Wednesday, April 8, 2015


And I saw a new heaven… And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God… “Behold the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them.  (Revelation 21:1a, 2a, 3b)

Revelation chapters 21 and 22 are the most descriptive passage about heaven in the Bible.  It is plain in the verses above and the rest of these two chapters that we will not spend eternity sitting on clouds playing harps, but living in the heavenly new Jerusalem.  Notice how much emphasis is placed upon the fact that God will dwell with His people in this beautiful city.  It will be heavenly because God will be there, and He will outshine all else.  It will be a place of joy, purity, peace, and life, simply because God is all this and so much more.  Heaven is not a place where everything pleases us, but a place where everything pleases God… and consequently pleases us if we are His children.

And because there is a heaven, there must be a hell.  There must be a place for everything that does not belong in heaven.  God is who and what He is.  He cannot and will not change to accommodate mankind’s selfish, hard-hearted, and sinful ways.  He paid a great price in the death of His Son on the cross to provide for our forgiveness.  When we accept that forgiveness, we become children of God by new birth.  Something God-like is born in us, and as it grows and matures, we become more and more like Him.  When we die what remains of our sinful, rebellious old self will fall away, and as children of God we will joyfully take our eternal place with God.  If we fail to accept God’s offer, rejecting His forgiveness and the new life that can be ours in Christ, we will be stuck with who and what we are.  Just consider this for a minute – do you really want to live for eternity stuck with yourself as you are, separated from God and His city of life and light?  Think of the regret, the despair, and the endless replaying of the bitter memories of this life.                                                                          
The longer I live, the more I long to be with God.  We were made to love and be loved by God.  We were made to be with Him.  Why settle for anything less, now and throughout eternity?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


“Awake, sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”  Ephesians 5:14b

When I read this passage I hear is the voice of my father saying, “Rise and shine”.  Like most teenagers all I wanted to do was to sleep in on Saturday mornings, especially this time of year.  My brother and I slept in a large room over our garage that was poorly insulated, and had only one small heating vent.  Snuggled up in flannel sheets under about 5 blankets it took a lot of will-power to get out of bed and get dressed in our frigid bedroom.  Things looked up as soon as I got to the hallway, because I would be met with enticing odors of pancakes, waffles, or Dad’s famous potatoes and eggs.  We needed a good breakfast, because it would inevitably be followed by a day of work outside. 
This time of year, late February, we would be making maple syrup.  On our three acre lot, in the woods behind us, and in our neighbors lot (with their permission) we would tap about 100 maple trees.  We hand drilled holes in the trees about three feet off the ground, tapped in a spout, and hung up a pail.  As the weather got up above freezing, sap would run up the trees in the day time, and then back down as it cooled below freezing at night.  Each time the sap ran, we got some in the buckets.  Maple tree sap has a mildly sweet “green” taste. I enjoyed taking a sip once in a while.  It takes about 50 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup.  We would collect the sap several times during the week if it was running well.  Then on Saturdays we would build a wood fire under the boiler, which was a shallow pan about 3 feet wide and 6 feet long.  You can’t imagine how wonderful it smelled as it boiled!  By Saturday evening it would be down almost to the bottom, so we would pour it off, take it to an old stove in the basement, and finish boiling it down to the proper sugar content.  Dad liked to get a high sugar content, so we invariably had maple sugar candy forming on the bottom of the canning jars after a month or two.
Yes, it was a lot of work, but no, I don’t look back on those Saturdays as child abuse.  It was fun, and those times are some of my fondest childhood memories.  If I had a large yard with maple trees, I would make it today.  But the main reason those times mean so much to me was that they were times working with Dad.  Including my brother and me in his work was one of my Father’s love languages.  He included us in whatever he was doing.  He loved to teach us what he knew.  He wanted to help us grow up into competent, self-assured men.  And Saturdays weren't always work days, we also got to join him hunting and fishing. 

I think one of God’s love languages is including us in what He is doing.  Isn't that what Jesus did with His disciples?  He took them with Him as He taught, healed, and proclaimed the good news of the Kingdom.  He showed them how to fish for men, and He patiently taught them what it means to be godly.  Yes, the work of the Kingdom is often hard work, just like making maple syrup, but the reward is that we get to join God in His work, and learn His ways.  He teaches us how to serve.  He teaches us how to listen and follow the quiet voice of the Spirit.  He gently corrects our bad attitudes, pride, and self-centered ways.  And best of all, we get to be with Him through it all, and see in His eyes the love of a Father who loves to be with His children.  Rise and shine.

