Monday, November 28, 2011

angels and shepherds

Luke 2:8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.

17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.

We are very much like the shepherds.  We stand on our hillsides tending the sheep in our lives as we move from day to day.  At a certain point the Lord breaks into our reality with an amazing announcement that He has brought His Son into the world and we can see Him and know Him.  Like the shepherds we leave our hillside and find that Jesus has indeed come, just as promised.  We see faith grow into trust and then we are changed.  We tell others of this great truth and when we return to our hillsides and our sheep we have a new song of praise, for now we know that God keeps His promises to men and that God loves all of us as we stand on remote hills.  We will never be alone and we will never be apart from Him again.

Friday, November 25, 2011

pond soup

I eased my kayak into the local pond this morning as the night mist still lingered over the surface and the water was still, apart from my noisy invasion.  As I pushed away from the sandy edge, with a muffled scraping sound I found the kayak gliding almost as if the pond were coated with Teflon....smooth and easy.  All was still, except for a few chirping birds in the surrounding woods and the oars became like spoons that dipped into pond soup to savor a meal of peace on the water.   A great blue heron allowed me to come fairly close and watch as he speared a fish for breakfast.  Then he lifted off and gracefully crossed the pond to a more private spot, never flying more than five feet above the water.  I was glad to have a time without a set purpose or deadline or responsibility.   It was time just to blend into the handiwork of God and join His creatures and creation on the pond of peace.

Genesis 1:21 So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that scurries and swarms in the water, and every sort of bird—each producing offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Ezra 3:11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD: 
      "For He is good, 
      For His mercy endures forever toward Israel."
   Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.

I found 108 references to "thanks" in the Bible (including "thanksgiving").  There is something so healthy and right about pausing, reflecting, and then forming and expressing thanks to God.  Just consider the list of things to be thankful for: (1) life, itself (2) new life in Christ, (3) wives-husbands-mothers-fathers-sisters-brothers-children, (4) friends, (5) physical needs met, (6) spiritual needs met, (7) purpose for living, (8) trials to grow through, (9) trials that have been delivered from, (10) Heaven awaiting, (11) Heaven arriving, (12) Father-Son-Holy Spirit oversight, indwelling, guiding, revealing, (13) a legacy of hard won freedom, (14) those who guard freedom today.

The more I think about it, being thankful touches just about every aspect of living because God has a master plan that He is working out for good.  I am especially thankful that He has included and involved and inspired us as He unfolds that great plan.

Thanks to all who receive this and to everyone, everywhere.  Every life has inestimable worth!

It's a good day for Thanks-giving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

the other place with pews...

Yesterday I discovered the other place where people sit in pews and have a sense of awe and are drawn to prayer....the courtroom.  There seemed to be several parallels between church and the courtroom.  People were, for the most part, dressed in their Sunday best.  There was a central aisle and a focal point in front...not an altar but an imposing desk, behind a rail.  There was a solemnity in the air before proceedings began and there was a sense of anticipation and concern as folks waited their turn to face the judge.  It was certainly an atmosphere that was conducive to prayer because no one could know how the judge would rule.  It was traffic court and I was there to face a charge of reckless driving because my car had swerved off the road last month when I accelerated through a turn and I went through a fence and ended up next to a gas station (no one hurt thankfully).  My friend, and attorney, Tex and my wife, Shirley, accompanied me and when the judge called my name I joined Tex right in front of the judge, with the state trooper present who had written the citation.  Thankfully the judge listened to all the facts and reduced the charge and I gratefully paid the fine and left the tension of the court.  Those few minutes of waiting in the pew were some of the sincerest moments of worship I have had outside of church.  I suppose it was a good reminder that we do have a Judge and He is to be worshiped.  I am glad that, like Tex, I have a good advocate in Jesus because if I had to face the Judge when He called my name without the Savior by my side...there would be an altogether different outcome!

Revelation 20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

the perfect picture

Ephesians 5:31 As the Scriptures say, "A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one." 32This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.

We have been reviewing the book of 1 Corinthians in the Mini Bible College on Monday nights at the Chapel (come on out...7 pm in Room 206) and last night we talked about chapter 7, also known informally as the "The Marriage Manual".  The apostle Paul provides guidance about marriage and singlehood, marriage and divorce and maximizing the quality of marriage.  We also discussed how marriage is the perfect picture of the relationship we are intended to have with Christ.  One day there will be a "Marriage supper" or marriage celebration in Heaven as believers in Christ are recognized as His bride.  In the Old Testament God says in Hosea 2:19 " I will betroth you to Me forever; 
      Yes, I will betroth you to Me 
      In righteousness and justice, 
      In lovingkindness and mercy; 
       20 I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, 
      And you shall know the LORD. 

