Sunday, December 16, 2012

One more day with a FREE book

I'm going to offer my Christmas Hope book for FREE on Monday, December 17. If you haven't gotten your copy yet, here's a chance to get it for FREE.

Find out more by following this link to

Saturday, December 8, 2012


I am giving away my newest novel on today and tomorrow (Dec. 8-9). Please help spread the word.

Christmas Hope - A Short Novel

My other novel is only $1.99: Christmas for the Family - A Short Novel

May these books bless and encourage you!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Christmas Hope - A Short Novel

I'd like to announce the publication of my second e-book, just in time for Christmas!

Christmas Hope - A Short Novel is now available through

Here's the summary:
Not everyone is able to have a "Merry" Christmas. The Nelson family is about to learn this in a very personal way.

Tom, Jackie, Erin, and John Nelson are a typical modern family. As Christmas approaches, they have plans for a big family celebration, with fun gifts and even a cruise vacation beginning the day after Christmas.

Then tragedy strikes and everything changes.

In the midst of their struggles, Tom and Jackie seek counsel from their Christian neighbors, Matt and Annie Tyler. Will the Nelsons find the hope they desperately need?

Even if you don't have a Kindle device, you can download the Kindle Reader program for free to any computer, or download the Kindle app to your mobile device.

Click HERE to view this book on or to purchase a copy for yourself.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

2012 U.S. Election Results

This morning, as I pondered the results of yesterday's elections in the United States, I realized (again) a number of important truths for those who believe in Jesus Christ:

* God is in control. The LORD spoke these words, as recorded in Isaiah 46:9-11: "I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,'…I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it."

* We are called to pray for our national leaders. In the words of 1 Timothy 2:1-4, "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." We should note that these words were written during the reign of an evil and oppressive world power.

* Our national leaders cannot be our spiritual leaders. After these words just quoted from 1 Timothy 2, we read words of instruction for spiritual leaders in 1 Timothy 3. Although God establishes government leaders (see Romans 13:1-7), their God-given task is different from the task given to church leaders. If you're looking for examples of morality and righteousness, and you long for good Bible teaching, look not to the government - look to the church. Yes, even the most God-honoring church leaders are imperfect, but they certainly seek to honor the Lord in all things, and to encourage others to do the same. Let your church leaders help you learn Bible truth and how it applies to daily living.

* While people seek a savior, we know THE Savior. Only Jesus is the true Savior. In Acts 4:12 we read these words about Jesus Christ: "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." People around the world are looking for hope. They long for peace and justice. Only Jesus can truly bring these things we need so desperately.

* Jesus has commissioned YOU AND ME to present Him to the world. That task is not given to government leaders, but to common people like you and me. We read these words in Acts 1:8: "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

My fellow Christians, let's stand boldly and winsomely for Jesus Christ. Let's show the world that Jesus is the only true Source of hope and peace. In all we do, let's point men and women, children and youth, to the joy and freedom they can have through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Free Resources from Whitaker Writings

I have a number of free resources available on my main website,

Click HERE to find some free articles that might encourage you today.

Click HERE to listen to some sermons I've preached.

Click HERE to listen to a seminar I gave a couple of years ago, "Handling Hardship with Hope." On that page I have also included pdf files of the handouts I prepared for that workshop.

May these resources bless and encourage you today!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Truth and Lies - Lance Armstrong and the Bible

With the Lance Armstrong debate raging in the headlines, I shake my head in amazement at the web of lies. Frankly, I don't know who's lying or who's telling the truth. Either way, there is a huge series of lies on one side or there other: either Lance has lied consistently for years, or others have bound themselves together in a conspiracy of deceit to discredit him. We may never know for certain which is the lie and which is the truth.

In the midst of this, I take comfort in the fact that God never lies. He always speaks the Truth. His Word is Truth. We read this in many places in the Bible, including these verses:
* "God is not a man, that he should lie" (Numbers 23:19).
* "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth" (John 17:17).
* "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" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
In this world that is filled with deceit (this Armstrong case is only one of countless examples), I rest in the fundamental Truths of God's Word.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Christmas for the Family

I am happy to announce my new e-book: Christmas for the Family. 

I wrote this as a stage play five years ago, and now I've turned it into a short novel. I hope you like it!

You can see it on by clicking this link.

You can see it on Barnes & Noble by clicking this link.

