Tuesday, October 23, 2012


When I was a boy, I attended Fifth Avenue Baptist Church, in Decatur, Georgia. This came about because of the Smith’s, who lived next door. Mrs. Smith insisted I go with them. Her boy, John Wesley, older, and a bit of a hero to me, also wanted me to go. That did it. I went and joined the “Royal Ambassadors.”

Each year the church held a revival. There were services each night of the week, a special preacher preaching. An altar call every night. Souls were saved. Me, too -- several times.

Fifth Avenue Baptist Church is gone now, a victim of white flight. The building itself, however, has a claim to fame. It was used in the movie, Driving Miss Daisy, as the church to which Hoke drove the elderly widow.

The “going forward” at the revival invitations may not have meant much. I began to get that idea when later, during the week when the church building was empty, me and Howard McClung and G.C. Bradshaw, decided to consume a pack of Lucky Strikes in the baptismal tub. They discovered the cigarette butts crushed out on the bottom, but they never knew who it was that did it. Later, as a teenager, I dismissed God entirely and decided he didn’t exist.

After all, I proved he didn’t exist when as a young soldier I stood on the launcher doors that housed Nike guided missiles underground; rain falling, lightning bolts being hurled from the clouds, thunder crashing in deafening roars, I screamed into the heavy raindrops driving into my face, “I know you don’t exist! If you are really there, strike me dead! Go ahead! Do it! I dare you!”

A huge streak of white fire began somewhere in the darkness above, coiling through the boiling clouds and snaked its way to a tree, a power pole, a flag standard or some high ground, maybe a mile or so away, instantly followed by a stupendous crash of thunder.

MISSED!!! I screamed. In the silence that followed, I could have sworn I heard a chuckle. The storm continued, however, despite my taunts.

I think deep down I wondered whether a lightning bolt just might vaporize me. Well God didn’t strike me dead. What a disappointment. My melodrama did prove one thing: I walked back to the barracks thoroughly confirmed in the belief that God did not exist. How could he have resisted such an opportunity?

I spent my entire military career of two incredibly long years in South Carolina, Arkansas and New Jersey. When I returned to Atlanta, I stayed a couple of months, then moved to Long Beach, California and stayed with my sister and her family. I got a job with the Long Beach Independent-Press Telegram as a copyboy, making $39/week. I had four bosses: Wylie, Stan, Burt and John. All of these veteran newspaper men would impact my life, but none like John. Or, perhaps I should say, John and his wife, Eva, as well as their fifteen-year-old daughter, Leemay, and their black cocker spaniel.

It happened like this: I was depressed. Not sure why. All I can say now after 23 years as a psychotherapist, I was definitely clinically depressed. Suicidal thoughts persisted. One night about midnight, I couldn’t sleep. I got up and walked out to the front porch of my sister’s house and lit up a Chesterfield. I looked up into a clear night sky with a full moon. As I gazed at that bright, silver disk in the sky, I said, “God, if you are up there, I need your help.” Quite a different experience from the missile launcher doors in a thunderstorm.

Next day. I swear. Next day John, searching for some misplaced copy, ventured out to my desk where I maintained a constant haze of Chesterfield smoke. I was going through three packs a day at this point. The man mentioned something about God. I don’t remember what else he said about the misplaced copy, all I heard was the name, “God.”

“God?” I replied.

He looked at me funny. “Yes, God,” he said. “God loves you, son.”

“God loves me?” dripping incredulity.

The exchange ended with my accepting an invitation to have dinner at his house. After dinner, Leemay went to do her homework, and John retrieved his Bible. “Uh-oh,” I thought. I prepared myself for a Bible-thumping. Didn’t happen.

Instead, these two wonderful people enveloped me in love. They made me see that Jesus’ suffering on the cross was an expression of God’s love for me. I cannot explain what happened next. All I can say is that I left that home that night feeling cleansed, a new person, a new creation. That was 56 years ago.

