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



The majority of my work is cross-cultural; I work with people whose lifestyles, behaviors, and world view is often different from mine.  I am a professional servant.  My job is to direct, teach, fund, recruit, orient, pray, and do numerous other ministries in preparing missioners for being the hands and feet of Christ in other countries.  And conversely, I work with indigenous folks who are our partners in mission.  There are other activities in which God has placed me:  mentoring, teaching, showing hospitality, encouraging, and living out the faith he’s placed in me.

I am still amazed after all these years to discover that the helping, the mentoring, the teaching, the orientation, and all the things I mentioned frequently seem more directed toward transforming me than flowing out of me.  Although I know God has various tasks for me, he often has to stop me short to see that the challenge I’ve accepted is more for my benefit and growth than it is for the person I think I am helping.

When John admitted that he must personally decrease so that Jesus could increase in him, he, more than likely, didn’t realize that he would be facing death for the cause of Christ.  And that’s what God calls us to more and more—death to ourselves, our desires, our indulgences, all the non-Christ-like-ness that remains in us.  While we may think ministry is all outflow, I’m thinking that God’s grace assures that the flow goes two ways—out and in.

It’s really humbling and wonderfully joyous to be caught up abruptly and made to recognize that something we take on in faith and perhaps a bit of apprehension is just another vehicle through which God will form us into his image while he’s pouring out his blessing for another.  Instead of complaining about that person who doesn’t understand, doesn’t cooperate, doesn’t do it right, is different, has different ideas, and so on, perhaps we might begin asking What do you want to teach me in this?  What spiritual fruit might be needed for this ministry?  How can I humble myself so that Christ’s love flows out for his purposes rather than my ideas of best practices?

Helping goes both ways.


Father, when we find ourselves in uncomfortable positions when we think we’re helping, cause us to realize that you are also working in us and not just through us.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.


Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.  Philippians 4:8  (KJV)


I think one would have to be emotionally insensitive or blind and deaf not to notice the negativity that permeates today’s society.  It’s in the media, in social interactions, in institutions, in business dealings, everywhere.  And it seems impossible to escape.

During this Lent season, have you ever been tempted to take a fast from the daily news reports?  It’s worth a try.  You can swear off cable news, but then you’re attacked by texts and mobile broadcasts.  Not one network specializes in sending out good tidings.

God has a remedy in Philippians for the constant deluge against our peace of mind.  He tells us what to think about:  true, honest, just, pure, lovely things and those things that are good.  Things that are worth thinking about.  Such a litmus test would be invaluable to our mental health.   Is this true, honest and just?  Is it pure, lovely, and good?  If not, kick it out.

Paul also says that we are to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (II Corinthians 10:5).  We don’t have to tolerate all the nonsense that flies at us nonstop.  We can and must make our thoughts obey Christ—conform to his standard of truth, honesty, justice, purity, loveliness, and goodness.  We are to capture our thoughts and not allow them to take us captive.

One of my friends told me the old adage about the birds:  You can’t keep them from flying over your head, but you can keep them from making a nest in your hair.  It’s time to take control of our thoughts.


Thank you, Father, that you have a remedy for everything that disturbs our peace.  Help us to guard our minds and to screen those thoughts we allow into our heads.  We want “the meditation of our hearts” to be acceptable in your sight.  In Jesus our Lord.  AMEN.


Now the just shall live by faith…  Hebrews 10:38  (NIV)


Have you ever been glad that our forward progress is simply by faith, sometimes by just putting one foot in front of the other?  If we tend to measure our spiritual temperature by the way we feel, we can become terribly discouraged.  Feelings fluctuate with the weather, an unpleasant phone call, a news report, or any number of random things.  Sometimes we can feel bland for no reason at all.

But, thank God, he says that’s not the way we live.  We learn to disregard our feelings (emotions) and continue walking by faith in his faithfulness.  Someone once told me to fake it till I make it.  There’s no need for a Christian to do that.  Instead, we can faith it as we make it.

By faith we can give God every care, every disappointment, every wound, every anxious thought without sensing any spiritual gain.  By faith we place those troubles in his hands and walk away knowing he will bring peace or provide wisdom or whatever the need is because he said so.

