Thursday, July 30, 2009


I’m learning that the difference between reading God’s Word and memorizing it is the difference between writing with a marker on a whiteboard or etching the message into it.

I decided to memorize the book of Titus this summer. I just finished writing a series of devotional essays on the book and, besides, it’s short. Where else could I go to say I’ve memorized a whole book of the Bible?

Yeah, Philemon, but you get the idea.

I had studied Titus pretty well, I thought, in writing the essays but as I memorize the first chapter of Titus, I’m discovering points I had completely missed before.

I wrote God’s word in marker before, reading it repeatedly and studying it. But now, as I sluggishly etch His word, concepts are becoming clearer.

Memorizing is a muscle that needs to be strengthened. Titus 1:1 took over 3 hours to get locked in (and I’m not sure it is eternally locked in yet) but Titus 1:12 took less than an hour and 1:14 was done in about 20 minutes. The muscle is getting a little stronger. (And, no, I didn’t spend 3 hours all at one time. This was over three weeks of review.)

I know, you don’t have time to memorizee. Me, neither. But what a privilege it is to uncover another layer of God’s meaning. Give it a try. And hold me accountable!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Usually it helps to know how something was used originally as we look at scriptures. But it may not be quite as important with the Psalms of Ascent.

The Psalms of Ascent are 15 Psalms (Psalms 120-134) which progressively draw us into worship. Some call them the Psalms of Degrees and suspect that they signify 15 steps in the temple going up from the court of women to the court of men. In that scenario, with musical accompaniment, a priest standing on each step would recite a Psalm in ascending order.

Others suggest that pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem for one of the three Great Festivals of the year would sing these Psalms in order as preparation for the Festival.

However they were originally used, we can see the principle: these Psalms lead into worship.

Starting with a cry for protection from enemies in Psalm 120, the Psalms of Ascent examine different aspects of our relationship with God.

If you’ve never read these Psalms with that idea in mind, make a plan to do that. It will be a rich experience.

Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,
who stand by night in the house of the Lord! Lift up your hands to the holy place, and bless the Lord. May the Lord, maker of heaven and earth, bless you from Zion.
Psalms 134:1-3

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Before Randy Alcorn left fiction writing, he penned a challenging murder/detective mystery novel, Dominion.

But Alcorn is not content to let us simply help unpack the clues of a mystery. He gives the main character, Clarence, depth, a man who is an enigma. A prominent columnist for the city’s liberal newspaper, Clarence is a black conservative who angrily remembers the racism of his youth.

The story is packed with characters who interact with Clarence, from his white best friend to the detective who also burdens under a painful past. Clarence’s father, a sweet elderly man. tenaciously holds to his hope in Jesus and forgives where Clarence struggles.

Clarence finds challenges in unexpected places and helps us understand both his pain and his anger. You’ll probably chuckle when Clarence’s wife deftly reveals that, even as he rages against racism, he has some himself, too.

Clarence is not a stereotype but struggles with inconsistent foibles just like the rest of us.

Alcorn brings perceptive insight to his characters and helps us understand many of the emotions racism. Clarence helps us understand much of the frustration of the black community as we join him in searching for his sister's murderer.

Dominion gripped me and opened my eyes to topics such as racism, forgiveness, family. Check it out.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Set free

I've been thinking about freedom some lately. And I've been thinking about my friends in Cuba some lately, too.

They don't have much freedom in Cuba. Although they find creative ways to enjoy life, and their life is simpler than ours, they are somewhat like well-behaved children. They grew up under a strong-fisted government that solves all their problems while stealing all their choices. They know better than to complain or openly disobey (although there's plenty of creative massaging of rules behind the scenes.)

Of course, no government can solve all our problems.

So, what is the cost of freedom? We need to address it squarely, for we now live in a nation where officials are eager for the government to solve all our problems.

There's always a cost to their solutions and usually that cost is freedom. Is it OK to trade freedom for state care?

A celebrity has quipped that Cuba is proof that socialism works. But the homes I visited proudly displayed USA flags because they want what we have. People die trying to swim from Cuba's shores to Miami. They crave freedom.

Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia in dismay when he realized they were trading their new freedom for old bondages. We may face that decision in our own country.

Do we trust Papa Government to care for us? Or, in trusting our Heavenly Father, hold firmly to the freedom that Christ

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Gal 5:1

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Acting like a noble

But those who are noble make noble plans, and stand for what is noble.
Isaiah 32:8

We act as we are. If we’re thieves, we act as thieves. If we’re noble, we make noble plans and stand for what is noble.