Twenty-two years later I stood in front of a hundred or so inmates at Lompoc Federal Correction facility in California. I was doing a seminar for Prison Fellowship, Chuck Colson’s newly formed ministry. It was crammed with two lectures in the morning and two in the afternoon, starting Monday and going through Friday. In between the lectures, we sandwiched small-group sessions.

At the end of one of the lectures, I noticed a disheveled young man, long hair, pimples, dirty T-shirt sitting about two-thirds the way back on the left side of the chapel. He was weeping. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Making my way through the crowd at the front, I sat down beside him. His weeping increased in intensity.

In my shirt pocket was a Campus Crusade tract entitled, Four Things God Wants You to Know. I contemplated taking it out and walking him through its pages. I resisted the impulse, and in doing so learned one of the most important lessons of my Christian experience.

St. Francis said it best, “Preach the Gospel always. If necessary, use words.” I learned that day that the Love of Jesus does not need words. I learned that the Holy One is alive and well. He needs nothing beside himself to form Christ in the deepest reaches of the human heart.

Good doctrine is important. It instructs us in spiritual policy. It shows us how be guided in our lives. Didactic reasoning and propositional faith has its place. But it has never, nor will it ever substitute for a person to person, heart to heart, encounter with God. As I heard a southern preacher proclaim one day, “A Holy Gawd cain’t meet up with a sinful crittur’ without sumbody feelin’ sumthin!’”

“The letter kills,” said Paul, “but the Spirit gives life.”

The reality I learned somewhere along way of my own spiritual journey is that the deepest of all human needs is to feel loved. The deepest need of the human heart is to feel loved unconditionally, and the only Person truly capable of and credentialed for that is the One who gave life -- through His death.

Friday, October 5, 2012


Jeremiah Wright. It seems a malignant exercise even to write his name. There he stood and ranted, hair groomed to perfection, arrayed in resplendent robes, scholarly glasses perched on his nose, behind an ornate pulpit, in front of television cameras projecting images of him around the whole world, screaming – screaming – uncomposed, unbridled, with mindless fury unloosed, spewing hatred and incendiary, vituperative racism against our country, and by association, each one of us. “Not ‘God Bless America,’” he cried, “Oh no! God Damn America!

No John the Baptist this man. No Elijah. Not even Balaam’s ass. As Emerson wryly noted, “If the hive be disturbed by rash and stupid hands, instead of honey, it will yield us bees.”1

Jesus, (whom Mr. Wright declares, was a black man living in a country dominated by white Europeans), Jesus said, “He that has seen me has seen the Father.” If Jesus has taught us anything about the “Father,” he has taught us that his heart is not filled with hatred, but Love. If this is true, Jeremiah Wright clearly does not speak for God.

That said, the thought came to me this morning to pray for Jeremiah Wright. A prayer that might go something like this: “God please reveal your love to this man and draw him to yourself. Bless him and create your heart within him; help him to become the kind of man you would have him be. Mold him into the likeness and character of your dear Son.”

Did not Jesus also teach us to “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”?

That Mr.Wright is an enemy, I have no doubt. His poisonous language and hatred toward people of other races leaves no ambiguity about the depraved animosity of his character. If ever anyone needed the Lord, he does. I have searched my heart, and I am not sure I am capable of loving a man like this. But I can love the Image of God in him, I can love what God wants him to be. And I can pray for him.

I wonder how many Christians have also prayed for Mr. Wright? Can we not all agree that he needs it?

The decendant of slaves, he became pastor to a future President of the United States. He is now surrounded with affluence and fame. Or infamy, depending on perspective. Not bad for a guy who came from a country that gave him everything he has. Yes, Mr. Wright, needs prayer, as do all of us. He may need it more or less, but God loves him, and although it is hard, if we claim Jesus as our Lord, we should, too.

And yes – indeed -- God, please bless America . . .

[For] “. . . our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. [Therefore, we pray] “. . . that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” – Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg
While we as a nation are no longer engaged in a civil war, we have largely forgotten what it means to be civil. We need to come together again as a people united under God and know once again that new birth of freedom. We need to explore more deeply those things we have in common and neglect those things that divide us. Despite our differences, we need to seek the God who expresses himself in each one of us.