If you don't have an e-reader, that's fine - you can read e-books from any computer using the Kindle or Nook apps that are free and easy to download.

Here's more about Christmas for the Family:
This Christmas Eve, Sarah is determined to make this a perfect holiday for her family. Despite her efforts, things quickly unravel. Sarah is challenged by her rebellious teenage daughter (Megan); her workaholic husband (Tom); and her college-aged son (Ryan), who announces he won't be coming home for Christmas. With her hopes for a perfect Christmas dashed, Sarah must face her perfectionism as well as her painful memories from the previous Christmas. 
Megan is filled with anger and bitterness toward everyone, including her younger sister (Katie). Megan eventually understands the source of her struggles and reaches a crucial decision point. Will she find the peace she desperately seeks? 
Based on the stage play, "Christmas for the Family," this novella explores honest challenges faced by today's families. Even more, readers are reminded about the things that are most important at Christmas.
I hope you like it. I welcome your comments and questions here.

I pray that the Lord will use this book to bless many people. It's all for His glory!

Monday, September 24, 2012

God-Honoring Discontentment

I have to admit that I am often very discontent. And this isn't really a problem.

You might ask, Why? After all, don't the Scriptures tell us to be content (see 1 Timothy 6:6 and Philippians 4:11)? Yes, they do. Indeed, we are to be content with what God has given us. And I am.

But I still live with major discontentment. In fact, it's a God-honoring discontentment. I am not content with a lot in this world.
  • I am discontent when I see the faults of political systems in countries around the world.
  • I am discontent when I see injustice everywhere.
  • I am discontent when I learn more about evil practices like abortion and human trafficking.
  • I am discontent at the filth that is so easy to access on the internet.
  • I am discontent with the sinfulness in my own heart, and the countless times per day when I dishonor my Lord or hurt people that I love.

With these things I should be discontent! It is a God-honoring discontentment. These painful aspects of our world serve as constant reminders that I was made for heaven, and this world is certainly NOT heaven. My discontentment with this world helps me long even more for heaven.
  • God has wired me to long for His perfect justice, so it is right that I should not be satisfied with anything less than that.
  • God has wired me to care about all the people who are created in His image, so I should be upset when people are treated like animals (as in human trafficking) or are killed without any defense (as in abortion).
  • God has wired me to hate sin, even though it still entices me. I should be upset by the rampant sin that is all around me, as well as the sin that is in my own heart.

Dear Christians, while we remain in this world, we should be discontent with the things that dishonor our Lord. But instead of criticizing these things or the people who do them, let us work to show God's light to a world that is full of darkness. And let us remember that one day all the pain of this sin-sick world will melt away when we see Jesus face to face.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Christian Husbands and Fathers: Finger Pointing

Christian Husbands and Fathers: Finger Pointing: By nature we are great at pointing fingers of blame. The pattern starts in early childhood. "Johnny, did you break this toy?" What is four...

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Neil Armstrong and Faith in Jesus

Neil Armstrong died today at the age of 82. On earth, he will be remembered for many remarkable achievements, including walking on the moon.

Neil Armstrong was a great man in many ways. When my son did a project about him a couple of years ago, I was thrilled to review many of the details of Armstrong's life and career. He was not perfect, but he was a man we rightly look up to.

Still, when his earthly life ended, only one accomplishment really mattered at that very moment. During his 82 years on this earth, did he place his faith in Jesus Christ?

That matter alone affects every person's entrance (or non-entrance) into heaven. We are not saved by our accomplishments, no matter how wonderful they may be. We are not saved by our wealth or our fame. We are only saved through a relationship with Jesus Christ. We are only saved when we admit we are a sinner (Romans 3:23) and that our sin deserves death (Romans 6:23). We need to confess Jesus as our Lord and Savior (Romans 10:9-10). We need to stop trying to earn God's favor and simply accept the free gift He has offered us (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Have you given your life to Jesus Christ? If not, would you do so now?

Monday, August 13, 2012


I take tons of pictures. When I used film-based cameras, I took too many pictures; now that pictures are digital, I really overdo it.  

Pictures help tell a story of a particular point in time. When I look back at pictures from years ago, they help me recall significant events, funny moments, and cherished memories of loved ones. 

Here's the inherent challenge: a picture only records one moment in time, and by itself it cannot give us a complete perspective. A picture may be worth a thousand words, as the saying goes, but it still fails to convey anything to our senses of hearing or smell or taste or touch. A picture provides only a small glimpse of a brief moment in a person's life. 