Because he said so we can thank him that he is doing in the unseen exactly what is needed for our particular situation.  We can praise him for who he is, and we can walk on until the answer (or the feeling) overtakes us.  Nothing more is needed from us but simple faith.  We live by faith.  Thanks be to God.


Father, I’m so grateful that through you we are given love, power, and a spirit of discipline to faithfully navigate the ups and downs of this fickle earth.  Strengthen us with all goodness to glorify you in all we say, do, and think.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.


Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan!  Matthew 4:10  (NIV)


I gave myself a holiday this week, which happened to coincide with the Spring Break of my 6- and 9-year-old grandchildren.  Since they’re both rather artistic, I thought a trip to the local craft store would be a big hit, and I was right.  En route, William suggested it would be “freakin’ packed” with all the Breakers, but we determined it would be worth the risk.  To our happy surprise, we were so early, almost no one but the “partners” were there.

The game rules had been predetermined:  everyone would decide what special thing he or she would select, and then we’d hit the aisles.  William knew immediately what he wanted, but he politely suggested that Caroline, the younger, might need a little longer to decide and that we should let her go first.  It didn’t take Caroline long to select a build-it-yourself tent and bedroll for her American Girl doll.  And then she did something unexpected:  Caroline turned her head and covered her eyes, saying, “There are so many things that I like, I don’t want to see any more.”  William selected a helicopter kit, and we led Caroline, hand still covering her eyes, to the cash register.

I wish temptation were that easy to resist.  Or perhaps it is—we just don’t cover our eyes, and we’re not that determined to avoid it.  One of my clergy friends told me he’d never seen a temptation he didn’t like.  That’s really the nature of temptation—something we like or desire but distinctly know it’s not for our good nor God’s glory.  (Why go to a malt shop when you’re trying to lose weight?)  “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (I Cor. 10:13 NIV)

Caroline reminded me of something important:  While God can provide a way out of temptation, I have to cooperate by turning away from those things that can trip me up.  Way to go, little one.


Father, thank you for continuing to teach us—even through little children.  We know you will be faithful to your Word, but help us also to discipline ourselves to be obedient to your truth.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.


For God speaks again and again, though people do not recognize it. He speaks in dreams, in visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they lie in their beds. He whispers in their ears… Job 33:14-16a (NLT)


He was going through a rough patch, tougher than anything he had ever experienced.  Not only was he physically exhausted, but he felt emotionally and spiritually drained.  His spiritual friends were encouraging him to hold on to God, waiting for his intervention.  That was part of the problem.   He was so depleted; there was no longer strength in him to hold on.  He collapsed in his chair and closed his eyes.

As he drifted, he saw himself climbing a steep mountain.  It seemed to be made of granite, and he knew if he stopped climbing, he would fall into the sheer chasm below.  The more he climbed the more his small reserve of strength ebbed from his weakened body.  Finally, he reached a plateau that offered respite.

He reflected on how his friends and family had hailed him through the years as the strong, persistent leader who never quit, who never gave up.  And here he was on the climb of his life, unable to see the mountain’s peak yet knowing that stopping would be fatal.

In the midst of his painful reflections, he heard a thundering sound, and to his horror, he saw a great herd of Clydesdale horses stampeding toward him.  “This is the end,” he thought.  “Perhaps this is the peace that I’ve been craving.”  But still there was fear as the monstrous animals grew nearer with each second.

Finally, the leader of the herd galloped toward him and began lowering himself over his trembling body.  “I’ll be crushed,” he thought.  And suddenly, he cried out, “Oh, Jesus.”

The horse stopped abruptly and began to speak, “What did you say?” he asked.

“Jesus,” the man repeated.

“Oh, my precious Jesus,” was the response.  “Climb on my back, and I’ll carry you over these mountains.”

He awoke, knowing that he had been dreaming.  Even so, he knew it was true and could trust his Father to provide a way over the mountains.


Father, as I’ve watched my friend, I’ve learned that you do provide whatever we need for any occasion, no matter how difficult.  You have been faithful.  Cause us to glorify you in hard times by trusting you to make a way.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.

I have personal knowledge of this happening and know it to be true.


The time is surely coming, says the Lord God, when I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.  They shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it.  Amos 8:11, 12.


