The Haunting


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The other day I gave my answer to a question asked in our church Community Group Discussion Guide which read: “How does knowing you are adopted by God change your view of yourself and of God? How does this give a new answer to your identity?”

My honest response was:

“Knowing God has chosen and adopted me as his son brings me to my knees in highest praise. Unfortunately, the overwhelming sense of guilt and shame past sin often reminds me of competes for my ability to see myself as the forgiven, regenerate, and redeemed child of God he tells me I am, and walk confidently of my ability to each day be everything he says I am.”

Dear Christian friend, I wonder, might our lives sometimes run along a parallel path? Knowing what God says to be true but haunted by yesteryear’s sin, perhaps yesterdays? Instead of seeing the person God declares you are in Christ today, the image you see in the mirror is definitely not the Imago Dei (image of God) and the story being told by that person staring back at you is very different. One of a shameful, sinfully dark past that any fair and reasonable self-examination will find a despairing case of hopelessness. A story that from your vantage point trumps the new story God wants to write into your life; the story he has in fact already written.

The bible I read in Numbers 23:19 tells me “God is not man, that he should lie,” and in Hebrews 6:18 I found it to say that “it is impossible for God to lie.” That being true, and it is, the questions I then should ask become who I will believe him or me? Whose word is most reliable, his or mine? That’s a no-brainer, right? It should be, yes. But in spite of my best effort to go all-in with God’s divine assessment of who I am in Christ, there are still times I find myself wrestling with that vile man sneering at me in the mirror each morning. His rap sheet is just too long to be considered for a heavenly pardon, I sometimes think. How then can it be? I lack understanding. It’s too deep.

Then this morning while reading Calvin’s Institutes I ran across these waking words of encouragement*:

“We have come into the way of faith,” says Augustine: “let us constantly adhere to it. It leads to the chambers of the king, in which are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. For our Lord Jesus Christ did not speak invidiously to his great and most select disciples when he said, ‘I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now,’ (John 16:12). We must walk, advance, increase, that our hearts may be able to comprehend those things which they cannot now comprehend. But if the last day shall find us making progress, we shall there learn what here we could not,” (August. Hom. in Joann).”

I like that. I’m good with that.

*Calvin, John. The Institutes of the Christian Religion – Enhanced Version (p. 130). Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Kindle Edition.

The Way I See It


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I spend a lot of time just thinkin’ about stuff, all kinds of stuff: political stuff, religious stuff, financial stuff, techno stuff, health stuff and world affairs for example. Today I dwelt for a while on Christians involved in peaceful protests, and I asked myself this question: How many of those participating in such demonstrations understand they may change a person’s mind about the action for which they stand that day. But until there is a change of heart, the issue is only moved ahead to another day.

Bear with me, please. There is nothing wrong with standing up for what one believes in a peaceful demonstration. But snipping a weed at the surface will not prevent its return or its spreading through your lawn. Only when it is removed at the root will the problem be remedied long-term. So it is with sin, the unseen root residing in the heart of many who are the objects of those issues we often stand against. If the church would spend as much time equipping her people, training, raising up, and rallying the saints to advance the cause of Christ with the good news of the gospel as they do in other pursuits, there would be fewer issues to demonstrate against.

~ Just Thinkin’

Think About It


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Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
— Proverbs 4:23

Have you ever thought about how you think about the way you think about what you think about? Crazy question? Perhaps, but for the Christian seeking to live godly in a godless society, it is a question you may want to give serious consideration.

Affecting every aspect of your life is the lens through which you view life, the filter through which you pour your thoughts, the things you think about. Who you are as a person, how you interact with family, friends and co-workers, how you relate to the world around you, matters of faith, what you believe and why. These and so much more are products of the way you think about the things you think about — your mindset.

In the Bible, the “heart” commonly refers to the mind as the center of thought. It is viewed as the control center of our entire being. Thus, we are told to guard it; not letting in ideologies and philosophies contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture. This is the point of Proverbs 4:23. Understanding it to be a short walk from truth to error, Paul tells Timothy:

“guard the deposit (sound doctrine) entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. 

— 1 Timothy 6:20–21

As his followers, we are given the “mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16), which means we share in his plans and purposes and have his perspective, his mindset. No, we are not omniscient, but we can discern truth from error. We can know God’s plan for us and the world around us and live life in view of the eternal, “Letting your light shine before others, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Heavenly Father, encourage those who read this today. Cause us to know the importance of having your mindset, of hearing your voice and resting securely in knowing that your ways are right, regardless of what may be popular or of the social norm. Give us your peace, help us realize we can because you said we can, that “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us”.

