Sunday, August 29, 2010

Every Word

One day during church I watched my friend with Down Syndrome as he carefully underlined every single line of Scripture in his Bible.  Line after line, paragraph after paragraph, column after column, he underlined every word.  This continued for the entire sermon.

I found that to be a wonderful picture of how EVERY word of Scripture is important.  Every word is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and we need to pay attention to all of those words.  

Now, I certainly don't want to put down those who selectively underline or highlight favorite verses or passages so they can find them again.  But the words before and after those favorite verses are also very important.  All of those words are delightful treasures from God for His people.  

Will you join my friend, and me, in treasuring every word of Scripture?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Washing Away the Stain

For the last three days I have been staining our two decks, the children's play area, and our wood-sided shed.  Tonight as I cleaned up, I realized how much stain I had gotten on my body, not to mention the stepstool, ladders, and other things that stain wasn't supposed to affect.

As most people know, there is really only one effective way to clean up oil-based stain: mineral spirits.  No other method easily gets the stain off of skin or anything else.

This made me think of the stain of sin.  Much more clearly than in my illustration, there is only ONE way to get rid of the stain of sin in our lives: the blood of Jesus Christ.  Only He can take away the sin and wash me white as snow (see Isaiah 1:18).

As the hymnwriter Robert Lowry penned: "What can wash away my sin?  Nothing but the blood of Jesus!  What can make me whole again?  Nothing but the blood of Jesus!"

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Battle Worth Fighting

Far too often we waste our time and energy fighting worthless battles in life.  I know I get sidetracked with many things that are not truly important in the light of eternity.  But allow me to define one of the most important battles we Christians should fight every single day: the battle to read God's Word.

This spiritual battles may indeed be one of the hardest to fight.  But it is vital to our lives as Christians.

At one time in my life I thought I was a bad Christian, because I struggled so hard to get time in God's Word.  I thought that perhaps I didn't love God's Word enough, or that I lacked self-control; the enemy worked heavily on my guilt-ridden mind for far too long.  

Then I realized something that changed my perspective forever.  It will ALWAYS be a battle to get time in God's Word.  Why?  Because the enemy of our souls works overtime to keep us away from this life-giving, life-sustaining, message from God to His people.  The devil doesn't want our minds to be shaped by God's thoughts; he wants to pull us away from God any way he can.  The most important thing the devil can do to accomplish his goals is to keep us away from God's Word.

It will always be a battle.  So we must fight back.  Hard.  

Some days it's truly comical to see how hard the devil fights to keep me away from reading the Bible.  So many days when I get up to read before the kids awake, one of my precious children will stumble out into the hallway inside the first two minutes of my reading time.  Or something in the house will draw my attention as suddenly seeming to be more important than reading.  Or I get into a sneezing fit and have to keep getting up to get tissues (it doesn't happen like that any other time of the day).

I don't think any of us would dispute the value of reading God's Word each day.  We all know scriptures like 2 Timothy 3:16-17, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work," and Hebrews 4:12, "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart."  But how do we overcome the barrage of temptations to skip reading the Word?

Speaking from my own experience, I have to employ an element of sheer determination to get time to read my Bible each day.  My alarm goes off insanely early, after which I have to fight the desire to snooze "just a few more minutes."  But if I don't get up before my children awake, I will lose the best possible time to read my Bible.  If they do get up while I am reading, I am trying to train them to wait to ask me things because "I'm listening to God right now."

Then I follow a reading plan.  Personally, I have found tremendous value in reading through the Bible each year, so I follow a reading plan I developed for Highland Community Church, with a checklist for each day's Old and New Testament readings.  Starting in October I plan to begin a chronological reading of the Bible, my first time doing that.  If you want to develop a personalized reading plan and don't know where to begin, I suggest starting with, where you can tailor a reading plan to your Bible version and the way you want to read it in the time frame you desire.

Perhaps you prefer to follow a slower read of the Bible, taking time to read study notes or other aids to help with understanding.  Perhaps you follow a devotional guide like Our Daily Bread or another equally valuable tool to help you get into the Word.  

No matter when or how we do it, we must fight the battle to get into the Word every day.  Pray for God's help in fighting this battle--it's a battle He wants you to win.  

Dear brother or sister in Christ, will you join me on the front lines?

Monday, August 23, 2010

My Wife Brings Out the Best in Me

Kristin and I have been married almost four and a half years.  Our marriage has all of the challenges of a new marriage plus a marriage with a blended family.  But there are many, many blessings along the way.

One of the things I told Kristin just yesterday was that she really brings out the best in me.  I told her about my perspective on a situation last Friday, which I will share here with her permission.

We were at family camp at Camp Forest Springs last week.  Many readers may know they have a swim safety test which they require for anyone, adults included, to go into the deepest part of the swim area with a really huge, really cool, ten-foot inflated slide.  The week saw temperatures in the low 70s, not ideal swimming weather, so we didn't really get our family into the water until Friday (the last day of camp).  So as of Friday, neither Kristin nor I had taken the test.

