Worth It

I can still remember where I was on September 11th, 2001, as I’m sure you can. I remember a lot of things about that day: the stunningly beautiful, clear blue cloudless skies, how I discovered it happened, prayer at church at noon, being glued to the radio at work listening, and then, later, the TV watching in horror and disbelief. It was a day that changed the world, to be sure… and that’s an understatement.

I also can still remember my reaction. Folks were debating how the United States should respond. Strike back immediately, carpet-bombing, plan a war, institute sanctions, etc. There were voices coming from everywhere, and I’m sure the choices that then-President George W. Bush made were excruciatingly tough. We know the decisions that were made and events that ensued. But I wasn’t so sure that was right course.

Don’t get me wrong: I am so thankful for our military men and women who serve selflessly to protect our freedom and way of life around the world. Thousands have paid the ultimate price. Thousands more are still paying the price from the wounds they suffered. “Thank you” is not enough.

It is a hard thing to love. It is especially hard to love those who don’t love me back, or who, in fact, hate me back. It is hard to love those who don’t even say, “Thank you.” It is hard to love those who don’t even pay attention to me. I tend to love only those who love me in return, or at least pay attention to me. Maybe it all boils down to the fact that I tend to love only those who think I’m worth something.

That is how loving others begins: by assigning worth to them. The sobering thought is that they (whoever “they” are) are worth as much as I am. That includes the guy standing by the offramp, looking for a handout. That includes the homeless guy up in Washington D.C. asleep on a park bench with a newspaper over his face. That includes the pedophile I heard about on the 6 o’clock news. And that includes those that inflict damage and horror in my life and in others’ lives, either by the words they say, the things they do, or even the bombs they set off.

Jesus thinks they are worth dying for. Jesus thinks I am worth dying for. Jesus thinks you are worth dying for. They are, I am, and you are treasures to Jesus. That is how love and service begins for me: by trying to develop the eyesight of Jesus and seeing the beauty and worth of the lives around me, and then putting that love into action by serving them. Love isn’t love unless it is accompanied by service.

But I can’t do this. I simply can’t. Without God’s help, that is. And I fail at this. Every. Day. I fail. I need more of Jesus.

The world needs more of Jesus.


Have you ever had a deja vu? A feeling you’ve been here before or done this before? I’m sure you have. When I have them, which is very infrequently (more when I was younger), it originates from a dream. I have a dream and then weeks, months, or even years later, I am in that very situation. How is that possible? Gift of prophesy? Maybe, but I don’t think so.

For me, I think that when I have a deja vu, I tap into something eternal inside me. I know that sounds crazy and there’s nothing I can do to prove it and there’s nothing Scriptural to back it up. I’ve had deja vus since I was a kid, so it was way before I’ve had a relationship with God, but how else do you explain it?

Friday night, I saw the movie, “Heaven Is For Real.” The main character, played by Greg Kinnear, is a pastor. I won’t spoil the movie for you, but his life, family, and church are turned upside-down as he tries to explain the unexplainable (and unScriptural). Some things are beyond explanation. I can relate, in a very small way.

But isn’t that what faith is all about? Isn’t faith just trusting God when there’s no explanation possible? Faith is beyond words. Faith is beyond human reasoning and logic. Faith is all about surrender and trust… surrendering my need to know everything and my need to figure it all out and my need to explain it all… and then trusting in the One who has it all figured out and the One who will explain it all one day and the One who does know it all (who created human reasoning and logic!).

A couple of verses come to mind as I type:

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1, NIV84)

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12, NIV)

As I posted a couple of days ago, my friend Cindy asked us all on Facebook, “If you had 5 minutes to FaceTime with God, what questions would you ask?” I have loads of questions like, “What’s the purpose of mental retardation, autism, and mental illness?”, for instance. But for now, I’m content not knowing the answers for life’s most pressing questions. And actually, that’s very liberating for me. I don’t have to figure it out.

I will just surrender and trust.

FaceTime with God

My friend Cindy is a deep thinker and I mean that in the most complimentary way. She always is pondering something meaningful and wonderful about life. She loves God and it shows.

Yesterday she got my wheels turning. In the morning, on Facebook she asked, “If you had five minutes to FaceTime with God, what would you ask Him?” In the early evening, she then posted:

“If I could FaceTime God to ask Him one question, my question to Him would be: What do you see, God, when you look at me?

“If the purpose of Christianity is to transform us into the likeness of His Son, I would want to know how much of Jesus does God see in me.

“I doubt I would like the answer, but I would still ask.”

How much of Jesus does God see in me? What a great question!

But I think she would like the answer. If you have given your life over to Jesus and have accepted His sacrifice for your sins, then I think you would like God’s answer, too.

God loves us so much. He loves us in spite of… us. There’s nothing we can do to change that. You and I are the apple of His eye. (Psalm 17:8) He delights over us with SINGING! (Zephaniah 3:17) I can’t even wrap my head around that! And since we have been clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:27), I believe that when God looks at me and you, Cindy, He sees Jesus. In fact, God’s Word says our life is now hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3).

How much of Jesus does God see in me? All of Jesus. Hallelujah!

