Tuesday, September 25, 2018


We all wonder what God is up to at times. So many confusing things happen, and we question how this could fit into God’s plans. Why are these difficult problems in my life, and why aren’t they getting better? Why do difficult people surround me? Why do our prayers seem to go unanswered? Is He letting things happen that bring me harm? The definition of faith is trusting God when we don’t know what is happening. There are those moments though when we look back with insight and say, “Now I know why that happened.”

The prophet Jeremiah wrote a letter to the exiles in Babylon. The deportees were wondering where God was at and what He was doing. It felt like He had forgotten them. Psalm 137 gives a little insight into the mental mindset of the people. They were living in Babylon, but all they longed for was to go back to Jerusalem. They were sad and defeated. They were a depressed people who hung up their instruments, and at the same time they had hung up all their aspirations. When given the opportunity to share some joy with someone, they had none to share. They lived as if any day they would receive word that their captivity was over and they would be going back home. They held resentment and terrible hatred toward their captors. They wished for the worst to come upon these Babylonian tyrants. They thought that Jerusalem was their only source of joy—their highest joy as they called it. But it had been plundered and destroyed by the ravaging armies of Nebuchadnezzar (Ps 137:1-9).

Jeremiah’s letter told them to "Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease.  Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jer 29:5-8).

Notice the verbs: build, settle, plant, eat, marry, have, find, give, seek, and pray. Remember this word comes from the Lord to His people in a time when they are in exile. At a time when their world has been turned upside down. They are being held captive against their will and prohibited from returning home, and yet God tells them to put down roots and establish His presence in this city they don’t like.

Then the letter said this, "When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jer 29:10-11).

When you understand that God’s promises of hope are plans to prosper His people while they are in the middle of their lonely trials, that changes your life. He plans to do this not by taking them out but by teaching them how to live where they live. God works in the middle of our afflictions. While we may want to escape our difficult circumstances in life, God wants to encourage us with the plans He as for us right where we are.

Jeremiah encouraged the Israelites in Babylon to work on their families. Raise families and help your children to raise families. Your business won’t matter at the end of your life. Your fame won’t matter. Your accomplishments won’t matter in the end, but your relationship with your family will matter. It can be a grind to work on your family. Sometimes it is easier to do something else or even start a new family. However, the rich fulfillment from a family that loves each other takes a lot of hard work.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018


Over 70% of the earth is covered by the sea that averages a depth of 2 ½ miles. Why do we need so much salt water on this earth? The sea is God’s cleansing agent for this planet. It is his antiseptic solution to our waste that would destroy us. It cleanses and preserves our world, making it fit to live in. The rivers wash away the pollutants that we create, and the sea cleanses them. The sun heats the sea, causing only pure, clean water vapor to float up and form clouds that bring us rain. Forgiveness is that cleansing agent that clears out the emotional waste in our lives, and people who forgive are called magnanimous.

The quality of being magnanimous describes those who have a lofty spirit that enables them to bear trouble calmly. They also disdain meanness and pettiness by displaying generosity and forgiveness. It is bigness of heart versus pettiness of mind. Magnanimous people are rare because we haven’t been trained to be big-hearted. We have seen too many models that have been petty and small minded. One of my favorite magnanimous people is Abraham Lincoln.

Doris Goodwin, in an excellent book entitled Team of Rivals, tells the following story about Abraham Lincoln. In 1855 Lincoln was asked to be part of the most critical law case he had ever been involved in. He was hired to assist a very distinguished Philadelphia firm headed by George Harding, a nationally renowned patent specialist. Harding had been employed by the John Manny Company of Rockford, Illinois, to defend its mechanical reaping machine against a patent infringement charge brought by Cyrus McCormick, the original inventor of the reaper. Lincoln was glad to accept the fee and the work. Though the case was slated to be tried in Chicago, it was moved to Cincinnati. With that move, Lincoln was no longer needed, but no one bothered to inform him. He continued to prepare and showed up in Cincinnati for the trial.

When he first encountered Attorneys George Harding and Edwin Stanton, a successful patent attorney in Ohio, they treated him contemptuously. Stanton drew Harding aside and whispered, “Why did you bring that long-armed Ape here . . . he does not know any thing and can do you no good.” With that, Stanton and Harding turned from Lincoln and continued to court on their own. In the days that followed, Stanton “managed to make it plain to Lincoln” that he was expected to remove himself from the case. Lincoln did withdraw, though he remained in Cincinnati to hear the arguments. Harding never opened Lincoln’s manuscript, “so sure that it would be only trash.”[i] 

Throughout that week, Lincoln was marginalized and ignored. Though Lincoln had to feel hurt and most likely a desire to leave immediately, he didn’t. When the hearing was over, Lincoln complimented Stanton’s brilliance in the courtroom. He told Ralph Emerson (a Manny partner) that he was going home “to study law.” He wanted to be better prepared to meet these kinds of lawyers when they came west.

