If Saul Can Do It…

 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, (Jesus) appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. – 1 Corinthians 15:8-10 (ESV)

What if Saul had chosen to wallow in his sin?  What if, after his encounter with Jesus Christ, Saul opted to continually revisit his wrongs, his errors, his sordid past?  What if Saul couldn’t get past what he had done, instead of embracing the freedom Christ offered him through faith?

Had Saul not allowed the grace and forgiveness of the Lord change him, cleanse him, Saul would never have become Paul.  The Lord would have, perhaps, chosen someone else to reach out to the churches at Corinth and Philippi and Colossai and… Maybe God would have found someone named Bob.  “I, Bob, a servant of Christ our Lord…”

But Saul did recognize Christ.  He did repent, submit, and find himself wonderfully transformed into the apostle Paul – apostle to the Gentiles, writer of the majority of the New Testament, expositor of the Law of Grace and Salvation through Christ.  

Despite his history of attacking the church, Saul was uniquely fitted even before Christ turned him around. God saw to it he was a Roman citizen, raised in the heavily Greek area of Tarsus, a Jew who was trained to be a good, zealous Pharisee.  All of these experiences served Paul uniquely on his ministry.  It gave him a clear understanding of Scripture as well as Roman, Hellenistic and Pharisee societies.  He could genuinely reach people where they were because he understood where they came from.  He could correctly teach God’s Word in light of the Gospel.

If God can grab such a hold on Saul that He can turn him around so completely that his very identity changed.  “I am what I am because of the grace of God.”

Here’s some great news: so are you.  You never know what God has in store for you or anyone else.  You never know how or when the Lord might confront you on your road and challenge you – dare you – to change.  

And, remember, none of us can truly change all on our own.  It is God a Who defines us.  He can use our past, present and future to His glory.  Nobody can sin so bad that they are beyond forgiveness.  No one is so shattered that they can’t be restored.  No one has fallen so deep they can’t be lifted up and righted.

Do not live in shame.  Do not let fear or worry or sorrow over sin (past or otherwise) rule your thoughts or your life.  You are not what you have done or said or thought.  What others say about you does not define who you are.  You are who Christ says you are.

Be thankful that Saul embraced the glorious forgiveness, joy and restoration that Jesus offers.  God has been using Paul to ahistorical glory and the benefit of millions for nearly two millennia.  All because Christ met him, blinded him, righted him and set him on His way.

He can do the same for you.  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.  Seek and you will find.  Trust God entirely, implicitly, without reserve, without doubt.  His forgiveness is complete.  His restoration is total.  His love is without compare and His grace more than sufficient for anything – anything – you face.

Prayer, Context and a Withered Fig Tree

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” – Mark 11:24 (ESV)

The power of prayer never ceases to astound me.  I cannot tell you the number of people I have seen touched over the years – in amazing ways – by the grace, love and mercy of God.  People healed.  Lives turned around.  Disasters averted.  Jobs filled.  Hearts softened.  Unbelievers believing.  God working through the most miserable, fearful, painful circumstances to show people His glory.  Testimony after testimony of people whose lives have been touched by the greatness of God, a touch that changes people and circumstances and others around them in ways you wouldn’t think possible.

Still, life is cyclical.  Just as the earth passes through seasons, so do we.  There are times of abundance and times of need.  Times of health and times we need healing.  Times of joy and times of sorrow.  Times of strength and times of weakness.

During hard and painful times, we need to cling in faith to verses like Mark 11:24.  We need to keep faith and know that “God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19, ESV).

However, we must keep these verses in context.  Don’t just isolate one verse and build a theology on it, or string random bits of Scripture together of your favorite verses and ignore the rest.

Take a look at the passage from which Mark 11:24 comes:

20  As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. 21 And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” 22 And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23  Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” – Mark 11:20-25 (ESV)

The lesson is far richer, far deeper, than God simply giving us whatever we want (as some may interpret Mark 11:24 as a stand alone verse).  If that were the case, don’t you think the world would have a lot more lottery winners?  Besides, why do any of us need $1,000,000 when we have Jesus?