Good News indeed.


Listen to this Puritan prayer by Arthur Bennett:

Let me learn by paradox
that the way up is the way down
that to be low is to be high
that the broken heart is the healed heart
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul
that to have nothing is possessing all
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown
that to give is to receive
that the valley is the place of vision.

And I’ll add: Where death brings life.

God’s upside-down Kingdom. Good thoughts to ponder today.


Do you remember the first time you went to church and you saw the words of the song you were singing on the screen behind the pulpit? Churches began using overhead projectors to help worshippers engage in the service. It was new technology. It was useful and in many cases controversial. Yep, controversial.

Of course, if you are under the age of 40, this is laughable. For you, there was never a time when the words weren’t on a screen. Now, the lighting, projection methods, multimedia presentations all help make the musical portion of a church service more interactive and dynamic. New methods for a new time.

Churches are also trying to be trendy and modern in an effort to reach the unchurched. They seem like they want to fly under the radar, be seeker-sensitive, not wanting to offend. The Cross is disappearing from churches. The invitation to accept the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ is being made less and less. Although the message hasn’t changed, the delivery has. The Church is trying to fit in with the world.

And it’s not just the church; it’s me, too. Everyone wants to fit in and it’s a constant battle to not get drawn into the culture’s way of doing things.

I’m reading two books simultaneously (do you do that too?) and somehow they are talking about the same thing. I didn’t plan it that way, but I don’t think it’s an accident either. One is entitled “Unfashionable” by Tullian Tchividjian and the other is “The Good and Beautiful Community” by James Bryan Smith.

Here’s what Tchividjian says:

“We need to remember that God has established his church as an alternative society, not to compete with or copy this world, but to offer a refreshing alternative to it.”

And Smith says:

“The true narrative is this: Christians are not always different but they ought to be.”

As Christians… as the Church… we are called to be different, attractively peculiar, strangely appealing to the world around us. That’s what Jesus was. After all, who turns the other cheek, goes the extra mile, loves the unlovable, and touch the untouchable? Jesus and his followers… his Church, that’s who.

Tchividjian goes on to say:

“When we forget this (to be unique and different), we inadvertently communicate to our culture that we have nothing unique to offer, nothing deeply spiritual or profoundly transforming. Tragically, this leaves many in our world looking elsewhere for the difference they crave.”

Jesus says, “And I, if and when I am lifted up from the earth on the cross, will draw and attract all men Gentiles as well as Jews to Myself.”(John 12:32, AMP)

Relevant? Hip? There’s really no need. The Savior and his Good News are always relevant and hip because they give hope. The method may change but the Message never does.

Peculiar (adj.) – Strange or odd. Unusual.

It’s the morning after.

I’ve had a few of those in my unsavory, wasteful, selfish days B.C. – before Christ. And those evenings that I had before I gave my life to God are a topic for another day. But what I’m talking about here is that this is the morning after… Easter Sunday.

There are millions of people who came to church, heard the Gospel message, realized that they were living selfishly, and made a commitment to accept the sacrifice Jesus paid at the Cross. They accepted the fact that Jesus is raised from the dead and because of this, they now have eternal life– everlasting life for the world to come and eternal living in the here and now.

But this is Day #1 of this new way of life. They will be looking for examples of what a Christ-follower looks like. They will be looking at you and me. Do I look like the rest of the world or is there something peculiar about me? That’s the question I’m asking myself this morning: Am I different? Do the people around me at home, at work, in traffic, and yes, even in Wal-Mart, see something different? Am I attractively peculiar?

In our men’s group last week, we talked about this and Pastor Brandon repeated something I had read somewhere. He said, “Christians are known more for what they’re against than what they’re for.” They’re known more by the things they won’t do than by the behaviors, attitudes, and words which actually characterize Christ and His early followers.

The behavior, attitudes, and words that a hurting world wants to see in the followers of Jesus is the same behavior, attitude, and words that they heard all about yesterday: a life filled with selfless love and service for others. That’s the kind of life they heard about yesterday. That’s the life of Jesus Christ while He walked this earth in flesh. And that kind of life is very different from the kind of life they see every day in the workplace, on the streets, in stores, and in traffic. That kind of life is peculiar.

It’s the morning after. I want to be peculiar today.

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:12-13)

No Chains On Me

I love music. I always have. During my teen and young adult years, I listened and loved everything from Bluegrass to New Wave… my love of music was eclectic as well as passionate. The funny thing is: I am passionate about music but I’m not musical. I can’t play an instrument and I can’t really sing. I can sing in my car or the shower like everyone else, but that’s about it. But music is always on at home, in my workspace, or in my car.

After I came to know the Lord in 1996, my taste in music immediately changed. For years, I listened to nothing but Praise and Worship and Contemporary Christian music. I didn’t really have a desire to listen to anything else. (That has changed and I listen to all types now)

There’s a few songs that I link with certain times in my life. I’m sure you do the same. When you hear a song, it takes you back to a place and time. And there are certain songs you link with certain events like your wedding or a holiday. For me, a lot of the time, it’s obscure songs… music that no one else is listening to.