In the writings of Jeremiah, God confirms this kind of commitment despite His frustration with His people:(Chapter 3) 14 "Return, O backsliding children," says the LORD; "for I am married to you. I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion. 15 And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.

It is helpful to consider the qualities that make for a healthy marriage: intimacy, honesty, forgiveness, close communications, tenderness and love and realize that these are the qualities that also make for a healthy relationship with our Lord, as He is committed to having that kind of relationship with us.

Monday, November 21, 2011

the choir of Heaven and Earth

Revelation 19:1 After this, I heard what sounded like a vast crowd in heaven shouting,
   "Praise the Lord!
      Salvation and glory and power belong to our God.

There is a way for us to connect with Heaven even while we are still walking on Earth.  There is a Heavenly choir that continually praises God for His power and glory and salvation.  We are not yet directly in God's presence.  Like soldiers who are deployed to the front lines of a great war, we are still in the trenches and the foxholes and the battle lines of a conflict that rages over this Creation.  But we experience all the great qualities and realities of the God of Heaven.  In the midst of trials and stumbling and through the limitations of these natural bodies we have known His presence and His deliverance and His salvation.  And so, like the Heavenly choir, made of saints who have passed to Heaven and of angels who always surround the throne we share the very same song of worship.  How wonderful that we can be one with those who walk directly before God in Heaven as we acknowledge Him now for all He is.  For He is the God who has ruled from the the Now of today and in the future of all tomorrows!  I hope you will join this choir of praise!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

a leaf, a life

Strolling through the crisp November morning air I saw that most of the leaves are gone from the hardwood trees and the woods have a pungent, familiar smell from the new carpet of brown leaves that used to form a green canopy above.  I traced the path of one leaf as it descended from high above, gently circling and then settling on the path just ahead.  The thought I had was, "Every leaf falls just once, just as every leaf has had one unique life, perched on one branch, situated on one tree, for one brief season of living".  We are something like leaves.  The Lord has placed us in a particular spot in time, in a certain family situation, located in a particular geographical place, with certain life giving qualities and gifts.  For a season we are perched in our location and, like the leaf, we can convert the light of a bright Son with the elements of our surroundings to foster life and health.  After the leaf falls to earth and the tree appears bare it may seem that there is no visible life, but the life produced in the leaves during the summer continues in the tree trunk during the winter.  And though the leaf that is our life will fade and fall, the life is not contained solely in the leaf and the tree of life still thrives.

Revelation 22:2 It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

overwhelm me

Overwhelm me Lord with your reality...
Fill my heart with you so all I feel is thee...

Permeate my intellect with thoughts from Jesus' mind...
Stir my curiosity to seek the truth and find...

Deepen my emotion well to feel your heart for all...
Surround me with your presence; remind me how I'm small..

Make me hungry for your words and thirsty for your drink...
Shine your light to make me know; my thoughts on you to think...

And overwhelm me Lord this day in every way you can...
Knowing you is why I live and life comes from your hand... 
Job 19:27 I will see him for myself.
      Yes, I will see him with my own eyes.
      I am overwhelmed at the thought!

Friday, November 18, 2011

warmth and winter

Frost coats the leaves and grass of our yards this morning.  Our furnaces are running and our homes have patches of chill mixed with warmth as the cold season is descending on us.  In Virginia the coming season always shows up first in "previews" before settling in for a three month stay.  We've been enjoying last vestiges of summer, as well, with mild temperatures as the previous season has reluctantly departed.  But there is a special quality to cold weather, frost, ice, snow and frigid blasts of air from arctic areas far away...It draws us to appreciate deep, penetrating warmth.  The hearth and fireplace, a mug of hot chocolate or coffee and the experience of "being warmed" from the outside in and the inside out carry satisfactions only made possible by first being cold.  The frost outside today reminds me that we start from a place of cold. shivering isolation in life.  Even if we have known love from family and others...we start our lives outside the direct warmth of our Creator.  It's as though we stand in the frosty yard of the Lord and peer through windows to behold the lights and hearth of His great palace.  At a certain point, like a doorman of the Lord, Jesus has opened the great door and beckoned us to come in.  We entered and found warmth that embraced us just as He delivered us from the icy isolation of sin.  
The cold of winter finds its antidote in the warm places that draw us near.  The frost of sin and separation quickly thaw in the presence of the Lord of love.