The passage is in response to Jesus cursing the fig tree:

12  On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. 13  And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it. – Mark 11:12-14 (ESV)

As the disciples passed by the dead tree, which yesterday was beautiful and green with leaves but barren of any fruit, Peter was astonished.  This gorgeous tree was dead – absolutely dead – within one day.  The truth of the matter is that it gave the appearance of beauty, and attracted people who could see it from a distance in hope of satisfying their hunger.

But it bore no fruit.  No substance.  All appearance and no usefulness.

1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2  Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4  Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8  By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9  As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. – John 15:1-11 (ESV)

This lesson is illustrated in the withered fig tree.  A truly fruitful life is found in faith.  If we “abide” (literally “stay”) faithfully in Christ, He will bear fruit through us.  Fruit does not exist to nourish the tree from which it grows, but those who come to the tree.  God nourishes the tree itself.

Truth is found in God, as is power.  The power to heal.  The power to love.  The power to do whatever it is the Lord wills.  If you put your trust in anything or anyone else, over and above God, you are trying to feed from a fruitless tree.

And you will go hungry.

But, if you follow God, serving Him (and thus serving others), focusing on Him (and thus others), not worrying about our wants but seeking God’s direction and reaching out to Him, letting Him turn our desires to His desires, we will find our every need met, many others blessed, and great joy for our journey through life.

“To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.” – Philippians 4:20 (ESV)

Lessons from Joshua #1: Wear Big Shoes


Photo by Justin Leibow

Talk about having big shoes to fill.

The legacy of Moses was huge.  He led God’s people for forty years, through the desert, to the edge of the Promised Land.  The goal of the Israelites, just beyond Mount Nebo, where Moses stood to look at what could have been his. (But, don’t feel too bad for Moses.  He also penned the Pentateuch, authored the very law that Jews are called to live by and Jesus fulfilled, turned a stick into a cannibalistic serpent, and, oh yeah, that whole business of personally meeting God at the burning bush and on the mountain and being in constant contact with Him over forty years…)

Still, Moses missed his final calling through being a bit too full of himself.  Getting water from the rock by smacking it twice with his rod instead of speaking to it (as God instructed Moses) was a bit too much for the Lord.

All the same, he held a very impressive resumé.  Doing Moses’ job would be a daunting task at best for anyone (especially a privileged, stuttering murderer on the run like Moses).  Say what you want about his later mistakes, Moses was obviously no weakling.  At 120 years old, he could still climb a mountain. “Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated” (Deuteronomy 34:7, ESV).  If I live to be anywhere near that old and can sit up in bed and chew anything harder than pudding, I will be astounded.

Joshua was up for the job.  He was wise.  He was faithful.  He had been Moses’ military leader.  And, now that Moses’ light was dimming, the time had come to pass the torch of leadership.  When Moses announced his successor to the Israelites, he told them to “be strong and courageous” (Deut. 31:6).  Then, when he brought Joshua up to join him in front of the people, he repeated the same admonition to the new leader: “Be strong and courageous” (Deut. 31:7).

When Moses died, God had a little talk with Joshua, instructing him on what to do.  And God told Joshua, “Be strong and of hood courage” (Joshua 1:6).

Then He repeated it again: “Only be strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:7).

And, just in case Joshua didn’t pick up on the message having heard it twice from Moses and twice directly from God, the LORD said it one more to mind, to hammer the message home: “Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous…: (Joshua 1:9).

And, indeed, when Joshua addressed the Israelites, they responded in part with – you guessed it – “Only be strong and courageous”  (Joshua 1:18).