Such it is with Easter. While I’m sure you have your favorite Easter song, mine is a song by Chris Tomlin called “No Chains On Me”. I’m not sure it’s really an Easter song, but it is a song of celebration. Easter is a time of celebration.

It sums up what’s been done for you and me

You can listen to it here (with lyrics):

This is the dream, a dream for the world to see You
A dream for the world to know You, to love Your name
Lift up a shout, lift up a cry to shake the ground
Shout and the walls are coming down
Yeah, we’re running after You

Like a rolling stone, like a runaway train
No turning back, no more yesterdays
My heart is free, no chains on me
God, You raise me up, up from the grave
The cross before, I’m on my way
My heart is free, no chains on me

Now is the time, now is the time for freedom
Abandoned by cold religion, my heart on fire
We hear the sound, the sound of revival coming
The sound of Your people rising
Yeah, we’re running after You

The walls are coming down

Have a great Resurrection Day!

Even when nothing’s happening, something’s happening

Jesus is dead.

No, not really. But a little over 2000 years ago, that is what all of Jerusalem thought. That is what His enemies thought. That’s what His followers thought. No doubt, they were gripped with grief. The world for His followers came crashing down. Too distraught to stay, many headed home, all the while shaking their heads wondering what went wrong. Jesus is dead.

Two thousand years later, we know what happened. One day entombed; two days later, empty tomb.

Yet we do the same thing those early followers did.

When we don’t feel God’s presence in a real way, when we don’t get the goosebumps, when things aren’t going well, we echo Jesus’ words, “My God, why have you forsaken me?!?” When we pray and pray and pray, and yet see no breakthrough or no movement whatsoever, we think God is not there and lose hope so easily. We shake our head and wonder what went wrong.

There’s a friend of mine, who, when he came to know the Lord, used to pray for his wife to come to know Jesus, too. He attended the same Sunday school class as me, and for many years, attended the same Wednesday night Bible study. The entire class would pray for his wife. We did this for weeks. We did this for months. We did this for years. Literally.

His waking hours were consumed with praying for his wife. But nothing happened. In fact, in many ways, things got worse. Life got tougher. There was an illness. There was a lost job. There was the tragic loss of a daughter. Yet he remained faithful in prayer. And God was faithful, too.

Today, this man and wife attend church together. She is the one who brings him to church.

I praise God for his wooing grace. It’s the kind of grace that you don’t easily see. It’s the kind of grace that works behind the scenes.

I heard James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, once say, “Even when nothing’s happening, something’s happening.” You can count on it. God is always working.

Even behind a sealed tomb on a Saturday.

Today Changes Everything

Today is Good Friday. To me, this is the most meaningful day of the year. Although I really love the reborn exuberance of Easter Sunday and the peace of the Christmas season, this day is where everything changes for me.

This morning as I re-read the account of what happened on this day about 2000 years ago, I was struck at the sacrificial love of Jesus. I recalled the images of “The Passion of the Christ” as I read again about Gethsemane, Jesus’ arrest, and the Crucifixion. What could possibly drive a man to do that?!?

Simply said, LOVE. A new kind of love. A sacrificial love. A love that gave up all His rights and privileges. A love that laid down His life for the sake of others.

That is how we are called to love. That’s how we’re called to live.

Today is the day where the slate is wiped clean, where everything is forgiven, and a fresh start begins. Today is the day when you love those around you with the same, lay-it-all-down kind of love.

3 Minutes

At men’s group last night we talked about hope. Pastor Brandon challenged us to put this Scripture in action:

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15b)

Yes, he challenged us to take our hope to a world that needs to hear about our hope and see it in action. But he asked us each to give a reason for the hope we have – in three minutes or less – right there in our group.

A couple of guys spoke up and spoke of eternal life and knowing that they will be with Jesus in heaven. When my turn came, I thought of the blessed hope, the hope of heaven, but instead, I just had to talk about freedom.

First, knowing who you are IN CHRIST is key for me. As I’ve repeated so many times, I am a child of God with Christ dwelling in me, and I live in the unshakeable Kingdom of God. As a child of God, God has adopted me into His family, He has chosen me (and you), and He loves me with an unchanging, unrelenting love. He is forever thinking of me, and, unbelievably, sings over me. There is nothing I can do to make God turn away from me or to love me any less, and thankfully, there is nothing I have to do to make God love me, or to love me more.

Secondly, Jesus lives in me. I don’t have to ask Him to come to me. He’s in me! Little by little, as I allow, He is taking over my life. And because I can rely on Him always working for my good, I can relax and let Him take charge. I can’t tell you the freedom that brings!

It’s my identity in Christ that allows me to fully trust Him moment by moment, no matter what comes my way. I realize that God’s intentions toward me are nothing but good. He wants to grow me and He knows what’s best for me. I know that in the end, God wins. He gets the final word. Justice will prevail, although probably not here on earth. But in the end, justice will prevail.

In the end, I win. I may suffer. My world may fall apart. I may get sick. I will die. But in the end, because of all that Jesus has done, I win. That makes me IN CHRIST (and ONLY in Christ) unshakeable.

Plain and simple, that gives me hope.

Are my three minutes up?