I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5 (NIV)

Reggie was a beautiful little four-year-old – curly blonde hair and vibrant blue eyes—a real charmer. Happily, by the time he got to my class, I had a few years of teaching under my belt and was certified to work with “special” children.

In our first parent conference, Reggie’s caring parents asked if I’d be willing to work with the three psychologists who were overseeing Reggie’s developmental and behavioral issues. Of course, I wanted to do what I could to get this little guy on the right track.

At first, it was really easy. With small classes, my aide and I could keep an eye on Reggie, make notations on his chart every five minutes, and encourage him to participate appropriately. For a few weeks and with our guidance, he was a model student.

Then one day it happened. I was teaching, when suddenly Reggie exploded, shot out of his chair, and began jumping on tables and overturning empty chairs. I looked at my aide, and she immediately ushered the other students from the room while I softly talked to Reggie in an attempt to quiet him. Eventually, Reggie calmed down, and I was able to pull him onto my lap to talk.

“Reggie,” I said, “you’ve had so many good days. You’ve been doing so well. What happened?”

Without hesitation, Reggie responded, penitently, “Teacher, I ran out of nice.” Immediately, I understood.

The team and Reggie and I worked well together, and by year’s end there were no more outbursts, and he went on to become a lovely young man. But before then, he had other days when he “ran out of nice.”

I’ve done that. I’ve expended all my efforts trying to do what I knew I should (sometimes like Paul’s quandary in Romans 7) and failed. I’ve run out of nice. And then I remember that there really isn’t any good thing in my flawed humanity but only what Christ produces in and through me. So I have to make a U-turn and get back to the Source, the Source of nice, of goodness, of perfect love. And that Source never runs out.

Father, help me to stay focused on you and to live in you so that what comes out of me is your love, your kindness, your beauty. Remind me that I can do nothing without you, but I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. In Jesus’ Name. AMEN.


Truly, you are a God who hides himself, O God of Israel, the Savior. Isaiah 45:15 (ESV)

Sounds like a game we loved to play when we were children – hide and seek. It was so much fun to run around expectantly looking behind trees and under bushes for our friends (or siblings) when we were “it.” When we finally discovered the “hiders,” there was always laughter and amazement at their clever hiding places.

Now here is Isaiah telling us that God hides himself. Could it be that God has a sense of humor? After all, Jesus was anointed with joy more than any of his companions (Hebrews 1:9). Actually, this God who hides himself is much more than that.

God’s treasures are so abundant, so vast, so marvelous that they are not always readily discerned. Let me explain. God has packed his Word with promises that assure us that he is able to do more than we can think or ask, but there are stipulations. We must seek him; we must believe; we must ask.

He sets out a promise, and we take it by faith. Remember, he has hidden himself. He wants us to believe him without seeing him, without touching or feeling him. We remember his faithfulness; we encourage ourselves in the Lord; and we walk out the promise, claiming it by faith. And there he is. In fact, he’s been there all the time, but we haven’t perceived him until by faith our eyes are opened.

Why would God hide himself? Why wouldn’t he just allow anyone, anytime, to come and claim all his treasures? He wants to develop that love relationship with us, and he wants us to walk by faith so that as this walk deepens, the treasure is no longer the blessing, the treasure is himself.

Father, we love you for who you are. Thank you for your patience with us as we grow and for the delightful prospect of abiding with you. AMEN.


He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Mark 16:15

I’ve said goodbye to my dear mother whom I will see in heaven along with all our loved ones who kept the faith. And now my work takes me to Uganda to minister with old friends there as we tell the Story in words and deeds. I won’t be posting to my blog for a couple of weeks, but your prayers would be so much appreciated.

A few years ago a friend and I stood with a group of fellow pilgrims in Israel at the site where Jesus is said to have given the Great Commission (above) to his disciples. In the 2000-plus years since that event, countless millions have heard the gospel from the countless disciples who have been obedient to their Lord. My contemporaries and I looked at each other and prayed that we also would be witnesses as we left this “mountain top” experience.

Yet I sometimes wonder about the extent of my personal obedience. How many have I touched as I go into my world? Yes, I try to seize opportunities to share Good News in a needy world, but still I wonder… And then I remember the words of Henri Nouwen: “The challenge of Jesus is not to solve all the world’s problems before the end of time but to remain faithful at any cost.”

And so, as I go to Uganda, I ask God to help me be faithful to preach and live out the gospel at all times and on all occasions.

Heavenly Father, it truly is a marvel that you have entrusted such a treasure to frail humanity. But with your power working through us, we want to share all your goodness and your love. Help us. In Jesus’ Name. AMEN.