Why have I brought up this topic? I have three interrelated thoughts about how this idea applies to our study of the Bible.

1) The words of the Bible give us many pictures of the character and nature of God. Each picture by itself is fully true, yet incomplete. We do our best to assemble the snapshots and understand how they all fit together, but our understanding is not as complete as we might really wish it to be. Still, each picture is a valuable revelation of His character. 

2) The words of the Bible give us many pictures of history. Still, there are huge gaps. Two thousand years of history are condensed into the chapters of Genesis. Large periods of time are summarized by only a few verses here and there in Scripture. Three years of Jesus' earthly ministry are conveyed all too briefly in the words of the gospels.

3) The words of the Bible give us many pictures of the future. Each picture helps us know valuable details, but they are merely snapshots. These pictures cannot begin to convey the glories of heaven, the horrors of hell, or the moment-by-moment details of the Great Tribulation. We study these pictures and we stand boldly on the things that the Bible clearly teaches, but we hold with a loose grip those things we fill in as we try to pull those pictures together.

As hard as it may be, we need to become content with not having every detail. God has told us so much, and we can study His revelation - the Bible - fervently so we can know its teachings well. We want to dwell on the things we know, and be content with the things we don't know or don't completely understand. 

One day when we are in the presence of God in heaven, we may learn more detail that will fill in some of the gaps in our understanding. For now, we rest in knowing that God is the sovereign Author of history and of the future. We live daily with gratitude for the many snapshots God has given us - snapshots of His holiness, His love, His grace, and His invitation to us to know Him more. And we fill in the gaps with our faith and trust in Him. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Tell His Disciples...And Peter

It is the morning of the resurrection. The angel is making a great announcement to the women who had thought they were coming to the tomb to embalm Jesus's body. As part of the announcement, the angel says these words as recorded in Mark 16:7: "But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he [Jesus] is going before you to Galilee."

I love the two words: "and Peter"! Peter had denied Jesus three times. He was familiar with Jesus's teaching: "whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 10:33). I suspect Peter felt like a total outcast, unworthy of Jesus's love or forgiveness.

With two gracious words Jesus reached out in forgiveness: "and Peter." Peter was still to be counted among he disciples. He was to be included with those who would be the first to meet Jesus face to face after His resurrection. He was not an outcast; Jesus still loved him.

These words of grace and forgiveness have often been extended to me as well. When I have sinned and feel ashamed and unworthy of God's love, I hear Jesus call to me with grace and forgiveness. It's as if He's saying, "and Brian."

There is nothing you can do that would make you unworthy of God's love and forgiveness. Even if you feel totally unworthy, will you turn to Him today?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

What's Your Theology?

Everyone has a theology of some kind. Theology, simply defined, is a set of beliefs about God. Some people may try not to think about their own theology; some people may try to deny they have one. But everyone has some kind of view about God. Yes, you do too.

So, let me ask you this: What is your theology?
* Do you think God doesn't exist at all (atheism or agnosticism)?
* Do you think God spun the world into motion but is not involved in day-to-day life (deism)?
* Do you believe God is just a good God who loves everyone?
* Do you believe God is a vengeful or angry God who is waiting to punish sin?
* Do you believe that God sent Jesus into the world to be the Savior, so that we may have a personal relationship with Him?

I encourage you to be honest enough to admit whatever your theology may be. Don't ignore the question, because it may have big implications.

Then, if you're especially courageous, take time to study more to learn if your beliefs about God are accurate. Are you willing to learn more, even if that means your theology needs to change?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Secret to Getting Healthy

I was quite overweight for much of my adult life.

Around 1999-2001 I shed 80 pounds, but I didn't do it with the healthiest techniques (skipping meals isn't a good idea). A couple years later I had gained some of that back, and I continued over the years to slowly gain more.

Then in 2010 I started the process of losing 50 pounds to reach my healthiest-ever adult weight. Now as I write this I have kept to that healthy weight range for sixteen months.

People who have observed my recent weight loss have asked about my "secret." Simply put, I decreased my food intake and increased my exercise. Sorry...I couldn't find a good shortcut. I didn't use any medications or health supplements. I didn't use any popular diet or exercise plans.