Monday, February 9, 2015


Deep, Down, Dark by Hector Tobar is the true story about 33 men who were trapped in a mine in Chile (I highly recommend this book).  The main entrance to the San Jose’ mine and all avenues of escape were blocked by an enormous slab of rock the size of a skyscraper.  Realizing that they very well might not come out alive, the men ask Henriquez, a man they called the Pastor, to pray.  Why did they ask him?  The reason was simple.  In their words “as soon as he opens his mouth and begins to talk it’s clear that he knows how to speak of God and to God.”  Henriquez asks them to get on their knees in a posture of humility before God and he prays.  Soon men are asking God to forgive them for their drunkenness, for cheating on their wives, for their tempers, and for the way they have treated their children.  Praying together becomes a daily ritual, and after their times of prayer they ask forgiveness from each other for their sharp words and unkindness’s.  In mine disasters, as in fox holes, there are no atheists.  Men in times of crisis faced with their mortality realize that they will have to answer to God.

It is hard to read a book like Deep Down Dark and not think about how I would react in a similar situation.  Would I, like Henriquez, be that solid godly man that others would turn to?  Do my co-workers see me as someone who knows how to speak of God and to God?  Would I be able to confidently take them in prayer before God?  Could I bring them hope day after day as their meagre food supply of a few cans of tuna and a handful of cookies dwindled to nothing?  Could I stand firm in faith as death stared me in the face?  God, help me, help us all, to be men and women like Henriquez.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial… Christian brotherhood is a spiritual and not a psychic reality.       Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I have experienced some wonderful expressions of Christian community.  A group of us at college found such life and joy together that we gathered every day after classes to pray and study the Bible.  God was so present, so real.  Likewise while I was serving in the Army Barb and I found sweet fellowship among fellow soldiers and their families, but God had even more in store for us.  Just days after moving into base housing, while on our way to buy groceries in a nearby town, we saw the sign, “Jesus People Meet Here”.  We showed up on Sunday and met a group of Jesus People, complete with long hair, a van painted with flowers, and guitars (only organs and pianos were considered proper back then in church).  We just couldn't seem to get enough worship and fellowship on base with our Army friends, or off base with our hippie friends.  Our homes were open, and we gladly shared what we had.  There was not a Saturday that we went to preach in the county jail that someone didn't get saved, even while men at the back of the cell made fun of them.
Those times were a gift from God, and it is right for me to cherish them, but the memory of them has tripped me up in recent years.  I keep looking for that same beautiful feeling of community.  I keep trying to find or create a church experience that will match what we had back then.  Maybe if we were in a small church.  Maybe if we held church in homes.  Maybe if we did away with bulletins and an order of worship, and we just let the Spirit lead us.  Maybe if…  The reality is, though, I never will find what I am looking for, because the ideal that I hold is not real and it never was.  If I am honest with myself I will realize that there were undercurrents and problems back then just as there are now.  There was hidden sin.  There was gossip.  There was competition.  There was all that my (now) more mature/ discerning eyes see in every church and every Christian organization that I am and ever have been a part of.
So, what is wrong with the church?  Maybe nothing.  Maybe church as you and I experience it is truly the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.  After all, what is the church?  It is as Dietrich Bonhoeffer states above a spiritual reality.  It is made up of every truly born again man and woman on earth, and local churches are simply communities of these believers.  When we are born again we become as Paul states in 2 Corinthians 5:17 a new creation.  But if we stop here, we will have an incomplete picture of the kind of people who make up churches.  We will expect every member to always act like the Jesus of the Bible – after all, are we not born again into His image?  Yes, but that is not all we are.  Along with being a new creation in Christ Jesus, we are also still men and women in the flesh, with an old nature to deal with.  Paul gets very honest about his old nature in Romans 7:21, where he states that, “evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good.”  This reminds me of those cartoons, where someone is pictured with an angel on one shoulder, and a devil on the other.  Keeping this in mind will help us accept the “real” churches we all attend.  Reality is that none of us lives completely out of our new natures. 
So, as we walk into church on Sunday, or meet with friends from church, what should be our attitude and our expectations?  Firstly I think we all need to approach our relationships in church with humility.  I’m still very prone to live out of my old nature, and that means I will need your forgiveness, your patience, and your understanding.  It also means that you will need to be honest with me from time to time, and tell me when you see something un-Christ like in my behavior.  (Please do it gently and in love.)  You see, I need you, and you need me.  God has given us each a piece of what is needed to make church work and be a healthy place.  Together we have what we all need.  Though at times it might seem like it would be easier to just go it on our own, that will not work. The life of my Lord Jesus is in you, and that life flows to me when I am with you.  Wow, I better respect, honor, and value you! 

