Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Holy Passion

Posted: October 5, 2020 in Uncategorized

“Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord. That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives” Jeremiah 17:5,6

“A mind not to be changed by place or time. The mind is its own place, and itself can make a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’n.” John Milton

My capacity for evil lurks, never far, always near. I have walked with God imperfectly for half a century. Sin obliterates with the cunning of a snake. It crushed dear friends, destroyed marriages, shattered families, killed faith. I know sin. My own anger burned with murder, my eyes burned with lust, my words spoke death. I am no better than the feral pig that grows tusks and a bristled hide. Apart from God, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9

“He that has light within his own clear breast may sit in the centre, and enjoy bright day: but he that hides a dark soul and foul thoughts benighted walks under the mid-day sun; himself his own dungeon.” John Milton

A hero fell, I cannot adequately communicate the grief, the confusion, the horror I felt yesterday when I read my email. A Pastor betrayed his God, his calling, his church, his community; a betrayal I still cannot grasp. Perhaps I assume dynamic men and women are impervious to the frailties I confront everyday. I never saw his demise coming. The last time I heard this brother preach he brought me to tears, the altars filled with the penitent, elders prayed, the music played. Now I stare at a wasteland of devastated victims and broken saints. I grieve the wickedness of secret sin exposed.

“Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in the secret place.” Psalm 51:5,6

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God.” Psalm 42:1,2

Don’t resort to haughty spiritual pride. Resist self-serving anger at someone else’s sin. Run from a shallow pious nod to the aggrieved. Sin harbors no respect for man’s goodness. What to do? Where to go? Run hard to the Savior. Recognize the weakness of the flesh. Exchange unruly passions for holy passion. St. Augustine said, ” I plunged into the lovely things you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me: I drew breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me and now I burned for your peace.” A candle of righteousness has been temporarily snuffed. You and I must shine brighter for all to see. God remains faithful and true and we are his instruments of healing and hope.

‘Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:4,5

Pray for my fallen brother, his family, his siblings, his parents. Pray for the victims of his sin and their families. Pray for the young pastors in the ungodly firestorm of this affront, for the elders, for the congregation. Revive us, Lord. Heal us. Make us holy even as you are holy. Holy Spirit, fall upon every one of us to the everlasting glory of our Great God. In Jesus name, amen.

The Man In The Water

Posted: October 2, 2020 in Uncategorized

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay one’s life down for one’s friends.”

John 15:13,14

Two days ago Lynn and I pulled into Mattoon, Illinois, a classic rural mid western town, big enough for a Cracker Barrel and a Denny’s, small enough for not much else. Corn fields and I 57 defined its borders. We parked and went into the Honey Bee Diner for breakfast, a great choice for big appetites and friendly people. The town wears the strain of hard times, people are older, the population shrinking. “So this is Mattoon”, I thought.

On January 13, 1982, Air Florida Flight 90 crashed into a bridge spanning the Potomac River. Its wreckage slid into the ice choked water. Only the tail section remained afloat, six survivors clung to jagged edges. Crowds gathered, cameramen videoed, a nation watched a rescue unfold. A helicopter dropped flotation jackets, then a rope ladder. A man grabbed the life jackets and passed them on. He then grabbed the rope and passed it on. The routine repeated itself until all but one person was safe, the selfless man in the water. The helicopter went back to rescue him but he was gone, drowned. That man was Arland D. Williams, age 46, father of two, born and raised in Mattoon, Illinois.

“So the man in the water had his own natural powers. He could not make ice storms, or freeze the water until it froze the blood. But he could hand life over to a stranger, and that is a power of nature too. The man in the water pitted himself against an implacable, impersonal enemy; he fought it with charity; and he held it to a standoff. He was the best we can do.”

New York Times

Arland chose, he acted. The world marveled at his selfless courage. They saw a spark of the divine that everyone craves but few experience. “Love the Lord with all your heart, Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30,31 Who is your neighbor? Do you choose to love the men, women, and children in your life sphere? Are you choosing to share life? Are you presenting the message of the gospel that gives life in words and deeds? God chooses ordinary people. God chose you, he chose me; we are the messengers.

“The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the foreigner, denying them justice. I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.”

Ezekiel 22:29,30

Who will stand in the gap? Heavenly opportunities avail themselves everyday. The extraordinary is born out of the ordinary. No one knew the man in the water, yet Arland Williams saved five lives. Today we must choose how to conduct our lives. I choose to serve the Great God and I choose to love my neighbor as myself. In the end, Christ is all that matters.

Love Jesus

Posted: September 30, 2020 in Uncategorized

The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with his justice and righteousness. He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.