Zechariah 14:8 On that day life-giving waters will flow out from Jerusalem, half toward theDead Sea and half toward the Mediterranean,flowing continuously in both summer and winter.
 9 And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day there will be one Lord—his name alone will be worshiped.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

disaster in a dream

I stayed up a little late last night and knew that getting up this morning might be a little late too...As a result there was no time for a walk in the woods.  Instead I had a long dream about a disaster in my home.   We had a fire in our home and a lot of old friends were staying with us in the dream.  The fire was a different kind of fire because we knew during the day that it would be coming that night.  The many friends in our house tried to get ready for the fire.  We had hoses laid out and ladders placed up against the side of the house and tried to get organized to have a plan for evacuation when the fire came.  Sure enough the disaster struck and, for some reason, we didn't call the fire department...we tried to fight the fire ourselves.  Dreams are very strange, illogical, stories and I don't know how we got the fire stopped but, by morning in the dream the fire was out and we walked around trying to make sure that everyone survived.  Unfortunately I had two friends that were last seen on the roof of the house and I couldn't find them...and then I woke up!  The dream was over and reality returned and I was glad that there was no fire or loss of friends.  I couldn't help but think that one day a different fire is really coming that will test every home and every life.  Then the dream of this life will be over and we will awaken to eternity.  I am grateful that our hope for rescue is sure in Jesus for every storm in this life and the next!

1 Peter 1:6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

singing brook

There is a special spot, a low point on the gravel road I walk these mornings, where a brook passes under the road and feeds a creek beyond.  The creek winds eventually to a larger swamp and then joins Ware Creek which snakes a few miles to feed into the York River.  When I reach the brook each morning I feel like I'm visiting a friend because it is always talking, babbling, singing.  As the water rushes or meanders from one side to the other it seems excited about the trip that it is traveling and constantly happy to tell the world.  I don't think it realizes just how humble it is...a mere trickle of water compared to the great York River that it will eventually join.  Perhaps I identify with the brook.  Individually, we are little creeks and streams passing through woods and under roads and meandering through life.  But we are headed through swamps and we are bound for larger streams and we will eventually join the great river.  We have read about this great water and we are now convinced that we will one day be there.  And so we babble on in joy and anticipation.  Right now much of our view is only of the narrow banks that surround us or of towering trees that close in nearby.  But we have confidence of a future time when the sky will open up and the air will blow freely and the expanse will be grand.  And so, as we meander through this day and the next we are content to be a little creek, passing under a road, and babbling joyfully about things to come.

Psalm 110:7 But he himself will be refreshed from brooks along the way.
      He will be victorious.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

all for one...

Recently I watched the latest remake of The Three Musketeers movie.  I think I've seen at least three versions of this story and it never gets old to me.  I love the combination of good triumphing over evil, humor and the young learning from the wise veterans (D'Artagnan learning from Athos, Porthos and Aramis).  It's all captured in their motto: "All for one...One for all!"  I've been thinking a lot lately about the great resources we have in the Lord.  We have Father, Son and Holy Spirit in our lives as we face the evil that seeks to knock us off our feet.  In a sense we are each like the young D'Artagnan and we have come to the big city to find fame, fortune and honor.  But the first lesson we learn is that we are too weak to face our enemies in our own strength and our pride only gets in our way.  We need help and we need someone to watch our back and sides and to fight alongside us.  We need companions to walk with, learn from and enjoy life with.  And so, as we walk today into the big city as believers in Jesus Christ we are accompanied by Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  "All for one...One for all"  is our motto too!

1 Corinthians 3:21 Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours: 22whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come—all are yours. 23 And you are Christ's, and Christ is God's.

Monday, November 14, 2011


"All metals get harder when a smith hammers or bends them. This is called 'work-hardening'." (from Wikipedia online reference)

I was thinking about our "will" power.  We can direct our wills many different ways.  I think we often direct them to serve ourselves...we are naturally self-centered.  And I was thinking about the desire we have to see our wills shaped so that we willingly choose to set our minds, our motivations, our hearts on the Lord.  And I realized that an apt analogy for this life is found in the blacksmith's shop.  The Lord is the blacksmith and we are the raw iron.  He picks us up with mighty hands and heats us with fiery trials.  Once we are softened, He hammers with blows that come lovingly and skillfully, though there can be shock and pain and we are shaken.  He does this on the anvil of our days and through our circumstances.  Just as the iron only stays hot enough to be shaped for a short time, so these trials often are intense but brief periods.  But after the hammering and after the cool-down we are shaped a little more into the image of the Son.  He is faithful to continue the project throughout our days and we ultimately will recognize the Savior as we are conformed to Him.  

