Wednesday, March 25, 2020


I love old war movies. I always took some comfort from those battle scenes where someone shouted for a "Medic!" The medic was not engaged in the battle but was the one who would ease the pain, bind the wounds, speak words of comfort and bring a level of experience that assured those he served that he was qualified to help out in a really scary time.

We're in a battle now. Yes, it’s a battle. But, it’s more a battle against fear and anxiety than any virus that may come along. “Social distancing, shelter in place, quarantined, etc.” Some new phrases and some familiar ones have entered our lexicon and/or taken on new and sober meanings. It would be easy for many of us to feel overwhelmed, to feel anxious or even a little helpless. But, if we look around us, there are good reasons to be hopeful and ways to experience things that can be incredibly encouraging. For the church, we are presented, every day, with golden opportunities to reflect the gospel to those around us, to be the medics in the middle of the battle. We're qualified to minister comfort, bind up wounds and bring peace.

How can we do that while being isolated?

First, let's be practical. We should be careful about going out and we should try to avoid close contact with others. There’s nothing to be gained by proving to others how brave we are, none of us are invulnerable. So, we keep our distance, don’t venture out unless necessary, yet try to find ways to make others more important than ourselves—even as we keep our distance. This is a challenge for sure. 

But, there are people on the front lines of this battle who have an impossible time maintaining distance. They're engaged in a heated exchange with the enemy and are in close quarters combat every day. We can be the medics in the middle of that battle ministering love and hope to the wounded, tired and bleeding.  

These warriors have become opportunities to show thanks and exhibit grace. It’s comforting to know that I can go to the hospital or doctor’s office and be greeted by folks who will care for me, just as they always have. First responders continue to respond, despite the risk. Police, firemen, highway patrol—all remaining vigilant, protecting, helping to hold our community together. We should be thankful for them and be sure to thank them at every opportunity. Post your gratefulness on social media. Send a note or a card to the hospital, sheriff’s office or police station. Put a small thank you in your mailbox for the postal worker who’s still delivering your mail. Let these folks know you’re praying for them.

Another less-heralded group is those who are manning the supermarkets. They’re on duty every day, many of them working long hours in an unceasing and thankless effort to keep the shelves stocked and answer the same questions countless times while keeping a smile on their faces.

Try this the next time you go out, if you choose to go out. Thank the person behind the counter, the one who greets you, the one stocking the shelves, roaming the aisles, sweeping the floor. Thank them for simply being there. Offer to pray for them or let them know you will. Watch what it does for them. Then see what it does in your heart as you serve them while they’re serving you.

God has given us these golden opportunities to be light in the darkness. Let’s live the gospel as we stay home. But, whether we're in our homes or out there, let's grab our bag of medicines and tools and begin being what we're called to be. Let’s fight despair with hope, grace and the love of Christ. It’s our calling. Those around us need it and we do as well.  

Friday, March 13, 2020

This Is Our Time!

I stopped at a Dollar General Store, one of those way out in the middle of nowhere, not in but near a small town in West Virginia. I had been looking for hand sanitizer and was able to find empty shelves and signs on some store entrances that said, “We are out of hand-sanitizer.” I thought, “Why would they need hand sanitizer way out here so far from crowds and all the hysteria?” As I entered, I asked the clerk if they had any. She responded, “Yes, we just unpacked two cases,” and followed with, “but you better hurry.” I scurried over to the aisle only to find two women had beat me to it, each of them scooping hand sanitizers from the shelf into those hand baskets they provide. Both baskets were nearly full. Realizing I was on shaky ground, I meekly asked, “Can I snag a few of those from each of you?” “Not in your life!” came the indignant reply from one. “No way!” from the other. As I got in my car, all I could think was, “Treat others as more significant than yourself” (Php 2:3). If I had been the first one down the aisle, would I have been able to put my “Love in action” as we’ve been teaching? Or would I allow my sense of self-preservation to guide me?

The world seems to have frayed at the ends over the last week; stock market crashes, travel restrictions, empty shelves, near-hysteria and paranoia everywhere. It’s a stark reminder of how fragile our lives really are and how precarious this new world economy can be. Not too long ago, there would be little concern over a virus in China, but with international business travel being what it is and leisure activities abounding on airplanes and cruise ships in the twenty-first century, we find ourselves in a more vulnerable position to sickness and disease than has ever been experienced before.
The world is in a panic. There’s good reason to be concerned. The threat of the Coronavirus is real and needs to be taken seriously. This is a time for caution and care.