Real church is always a mixed bag, and if you are in it long, you will be hurt and knocked around a bit - or maybe a lot.  But cheer up, it won’t be long until Jesus comes and finishes in us what He began.  We will leave behind these bodies of flesh, leave behind what remains of our sin nature, and be fully conformed into His image.  Then “real” church will be really great, my ideal and yet SO much more.

Thursday, December 11, 2014


Our Father who art in heaven, hollowed by Thy name.  Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  (Matthew 6:9b-10 NAS)

I have prayed this prayer hundreds, if not thousands of times, maybe you have too, without giving a lot of thought as to just how God will answer it.  Certainly there is a sense in which it needs to be fulfilled in me – God’s will being done in my life.  If I am a follower of Jesus, then He is my King, and I am in His kingdom.  God, help me to be obedient in all aspects of my life.  Establish Your kingdom in me.  In a broader sense I pray for Him to reign over my marriage and over the families of all my children and grandchildren. 

There is also a sense in which this prayer should be fulfilled in our churches.  If Jesus is truly the Head of our churches, then His will is being done in and through us as individuals and as a community.  We will be a kingdom community, representing Jesus to the world.  People will see in our communities the love, the unity, the healing, the health, and the life of Jesus. 

As I have recently meditated on Revelation chapters four and five. It’s the longer term piece of “Thy kingdom come” that has come into clearer focus.  Chapter four is a beautiful picture of heaven as John saw it in his Revelation vision.  He sees the Father, the One, sitting on His throne surrounded by a rainbow before a sea of glass.  Angels and majestic creatures hard to describe sing His praises, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, Who was and who is and who is to come.” (Revelation 4:8b NAS)  In this place of beauty, majesty, peace, and glory God’s will is done – before One so great how could it be otherwise?  When we pray “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” (Matthew 6:10) we are asking God to bring the earth into this same beauty, peace, and Godly order.  Given the turmoil, injustice, war, and death we see all round us, is that possible?  How could it be accomplished?

John’s vision gives us the answer.  Revelation chapter five pictures the Father on His throne with a scroll in His hand, which is sealed with seven seals.  Ancient wills, contracts, and other legal documents would be written on parchment and then sealed like this.  No one was found worthy to take the scroll and open its seals until the Lion of the tribe of Jacob (Jesus) steps forward.  When He takes the scroll John then sees Him as a Lamb, but a Lamb with seven horns and seven eyes, which could indicate that He carries absolute power, authority, and knowledge.  All heaven breaks forth in worship to the Father and the Lamb.  Jesus has conquered death and hell and sin, redeeming a people for God from every tribe, tongue, and nation.  His victory proves His worth.  He then opens the seals one by one, and things start to happen on earth.  Over the next sixteen chapters of Revelation God’s judgement is poured out on all unrighteousness; people, nations and kings are judged; God’s redeemed people are gathered to Him; and a new heaven and earth appear with their crown jewel, the New Jerusalem, where the Father and the Son will dwell with God’s people forever.  All tears will be wiped away, the tree of life will be in full bloom, and the river of life will run free through the city.

Wow!  That will be “Thy kingdom come".   God’s will will be done on earth as it is in heaven, because heaven has now come to earth.  Those of us who follow Jesus, who trust in His saving grace, have all this to look forward to.  What a hope!  What a future!  I for one am going to ratchet up my prayers for the kingdom to come.

