One From the Archives: Souvenirs from Parke County


Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. – Proverbs 19:21 (ESV)

Note: seeing that we just returned home from a trip back to Indiana, this oldie from the archives seems apropo.  Enjoy and be blessed!

The road started out paved. I crossed the covered bridge at a walk, listening to boards creak and squeak beneath my slow rolling tires. A hard left, a hard right, a high climb up the steep hillside. The close trees on both sides broke open to reveal acre upon acre of muddy fields, cattle, and barns – many leaving so hard that they look like one brisk wind would topple them.

Then the pavement ended, and the mud-and-gravel path began.

This didn’t look familiar.

Yes, I had to admit. I was lost. I had driven off the beaten path to find a different route to Bridgeton.

But, being lost can have its advantages. As I drove around Parke County, I had time for quiet relaxation, reflection and prayer. By God’s grace, the skies were sunny, ribboned with jet trails hanging high in the still air. The temperature was warm.

Here is some of what the Lord showed me, and reminded me of, as I drove around the Big Raccoon Creek area:

1. As I felt my way along the winding country roads of Parke County, I knew that, as long as I followed my compass and kept heading east and south, I would eventually intersect with Bridgeton Road and, from there, the town of Bridgeton. When we lose our way with Christ, all we need to do is follow our compass (faithfully following God’s Word). He will put us back on the path, headed in the right direction.

2. The joy is in the journey itself, not merely our destination. I could worry because I didn’t know where I was. But I knew I would end up where I was meant to. Far better to have faith, rest, and enjoy the ride. Absorb the scenery. Learn from what you see and experience. Be inspired. There is no sense in hurrying through life just to get from point A to point B. We miss so much when our final stop is our sole focus.

3. The adventure won’t truly begin until you face your fear and say, firmly and decidedly, No. The idea of driving – think crawling with wheels – across a 104 year old wooden covered bridge that sounded like it might give way beneath me was not exactly what I would call fun. But, once I had braced the steering wheel and slowly made my way through the bridge – getting past the part of the drive I dreaded – I was ready to move onward into the unknown. When we face our fears head on, we see how irrational they truly are.

4. It is good to go back and remember. Bridgeton is a place my dad used to take us fishing. (Too bad I didn’t like fishing. But that’s another story for another time…). Bridgeton Baptist Church is where I began to learn to appreciate – at age 12 – strong Biblical teaching and a love of Scripture. Big Raccoon Creek at Bridgeton is where I was baptized. I can still feel the sensation of being dunked in the cold creek water, feeling the unnerving loss of control as I went down into the current, and coming up cleansed. That was 35 years ago. A lot happens in that span of time. We change, we grow, we learn, we are influenced… It is good, in a soul correcting way, to go back and remember. Just don’t try to pitch a tent and stay there.

5. There is still at least one place on earth where, if you wave at a stranger you pass along the road, he will wave back. If he wasn’t the one to initiate the wave, that is.

Don’t get so caught up in your planned life route that you inflexibly ignore the surroundings you pass. Don’t forget where you came from. And don’t forget that you are never at a place where the Lord cannot find you and right your path. Life is an adventure. Trust in the Lord and appreciate the trip.

Humbled by Grace

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Hebrews 4:16 (ESV)

Grace – the wondrous gift of unmerited favor from God – is, quite sadly, a theologically divisive subject.  People argue and debate about “cheap” grace and “free” grace and grace for this but not for that… It is as if so many want to deconstruct grace and use the materials to reconstruct a grace-built box in which to contain God Himself.

Perhaps the problem is that grace is such an unnatural state for we sinful humans.  Grace itself is an unearned – and unearnable – gift from our Eternal Heavenly Father.  If we could earn it, it would no longer be a gift.  It is by grace (through faith) that we are saved.  It is by grace that the painful things serve not to destroy us, but draw God’s children closer to Him.  It is by grace we are sustained.  It is by grace we are strengthened.

And all of us need God’s grace.