This morning I thanked the Lord for the free will He has given me but also thanked Him for the hammer, the heat and the anvil to shape this will to willingly choose Him...more and more!
Romans 8:9 But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) 10 And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. 11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


There is a place along the wooded path I visit these days where the roadway has been cut from a small hill.  It has left a cross section of ground where tall pines grow up from the surface and the roots are clearly visible in the excavated side of the hill.  Clearly visible are the roots running down into the clay from the trees above.  That which is normally invisible has been made visible.  The pine trees have large taproots running vertically downward several feet.  These roots are about half the thickness of the tree trunks above the surface.  I thought about the functions of the taproot.  It anchors the visible tree and permits it to grow tall and true despite the winds that blow and bend the trunk.  The tree trunks are flexible but would not be able to stand without an anchor.  Secondly, the taproot becomes a primary source of water and nutrients from the ground to feed the growing tree.  I thought about the Lord in our lives.  You might think of your life as the visible part of the tree...growing up and up above ground.  But we cannot stand against the wind and we cannot grow without the water and nutrition the Lord, Himself, provides.  He is our taproot...normally invisible and beneath the surface of our lives.  If you could see yourself in cross section, you would realize that God is working beneath the surface and He is holding you and He is feeding you and He is anchoring you.

Psalm 80:8 You have brought a vine out of Egypt;
         You have cast out the nations, and planted it.
 9 You prepared room for it,
         And caused it to take deep root, 
         And it filled the land.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


As I strolled the wooded path this brisk Saturday morning I was grateful for the indwelling presence of God.  The past few weeks have been challenging as I have wrestled with a driving accident where no one was hurt but my self image took some hits.  As a result I haven't been sleeping too well...turning thoughts over as I turned over in bed.  Life goes on, however, and with it all the responsibilities of functioning and performing a job.  One challenging morning, as I faced the day ahead, I remembered that the Lord lives within me.  He has said that "we have the mind of Christ" and "we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit".  I decided to rely on Him for all that needed to be done that day and He showed up!  Work was performed, ideas needed bubbled up from within, tasks to be accomplished got done and I realized that God truly is a "spring of life" welling up through our lives, as we allow Him.  The idea of a fountain ran through my mind this morning.  The word "fountain" comes from Latin words that mean "source or spring".  I thought of how, as the Lord pours His live in and through our lives, we become fountains.  Of course, He is the source and we can become the display of that living water as it courses through and jets up and out into a world that desperately needs to see proof that God lives and makes a difference in lives.

Psalm 36:8 You feed them from the abundance of your own house,
      letting them drink from your river of delights.
 9 For you are the fountain of life,
      the light by which we see.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

night reflections

We will turn our clocks back this weekend and gain a little more light for the morning.  But today at 6 am it was like night and the skies were further shrouded in clouds.  I tried walking down a local road through the woods but it was too dark to see the road and still muddy.  So I drove down to the local pond and carefully walked to the water's edge where enough light from distant houses bounced off the clouds and formed a night reflection on the pond.  I began talking with the Lord about the problem I was having with "getting past", or "getting over" the car accident I had last week.  It just seemed like I couldn't stop fixating on it and I asked for the Lord's help.  I climbed back into my truck and headed toward home.  Suddenly I saw the headlights of a semi-tractor trailer staring into mine as I approached the intersection with the muddy road I'd tried to walk earlier.  He was stopped and the young driver walked up to my truck.  He he had come down the wrong road and wanted to know if he could proceed ahead and turn around.  I explained that there was no way to turn around by the pond but that I could help guide him back into the small muddy road and turn around.  I was able to stand by the rear of the long trailer and help him with a few backing and turning adjustments and he was able to get out of a very sticky situation.  As he pulled off I realized that the Lord had met me on the road and provided a source of healing for my accident fixation.  Helping someone else was a great morning medicine to take!  Truly He sees, He hears and He is involved in every aspect of our lives!

Psalm 33:13 The LORD looks from heaven;
         He sees all the sons of men.
 14 From the place of His dwelling He looks
         On all the inhabitants of the earth;