But in order to finally succeed after spending 20 years of my adult life overweight, I did have to make a big change in my mindset. That, if anything, is my "secret." I decided to really learn how to "honor God with my body" (see 1 Corinthians 6:20). Along with that, I shifted my primary goal away from "losing weight," toward "getting healthy." I focused less on the number I desired to see on the scale, and more on the goal of doing whatever it might take to be healthy. This helped me think more globally about my eating (food choices as well as quantities), my exercise, and other choices that affected my body (drinking water, getting sleep, etc.).

I always knew I needed to follow both of the only tried-and-true methods: eat wisely and exercise regularly. I am not a doctor, but even I understood these two very simple concepts. I knew that if I chose wisely the things I ate, using God-given self-control, I would be healthier. And if I exercised regularly - even a simple walk or bike ride a few days a week - I would be healthier.

But this is so very hard! I am truly a glutton at heart. I spent 20 years of my adult life overweight and hating it.

Now I wish I had followed these basic principles - which I knew all along - from the beginning. I feel so much better now that I am living with a healthy diet and regular exercise. Even more, I feel the joy of obedience as I honor God with my body.

I have hesitated to write a post about this topic because I don't want to sound like I'm boasting, nor do I want to make any fellow weight-strugglers feel bad about themselves. I understand how hard it is for people to make these changes; it was hard for me, too.

Still, for the glory of God, I wanted to write these words to you to encourage you also to honor God with your body.

After I lost the weight and learned all of these life-lessons, someone else wrote a book that covered the same concepts, but much more eloquently and thoroughly than I could have written. I would highly recommend Every Body Matters, by Gary Thomas (author of Sacred Marriage, which I also highly recommend).

Since I reached my goal to "get healthy," I made a new goal to "stay healthy" for the rest of my life. I want to continue to honor God with my body. Will you do the same?


Saturday, June 23, 2012

How I Got to Know My Wife

When I was first getting to know my wife Kristin, it didn't help me to go on what other people said about her. I had to get to know her. I had to learn about her likes and dislikes. I had to learn what would make her happy or sad. I had to learn about her past as well as her dreams for the future. I had to take a lot of unhurried TIME with her to get to know her.

In the same way, we cannot really get to know God without spending TIME with Him. There are many books about Him - some good, some bad. There are many people who say many things about Him - some that are accurate and some that are inaccurate. But the best way to really get to know Him is not through what others write or say. We need to get to know Him from what He has said about Himself. Read the Bible - the book God wrote to help us get to know Him.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

It's Not the End of the Book

Help for Widows and Widowers: It's Not the End of the Book: When we are in the throes of grief, it may seem that life has ended. Everything has changed, and without our permission. It's a dark place t...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Help for Widows and Widowers: Grieving With Others

Help for Widows and Widowers: Grieving With Others: When our spouse dies, we enter a season of profound grief. In the midst of my own grief, I sometimes forgot an important point: others aroun...

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Help for Widows and Widowers: The Death of the Future

Help for Widows and Widowers: The Death of the Future: When my wife died, I felt hopeless for the future. We had planned some vacation times that we would never take together. I thought of all th...

Christian Husbands and Fathers: An All-The-Time Job

Christian Husbands and Fathers: An All-The-Time Job: "Dad! Dad! Dad! Daddy!" One day in the car I had heard the name "Dad" so many times that I raised my voice and said, "I'm changing my name! ...

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Monday, June 4, 2012

Keep Serving!

Last night I met a man who had been one of my favorite seminary professors, a mentor, and a friend. David Larsen is now advanced in years, "an octogenarian" as he called himself, and still he taught with great energy and biblical accuracy. I found myself impulsively asking the Lord to give me the ability to minister that effectively when I one day reach his age.

He pointed out his age a couple of times, noting that he is slowing down, and all I could say in response was, "Keep serving!" Keep on serving the Lord. Keep sharing the wisdom you've gained from pastoring and teaching for 50+ years. We who are younger in age and faith need the wisdom and the example of men like you.

If you are reading this post while feeling the pangs of growing older, please allow me to encourage you also to "Keep serving!" Even if you are in the last lap of the race we call Christian Life, keep pressing on toward the goal.  In Hebrews 12:1-3 we read these words:
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted." 
Likewise, we read in 2 Thessalonians 3:13: "As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good."