And what God asked them to do had the potential to make the Israelites look like they were nutty that a squirrel’s nest.  “Silently march around the walls of Jericho once a day for six days.  Then on the seventh time, march around it seven times – six times with the priests blowing trumpets, but the seventh yelling at the top of your lungs.  On the seventh trip of the seventh day, the city walls will collapse and Jericho will be yours.”

What if Joshua had said, “Do what?  We’ll look like fools.  Can’t you just drop fire from on high or something like that?”  The fact of the matter is that God knew what He was doing.

And He still knows what He is doing.

So often we let fear rules our lives.  Fear clouds our decisions, derails our dreams, feeds our obedience.  We allow ourselves to be informed by the anxieties of the possibility of perceived failure and calamity instead of resting in faith in the eternal and immeasurable greatness and might of Almighty God our Father.

Fear absolutely wrecks creativity.  And God’s plans for the Israelites in defeating Jericho and Ai were creative to say the very least.  It is as if God is saying, “I know it makes no sense to you.  Do it anyway, because I said to.”

God probably won’t stand right in front of you and say, “Do this.” However, as Christians, we have the Holy Spirit living inside us.  He guides us.  He helps us.  He intercedes for us.  We can pray to God at any time with the full assurance that He knows our needs far better than we do.  He is faithful when we are not.  He is loving when we struggle with love.  He is there 24/7.  We need only draw nearer to Him for Him to draw nearer to us.

It takes faith.  Not in our own abilities, but in God’s.  Faith enables strength and courage and allows us to boldly do whatever God has called us to do.  The Israelites didn’t knock down the walls of Jericho.  God did.

So, the next time you have an idea but trash it because it’s too far out there; the next time you produce a work of art or write something but refuse to share your creativity for fear of looking bad / dumb / inferior; the next time you refuse to speak up because the majority may criticize – or even ostracize – you; the next time you feel ill-equipped for your call; swallow hard, pray harder, and put on the big shoes.  If they don’t fit, don’t worry.  You will grow into them with every step you take in obedience to Christ.

Be strong and courageous.

Be strong and courageous.

Only be strong and courageous.

Thank you for reading this piece from The Bouville Diarist.  Please feel free to share this message with anyone you feel might be blessed by this encouragement.  Also, please visit the Bouville Diarist blog at http://www.bouvillediarist.com.  You can also like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, Google, LinkedIn or Tumblr.  Or drop an e-mail at bouvillediarist@gmail.com.  I’d love to hear from you!  God bless, Chris – a.k.a. The Bouville Diarist

Unbelievable, and Yet…


Planetary Nebula NGC 2818 from Hubble
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage Team (STScI / AURA)

I am a space junkie.  Whenever I check out news websites, I scroll down to the science page to see if there are any new images from the Hubble telescope or NASA.  And when I see a photo like the one above, my imagination runs wild.

What do you see when you look at this picture?  Literally, it is Planetary Nebula NGC 2818, the beautiful, gaseous last breath of a dying star.  It is around 10,400 light years away from here (or 61,137,705,628,983,464 miles away – roughly).  In other words, if you left here traveling at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second), it would take 10,400 years to get there.

If we travelled in my Pontiac at 60 mph, without stopping (there are no gas stations or eateries or rest stops between here and there anyway), the drive would take 116,242,738,604 years.  Also, my car gets about 30 miles to the gallon of gas.  At $2.39 per gallon [as of yesterday], gas alone would cost $4,870,637,215,109,015.  The US government spent around $3.5 trillion in 2014.  The gasoline alone to travel in my Pontiac to Planetary Nebula NGC 2818 would require spending that much money almost 1400 times over.

Yikes!  And I thought the drive back home to Indiana was long and spendy!

Anyone willing to chip in on gas money?  I don’t know about you, but my credit limit doesn’t extend into the quadrillions.

So maybe we’re best to stay here on Earth and admire God’s creation from afar.