1Emerson, Ralph Waldo, Selected Essays, The People's Book Club, Chicago, 1949. p. 156

Thursday, September 20, 2012


What is the surest way to the heart of God? Is it by prayer and meditation on/in your Word? Is it through authentic humility? Is it by serving others? All of these? None of these? Is there a path to the heart of God for me to take, for me to walk upon, a path to which I choose to invest my energies?

Or, must I wait for the heart of God to enfold me? Must I wait for the heart of God to take the initiative? Is being filled, truly filled with the Holy Spirit something that I am responsible for, or does it come wholly and completely from you?

I know this: I know that the heart of God does enfold me. And I know that the greatest desire of my heart is to be filled to the absolute brim with the Spirit of God.

The central and foundational issue becomes, is it my adequacy, or yours?

Or both?

If both, then I fear I am undone. I fear that I do not have whatever it takes to hold up my end.

I fear.

But I am yoked with Jesus. I have taken his yoke upon me. Whatever I can’t handle, he will take up the slack. Should I even go to sleep, or pass out in my harness, he will carry me.

He will make sure and certain that I follow the right path, for he has an interest in me that he wishes to protect.

Whatever my sins, whatever my failures, he has taken them into account even before I was brought into this world.

Yet he still allowed me life.

His heart has enveloped me, so I will take yet another step in the fulfillment of my purpose, for I am eternally yoked with him; and his burden is light; and his yoke is easy.

Saturday, September 15, 2012


Step in the Garden

There is a solitary, Absolute Truth.

What is so terribly wrong with all things relative? What is it that makes people of faith wet their pants when one asserts, “There are no absolutes.” “All things change and evolve.”

There is no question that things change.

And not always for the better.

But does Truth change? Is Truth malleable? Is there really such a thing as Absolute Truth?

Science would like to tell us YES! Absolutely! I clearly remember my High School science teacher instructing us that there were exactly 98 elements in the Periodic Table. There would never be anymore; could never be anymore. (I must tell you that even my 15-year-old brain challenged that. But I accepted it. After all, Mr. Graham was a Science teacher.)

Check this out – directly from the sacred scribblings of Wikipedia:

All elements from atomic numbers 1 (hydrogen) to 118 (ununoctium) have been isolated. (All of them?) Of these, all up to and including californium (Californium? Why am I not surprised?) exist naturally; the rest have only been artificially synthesised in laboratories, along with numerous synthetic radionucleides of naturally occurring elements. Production of elements beyond ununoctium is being pursued, with the question of how the periodic table may need to be modified to accommodate these elements being a matter of ongoing debate.

Are there contradictions here? How can “All elements . . . be identified or isolated” and at the same time say that “the periodic table may need to be modified?” How does one assert that “elements . . . exist naturally, and others are synthesized along with these natural elements?”

Now, there are 118 and counting. That’s 20 more. If there can’t be anymore, where did they come from? And is that it? Are there yet more? Now, it seems chemists can actually create “elements.” Now we have elements that exist naturally and those “elements,” supposedly utterly unique, irreducible substances, that we have created.. Science, it appears, has to move the line of “Absolute (or irreducible) Truth” whenever it seems, well, less absolute.

Every day, we discover that what we thought was immutable scientific truth, or fact, is not at all. We say that the “laws of physics” are uniform everywhere and unchangeable. Yet Einstein tells us that no particle of matter can exceed the speed of light. Now CERN has clocked one subatomic particle traveling faster than the speed of light. In fact, this “particle’s” speed was not natural. It was amped by human effort.

So much for scientific absolutes.

The notion of God? Even how we think about God has changed over the years, over the centuries. The God of the Hebrew Scriptures, think some, is radically different that the “Father” revealed by Jesus. That’s right, when Jesus came, he told us that God was our “Father.” That had not been said before. Then he said, “He that has seen me has seen the Father.”

Quite a change . . . or so it would seem.

