By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory. I Timothy 3:16


I’ve always loved mysteries from Poirot to Miss Marple to Sherlock Holmes to J. B. Fletcher. And, of course, there’s Father Brown.  On family visits to London, we never miss a viewing of Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap that has run continuously for over 60 years.  I just love searching for clues and putting them together to finally discover what should have been obvious from the beginning, if one had eyes to see (or ears to hear).

So, with all this experience in the format, why am I so often slow in understanding what Jesus told his disciples about life in the Kingdom? He even said that “it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven…,” so I’m certain it must be true. (Matthew 13:11)

I heard lots of things in Sunday school such as give Jesus all your worries (I Peter 5:7), don’t be afraid (I Timothy 1:7), God will supply all your needs (Philippians 4:19), God will make you what he wants you to be (Philippians 2:13), and on and on. Essentially, I learned that everything I will ever need in my lifetime has already been given me by my heavenly Father. And the same applies to all his children.

Here we’ve lived with a plethora of words that are waiting to become activated by the Living Word. He’s promised, but we have to access. Isaiah even warned us (45:15) that God hides himself. Curious, isn’t it? In other words, God’s just not handing out truths and transformation as a weekend special. He’s waiting for those who are intent on digging out the mysteries of the kingdom; those who are willing to take him at his word; and those who will take breathtaking leaps of faith. Makes no sense at all, Lord, but you said it, so I’ll try it. We soar out into the abyss in complete surrender and find that underneath ARE the everlasting arms.

And that’s the way the mysteries are solved. Every time we get a road block in life, we search for the clues, and we untangle them. Lord, what are you saying here? What am I to do? We obey, and the way becomes clear. We continue in obedience, and understanding follows. It’s really that simple. It’s always been so. “Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In ALL thy ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5, 6).

Mystery solved.

Father, remind us that you give understanding as we rely totally on you. Following Jesus is not as hard as we make it. Help us to just give up. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.



The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

I often hear people complain about the God of the Old Testament. “He’s harsh and unloving.” “He’s judgmental and is unjust.” “He’s distant.” They do not see the relationship between that God and the Son in the New Testament who calls him Father. Do you ever wonder at what some see as disconnect between the two depictions of God in the Old and New Testaments?
During this Lent time I came across a reflection that was so graphic, I had to share it. John’s Gospel begins with, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” So God and the Word are one. John goes on to say in the 14th verse of chapter 1 that the Word was Jesus. If we make an equation of this, we have: Word=God=Jesus. In our Trinitarian belief, we say that God is the three persons of the Trinity: Father, Son, Holy Spirit.
When we carefully read and discern what John is saying to us, we see that Jesus was from the beginning; he was with God and was the agent of creation; and that when God spoke the Word, his utterance was Jesus. Jesus is the tangible, emperical essence of his Father God. Remember, that he said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:3). And, “If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him“ (John 14:7).
The Word that came out of God’s mouth was Jesus. In the Old Testament, while the Father had been distant from almost everyone but prophets and those to whom he chose to reveal himself, in the New Testament, he comes out into the open, and we see him through the person of Jesus. Perhaps the Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ verbal picture of the true nature of the Father as seen in and through Jesus. When Jesus said, “I came to fulfill [the Law]” (Matthew 5:16, 17), as much as anything, he’s saying, “This is the true nature of my Father.”
If we really want to know the Father, we must come to know Jesus.

Father, there are many things in the Bible that are hard for us to understand. Teach us through the inspiration of your Holy Spirit that we may perfectly love and know you. In Jesus, the Word. AMEN.



Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. John 7:17 (NIV)

My widowed aunt, a transplant from Tennessee, prepared herself every day for the tasks ahead. She styled her hair, put on makeup (her nails were always done), and fortified herself to check all the boxes on her to-do list. Well into her nineties, I stayed with her through her final days, and she would ask if her hair was in place. She mused about her responsibilities and seemed content that no task had been left undone. She had been faithful in all she was given. Auntie greeted her visitors with grace and optimism, never fearing her imminent departure. She was a survivor and had learned that preparation and wholesome activity were foundational for understanding and peace of mind.

In a compilation of George Macdonald’s sermons and writings (Discovering the Character of God), obedience is described as the soul of knowledge. Macdonald elaborates by saying that “upon obedience must our energy be spent; understanding will follow. Until a man begins to obey, the light that is in him is darkness.” Makes sense, doesn’t it? Why should God give us more if we refuse (or delay) to obey what we already know? Essentially, once God gives direction, our spiritual growth (and peace of mind) depend on our following through. We cannot substitute thinking and talking about what God would have us do in lieu of the actual doing of his will.

I read somewhere that procrastination is a form of rebellion. God, you’ve told me what to do, but I’m not ready yet. I’ll push that to the back of the list and work on what makes me more comfortable. Although we know God continues to work in us (Phil. 2:13), how can we expect growth in knowledge and understanding if we fail to do what we already know he’s given us to do? Instead, we must rouse ourselves to trust him to give us what we need when we need it—those tasks that will increase our patience, stretch our faith, grow our compassion, and enlarge our dependence on him. And as we obey, our understanding of him and his ways is increased. God doesn’t will that we ever stop obeying or become stagnant in our growth.