When I look at this picture, I imagine heaven opening wide.  I marvel at the beauty and wonder of God’s creation.  Stop and think about it.  This huge, 6.5 light years (38,211,064,925,693.45 miles) wide nebula is only one very small (in comparison) feature in a universe filled with starts and nebulae and solar systems and…

Each and every bit of the universe was designed, created and placed by God.  Think about that.  He set everything in place, in motion, in harmony.  Every thing.  Every molecule.

And this is the same God Who is our Heavenly Father.  Who loves us.  Who loves me.

Who loves you.


Created you.


When I try to take it all in, my brain feels as if it might explode.

My point is this: the next time you are troubled, anxious or worried, having doubts about God, or just feeling out of sync with the Lord and the world and wondering about purpose and meaning and life in general… believe the unbelievable.  Accept God at His Word.  Look upward.  If God can create and sustain all of this, every detail of His creation from the greatest nebulae to the smallest sparrow, don’t you think He can – and will – take care of your needs?

And I thought the trips back home were long.

The Inseperable Cover of Love

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34  Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,  “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:31-39 (ESV)

How different would our lives be if we could live without fear?  If the anxious moments would shrink away, shriveling in the light of God’s love, how would we view our lives, our loved ones, our circumstances, ourselves?  If we could fully see the truth of God’s love for us, and accept the reality of His goodness and greatness instead of being stuck in mire of our pasts, our problems, our pains… how much more joy would fill our hearts?  How much more could we do?

The truth of the situation is that God knows what a mess we all are – collectively and individually.  He has always known what a mess we would become.  Before Eve was tempted by the serpent, before God breathed life in Adam’s nostrils, before the Creator hung the first stars in the night sky, He knew the depths that human depravity would reach.  He knew sin – the very antithesis of His will and ways – would come in like a blight and infect all of His creation.

But here is the amazing thing (as if with God there was only one amazing thing…): while God gets angry, His anger is righteous.  He is not out to smote His people.  God sees our situation(s) in absolutely clear, vivid, 20/20 vision, 360 degrees, from all angles.  What we humans see when we look at our circumstances is blurred and skewed at best.  We are imperfect, as are our perceptions.

God is absolutely perfect: He is everywhere, knows everything, can do anything.  And He loves us perfectly, and nothing – nothing – any of us can do will ever stop that.

The power of God’s love is beyond our comprehension.  There is nothing that can cause Him to no longer loves any of us.  He uniquely and intricately designed each of us.  He knows what makes each of us tick.  He knows our strengths, as well as our weaknesses.  He feels our sorrows, understands our burdens, knows our shortcomings.

To begin to understand the depths of God’s love for each of us, and the lengths He will go to that we may find Him, we need to look no further than the cross.  God humbled Himself for us to the point of becoming one of us, living a perfect life, and dying a shameful criminal’s death for us – a sentence imposed on the most innocent man who ever lived.  And He did this willingly.  Jesus never shrunk away from His role as Savior.  When we begin to grasp the reality of what God did for us through Jesus Christ His Son, then we start to get a glimpse of the vastness of God’s great love for each of us.

Don’t stare at your problems.  Don’t wallow in your past sins and mistakes.  Don’t fear imperfections and mistakes.  Don’t live like a victim.  Don’t believe yourself to be helpless or hopeless.  “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).

Do not go one more day feeling like a failure, feeling ashamed, feeling abandoned, feeling wounded.  Let the love of God – let Love Himself – bind your wounds, heal your spirit, reframe your way of seeing life.  Simply accept God’s great love for you with faith.  Don’t try to figure it out.  His gifts are not earnable (no real gift ever is).  Let your heart be filled with gratitude for what the Lord has done – and continues to do – for you.  Rest in His unfailing love.  And, in turn, love others.  Forgive.  Trust God.  Believe.  Love.

Hey, We’re Getting the Band Back Together!