If you don’t like how you act, change who you are.

Monday, July 20, 2009


Plunging his sleek black brush into the fiery red pool on his pallette, the artist slashed a broad stroke of paint across the white canvas. Within minutes, forms began to emerge from the bland canvas as the artist parried with the empty canvas.

Hacking against the blandness of the canvas, the painter layered colors that developed into distant shapes. There was not yet a crowd to watch but the artist worked feverishly. Blobs of color resting the pallette suddenly appeared on the canvas as forms and shapes that developed shadows and delicate feathering of reflections.

The artist steppped back from his work for a rest, examining his work. He was a good artist and the canvas no long stared with empty whiteness. Colors, forms, depth, and light shone forth.

It was good.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…
Gen 1:1

Friday, July 17, 2009

Scott Klusendorf on SLED

Yesterday I reviewed Scott Kluesendorf's book, The Case for Life. I found an interesting video from Klusendorf. Check it out:

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Case for Life

When the idea was first presented to me, I was only 17. My concerns had more to do with where my friends were sitting and whether I had the right literature book in my stack than on issues.

So when a classmate plopped her books on the table beside me and announced, “I’d never get an abortion but I don’t think I should control what other people do,” that made sense to me at the time.

Because I gave it no thought at all. I didn’t consider any consequences of that statement. It just fit my idea of liberty: don’t step on others’ rights.

Eventually I did consider consequences and I changed my mind. But I wish Scott Klusendorf’s book, The Case for Life, had been available then.

Klusendorf is president of Life Training Institute, where he trains pro-life advocates to defend their views. His passion is equipping Christians to engage the culture with logic and thoughtful consideration of consequences.

He hits the floor running in The Case for Life, defining the issue immediately. While many dither about details, Klusendorf claims we must focus first on one point: is the unborn a human being?

I admire his “Trot out the Toddler” tactic. Those who argue that a poor woman should not be forced to bear a child must answer this question: could she kill the toddler she could not afford to feed? If a woman may abort the baby because pregnancy would ruin her chances for a college education, may we also agree that she could terminate the toddler who might spoil her educational possibilities?

Many pro-abortion arguments assume the fetus is not human. Clarifying that basic question helps illuminate issues.

The Case for Life is a valuable tool if you’re pro-life. If you're not, you ought to read this to see if your position holds up to a calm, logical debate.

Best-selling author Randy Alcorn calls this “a marvelous resource” and I agree.

You can find it at Amazon by clicking here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Islamic extremists shot and killed an American teacher in Mauritania on June 23, because he was spreading Christianity, according to a report by Compass Direct News.

Christopher Leggett, 39, was killed in front of the language and computer school he ran in Nouakchott, the capital city. The North African unit of the al-Qaeda terrorist network claimed responsibility for the murder on a Web site, accusing Leggett of "missionary activities." A North African al-Qaeda spokesman aired a statement on an Arab TV station saying the group killed Leggett because he was trying to convert Muslims to Christianity.

His family issued a statement saying they forgave the murderers, but asked the murderers be brought to justice. "In a spirit of love, we express our forgiveness for those who took away the life of our remarkable son," Leggett's family said in the statement. "On a spiritual level, we forgive those responsible, asking only that justice be applied against those who killed our son."

Please join The Voice of the Martyrs in praying for Christopher Leggett's family in this time of grief. Pray they will find comfort, strength and peace in the Lord. Pray their testimony of forgiveness for those who took Christopher's life would serve to draw others to Christ. Pray the attackers will be found and brought to justice.

Monday, July 13, 2009

In difficulty

It was like sweeping water to direct the shy young children onto the platform but the young mother was trying, holding a pre-schooler’s hand while pressing her hand gently against the back of a hesitant little girl.

Once before the crowd, little Julia covered her mouth with her hands while Esther waved at her grandmother. Two little boys bounced shoulder to shoulder as they surveyed the audience. They'd be glad when this difficulty was over.

As the music burst from the little blue CD player on the front pew, the leaders began singing softly, hoping to lure the children into following.

Off to the side, almost hidden by the pew itself, sat the pastor. He was leaning forward, his short square body keeping rhythm with the music.

In spite of a disability, Eduardo found a way to travel 15 miles to this village every Friday where he spent the weekend with his people. Because he couldn’t work, his family lived on his wife’s income. That didn’t include money for transportation.

He, his wife, and two daughters lived in a tiny apartment with little furniture.They slept in hammocks that, during the day hung from large hooks on one wall. At least making the bed was fast.