No matter how old - or how young - you are, keep serving the Lord with every ounce of strength you have, until the day He calls you home.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Help for Widows and Widowers: My Story - Part 1

Help for Widows and Widowers: My Story - Part 1: Personal stories are very important. As you look at the material in this blog, you are likely curious about my own story and why I am intere...

Monday, May 21, 2012

Too Busy?

God is at work "upholding the universe" (see Hebrews 1:3, also Psalm 8:1-9).  Yet He has time to listen to me - little ol' me - insignificant me - whenever I call.  He even invites me to talk to Him constantly (see 1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Despite all God has to do in the universe today, He has time to spend with me.  He's never too busy for me.

Now...what was my excuse for not having time to spend with Him?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


I like to have lots of choices. I love places with big menus, or buffet meals, where I can take time choosing my favorite thing to eat. I enjoy carrying a wide variety of music or movies on my iPod, so I can indulge my momentary whim when I have some time to watch or listen to something.  

On the other side of the issue, I strongly dislike times when I have only one choice. I do not like to be told there is only one option in a given situation. In my heart, I tend to rebel against that option simply because it's the only one offered to me - while I secretly try to look for some other option I might take.

That's my nature. And I suspect it's really true of all of us as human beings. Don't you do it too? We have only one choice of weather at this moment - how often do you or I complain about it? How often do our kids complain about the dinner food made available to them? How often do we gripe when we are called into a "mandatory" meeting at work? How often do we complain about a decision that another person has made which now affects our own lives? How often do we bristle when we are told we MUST do this or that?

I wonder if this is why so many people have trouble with the biblical concept that Jesus is the only way to get to God. We read about Jesus's being the only way, like John 14:6 ("I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.") and Acts 4:12 ("And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."). Still we might secretly think, "Maybe there is another way. Surely God wouldn't be so exclusive as to give us only one choice."  

Dear reader, God made the world, and God has given us only one way to have a relationship with Him. The only choice we really have is to choose His way or not choose His way. We can bristle all we want; we can look for other options; we can rebel against such an exclusive arrangement. But this doesn't change the central fact: there is only one way provided for salvation. To be honest, it is an act of amazing grace that God would give any way of salvation at all, so I have personally chosen to embrace that offer. I choose to follow Jesus Christ.

What's your choice?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Willing Sacrifice

This is the devotional I shared as part of the Good Friday service at Highland Community Church:

In John 10:17-18 we read these words of Jesus: "For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father."

Jesus was not a victim. He was not a helpless sacrifice. He was not a martyr to a worthy cause. From the beginning of the world, even before the first sin, Jesus was chosen as the way of salvation. He came to earth willingly, graciously, and humbly - so that we might be brought into relationship with God through Him. This was the great plan of God from the very beginning. The price was high, and we who have surrendered our lives to Christ are recipients of unfathomable grace.

Jesus was a willing participant in the work of redemption. The Old Testament gave many prophecies about this great plan. The angel announced that Jesus was the One. John the Baptist testified to Jesus as the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. Jesus knew why He had come, and He willingly participated in the plan.

Jesus laid down his life for you and me. Think about that. Jesus laid down His life for you and me. He wasn't forced, but He did it willingly.

In Romans 5:6&8 we read more about this sacrifice: "For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. ...God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Before we even knew we needed Jesus, He died for us. Before we had one thought of love for Him, He poured out all of His love for us. Wow!

On the cross, Jesus was taunted by the crowd. Among the insults, the onlookers laughingly invited Jesus to come down from the cross, as we read in Matthew 27:40&42: "If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross," and "He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in Him."

Those mockers did not realize that Jesus could have done that very thing. And if Jesus had rescued Himself from the cross, I suspect many doubters that day might have believed in His power. But that wasn't the goal of the day. His physical death was necessary to pay the penalty of your sin and my sin, so He persevered in the plan even though He could have turned aside. In His love, He willingly laid down His life for you and for me.

I'm so thankful He did!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Why Have You Forsaken Me?

On the cross, Jesus cried, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (See Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34.) To be sure, Jesus was feeling the weight of our sin thrust upon Him, and the resulting break in relationship with God the Father. But there is another dimension to this cry: this is a quote of the first line of Psalm 22.  

Before I explore this further, I want to ask you a question: have you ever had times when someone quoted a lyric from a song and your mind suddenly filled with the whole song? That happens to me frequently - for songs I love as well as songs I'd rather forget.