Paul went even further and told us it was ok to call God, “Daddy,” (Abba). Big change, very big change from the Old Testament.

We humans find a certain security in things Absolute; things that will not, cannot change no matter what influence or pressures befall them. The Scriptures clearly teach that God is immutable (does not change), that he is Absolute, that he will not, cannot change, that he is the same, yesterday, today and forever.

How is it then, that the God who orders the annihilation of the inhabitants of Jericho, men, women, children, babies, horses, cows and goats – anything living, (except for a whore named Rahab, who was really good at lying) how is it that the God who ordered that, be the God that Jesus revealed? The God who loves all men?

Then there is the story of king Saul and the Amalekites. Saul was instructed to kill them all, (I Samuel 15:3), and he did – except for Agag the king and the livestock. He left the rest, including women and infants, lying decapitated and disemboweled scattered about and in their homes. Then, we are told, God got really mad at Saul, not for his war crimes, but that he brought king Agag back along with the cows, sheep and goats! Samuel, the prophet, later accommodated God by hacking Agag to pieces with a sword.

In captivity, the psalmist observes, regarding the infants in Babylon, “Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks,.” (Psalm 137:9). Nice guy. Shades of today’s news from Syria?

In the biblical context of these and other similar events, how is it that Jesus could say, “He that has seen me, has seen the Father.” Jesus taught us to love our enemies. Somehow, the more we know about Jesus, the more we think about him, the more we engage him, the less we think about slaughtering babies and animals. Jesus taught us to do good to those who persecute us. Did God change? And if so, how is he absolute? How do we comprehend the God of the Hebrew Scriptures with the Father Jesus revealed?

Well, now that we’ve stirred up a theological hornet’s nest, where do we go from here?

I think the answer may lie in the observation above, “. . . even how we think about God has changed.” This suggests that this whole discussion may not be about God at all, but about how he is perceived by we humans.

Let us be clear: God is Absolute, because HE IS, which is to say: God is his own definition. He exists up, over, and above our paltry comprehension. He always has been, he is today, and he forever will be in his essence, in that which humans understand God as God, the unchangeable God. We change. We see him differently as we develop, but it is always – always through a glass darkly, until and unless we see him in Jesus.

Until we see Jesus who is the Way, the absolute TRUTH, and the Life. (Jn. 14:6)

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Step into the Garden

Make them singular and uncommon

Singular and uncommon? How so? How are we who claim to follow Jesus to be perceived as set apart? Singular and uncommon? Is this a good thing?

Jesus is about to be glorified. There he is, about to be exalted to the right hand of God where he will sit in authority over zillions of light-years, galaxies, supernovas, quasars, black holes, stars, comets, planets, earth, moons, sparrows and human hairs, which if we believe the Scripture, he has actually numbered. Although it does seem like God could find something better to do with his time than count all of our hairs. And in some of our cases, it is not a matter of sums.

So, on this night, Jesus prays for his disciples and for those who would believe through the message he gave them. It appears that when Jesus offered this prayer, he was thinking of you as well.

The disciples who believed in Jesus while he engaged society in his time on earth, were ordinary men and women. Fishermen, politicians, tax-collectors, prostitutes, even members of the Sanhedrin and many others who populated his life. Ordinary people who went about doing ordinary things..

So how is it that they became “singular and uncommon?”

They believed. And in believing, they loved. And in loving, they became like Him.

I had the distinct privilege of knowing a man I deeply admired. He is with Jesus now, but I knew him well enough to be guided by his counsel. He was a man of uncommon grace, humility and love. His name was Richard (Dick) Halverson, pastor of the great Fourth Presbyterian Church just outside Washington, D.C., and for many years, Chaplain of the United States Senate, where he ministered to the needs of the senators and their families. He sat on and chaired the Board of Directors for World Vision, Inc., one of the largest and most effective Christian charities in existence. He was a man immensely respected by all who knew him. He is also the most humble man I think I have ever met.