God provided ways for Eduardo to travel. Eduardo was in town every weekend to counsel, encourage, visit, pray, and conduct two services on Sundays.

Eduardo’s difficulties were only cobwebs to be pushed aside as he poured out what was in his heart: the love and grace of his Lord. He was no victim of circumstance, but an ambassador.

As the children stumbled over the songs that Sunday evening, nervous before the crowd, Eduardo didn’t scowl because they faltered. He understood difficulties. Instead, from the wellspring of his heart, he leaned forward in love and sang to them.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Pursuit and a party

Beginnings and endings matter, especially in scriptural accounts. And, although I usually rail against chapter breaks in biblical texts, the monks got it right in Luke 15.

You know Luke 15. It’s the chapter where Jesus tells three parables: the shepherd who searched for the lost sheep until he found it, the woman who searched for the lost coin until she found it, and the prodigal son.

How often do we hear the parable of the prodigal son dissected apart from the rest of the chapter? Way too often. It’s better understood in the context of the chapter.

The beginning of chapter 15 introduces the scene. As the lowlifes of the day – the tax collectors and sinners – were drawn to Jesus and his message, the protectors of religious law – the Pharisees and Scribes – were complaining: "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them." (Luke 15:2)

Jesus responded to their grumbling with three parables. His third parable, the familiar story about the prodigal son, ends with the older brother complaining because his father welcomed the wayward brother and prepared a feast for him. In other words, the father welcomed the sinner and ate with him.

Somehow it doesn’t seem fair that the wayward should get better treatment than the loyal. But if we examine Luke’s context, we see a strong parallel between the older son and the Pharisees. In holding the line on tradition and law, both had lost sight of relationship.

Jesus explained at the end of the chapter: “But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found." (Luke 15:32)

While the Pharisees grumbled at the unworthiness of sinners and tax collectors, Jesus’ outlook was of celebration: they were lost and have now been found.

How should we relate to “sinners”? With pursuit and a party.

There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
Luke 15:7

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The new outreach

My dad sees the Internet as a monster with huge teeth about to devour him and his identity in one huge gulp. His solution? Never touch a computer.

My son sees the Internet as a bridge to connect him to friends in Australia and Albania. He could spend all his time staring at the computer's monitor.

As followers of Jesus, what do we do with the Internet? I think most of us (because we're using Internet resources) recognize its value as a tool. I found a fascinating article about more ways to evangelize on the internet.

If you'd like to be more involved in web evangelism, take a look here.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

My young warrior

Timothy busied himself in the afternoon preparing his program. At 13, he had a clear idea of what this presentation should look like.

Crepe paper was hung from the basketball court to the far corners of the garage’s cement apron. When an afternoon rain shredded the crepe, he hung more, adding a banner around parts of the driveway.

“I wish I could make the sun go down now,” he told me after supper. “What time does the sun go down anyway?” About 8:30, my young warrior. And it’s only 7 pm now. I wish I could make the sun go down for you, too.

As darkness fell, we were rousted. “It’s time, it’s time!”

With his iPod plugged into a pair of tiny speakers, blasting music from some “Requiem” that he introduced but forgot to explain, Timothy welcomed us.

“Some of these are really loud,” he said.

After the first little display pelted us with debris, we suggested he move to the other side of the driveway. He’d thought to bring his little lantern which could glow yellow or be switched to red. That and some slightly-stubborn matches accompanied him from the table to his next display.

“I twisted three wicks together for this next one,” he told us as he struck a match, which immediately died.

“Fuse,” his father said. “Not wick.”

“What’s a wick?.”

“Think of a candle.”

“Ah. OK. I twisted three fuses together.” Earlier, he had debated whether he should open the little balls of gunpowder to pour the contents into one big ball of gunpowder. I had discouraged the idea so he had switched to twisting the fuses.

After watching the series of little flashes and pops, we leaned back in our lawn chairs as he prepared the next one. “This will be loud.” He laid the match against the fuse, ran to the far corner of the driveway, and covered his ears. He was right.

We watched Dragon’s Eggs, where a whole series of little white balls exploded on the driveway. We watched Garden Flower, where a little cardboard disk spun, changing colors as it lost velocity. As it ended, Timothy burst back onto the scene, searching for the disk itself.

“Hmmm,” he swung his light around. “Look at the white spot where it was. Cleaned the driveway up there.” I was waiting for him to suggest lighting a whole series of Garden Flowers when we wanted to brighten up the concrete. But he didn’t, because, to his delight, he could find no signs of the cardboard.