To the Jews who heard Jesus' cry from the cross, they would have thought of the lyrics to a well-known Davidic Psalm, Psalm 22. If we read the words of the Psalm, we will soon realize it is filled with Messianic prophecy. Consider these other verses:
* Verses 7-9 - All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; "He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!"
* Verses 16-18 - For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet - I can count all my bones - they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.

Many of those who heard Jesus' cry of "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" would have immediately begun singing this Psalm in their heads, and would have realized that even from the cross, Jesus was proving to them that He was and is the Messiah, and that His crucifixion was the fulfillment of prophecy from centuries earlier.  

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for Who You are and for all You have done!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Why I Stopped Brushing My Teeth

About three years ago I stopped brushing my teeth. It wasn't a conscious decision; it just happened slowly over time. I kind of lost interest. It's a lot of work. I'm really busy. I don't really see how brushing helps me in any way.

I stopped going to the dentist, too. He just made me feel bad. He reminded me that he thought it was important for me to brush my teeth at least twice a day, preferably more. I guess it works for him, but it's just not for me. I'm doing fine without it.

I'm pretty sure my friends don't notice. After all, how can my own decision hurt anyone else, especially if it's not hurting me?

If you ask me one-on-one, I will admit to you that I sort-of think tooth brushing is important. I own a couple of toothbrushes, stored conveniently in my bathroom. I know how to brush; I just don't want to. It's not that important to my own life.

I do make my kids brush their teeth. When I talk about it with them, they think I brush my teeth all the time. I'm sure they can't tell that I don't.

Yes, this line of thinking sounds ludicrous. But have we used similar excuses about reading the Bible?

(P.S. - I brush my teeth regularly, AND I read my Bible regularly.  Both are vital in my life!)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Are We Listening?

In 2 Chronicles 36 we read about the result of Israel's long-term, nation-wide disobedience to the Lord.  Verses 15-16 contain a summary statement:

"The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place.  But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD rose against his people, until there was no remedy."

At this point the nation was conquered and the survivors were taken into captivity in Babylon for 70 years.  

I shiver as I read this pronouncement, and I find myself asking, "How well do I listen to the LORD?"  Today we don't have prophets - we have God's Word, the Bible, a permanent written record of God's messages to His people.  Am I listening to Him through daily reading His Word and being sensitive to the leading of His Holy Spirit?  Am I paying attention to the wise counsel of God-honoring teachers and leaders?  Even more than listening - am I putting it into practice?

Or am I basically "mocking the messengers and scoffing at the prophets"?  *Shiver*

As for me and my house, we will listen to and follow God's Holy Word.  We will build our lives around what He has told us to do, obeying Him to the best of our ability, and asking for His forgiveness when we fail.  We will listen to those who faithfully teach His Word, and consider carefully the wise counsel of others who likewise seek to follow the Lord faithfully.

Will you do the same?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Making Peace with our Fears

Fear can be a very negative thing.  One can read any of a number of books or articles about various phobias that hurt people's lives.  We have all probably experienced some level of irrational, even limiting, fear from time to time.  Indeed, this kind of fear is not good, and we should work to overcome it.

In partial contrast, I want to focus a moment on the positive side of fear.  I'm not a psychologist, but as a pastor, a husband, a father, and a man who's lived with his own fears a long time, I have a few thoughts I'd like to suggest about why I embrace some of my fears.

My fears balance my impulsive tendencies.  Fear of financial damage curbs the tendency toward impulsive spending.  Fear of getting a ticket helps keep my driving under control.  Fear of "getting caught" weakens the enticing power of many daily temptations.

I have a fear of letting people down. This leads me to fulfill my obligations, follow through with my promises, and persevere even when I don't feel like completing the task to which I have committed.

I have a fear of hurting my family.  This leads me to guard my marriage and not let any other relationship surpass the relationships I have with my wife and my kids.  This keeps me from pursuing any of a number of titillating explorations that would cause irreparable damage to my family.

I have a fear of emotionally scarring my children.  This leads me to temper my moments of anger and measure my words carefully.  This leads me to apologize when I've blown it, and to admit to them that I am not perfect, but I too am growing and learning.

I have a fear of portraying the Lord as anything other than Who He is.  This leads me to carefully read the Scriptures and learn all He has revealed about Himself.  This guides me to choose carefully the authors I read so I am constantly filling my mind with thoughts that are Scripturally accurate.  This causes me to be very careful in how I speak of the Lord to others - to represent Him well.  It's not that He needs good P.R., but I absolutely don't want to be guilty of causing anyone to think about Him incorrectly.