Monday, November 10, 2014


Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst (or within your grasp).” (Luke 17:20-21 ASV, ESV)
The Pharisees in one respect were ahead of most of us - they knew that the kingdom of God was coming, and they were looking for it.  They knew well Old Testament passages like Isaiah 9:6-7
For a child will be born to us, a Son will be given to us; and the government will be upon His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.  There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore.  The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.
And who wouldn't prefer David’s greater Son as King in place of the iron fist of Rome?  The Pharisees, however, were wrong about what the King would look like, and how His kingdom would come.  This humble, poor, simple man in front of them surely could not be He.  And where were the armies that would follow Him into battle as He pushed the Romans into the sea – this rag-tag group of fishermen following Jesus?  A kingdom that would not come with signs to be observed didn't sound like much of a kingdom.  Even if it was in their midst, they didn't seem to be too excited about finding it.
One Pharisees, however, Nicodemus, really wanted to know how to enter the kingdom of God, so Jesus told him, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God… you must be born again.”  (John 3:5b, 7b)  So, if you are born again, you have the privilege of entering the kingdom of God, but what does that mean?  Most of us, I think, just throw around that term, kingdom of God, without giving it much thought.  Let’s take a closer look.
First of all it must mean that I have a King, and His name is Jesus.  He is rightful King in the kingdom of God, because, as the angel told Mary in Luke 2:32, “the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.”  Jesus was born the King of the kingdom of God, just like any earthly king is born into a family of kings.  Secondly if I am in His kingdom, I am expected to live under His authority, His rule, and His law. But as with all good kings, I am also under His protection, and His care.  I can trust Him to provide all that I need.  Bottom line: my life is not my own, nor is any of the stuff I call my own – it all belongs to King Jesus.  I trust myself fully to Him.

Being Americans in the kingdom of God requires some adjustment in our thinking.  We love our independence, our democracy, our freedoms, our life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  It is all about us.  In the kingdom of God, however, it is all about Jesus.  So, do we lose or gain upon entering the Kingdom of God?  We lose bondage to sin, and gain life and true freedom; we (hopefully) lose our stubborn self-will and independence, and gain simple faith and trust in good King Jesus; we lose control of our lives (control is an illusion anyway), and gain a Good Shepherd to lead us; and we avoid the eternal suffering and regret of all who remain outside the kingdom of God, and gain a place with King Jesus ruling and reigning with Him forever.  Sound good?  Think kingdom.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


Some of Jesus’ parables just don’t sound right the first time you read them.  Take for instance the parable of the unjust steward in Luke 16:1-9.  The manager of a rich man’s estate heard that he was going to be fired.  While he still had control of his master’s accounts, he went to several people who were in debt to his master, and reduced the amount of their debt.  His reasoning was that by doing so they would owe him favours, which he could cash in on after he was let go.  Now for the puzzling part – the steward’s master praised him for acting shrewdly!  At this point I’m expecting Jesus to condemn the steward for his dishonesty, but instead he says, “the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.  And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the mammon of unrighteousness; that when it fails, they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” (Luke 16:8b-9).  Think on that for a minute…
Here is my take on it:  The point of the parable is not “the dishonest get ahead”, but be smart (shrewd) about how you handle money.  People in the world, the sons of this age as Jesus calls them, use money to their advantage to get ahead in this life.  All they have is this life, so they are acting wisely in that respect.  Of course from an eternal perspective they are acting foolishly, but that is addressed in some other parables. Jesus then shifts to us, the sons of light, and tells us to use money, the mammon of unrighteousness, wisely.  Handling money wisely is using it to make friends who will receive us into their eternal dwellings.  Those of us who are followers of Jesus have a place prepared for us by Jesus in the Father’s house.  I think that when we get to heaven we will recognize each other, and remember aspects of our life as it now is.  I plan to get together with those in the church I've known and loved, and celebrate all that we did together.  There are specific people that have invested in my life, who have helped me at a difficult point in my life, that I want to thank and bless for all that they did.  Our actions do matter, and that includes how we use resources (money and other resources) that we have at our disposal.  The more we give, the more we invest in others, the more we will have to celebrate with them in heaven.
We as Christians can invest our money in our churches, missionary work, and good local ministries like Youth For Christ.  We all have a certain amount of money at our disposal, the question is, how are we using it?  But let’s not stop there, we all have time, talents, and skills that can be used to bless others.  The men of Hope House, a local inner city ministry to those dealing with substance abuse, found out that I regularly go backpacking.  “Oh, we sure would like to do that some time.”  I then had a choice to make, would I take the time and make the effort to take them or just tell them, “well, maybe someday you will get the chance to go.”  So I pulled all the equipment down from the attic, set up five backpacks for them, and off we went for a three day hike on the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania.  They had a great time – so great that they want to hike the whole 2000 mile trail, and use it to help raise money for their ministry.  What can you do with what you have at your disposal?  What’s in your wallet?  What’s in your attic?