No one would have imagined that in just five years Lincoln would be catapulted to the presidency. When it came time to pick a Secretary of War, he chose Edwin Stanton, despite his horrible behavior toward him at their last meeting. Lincoln had a singular ability to transcend any bitterness and make friends of many of his enemies because of his magnanimous spirit. As for Stanton, despite his initial contempt for Lincoln, he accepted the offer and came to love and respect the president.

[i] Goodwin, Doris Kearns. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (pp. 173-179). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018


I watched my grandson yesterday at his five-year-old birthday party, and he was excited. He had enough exhilaration for the whole family. Enthusiasm is contagious, you want to get on board when you see it. Enthusiasm is a strong excitement of feeling. We describe people who are serious about their work as people who do their job with enthusiasm. The kind of passion I am referring to embraces life itself—not from a selfish point of view but from the viewpoint of a disciple of Christ. Is it possible, however, to maintain an enthusiasm for your entire life? The answer is an emphatic yes!

The Bible is full of people who enthusiastically followed Christ no matter what the cost. Hebrews names many of them,  Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, they saw God shut the mouths of lions, quench the fury of the flames, rout entire armies. Many of these faithful men and women while refusing to allow their enthusiasm to wane were tortured, jeered and flogged. The writer says “the world was not worthy of them” (Hebrews 11:32-38).

How do we live this Christian life and maintain our enthusiasm for the Gospel while facing trials and tribulations like these heroes of the faith? The answer is the same way they did. They were committed to serving God no matter what the cost.

They were people who were genuinely enthused about a purpose bigger than themselves. They saw something beyond a self-focused life. This is an enthusiasm for Christ and the Gospel, and it is sustained over a lifetime. Nothing is more disappointing to an employer to see a new employee lose their energy for the job during their first month. Could this be how God feels when he sees our enthusiasm wane for the Great Commission? We are surrounded by people who are searching for something, but they don’t know what they are looking for. The longing for true spiritual satisfaction goes unfulfilled as people race about trying to find happiness in all the wrong places. Jesus is the only person who can satisfy our spiritual thirst.

We live in a culture of instant gratification where no one is willing to wait. The mentality is “I want my happiness now! People buy what they cannot pay for looking for recognition but only find the futility of worthless things. People jump into relationships without commitment wanting enduring love but only find momentary pleasure. The longing deep down inside is for something more—something greater. Jesus is what people long for but don’t know it. He said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him" (John 7:37). That is true satisfaction!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018


John Newton, a former slave dealer and despicable person, was transformed by the grace of God. He became a pastor and song writer. His songs and writing portray his enormous gratitude to God. We see that gratitude in his remarkable hymn “Amazing Grace.” Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come; 'Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home.

John Newton wrote his own obituary, and it reflects his deep gratitude to God: John Newton, Clerk, once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa, was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned and appointed to preach the faith he had long labored to destroy.[i]

We see people completely ungrateful for what they have. There are so many who have enjoyed abundance and have lived their whole life without experiencing want. They have lacked nothing and yet have no idea of the fortune they have enjoyed. Unfortunately, they have never seen how most of the world actually lives. They are like spoiled and overindulged children and actually believe they deserve this kind of life and even expect it. As a result, this young American generation is angry and ungrateful. Far too many have a "poor me'" mentality causing them to appreciate nothing. They have no regard for family and friends and do not consider God as the source of their blessings. They are petty because they are focused only on their own needs.

Ungratefulness, though it has always been present, seems to be rampant more than ever throughout our culture, and Christians are not immune to this attitude. The apostle Paul aptly describes it this way: “There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God”(2 Tim 3:1-4).

The three things that we see tearing our families and even our entire nation apart are described in these words: Narcissism, which is simply an obsessive love of self. Materialism, which is simply the neurotic addiction for things. Lastly, Hedonism, which is the compulsive pursuit for pleasure. However, none of those things ever really satisfy the deep longing in the soul. That and that alone comes from God. When we really meet him the way that John Newton did, we are transformed by his grace. God will do that for anyone who will simply acknowledges their need.

It is so hard to fight the urge to be praised by others. Some people develop an addiction for this, and it becomes an obsession. We then try the same thing with God, but how foolish we are when we do that. God is not impressed by our deeds, but he is moved when we acknowledge our need. Our greatest need is our need of him!

[i] R.T. Kendall, Just Say Thanks, Lake Mary, Fl, Charisma House, 2005 pp. 25-26.