Isaiah 33:5-6

“The fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.” What is the fear of the Lord? E.J. Young says the fear of the Lord is “the complete and entire devotion of the whole man to the Lord.” Nothing remains untouched in the man who fears God. Every fiber of his being lives to honor God. Out of that devotion emanates the life, the wisdom, the knowledge of God himself.

I adore my Grandpa Sheveland. 42 years have passed since Grandpa’s death and yet not a day passes without thoughts of him. The legacy of Clarence Sheveland lives in everything I do. Heroes do that sort of thing in boys. We want to be just like them. His pet names are my pet names. His passions are my passions: every flower bed a memorial, every mantlepiece a testament to the man who shaped my life.

Clarence lived a simple life, raised six kids with his wife Ruth, never had much money. But a humble two bedroom home stood proud, the backdoor beckoned all, “Come on in.” The gardens pristine, the lawn lush; a white picket fence traced sentinels of black walnut trees. Norman Rockwell had nothing on Grandpa’s house, pure Americana bathed in love. None of these wonderful things explain the man. They are simply markers of the driving force in Grandpa’s life, Jesus Christ. He loved his Lord with a whole heart, the fear of God the key to real treasure, a love that moved a young boy. That same love consumes and drives the mature grandson a half century later.

The little boy didn’t appreciate Grandpa’s fervent prayers. Phillip thought they were too long. Homemade bread, apple butter, and hot cocoa graced the kitchen table. Grandma read from “The Daily Bread”, then Grandpa prayed, and prayed. My stomach growled, my nose twitched,; I kept peeking at that bread, fifteen minutes an eternity. But I sure loved those hugs and hearty laughs. And the touch of his hand, love emanated from those fingers. I lived for his hand in mine, the caress of my curly mop, the squeeze of approval on my shoulder.

“There is enough in Christ for my necessities. There is more in Christ than I shall ever know–perhaps more than I shall understand even in heaven.”

Charles Spurgeon

Those prayers became the center of our conversation when I was twenty two. Grandpa Sheveland’s health was failing, he would pass the following Spring. He sat on the couch. I took the recliner rocker. We talked about the voice of God, miracles, the power of prayer. He put flesh to the Word of God. I witnessed the profound faith of a humble man in whom God poured a reservoir of wisdom and knowledge. He gestured at the photographs of all the grandkids displayed on the shelves of two built-ins. “I pray for everyone of you. Love Jesus.” I don’t remember anything after those two words. “Love Jesus” encapsulates Clarence Sheveland’s life. I pray those words encapsulate mine as well because in the end, Christ is all that matters.

Give It All to Jesus

Posted: September 28, 2020 in Uncategorized

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Ephesians 4:31,32

My heart pounded, my mind raced. Tears poured down my face. The chaotic flow of horror, terror, and brokenness surged over me. This storm driven riptide of rogue waves overwhelmed all perspective. The agony of betrayal, the anger: I wanted retribution and a place to run all at the same time. Have you been there? Has your world crashed? Been betrayed? Slandered? What to do? How do I respond? I have gone to the dark side of my soul. I have nurtured that hurt. I know the root of bitterness. I cultivated it like a rare orchid. My heart shriveled, love died, the presence of God drifted to a place I could not see or cared to pursue. I needed a miracle.

Pain, we all carry the scars of deep wounds. Memories flash uninvited, the lump in the throat returns, the eyes moisten. Some pain never departs this side of heaven. My Grandpa Brown never got over the loss of his two children. I wouldn’t either. But he didn’t carry bitterness, nor did he carry a spirit of resignation. Why? He knew a God who loved him, who loved his wife, who loved his children, especially the two who left him too early. “God is good, blessed be the name of the Lord.” My grandfather understood without having to understand, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”” Isaiah 55:8,9 But what of abuse, slander, and worse? The heart of man is evil, it knows no bounds. Surely I am justified. This man or woman deserves my hate. That hate will destroy you as surely as your imagination destroys the object of your hate. Run!! As fast as you can to Jesus. Unload that junk, that morass of pain. It may take a thousand trips, dump it. Only then can you find freedom, the freedom to love, the freedom to live.

Martin Luther King said, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” Hate drives the present BLM movement. And the hate will destroy its own. Only a voice of forgiveness and reconciliation will move the wounded hearts of men and women. Jesus said, You have heard it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48

Today, I pray the moment any hurt surfaces, I pray over difficult relationships. I pray for everything I can imagine in their lives. I pray for breakthrough, I pray for blessing. I pray for the divine purposes to be lived out in the lives of individuals that would be so easy to hate. Why? No longer do I do it because Jesus told me to. I pray because I know God grows a love in me for those who wished me harm. “In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. Perfect love drives out fear.” 1 John 4:17,18. The flesh cannot conjure this love, it comes directly from the heart of God. Don’t own the hurt, the bitterness, the anger, the malice. Give it all to Jesus. Live in freedom, live in Christ’s love.