Code Red For Believers


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From the Genesis account of mankind’s fall (Genesis 3) to the moment your eyes scan across these words. The reliability of God’s word has been and continues to be the focal point of the enemy’s attacks against the Christian faith. If God’s word can be disproved or discredited at any point, the whole of scripture implodes, the cross symbolizes nothing more than a historical period of barbaric savagery, and we must bow in submission to the dark side of the philosophical argument; Nietzsche is right, “God is dead” and we are but cosmic accidents, grown-up germs having no purpose or objective meaning.

Jude wrote:

“Dear friends, I’ve dropped everything to write you about this life of salvation that we have in common. I have to write insisting-begging! – that you fight with everything you have in you for this faith entrusted to us as a gift to guard and cherish. What has happened is that some people have infiltrated our ranks (our Scriptures warned us this would happen), who beneath their pious skin are shameless scoundrels. Their design is to replace the sheer grace of our God with sheer license-which means doing away with Jesus Christ, our one and only Master” (Jude 3-4 – The Message).

No picture can be drawn to more vividly depict the age in which we live, nor could there be voiced a greater sense of urgency to contend for the faith than these: “I’ve dropped everything to write you about this.” Jude’s “compelling sense of obligation to the people of God prompted him to change his focus for their spiritual good,” one commentator writes. The text suggests His original intent was to write a letter of encouragement to the church concerning their common salvation but was overcome by an imminent danger infiltrating their ranks.

Believer’s, the Christian community is under siege. Much in the same way as when Jude penned the above words, a serious effort to undermine and destroy the undergirding truth claims of scripture is in full swing and picking up speed. Humanism, secularism, relativism, pluralism, and a countless host of other such isms are being served the gullible society we have become from every conceivable platform and media outlet including the pulpits of many mainstream churches and their respective denominational hierarchies. We must come down from the bleachers, get off the sidelines and get out on the field with more than a pea shooter.

Attending church on Sundays, returning thanks over meals, and saying bedtime prayers is good and encouraged but insufficient in and of themselves to defend the faith from those who would misrepresent and malign it. As the serpent reasoned with Eve in the garden challenging the truth of what God had said, and Satan with Jesus in the Judean wilderness; the war being waged is one of words, of ideas, of opposing worldviews and systems of belief.

Paul instructed Timothy to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ; should we be anything less? In 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 he wrote:

“The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way-never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity” (The Message).

This is a Code Red call for followers of Christ to take a stand, “. . . all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed” – Romans 13:11 NLT.

Don’t Get Shackled By the Shack




Dear Christian Shack Fans,

It was a good read; I enjoyed the novel, loved it in fact. But as scores of Christians head to theaters to watch the cinematic version of the Shack I feel compelled to ask that you remember it is a novel work of fiction; not unlike The Chronicles Of Narnia, or for that matter, Star Wars. Yes, there will be lots of spiritual overtones, and I feel sure its moral value will be worth the admission price. However, Christian moviegoers should keep in mind that it is not an adaptation to the big screen of an actual biblical event. Yes, I intend to be in the audience over the weekend watching the movie. I have always went to see how good or bad Hollywood represents a book I have read. But as I sit with my wife and friends, eyes peeled to the screen, it will be for the movies entertainment value and not a lesson in theology; that it is not.

May the force be with you,

The Stars (and other things) Come Out At Night


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“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:”

— Ephesians 2:1-3


Of course they are there, always. The stars don’t go into hiding when the sun comes up, they don’t burn out overnight, nor do they run off to some far away galaxy returning to ours when the sun sinks below the horizon. Just like the sin that separates us from God, they are there; you just don’t see them clearly until darkness falls; the deeper the darkness, the more luminous they become, the more unambiguous our sin.

Have you ever asked why jewelers use a dark background like black velvet to display their choice diamonds? It allows you to see the exquisite beauty of the stones in more vivid detail. Every facet shimmers in a dazzling display. In the same way, Paul sets God’s grace against the darkness of death that we might clearly see the sin that separates us from him, and the beauty and immeasurable value of the grace and mercy he offers in Christ. As J. C. Ryle has said, “Christ is never fully valued until sin is clearly seen.”