I think of Dick in writing this piece because he is an outstanding example of how God will honor a man whose heart is truly humble. Dick was, in himself, an ordinary man, and I think, he knew it. He did not think himself more than he was, yet his life and ministry touched the lives of thousands. The spiritual power emanating from this man brought him into the service of Almighty God. Through his gentleness and humility, he became -- singular and uncommon.

Please hear that: Through his gentleness and humility, he became singular and uncommon.

That is an honor of unimaginable proportions. It is all any of us can hope for. And yes, indeed, it is a good thing.

As Dick knew, and as we all must surmise, he was never singular and uncommon in and of himself. God made him that way owing to the genuineness of his faith, his honest heart, and to be certain, his humility. He was a man whose life influenced those whose decisions impacted a great nation. He had their ear. Moreover, he had their back. His was not the ministry of a perfunctory prayer in the Senate sessions. He counseled them when called upon, he comforted their families in times of great stress. He was a friend, regardless of political affiliation. He was, in a credible sense, the nation’s pastor.

Some think that in order to become singular and uncommon, one must aim for it, have ambition for it, plan for it and implement it. Nothing could be further from the truth. One does not arrive at singularity and uncommonness by seeking it. It just happens in the normal and routine course of service to Christ and to others. Nor is it an award, or reward. It does not answer Peter’s question, “We have left all to follow Thee. What shall we have, therefore?” Instead, it is the natural outgrowth of worship in service to others. It is, in a word, the fruit of the Spirit.

Singular and Uncommon: Dick Halverson, Chuck Colson, Billy Graham, former Governor and Senator Harold Hughes, Senator Mark Hatfield, and R.G. Letourneau come to mind. And, of course – or, perhaps even moreso – those who labored in relative obscurity: Charles Beatty, John Suiter, Paul S. Fleming, S. W. Burch – each of them, heroes – men who left giant footprints wherever they stepped.

I am grateful to have lived, to have breathed the same air as these men.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012


I know what it is for strong, tough and proud men to humble themselves. I’ve had to do it and it is painful. Maturing, however – What I want you to know is that I am proud of how you handled yourself – proud you are my brother and part of the team. – CWC
Chuck always signed his handwritten memos like that – “CWC,” Charles W. Colson. This memo, along with his picture, a flyer promoting the seminars I conducted with Prison Fellowship, and a news article of an inmate who wanted the judge to let him finish the seminar before he was released; hang framed on my office wall along with family and other pictures. It commemorates the three years I spent with Chuck and Prison Fellowship, many years ago, near the beginning of that incredible ministry to inmates and their families.

Let me say at the outset that I have never met anyone who was more committed, whose Christian testimony was more authentic, more genuine, or had more integrity than that of Charles W. Colson. His life and the meaning of his life towered above so much.

We were riding down Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, D.C., in my Karmann-Ghia convertible with the top down. Chuck was in the passanger seat and we were talking about something, only God knows what. As usual he was making gestures with his hands and arms as he talked, his black rimmed glasses punctuating each assertion. We pulled up to a light. While we waited for it to change, a car pulled up in the lane to the right of us. The female driver looked over at us and her eyes widened. “Mr. Colson! Mr. Chuck Colson!” she shouted. Chuck was hardly more than an arm’s length from her. He turned, greeted the lady with a warm smile, a hearty "Hi there," and an acknowledging wave. The light changed, and off we went. Chuck resumed his topic as though nothing had happened.

Perhaps it hadn’t.

After all, he had spent three years advising the President of the United States, carrying out often execrable orders, served time in prison for his trouble, and in the process was “Born Again.” He wrote a book about it. They made a movie out of it. Then he founded a ministry to prison inmates and their families (especially their children – does your church have an “Angel Tree” each Christmas?), of which I was then a part. Perhaps next to this, celebrity recognition was hardly a new experience to him.

I could tell more stories about this, mostly hilarious.

Working with Chuck and Prison Fellowship was for me, one doozy of a ride! In those early years, he often said that working in this ministry was "like trying to build a moving locomotive." I conducted week-long seminars in well over 100 prisons, both state and federal, throughout the U.S. and Canada. I was in charge of all the seminars, both in-prison, and those programs where we brought inmates to Washington, trained them and sent them back to finish their sentence. Lord, were I to recount all the experiences, I think I could fill a book.