Fears can be a good thing.  When we make peace with our fears, and see the good side of them, we can accept the good and God-honoring boundaries they provide, then move forward with confidence and joy.  

If our  fears turn to something dark, we go back to God, and remember many passages like Psalm 56:3-4: "When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. ...In God I trust; I shall not be afraid."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Plans of Man - and God's "No"

In 2 Samuel 7 and 1 Chronicles 17, we read about a time when David made a bold plan to serve the Lord.  He wanted to build a temple - a permanent place where the Lord would be worshiped.

What a wonderful goal this was!  Even Nathan the prophet immediately confirmed the plan, saying, "Go, do all that is in your heart, for the LORD is with you" (1 Sam. 7:3).

Then something changed.  The Lord appeared to Nathan and told him to tell David, "No."  God had given David many blessings, and throughout history since we have seen those blessings unfold.  But the privilege of building a temple would not go to David.  David had a great plan, but God said, "No."

As I ponder this, I think about all the times I think of something great I want to do to please God.  I have big dreams, and in my heart I truly want to honor the Lord - this is good and right.  But sometimes as I set out in one direction or another, I hear the Lord say, "No."  Sometimes it startles me.  Sometimes I am tempted to protest - to defend my plan - to tell the Lord what a good idea it was, because surely He didn't understand it fully before giving a negative answer. This may seem silly, but this is how my mind works (and perhaps yours does as well).

David accepted God's "No."  I am wise when I do the same.

As we read in Proverbs, "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand" (19:21, see also 16:1 and 16:9).  In James we read that we "ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that'" (4:15).  We can plan - and we should plan - but those plans should always be subject to the leading of the Lord.  God's ways are truly best!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Laws of Love

God has given us His Word, filled with glimpses of His love and His character.  The Bible is a treasure chest filled with endless gems more valuable than anything this world can offer.

Sometimes I hear (or read) people's ideas that the Bible is just a bunch of antiquated lists of things to do or not do.  Most of those people express - either explicitly or implicitly - that God is just some kind of cosmic killjoy with rules that don't apply to today's society.

This idea is prevalent outside the church, but I have found shadows of this kind of thinking even inside the church.  Sometimes it seems the boundaries God has set for our lives are - well - inconvenient.  Sometimes they seem too hard to follow.  We may (consciously or subconsciously) even try to pick and choose the things we want to follow and then ignore the rest.  Rules feel restrictive, and by nature we tend to want to rebel against them.

Perhaps we need to think a little differently about this altogether.  Please allow me illustrate.

I love my children more than I can possibly express.  My exuberant four-year-old is obsessed with jumping on furniture, or jumping from the sofa to the floor, or other kinds of daredevil activities.  She is unaware of the dangers; she just wants to play.  She thinks I am unfair when I tell her not to jump on the furniture or jump down from a high place.  Even when she has gotten hurt while doing these things, she still desires them, and pursues them again and again.  Because I love her, I keep enforcing the rules - to protect her and to help her grow up to be healthy and strong.  We have even purchased her a little exercise trampoline that she can jump on at any time - in hopes she will enjoy jumping on that instead of on the furniture.

We keep these boundaries out of our love for her.  The same is true of the boundaries we keep on all three of our children: limits for internet usage, time limits when playing video games, limits on eating sweets, etc.  These boundaries are expressions of our love for them and our desire to help them be healthy emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually.

The same is true of the boundaries the Lord sets on our lives.  These are expressions of His love for us.  If I stay within the boundaries, I will find much joy, safety, and blessing.  These are laws of love from my Heavenly Father, and I will do well to follow them with obedience and gratitude.  

Within those boundaries there is still much freedom.  I take much joy in my time with my wife and children.  I enjoy many material blessings (probably too many) He has graciously provided.  I have wonderful friendships with many people.  I am so blessed!  When I spend time enjoying these blessings, I temporarily forget about some of the enticing things that are outside the boundaries.  

Adam and Eve were given access to every tree in the Garden of Eden except one.  Yet it was the one that drew their attention, and their first step outside of God's boundaries began thousands of years of sin and pain in our world.  Likewise, when we step outside God's boundaries, venturing into sin, there will be inevitable pain.  Let's stay within God's laws of love and find great joy in all He has given us.