Time to Get Outside?

Embracing the Powerful Witness of Creation

How long has it been since you’ve gone outside and spent time considering the majesty of God through the lens of His marvelous creation?

I’ve always loved the outdoors. Born and raised in southern California, my family lived in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains, spent a lot of time in the desert, and got out to the coast every chance we could. Sometimes Dad would announce on the way home from church on Sunday mornings, “Why don’t we head down to the beach for the day?” Off we’d go, staying until 9 or 10 o’clock in the evening.   (more…)

When It’s Hard to Forgive

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Matthew 6:12

Pánfilo de Narváez, the noted Spanish conquistador, was a solider, explorer, and nobleman in the service of King Charles V during the Middle Ages. He was also violent and ruthless in the administration of his duties and in the living of his rough and tumble life. When Narváez lay dying, his father-confessor asked him whether he had forgiven all of his enemies. He looked astonished and said, “Father, I have no enemies, I have shot them all.”

What do you do with your enemies in life? I ask because I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of us, figuratively at least, shoot them…sometimes over and over again.

You can talk about what forgiveness is and what it isn’t, you can talk about its benefits in both the receiving and extending of it, and you can talk about its necessity in our lives…again, on both the receiving and extending ends. But here’s the deal: sometimes forgiveness is incredibly difficult. In fact, shooting somebody down is generally a much easier and more convenient proposition. Hear what David Augsburger writes about this, because his words are powerful:

Forgiveness is hard. Especially in a relationship, any kind of relationship, tense with past troubles, tormented by fears of rejection and humiliation, and torn by suspicion and distrust. Forgiveness hurts. Especially when it must be extended to someone who doesn’t deserve it, who hasn’t earned it, and who may misuse it. Forgiveness costs. Especially when it means accepting instead of demanding repayment for the wrong done; where it means releasing the other instead of exacting revenge; where it means reaching out in love instead of relinquishing resentments.

It’s hard. It hurts. It costs. That’s why forgiveness is often so fraught with difficulty.

Still, the art of forgiving — and it is indeed an art — is a spiritual grace every Christian should develop, and ultimately must develop. God’s Word is clear: if we don’t forgive others, then neither will our heavenly Father forgive us. I understand how hard it is. I tend to be a “ready, fire, aim” person myself. It’s easier for me to shoot first and ask questions later, and it’s easier for me in my hurt, pain, and sorrow to mow someone down than to make peace with them. The bottom line, in fact, is that it’s just much easier to hate my enemies instead of love them and pray for them. But here’s the deal: they need to be loved and prayed for…and I need the release that comes from making that conscious, though difficult, choice. And you know what? So do you.

If it’s as hard for you as it is for me to forgive at times, I want to invite you to join me in confessing that to the Lord and asking for His help today. And because forgiveness is so necessary and yet sometimes so difficult to put into practice, I’d like to close this post by sharing some practical suggestions about how we can begin to intentionally move from merely knowing about forgiveness and its importance, to being actual forgivers who experience God’s intended blessings through this very special gift that He has given to us. I’ve adapted the following eight points from Dr. Roy Smith, the late, great Methodist pastor who had to learn, by God’s grace, to do these things in his own life. I pray they’ll be a help to us all.

1) Begin by assuring yourself that compared to Christ’s suffering you haven’t been seriously wronged at all.

2) Recall the many kind deeds that have been shown to you, perhaps even by the person who has harmed you.

3) List the benefits you have received from the Lord.

4) Thank Him for blessing you with His love and forgiveness each day.

5) Make an honest effort to pray for the one who has injured you.

6) Go even further by looking for an opportunity to help him or her.

7) If the offense is especially hard to forget, try to erase the memory by thinking gracious and generous thoughts.

8) Finally, before you fall asleep at night, repeat slowly and thoughtfully that phrase from the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”

God’s grace and mercy be with each of you in our Lord Jesus, friends. Go in peace, and take care!

A Day to Remember.

Here in the United States, today is Memorial Day. It’s a day that means many different things to people — the unofficial start of summer, a three-day weekend, sales at the stores. Memorial Day weekend includes the running of the Indianapolis 500, family gatherings, backyard cookouts, and for many towns, the opening of the community pool.

Memorial Day is all of those things on the American landscape — but in its intended expression, it is none of those things. Memorial Day, at its heart, is a day of remembrance for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure our country’s freedom: for the men and women of our armed forces who have given their all for the cause of liberty.

Early this morning, in brisk manner, our country’s flag was raised to the top of the staff, just as it is every morning. But today, upon reaching its customary place, it was slowly lowered back down to the half-staff position. It will remain that way until noon, and then it will be raised again to full-staff for rest of the day. The half-staff position is a somber tribute to the million-plus men and women who have given their lives in the service of our country. The return to full-staff at noon is symbolic of their memory being raised by their countrymen, whose resolve is that their sacrifice not be in vain. Even as they mourn, the living rise up on behalf of the fallen to continue in the noble commitment to liberty and justice for all.

Today is such a good time, regardless of your party affiliation or your feelings about the current political climate in our world, to pause. Think about those who laid down their lives so that you can live free. Think about their sacrifice. Remember their commitment to you. If you’re wondering how you might do that in concert with others, there’s a perfect opportunity at 3 o’clock, when our National Moment of Remembrance commences and all Americans are asked to stop what they’re doing to pause and remember the fallen. It’s a fitting way to spend part of this last Monday in May.

As Christians who know what it is to have a Savior, this day takes on an even deeper meaning. We understand the cost in a different way than others do. As we remember those who gave everything for this nation, its citizenry, and the ideals for which it strives, our hearts can’t help but make the jump to what Christ, through His life, His sacrificial death, and His resurrection achieved for us. The cross is where Jesus paid it all. The empty tomb is His announcement of liberty. In Him, we are truly free.

May this Memorial day be one of praise, thanksgiving, and solemn joy for you today, friends. Remember those who have gone before you and paid a great price on your behalf. Remember also the One who in His own body paid the price for your redemption. Freedom is never free…neither in the realm of the temporal or the eternal. Today we can stand grateful for both.

Press On

The victory is coming - really.

When my son was a young boy, he embarked on a quest to build the perfect Pinewood Derby car for Cub Scouts. He took part in his first Derby one spring, and his car earned 1st place in his age group and 3rd place overall.

That taste of victory, not to mention the huge trophy that he lugged home with him, launched him into endless hours of research on drag coefficients, weight distribution, comparison of wheel lubricants, and even mental race preparation exercises. He was absolutely convinced that though he hadn’t yet achieved the pinnacle of racing glory, it was within his grasp, and he was determined to go after it with all his might. You have to love that kind of focus, even if it does seem a little overboard! The greatest thing of all, at least from my perspective? In the process of making that journey, even though he didn’t realize it at the time, my boy was learning a ton.

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January’s Over…Now What?

It's not too late for a great 2017!

A boy said to his father, “Dad, if three frogs were sitting on a limb that hung over a pool, and one frog decided to jump off into the pool, how many frogs would be left on the limb?”

The dad replied, “Two.”

“No,” the son replied. “There are three frogs and one decides to jump, how many are left?”

The dad said, “Oh, I get it, if one decides to jump, the others would too. So there are none left.”

The boy said, “No Dad, the answer is three. The frog only DECIDED to jump.”

Does that sound familiar? Is that what your typical New Year’s formula looks like each January? Great inspiration, great resolutions…but you only decide…you never execute?  If you’re like a lot of people, three, six, even 12 months later you still find yourself on that same old limb of do-nothing — and it seems like you’ll be there forever.

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