 “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” – Matthew 18:20 (ESV)

We called ourselves The Pre-Dawn Theological Society (PDTS for short).  At the beginning, we were officially our local church’s men’s Bible study.  We met on Monday mornings from 6:30 to 7:30 (which, in winter, is pre-dawn – hence our unofficial name).

We were never a large group.  But we were a band of brothers.  It took us over a year to study the book of John.  Yes, we were that thorough.

One of the really great things about the PDTS is that we rarely took our theology too seriously.  What I mean is, if someone had a differing view on a subject, their opinion was respected.

They were respected.

We realized that some folks take theology waaaaay too seriously.  Good theology always leads one to God.  Good theology reveals the Lord to those who earnestly seek Him.  

On the other hand, bad theology merely leads one to an “ism”.  Or against an “ism”.  Bad theology has a tendency to turn legalistic.  If your teaching exists to merely disprove someone else’s teaching, that is bad theology.

We are called to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not propagate a theological point of view.

Over the years, I have attended and been active in many different churches, of many different denominations.  All of them had good, valuable lessons that I will always be grateful for.  And all of them had problems as well.  

And I will confess that I have done more than my fair share of complaining about the bad things I found in some churches.  For that I am truly sorry.  I expected too much.  

What I have come to realize, come to recognize, is that truly, deep down, when you strip away all the excess stuff churches unload on their congregants, we are all bound by faith in Christ.  Some have a stronger faith than others.  Some have radically different views on theology and scriptural interpretations and sacraments and church government and worship styles and tongues and prayer and teaching and on and on ad nauseum…

But we are all God’s children.  We are all sinners, saved by grace.  We all should be joyously celebrating our freedom in Christ and not taking our theological “isms” so seriously.  We should be filled with God’s peace, grateful for His grace, extending His love and mercy to all, regardless of theological bent.

Today, a few of us from the PDTS got back together for the first time in many months to spend a couple of hours in God’s Word.  The time went too fast as we talked about the role of reason in our faith.  I have missed the iron sharpening.  I have missed these men, my brothers in Christ.  We take God very seriously.  But we also recognize that man is imperfect, as are our views.  Only God is perfect.  We should bear this in mind when we seek the Lord.

Love God.  Love one another.  Bear one another’s burdens.  Seek God first.  Let love rule, with great humility and grace.

In Spite of Ourselves


Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:26-28 (ESV)

It is easy to underestimate our need for God.  We try to live life by our own plans and with our own strength.  Hard times strike.  Struggles arise.

And we find ourselves feeling confused, alone, unsure of where or how to begin praying.

This is one of the wonderful aspects of God’s grace: He is faithful, even when we are not.  When we stray down our own path, He waits patiently.  And, when we do turn to Him in prayer, the Holy Spirit – who lives inside every believer in Christ – intercedes on our behalf.

God knows our every need.  And what we may perceive as a “need” may not be in the Lord’s eyes.  God works all things for our good.  Good in the sense of God’s will: whatever good thing that will equip you to draw nearer to Him, to seek him, to fulfill His plan for your life.

And we humans, frail and imperfect and infirmed as we are, don’t always know what’s good for us.  But the Father does.  So does the Holy Spirit,  Who goes to the Father on our behalf to pray the things – the truly good things – that we cannot even find utterance for.

How wonderful that our loving Heavenly Father knows what we His children need, and knows how to get it to us (in spite of ourselves).  It boggles the mind the lengths our Father goes to to love us, to help us, to save us and guide us.

We may think we know what’s good for us.  But, the simple truth is, it is God Who knows our every true need, Who changes our hearts’ desires to line up with His will.  It is God Who is ready, willing, and able to guide us through even the roughest of patches in life, and work every detail out for our good.  Maybe not always comfortable or fun, but good.

And what better good can there be than God’s?

The Right Thinking Test

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. – Philippians 4:8 (ESV)

It is important for all of us to think about what we think about.  Especially for those of us who fight against anxiety and depression, it is vital that we learn to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”  Our think both reflects and strengthens what we believe.  