Like the rising sun that overpowers the stars, the blood of Jesus overpowers sin. Not just to cover sin, as the morning sun is to the stars, and was so under the old covenant, but to remove sin once and for all. To this scripture declares,

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” — 1John 1:7

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”  — John 1:29

“You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.” — 1 John 3:5

He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” — Psalm 103:12 NLT

Let’s sing together. . .

“The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures.

My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace.”

—Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) by Chris Tomlin

The Circuit Riders Ride Again


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1In the early years of church history here in the U.S., a community might see a different preacher each week; one Sunday a Baptist, the next a Methodist, Presbyterian, or just a man on horseback with a bible in his saddlebags and a sermon on his lips. Old-timers in the rural Kaufman County church I once pastored shared their parent’s, and grandparent’s passed along memories of those circuit riders (as they came to be known) galloping up to the one room building that served as a schoolhouse, community gathering spot, and the Sunday go to meeting place. I so enjoyed walking alongside those old farmers down garden rows picking a mess of peas and listening to those stories. Their days on earth are over, but their memories live on in mine.

When Gaby and I began attending the Community Life Church in Forney, Texas it wasn’t anything at all like that old framed church house I pastored about 20 miles east or any other church I had set foot in. There were no hymnals to sing from, no pulpit for the preacher to preach from; they didn’t pass an offering plate, and the pastor didn’t look at all like a pastor, he wore jeans and a pullover. Our daughter told us the environment was relaxed, but a coffee bar with donuts – what had I gotten myself into? And with no altar call at the end of the service, what in the world was the world coming too?

If only out of curiosity or perhaps to be sure I hadn’t just dreamed it, we found ourselves westbound on US-80 headed back for round two the next Sunday.

Grabbing a cup of Joe and a donut (yes, I did), we found a seat and buckled up. Having been a longtime fan of progressive Christian music (even when it was a bit taboo) the worship team doing Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman music was good by me. Had they busted out with a little Petra or Stryper, I would have sung along. The music was great, and I was looking forward to hearing that baldheaded pastor continue the sermon series he had started the week prior. It was well presented, informative and inspiring, enough so that I was able to do a mental write-off of his unpastoral-like attire and just listen to what he had to say, but who is this dragging a small table and stool to center stage?

He introduced himself as Randy something. “Randy who? I don’t care; I want to hear the bald guy. I came specifically to hear part two in the series from the bald guy, not a visiting preacher.” It turns out he wasn’t a visiting preacher, but when he referred to himself as a co-pastor of the church, I thought to myself, “nice title for the assistant, maybe he won’t mess the series up too badly.” How quickly though I found myself hanging onto his every word. Like the week before, I was captivated, a sponge soaking up the warmth of the Son. He was funny too, using a lot of humor to convey the points he wanted to make.

The sermon series continued our third week in attendance but with yet another man, co-pastor Paul McDill. Coming on the heels of the previous two weeks I thought this three-pastor model is weird but after being spellbound by Paul’s exhilarating message, and noting the seamless flow of a sermon series split between three pastors I thought, “they’re certainly in sync, they just might have something here. After all, having two campuses (Forney and Mesquite), you would need more than one pastor to keep the bases covered.”

Three years later the church would plant two additional campuses within the area, and the three co-pastors would rotate between them, much like the circuit riders of old. Although it didn’t make a lot of sense to me early on (a more logical approach being one man overseeing and serving each campus, I thought), the second Sunday at the new Kaufman campus, co-pastor David Griffin (the bald guy) had the Conn. Having invited friends living in the area to give c|Life Kaufman a try, Gaby and I were there to greet them. Randy Wade was the teaching pastor in week one, so when David stood to introduce himself, his was a face new to many. I wondered, were the people thinking somewhat as I had thought three years earlier? “What’s going on? Who is this? Where’s the funny guy, the guy with hair? I came back to hear him.”

David began with an intro that (in brief) went something like this. “You heard from Randy last week; you get me today. If you don’t like my preaching, none to worry, there’ll be someone else here next week.” Then (in my words) he offered this explanation.

Why do we do it this way? We want you to come to c|Life not because of a man, other than the man Jesus. That your faith does not rest in or rely on a preacher, but in Christ; that’s what is important, that’s our objective, the reason why.