The problem comes when we try to discern who should be the recipient of God’s grace.  As if one person or group’s sins is any greater or more insidious than our own.  The minute we say, “These people are not welcome in our community because they are __________________” (fill in the blank with any sin), then we fail to extend God’s grace.  We fail to reach out in love.  We do not recognize the truth of their – or, more importantly, our own – situation because of the blindness caused by the log lodged in our own eye.

It seems to me more than a little hypocritical to feel so certain of our own salvation, the gift of grace extended to us that washes away the otherwise permanent stain of sin, while denying – or at least placing prerequisites upon – others whose sins seem so hideous to us.  Are we so good?  Are we so pure?  Would any of us have given a second thought to dining with Jesus, considering the prostitutes and societal outcasts He chose to be with?  Jesus never said, “Deal with your sin, then we’ll talk.”  He said, “Come to me, all who are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Our problem is universal: pride.  It is pride in our own imagined purity that causes us to look at someone else and level the charge of “sinner” upon them.  If that idea is offensive to you, perhaps now would be a good time to stop and reconsider some things.

When we judge another – especially when we excuse our judgment under the false pretense of discernment – we are choosing to be proud.  We forget from whence we came.  We fail to see the excremental unworthiness of our own pasts.  We place ourselves on some level above them.  But, remember this: we have no idea what someone has been through.  No idea of the hardships and pain that have led people – each of us included – to make some unwise life choices.  As we drive along our life’s path, each of us goes off into the ditch at some point.  To judge another is to abandon them in the ditch – the polar opposite action of the Good Shepherd Who leaves His flock to go find the one sheep who went astray.

None of us deserves God’s grace.  And yet:

…he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8  Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9  Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. 11  Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? – James 4:6-12 (ESV)

Sin is truly the great equalizer.  We have all fallen far short of the glory of God.  And we could all use a healthy dose of humility and, God willing, His grace.

Transformitive Humility

6  Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7  casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8  Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11  To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. – 1 Peter 5:6-11 (ESV)

Tonight has been a night of prayer and preparation, seeking and expecting, letting go and looking up.  And, as I studied God’s Word tonight, one word in 1 Peter 5 stuck firmly in my mind: humble.  The act / art of lowering one’s attitude toward themselves, to “not… think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” (Romans 12:3, ESV).

Peter tells us to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand.  In other words, we are to submit to God and His will.

And stay submitted.

Just before Paul warns us against thinking too highly of ourselves, he tells us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2, ESV).  If we want to be transformed in our thinking – truly changed from the inside out – we have to start with humility.

Humility lets go.  When our thoughts are Godward, anxiety isn’t an issue.  Worry evaporates.  Troubles shrink.  This is because being humble requires faith.  Faith that God is in control.  Faith that He knows every circumstance that will come our way, every stone to stub our toe, every obstacle in our path.

We have to humbly trust that God knows what He is doing in our lives.  If we feel stuck in a painful circumstance, perhaps there is a lesson to be learned, or another person we are to help.  Any way we look at it, there are no accidents.  We are where we are, when we are and why we are because of God’s purposes.

And when we stay focused on ourselves… well, that just isn’t what God has in mind for us.  We are called to love, to put others first and above ourselves.  We are instructed to cast our cares to God and trust that He has it all under control.

We are to be sober-minded.  Not anxious or fearful, but calm and faithful, filled with joy and peace, resting in the Lord.  Humbly.  In faith.  It is humble firmness in faith that sends the enemy running.

Humility helps us focus where we ought, by focusing our efforts in the right place: Godward.

Be transformed.  I like that.  I pray that for us all.

The Butterfly Effect

18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. – Romans 5:18-19 (ESV)

The theory goes like this: a butterfly in Indiana is doing what any butterfly does.  He is flapping his wings.  However, the butterfly is doing his fluttering at the precise place and time that the waves he creates move through the air and grow until they become a hurricane over the Atlantic.