But, it’s not a time for fear or anxiety, not for the children of God.
The ESV uses the phrase “fear not” thirty-three times. This should be the message of the church, “Fear not!” God remains on the throne. He is sovereign over every virus, every situation, every country, every city, every town, every home, every individual. The response of the church should be set apart from that of the world. This is our opportunity to put God on display, to put our love into action. Perhaps we, like Esther, have been prepared for a time such as this (Est 4:15). As we boldly decide not to become victims of fear and paranoia, but to place our trust in God, we can, even while the world panics around us, experience the peace that goes beyond understanding (Php 4:6-7) and be ambassadors of the love of Christ (2 Cor 5:20).

What does that look like? Well, we must be prudent. The risks
around us are real and we must take them into account. We should limit handshakes and hugs when we get together. We don’t sequester ourselves, but we don’t get reckless about being in public either.  So, we proceed with caution. We wash our hands--frequently! But we do not wash our hands of the world around us.

But whenever an opportunity to be peacemakers arises, we should take it. We should be encouragers, not rumor mongers and agents of bad news and doomsday scenarios. We should be aware of online and in-person opportunities to assure folks that this too will pass, that God is a loving God and that His peace is readily available to those who trust in Him. We should be aware of those around us and use this moment to show our trust in God by sharing what we have. Instead of hoarding hand sanitizer, food and household goods, we can minister the gospel by offering them to our neighbors and friends, by reaching out to the elderly folks down the street to see if they need anything  or if we can be of any service, by praying for others on the phone and in our emails/posts. In short, whether we are out and about or staying in our homes, we can get creative about being Christ to those around us.

This is our time. This is a time for the church to stand up and show the world what true, godly love looks like. This is a golden opportunity, a unique moment in history in which we can be messengers of the gospel in a profound and practical way. Let’s refuse to succumb to the spirit of self-preservation and isolation that seems to pervade everything and everyone around us and become an oasis of joy, peace, and compassion. We can do it. God has prepared us. He has given us this opportunity. Let’s make the most of it. 

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The View from a Pastor's Wife's Chair

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.  Proverbs 12:15

As the old year draws to a close and a new one waits in the wings, I find myself eager to move into 2020 with the obvious, intentional pun of clearer vision. I find that in looking back on my old attitudes and perspectives I am longing for a change, to embrace a sharpened and honed vision for the future.  My desire for a less encumbered, more thoughtful and purposeful life includes it being a more grateful one.

One of the wisest things my husband has ever told me (and he tells me many wise things as my best friend and my most trusted counselor) is that I have to learn not to count my life in losses but in blessings.

Unfortunately, I find at the ripe old age of 59 that the ageless enemy of idolatry still lives in me, manifesting itself in shortsighted ingratitude. 

The lines of my boundary have fallen in pleasant places; surely my inheritance is delightful. Psalm 16:6

How can a human soul so blessed stay in a place of misguided loyalty? Surely this is what idolatry is - lingering and looking into something, ascribing it the highest value, above all others, above God and His truth?

Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things. Colossians 3:2

My life is sweet - not without its own version of trials and failures, but the hard times have *eventually* led and hopefully will continue to lead me deeper into Christ. 

"I am the Light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life."  John 8:12

This year I want to work at setting my sight on how beautiful God is in every situation (meaning in others’ and my own failures too), how faithfully He stays with us in pain and loss (family, business, health), how lovingly He pursues those He is calling and has already called His own...

how intentionally He saves us and how graciously He is ever refining us, opening our eyes, revealing our imperfections - not to call us solely to an inward estimation of worth or lack thereof, an introspection which often backfires and stalls into self-glorification or self-abasement, 

but one that leads us ultimately upwards to a holy God who lives in us and made it possible for us to live a Light-filled life. 

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ... Ephesians 4:15

What a high calling of choice we have, to dwell in and on the truth, speaking it in love, to ourselves and others. I/We must be careful though. This is not simply sending happy thoughts to ourselves or others. That would be like throwing an empty styrofoam cup to a person drowning in deep waters.

It’s more a strategic launching of a life-saving instrument (God's word), targeted to reach the hands and heart of the one in need, being careful not to strike the head with an intentional knock-out.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2

Perhaps you’d like to join us (online or in your own devotions) in studying the book of Luke, the Gentile doctor who traveled extensively with the Apostle Paul and wrote out the testimonies of his own acts and the acts of the eyewitnesses’ who lived and walked with Christ?  Within these pages you’ll see God’s love IS for everyone, as my dear hubby’s sermon series title proclaims. 

He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of His beloved Son. Colossians 1:13 

Whatever our choices for this year, may we and they be informed with God’s word, and may we live graciously with ourselves and each other, overflowing with the gratitude of one who has been lovingly pursued, rescued, and is being slowly but surely shaped and fashioned for life in a kingdom that's not only here and now, but also out of this world. ;)

Happy New Year, dear ones.


Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Daily Bread for Dec 30, Rev 20-22

Today’s readings are Rev 20-22.