Maybe. Someday.

Chuck was not perfect. None of us who worked with him in the ministry were. Nor, it should be noted, is anyone who reads this account. That said, God used him in a way he has used few men over the centuries. Like his hero, William Wilberforce, Chuck’s legacy will endure, perhaps for centuries to come.

He was a man of God. And because of this, he now is in the direct presence of the One he served so faithfully. I count it one of the most significant events of my life to have known him, and to have served with him.

To put a fine point on it, I do not believe Chuck is “Resting in Peace.” I prefer to believe that he is “Working in Joy.” I have never thought of heaven as a place where one sits on a cloud and plays a harp, or casts crowns, or spends the rest of eternity singing, “Hallelujah,” and stuff like that. I suspect the Lord has CWC busy doing stuff, and that there are still people who shout, “Mr. Colson! Mr. Chuck Colson!”

If I am ever in his neighborhood again, I'm going to look him up and see if he remembers my Karmann-Ghia!

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012


There is no compelling reason why what follows should be of interest to you. Something less than compelling isn’t always to be discarded. Often, “less than compelling” is better digested, or more of a growth hormone than a “buzz.” You decide.

I am still very much that kicking, screaming, crying child on my first day in kindergarten, wanting Lizzie Mae, my black nurse. So many years ago; so little change. Now, seventy years later, I have so much to learn and now, so little time to do it in.

That day we had lunch at the Greek restaurant you asked, “Paul, tell me all about yourself!” Since I blindly took your question at face value, I proceeded to do just that, and your eyes glazed. Don’t trouble yourself with that, my eyes would have glazed, too. I am an audience of one. I like to entertain myself with memories of my own life.

Despite my narcissism, my entrepreneurship, my self-promoting, there is indeed within me, an utterly irresistible impulse, a primordial urge, to be a channel of God’s love. It has bedeviled me since I opened my heart to Jesus. Mind you, not just a channel, but I wish others to feel deeply loved by God, because they feel love from me.

I have had many opportunities to do this very thing. But there I go again. I don’t mean to say that I had anything to do with these opportunities; it’s just that I am grateful. Truly grateful.

I read a story this morning that caused eddies to swirl in the deep reaches in my brain, if indeed, there are such places . . .

Both wise and good, a kingdom’s ruler sent an ambassador out to the far countries to show the world his goodly wisdom. Time passed and the ambassador returned to the good ruler. “What did you learn my friend?” he asked with high hopes and an inviting smile. The ambassador slumped, scratched his high brow and looked confused: and then he grew insulted. He said tersely, “Are you going to ask me who called me ‘teacher;’ who I taught, how many and where?” The good ruler sadly put his head in his hands. “You are still blind.” He said,” I sent you to discover obedience, not to be obeyed. You were to teach because you had much to learn. You were to serve to know the wisdom of serving.” The king’s heart weighed heavy as he sat upon the throne. The scholar scowled.1

This is, no doubt, an imaginary story. But its message has the ring of truth. I am that ambassador, and Christ is my goodly King.

Many years ago, as a young pastor fresh out of seminary, I had preached an uncommonly fiery sermon. As I stood in the narthex shaking hands and congregants filed out, one woman stopped, held my hand and said, “You must be a very holy man.” The words she said, her round, matronly face, are seared in my memory forever. The moment these words fell from her lips, I felt waves of shame sweep over me. I knew better. God knew better. I allowed her, however, to continue believing what she said – if, of course, she really believed it.

But the message I received on that Sunday is the same as that above, “You are still blind . . . and have much to learn.”