Ridiculous, right?  It is hard to look at the destruction left behind by one of these storms and say, “A butterfly did this.”  And yet, there is a kernel of truth in all of this.

It is quite clear that everything we do, everything we say, effects the people around us in some way or another.  We joke, people laugh (or, in my case, they usually moan).  We yell, people respond negatively.

But, that effect goes farther than our immediate audience.  Each person we encounter, every life we touch, is impacted.  Something as seemingly small as a kind word of affirmation can make a change in another.  Think about it.  You can be talking with a co-worker, or friend or family member, who is facing a difficult situation.  You may have just the right words, or actions, and just the right time and place to inspire that individual, giving them new found strength or joy or whatever that person needs.  They, in turn, may do the same for someone else.  And so on and so forth…

Some may call it the Butterfly Effect.  I call it the work of God through His people.

When we follow God’s lead and do as He commands us – that is, to love one another – we unleash the power to impact people, to change lives, to show others that love is the more excellent way.  Love can bring hope to one who sees no hope, warmth to those who feel no warmth.  And, in turn, inspire them to do the same.

What we do, what we say, may seem like small, insignificant acts.  But, whether we realize it or not, with every interaction we are investing in others and making an impact.  We are inspiring – for better or for worse – and affecting those around us.  Making a negative impact is easy.  Look at Adam: he didn’t plot to disobey God and eat the apple.  He fell in a weak moment.  And look at the effect we feel to this day, thousands of years later.

Now look at Jesus: everything He did was measured, purposeful, meaningful.  And look at the impact His love has on us today, some 2000 years later.  Indeed, both brought effects that are eternal: Adam introduced us to death, Jesus offers eternal life!

So, today, consider the impact you may have on the people around you.  Be deliberate in your words and actions.  Love others – even / especially those it is hard to love.  Each of us is influencing the people in our spheres of life.  A small event, forgettable in it’s seeming inconsequence, can cause a major effect.  What impact will you make today?


Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. – Psalms 119:18 (ESV)

God is a God of wonder.  Everything about Him gives cause for amazement.  His ways are far greater than ours, His creation is far beyond any human “invention”, His love for us is astounding beyond full comprehension.

If we are viewing our lives as bleak, or hopeless, or without meaning, perhaps we aren’t opening our eyes wide enough. Familiarity breeds contempt, and we can easily get lulled into a sense of complacency.  We are anesthetized by comforts (at least here in the western world), and believe we deserve all the good stuff we receive.

The truth is, if we begin to feel that spiritual numbing, we need to change our focus.  if something is drawing us away from God in all His wonder and awe, we need to earnestly seek Christ.

With open eyes.

With an open mind.

With an open heart.

When we do this, we find He is there waiting for us, with open arms.

What is keeping you from opening yourself wide and running to Jesus?  Is it guilt or sin?  Self loathing or doubt?  Too busy or worried or overwrought to give God a second thought?  Burned by religion?  Hurt by believers?  Afraid of what family or others might think?

Whatever it is, whatever is hurting or hindering you, I ask you to stop, find a few minutes, grab your Bible, and just talk with God.  Tell Him what’s going on.  Open your heart and mind to hear what He has to say.  Trust Him.  He is not a human being.  People will let you down.  God will not.

Cast off your anxiety.  Toss off your burdens.  Walk away from the past.  Ask the Lord for forgiveness.  Embrace His love, not the lies others have told you.  Don’t wait to feel loved.  Accept it on faith!  Know that God is with you, God is for you, God is far beyond any barriers or attempts to box Him in.

Be open with God.  Rest in His goodness.  Seek the Lord.  He is there for you, open and ready to love you, no matter what.  Open your eyes to see Him.  Open your heart to receive Him.

Romans 12 Resolution

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:2 (ESV)

Today we bid a fond farewell to 2014.  For some of us, “goodbye” seems not quite as fitting as “good riddance.”  However this past year went down for you, the New Year always springs forth with hope – a clean slate, a chance to afresh, a whole new year ahead, brimming with promise.