When we find ourselves at a dead end this New Year or wishing God would speak to us, we need to see if we’ve already done what he’s commanded. Oswald Chambers calls it, “…doing the task that lies nearest.” Have all the boxes been checked? Is there one more thing we have yet to do? Something that may be lying far back in the closet gathering dust?

A practical reminder for those times when we may feel a bit heavy in our spirits or tempted with depression or lacking understanding is to get moving. Obey the light that is already in us. God will bring more light (understanding) if we walk in the light that’s already been provided. There’s no need to ever fall prey to doldrums as God’s children. We just get up and start moving.

In our office we have a little reminder: Did you hear about the man who started walking? Well, well, well.

Father, we like new things, new thoughts, new revelations. Give us a will to be obedient to those commands you’ve already given us knowing that understanding follows obedience. 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.


The Lord giveth wisdom:  out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.  Proverbs 2:6


Any amalgam of figures beyond basic sums and arithmetic has always been challenging to me.  When my counselor told me that in order to receive my diploma for a post-graduate degree, the final course I needed to take was Advanced Multivariate Statistics, I almost froze in horror.  I protested long and hard—“This is supposed to be the easiest class I have to take.  It’s my last,” I complained.  He had guided me so deftly for years, and here at the end he was putting my high GPA (grade point average) in peril.

I would like to say Dr. Grey was sympathetic but instead, I think he rather enjoyed my plight.  He tried to ease my discomfort by saying that the professor was someone everybody loved and that I would have no trouble.  (But somewhere behind all the protest, I think a smile lurked.)  I left his office wondering how I would ever make it through that final course.

I arrived early the first day of class in order to visit with the professor that “everybody loved” only to discover that her class load hadn’t permitted her to teach the course.  Instead, I was confronted with a very young man wearing hiking shorts and boots and very new to the faculty—someone who, obviously, had to prove himself.  I really was between what we in Texas call “a rock and a hard place.”

After the first class, with material which seemed vaguely familiar, I took my text home and began studying.  AND PRAYING.  Every page was read and re-read and prayed over.  God had created systems and numbers and ways of interpreting data, so I went straight to the Source.  And I went straight to Matt.  (That’s what our new professor told us to call him.  Not Dr. Matt… but just Matt.)  Every time he had office hours, I was there learning from him.  And I prayed.

Advanced Multivariate Statistics is not the only challenge I’ve had, but I learned through that and other similar lessons that I don’t have to lean on my own understanding when I’m in God’s will—that HE gives knowledge and understanding, being all-knowing and the creator of all things.  We do our part (studying, in this case), and he gives us everything we need to follow him and to do his will.  We must never allow circumstances to defeat us.  He either provides the way through or gives us the resources to resolve them or the grace to live in them.

In everything, we are more than conquerors through Christ Jesus.  I AM NOT A MATHEMATICIAN, but I finished that class with an A.  Yea, God.


Father, thank you that you care about all our cares, even those that seem trivial to everyone else.  Strengthen our faith to trust you in all things and to stand still and to see your salvation.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.


“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.  Isaiah 55:8


If you had been a reporter in Jesus’ day and were assigned to “cover” his ministry, what do you think you would write?  Apparently, Jesus had plenty of followers, everyday people who knew life unvarnished—people with financial stresses, illnesses and death, relational challenges.  They were people just like us.  Even the rich folks knew to call on Jesus when they needed help.  You could write about these responses to Jesus.

It seems that the people who had the most trouble with Jesus were those who were the professionals who were insulated by layers of religion and tradition—the Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees. They were distressed because he did things like eating while others fasted (Matt. 9:14), repeatedly broke the Sabbath (John 5, Matt. 12…), caused chaos in the Temple*, claimed to be God’s Son (John 6, 10, 14…), forgave sin (Matt. 9, Luke 7), and was generally a trial to them.  You’d get a whole different slant from this group.  So what would you write?

If we allow ourselves to get bogged down in the whys and hows and perceived inconsistencies in the Bible—according to the pros—we will miss the whole picture.  Yes, God is in the details, but in obsessing with the minutiae, we miss the majesty and the genius of what God is DOING.  In “breaking the Sabbath” he demonstrates his lordship OVER the Sabbath; in cleansing the Temple he underscores the holiness and purpose of God’s House; with proclaiming himself like his Father he reveals the character of a God few have ever known; in forgiving sin, he brings hope that our unrighteousness will be covered by his righteousness; and so on.

Rather than looking for inaccuracies or inconsistencies or being thrown off by perceived errors in the text—or even in our own lives when God doesn’t manifest himself as we expect—we can choose to focus on the big picture and look to see what God is DOING.  We can write a story that brings redemption rather than analysis, that sees a God at work loving and healing and saving his people.


* Even the writers of the Gospels don’t agree as to the timing of the cleansing of the Temple.


Sweet Father, thank you for your patience with us when we want to put you into our tiny box of understanding.  Push us to allow you to be God and remind us again that we are not.  Thank you again.  AMEN.