In England “just one tenth of the nation’s Christians attend church, and churches are now closing faster than mosques are opening.”  (UK Times Online 2007)  In 2010 the Pew Research Center data…highlighted the degree to which the European population reported no religious affiliation:  France (28%), Germany (24.7%), Italy (12.4%), Netherlands (42.1%), and the United Kingdom (21.3%).  By contrast, 16.4% of the United States population is unaffiliated with any religion.

Notwithstanding, is God’s Word being spoken or read from our pulpits and in our Sunday school classrooms every week when we gather?  Are we, instead, feeding hungry souls with philosophy, ideology, or humanism instead of the Bread of Life that alone can satisfy human hearts and lives?  How can we expect to reach our goals of universal peace without including the Prince of Peace; of empowerment without the Spirit who strengthens us to do all things; of sustainability without calling on the Rock who is the eternal foundation?  And however will we know eternal life without encountering the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6)?

Yes, there is hunger, even starvation for the Word of God.  Sometimes it seems we offer cotton candy when people are craving bread.  For our own sustenance, are we seeking opportunities to grow spiritually through the Word?  I am often amazed that “cradle” church-goers haven’t yet established the practice of daily Bible reading that’s so essential to nurturing our spirits.

In Psalm 119, traditionally attributed to David, the writer enumerates the many blessings accrued to the one who loves God’s Word, who enjoys it, and who walks in its statutes.  God’s Word is “a delight,” it “preserves,” it “gives hope,” it “is precious.”  If you haven’t feasted on the 119th Psalm recently, take time now.  You will be fed.

The time of Lent is a wonderful time to begin to experience God’s presence through the daily discipline of reading and meditation on his Word.  And we can learn, like Samuel, to say, “Speak, for thy servant heareth” (I Samuel 3:10).



Father, arouse us to the need for your Word in our lives and in those around us.  Cause us to share the Bread of Life and Living Water rather than temporary platitudes that don’t speak to the deep desires in our souls.  Awaken us to the desperate hunger around us.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.


“What is truth?” retorted Pilate…  John 18:38


Do you remember the old story about the blind Indians and the elephant?  The king was discussing the nature of truth, and someone suggested he bring in all the men born blind from a certain province.  After touching various parts of an elephant, the men were asked to describe the elephant.  Those who had touched the head described the elephant as a large round jar; those who had felt the ears said it was like a winnowing basket; those who had felt the tusks said it was like a plow; those who had touched the body said it was like a granary; those who touched the feet said the elephant was like a pillar; those who touched the back said it was like a mortar; the tail was like a pestle to others; the tuft was like a broom.  Then began a great dispute among them all, and finally a wise man said, those who “perceive only one side of a case disagree with one another.”

Jesus defined himself with one of his “I AM’s”:  “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6).  Truth as in reality, actuality, factual.  An absolute, universal, non-variable Truth.  But have you ever considered the possibility that you do not yet know all Truth?  That you possibly only understand “one side of the case?”  Paul said, “Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture!”  (I Corinthians 13:9)

I could barely make it to my car before the tears began to flow after I’d just concluded teaching a Bible study.  Our topic had been God’s love, and my students had the temerity to suggest that God’s love was more than intellectual and spiritual acceptance of us as his children.  That God’s love could touch our emotions and soul and could wrap us in his warmth while healing our brokenness.  I was so frustrated with their lack of understanding God’s majesty and position of authority over us.  How could they be so frivolous and bring God down to our level?

And that’s when I began studying and learning about the incarnation:  God becoming man, experiencing and understanding humankind, touching and loving us with eternal love, living and dying for us to bring transformation unavailable in any other way.  That Bible study with those ladies whom I thought were so unlearned revealed to me another “side of the case” that I’d not even considered.

So, how about your truth?  Is it all locked up in a box and secure against any fresh revelation, any new work of the Holy Spirit?  I am NOT talking about compromise with God’s written Word.  I am speaking about arrogant, close-mindedness in which we think we know it all—like Job’s friends.  When you are confronted with “another side,” can you listen with love and patience thinking that this might be a fresh ministry of the Spirit to reveal even more of God’s precious Truth?


Father, you are so infinite that we will never be able to grasp more than a fraction of your truth until we meet you in eternity.  Guard our minds against deception, but keep us always open to hearing your Truth even through the mouth of a little child.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.