Many people will make New Year’s resolutions. Most will not keep them, either because they planned no follow through on setting their goals, or they’re waiting for a genie to pop out of a bottle and fulfill their wishes.  Perhaps we approach the idea of change all wrong.

We all have aspects of our lives and ourselves that we want – need – to change.  But before we change our behavioral patterns, we have to first change our thought patterns.  We have to change how we view the world around us, other people, ourselves.  (When the Bible says we are to love others as ourselves, it is not a prescription for self loathing.  The Lord is telling us to love others just as much!)

Romans 12 lays out a great set of parameters for a transformational New Year’s resolution: to truly live out what it means to follow Christ.  But, before we can do that, we have to change our thinking – “renew our minds” – and be transformed (literally metamorphosed) from conformity to the world’s ways of thinking and acting to God’s will and ways.

It isn’t easy.  Be ready to face opposition.  Be prepared to be tempted.  But be strong in the Lord.  Commit to Him and keep following His Word.  Trust in the Lord.  Stay in Scripture every day and, as Paul says, pray without ceasing.  Love others first.  Accept God’s grace.  Quit beating yourself up.  Stop trying to change everything by your own power then feeling defeated.

2015 is upon us.  Ring out the old, ring in the new!  Take some time to prayerfully read Romans 12 and make a commitment to change.  You are not the one doing the transforming.  God is.  But, we are called to be faithful in doing what the Lord calls each of us to do.  So keep on truckin’.  Keep following Jesus.  Trust Him, follow Him, seek Him, watch for Him.  Don’t worry about the results.  That’s God’s department.

Have a blessed and wonderful New Year!

Don’t Go Away Angry, Just Go Away


14 And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. 15 Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town. – Matthew 10:14-15 (ESV)

This morning I read an interesting article about the implausibility of creation being by chance, and how scientists, the deeper they dig, are discovering that all of the universe must have been created, thus there must be a Creator (although many are so solidly atheist that they can’t see the theological forest for the philosophical / theoretical /scientific trees).

What grabbed my attention more than the article itself was the online comments. Most posted by people who seemed to know a thing or two about physics. Some of them atheists.

And they were snarling.

If there is one thing Satan dislikes, it is losing. And, the simple fact of the matter is, no lie can stand up to the Truth. We Christians can stand firm on that foundation. We can boldly proclaim Christ is the Savior of the world, God is the Creator and Sustainer of All, and The Lord is all His Word claims He is.

What we cannot do is get cocky about it.

Many years ago, my wife and I were part of a street ministry. I remember quite vividly being with our group in the Minneapolis Skyway one cold winter night. A couple of Muslim men were walking toward us when one of our group decided to be bold and share the Gospel with them.

The problem: these men had no interest in hearing the message. And they got defensive and angry in a hurry. An argument ensued and, pretty soon, a pair of Minneapolis police officers appeared.

Argument over.

I have mulled that incident over in my mind a few times over the years. I fail to see how God was glorified in such an inglorious conversation. How would anyone be drawn by the love of Christ when they are being verbally berated by one of His followers? Are we called to share the Gospel, or proselytize? If browbeating people into faith worked, wouldn’t the Crusades have been more effective?

We are not called to arguing or strong arm tactics. We are not called to snarl. We are called to share. To present. To love. And, if people won’t listen, then leave. Just go.


No argument.

No guilt.

Shake the dust from your feet. In other words, leave alone those who do not wish to receive what you have to give. Don’t carry their dust with you. Don’t feel the need to persuade or argue. Do not think you can cajole them into the kingdom of heaven.

We have to remember: we are called to be salt and light. We are called to share the Gospel – boldly, honestly, but not obnoxiously. Not judgmentally.

The Truth is to be proclaimed far more than defended. After all, a lie will dig its own grave. The Truth will continued to be revealed, and every lie of the enemy exposed.

Remember that Jesus did not defend Himself before Pilate or Herod. Who is man to think he can put God on trial?