I struggle now with how to end this. There are several cliché’s at my disposal; trite, dog-eared, banal expressions you hear from pulpits everywhere. I should know. I’ve used them enough. So I leave it at this: Let us see what reactions come, whether frustration with the darkness of this piece, or the joy of being one who learns.
1. Hardesty, Heath, To the Lion, The Christian in Tension, Renown House Publishers, 2008, p. 5.
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Friday, March 23, 2012


The LORD is my Shepherd,
He knows what I want.
He makes me relax and enjoy his world around me,
He makes me appreciate the deep dimensions of my life,
and heals the "rawness" of my mind.
He makes me driven to do the right thing
because he has an investment in my life
which he wishes to protect.

I am not afraid no matter how extreme the crisis
or how strong the forces of evil,
for he is at my side feeling it with me;
His power to protect me is absolute,
So why should I worry?

Dear Lord, you give me a feast
right where my enemies can see it.
You let them know;
that I am special to you.

I never had it so good!
This is only the beginning!
It's going to be this way for the rest of my life,

And I am going to live with you, Father,
Because a Father and his child ought to be together . . .


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Wednesday, February 29, 2012


For you created my inmost being.
You knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

This psalm tells us that before the first day of life, all our days were ordained by God, and recorded in his “Book.” In terms of our relationship with God, none of us were Bhuddists, Shintoists, Muslim, Catholic , Protestant or Atheist. No Democrats. No Republicans. No liberals. No conservatives. We were all the same. We were all equal. In this pristine state, we were born into this life; each of us with divine purpose and rationale.

God has given to each and every human born on this planet, the gift of life. None of us are the result of accident, creatures of random sperm journeys colliding with random egg. There is as much rationale to human life as there is equilibrium to the universe, as much rationale to individual human life, as there was to the life and purpose of Jesus himself.

None of us are meritorious enough to spend eternity with him. How is it then, that of those he allows life, some of us are chosen and others are not? “You have not chosen me,” said Jesus, “but I have chosen you.” All of us are evil beyond the reaches of self-redemption. How is it then, that of those who at varying levels are evil, are chosen for an eternity of unimaginable glory, and others, at the same, or greater or lesser evil, are not? Whether greater or lesser, we are still evil, are we not?

It can only be that those of us who are chosen are those of us who wish to be.

For every human who, throughout his or her pilgrimage on this planet, reaches out to our God of Love, to desire him, to understand him, to receive him, to that person God reveals himself, and he is chosen out from among those who do not seek him.

The redemptive force of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, King of kings, and Lord of lords, Messiah and Savior of the world, has made this possible. His life, his teachings, the miracles and events that surrounded him, that terrible black day in human history, and the glorious joy of Sunday morning, are all of these the Light that illuminates our minds and redeems our souls. There are no dark corners of the human soul immune to its penetration.

However thick and supposedly impenetrable the walls we build around ourselves, or confused and misguided we may be, if it so be that a door is opened in that wall, if there be found in it the slightest crack, if there be a doubt or insecurity that causes one to open himself to God, then he is doomed. He will be redeemed! The Light will make it so and resistance is utterly, completely and exhaustively futile. One, despite himself, is drawn to the Light as he were a moth and is thereby, consumed – in unspeakable joy.

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Monday, February 6, 2012


Step into the Garden

If your word had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.

There are two Watersheds from which we are nourished, and by which we derive the “Word of God.” The first is God himself, expressed in the Person of his Son, Jesus. He, and he alone, is the Logos, The Word. It is through him, and by him that all other representations of the “Word” are credentialed. The second are the thoughts contained in the Scriptures that reveal the nature and pleasure of God.

As a young seminary student, I was taught that once the canon of Scripture was complete, that God no longer revealed himself on an individual basis, to humankind. All we need to know about God was to be found in the Bible. I have discovered, however, that such thinking is terribly myopic. The Bible, the canon of Scripture, is not an intermediary between you and Jesus. It does not serve the purpose of a priest. You may now come boldy into the presence of living God yourself. You may speak to him and interact with him on a person to Person basis. You do not need to have a Bible in your hand to connect with God.

Jesus, The Word, has made this possible.

This isn’t to relegate the written word to irrelevance. Far from it. God has indeed revealed himself in both the Hebrew Bible, and the New Testament. But it does put it in perspective. Jesus, The Word, becomes the Lens through which all else is to be viewed and understood. God has revealed himself in the written word and to that extent, it is . . .