In Rev 20, we see the beginning of the thousand-year reign of Christ. The chronology is a little confusing in these chapters. Suffice it to say that there is a wedding and there is a reign. At the end of the reign, which lasts a very long time, perhaps a literal thousand years, perhaps not, there is another battle between the Lamb and Satan. This battle leads to the final defeat of Satan and judgment on all who opposed God.

A new heaven and earth appear. This is the new creation. Bear in mind that much of the language used is symbolic and metaphorical, meant to convey the perfection and holiness of heaven and the presence of the unbridled glory of God. Many pages have been written trying to formalize what John describes in these chapters. Most of it is indescribable. God is not giving John blueprints here. He is revealing His glory.

Once again, God reigns in sovereign authority over all. In the beginning, man fell and was separated from God. Now man is restored to God. The journey back to the garden has been completed by the grace of God, and all things have been made new again. We see a new Jerusalem, this one with no temple, no sun or moon. It is lit by the glory of God with the Son as the lamp. It is a safe, pure and holy place, eternally preserved in its holiness (Rev 20:25-27).

The new city is marked by multiples of twelve. It is 12,000 stadia (presumably, squared). The walls are 144 cubits. There are twelve gates built on twelve foundations, each of the foundations representing one of twelve Apostles, each gate named after one of the twelve tribes. The foundations are a clear allusion to the new church which has been built on a “foundation of the Apostles and prophets” (Eph 2:20). The text does not distinguish which of the twelve Apostles are honored in this fashion. Note that the text does not limit the number of Apostles to twelve. It only says that the foundations of the gates numbered twelve and each bore the name of an Apostle. No mention is made as to who may be included in the twelve.

Laboring over that detail can be an intriguing exercise but would miss the point being made here. Heaven is all about inclusion of all believers to the glory of God. The Bible, which is rapidly coming to a conclusion, is the story of God and His plan to reveal His glory in the redemption of His children. It's not about who's who in heaven.

In the designation of the tribes and the Apostles on the gates in Rev 21 we see a union between the Old Testament and the New. This is symbolic on several levels. It honors the original, faithful Jews who are now united with the new church, all of them occupying the new Jerusalem. It recognizes that they have all been part of God's plan to bring His chosen ones into His presence. It shows that God has been actively working throughout the history of the world. The multiple twelves we see in the walls, gates and dimensions of the city indicate perfection. Trying to determine actual measurements or literalize any of these details would again miss the point John is making. He is portraying a city that is intricately perfect in every way, existing for the glory of God.

Rev 22 depicts the river of life, running through the city. On its banks, we see the tree of life, hidden since Adam and Eve's ejection from the Garden. The curse has been reversed, man is restored to an intimate, eternally secured relationship with God and His blessings are abundant and never-ending.

John ends his book with the encouragement and assurance that Jesus will return soon. Meanwhile, we see a reminder that the Bible is the complete and perfect self-revelation of God and is not to be tampered with, edited or improved upon. Rev 22:20 makes it clear that the Scriptures are the words of Christ. It is fitting that the last verse is a testimony to the grace of God.

It is compelling that the first verse of Genesis tells us, “In the beginning God…” This occurs at the very first moment of human history. Thousands of years later, as those who believe in Him take their first steps into eternity, the Bible ends with “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.” The first and last words of the Bible are about our holy, sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, loving, triune God. We would do well to remember that all that lies in between are about Him as well.

God is on the throne, Jesus is at His side and He has brought His children home.

Daily Bread for Dec 29, Rev 17-19

Today’s readings are Rev 17-19.

Rev 17-18 retell and lament the fall of Babylon as a way of symbolizing what is about to happen. Babylon is symbolic of the world system, which has been in place since the fall in the garden. Just as Babylon did at the hand of the Persians, the world system will come to a violent end when Christ returns.

With the battle over and the victory won, worship commences in heaven, as we see in Rev 19 -- intense, loud, joyful, unbridled worship. The Lamb is now on a white horse and is portrayed as an all-powerful, conquering king. The bride is presented to the Lamb. She has "made herself ready," but her beauty has been "granted" to her (Rev 19:8) in the form of righteousness, described symbolically as “fine linen, bright and pure.”

Significantly, the bride is not beautiful in and of herself but derives her beauty from what has been given her by God. This is a lesson in how God relates to His children. Any value the children may have comes directly from their relationship with His only Son. 

The beast, the false prophet and everyone who followed them become dinner for the birds. They are utterly defeated (Rev 19:17-21). Of course, this is not news. It was foretold in Gen 3:15 and has been a consistent theme throughout the Bible. Satan is subject to God’s authority and used for His divine purposes. The devil is a created being. God is the sovereign ruler over all creation.