Christ Alone

Posted: September 24, 2020 in Uncategorized

In Christ alone my hope is found He is my light, my strength, my song This Cornerstone, this solid Ground Firm through the fiercest drought and storm What heights of love, what depths of peace When fears are stilled, when strivings cease My Comforter, my All in All Here in the love of Christ I stand

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

Matthew 16:24

A new Supreme Court nominee will be announced this Saturday by President Trump. Amy Coney Barrett, one of the presumed favorites, quickly became a lightening rod of opposition because of her abiding faith in Christ. In 2017, during her confirmation hearing to fill a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh District, Senator Dianne Feinstein said, “The dogma lives loudly within you, and that is a concern.” Those fears arose out of Amy’s 2006 graduation speech, “No matter how exciting any career is, what is it really worth if you don’t make it part of a bigger life project to know love and serve the God who made you?” Why would Dianne fear a religion that promotes “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? James Woods, the actor, answered that question yesterday, “They loathe Christians primarily because the Bible is unequivocal about abortion, homosexuality, and pederasty.” The State is threatened by a perceived pretender to its throne.

My pastor on the East Coast, Mike Ruel, posted Matthew 16:24 this morning. “Deny yourself, take up your cross, follow Christ.” The Christian choice tolerates no middle ground. Christ demands all or nothing. The Christian life births out of total surrender. We have no rights, no leverage, before Holy God. Lost in the warp of sin, we possess no means to cure sin’s horrific effects. Christ alone is our hope. The verses of an old hymn encapsulate our surrender to Jesus. “All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give. I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live. All to Jesus, I surrender, humbly at His feet I bow. Worldly pleasures all forsaken, Take me, Jesus, take me now. All to Jesus I surrender, make me Savior wholly Thine. May the Holy Spirit fill me, may I know Thy power divine.”

“In those days Israel had no king, everyone did as they saw fit.”

Judges 21:25

What do we do as human beings in our sin? We assume the role of God. We choose right from wrong and we don’t take kindly to others challenging our choices. The Bible provokes society precisely because it confronts us with our sin. Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” Matthew 5:11 The world Jesus lived in condemned him with hate. Do we Christians presume a different fate for ourselves? So how do we respond? I answer with a question, “How did Jesus respond?”

“When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Luke 24;33,34

Never lose sight of the face of God in any human being regardless of the warp of sin. Resist your instinct to close your heart when hurt. Never stop loving, never stop praying. Embrace the redemptive power of the gospel. Take up your cross knowing “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4 Like Paul, proclaim, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.” We serve the Great God, infinite goodness. Love with his love again and again and again. In the end, Christ is all that matters.

My Kingdom

Posted: September 23, 2020 in Uncategorized

‘There is no more happy singing over wine; no one enjoys its taste any more. In the city everything is in chaos, and people lock themselves in their houses for safety. People shout in the streets because there is no more wine. Happiness is gone for ever; it has been banished from the land. The city is in ruins, and its gates have been broken down. This is what will happen in every nation all over the world. It will be like the end of harvest, when the olives have been beaten off every tree and the last grapes picked from the vines.”

Isaiah 24:9-13

My heart aches for the suffering . These words of the ancient prophet Isaiah paint the picture of cities devastated by war, the senseless barbaric acts of men. The consequences of sin replicate themselves across our globe everyday: Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Ethiopia, Libya. A decade from now the list remains, just as long, only the names change. Sin demands blood in the realm of men, it always has. And yet, the shed blood of Jesus became the hope of this world, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him.” Romans 5:8,9 God knew, God knows. God cared, and God still cares.

America knows little of this kind of devastation. We live in a golden age. No nation on earth can boast of greater wealth and power. In the history of mankind, nothing comes close. But a time will come when America is no more. Great cities vanish, sloped tells hint at what was, their stories lost to legend, or worse, silence. 2020 underscores the fragility of our institutions, the harmony of our nation. Revolution frames the future in many young minds. Even so, Jesus still beckons, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

“Jesus said to them, “The kings of the pagans have power over their people, and the rulers claim the title ‘Friends of the People’. But this is not the way with you; rather, the greatest among you must be like the youngest, and the leader must be like the servant.””

Luke 22:25-26

Many of us vest ourselves in the upcoming election. important issues pierce deep into our hearts. We sense threat to all we took for granted. A divided nation will vote. And good men and women will agree to disagree this November. But what then? We as Christians know our citizenship is in heaven. Philippians 3:20 Our circumstances may change but our calling remains the same. We serve Almighty God no matter what comes of the politics of this nation. We continue to commit acts of righteousness. We minister to the poor, the sick, the maimed, the underdogs among us. We extend arms of mercy and consolation to the shattered and broken lives in our neighborhoods. We confront the violence of sin with the divine love of Christ.