“. . . living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” – Heb 4:12

Even so, the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit do not live merely within the sacred page. Jesus, The Word, is alive and dynamic at this very moment, and ready to be engaged within a person to Person relationship – more, not less than we might engage another human in soul to soul relationship. And as such, Jesus, The Word, continues to reveal himself and the Father, in concert with, but outside the purview of the written Word, on a heartbeat to heartbeat, indescribably intimate basis.

This inter-connectivity with God and his Son, through the Spirit is absolutely essential to successful living and indeed – to eternal life. This is why the psalmist said, If your word had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. And the word, delight is wonderfully appropriate. Such intra-personal relationship with the Creator produces a vitality of life in human experience that in itself, is a source a nourishment.

“Intra-personal” means communication with one’s self. That is not what is meant here. What is meant is communication that takes place within one’s self, as in the apostle Paul’s notion that His Spirit bears witness with our spirit . . . While the communication takes place within the individual, it is nonetheless, communication between two real persons, yourself and God who dwells within you in the Person of his Spirit. It is, therefore, reciprocal. It feeds on itself and you and I are the beneficiaries of its blessing. It is intimacy with Jesus that words simply cannot adequately express.

It is, indeed, delight beyond imagination.

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Monday, January 2, 2012


Step into the Garden

I am like a wineskin in the smoke.

Have you ever wondered what happens to old wineskins when they are used up? When they finally rip open and have leaks? When they are no longer serviceable?

Ok, probably not.

So then, how was your 2011? On the national and international level, it was a pretty interesting year. Osama bought the farm. Iraq war ends, etc. A year that featured the smiling, blue-eyed face of an innocuous little boy, or the face of a blonde, female singer that makes us all want to Gag-Gag? What about your 2011? Good things happen? Did you get married or get a raise? Bad things? Lost your job? Visit the food-bank? Ho-hum things? Got an “ok, but needs improvement” on your evaluation? Oatmeal for breakfast?

Wineskins are no longer used to hold wine. Today we have rather fashionable bottles. But in more primitive times, animal skins (sheep skin primarily) were cleaned, tanned and crafted into containers for wine. In time, after being filled and refilled, they became tired, unserviceable and no longer useful to hold wine. When this happened, there was nothing left to do but let them dry out, and toss them in the fire.

Is this what you would like to do with 2011?

In the above scripture, I think this might be what the psalmist was trying to express. He was tired and used up; no longer of service to God or man. At least this is how he felt. He lay among the glowing cinders, smelling the smoke of his own denouement.

I have been there. I’ve done that. And so, I might surmise, have you. To feel exhausted, used up and no longer any good to anyone, or for any purpose. It is a neutering, hopeless, mind-numbing experience.

What then? What happens when we can no longer put one foot in front of another and attempt to fall on it? What happens when we become psycho-dynamically inert? What happens when our spiritual life is caked in mud, locked in place where no movement, no life seems to stir?

One of two, or perhaps three things happen. 1. We die. It is truly the end. Our heart stops and death ensues. 2. We take a nap. Until things change. We wait it out. We wait on things external to ourselves to come to our rescue. This actually happens sometimes, but not often. Or, 3. We reach out to God. When we do this, he always reaches back. It is in the raw nature of God to reach back when one reaches for him. And when we do, we discover that he had us firmly in his grip all the time. We become energized, revived, and enabled to continue. We get up. We get up out of the ashes and discover that there is still a gallon or two left in the old wineskin.

In John Madden’s voice, hear it loud and clear . . . BOOM! It’s 2012! Good, bad or ho-hum, what’s done is done. Now it’s time to move on. The pages of 2012 have yet to be written. Perhaps the first few lines might be . . .

Create in me
an irrepressible desire
to take up space
in your fullness.

To be in operative touch
with my purpose,
my destiny,
and the strategic timing
of my existence.

Totally absorbed,
In my commitment
To BE!

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