As strange to me as the co-pastor model was at first (three men sharing coequally), I had come to terms with it years earlier, we loved our church. But it wasn’t until that Sunday morning that I fully understood the reasoning, and it made perfect sense.

“One man plants, another man waters, but it is God who gives the increase.”  ~ 1 Corinthians 3:6

Keep riding the circuit guys; I will pray you never develop saddle sores.

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” ~ Acts 4:12


Do You Remember When?


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1This past weekend hundreds of students packed into the c|Life Sunnyvale campus participating in the WKND event. Pictures posted to Facebook were thrilling, causing me to wish the church I attended growing up would have offered a not to be forgotten experience as I am certain this was. Things were different then, though. Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s was a challenge; some would say the most rebellious decades ever among the youth population of America.

Having recovered from World War II, unlike their parents (many who had to work to help support their families in the decade before), teens in the 50’s were staying in school, getting jobs at the neighborhood supermarkets and soda shops. Making their own money to spend on themselves, going to the movies and listening to Rock ‘n’ Roll – life was grand, a life entirely different from mom and dad’s. Charting new courses, they carved out roads different from the ones traveled by their parent’s; roads distancing their generation from the hardships that characterized the life of their fathers.

With the dawning of the 1960’s, Civil Rights was a major issue prompting violent riots, protests, marches, sit-ins and other acts of civil disobedience troubling young souls. Involvement in the Vietnam conflict sent even more spine-tingling chills throughout the country, more protests, more marches, more sit-ins. The louder the sound of gunfire pouring through the television set became – the louder the voices of protest would become. Perhaps it was fear of reliving the horror stories so often heard concerning WWII that fanned the flames of the anti-war rebellion blanketing the American landscape then.

Remembering the days I grew up in is a reason why my heart leaps with joy at the sight of any number of young people reaching out to touch Jesus. This past Sunday we heard of how a woman whose ruinous life was completely restored when she did the same (see Luke 8:43-44).

The exciting thought for me is this: Our students will carry the WKND event with them inciting, igniting and fanning the flame of God’s love in their homes and schools that others may come to discover the change reaching out to touch Jesus brings.

Do you remember the change he brought in your life when you reached out to touch him? Did you make the connection? Have you?

Every church should have such an event.


Where Are You Going?


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Billy Graham once shared the following story with a crowd of Christian leaders and businessmen who had gathered to honor him in Charlotte, North Carolina. Standing at the lectern, he begins,

“I’m reminded today of Albert Einstein, the great physicist who was honored by Time magazine as the Man of the Century.

“Einstein was once traveling from Princeton on a train, when the conductor came down the aisle, punching the tickets of every passenger. When he came to Einstein, Einstein reached in his vest pocket. He couldn’t find his ticket, so he reached into his trouser pockets.

“It wasn’t there. He looked in his briefcase but couldn’t find it. Then he looked in the seat beside him. He still couldn’t find it.

“The conductor said, ‘Dr. Einstein, I know who you are. We all know who you are. I’m sure you bought a ticket. Don’t worry about it.’

“Einstein nodded appreciatively. The conductor continued down the aisle punching tickets. As he was ready to move to the next car, he turned around and saw the great physicist down on his hands and knees looking under his seat for his ticket.

“The conductor rushed back and said, ‘Dr. Einstein, Dr. Einstein, don’t worry, I know who you are; no problem. You don’t need a ticket. I’m sure you bought one.’

Einstein looked at him and said, “Young man, I too, know who I am. What I don’t know is where I’m going.”


Who you are is who you are, the hand genetics has dealt you. Your physical features and cognitive capacity all determined by your ancestry. How then can it be said, “all men are created equal”? I would love to play basketball like Michael Jordan, write like Max Lucado, sing like Elvis and have the intelligence of Einstein – but the story DNA told never said a word about my being anyone other than who I am, who God made me be.

The biblical idea of equality is not that I can be or do anything anyone else can, that is, of course, not true. Scripturally expressed, the equal ground we share is two-fold; our treatment of one another (to be impartial and fair towards all), and our opportunity to know and have a relationship with God.

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
– Matthew 7:12

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
– John 3:16

I’m 5’5” not 6’6”, Michael Jordan I could never be, but both he and I can treat others as we would want to be treated. I will never be an Einstein; I’m good with that. But unlike the good doctor that day, I do know where I am going, do you?

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

– John 14:1-6