I was just going to let the week pass without taking the test and trying the slide.  The water was cold, I'm a bit out of shape, we were taking care of our young children in the shallower parts of the lake, and it was the last day of camp.  I thought it might be best to be content with skipping this year.  

Then my wife, one hour before they were to close the waterfront, decided to take the swim test.  Of course, she passed it swimmingly.  

I decided to follow her lead on this one.  I grunted my way through the swimming and treading water they required, and passed (whew!).  From there we had a great time on the slide.

This is just one example of how my wife helps me step out and try things that I might otherwise talk myself out of.  God has given her an adventurous spirit, which I love very much about her, and that spirit rubs off on me and helps me try new things.  Kristin helps me be a better man.

Isn't that the way marriage is supposed to work?  We bring out the best in each other, for the glory of God and the good of our family and others around us.  That's part of God's design for marriage: that the two people together are stronger than the sum of what they would be individually (see Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).  

Kristin, I love you very much.  I'm so glad you're my wife!  

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Toddler-ish Prayers

My precious two-year-old is at the difficult stage of learning how to express what she wants, but not knowing how to hear the word "No" gracefully.  It's challenging for us as parents.  There are many times she resorts to full-fledged tantrums to try to get her way.  If you're a parent of a child age three or above, you've been there too.

Here is a window into our 2:00 a.m. interactions with her last night.

First, she wanted apple juice.  We don't let her take juice to bed, however, we give her a sippy cup of water in bed every night.  At 2 a.m. she wanted juice.  "I want juice."  No, I have given you water.  "I want juice!"  No.  "I WANT JUICE!"  No, you have water.  You can have juice in the morning.  "I WANT JUICE!!!"  Her volume increased with each statement, until she was absolutely screaming her desire over and over.  And the tantrum was in full swing.

As she was screaming about juice, we had to do the next thing that was good for her: putting her back in bed.  "Don't put me back in bed."  It's time to go to bed.  "Don't put me back in bed!"  She stopped waiting for any responses, but just kept repeating, ever more loudly, "DON'T PUT ME BACK IN BED!!!"  Her repetitive, plaintive cries and screams continued for quite a long time after she was already tucked in.

As I was wide awake listening to her, reviewing these interactions in my head, I thought about some of my own prayers and pleas to God.

Sometimes I can be so fixated on what I want (like apple juice) that I miss the fact that He has given me something good (like water) that meets my needs most wonderfully.  I might be so busy lamenting the fact that I don't have apple juice that I fail to enjoy the blessing of the water.  Or I might miss that the Lord has not told me "No," but "Wait until the right time."  Waiting is hard, but the blessing of getting God's gifts at the right time is priceless.

Sometimes I can be so fixated on shouting my will to Him that I don't realize how He has lovingly given me something I truly need (like going to bed).  I don't appreciate the blessing of His gift, and beg Him not to give it to me, rejecting His goodness.  I sometimes fail to follow Jesus' example in praying, "Not my will, but Yours be done."

Sometimes I can be so busy shouting my will to Him that I am no longer listening to His calm, quiet voice explaining His perfect will to me.  

Sometimes my prayers can scarily resemble the demands of a toddler.  

What about you?  Do you (perhaps painfully) see yourself anywhere in here?

My two-year-old will outgrow this phase, and learn to listen better to her earthly parents, as well as to the Lord.  Will I outgrow my toddler-ish ways in my interactions with my Heavenly Father?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


I'm thinking about forgiveness.  So much in our lives would be better if we would be quick to forgive.  

Forgiveness is...releasing the person from the penalties I want to inflict on someone for the sins they have committed against me.

Forgiveness is...obedience to Christ's command to forgive others because I have been forgiven of infinitely more.  I liken it to forgiving someone else a droplet because God has forgiven me an ocean.

Forgiveness is...releasing the person to the hands of God, who will make all things right in His infinite justice.

Forgiveness is...a process.  It's almost impossible to forgive someone completely, instantly.  It is a process, and for deeper sin issues, it may take a while to work through the process.  But I should still move in that direction of totally forgiving.

Forgiveness is not...forgetting everything completely.  It IS choosing not to hold it against the person, but completely forgetting is almost too much to ask, especially for a grievous sin.  But every time I remember what someone did to me, I consciously tell myself again that I will not hold it against that person.

Forgiveness is not...saying what the person did was okay.  It was not okay.  Saying "I forgive" clearly defines the action as being sinful.  But now I refuse to hold it against the person.

Forgiveness is...vital to our lives as Christians.  Let's pursue forgiveness in every relationship, realizing that we forgive because the Lord first forgave us so deeply.

One of the best books I have read on forgiveness is Total Forgiveness, by R.T. Kendall.  It's one of the top ten most influential books in my Christian life.  I highly recommend it.

New Blog

I always wondered what I would write if I ever started a blog.  I want whatever I write to point people to the Lord I so dearly love.  I will make the posts on this blog informative, faith-building, perhaps funny, and definitely God-glorifying.  Stay tuned for more, as the Lord allows!