Fortunate, our loving Father God, through the apostle Paul, has given us a guide to help us when we’re entertaining wrong thoughts and ideas and notions.  Whenever you catch yourself being overly critical (of yourself and/or others), feeling low about your circumstances, facing fear or anxiety, worried, guilt-ridden over some sin you long ago (or even recently) sought God’s forgiveness for… before embracing some negative thought, weigh what your thinking against Philippians 4:8.

Ask yourself:

1. Is what I’m thinking true?  How does it stand up to what a scripture says?  Am I feeling convicted or condemned?  If convicted, then ask for and thankfully accept the gift of forgiveness from God.  If condemned, that comes not from the Lord but the enemy.  Don’t accept it.  You are forgiven!  If you are worried, choose o trust God instead and meditate on God’s Word, not the fears that grow in your soul like a wad of gum in your mouth (the more you chew, the larger it grows, and the more your jaws hurt).  Reject the false and embrace God’s truth.

2. Is it honorable?  Do your thoughts bring honor to the Lord, or run counter to His Word?  Are you trusting Him or worrying about what others might think, or do, or say?  Are you anxious about circumstances?  Even in the most troubling times, we can choose to stand strong in faith and glorify God with praise and thanksgiving, knowing that every storm passes and brings peace and quiet, and resting in the truth that God is with us always.  Always.  No matter what.

3. Is it just?  Are your thoughts pure, devoid of anger or judgement or pride or sin of any sort?  If your thoughts are driven by love, you’re good.  Love covers a multitude of sins, and hurts, and sorrows.

4. Is it lovely?  Do your thoughts bring you hope or joy in the Lord?  Psalm 119:103 tell us God’s Words are sweeter than honey.  Other places we see God’s Word bringing refreshment, healing, strength, truth, hope, joy… Can anything else be more beautiful?  What’s more, this isn’t just wishful pie-in-the-sky dreaming.  God’s Word is truth.  If it is in Scripture, you can bank on it.  Fill your heart with the beauty of His Word.

5. Is it commendable?  Do your thoughts fill your soul with hope, or worrisome forebodings?  In Christ we have hope, in all things, at all times.  There is nothing too hard for God.  We need to focus on Him, and not the storm raging around us.  It is in God that we find hope and truth.

6. Is there any excellence in these thoughts?  Do they lead you to praise the Lord for His goodness, His steadfast love, His might and power, His tender mercies, His forgiveness, His righteousness…?  If not, ditch the thought.  If so, stop, drop and praise Him!

The long and the short if it is this: we need to put our whole focus on God and His Word.  We cannot look at circumstances or media or anything of this world and accept what we see as ultimate reality.  None of us is God.  Our perceptions are skewed.  We can see the storms, but we are blinded by the rain and the winds.  Only God can see the full 360 degree view.  He knows what has happened, is happening and will happen.  He has it all in His hands.

He has you in His loving hands.

So don’t worry.  Don’t dread what you face tomorrow.  Be anxious for nothing.  Seek God first in all things and trust Him.  

Sleep well dear friends.  Rest in faith in the Lord.  And know you are loved beyond measure.

All That Glitters…

Rembrandt’s Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem (1640)

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ -Philippians 3:8 (ESV)

It is an old saying that is packed with a great amount of truth: all that glitters is not necessarily gold. There are those who peddle a brand of Christianity that supposedly comes wrapped up in ribbons and bows and wads of worldly wealth. Beware the huckster in sheep’s clothing. All he offers is a misprinted bill of goods.

The notion that life – especially the Christian life – is all sunshine and rainbows is unrealistic to say the least. Being a follower of Christ does not make us immune from persecution or pain, lack or illness, troubles or doubts. In fact, faith in Jesus often puts a big Red Cross-shaped bullseye right on our chests.

