struggling young man.  Somehow, the teacher heard of the need and blessed her former student with the funds needed for testing.  He repaid her confidence by passing the test and later repaying the $16.

Often, we may not know when we are blessing, but that doesn’t exempt us from presenting ourselves every day for service to the Lord – menial or grand.  Just a cup of cold water will have its reward and can make a big difference to a thirsty person.


Father, open my myopic eyes to all the needs around me.  Cause me to freely and willingly give of myself as a reflection of you.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.


Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.  Colossians 4:6  (NIV)


In Sunday school as we looked at this passage, someone commented that “salty language” often evokes strident, even painful comment.  But actually, at the time this phrase was used by Paul, the Greeks employed it to refer to “witty, charming discourse.”  Oh, how I wish all my conversations could be characterized like that.

Have you ever said anything you wish you could retract?  Are you familiar with the old (probably now considered barbaric) custom of washing a child’s mouth out with soap when he/she said something unacceptable?  Wouldn’t it be lovely if changing our conversation were that simple, but, instead, the origin of those harmful words is the heart and the mind.  Jesus said, “It is what comes from within that defiles you.”

A friend told me about a fishing trip where a group of friends had gone out in a boat with their pastor.  One of the men accidentally stuck a hook into his finger and automatically let out some spicy expletive.  Remembering that the pastor was with them, he looked up sheepishly and said, “Oh, thank God, tomorrow is Sunday.”  What was inside had made its way out.

In Ephesians (4:29 LB) Paul encourages us not to “use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”  Remember the old saying that you know what’s in a tea bag when it’s put in hot water?  I think this is what Jesus is talking about:  “…whatever is in your heart determines what you say”  (Matt. 12:34 LB).

Our tongue can be a real challenge, especially if we’re trying to control it through our own efforts apart from God’s transforming grace.  As we grow to be more and more like Jesus, our words, attitudes, and behaviors will also become more like him.  And what comes out will be “seasoned with salt.”


Change my heart, O God.  In Jesus’ name I pray.  AMEN.


When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  I Corinthians 13:11  (NIV)


In South Texas we’ve experienced years of drought—until this year.  And now we have an abundance of rain, so much so that our aquifer here is filling, and we are having a reprieve from years of rationing water.  Which reminds me of the years when my children were small…

As a preschooler my son Christopher had a little yellow, plastic, inflatable boat.  It was just the right size for him to crawl into, lie down, and float.  In those days Christopher stayed on the lookout for rains, showers, any precipitation that would bring enough water to flow down our street.  When those happy events occurred, out came the yellow boat.  We’d go outside to the curb where I would launch Christopher and his boat down the quiet residential street, and he would gleefully float to the end of the block where we would pick up the little vessel, retrace our route, and begin again.  This was the height of childhood fun until…

Christopher got bigger and older.  The little yellow boat didn’t hold him any longer, and floating down the street no longer interested him although he had a habit of saying, “Mom, I will always…”  Christopher was convinced as a young person that his interests would stay the same, that life for him would be static.

As young Christians, sometimes even more mature ones, we think various activities and life styles, ministries, interests, and vocations will always be the same.  Then God starts to rock our boat; circumstances shift; relationships end; life brings about transitions.  Nothing stays the same.  But we worry that God will take things from us, and so we cling to what we know forgetting that as we change, the old and the familiar lose their charm.  Essentially, we grow up.  And as we grow, we can trust God to bring what is needed for this new phase.

Corrie ten Boom said we should hold all things loosely lest God has to pry them from our hands.  Don’t be afraid of letting go, of giving things up, of making sacrifices.  God always has something better.


Father, give us courage to trust you through every phase of life knowing that you always intend everything for our good and your glory.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.


…in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh…  II Corinthians 12:7


Have you ever felt plagued by a “thorn in the flesh?”  Paul refers to his thorn as a messenger of Satan.  Scholars debate as to whether the thorn was a physical affliction or a difficult person.  Whatever it was, apparently it was enough of a bother that Paul asked God three times to remove it.

I’ve been fascinated to discover that so many people whom I consider real giants have “thorns” of one kind or another.  As a young person, I was sometimes intimidated in the presence of those giants, thinking them so far superior with super-hero powers and X-ray vision.  As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned that we all tend to have “thorns,” brokenness, and areas of imperfection where God is still working and where we still need him.

Look at what God says to Paul in this passage.  Paul has desperately prayed for divine intervention, and God has refused.  He tells Paul that this thorn is for his good.  Paul has been so blessed with divine revelation that his thorn is needed to keep him balanced and free of pride.  Even so, Paul isn’t above spouting off his spiritual credentials (Phil. 3) or reminding the soldiers and sailors during the storm at sea that I told you so (Acts 23).

God told Paul that his thorn was sent to keep him dependent on his Lord and move him away from spiritual arrogance.  His inadequacy and weakness, his desperation, would cause him to cry out to God for the grace that only God could provide.  God’s grace would prove to be sufficient and his power would be made perfect in Paul’s weakness.  Paul’s response?   Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me (II Cor. 12:9).

Can we see that these thorns are intentionally placed in our lives to create desperate dependence on a Father who is waiting to lavish grace upon us and to draw us even closer in our loving relationship with him?  Can we thank him for the thorns?  Everything God provides is given to grow us and to bring him glory.  Accept the thorns, let them be covered with grace, and allow God to weave something beautiful from them.


Father, we fear and dislike distress and any sort of suffering.  Give us your eyes to see that you have a purpose in all things.  Even the little oyster produces beauty by  embracing the irritant in its life.  Give us that kind of grace.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.