In these days, be sober. Resist arrogance, embrace humility. Seek God with a whole heart. Let’s build the kingdom of God. Never forget, in the end, Christ is all that matters.

Dad, A Tribute

Posted: September 22, 2020 in Uncategorized

“My Father didn’t tell me how to live: he lived, and let me watch him do it.”

Clarence Budington Kelland

“I will be a father to him, and he will be a son to me. When he does wrong, I’ll discipline him in the usual ways, the pitfalls and obstacles of this mortal life. But I’ll never remove my gracious love from him.”

2 Samuel 7:14-15

Nobody worked harder than my dad, nobody. And nobody loved his kids more than my father. Dad just turned 87, his lithe frame now bent and broken. His strong right hand betrays the abuse rendered by hard work. The base knuckle of his index finger swells to the size of a golf ball, his hand twists to accommodate it. A scarred nub of a half thumb reminds all of a bad night working graveyard shift at Samsonite luggage. Tremors flutter his hand, sipping soup is now an adventure. Dad takes it all in stride. He is the last of four brothers this side of heaven. Death is no secret, it soon comes for Dad. So he lives, he breathes in what life now offers. That’s my father.

I speak not of death but rather of the life we shared, the unique legacy of father and son. I debuted when my parents were young, Dad 21, Mom 19. In a very real way, we grew up together. I remember Dad in college, student teaching, his first teaching position. Dad stood straight, lean and strong. To me, Dad was the smartest best looking dad in the world.

Life isn’t perfect and neither is Dad. Marriage never came easy for my parents. Their book on marriage would be titled. “What Not To Do And Still Be Married”. Dad’s temper ran hot and his moods wandered. But life isn’t primarily about what we didn’t do right but rather it is about what we did do right. Dad loved me and that far outweighed the shortcomings.

Family means the world to Dad. He loves his flesh and blood. Perhaps more importantly, he loved his wife’s family. I grew up with the Shevelands. God nurtured me in the shadow of my grandparents, their picture graces my bed stand for a reason. Aunts, uncles, cousins: they all played vital roles in my life. My father never changed. Today he frets over his children, his grandchildren. Each individual owns a piece of his heart.

Church was never an option. Good times, bad times: it made no difference, the Browns were there. Perhaps life didn’t make perfect sense at home, but life made perfect sense at church. I knew what godly folk looked like, talked like, felt like. None were perfect, nobody pretended to be. Their testimonies covered the same theme, blessed redemption, sinners saved by grace. These imperfect loving individuals pointed me to Christ. Why do all five siblings serve Jesus Christ today? Two parents honored church and family.

Lynn and I now live with my parents until we move into our new home. I treasure each day, each meal with them. As a man and a son, I hang on each conversation I have with Dad. I love him with a whole heart, an easy thing to do. We shared life, nearly seven decades, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Nothing can threaten the tie that binds us together. God blessed me with a good dad, a faithful dad. Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Dad.

“And I hope my son sees in me the kind of man that he was to Me.”

Shannon Noll

A Better Way

Posted: August 20, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

 

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the Lord has spoken,

Isaiah 1;18-20

Paul sat in a room with friends that loved him dearly. Nobody smiled, the pall of death enveloped the air. Paul, my roommate at college, said, “I’m done. I can’t live this life any longer. I’m gay and always will be. I’m walking away from the church.” Prayers were spoken and tears were shed. Paul walked out of our lives. The issue was never about sex. The real issue was lordship. Who captains the ship of my life? Your Life? We choose every day whom we will serve. Where is your identity? Is it in Christ?  Your sexuality? Your gender? Your job? Your appearance? Life gets complicated apart from Christ because the answer is rarely linear. The sin of pride masks itself in clothes of self delusion.

Let’s face it, humanity is sin stupid. Why do we insist upon messing up our lives and the lives of others? And then what do we do? We either blame God or deny he even exists. I love this quote from Matthew Henry, “No man will say, ‘There is no God’ till he is so hardened in sin that it has become his interest that there should be none called to account.” Bottom line, we need God desperately. He designed us that way.

Why is it so hard to submit to God? Why do we insist on usurping his role in our lives? How many of us must be devoured by the sword before we submit? Sin warps us, we lose all perspective. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” Isaiah 5:20  We lose our way, we squander the gift of life.

God offers a better way to the willing, to those who trust and obey. He cleanses us. He frees us from the chains of sin. He fills us with hope and with the love of his heart. We now drink in life with purpose. God condescends to be my friend. I no longer walk alone and I am who I always was meant to be. The words of this old hymn grow more familiar, more real each day that passes in submission to him.

I come to the garden alone while the dew is still on the roses, and the voice I hear falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses. And he walks with me and he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own; and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.

In the end, Christ is all that matters.