“It must have disintegrated!” he said joyfully.

He had problems getting the next fuse lit. “I need better matches,” he said. One lit but the head immediately broke off, the flame falling to the concrete.

“Try pulling the match toward yourself when you light it,” his dad said. That worked a lot better and improved the page of the program considerably.

We watched more exploding firecrackers and another loud bang. “Isn’t this great?” Timothy said.

He’d searched hard for an empty glass bottle, locating one earlier in the day by climbing through all the junk in the burn pit out back. Now he slipped two rockets into it and lit them. They sailed into the inky sky, ending with a distant pop.

“Perfect,” he announced.

By then, a breeze was stirring and he hustled to get the next firecrackers lit.

The storm stole the rest of his show as a strong wing suddenly blasted the front yard and we scurried to get things undercover.

“ARGH,” he said. “The best part was coming. Did you see how they were getting better and better? We were getting closer to my grand finale.”

Another night, son. But I marveled at all the elements he’d created, from a written program to a thoughtful consideration of the order of the fireworks. He’d selected music, location, even decorations.

He’s a young warrior, but he had turned $5 work of fireworks into a display of love for his family.

Monday, July 6, 2009


"Human beings ... too often think they're flying when they're only falling"

Wendell Berry

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Fourth of July

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Gal 5:1

Thursday, July 2, 2009


It seemed like the iPod of my era, when I unwrapped that little plastic transistor radio at Christmas. Suddenly, I could listen to my own music. I even had an earplug for privacy. The radio is long gone but the memories are still clear.

Memories were cascading yesterday as we celebrated the life and legacy of our dear Wilma. She graduated to heaven on Sunday, drifting away in her sleep. It was the way we all wanted her to go, if she had to leave us.

Wilma had three specific directions for her funeral. She instructed our pastor, in her soft Oklahoma drawl, these things:
  • "Keep it short, Kelly."
  • "Don't have one of those open mikes where people come up and say stuff about me."
  • "And don't put any hootch in the punch."

And now, a little like spiritual orphans, we step onward.

But Wilma's instructions fascinated me.

First, keep it short. Wilma seldom missed a gathering. She loved people and would have watched our embraces and tears with a prayer and a pat on the back. But she didn't want us to linger in the grief we were feeling.

Because this life wasn't about her. That's what her second direction meant. She didn't want us to idolize her. Our pastor called her an arrow, pointing to her blessed Savior. She was a humble servant. Our memories of her ought not to puff her up, but to direct us to God.

Regarding her third instruction, trust me: there was no danger of hooch in the punch. But she reminded us all to lighten up. Life with the Lord is joyous and a frequent laugh makes the days more, well, Wilma-like. Wilma laughed a lot.

Gifts aren't ours forever. But they can make our lives so much richer and stronger.

We'll spend years discovering the treasures that Wilma, our gift from God, has buried in our memories.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Corrupting power

In yesterday's post, I discussed the nature of theocracies. Clearly, those of us who follow Jesus would find a theocracy wise. If God, with his wisdom and power, were calling the shots, we'd be as successful as the Israelites going into the Promised Land.

The issue isn't God's wisdom, but our own corruption. As George Orwell said, "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Look at the first king of Israel, King Saul. Chosen by God to be the nation's king, Saul was expected to obey God. In a sense, we see a theocracy once-removed. God, through Samuel, instructed Saul. Saul gave those instructions a quick glance and then did what seemed practical to him.

Saul's reign began with a great military flourish as he defeated the Ammonites miraculously. We're told clearly that God was with him, winning that battle. Ironically, his end came on the same battlefield against the Philistines. God was not with him this time. God did not speak to him because of his disobedience.

Samuel's farwell address contains fascinating guidelines to the people he ruled. Samuel did not direct their attention to obedience of their new king but notice what he said:
If you fear the LORD and serve and obey him and do not rebel against his commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the LORD your God--good!
1 Sam 12:14

Israel thought they had moved into a monarchy by demanding a king. God chose their king and made clear that their ultimate obedience was to follow the Lord their God. God has not handed off the reins and headed to a new galaxy to dabble with some other civilization somewhere else.

He is still here. Even as he allows governments to operate, ultimately he expects obedience to be to him. We can't lose sight of that fact: God is here, ruling still, and our job is to obey him.

Samuel closed his farewell address with encouraging words:
But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.
1 Sam 12:24

No matter how our earthly governments rule, our job is to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all our hearts.