May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14 (NIV)

Have you ever heard the children’s nursery rhyme that says, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?” This was first cited in 1862 and was an encouragement to ignore taunts and criticism intended to wound. That may be very well in a rhyme, but the truth is that words can hurt. Poet Will Carleton wrote, “Thoughts unexpressed may sometimes fall back dead, but God himself can’t kill them when they’re said.”

Our words are expressions of the heart and the mind. As God’s children, we are called to let [our] conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt… We can use words of grace that bless the hearer and season them with salt to avoid corruption and to bring reasoning to the discussion. Wouldn’t the world be a much better place if we thought before we spoke and if we prayed that whatever came from our mouths would encourage or build up or in some way bless our hearers?

Father, begin with me. I want my tongue to be an instrument of blessing and not cursing. I yield my whole self to you to be your instrument of grace, truth, love, and peace. In Jesus’ Name. AMEN.


Did you hear the comments of any of the family members of those who died in Charleston? They were given the opportunity of speaking to the accused shooter at the bond hearing, and without exception, they said, “I forgive you.” One even went so far as to encourage the young defendant to turn to Jesus Christ and accept his forgiveness and salvation.

These were real people under real stress dealing with real loss. And when it was their turn to speak, they responded. They didn’t react. Their lives spoke volumes through the few words that each had to say. I forgive you. The same words they had heard Jesus say to them.

You know the analogy of the tea bag and the tea cup? You never know what’s inside until immersed in hot water. These Charlestonians, these Christians, showed us all—not just the accused—what was inside, and it was all Jesus. They were quoting Jesus and responding to what he had done for them.

They knew that to whom much is given, of him shall much be required. Can we, will we pass that test?

Father, wrap your arms of love around those precious people who’ve showed us your love and forgiveness. Comfort them and use their strong witness to grieving hearts around the world. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.


For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:2 (NIV)

“So how is he going to be judged?” I was asked at lunch. Do you ever think people are getting by with things? That they ought to suffer for what they’ve done? It’s so easy to be tempted with those kinds of thoughts. And then we look in the mirror and are so grateful for mercy.

My mom used to say that when we judge someone, we’re assigning motive to their actions, which is arrogance on our part. And however do we know why anyone does anything? Only God knows the heart.

The very instant we begin to judge each other, we lose our peace, and the more we concentrate on their perceived wrong, the more we become distracted from what God has called us to do. Oswald Chambers says there’s always one more thing in that person’s life that we do not know—one more thing that affects his behavior.

Interestingly, even Jesus said he didn’t judge—that was the job of his Father. He allowed that the wheat and the tares grow up together lest the wheat be torn out with the tares if removed prematurely.

Staying focused on Jesus, abiding in him, and rejoicing always in him leaves us no time to look for flaws in others. Actually, judging is a job best left to God who alone knows all things, especially our hearts.

Father, forgive us when we take your job into our hands. All of us need your mercy, and we all should show mercy. Remind us of that when we are tempted to be judgmental. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.


Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2

Webster defines hospitality as “generous and friendly treatment of visitors and guests.” The Bible tells us we are to practice hospitality; that a church leader is to be hospitable; and that we are to be hospitable without grumbling. One might almost think hospitality was expected of its members by the early Church.

It’s easy today to think that being hospitable requires gourmet food, elegant table settings, decorator appointed rooms, and professional entertainment. But Webster indicates hospitality is determined by the way we treat people. The Greek definition of hospitality in the Bible is being friendly. That sounds like something we can all do—be friendly and generous in the way we treat people. It doesn’t take money; it takes an open heart and an open door.

Lord, use my home as a place where people will feel welcomed and loved. Fill it with your presence and your joy. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Love one another… John 13:34 (NIV)

A young father was telling me about a practice he’s begun with his family: Spontaneous Saturdays. Throughout the week each family member thinks of an activity for everyone’s enjoyment the upcoming Saturday. When the weekend arrives, the ideas are shared, and one is selected. The father’s animated face spoke volumes as he told me of a special treat he already had planned for his wife on a Saturday when the children would be with friends.

I can only imagine what fun those Saturdays must be as each family member is given voice to share what his/her thinking has produced for the enjoyment of them all. What mutual respect and love are nurtured by not only sharing time but in anticipating a whole week of planning a treat for the entire family. That’s called “doing love.” That’s living out the Word.

Father, you said people would know we are Christians by our love. Strengthen the love we have for one another, and help us to show it in tangible ways. Help us to be creative in demonstrating how much we care, and cause us to overflow with your love. In Jesus our Lord. Amen.