But, believe it or not, that is good news. The apostle Paul wrote that all he gained on this earth, he counted as loss in Christ. And vice-versa. The reason? This world has nothing to offer that can surpass the incredible joy and peace of knowing Christ. Having Christ in our lives is a treasure of such immense worth that everything lost on this earth for His sake is “rubbish”. Actually, the Greek word is skybalon, which is not “rubbish”, but “excrement”. Or, as the King James Bible so delicately puts it, “dung”.

Think for a moment about the worldly goods, the “dung” that money can buy. Everything tarnishes and fades. All things crumble and fail with age. Even the greatest artwork fades and cracks. The only things of any eternal value are the goods God gives: love, grace, hope, mercy, forgiveness, relationships, community…

But I believe Paul was talking about earthly stuff beyond the temporal. As a Pharisee, Saul was probably not a rich man. But, whatever he may have lacked in material wealth, he made up for in legalistic zeal. Saul made a career out of hunting down and persecuting those who opposed the Pharisees’ strict view of God and, more importantly, threatened the power they shared with the Sadducees.

When Saul encountered Jesus on the Damascus Road, God forced him to face reality. A face-to-face between Jesus Christ and an enemy of God (who does not see himself as such) could not be comfortable for the other party. Nor could being blinded and sent to live among Christians – the very people you viciously persecuted just days before.

Saul was forced to give up his beliefs, his pride, his station in life as a Pharisee… In short, Saul had to lose Saul. His surrender was so great that Saul gave up his very identity and became the apostle God christened Paul.

Paul as an apostle would learn what persecution truly is. Like the prophet Jeremiah some 600 years before, the last of the apostles learned the promise of God: I will give you message. They’re going to hate you, but I will be with you every step of the way.”

Through Paul, we learn the sufficiency of God’s grace over all else: our plans, our enemies’ schemes, our own foolishness and greed, our misgivings and misunderstandings and missteps…

We all have a God given job to do, a message of love and hope to proclaim. We can only do what truly matters when our hearts are focused on:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me–practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. – Philippians 4:8-9 (ESV)

Whatever is truly good in life is good because it came to us from out good, loving, gracious and forgiving Father. True treasure is found only in following the Lord with faith and joy, helping others along the way and loving one another. All else is of no eternal use. Not worthy of worry or care. Simply a distraction. Glittering dung with a ribbon on top.

i am a gardener

I am a gardener.

I do not like digging my fingers into soil or planting vegetables or digging or hoeing or watering…

All the same, I am a gardener.

My crop is ideas and thoughts and notions recorded, lessons shared, interests celebrated, stories told.  The seeds are words, chosen and arranged with great care and sown into the soil of faith in God’s undeserved grace, unending mercy and unfailing love.

I water my garden with prayer, experiences, observations and gleanings, all from sources and places varied and   I don’t do a great job weeding, but the thistles never choke out the entire harvest.

My garden is carefully cultivated to be a holistic reflection of the one who tends to it.  Some of the harvest is sweet and humorous, some bitter (only out of necessity) and to the point.  Some is theologically rooted, some inspirational and devotional.  Sometimes I do not mention Christ by name, but – rest assured – God is always there, either overt or covert or somewhere in between.

The people who partake of the produce from my garden are just as varied as the crops that I share.  Some prefer the words of peace and hope, others the humor, still others the more personal or mundane.  And I love that!  I would have it no other way.

I have been sowing more seed, seeking a greater variety of hybrids and planting a larger garden these days, in the hopes that more will come to my table and enjoy what the fruits of my labor.  You see, all of God’s creation is interconnected and interrelated and truly fascinating to observe,  if we would only take the time to slow down and look.  Observe.  Share.

I am a gardener.  I sow words and reap stories and devotinals and humor and little bits of this and that about my little life, all of it planted with great love and care to be an uplift, a blessing, a source of hope and strength and joy to anyone and everyone who cares to stop by and enjoy.

You are a gardener, too.  What are you sowing?